Thursday, July 31, 2008

Isaiah's Idol Polemic

One of the things I love about the section of Isaiah that starts in chapter 40 and is written to the future exiles in Babylon is the polemic that Isaiah gets going against the idols. For example:

Isaiah 40:13-14 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? 14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?

Isaiah 46:1 Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, A load for the weary beast.

The reason I love some of this stuff is the biting irony. The Babylonian god Marduk had to consult with Ea 'the all-wise' before he created the earth. YHWH, the God of Israel, had to do know such thing when he created the earth. Bel (or Marduk) was the city god of Babylon. Bel's son Nebo was the city god of Borsippa near Babylon. Both images were carried annually into Babylon in a new year's procession where they would decree the fate for the coming year. Isaiah envisions a new sort of 'carrying' party where now they are for beast and cattle. It is the denegration of these once championed gods.

But why go to all the trouble to insult the gods in such a forthright manner? I think part of Isaiah's reasoning comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. This book of the law brings the blessings and the curses of the covenant. In fact, when the prophets enact and enforce their covenant lawsuits, the often refer to this treaty and its sanctions (cf. Isaiah 1; and Deut. 4:26; 32:1).

Deuteronomy 28 tells us that the ultimate curse of the covenant is exile from the land. This is precisely the events Isaiah prophecies will be fulfilled by Babylon (Isa. 39 et al). But in Deuteronomy 28, we read this:

Deuteronomy 28:63-65 63 "It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. 64 "Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. 65 "Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.
Also in Deut. 4:

Deuteronomy 4:27-28 27 "The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. 28 "There you will serve gods, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
I would argue that this is precisely why Isaiah insults the idols of Babylon. It is a preemptive attack on these idols. It is a warning to the exiles not to serve the other gods of this nation. It gives them hope, because what idol has ever predicted the future? Well YHWH does through Isaiah over 100 years before her exile and 170 years before her return from exile.

Isaiah has a sort of pastoral intent. It is a warning of the futility of idols. It is dethrones the idols even before Israel is in the land of their throne. Ezekiel and Jeremiah also give warnings about serving the idols in the foreign nations. At the end of the day, God does not abandon his people.

The curse of the covenant is being thrown in a land of no rest. The temptation is to try to find rest under the foreign gods when 'your home god' 'failed' in a sense. Isaiah knows his Old Testament and know what Israel will face in a foreign land. This is why Isaiah makes it so clear the utter foolishness of serving an idol made with your hands:

Isaiah 44:9-22 Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. 10 Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? 11 Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. 12 The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. 13 Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. 14 Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. 15 Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, "Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire." 17 But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god." 18 They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend. 19 No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!" 20 He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" 21 "Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. 22 "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
Deuteronomy is never far from Isaiah's thoughts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sermon Applications 7/27/08

Text: Ephesians 1:7-8

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

Introduction: There are lots of things in the world that make demands upon us. When you are born and live in the United States; our government makes demands on you. You cannot just shoot people without consequences. If you shoot people and you get the consequences, the government does not just set you free when you feel like you’ve done enough. There is a standard. It must be paid. If you crash while speeding you get a fine. You need to pay the fine. These notions of justice to avoid chaos and anarchy are everywhere. Yet, people who see this everyday abhor this idea when it comes to God—that God might be just; that he might have a penalty to pay. Thus, a God who sends his Son to pay for our penalties is considered offensive. It will always be offensive.

Our passage addresses believers—those who have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
So, when I say “you”—I too am speaking only to those of you who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ by (a) confessing that you are sinner; (b) believing that Christ died to save sinners; (c) receiving this forgiveness through repenting and placing your trust in Jesus Christ by acknowledging that only His death and resurrection save us. If you have done this you are saved. You are redeemed. It is important that you know what it means to be “redeemed”. If you have never believed this, it is important that you know what Jesus offers us if we will put our faith and trust in Him. If you do not believe in him—the “you” do not apply but they can if you believe.


i) We are to see the great necessity of redemption.
Our slavery is great. We are ‘in the domain of darkness’ and we need to be rescued (Col. 1:13). We are captive to our sin. Being captive to sin means that we really do not see how bad we are. In fact, sin is deceiving. It blinds us. This blindness of sin is like a bug zapper light. We are drawn to it—we are so engrossed with what will kill us but we can see nothing more beautiful.

Consider John D. Rockefeller, he was asked “How much money is enough?” He answered: “Just a little bit more.” It was slavery—it was like the blinding bug zapper light. Sin is when we have “false loves, false trusts, false fears, false hopes, false pursuits [and] false masters.”

For example: we take good things: like sex, money or our job and we so serve them that these things become ultimate. We make them an object of worship: if I could just get more—we seek a happiness and sense of fulfillment. We trust in these to provide safety, comfort, joy, and protection not God. And then slowly we find ourselves empty, lonely, broke—these pursuits destroy us. We become like Pinocchio on Pleasure Island. Instead of finding pleasure and delight—we transform into donkeys. Instead of being more human, we become less. Instead of freedom and pleasure; it is captivity and emptiness. Like the boys on Pleasure Island we are trapped and sold into slavery for salt mines. We need redemption. We need to be set free from this bondage. The problem with Pinocchio is he thinks he can free himself—that’s not the gospel. We don’t need a Jiminy Cricket who tells us to be good and wish—that does not work. We need a Jesus Christ who redeems us!

ii) We are to see the great cost. It takes nothing less than the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Redemption is found only in the Son and His shed blood.


i) We are to see the great value of redemption.
We have redemption. It is a present possession for the believer. When we don’t see the greatness of our captivity, we often do not see the great value of what we have. This leads to spiritual depression. We might define spiritual depression as being downcast, lacking a sense of freedom, and lacking joy that comes from God.

Remember the movie The Shawshank Redemption. In it, one of the prisoners is set free. But he longs to go back to prison. He wants the structure, order and meaning that the previous life gave him. So he commits suicide. Morgan Freeman’s character when released almost does the same thing. We fail to realize who we are in Christ—we are redeemed. We are set free. So we do not live as free people, praising God—delighting in Him and the great value of what we have. Instead, we make ourselves captives to slavery again—we continue to build our life around those things that are not gods and we disobey God by failing to love Him first and foremost.

ii) We are to see the great reward. The possession of you and I is nothing less than the forgiveness of sins. There is nothing that stand between us and God. He loves us; we are free to love Him. Nothing hinders that relationship.

iii) Our ‘sense of forgiveness’ comes not from within but from outside ourselves. Meaning you and I do not always feel forgiven and we often look for our own heart to be convinced. Your heart must be convinced by an outside objective word from God. The objective Cross and the Word of God declares to you, dear Christian, that you are free and forgiven. When your heart is trouble you must ‘preach’ his to yourself.


i) We are to delight in the lavishness of God’s grace.
When you fail to see the lavishes and riches of God’s grace you are lead into spiritual depression. Your Christian life seems boring and non-exhilarating. You think that what God has done is such a small thing. You see little value in enjoying God and you find little joy in obeying God. But where grace is lavished—we delight in God. Where grace is lavished—we obey not out of dread and obligation but duty becomes delight. Where grace is lavished we can sing loudly: “blessed be the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ”

ii) If you see that lavishness of God’s grace today—that Christ is presented as the perfect Savior—I invite you to believe in Him. Some of you only see this lavish grace from a distance. You are like a child peering in the window. This possession is not yet yours. You do not know the joy of forgiveness. Indeed you find yourself driven made by all your pursuits in this world that leave you without peace, without true joy and most of all you find yourself without forgiveness. You know that if you were to die and stand before God He has no reason to forgive you. You have done nothing for Him and have not obeyed Him.

