Confronted with Righteousness

Acts 24:22-27

When confronted with the true nature of God’s righteousness, Felix requested Paul to “go away”. What will you do with God’s messenger and message in it’s undiluted form?

Abortion & Disability

abortion82Article: Yahweh’s rebuke of abortion by Jesse Johnson (original source but often overlooked is the encounter between Yahweh and Moses described in Exodus 3-4. This passage is particularly applicable to those considering abortion because of some perceived defect or genetic disability diagnosed in the baby.

The scene is this: Moses had been in Midian for decades, and had obviously settled down. He had a wife, a family, and a job. But Yahweh “remembered” Israel, called Moses out of retirement, and told him to go and lead the Israelites to freedom.

Moses declined, and gave a series of excuses to God. First, he said he wasn’t sufficient (God’s answer: of course you aren’t, but the Lord is). Then he said he didn’t even know who God is (God’s answer: Yahweh). His third objection was that nobody would believe Yahweh spoke to Moses (God’s answer involved leprosy, snakes, and turning water into blood).

But then Moses got personal. He told God that he couldn’t go lead Israel, because his tongue didn’t work. God made him with a defective mouth. Literally, he says “my tongue is too heavy, my speech is unintelligible” (there is debate in commentaries about if Moses always had this impediment, or if he developed it by burning his tongue with a coal, as many Jewish historians allege). The point is Moses couldn’t talk well, and—in the interest of full disclosure—God should know about that if he is going to ask him to lead.

And here is where Yahweh’s response to Moses’ objection gives a window into why God hates abortion:

“Then Yahweh said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

This answer teaches us at least three truths about the evil of abortion:

It is Yahweh who creates life.

God’s response begins by declaring that he is the one who makes man. People don’t just appear—they are made by Yahweh. This is what David had in mind in Psalm 139:13 (“you formed my inward parts”). That God is the creator is obvious with Adam and Eve—but it is equally true with every human being.

I know you can’t read the tone of someone’s voice when their words are written, but Yahweh’s rhetoric sounds at the very least aggravated with the implication that Moses’ life belongs to Moses. God made Moses, and this is true because God makes all life.

It follows then that abortion is evil because it murders a life that God himself had made.

Yahweh even makes those with “disabilities.”

When he declares that he is the one who made Moses, Yahweh doesn’t generically claim that he is sovereign over all life. Instead, he specifically hones in on what Moses had described as a disability. Moses tried to use his misformed tongue as a reason to not obey God, to which God replies, “who do you think made your tongue?”

To our looks-obsessed, externally driven, achievement-oriented culture, Moses’ disability would be seen as a liability: a product of nature, or perhaps (in the more spiritually minded) the fruit of living in a fallen world. But to God, Moses’ mouth was Yahweh’s handiwork.

It follows then that parents who pursue abortion because of a perceived malformity in their child are pursuing something evil, because they are viewing something that God made, and calling it unwanted. If a person is willing to end life because that life does not meet their standards, they are actually seeking to end the life of a person God has made—and God has made that person exactly like he wanted to.

Yahweh can use all people for his purposes

The problem with Moses wasn’t his speech, but his lack of faith. God did not simply tell him, “Look, I made you,” but instead goes on to say, “I made you, and I will use you.”

Yahweh took Moses’ weakest point and declared that he made Moses that way intentionally, and he did so in order to use him. Moses thought he couldn’t lead because he wasn’t made well, and God said, “I made you that way so I could lead you.”

This truth is seen in the New Testament as well. Paul says that God chooses to use the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). God often saves the disabled, so that God gets all of the glory.

It follows then that abortion (especially in the case of perceived deficiencies in the baby) is evil because it denies that God can use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

Yahweh’s rebuke of Moses was more than a mere rebuttal of his apathy—it strikes at the heart of what it means to esteem life.

God’s Devil

seekingFrom ligonier ministries (original source that philosophical idea that says good and evil are two equal and eternal forces, is shown to be false in the Word of God in its very first verse. When the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), the words the heavens and the earth are a synonym for “all things.” In the beginning, God created all things; this includes the Devil. Although he is very powerful, Satan is ultimately a finite creature who is by no means a match for our Lord.

Though He created the Devil, God is not in any way culpable for evil. Like everything else, Satan was originally “very good” (v. 31), and how Satan could fall when there was no evil present in creation is a great mystery. Still, we know our Creator cannot be tempted with evil, nor can He ever tempt anyone (James 1:13).

