Faith – the Gift of God

but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration.” – John Calvin

“The entire work of salvation is God’s work exclusively; nothing derives from humans, it is all pure grace.” – Herman Bavinck

“The reason that the brilliant minds do not accept Christianity is that all minds are blind, unless they are regenerated.” – Edwin Palmer

“If I was not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men, than to horses or cows.” – John Newton

“The Arminian says ‘I owe my election to my faith.’ The Calvinist says, ‘I owe my faith to my election.’” – J. I. Packer

Acts 13: 48; 16:14; Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 1:29

The Rise & Fall of Pastors

http://scottsauls.com/2016/04/25/pastors/

and

How to Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps
http://www.challies.com/articles/destroy-a-church-in-4-simple-steps

Continually Washed By The Gospel

time02The following excerpt is taken from God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde.

Right after you were born, the blood and vernix on your body was washed off by a nurse or even your mom or dad. Have you taken a bath or shower since the day you were born? Of course you have. Our bodies continually become dirtied, requiring new cleansing. It is the same way with us spiritually. Even after we are born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:1–8), we continue to sin. We have to be washed for the first time by Jesus, but He also continues to wash us of our sins.

The Lord said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.” (Exodus 30:17-21)

The bronze basin filled with water was not placed in the midst of the tabernacle courtyard for a once-for-all initial washing, after which it became a useless relic. It had to be used continually. God required the priests to wash “when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister” (Ex. 30:20). How many times was that? It was as many times as they entered the tent, offered a sacrifice, or lifted up a prayer. They had to wash every time with no exceptions, which means they had to do so every day.

This is a great lesson for us today. We live in a time when the gospel of salvation has been divorced from the ordinary and everyday Christian life. With modern methods of crusade evangelism and seeker-sensitive worship services in which the focus is on unbelievers, most Christians today think that the “gospel” is something that we tell unbelievers so that they might be saved. We had to hear it long ago to be saved, and unbelievers now need to hear it to be saved. But we learn something different from this part of Exodus 30. We learn that God’s people, who are described in both the Old and New Testaments as “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9), must constantly hear the good news of the gospel and constantly apply its cleansing to their hearts.

Just as the priests had to be washed again and again, we need to be washed continually by the good news that Jesus’ blood and Spirit have cleansed and continue to cleanse us of our sins. The Apostle John told ancient Christians: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2a).

Above Reproach and Well Thought of By Outsiders

verse 7 says “he must be well thought of by outsiders.” What do these two requirements mean?

Not This

Let’s start with what the requirements cannot mean. Surely, Paul is not saying that a man who would serve as an elder or pastor must be without any enemies or any accusations, for elsewhere in his correspondence to Timothy, Paul intimates that many have opposed him, deserted him, and been ashamed of him (2 Tim. 1:8, 15, 16; 4:10, 14-16). Moreover, we know from Paul’s other letters he was accused of being everything from fickle and foolish, to overly weak and overly harsh (2 Cor. 1:12-23; 10:1-10). Likewise, in Acts, Paul is often derided as a rabble-rouser, a violator of the Torah, and an enemy of the law of Moses (e.g., Acts 21:27-36). Paul was certainly not above reproach in the eyes of his opponents, neither did he have a good reputation with all outsiders.

We see this same dynamic even more plainly with Jesus. If anyone could be labeled “controversial” or “embattled” or “haunted by serious allegation” or “surrounded by scandal,” it was Christ. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34), a false prophet (Luke 7:39), a Sabbath breaker (Luke 6:2, 7), a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), insane (Mark 3:21), demon-possessed (John 10:19-20, 31-33), and a blasphemer (Matt. 26:57-67). He died as a convicted criminal with hardly a public friend in the world. He was, as Rich Mullins put it, “a man of no reputation.”

So unless we want to exclude Paul and Jesus from serving as an overseer in the church, we must conclude that being above reproach and being well thought of by outsiders must mean something other than, “everyone likes this guy; he has no enemies and no accusations against him.” Not only is this standard untenable for almost anyone who has a public profile in today’s social media world, it’s not biblically consistent. The qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus must mean something else. Continue reading

The Regulative Principle of Worship

While speaking and answering questions on other topics of interest, Dr. James White (at the 24 minute, 28 second mark) takes a call on the matter of the regular principle of worship, and how it applies to exclusive psalmody and the use of intruments in worship:

Out of the Word of Faith

Three Audio and Video Resources:

CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER WORD OF FAITH PASTOR
For quite some time, I shared something of an insider’s guide, as well as the powerful biblical truths God used to alert me to the gross deception. How grateful I am to God for bringing me out!

JOURNEY OUT OF HERESY AND DECEPTION

Behind every deception there lurks the crafty, hissing serpent appealing to the pride of man. “You don’t need a God.. why? You can become one,” he says. “Learn my wisdom and my laws; put them in motion and you can control your destiny and environment to make it as you please.”

REFORMED BIBLE CONFERENCE – SATURDAY, MARCH 12, 2016, SOVEREIGN GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH, GLOBE, ARIZONA

SESSION ONE: DECEIVED PEOPLE, DECEIVE PEOPLE

Sermon audio:

Youtube video:

SESSION TWO: THE JOURNEY OUT OF HERESY

Sermon audio:

Youtube video:

The Same God?

that determines what it is. In different languages, the same flower is known by different names, but it is still the same flower.