The reality is that you can do nothing for God. You are in need of a lavish grace. This grace is only to be received.
Romans 10:9-10 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Simply pray this prayer:
“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know that my sin condemns me to hell. But I believe that you shed your blood on the Cross to redeem sinner. I confess that you are Lord and you have risen from the dead. Forgive me of my sins; give me this redemption that you won on the cross. I commit myself to you as my Savior and as my Lord. AMEN”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"And Can it Be" & Grace

Since I posted a song yesterday on that reminds me of God's grace, here is another song that reminds me deeply of God's grace. This is a powerful reminder that the cross saves. Only the power of the cross frees us from the deadness of sin. Stanza 4 reminds us that the blood of Christ frees our heart, brings us back to life and we freely follow Christ once we have been set free. It is irresistible grace.

J.I. Packer says the following:

(ii.) Christ’s work of redemption was defined by the Arminians as the removing of an obstacle (the unsatisfied claims of justice) which stood in the way of God’s offering pardon to sinners, as He desired to do, on condition that they believe. Redemption, according to Arminianism, secured for God a right to make this offer, but did not of itself ensure that anyone would ever accept it; for faith, being a work of man’s own, is not a gift that comes to him from Calvary. Christ’s death created an opportunity for the exercise of saving faith, but that is all it did. Calvinists, however, define redemption as Christ’s actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was for ever destroyed, and a title to eternal life was secured for them. In consequence of this, they now have in God’s sight a right to the gift of faith, as the means of entry into the enjoyment of their inheritance. Calvary, in other words, not merely made possible the salvation of those for whom Christ died; it ensured that they would be brought to faith and their salvation made actual. The Cross saves. Where the Arminian will only say: “I could not have gained my salvation without Calvary,” the Calvinist will say: “Christ gained my salvation for me at Calvary.” The former makes the Cross the sine qua non of salvation, the latter sees it as the actual procuring cause of salvation, and traces the source of every spiritual blessing, faith included, back to the great transaction between God and His Son carried through on Calvary’s hill. Clearly, these two concepts of redemption are quite at variance.

(iii.) The Spirit’s gift of internal grace was defined by the Arminians as “moral suasion,” the bare bestowal of an understanding of God’s truth. This, they granted—indeed, insisted—does not of itself ensure that anyone will ever make the response of faith. But Calvinists define this gift as not merely an enlightening, but also a regenerating work of God in men, “taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist. Where the Arminian, therefore, will be content to say: “I decided for Christ,” “I made up my mind to be a Christian,” the Calvinist will wish to speak of his conversion in more theological fashion, to make plain whose work it really was:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off: my heart was free:
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”

Clearly, these two notions of internal grace are sharply opposed to each other.

Here are the lyrics:
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2. 'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

3. He left his Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Bring Me to Life" & Grace

For some reason, whenever I hear this song, I don't think of it as a love song. Well, I guess I should say, I think of it as a love song of a different type. I can't help but think of the overwhelming power of God's regenerating grace. I can't help but ponder how irresistible, intoxitcating and overflowing grace. I am reminded of how dead I am in my sins and how deeply I need to be saved from the darkness and depravity of my own heart.

For some reason this song makes me contemplate my own depravity and how I need God to bring me back to life. See Ephesians 2:1-7. I am spiritually dead until Christ through the power of the Spirit comes, raises me up and leads me home transfering me from the kingdom of darkeness to the His kingdom (Col. 1:13-14).

I need the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into me and creat life where their is death or bring light where their is darkness.

2 Corinthians 4:1-15 1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of theunbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. 13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore we also speak, 14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

I know, I know, not exactly authorial intent. Not exactly a song to sing in worship. But the song often does get me to think about the deeper mysteries of the grace of God. The thing is, what she sings about in a relationship with a man can only be found in seing and savoring the living God in a covenant relationship of fellowship with Him.

I would just point out that John Owen speaks of the fellowship with have with Christ as 'conjugal relations' with respect to our affection where we delight in Christ (chapter 4, communion with God):

"He [Christ] is their delight and desirable one, the person of their desire...In that pattern of communion with Jesus Christ which we have in the Canticles [Song of Songs], this is abundantly insisted upon. The spouse tells us that she sits down under his shadow with great delight, Cant. ii.3. And this delight is to be vigorous and actice, she manifests several ways wherein we should labour to find our hearts in like manner towards him [Christ]." (Communion with God, Banner of Truth, p.125)."

Back to the song, here are the lyrics:

How can you see into my eyes like open doors
Leading you down into my core
Where I've become so numb
Without a soul
My spirit's sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home

(Wake me up) Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up) Wake me up inside
(Save me) Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up) Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up) Before I come undone
(Save me) Save me from the nothing I've become

Now that I know what I'm without
You can't just leave me
Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life

(Wake me up) Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up) Wake me up inside
(Save me) Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up) Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up) Before I come undone
(Save me) Save me from the nothing I've become

Bring me to life
I've been living a lie
There's nothing inside
Bring me to life

Frozen inside without your touch
Without your love, darling
Only you are the life among the dead

All of this time, I can't believe I couldn't see
Kept in the dark, but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to everything
Without a thought, without a voice, without a soul
Don't let me die here
There must be something more
Bring me to life

(Wake me up) Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up) Wake me up inside
(Save me) Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up) Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up) Before I come undone
(Save me) Save me from the nothing I've become

Bring me to life
I've been living a lie
There's nothing inside
Bring me to life

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Blog Birthday

I wasn't going to post today, but then I remembered the blog is one year old today... so Happy Birthday. So here are some ideas that I have coming up next week:

(1) Monday: One of my favorite secular songs and why it reminds me of God's grace.

(2) Tuesday: One of my favorite hymns and what it says about God's grace

(3) Wednesday: Sermon applications Ephesians 1:7-8

(4) Thursday: Isaiah's idol polemic and its OT background.

