Delight in the Law (part 2)

Asher Delight 1

In part one I discussed one of the greatest obstacles that can prevent Christians from delighting in the law as they should.  In part two I want to point out what I believe is one of the greatest motivations for delighting in the law of God.  I hope to follow up with more posts with the purpose of helping Christians to delight more in the law of God.  For the sake of clarity, I am referring to the moral law of God as summarized in the 10 commandments & the 2 great commandments, and expounded throughout the Bible, especially in texts such as Matt. 5 – 7.

The Law Increases our Love for Christ

The heart of every true Christian heartily echoes the desire set forth in Elizabeth Prentiss’ hymn:

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Yes, we already love Him, but we know we can never love Him as much as we ought.  We yearn to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, for that is what He deserves.  This may come a surprise to some, but the law is one of God’s primary ways to accomplish the goal of increasing our love for our Savior.

Please consider with me the following passage, Luke 7:36-50:

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

I fear a great many Christians misunderstand this passage.  When they read “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”, they take it as if Christ were saying that this Pharisee didn’t love him much because he didn’t have that many sins that needed forgiving, compared to this sexually immoral woman. This attitude can be seen in the way so many churches crave to hear testimonies of people who were “really bad” sinners before they were saved, and in the way that many Christians seem almost jealous of such testimonies.  But that is not what our Lord is saying at all.

Please stop and think about this for one moment.  Does our Lord really look upon the haughty and prideful heart of this hypocritical, unkind and merciless Pharisee and judge it to be better than the heart of a sexually immoral woman?  Of course not, the Pharisees had succeeded in cleaning up the outside of the cup very nicely, but the vile putrid corpse rotting inside puts off a stench that is reprehensible in the nostrils of a holy God!  Pride, hypocrisy and lack of love for fellow sinners are the most abominable of sins to God.  So Christ wasn’t pointing out that this adulterous woman was more sinful than Simon.  Our Lord was pointing out that the reason this woman loved Him so much was because she realized how great a sinner she was.  It was the knowledge of the greatness of her sin that gave rise to the wondrous volume of love she poured out at her Savior’s feet.

So one of the lessons we ought to take from this passage is that a primary means of increasing our love for our Savior is to realize just how much He has saved us from.  The more we realize how much we have been forgiven, the more we will love Him.  God’s appointed means for showing us our sin is His law. (Romans 3:20)  Go to the law and let it expose your sin.  Yes, it hurts!  I despise the agony of a guilty conscience as much if not more than most people.  But we do not wallow in guilt and self-pity when the law exposes our sin.  We flee to Christ, to be washed afresh in His cleansing blood and to receive from Him the necessary power to repent and forsake that sin.  The temporary pain that is brought by the knowledge of your own sinfulness cannot compare to the blessing received through it, for that blessing is a greater love for our Great High Priest and Redeemer, Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is most certainly one of the reasons for the general shallowness of the broad scope of Evangelical Christian churches, isn’t it?  The law is avoided like the plague.  Sin is seldom mentioned, and when it is, it is in the vaguest of terms.  Sin is never defined, it is just something we acknowledge as “bad” but avoid talking about if we can help it. No wonder these churches are filled with people whose love for Christ can be exhaustively demonstrated by mindlessly singing a handful of Christian jingles and dancing a little jig a few times a month.

But I want to point out one more wonderful truth before closing.  The man, woman or child who was brought up in a Christian home with nurture and discipline, who rarely even openly disobeyed his/her parents, let alone ever committed sexual immorality or abused drugs can love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every bit as much, if not more than someone like me, who filled their belly with the filth of this world before God so graciously saved me.  Every one of us has a seemingly bottomless cesspool of sin within our hearts.  He who delights in the law will allow it to reveal his own sins to him, that he may love His Savior all the more for it.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Book Review: Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Book Review:  Captivated:  Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection By Thabiti M. Anyabwile

A few months ago my wife asked me to give her some suggestions for devotional reading.  She wanted something that would help stir up her heart in devotion to Christ as she contemplated entering a new year.  I did give her a handful of suggestions, and she has benefited from them, but by the time I got through half a chapter of this book I knew that what I had in my hands was exactly what she needed!