That Satan is a creature means he is subject to the Lord, who uses him to fulfill His good purposes (Rom. 8:28). In the final analysis, the Devil is God’s Devil (to summarize Martin Luther) and never operates outside the Lord’s decree. This truth can be seen when we compare today’s passage with 2 Samuel 24. Applying material from the books of Samuel to the Israelites after the Babylonian exile, the Chronicler tells us Satan incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron. 21:1) even though 2 Samuel 24:1 says God moved David on that occasion. This is no contradiction; it illustrates the doctrine of providence. Since God is sovereign over all, everything that happens is grounded in His plan.

David commanded a census because the Lord ultimately planned that he do so, but Satan was used as the secondary cause to incite David. God ordained David’s sin, but He is not to blame for the temptation, for Satan did the tempting. In this case we might say the Lord “allowed” Satan to tempt David in order to clarify the point that God does not stand behind evil deeds in the same way that He does behind goodness. But make no mistake, John Calvin tells us, God’s decree of evil is not “bare permission — as if God sat in a watchtower, awaiting chance events, and his judgments thus depended upon human will” (Institutes 1.18.1).

That God rules over Satan without Himself being guilty of sin is a hard truth, but it is also comforting. It tells us that what we suffer from the Devil, his demons, and all evil is not purposeless but will lead to our good and God’s glory.

Coram Deo

God is much greater than we are, so He is able to do things that we could never do, such as being sovereign over the Devil without ever being guilty of the Devil’s evil. Knowledge of this truth should not only move us to glorify the Lord but also to be confident that every tragedy we meet will serve a good purpose when all is said and done. If you are going through a difficult time, know that God is using it for your good even if you cannot yet see how.

“Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”

Dr. James White:

#WisdomWednesday with Dr. James White “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same god?” from Reformed Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Blotted from the Book of Life?

Piper11Original source the Bible mentions the phrase ‘the book of life’ about fourteen times, and quite a few of those passages mention getting blotted out of the book of life. How does this NOT mean losing your salvation?” What would you say Pastor John?

When it comes to the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints, we need to speak with precision. And I think it is not quite precise to say, as Charles does, in quite a few of the Scriptures it mentions you can be blotted out of the book of life. I don’t think it ever says you can be blotted out, at least not in the sense that sometimes God does it. It says we will be blotted out if we fail to meet certain conditions. Now whether that ever happens or in God’s sovereignty can happen is another question. I don’t think so and let me try to show why.

The book of Revelation is the book that refers to this most often and it is the book that has the text that sounds most problematical, I think. Revelation 3:5 says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Now some say: Well, that is a foolproof text against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. They assume that when Revelation 3:5 says that God will not erase a person’s name from the book of life, it implies that he does erase some people from the book of life, and that these people would once be born again, justified, saved, and, nevertheless, in the end condemned, lost, and perish. In other words, they lose their salvation on that reading of the verse.

But is that a true assumption?

The promise: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” does not necessarily imply that some do have their names erased. It simply says, to the one who is in the book, and who conquers in faith: I will never wipe your name out. In other words, being erased is a fearful prospect, which I will not allow to happen to those who persevere. In fact, there are two other passages in Revelation that teach that to have your name in the book of life means that you will most definitely persevere and conquer and thus meet the condition not to be blotted out.

Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Now that verse teaches that those whose names are written in the book of life definitely will not worship the beast. That is what it says. In other words, having your name in the book of life from the foundation of the world means God will keep you from folly. He will cause you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostatize. You won’t forsake the faith. Continue reading

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “Women Preachers”

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

– 1 Timothy 2:11-15

lloyd_jones_1Lloyd-Jones:

In many ways the root trouble, even among good Evangelicals, is our failure to heed the plain teachings of Scripture. We accept what Scripture teaches as far as our doctrine is concerned; but when it comes to practice, we very often fail to take the Scriptures as our only guide. When we come to the practical side we employ human tests instead of Scriptural ones. In stead of taking the plain teachings of the Bible, we argue with it. ‘Ah yes’, we say, ‘since the Scriptures were written times have changed’.

Dare I give an obvious illustration? Take the question of women preaching, and being ordained to the full ministry. The apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy (1 Tim 2:11-15), prohibits it directly. He says quite specifically that he does not allow a women to teach or preach. ‘Ah yes’, we say, as we read that letter, ‘He was only thinking of his own age and time; but you know times have changed since then, and we must not be bound. Paul was thinking of certain semi-civilized people in Corinth and places like that’. But the Scripture does not say that. It says, ‘Let the women learn in silence with all subjection, but I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence’. ‘Ah, but that was only temporary legislation’, we say. Paul puts it like this: ‘For Adam was first formed, the Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in child bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety’.