(5) Friday: Paul's idol polemic in Romans 1 and its OT background.

I have one on the pipe line: "Jiminy Cricket vs. Jesus Christ" --an evaluation of their respective theologies--yes I promise it will be fun (at least for me).

I've been thinking about saying something about Marriage, the Gospel and those 30-day sex challenges--maybe I'll get to it. I might post it...

I've also being thinking about resurrecting the "Dueling Duos"... now to just find some good quotes.

I've got a lot of research on the word "redemption" from my study of Ephesians 1:7 so I might post some of that. I might also do some more stuff on Galatians and justification by faith.Stay tuned! Hopefully it will be more fun, exciting and an orientation to gospel living.

Let us boldly embark into the next year... boldly going... oh forget it.

Just for fun:



Friday, July 25, 2008

Sanctification by Faith

Here's what I said in a conversation with someone the other day:
"It does little good to have a Reformed/evangelical view of justification if we do not also have a Reformed/evangelical view of sanctification."
First, when I speak of 'Reformed/evangelical' I was taking for granted that those two things used to mean the same thing. Evangelical was connected with a firm belief in and grasp of the gospel. I was thinking primarily of confessional evangelicalism and historic Protestantism.

Second, most evangelicals today have a notion of "saved by grace" but "maintained through works". We have a sort notion that I move on to the maintainance of my Christian life through how I perform. Of course, the height of this is often 'the personal quiet time'. Not that we should have anything against Bible study, prayer and Scriptural meditation. Nevertheless, these are not performances for a healthy spiritual life. These are not even performances for good fellowship with God. Indeed, we need a more gospel centered approach to fellowship with God.

Third, the fruit of sanctification must flow out of the benefits won by Christ and my union with Christ (which is effected by the gift of His Spirit). Where we see justification as distinct but inseperable we will have a new appreciation for union with Christ--which is essential to the Christian life. That I am raised with Christ and made a new man. Thus, the Reformed view of sanctification is both definitive (I have it by viritue of being in Christ) and progressive (He works it out in me).

Fourth, sanctification must be part and parcel of the monergistic work of redemption. That God alone does the work of conforming me to the image of Christ. Most evangelical Christians today have a sort of 'God does his part and I do my part.' The said thing is then that this bad view of sanctification also leads to (or maybe even flows from) a bad view of justification. Much like in Galatians, the issue is how does a 'child of Abraham live' is confronted with the truth of justification by faith (cf. Galatians 3:1-4, where they wanted to continue in the flesh), so too the wrong view of justification can lead to a sort of 'maintaining a healthy relationship with God by how I live' approach. Such a bad view of sanctification, at the end of the day, says that we do not really grasp the implications of justification by faith. Conversely, prevailing bad views of justification at the end of the day says we do not understand what is truly needed for sanctification.

What to do about it?
Let me offer a couple quick suggestions:
  1. We need to meditate on the truth that God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5)
  2. We need to recover in our hearts the true blessedness of not having out sins counted against us (Romans 4:6-8).
  3. We need to recognize that sanctification is the fruit of being united to Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-6).
  4. We need to free ourselves from performance models of Christianity by wrestling with the gravity of our sin and its ongoing presence in our life.
  5. We need to recognize the monergistic working of God in salvation and understand that when He saves He makes us a new man.
  6. We need to work at evidencing the new man not out of obligation but out of a sense of gratitude of knowing what Christ has already won for us.
  7. We need to realize that sanctification can become a new idol for us. It can cause us to take our eyes off of Christ and His work and place the emphasis solely on ourselves and our performance. --The so called 'third use of the Law' is not designed to enslave us under the Law and the performance thereof.
  8. I need to pray deeper and communion with God greater knowing that only His work enables such activities.

Walter Marshall says it this way:
"One great mystery is, that the holy frame and disposition whereby our souls are furnished and enabled for immediate practice of the law, must be obtained by recieving it out of Christ's fulness, as a thing already prepared and brought to an existence for us in Christ, and treasured up in him; and that as we are justified by a righteousness wrought out in Christ, and imputed to us; so we are sanctified by such a holy frame and qualifications, as are first wrought out and completed in Christ for us, and then imparted to us. And as our natural corruption was produced originally in the first Adam, and progpagated from him to us; so our new nature and holiness is first produced in Christ, and derived from him to us, or as it were propagated. So that we are not al all to work together with Christ, in making or producing that holy frame in us, but only to take it to ourselves and use it in our holy practice, as made ready to our hands. Thus, we have fellowship with Christ, in receiving that holy frame of spirit that was originallyin him: for fellowship is, when several persons have the same thing in common (1 John i.1,2,3). This mystery is so great, that , notwithstanding all the light of the gospel, we commonly think that we must get a holy frame by producing it anew in ourselves, and by forming and working it out of our hearts. Therfore many that are seriously devout, take a great deal of pains to mortify their corrupt nature, and beget a holy frame of heart in themselves, by striving earnestly to master their sinful lusts and by pressing vhemently upon their hearts many motives to godliness, labouring importunately to squeeze good qualifications out of them, and oil out of a flint. They account, that though they be justified by a righteousness wrought out by Christ, yet they must be sanctified by a holiness wrought out by themselves. And thought, out of humility, they are willing to call it infused grace; yet they think they must get the infusion of it by the same manner of working, as if they were wholly acquired by their own endeavors." --The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p.27-28
Walter Marshall goes on to say that this leaves one's experience in the Christian life to be extremely bitter because they do not realize that the new nature is recieved by us not produced by us. If they had known this they might have saved themselves a "bitter agony, and a great deal of mis-spent burdensome labor."
Dear Christian, flee from your burdensome labors. Return to the grace of the gospel.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Bad English

"Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers....
This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. "

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sermon Applications 7/20/08

Text: Isaiah 40:1-10


Application: We must see Christ as the great fulfillment of this passage.

Mark 1:1-4 Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; 3 THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'" 4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

i) John the Baptist was this voice. Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23.

ii) Jesus Christ is the glory of God revealed.

John 1:14 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

iii) It is exceedingly great comfort to us that God has revealed His glory in Christ. Our sin brings a greater exile than Israel experienced and Jesus Christ removes that sin and brings us back to God leading us out of exile—setting us free from our captivity.

iv) The danger in our day and age is we are often distracted from the real source of trials and tribulation and thus we loose sight of the real comfort.

v) Two weeks ago, I reminded us that the real problem in our church is what the Bible calls the deeds of the flesh. If we want comfort during this time—we must seek Christ and repent! We must say: “Lord we are sinful—there are divisions, dissent, strife and hurts amongst us—forgive us.” If the issue is the deeds of the flesh (and it is) then the solution is the Holy Spirit through the gospel putting these to death.


i) We must repent and acknowledge our own frailty. We are week not only in terms of bodily flesh but in terms of our moral ability.