In much the same way that Isaiah calls us to  “Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9), and the Apostle asks us to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus”  (Heb. 3:1), Pastor Thabiti  Anyabwile invites us to take a long look at Jesus Christ.  His new book, Captivated:  Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, is both a call to enter into the contemplation of our Savior, and an excellent catalyst to assist us in the undertaking.  This is a wonderfully heart-stirring book, and I heartily recommend it to every Christian reader.

Pastor Thabiti uses five questions, rooted in five passages of Scripture, to help us to dwell on the mystery and glory of Christ’s death and resurrection.  In Chapter 1 he asks, “Is There No Other Way?”, drawn from Matt. 26:42,  “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”.  As we are drawn to contemplate the necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection for the accomplishment of our salvation and the display of God’s glory, I trust your heart’s devotion to Christ will be as strengthened as mine was.

In Chapter 2 we consider the question “Why Have You Forsaken Me?” from Matt. 27:46.  This question brings us to consider what actually took place that day as Christ hung on the cross, and the effects that the answer to that question have on our hearts are truly limitless.  In Chapter 3 the question for contemplation is “Where, O Death, is Your Victory?” in light of 1 Cor. 15:55.  Which bids us to think about the treasure that is ours as a result of Christ’s finished work.

“Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?” is asked in Chapter 4, as we are brought to Luke 24:5.  And Finally, we consider the question “Do You Not Know These Things?” in Chapter 5, as we consider Luke 24:18 “Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, ‘Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?’”  In this final chapter we are brought to contemplate not only what we believe about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but on what basis we believe these things, as the subject of epistemology is raised to a fruitful end.

Each of the five chapters concludes with a list of additional questions for contemplation.  These are not the typical study questions that just seem like they are meant to see if you actually read the chapter.  These are questions well suited as aids to help us to think long and hard about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to contemplate His Glory, to dwell upon His matchless grace, until our hearts are bursting with praise to His glorious name.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  The last time my heart was this stirred by a book was when I read “The Heart of Christ” by Thomas Goodwin!  There exists no true Christian who would not benefit from taking the time to think deeply upon the majesty of our Savior, and this book is a fantastic means to that end.

I also recommend listening to the Confessing Baptist podcast’s interview with Pastor Anyabwile about this book.

http://confessingbaptist.com/podcast041/

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

An Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins

Originally posted on Reformed Baptist Fellowship:

Orthodox Catechism

This catechism, first published in 1680, is a Particular (i.e., seventeenth-century Calvinistic) Baptist revision of the Heidelberg Catechism. The editors slightly revised the original for modern use.

The book includes the original Preface by Collins, a Foreword by James M. Renihan, and an Introduction by Michael Haykin and G. Stephen Weaver, Jr.

Here are the chapter titles from the table of contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface by Hercules Collins
  • Foreword by James M. Renihan
  • Introduction by Michael A. G. Haykin and G. Stephen Weaver, Jr.
  • General Introduction and The First Part: Of  Man’s Misery
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (Introductory Questions)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (God the Father)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (God the Son)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (God the Holy Spirit)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (The Sacraments)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (Baptism)
  • The Second Part: Of Man’s Redemption (The…

View original 49 more words

Delight in the Law? (part 1)

delighting


The Psalmist describes the blessed man as he whose “delight is in the law of the Lord”  (Ps. 1:2).  And the Apostle Paul himself declares that he “delight[s] in the law of God according to the inward man”(Rom. 7:22).  Yet a large portion of the professing Christian church today would instantly condemn anyone who delights in the law as a “legalist.”  The very idea that the Psalmist and the Apostle were guilty of legalism is on its very face preposterous.  But let me further put this idea to rest with a simple truth.  The legalist does not, indeed cannot delight in the law of God, for whenever the law of God is misused and abused as a means of procuring favor with God it is an unbearable burden!  That is why legalism inevitably twists, truncates and manipulates the law of God into something that it is not, something that the legalist is able to fulfill, at least in his own mind.

