Happy New Year

God has been so good to each of us this year, treating us far better than any of us deserve. We trust His hand of Providence as we embark on the journey into 2012, knowing He has prepared many things for us that He will work for His glory and our good.

To all readers of the blog…

Numbers 6: 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Lazarus Did Not Sue

A quote from my upcoming E-Book, we have the record of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is interesting to note that after experiencing this mighty resurrection, Lazarus did not immediately seek an attorney in order to sue Jesus for violating his right to stay dead! Nor did all the town’s people sue Jesus for failing to raise all of their dead relatives from the graves. No, everyone marveled at the all-powerful call of Jesus. By the power of just His word, He actually brought a putrefying corpse back to life. Of course, no one was more thrilled with this Divine mercy than Lazarus himself.

Why do we speak so much about God’s grace? Because with Lazarus we can say that by the effectual call of God, grace has conquered our hearts and brought us to life. When we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (the Greek word for dead in Ephesians 2, verses 1 and 5, “nekros” means “dead like a corpse”) God made us alive (Eph. 2:5).

The Duty of Love

Tim Challies comments: I have been reading (and listening to) Tim Keller’s new book The Meaning of Marriage, easily my favorite book of 2011. One of the subjects Keller covers is the lost sense of duty in love. We have come to think that if there is any duty in love it must not be genuine. Biblically, of course, love is shown not in what you receive, but in how much you are willing to give; often you give out of a sense of duty. I’d like to share a quote in which he applies this to the marriage bed. I share this simply because I know what a struggle this is in so many marriages and I am sure that these words can help.

Modern people think of love in such subjective terms that if there is any duty involved it is considered unhealthy. Over the years, I have often counseled with people who were quite locked into this conviction. This is particularly true when it comes to sex. Many people believe that if you have sex with your spouse just to please him or her though you are not interested in sex yourself, it would be inauthentic or even oppressive. This is the thoroughly subjective understanding of love-as-passionate-feeling. And often this quickly leads into a vicious cycle. If you won’t make love unless you are in a romantic mood at the very same time as your spouse, then sex will not happen that often. This can dampen and quench your partner’s interest in sex, which means there will be even fewer opportunities. Therefore, if you never have sex unless there is great mutual passion, there will be fewer and fewer times of mutual passion.

One of the reasons we believe in our culture that sex should always and only be the result of great passion is that so many people today have learned how to have sex outside of marriage, and this is a very different experience than having sex inside it. Outside of marriage, sex is accompanied by a desire to impress or entice someone. It is something like the thrill of the hunt. When you are seeking to draw in someone you don’t know, it injects risk, uncertainty, and pressure to the lovemaking that quickens the heartbeat and stirs the emotions. If “great sex” is defined in this way, then marriage—the “piece of paper”—will indeed stifle that particular kind of thrill. But this defines sexual sizzle in terms that would be impossible to maintain in any case. The fact is that “the thrill of the hunt” is not the only kind of thrill or passion available, nor is it the best.
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Unfathomable Oceans of Grace

by Robert Murray McCheyne

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!” Hebrews 12:2

For every look at self, unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths!

When you gaze upon the sun–it makes everything else dark; when you taste honey–it makes everything else tasteless. Likewise, when your soul feeds on Jesus, it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things; praise, pleasure, fleshly lusts, all lose their sweetness. Keep a continued gaze! Run, looking unto Jesus. So will the world be crucified to you, and you unto the world!


Preaching the Gospel

Dr. James White:

“To preach the gospel with speech marked by human wisdom and insight is to seek to remove from the gospel the offensiveness of the cross. It is to shift the focus from the power of the gospel, which lies in it’s God-centeredness, to a man-centered “plan” that is devoid of offense for the natural man. This is why it empties the cross of it’s power, making it null and void.

The cross is MEANT to offend! That offense is part of the very divine power that breaks that hardened heart and makes room for a heart of flesh. It crushes so that it can recreate.

When we distrust the Holy Spirit so as to come up with our own “better” means of preaching, means that avoid the offensiveness of a dying Savior, we are not only insulting God the Father, the source of the gospel, God the Son, the object of the gospel, and God the Spirit, who brings dead sinners to life, but we are engaging in the most serious pulpit crime of all.

For God has given us only one thing that He calls “the power of God”, and that is the gospel itself. {Romans 1:16} When we are ashamed of that gospel so that we edit it, shorten it, shave off it’s rough edges, disguise it as human wisdom, we are not just showing our own disbelief. We are robbing our hearers of the only message that truly saves.

Indeed, one of the greatest reasons the church today is engorged with self-righteous men and women who have no earthly idea of what it means to be truly changed in repentance and faith is because we have used a shallow impersonation of the real message to trick them into a self-satisfied religiosity that will put them squarely under the wrath of God someday. As it has been well said, what you win them with is what you win them to.