Romans 7:18-19 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

ii) The body here at PMBFC has experienced this flesh. We have experienced it in a number of ways. (a) People are getting older. Some have gone on to be with the Lord; some have moved to retire. Frailty takes its toll. (b) The weaknesses of the flesh have caused various divisions and dissensions over the past two years. Most recently the Tomlinson families have resigned from serving and left. It is perhaps as if the Word of God has blown upon us and we have shriveled under our sins. The recent consequences should cause us to weep us but should not surprise us.

iii) PMBFC will only survive if we cling to the Word of the God. The Word of God stands forever. Now more than ever we must find comfort in the Word of God. We must not speculate on “what to do,” “how to fix things,” “who started these problems”. We must make ourselves more diligent in seeking the Word of God, proclaiming it publically, listening to it, studying it, and obeying it.

iv) It is easy to focus on all these things going on and we become discouraged. We can become like Peter walking on the water. The look at the waves around us and we get distracted and fearful. We think—‘what must I do to resist these things’ or ‘how do I diagnose and fix the problem in the church’. We must turn to Christ. We must turn to His Word which is our immovable rock. It alone stands forever.


i) We are to believe that right now God will bring comfort to us. Christ is the only one.

ii) We are to see and believe that this comfort is found only in the gospel. The gospel is not something the Christian believes once and he is done. It is not a box we check off saying “yes I believed that”. It is something we continue to believe in. It nourishes and strengthens us. IT IS GOOD NEWS: I have peace with God. Do not fear: God is mighty to save. Christ has barred His holy arm and won my salvation. The transformation that must be ongoing in my life comes from the gospel. The gospel brings us into fellowship with God and that fellowship is joyous. It brings us to enjoy God.

iii) The gospel is the revelation of God’s glory. Cf. John Piper’s God is the Gospel.

“The gospel reveals the glory of God. The argument of this book is that this revelation is precisely what makes the gospel good news, and that it is not good news if the glory of God is not seen in it. In other words, the glory of God is not marginal or dispensable but is essential to making the good news good.” (p. 100)

How can you not see the glory of God more and more as a Christian? We behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. How can you not daily be driven to deeper repentance? Isaiah: woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips. –This is right were we are! Our lips have gotten us in trouble. How can you not see God’s glory in the gospel and be transformed? We are being created to bear God’s image. THE GOSPEL IS FOR SALVATION AND FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING.

iv) Right now, we need to ask afresh Jesus Christ to shepherd us. We must ask Him to heal us. We must ask him to carry us. The worst thing we could do is look for human solutions. The worst thing we could do is pretend we are the doctors who can diagnose the problem. We are but grass—we fade and wither.

v) How do I turn my attention upon Christ at this time?
  1. Ask the Spirit to probe me deeper and reveal my sins and my heart.
  2. Acknowledge and confess both your individual sins and our corporate sins.
  3. Recognize that the purpose of the gospel is to bring me to enjoy God. Seek delight.
  4. Seek to obey the commands of God. For example read through Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 & 5. Examine what the fruit of being in Christ looks like. God transforms us through His Word.
  5. Ask God to display His glory in PMBFC by bringing healing and comfort. Christ shepherds His people out of their sins. Perhaps, recent events have been a sort of discipline upon us. But this is precisely the context in which God restores His people.
  6. Make every effort to encourage and comfort others by pointing us to Christ alone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Cross and Christian Ministry

“For too long, many evangelicals have viewed the cross exclusively as the means by which God in Jesus Christ achieved our redemption. Of course, no Christian would want to minimize the centrality of the cross in God’s redemptive purposes. But if we view it as the means of our salvation and nothing more, we shall overlook many of its functions in the New Testament. In particular, so faith as this study is concerned, we shall fail to see how the cross stands as the test and standard of all vital Christian ministry. The cross not only establishes what we are to preach, but how we are to preach. It prescribes what Christian leaders must be and how Christians must view Christian leaders. It tells us how to serve and draws us onward in discipleship until we understand what it means to be world Christians.” --D.A. Carson The Cross and Christian Ministry, p.9

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Star Trek XI Poster

It has been a while since I posted anything Trek on this blog--so I'm going to indulge myself. Here is the new Trek poster:

If you take a look at a closeup, like here, you can see little ensignias in the eyes of the characters. The characters are Nero (Eric Bana) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) above. Below Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine). The red, blue and gold colors are the colors of the uniforms on the original series. I've got to say--Quinto looks like a good Spock--the hair, the eyes, the straight face-- and Pine looks like a good Kirk--young cocky but confident.

Abrams has been saying that this movie is really character driven and fills in the back story of Kirk and Spock's meeting and early adventures. Let's hope that it ends up being all that its cracked up to be.

The best place to see the posters and get the downloads is (click on download). They have various sizes and they are large enough to see the ensigna.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just a thought about forgiveness... & racism

What do Michael Richards, Don Imus and now Reverend Jesse Jackson have in common? Sounds like a bad joke right?

All three men were called out for making racial slurs. Particularly Richards and Jackson used the 'N-word'. Don Imus, of course, made infamous remarks about Rutgers' Womans' basketball team. You can find a report on Jesse Jackson's words in articles like this one.

Of course, after the Michael Richards incident Jesse Jackson said "We will challenge and urge all artists and comics to stop using this word. … What other group is subjected to such a degrading terminology?"

Here's what I want to know: Will the supporters and friends of Jesse Jackson be more willing to forgive Jesse Jackson than they were willing to forgive Imus and Richards? Will they call for the same sanctions against Jackson that they leveled against Imus and Richards? Will they protest publicly to the same extent? Granted Jackson may not have directly called someone by the racial slur, but he did refer to a whole group of people by a term he has publicly decried as unacceptable speech. He further crudely referred to Obama's private parts. Isn't this slanderous in the same way Imus was slanderous of woman?

Here's another question: In this instance, isn't it another form of racism to tolerate certain behavior in one person that you do not tolerate in another? How can you in essence call down fire and brimstone on one set of persons and then call for different consequences on another set of persons committing the same wrong acts?

How do you explain a willingness to forgive Jackson and excuse it as indescretion but an unwillingness to grant the same mercy towards Richards and Imus?

Doesn't this make one a respector of persons?

Shouldn't we apply a greater stricterness to Jackson because of his position as a 'teacher' [particularly a "teacher" on the issues of 'racism' and 'reconciliation'] and a 'Reverend' (James 3:1)? In fact, Thabiti Anyabwile has offered great thoughts:

Jackson's comments are deplorable. There is no compelling way of explaining why anyone associated with the risen Lord Jesus should say such things, much less why His ministers should profane His name that way. Jackson's words deomonstrate a lack of integrity--campaigning for the abolishment of the N-word's use while freely using it "off air." We will be judged by every idle word we speak. And judgment will begin at the household of God, where those who teach will receive the stricter judgment.