Undoubtedly, the reason behind the disdain so many professing Christians hold toward the law of God stems from the fact that they have never bowed the knee to King Jesus.  They have entered the “church” by means of an easy-believism “gospel” and have never surrendered their hearts and lives to the dominion and Lordship of their rightful King.  They sit securely upon the throne of their own heart and sternly reject the right of anyone, including the God who holds their life in His hands, to tell them how they must live.  Every time they are confronted with the law of God their conscience is reminded of the fact that they owe obedience to one greater than themselves and therefore they reject and despise it.  There is only one solution for anyone in this frame of mind:  Repent and believe.  Surrender your life to the King of kings and Lord of lords and trust in Him alone to save you from your sin.  Give yourself to Him, take His yoke upon you, for it is indeed light, and He will carry you to glory.

 How Can I Delight in that which Brings Guilt and Shame?

 I want to focus, however, on a question that others may have.  Even those who have truly been converted and love the Lord Jesus may still wonder at times “How can I delight in the law of God?  It is the law that brings my sin to mind.  It reminds me of how much I fail my Lord and it fills my conscience with guilt and shame.  How can I delight in something that does that?”  I believe the answer to this question will not be difficult for us if we just look at the conscience from a Biblical perspective.

Unregenerate sinners have various unbiblical means of dealing with guilt, and unfortunately, these habits are not instantly eliminated from our minds at the moment of conversion.  We need to consciously recognize and reject them.  I will focus on two primary ways that the world deals with guilt and then contrast these with the means the Bible gives us for dealing with it.

 Balance Guilt with Blame

 One of the most common things unbelievers do with a guilty conscience is to shift the blame from themselves by concentrating the focus of their energy on someone else doing something that they consider to be so much worse.  Perhaps the clearest example of this in our society is the strange marriage of pro-abortion advocacy with animal rights advocacy.  It seems so illogical that those who have no concern for the rights of a human being as long as that human being resides within the womb of its mother should at the very same time spent their time and energy fighting for the “rights” of anything and everything within the animal kingdom.  Until you realize that this principle is at work.  The guilt they have for advocating murder in some cases is somehow, in their conscience, relieved by focusing on someone else doing something cruel to something else.  The Christian is not immune to this principle however.  How often, when faced with the guilt of our own sin, do we instinctively point to someone else doing something worse instead of dealing with our sin Biblically?

 Pretend it isn’t Sin

 The second of the two most common ways that the world deals with the guilt of sin is simply to pretend it isn’t sin.  This stands out the most in our society in the homosexual agenda.  The fight for “gay marriage” isn’t about “marriage equality” at all.  It is about sinners trying to quiet their consciences.  They know what they do is wrong, but they want to do it anyway.  They fight to convince themselves and are able at times to quiet their stubborn consciences.  They do everything in their might to remove every reminder that what they love to do is in fact sin.  But every time they are confronted with someone who holds to the Biblical truth their conscience is again disquieted and this opposing view must be silenced so that they can return to their slumber!  That is why the simple truth that according to the Bible homosexuality is sin, is being outlawed as “hate-speech” in place after place.  Again, unfortunately, Christians are not immune to this practice.  We have certain sins we are quite comfortable with, and when our conscience is awakened by the law of God our first reaction can be that we don’t want to hear it.  Keep the law to yourself so I can go on in my blissful ignorance!  Well, needless to say this is not how Christians should deal with guilt.

 Dealing with Guilt Biblically

 Before looking at how we should deal with guilt according to the word of God, I just want to point out one important thing about both of these worldly ways of dealing with it.  Neither of them does anything at all to actually deal with the problem of guilt.  They are both nothing but mind games!  They are means of self-deception, nothing more.  The Bible provides us with the one and only means of dealing with guilt that actually fixes the problem!  What is that?  Short answer:  Christ.

When the law confronts us with the guilt of our sin, there is only one thing to do:  Flee to Christ.  1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Don’t hide from your sin, don’t cling to your sin, take your sin to Christ!  Confess and forsake your sin and leave it at the foot of the cross.  He is faithful, not only to forgive you and cleanse you from the guilt of your sins.  But he is also faithful to cleanse you from that sin.  It is Christ and Christ alone who can give you the strength to forsake that sin, to cause you to see it the way He sees it and flee from it in disgust.