“Win” them with a message that pleases their self-righteous unrepentant hearts and you will find them to be horribly consistent within the church. They will never allow you to bring the Word of God to bear upon them without loud cries of complaint. They will ever want nothing more than the thinnest gruel, the shallowest pablum: 20 minutes of stories, a pat on the back, a smiling assurance of how good they are and how God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. That’s as far as you will be allowed to go. This is hardly the result of the powerful gospel of the cross of Christ.” – Pulpit Crimes

Miscellaneous Quotes (30)

“We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, Creator and Redeemer, is saying to His world and to you in the death and resurrection of His Son! Listen and believe!’” – Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.

“Give the Bible the honor due to it every day you live. Whatever you read, read that first.” – J.C. Ryle

“The only freedom that man ever has is when he becomes a slave to Jesus Christ.” – R. C. Sproul

“He “was” before His own flesh; He created His own mother. He chose her in whom He should be conceived, He created her of whom He should be created. Why marvellest thou? It is God of whom I am speaking to thee: “the Word was God.”” – Augustine

“The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us… lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one ­- the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ’The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.” – J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, 1973), pages 45-46.

“Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when I first received those truths in my own soul – when they were, as John Bunyan says, burned into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man – that I had made progress in Scriptural Knowledge , through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.” – Charles Hadden Spurgeon

“A Saviour not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end, Bishop Handley Moule once wrote; while a Saviour – and an Exemplar – not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end, as F. F. Bruce has remarked. How Jesus could be both truly man and truly God is the mystery of the Incarnation; but nothing and no one else would suffice.” – Norman Anderson, The Mystery of the Incarnation (Downers Grove, 1978), page 154. Italics original.

“The most tremendous judgment of God in this world is the hardening of the hearts of men.” – John Owen

“Anyone who takes his faith seriously and speaks in behalf of Christ and His kingdom will be accused of fanaticism at some point.” – R. C. Sproul

“Christ died for the man who believes in him, so that it would be injustice on the part of God to punish that man, for how shall he punish twice for the same offense?” – C. H. Spurgeon

“What are the ‘doctrines of grace’ and why do they matter? Such is like asking, “What does the Bible teach about the very heart of the gospel, and does it matter one way or the other?” The doctrines of grace are the biblical teachings that define the goal and means of God’s perfect work of redemption. They tell us that God is the one who saves, for His own glory, and freely. And they tell us that He does so only through Christ, only on the basis of His grace, only with the perfection that marks everything the Father, Son, and Spirit do. The doctrines of grace separate the Christian faith from the works-based religions of men. They direct us away from ourselves and solely to God’s grace and mercy. They destroy pride, instill humility, and exalt God. And that’s why so many invest so much time in the vain attempt to undermine their truth.” – James White

“There may be Arminians here, but there will not be Arminians there; they may here say, “It is of the will of the flesh,” but in heaven they shall not think so. Here they may ascribe some little to the creature; but there they shall cast their crowns at the Redeemer’s feet, and acknowledge that he did it all. Here they may sometimes look a little at themselves, and boast somewhat of their own strength; but there, “Not unto us, not unto us,” shall be sung with deeper sincerity and with more profound emphasis than they have ever sung it here below. In heaven, when grace shall have done its work, this truth shall stand out in blazing letters of gold, “Salvation is of the Lord.”” – C. H. Spurgeon, Salvation is of the Lord
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Where was Jesus’ Church?

TurretinFan: Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

Cursilista wrote: The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a Protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died.

We have a pretty clear answer to that. Read the book of Acts. It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity. Rome is part of Paul’s mission field, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued: Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today.

The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:)…

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as “the” bishop. Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire. I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and – of course – in modern times.

Cursilista continued: Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ’s church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever.

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said.

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained. Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact.
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Jesus – The Firstborn of All Creation

Pastor John, I believe in the full Deity of Christ, but a Jehovah’s Witness member pointed me to a verse I cannot explain where it talks of Jesus being “the firstborn of all creation.” He says it means Jesus is Jehovah’s firstborn creature through whom all else was made.

I know Jesus is the Eternal Son and was never created but can you explain what firstborn means?

Many thanks for your important question. The passage that mentions Jesus as being the firstborn is Colossians 1:15-17. There, in speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ we read:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

There is much that could be said about the title “firstborn”. It is a title of honor and refers to Christ being given all “the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).” (ESV Study Bible notes)

The phrase “firstborn” does not mean that Christ is a created being. We can establish that by reading the words that immediately follow in the text. Jesus is presented as the Creator of all things and He is before all things! This passage is in fact one of many that presents a clear affirmation of the Deity of Christ.
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