Perhaps we can debate the legacy of Jackson and say as he says "I'm quick to say if I've done any harm or hurt, for that I have deep regrets because I want my pluses to be stronger than my minuses." But all I'm asking is why weren't the pluses of Imus and Richards factored in--or why were their apologies considered less sincere?

A couple of issues:

(1) We can't judge people's hearts. When people ask for forgiveness we have to be ever willing to grant it.

Matthew 18:21-22 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

(2) We have to be careful that consequence--that often need to take place--are applied fairly and consistently without regard for race, creed, wealth or status. Partiality is a great sin that we are all vunerable to committing. Our character must, by the work of Christ in us, seek to emulate God's non-partial character or we are sinning.

Acts 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,

James 2:9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors

We all need God's grace. The biggest issue is our repentance before God--that we have sinned against Him and can recieve forgivness from Jesus Christ by believing He died on the cross and rose again. We confess that He is Savior and Lord.

If we have been forgiven by such great grace, we in turn must show great forgiveness to those who sin against us. We need to practice great forgiveness. I think too often we assumed that if we struck out men like Richards and Imus from the public scene we could illiminate racism. That such sactions actually do the hard work of illiminating an attitude. How sad. This strikes me as little more than sweeping things under the rug. What it takes is great forgiveness. Forgiveness is costly on the person who is forgiving. It does not excuse the wrong doing but it puts a great expense upon oneself to show mercy upon on who does not deserve mercy since they are truly guilty. This is true first and foremost of God's forgiveness of us based upon Christ's sacrifice. This is true on a lesser level when we forgive others. It is, of course, easy to love a friend. It is very hard to love an enemy--on who has struck at us verbally or physically. Nevertheless, this is the great call of the Christian. We love because God first loved us.

Because we have been shown great mercy in Christ we have no right to withhold mercy and foregiveness.

I'm not going to call Jackson a hypocrite because his ideal of not using such racial remarks and slanderous speach is noble. To the point: they are Biblical commands [Eph. 4:29; 5:4; Col. 3:8; 4:6]. Yet we all sinners--we all have hearts that breed hate. Hatred first towards God and second towards man. Rooting out racism must go beyond striking words from our vocabulary--it must go to the heart. The heart can only be changed by the person and work of Christ. So long as that work of sanctification is progressive my heart will always struggle with sin of all sort.

The fact that we are all sinners should not excuse or cause us to tolerate such wickedness. However, the fact that we are all sinners should cause us to forgive other sinners. We need to be extremely careful that when others seek forgiveness of us, we do not consider ourselves morally superior to them--and one cannot help but wonder if this is how some of us responded to Richards and Imus. "'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector [or insert "racists"]" (Luke 18:11).

Sadly, Jackson has illustrated the deeper complexities of racism, namely hatred. Hatred is not rooted out by public sanctions. This is not to say public consequences are not worthy and even necessary. Indeed they are. I simply point out that they do not tame the heart. "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Indeed, the issue with Jacksons comments is not just one word or set of words but the heart attitude those words displayed.

There is many a great lessons from recent events. These are aweful times. May we spend them in prayer before God recognizing that at the foot of the cross all men are equally vile sinners in need of an equal liberal grace from a God who loves His enemies and reconciles them to Himself.

James 3:1-10 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Matthew 7:1-5 1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Martin Luther on the Gospel

"Now the true Gospel has it that we are justified by faith alone without deeds of the Law. The false gospel has it that we arejustified by faith, but not without deeds of the Law. The fake apostles preached a conditional gospel.

So do the papists. They admit that faith is the foundation of salvation. But they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is finished with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift of the work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer."
--Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians.
Just a couple of thoughts:
  1. Luther understood the argument of Paul in Galatians better than most modern scholars give him credit. He did not think the Judiazers were 'Pelagian' but understood they were combining works with justification.
  2. Luther rightly saw that the issue at stake is not 'justification by faith' but 'justification by faith alone'.
  3. Luther understood the role of good works. Many Bible scholars today do make our passing the judgement conditional upon our good works.
  4. Luther understood what is at stake between Protestants and Roman Catholics. He understood it better than most Christians today who either (a) think that the differences do not matter because Catholics claim to trust Jesus or (b) think that Rome's official teaching is 'salvation by works' or Pelagianism.
  5. As with much of his commentary the visual images are wonderful: "the embellishment of faith"
  6. A conditional gospel is no gospel at all.
"[S]tudents who want to understand Paul but feel they have nothing to learn from a Martin Luther should consider a career in metallurgy. Exegesis is learned from the masters." --Stephen Westerholm Israel's Law and the Church's Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters p173.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Story Behind 'Cinderella'

Here is Steven Curtis Chapman talking about how the song Cinderella came about. It reminds me of how things often go in a busy family with young kids.

Here is the music video + the story:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is song so beautiful

I have three girls and from time to time I find myself wanting a son so we can do--well--guy stuff. But I heard this song today for the first time and I almost started to cry. This describes my girls to the tee. It makes me hope that I work hard at not missing them grow up.

*Just a note, I really haven't had time to post much lately with stuff going on in life. Sorry to the regular reader--I don't know that I have plural readers yet. Thanks anyways.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Here's a Good test for a sermon

I ran across this test for a sermon. This is pretty much how I want people to evaluate my sermons:

1) Is Jesus mentioned? Don't laugh you could listen to Joel Osteen for months and never hear the Lord mentioned once.

2) If He is mentioned, is He the subject of the verbs? Is He doing the acting or is He being acted upon? Does He drive the verbs?

3) If He is mentioned and is the subject of the verbs, what are those verbs? Is Jesus making you happy? Making you healthy? Making you wealthy? Or is He living a righteous life we can never live, suffering on the cross to pay for our sins and rising from the dead on the third day assuring us of eternal life?

Just something worth thinking about.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ephesians 1:3-6 Thoughts on Election

Here are the exposition points from Ephesians 1:3-6 to show the Scripture teaches uncondional election--what is commmonly called Calvinism. Notice though for preaching I didn't mention Calvinism by name. I firmly believe, as Spurgeon says, that you cannot preach the fulness of the gospel unless you preach what is today commonly referred to as Calvinism. But I do not hold to it because Calvin or any other says it. "My heart is held captive to the Word of God, Here I stand, I can do no other.'