If you allow the law of God to work in your heart in this way it will inevitably become a delight to you.  Allow the law to test your heart, to go down to the very depths of your soul and shine it’s light upon you.  Let it expose your most intimate and secret sins, those you have been hiding even from yourself.  But when you come face to face with the wickedness of your own heart in the mirror of God’s holy law do not despair.  Do not be overcome with the dreadfulness and despicableness that you will inevitably find.  For no matter how vile and putrid it is, the blood of Christ has more than enough power to wash you white as snow.  Take it directly to the foot of the cross and lay it before your compassionate Savior.  Oh what a Sweet Savior He is, for He will draw you unto Himself and cover you with His undying love.

 The Question Reversed

 So you see I must reverse the question.  Dear Christian, how can you fail to delight in the law of the Lord.  How can you not delight in that which constantly draws you to the foot of the cross and causes you to lay hold of your Savior afresh and cling to Him with all of your might?  The great delight of the law of God is that it enables us to find our greatest delight in Christ Himself!

In part two I will share a number of further thoughts to help enable us to be that blessed man of Psalm 1, constantly delighting in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Compatibilism: Biblical and Comforting

Ever since my first exposure to the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God I have been fascinated by the subject of Compatibilism.  God has decreed from eternity past whatsoever shall come to pass, including the actions of sinful men, yet men are still fully responsible for the sinfulness of their actions and God is in no way the author of sin.  Meditating on this subject has brought me countless hours of fruitful contemplative reflection over the years.

 Court of the Gentiles

By far the most substantive and thorough treatment of the subject I have ever had the pleasure of reading is a book that has been long out of print.

The Court of the Gentiles, Part IV, Book III, Wherein the Nature of Divine Predetermination is Fully Explicated and Demonstrated, both in the General, as also more Particularly, as to the Substrate Mater, or Entitative Act of Sin:  with A Vindication of Calvinists and others from that Blasphemous Imputation of Making God the Author of Sin,

by Theophilus Gale, published in 1678.  I believe Gale was a professor of Philosophy and a member of Thomas Goodwin’s church.  (One day I would love to see a republication of this momentous work in contemporary English, Gale uses a lot of words that are no longer found in an unabridged dictionary.)  Gale’s work is unique in that it is both philosophically sound and profoundly Biblical. The doctrine of Compatibilism is proved through Scripture, not philosophy.  The doctrine is, quite simply, forced upon us if we hold to the conviction that all things in Scripture are necessarily true.  Where Gale excels all others is in his ability to demonstrate that these truths can all be held together in a way that is indeed philosophically satisfying as well as faithful to the whole counsel of God.   While I may have begun my study of the subject of Compatibilism as an intellectual pursuit, as I began to see it throughout the word of God it became much more than that.  I now recognize this principle to be one of the most comforting truths revealed in Scripture.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to preach at Emmasdale Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia.  When I asked Pastor Makashinyi if there was a subject he would like me to address, he told me that some in the church were fairly new to the Reformed faith, and that some basic teaching in that area would be helpful.  I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share the Biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty (rightly described as Compatibilism), as it is presented in Scripture, in the hope that it might bring them the same comfort that it has afforded me in times of distress and trial.  I did not enter into the philosophical realm, as this was a sermon, not a lecture.  But I did my best to set forth the Biblical evidence and apply it to our lives.

I would simply ask that you might overlook my lack of eloquence in the hope that you may experience the same consolation to your soul that this doctrine has afforded me.


Resting in God’s Decrees MP3 download

1    God has Decreed in Himself, from all Eternity, by the most wise and holy Counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever come to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin, nor has fellowship with any therein, nor is violence offered to the will of the Creature, nor yet is the liberty, or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established, in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power, and faithfulness in accomplishing his Decree.—1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

Resting in God’s Decrees (sermon outline)

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

I.  God’s Decree is whatever comes to pass.

Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:

Isaiah 43:13 Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, “My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, “He has no hands’?

Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Psalm 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Romans 11:36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

II.  Including the sinful actions of men.

Proverbs 16:4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Acts 3:18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

Acts 4:27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

III.  This does nothing to eliminate the sinner’s guilt.

Isaiah 10:5-12 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.  6I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.  7Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations. 8For he says, “Are not my princes altogether kings? 9Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad?  Is not Samaria like Damascus?  10As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11As I have done to Samaria and her idols, Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?”‘ 12Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”

2 Samuel 16:7-12 Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! 8 The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” 9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. 12 It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”

2 Samuel 19:19 Now Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king when he had crossed the Jordan. 19 Then he said to the king, “Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart.

1 Kings 2:8-9 “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”

IV.  This does not make God the Author of Sin!

1 John 1:5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Genesis 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Job 1:6-22 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Job 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity (evil)?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

V.  This should be one of our greatest comforts.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

God’s purposes:

1.  Chastisement?

2.  Wean us from the world

3.  Draw us nearer to Himself

4.  Conform us to the image of Christ

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Arminian Antics Create Calvinists

 

 

(How God used an Arminian Bible college to make me a Calvinist)

strawman3

TextAloud MP3: 


Background

 My wife and I were converted in a conservative Southern Baptist church in Sioux Falls, SD.  Growing up, I had attended United Methodist and Evangelical Covenant churches where the preaching was very bland and easy-believism was the norm.  This SBC church was the first place I had ever heard sound expository preaching, and in my extreme naivety I assumed that all Baptist churches were like this one, standing firmly on the inerrancy of Scripture, preaching boldly against sin and faithfully proclaiming the gospel.  So when I “surrendered to preach” I enrolled in the local Baptist college which had a 3-3 program with the North American Baptist seminary in town.  It only took a few weeks on campus to realize that all Baptists are not conservative and this college was no place to train for the ministry.  So I spent quite a bit of time researching for the most conservative Southern Baptist Bible college I could find.  My search led me to Florida Baptist Bible College in Graceville, FL.

Fav Point Calvinist!

 Moving from South Dakota to the Florida panhandle in January was awesome!  It was -18 degrees when we left and in the 60’s when we arrived.  The day after we moved into the on-campus married housing I was enjoying the balmy weather and chatting with my new neighbor in our shared front lawn, when a senior student stopped to say hello.  He had just  “made the loop”, visiting all the Southern Baptist seminaries in order to decide which one to attend for his post-graduate studies.  At some point in the conversation he said to my neighbor, “You’ll never believe what they got for a president at Southern.  –a FIVE point Calvinist!” :O (He was referring to Dr. Mohler of course.)   I had never heard the term before, so after the senior had driven away I asked my neighbor, “What is a five point Calvinist?”  He didn’t know exactly how to define it, and he seemed somewhat neutral on the subject, but he made it quite clear that most students looked at it as a very bad thing.

A few days later we were having dinner with another new student and his wife.  When the fact that I liked Spurgeon came up in the conversation I was told “Oh, you must be a Calvinist.”  To which I had to reply, “I don’t know what a Calvinist is.”  My friend was still in the discovery phase, but his explanation was enough to peak my interest.  I was very busy with all the various duties required in the first semester of a new college, a new job and family (at that time we had 2 children), but I knew this was an issue I wanted to learn more about.

I joined the Theology Club, hoping to engage in some additional “iron sharpening” and fellowship.  This hope, unfortunately, was very short lived.  We had only one meeting that I can recall.  At that meeting the decision was made to host a debate:  Calvinism vs. Arminianism.  I was pretty excited, thinking this would be of great benefit to my understanding of these matters.  Within a couple of days my excitement was turned to dismay.  The college had forbidden us from having a debate on the topic!  Their suggestion for a better topic of debate:  abortion.  I was completely dumbfounded!  The theology club isn’t allowed to debate a theological issue?  What in the world is there to debate about murdering babies?  What a joke!  Needless to say, the Theology Club simply disbanded.  By this time I had two friends who shared my conservative views, and we spent most of our spare time talking about theology.