Paul does not say that it was only for the time being; he takes it right back to the Fall and shows that it is an abiding principle. It is something that is true, therefore, of the age in which we live. But thus you see, we argue with Scripture. Instead of taking its plain teaching, we say that times have changed-when it suits our thesis we say it is no longer relevant’. . . .If you want to avoid terrible disillusionment at the day of judgment, face Scripture as it is. Do not argue with it, do not try to manipulate it, do not twist; face it, receive it and submit to it whatever the cost.

Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959.

Is God Sovereign over My Free Will? (John Piper)

Piper_bwIs God Sovereign over My Free Will? (original source when our free will is in place? In other words, will God use His sovereignty to overwrite our free will at times to exemplify His perfect will. And if so, do we truly have free will?” Pastor John how would you explain it?

I am not sure what Tyson means by free will. And so I may not be able to answer the question if he means something by free will that I don’t believe in. So let’s try out a definition and let the Scriptures shed light on this problem. I think Tyson will get the answer he is after, at least the best I can give it.

The technical definition of free will that creates the controversies with those like me who believe in the sovereignty of God over the human will, not just a general statement about the sovereignty of God, but God’s sovereignty over the human will, that definition is this: Man’s will is free if he has the power of ultimate self-determination.

What I mean by ultimate self-determination is that no power outside of man himself has ultimate or decisive control over what a man chooses, at least not when he is acting as a moral agent who must give an account to God. Neither other people, nor influences, nor God himself has decisive control over a person’s choices. God and man and nature may have some influence, but this influence cannot be decisive. They may have a kind of causality, but not ultimate causality or decisive causality. Otherwise, the man would not be free on this definition that I am unfolding.

So Wesleyans and Arminians insist that for a person to believe on Christ and be saved divine influence is, indeed, necessary. They call it prevenient grace: grace that has come before our faith and, thus, influences us toward Christ. But this influence on the Wesleyan and Arminian understanding cannot be decisive. The final and decisive and ultimate cause of our believing Christ is not the Holy Spirit. It is not divine grace. It is our own input. God may get the process of conversion started, but the decisive influence is provided by ourselves. This is what is meant by free will on this definition. It is ultimate or decisive self-determination.

Now if that is what Tyson means in his question, I can’t answer his question because I don’t think such a thing exists anywhere in the universe except in the will of God. Only God has free will in the sense of ultimate self-determination. And here are a few of the reasons why I think that, because I don’t know whether Tyson agrees with that or not.

Jesus talked about why Judas did not believe on him. John 6:64–65 says, “(Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’” In other words, no one can come to Jesus, that is, no one can believe unless God grants him the faith. Judas did not come to Jesus decisively, fully, savingly because it was not granted to him, Jesus says, by the Father. And Jesus takes the truth and generalizes it to all of us and says in this very verse: “No one” — not just Judas — “can come to me unless it is granted” — unless the decisive coming is granted — “by the Father.” No one has the power of ultimate self-determination to get themselves to God. God gives or withholds the power to come. Nudges to come will not save anybody. What is given by God is the coming.

Another reason I don’t think ultimate self-determination exists in human beings is 2 Timothy 2:24–25, where Paul says that the Lord’s servant should correct “his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” So repentance — it is the flip side of the coin of faith, with faith on the other side of the coin and faith embraces Christ — repentance turns from embracing other false reliances. The gift of repentance is the gift of the coin. It is the gift of rejecting self-reliance and embracing Christ. It is a gift of salvation. And without the gift of God to cause us to repent and believe, none of us would be saved.

Another reason is that John says in 1 John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Self-willed faith does not bring about the new birth. Just the opposite. The new birth brings about faith. Faith is, therefore, not the result of human self-determination but of the new birth.

One more reason among many, many more: Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” No king anywhere on earth has the power of ultimate self-determination. So I don’t think such a thing exists except in God. God is ultimately self-determining, but man is not ultimately and decisively self-determining.

Nevertheless — and I think this gets at what Tyson is asking about — nevertheless, we are responsible, accountable for our preferences and our choices. If God is sovereign over the human will, are we responsible? Yes, we are. And the Bible says so over and over again. Our choices are our choices. They are true choices. We have a will. Our will is active. We are genuine moral agents.

We will, as Jesus says, “give account for every careless word” (Matthew 12:36). Indeed, all of our preferences and choices and behavior, according to Romans 14:12, we will give an account of. Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Human beings do not have ultimate self-determination and we will all give an account to God for our preferences and our choices.

So instead of speaking of the will as free or not, I prefer to speak of people as free or not, because that is the way the Bible does. “For freedom Christ has set us free,” Paul says in Galatians 5:1. Christians are free from the bondage to sin and from the oppressive demand of having to perform our own salvation.

Maybe the best way to end would be to quote this great liberation from Romans 6:17–18: “Thanks be to God.” That is so important. And that is the way we should live as believers, with a heart brimming like this. “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”