The point of this passage is that we might focus on God and worship Him for the blessings we have. This passage is really vv.3-14 as one sentence. It focuses on the Trinity and what Father, Son and Holy Spirit do in redemption. We will unfold this blessing.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,


a) God chose the Christian without conditions before the world began. God says:

Ephesians 1:4 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

The word for “chose” is the word from which we get the word ‘election’. Election is a Biblical doctrine not something invented by men. The overwhelming majority of Bible believing Christians believe that in some way God ‘elects’ or ‘chooses’ Christians to salvation. There are two different ways of understanding this passage:

i) There is the conditional view or the corporate view. This says that God chooses people based on what he knows they will do. God sees they will do it and so He says ‘that’s what I’ll let them do’. This is not really God choosing but just agreeing to go along with man. So this view will say ‘God just determines that anybody who comes to know Christ will be ‘in Him’ and thus elect.’ It is kind of like drawing a circle on the ground and saying anybody who goes into the circle—those I have chosen. This is not how God’s Word describes election.

ii) The unconditional view: “Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity, for reasons known only to Himself and apart from any foreseen faith and/or goodness in found in man, He graciously chose from among fallen mankind a people unto salvation.

(1) Notice that it says “God chose us”. Paul is writing to a specific group of Christians. V.3—he has blessed us. V.7—we have redemption; v.8—he lavished on us; v.9-made known to us; v.9—we have an inheritance. The “us” is Paul and the ‘you’ in verses 1-2. Paul is not talking about some opened ended category. All who believe in Jesus Christ do so because God chose them. God did not choose them because he knew they’d believe. God chose them so that they’d believe. The heart has to be alive to choose God. God did not choose us because we were holy and blameless but so that we could be holy and blameless.

(2) We are chosen ‘in him’--Christ. Here, God does not choose Christ but God chooses a particularly group of people that they might be redeemed and made holy and blameless through the person and work of Christ.

(3) Before the foundation of the world—indicates this takes place in eternity past. As it is said in Romans 9 speaking of Esau and Jacob:

Romans 9:11 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,

2 Thessalonians 2:13 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

ESV 2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works [i.e. what we do] but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

God does not look down the tunnel of time and then see who will be good and love Him. He does not look at our works or our act of faith and then choose us. God makes a choice—his own free choice. He looks at all sinful humanity and for His purpose & His grace chooses some who will because of His choice receive it.

(4) The choosing and predestining in verse 5 is “according to God’s will” and v. 6—‘to the praise of the glory of His grace’. God gets the credit not man.

ESV John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

b) God chose us to be holy and blameless through the work of Christ.
Ephesians 1:4 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
The purpose of the choosing is to set apart a people for Himself. The result of our redemption is that through the work of Christ we are redeemed and made holy and blameless. There is nothing in you and I that makes us worthy of God’s choice. In fact, just the opposite—he takes those who are wicked and dead in their sin and He chooses them to be his own people.


a) God predestined us to be His children through Jesus’ work. God says:
Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

i) The word for predestine means to appoint or determine ahead of time. It is to decree and establish that something will happen. God determines ahead of time that those he elects will become His children through Christ’s work on the Cross. God the Father in eternity past had a plan. He determined up front not simply that he would send Jesus and some might believe. God determined that you who are children of God would become children through Jesus’ work.

ii) We do not naturally belong to God. We need to be adopted into His family.
b) The only reason that God predestines us is according to the pleasure of His will.
Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Why is someone elect? Why is someone predestined to adoption? This passage tells us: It is according to God’s kind intention—His good pleasure, His wish or desire. It happens according to His will.

John 1:12-13 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

We must come to faith in Jesus. You must believe. But when you believe behind the scenes, before you ever believed you are to know you have come to faith because of God’s will. The human heart must exercise faith. But when it does it is only because of God’s gift—because God has willed this to take place. God has chosen. God predestines. I fulfill His plan when I believe. What is the reason—nothing but His will. To grasp this I must be resolutely focused on God and His glory.

1 Corinthians 1:31 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS [GLORY], BOAST [GLORY] IN THE LORD."


God’s #1 purpose is accomplishing salvation is to bring glory to His name.

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved

The grace we have comes in Christ. He freely gives us grace in Jesus Christ. BUT THE PURPOSE OF ELECTION IS TO BRING ALL GLORY TO GOD. GOD GETS EXALTED FOR EVERYTHING.

If God chooses me because he knows I want to believe. If he chooses me because he foresees ahead of time that I will believe—then I have a legal right to appeal to God. There is some area where I get the credit. You can say, ‘I know God did all this to save me, but it’s a good thing I responded and made the decision that was up to me’. They all the praise and glory doesn’t go to God. This is offensive. Either salvation belongs to the LORD—or salvation is God and me working together. Does God freely give His grace or is it up to me to get it? Certainly our hearts exercise faith but it is because of God’s will that my heart then wills to believe. The determining factor is God first not me and not based upon me.

John 1:12-13 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Proverbs 26:17-22

When I first came to my first church, it was going through a rough time. My first meeting was anything but pleasant. Someone openly accused an elder not of concrete events they had witnessed first hand but "pieces of a puzzle" they had “put together” (in their own words). I point blank told this person—we would be more than happy investigate and to begin church discipline if there was a charge:

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

The person refused saying that they could not and would not bring witnesses and acknowledged that some things they had not witnessed directly. BUT they maintained, apart from Scripture that removing the elder was the right course of action and that we should receive these accusations.

The accusations called into question an elder and accused him of an agenda. Yet as I looked into things, this elder was open and honest. Some of the nebulous accusations proved to be false in some concrete ways. Even more, the elder was entirely willing to resign without contesting if the other elders called for it. He openly said and demonstrated that he submitted to the board and the body of Christ. The person who made the demand was not willing to submit but said 'my way or the highway'.

Suddenly it became clear that there was not an agenda and I had become a party to someone else’s gossip. A person used the cloak of ‘investigating’ and ‘concerns’ and ‘putting the pieces together’ to mask what it was: whispering, gossip and quarrelsomeness.

Proverbs 26:17-22 17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. 18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death 19 is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!" 20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. 21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. 22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

How do we handle strife and contention within the body of the church? How do we control our tongue?

1) Be sure not to meddle in quarrels that are not your own. –One does not grab a dog by the ears and not get bit. So also—if we hear of a quarrel or a fight—that so-and-so is offended because someone did such-and-such.
a) We are not to be a party to the dispute.
b) We are not to take sides.
c) We should not compare notes: “I see what you mean—because that same person has done this and hurt me in another instance”.
d) We should not keep records of wrongs—particularly when we hear how so-and-so has wronged so-and-so.

2) If we hear whispers, we are to put them out. –a fire dies when it doesn’t have fuel so also where there is no whispering or ‘swapping stories’ or “sharing concerns” quarrelling ceases.

3) Strife will continue when people are unwilling to deal with issues. A quarrelsome person is a person who does not follow Biblical principles to actually resolve things.