Finally, a Definition

 It seemed like a day could not pass without hearing something in class or on campus about Calvinism, “five pointers”, or something of that nature.  I remember quite clearly when I finally found out what “five point Calvinism” actually was.  I was up late, (about 1:30 am as I recall) working on a paper, when I had to look up a term in my “Dictionary of Theological Terms”.  As I was putting the book down, it suddenly struck me, maybe the term “five point Calvinist” is in here.  Well sure enough it was!  Under the heading “Five points of Calvinism” I found the TULIP definition as expressed in the words of J.I. Packer.  I eagerly dove in, wondering what monstrous doctrine I was about to uncover.

I began to read: 

 Total Depravity… well that’s clearly Biblical, all men are born dead in trespasses and sins, why would anyone have a problem with that?

Unconditional Election…  Why would anyone disagree with this either?  If all men are completely unable to choose God what else could be the case?  And besides, “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Limited Atonement…  Well that’s clearly wrong, 1 John 2:2  He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

Irresistible Grace…  Of course, God’s grace cannot fail to accomplish His purpose.

Perseverance of the Saints…  Well Duh.  How could anyone ever have eternal life temporarily?

 Ok, ok, what is going on here?  Why is everybody so worked up about “five point Calvinism”?  Four of the five points are as plain as the nose on my face.  I remember waking my wife up and reading each point to her and asking “This is Biblical isn’t it?  What’s wrong with that?  Am I missing something?”  My wife didn’t appreciate my enthusiasm, but she agreed with me that four of the five points were obviously Biblical.  What a realization, I was a four point Calvinist before I even knew what the word Calvinism meant.  Funny how serious Bible reading and expository preaching can bring that about, isn’t it?

Arminian Antics and Strawmen

 My friends and I became convinced that someone at the college was coaching chapel speakers, asking them to deride Calvinism whenever possible.  I distinctly recall one speaker, when he came across the term elect in his text, giving a completely irrelevant explanation of its meaning and concluding with the declaration:  “And that’s the only place election appears in the Bible!”  We looked at each other in disbelief.  Did he know he was speaking at a Bible college, to people who have Bibles?

Perhaps the funniest incident regarding Calvinism that I can remember was in my Christian Education class.  The instructor had for some reason brought up a question about what you as a parent should do if your daughter stays out a couple hours past curfew.  Immediately a voice from the other side of the room piped out, “If you’re a fav point Calvinist, she wuz sposed to come home late!”  Of course this was met with abundant laughter.

But this anti-Calvinist atmosphere did do one thing for me and my friends.  It drove us into the library.  Oh the library, sigh…  What a wonderful, peaceful, glorious place.  There we devoured everything Calvinistic we could find.  A.W. Pink, Ian Murray, Charles Spurgeon and John McArthur were the most helpful to me at first, and J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness gave me a taste for the puritans, and we all know what a treasure trove can be found there!

The Fifth Point

 But even though many of the arguments I came across in defense of limited atonement seemed logical, I could not be convinced, not in the slightest.  1 John 2:2 was always ringing in my ears every time the subject came up.  I prayed for understanding & spent much time in meditation over that verse.  I then decided to do all the research I could and delve as deeply as possible into the meaning of that verse.  I had my Complete Word Study New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates, and I was determined to get to the bottom of every word and phrase.  Then suddenly, something amazing occurred to me.  It was as though God just switched a light on in the dark room that I had been groping around in.  Wait a minute, if that verse means what I thought it meant, then there can’t be anyone in hell!  If Christ has propitiated God’s wrath toward every individual who ever lived or will live, then no one can ever suffer under God’s wrath.  Scripture is clear that all who die outside of Christ will suffer eternally under the wrath of God.  Well what do you know, I’m a five point Calvinist!

I left FBTC after only one semester, it was much more conservative than Sioux Falls College, but it was still far too liberal for me.  I think I’ll always have fond memories of my time there, for it was the beginning of my “cage stage” of Calvinism.  I wasn’t yet what I now consider reformed, but I was indeed a “Fav Point Calvinist”!