What is a quarrelsome person? It is not just one who picks a fight but the one who shares stories in such a way that strife results and ‘discord’ is created.

ESV Proverbs 6:19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

NAU Proverbs 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

The word for ‘quarrelsome’ or ‘contentious’ is used most often to describe a kind of wife in Scripture.

Proverbs 27:15 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;

Ever hear of a nagging wife? The one who “when are you going to mow the lawn? Why don’t you do the laundry? Why can’t you be like so-and-so’s husband? Why didn’t you do this for me?” Etc.

But now someone who comes to us may not be quarrelsome in the sense that they say “I hate X” but they might do the same kind of nagging: Do know what so-and-so didn’t do? Do you see this problem? Can you believe he acts that way? I think so-and-so has an agenda. People are leaving the church because of X. Why can’t we be like church Y.

Sometimes people seek us for counsel. There is sometimes a fine line between seeking counsel and someone coming to nag. Sometimes we can unwittingly be a party to gossip.

(a) People who seek counsel ask you to evaluate their heart. –People who gossip ask you to evaluate other people’s heart, motives and attitudes.
(b) People who seek counsel do not have a bitter spirit—although they may be hurt. People who gossip are bitter and they often sow seeds of doubt and distrust in others. You start to wonder if there is really something secret and hidden going on.
(c) People who seek counsel are willing to go to great lengths to follow Godly advice and confront Biblical problems—i.e. with Matthew 18. etc.
(d) People who seek counsel labor hard to not portray others in a bad light. People who gossip are ‘blowing off steam’.
(e) People who are gossiping think they already know the solution. People seeking counsel are not sure what to do.

4) How do I avoid gossip?

ESV Proverbs 26:22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

a) Check your own heart. Do I delight in hearing this? Does it satisfy me? Do I take pride that people sought me in counsel? Do I savor what I hear? Do I remember such-and-such about so-and-so so that it influences how I think about them? Do I find myself coming to believe what I hear in a manner the prejudices me? Do I then contribute my own experiences to "put the pieces together"?
b) Do I speak against bad reports and bad attitudes I hear in others?
c) Do I caution someone over the dangers of bitterness?
d) Do I evaluate whether the person’s comments can stir up strife?
e) Do I challenge the person to examine their motives?
f) Do I suggest alternative perspective as to why the person who supposedly did wrong might have had cause to act?
g) Do I always assume people have the best motives?
h) Does my regular ‘being sought for advice’ cause me to think a certain way about the person whom I hear ‘stories’ about?

When people come to you and “seek your counsel” or they complain—here is what you must ask the other person:

(1) Have you been praying for them?
(2) Have your prayers humbled your attitude? Have you dedicated the person to God?
(3) Have you confronted them gently and respectfully following Matthew 18:

Matthew 18:15-17 15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 "If herefuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

If you feel the situation is not serious enough that you should confront then you have no right to be bitter or hold a grudge. You may decide that sometimes you are sinned against and it is not worth confronting the person because the fault was not that great--but then you cannot hold a grudge about how the person wronged you.

(4) Are you willing to forgive them 70 x 7?
(5) Are you keeping a record of wrongs?
(a) The times you’ve been wronged…
(b) The times you’ve heard others have been wronged.

Gossip can build conspiracy theories. We put all the pieces of the puzzle together and we think we know the problem. We think we know the solution. Scripture teaches that church discipline should be done when there are two or three witnesses. This is two or three witnesses per event. Hearing what someone did or did not do is not a witness—but it can become a choice morsel. We need to evaluate based upon facts not whispers.

The way conspiracy theories develop through gossip reminds me of an episode of Star Trek Voyager called The Voyager Conspiracy. In it Seven-of-Nine downloads logs and records from Voyager’s five years lost in space. Suddenly she takes real information and connects the dots in all the wrong places. Voyager was composed of two crews when she started her journey—suddenly this becomes a theory of mutiny. Starfleet Captain Janeway has a secret agenda, her diplomacy decisions look like a military agenda—her first officer is secretly plotting to overthrow her. The crew is split in two as Seven-of-Nine shares part of her “facts” with both parties—suddenly division is created where there is none.

ADDENDUM. Here is a synopsis for you non-Trek folks:
After encountering gravitation fluctuations, Captain Janeway hails an approaching ship and meets its captain, Tash. He is working on a catapult vessel, hoping to launch himself hundreds of light-years away. If Tash's plan succeeds, it may shave years off the U.S.S. Voyager's journey. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine has installed a cortical processing subunit in her regeneration alcove, allowing her to assimilate the ships status reports. Upon downloading data on Tash's work, she informs Janeway that his catapult is the same technology that was used to trap them in the Delta Quadrant.

Five years ago, when Voyager was caught in the displacement wave that sent it 70,000 light years off course, a tetryon beam was responsible. Now, Seven has discovered that a tetryon reactor is powering the catapult. Although the Voyager crew believes they destroyed the reactor, Seven finds out otherwise. Data shows a charge Tuvok fired tore an opening in subspace, and a tractor beam from a cloaked ship pushed the reactor into it. Seven alerts Chakotay to her startling conclusion that Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant on purpose and Janeway is behind it.

Seven believes the captain is part of a Federation conspiracy to establish a military presence in the Delta Quadrant. Suddenly, Janeway's diplomacy begins to look suspiciously like establishing tactical infrastructure. Seven believes the captain intends to use the catapult to bring more ships from the Alpha Quadrant, creating a Federation/Cardassian invasion force. When Tash makes a successful journey of 100 light years using the apparatus, Chakotay secretly delays Voyager's shield modification to give him more time to consider Seven's theories.

Seven returns to her alcove to assimilate for more information. After her latest download, she summons Janeway and alerts her that Chakotay is part of a Maquis rebellion. She believes he intends to use the catapult to launch attacks against the Federation and Cardassian ships. Janeway is doubtful, but Seven presents compelling theories, using some of the same evidence she used to cast aspersions on Janeway, but drawing different conclusions.

When Janeway and Chakotay compare notes, they realize Seven has been filling both of their minds with paranoid theories. Once the
Doctor runs a diagnostic on her alcove, he finds that Seven has downloaded more information than she can process. Janeway beams to the Delta Flyer, which Seven is using to make a paranoid escape, and uses her own version of past events to convince Seven that her synaptic patterns are in chaos. They return to Voyager, and Seven is treated in sickbay.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sermon Applications 6/29/08

TEXT: Ephesians 1:3-6


Application: Staying focused on God means we are to thank God in our prayers because He has blessed us in election. You cannot genuinely thanks someone for something and be prideful at the same time. You have nothing to boast in—you can only turn to God and thank Him. When was the last time you said—‘God I may not understand all there is to election but I know my own heart. I know I am sinful and was dead in my sin. Yet you chose me to receive salvation. Thank you for giving me your grace. I do not have it because of what I do—I have it because of what you did in eternity past.’?


Application: There are probably four types of people here today and so I am going to try to make applications to all four. (1) Those who ‘get’ the doctrine of election; (2) Those who ‘waffle’ over it; (3) Those who reject unconditional election; and (4) Those who just ignore it.

i) Those who get it: You understand this; you are passionate about it. When you hear me say ‘God chose us’ –you say ‘Amen’. You know that if God hadn’t chosen us, we’d stay dead in sin. The danger for you is pride. If your understanding of the doctrine of election leaves you to be prideful and feeling good about yourself then you don’t really ‘get it’ because the doctrine of election leaves you with nothing. There is nothing worse then spiritual pride—‘God has blessed me, ‘God has chosen me’. Dear sinner—you have nothing. Get focused on God. God did it… Humble your heart.

There is another warning for those who ‘get it’. The person who gets it is often ‘zealous’ to spread it and explain it. We have so come under the grip of God’s grace—we hear the word ‘election’ and we think—‘God’s grace, look at what I don’t deserve’. You mean well. So with good intentions we want to debate with others, we want to reason from the Scriptures. This is good—but it must be done with patience and love. DO NOT GET ANGRY WHEN PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE IT. BE PATIENT AND GENTLE. Think about how patient Jesus was with the disciples when they didn’t even ‘get it’ that the Messiah was to die. Yes, in one instance Jesus rebuked Peter—but most often He was patient and he explained the Scriptures.

ii) There are those who waffle. You believe it—sort of--but you don’t think it really matters since Christians disagree over it. You feel like: who am I to try to figure it out—and even if I can, does it matter? It’s just a doctrine anyways, give me what is practical. Would you go to the doctor and say ‘Don’t tell me the disease I have just give me the medicine’? I don’t care if you went to med school and know your stuff just give me what ‘works’? Why is it that so many people use the internet to look up what they have? They diagnose their symptoms; they look for the disease and the search for the solution. Your issue of focus needs to be on delighting in the majesty of God’s grace. Giving thanks. UNDERSTANDING ELECTION IS PRACTICAL.

(1) If a doctrine is in the Bible it matters. God has given it to us. Theology is not ivory tower doctrine but living to God. There is nothing more practical then turning to God and contemplating His grace. Worship—give thanks!

(2) You need to give thanks for the depth of God’s mercy and grace. You need to stop denying this depth by the way you act about the issue.

iii) The person who rejects it. Some people say ‘God doesn’t really chose’—that’s rejecting this teaching. Some people are more subtle in rejection—‘God chooses but He makes His choice based upon me.’ Did you ever stand around for a pick up game of basketball? Did you ever get to be team captain?—you get to choose. If you say ‘I’ll pick Johnny’—and then Johnny says ‘no’. And then you say ‘I’ll pick Joe’ and Joe says no. And then you say, “Raise your hand if you want to be on my team.” Five kids raised their hand—‘Ok’, you say ‘I’ll choose you’. Let’s be honest. Who really made the choice? That is how many of you view your relationship with God. “God chose me because I chose him”. Jesus says: “You did not choose me but I chose you”.

If you don’t like this, I plead with you—search the Scriptures. Whatever your beliefs on election—you are welcome to stay and worship here. We can love and work in unity even if we disagree over the doctrines. But if you disagree with what God says—do not just close your Bible and your heart. Do not say, ‘Well I don’t care but that’s not what I believe.’ Be a Berean. Search the Scriptures. Read Romans 9. Say to God—‘I don’t believe this LORD, but I will submit to what your word says—open my eyes to see your Word.’

iv) The person who ignores it. You say: Christians debate it, therefore it is a non-essential or unclear. I’m not even going to think about it. “I’m tired of hearing about it.” You say—we will just stay quiet over it. In the history of the church—people debated if Jesus was God—does that make it unimportant? People debate: what Jesus’ return looks like—does that make it unimportant or unclear? People debate the relationship between men and women in church leadership—does that make it unimportant ? If you say election doesn’t matter then you might as well say holiness doesn’t matter because the purpose of election is God’s work to make us holy and blameless. What you need to do is ask yourself: If the Bible says something—shouldn’t it be important to me? Do those things that captivate the heart of God, captivate my heart?
v) All four types of people are welcome in our church. We all have to grow in different areas. Where are you right now?


Applications: AREAS OF FOCUS for giving glory to God

i) WORSHIP. The Scripture teaches about election so that we might worship better. My worship is hampered where I don’t give all glory to God—especially in salvation! This passage directs worship to God. When I sit in church am I focusing on the words I give to God? Am I seeking to direct all worship to God alone? What do I look for in worship? Most of us look for positive and upbeat music and styles. We look around to see if people feel happy when they are worshipping. WE TAKE YOUR FOCUS OFF GOD. Here’s what we should evaluate:

(1) The words: do then sing about God or about me? How many songs sing about the Christian: “I want to know you” “I want” “Give this to me”. “I love you” WORSHIP FOCUSES ON GOD WHO HAS BLESSED US.

(2) Do the words focus on Christ, the cross and the works of God? What is worship? To say what God has done or to say what I must do?

(3) Do I meditate upon the words as I sing? Or am I looking at the style: this is too slow, this is too fast. Its to loud, its to quiet. MY FOCUS IS NOT ON GOD. Most people evaluate worship by the stuff that doesn’t matter. What grid do you put the worship service through? Have you lost focus?

(4) Ways to focus in worship: pray before the service. Pray as you sing. Do not look around. Ask God to prepare your heart. Anticipate the service during the week by reading the passage of Scripture we will be in. SO—start reading Ephesians. Ask God to prepare you to hear the sermon.

ii) Issues in the church right now. Many of us have good and valid concerns about the church right now. We have complaints that may be based upon facts—certainly we all have our feelings about things. BUT do I take my eyes off of God? How do I know when I’ve done this?

(1) Am I complaining to others about problems? OR am I rejoicing in what God has given us? Am I overly negative? Or am I giving thanks for what God has done?

(2) If I am wronged—how am I responding? Am I bitter or unduly offended? If I have been wronged—am I praying that God would show His grace in my life and the life of the person who has wronged me?

(3) Am I looking for man to get the glory: how do I measure a healthy church? The size? The budget? The number of outreaches? The style of worship? All things to think about –but if they become the MAIN THING—we’ve lost the MAIN THING.

4) Conclusion—When we recognize that God has elected us and predestined us to share in a spiritual inheritance, we realize that before the Cross of Christ we are all equal sinners. We are driven to humility. We are driven to focus on God.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...