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

In Defense of Parity, Chapter 9

parity 1

In Defense of Parity Ch 9.pdf


In Defense of Parity ch 9.mp3

Access entire book here

In Defense of Parity:

A presentation of the parity or equality of elders in the New Testament

CHAPTER NINE
The Practice of the Parity of the Eldership

Pastor Dave Chanski

Poh Boon Sing argues that holding to parity of authority among the elders produces the effect of “undermining the Christian ministry.” However, it is the view that ratchets the authority of some elders up by a notch over other elders that tends to devalue the office of elder and thus to undermine the authority of the church’s leadership. This occurs in at least two ways.

First, to assert that one class of elders has supremacy or priority of authority in the rule of the church necessarily lessens the authority of the other class of elders. This has the effect of diminishing all authority in the church, since Christ has seen fit to entrust the “execution of power or duty” to the elders of the church. We have seen that the Scriptures teach that all elders have equal authority in the church. They are Christ’s appointed rulers in His church. To grant primacy of authority to one class of elders over another requires either the extra-scriptural concentration of authority in the one class or an anti-Scriptural dilution of the authority of the other. If those who hold to such a view are not endeavoring to turn “pastors” into despots, they must concede that they are watering down the authority of “ruling elders”. This is a serious enough problem in itself, especially in a day and age when the world despises authority in almost any form and when the church of Christ is itself rushing to capitulate to the dictates of the world. The problem becomes especially acute when a church at any given time is without any fully supported preaching elders. Once again, we will do well to heed the admonition of John Owen:

Their authority, also in the whole rule of the church, is every way the same with that of the other sort of elders; and they are to act in the execution of it with equal respect and regard from the church. And this institution is abused when either unmeet persons are called to this office, or those that are called do not attend unto their duty with diligence, or do act only in it by the guidance of the teaching officers, without a sense of their own authority, or due respect from the church.

Second, the unscriptural view of the inherent superiority of one class of elders and the inherent inferiority of another leads to another pitfall, the watering down of qualifications for the office of elder. Even if it is maintained with Owen that both “pastors” and “ruling elders” hold the same office and that the scriptural qualifications are therefore identical, the departure from Owen regarding relative authority will inevitably lead to a two-tiered approach to the qualifications for office. To dilute the qualifications for one class of elders in the church is to dilute the qualifications for the eldership as a whole. Such dilution of standards jeopardizes the credibility of the church’s government in the eyes of the church and world and, more seriously, puts souls at risk, particularly those of unqualified men who are placed in office (1 Tim. 3:7). On the other hand, we know of no scriptural means more calculated to uphold the integrity of the Christian ministry and to secure the esteem of the people for church leaders than the maintenance of scriptural standards for the office of elder.

We cannot pretend that upholding scriptural standards for elders will safeguard the church from sin and incompetence in the eldership—even apostolic churches had their Diotrephes. However, care at this point is a primary means of keeping men of Diotrephes’ persuasion and tendency out of the Christian ministry. Further, taking such care to insure that all the elders in a church meet the Bible’s qualifications for office gives greater grounds for confidence that the men comprising the eldership will be able to effectively work together in a calling that requires the flesh­-withering labor of mutual submission, mutual trust, and real cooperation.

Another problem is likely to develop if we depart from the biblical norm of plurality. Failure to appreciate that a plurality of elders in each church is the scriptural ideal can produce laxness regarding a church’s desire and efforts to achieve this norm. Remember that Benjamin Keach saw neither scriptural warrant nor practical necessity for any other than preaching elders in the church. Dr. Poh similarly fails to appreciate the importance of pursuing the scriptural ideal at this point when he writes:

The principle of ‘plurality’ is being bandied about as a new form of ‘shibboleth’. In the face of these new problems, it would not be wise to stress ‘plurality’. No, it might not even be right to do so.

This sentiment is far from that of the Puritan Congregationalists of New England, who wrote in their Reforming Synod in 1679:

It is requisite that utmost endeavours should be used, in order unto a full supply of officers in the churches, according to Christ’s institution. The defect of these churches, on this account, is very lamentable, there being in most of the churches only one teaching officer for the burden of the whole congregation to lye upon. The Lord Christ would not have instituted pastors, teachers, ruling-elders (nor the apostles have ordained elders in every church-Acts 14.23; Titus 1.5,) if he had not seen there was need of them for the good of his people; and therefore for men to think they can do well enough without them, is both to break the second commandment, and to reflect upon the wisdom of Christ, as if he did appoint unnecessary officers in his church.

Owen himself argued in no uncertain terms that the Bible’s norm of a plurality should be the desire of every church for practical as well as theological reasons. He wrote, “It is difficult, if not impossible, on a supposition of one elder only in a church, to preserve the rule of the church from being prelatical or popular.” In other words, to neglect the scriptural norm of plurality is to implicitly invite either the perils of the prelatical system of Owen’s day or the absence of any genuine church government, such as exists in the congregationalism of our own day. Owen further argued that “The nature of the work whereunto they are called requires that, in every church consisting of any considerable number of members, there should be more elders than one.” His point is that the preservation of the life of godliness in both pastor and people, their maximum edification, and the good order of the church of Christ are all best served by a plurality of elders, not by single elder rule. He wrote, “That all these things can be attended unto and discharged in a due manner in any church, by one elder, is for them only to suppose who know nothing of them.” For good and weighty reasons, Owen held strong convictions regarding the importance of plurality. We do well to emulate him in this.

Another defect of any view which disallows or undermines parity of authority among elders is that it permits and promotes a carnal view of the ministry. Any such view is rooted in unbelief. Knowing the human heart and the track record of men—who share authority in government, whether civil or ecclesiastical, many conclude that effective government by a number of men who possess parity of authority is impracticable if not impossible to achieve. Poh writes:

The fact that one or two churches have functioned well with this system is no proof that it is correct. It only proves that the men involved have been long-standing friends who would have operated well in any other situation.

We agree that a harmoniously functioning eldership in which there is parity of authority does not prove that the system is biblical. That determination must be made exegetically. But a well-functioning eldership with parity does prove that the Bible’s order of church government is practicable. It is not only practicable, it is ideal, and its realization ought to be our aim. To suggest that such an eldership owes its harmony to quirks of personality is akin to attributing every God­-honoring Christian marriage to mere compatibility of the partners and asserting that they would have been successful even if they had remained unregenerate. The reality and profundity of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is denied.

The Bible’s form of church government requires faith in the necessity and efficacy of the work of the Holy Spirit. If we walk by sight and not by faith in this area, we will inevitably settle for a pragmatic arrangement, having concluded that the Bible’s method is designed for implementation only by angels or spirits of just men made perfect. Functioning in harmony with parity requires more than simply having godly men in the eldership. It requires the present and powerful dynamic of the Holy Spirit. He alone can help men of diverse age, gift, native inclination, and experience to cooperate peaceably and successfully. Only the Spirit of God can enable men to soberly assess themselves (Rom. 12:3ff.). Only He can enable them to mortify pride. Only He can keep them from sinful contentions and enable them to submit to one another. Only He can enable a man to sincerely appreciate and welcome the genuine oversight of his own soul by men who may be his inferiors in age, learning, or gift. By the same token, it is only the Holy Spirit who can enable equals in authority to defer to those who possess greater gift, experience, insight, or familiarity in a given area or situation.

Dr. Poh sees it as an inherent weakness of parity that it gives rise to a “constant tension of having to give deference to one another.” However, pride will wreak havoc in any eldership, whether it has parity or not. No system of church government produced Diotrephes. Diotrephes spoiled the government of the church (3 John 9). The requirement of humility and the perpetual demand for submission is not peculiar to systems of church government holding to parity. It is required for the Christian ministry, period. If a man cannot defer to his fellow elders, how can he faithfully and effectively shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2f.)? If he cannot defer to his fellow elders, how can he be the servant of Christ’s people (Matt. 20:25-27)? If he cannot defer to his fellow elders, how can he truly esteem others better than himself (Phil. 2:3-5)? If he cannot defer to his fellow elders, how will he ever spend and be spent for men’s souls (2 Cor. 12:14f.)? If he cannot defer to his fellow elders, let that be the first clue that he is not fit to be an elder in the church of Christ.