When we apply this idea to theology things get a bit more complicated. Indeed the rose adage has been transferred indiscriminately to religion in order to create a theological concept. The concept is: “God by any other name is still God.” Now certainly, it is true that the immutable essence of God is not changed by the alteration of His name. In English, we may say “God,” in German “Gott,” in Greek “Theos,” yet all these names or words are used to point to the same Deity.

Beyond this, however, things get murky. It is a quantum leap to go from saying that God by any other name is still God, to saying that all the great religions in the world believe in the same Being though they call Him different names.

This irrational leap is prodded by the popular analogy of the mountain. This analogy notes that their are many roads up the mountain. Some progress on a more direct route, while others wind about on more circuitous roads, but sooner or later they all arrive at the same place, at the top of the mountain.

So, it is argued, there are many roads that lead to God. They may be different routes but they all end up in the same place—with God Himself. That is, the differing roads indicate no difference in the God who is found. God’s being, then, becomes the lowest (or highest) common denominator of all religions.

The road analogy is buttressed by the democratic truism that all religions are equal under the law. The fallacy in this axiom is thinking that just because all religions enjoy equal tolerance under the civil law, they therefore are all equally valid. That might be true if there were no God, but then it would be better to say that with respect to their ultimate affirmation they are all equally invalid.

To argue that all religions ultimately believe in the same God is the quintessential nonsense statement. Even a cursory examination of the content of different religions reveals this. The nature of the Canaanite deity Baal differs sharply from the nature of the biblical God. They are not remotely the same. This sharp distinction is also seen when comparing the God of Israel with the gods and goddesses of Roman, Greek, or Norse mythology.

The problem becomes even more complex when we consider that sometimes different religions use the same name for God while their views of the nature of God differ radically. Consider, for example, the religion of Mormonism. It claims to embrace the Bible (as well as the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine of Covenants) and professes belief in the God of the Bible as well as the biblical Christ. Mormons call themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yet historic Christianity does not accept the Mormon religion as a branch or denomination of Christianity. Why? Because the Mormon view of the nature of God and of Christ differs sharply at essential points of faith. For example, Mormonism categorically rejects the full deity of Christ. Christ is said to be pre-existent, but not eternal. He is highly exalted—indeed revered—but He remains a creature, not Creator, in Mormon theology. Continue reading

Interpreting Providence

storm8Thomas S. Kidd is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, and the author of books including George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (Yale University Press, Jonathan Edwards was confident in his ability to discern God’s purposes in earthly events. For example, during a 1736 drought, he explained that God was chastising New Englanders for the “corruption in our hearts.” Similarly, during a plague of crop-destroying worms in the 1740s, he suggested that the people’s neglect of the poor had precipitated the infestation.

This kind of assurance about God’s intentions has become passé among most conservative Christians today. But not everyone across the American religious and political spectrum has given up on such close providential readings. I was reminded of this fact recently when I became a minor player in a kerfuffle with radio host Glenn Beck over presidential politics. Beck is a Mormon, an ardent supporter of Ted Cruz, and an opponent of Donald Trump. He said recently that evangelicals who support Trump are not “listening to their God.” God has made it clear, Beck says, that Cruz is the chosen man for this election.

Asked to comment on this story by Breitbart News, I replied that “the Bible certainly offers principles on how to think about government and politics. The Bible does not, however, tell us which individual candidates to vote for…There are many reasons why devout Christians should hesitate to vote for Donald Trump, but God has not revealed Ted Cruz as the divinely anointed alternative, either.” In reply, Beck said on his radio program “To you, Dr. Kidd. To you. To you God hasn’t revealed Cruz as divinely anointed.” But Beck believes that “Ted Cruz actually was anointed for this time.”

In the midst of this brouhaha, I happened also to read Gerald McDermott’s fascinating book chapter “Jonathan Edwards and the National Covenant: Was He Right?” In that piece, McDermott examines Edwards’ confident readings of worms, droughts, and other instances of how earthly events reflected God’s disciplining hand. Today we associate such prophetic readings with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and now Beck, who may have a more natural openness to the idea of God’s ongoing revelations because of his Mormonism. Whatever their individual merits or personal beliefs, contemporary figures like these have nothing like the theological or intellectual chops of Edwards. What has changed? Why has the interpretation of God’s purposes in current events become theologically marginal, in a way that it was not in the eighteenth century? Have we lost courage in explaining God’s ways to man?

Over-readings of God’s providence were relatively easy targets of ridicule for the new skeptics and deists of the eighteenth century. For them, Edwards’ kind of interpretation raised obvious questions with no easy answers. Does an absence of drought or worms mean that people are without sin? What did it mean when non-Christians around the world enjoyed abundant harvests, and heavily Christian regions went without? And what of Matthew 5:45’s statement that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”? Many traditional Christians abandoned close providential readings of current events because, with all due respect to Edwards, those interpretations are easier to defend when no one is asking difficult questions about them.

Yet Gerald McDermott suggests that we also lost good things when we gave up on providential readings of history. Christians certainly believe that God is the Lord of history, and that all things have meaning and purpose within God’s economy. No ruler comes to power, and no nation falls, without God’s sovereign permission. Providential interpretations of a nation’s suffering and turmoil remind us that we stand under universal moral standards. No matter how powerful and wealthy, no nation (perhaps especially those with high rates of professed Christian faith) can expect to provoke God forever with no consequences. Continue reading

The Sovereignty of Grace

beeke3_2The Gospel of Sovereign Grace – Joel Beeke

This excerpt is taken from Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke.

One New Testament book that especially emphasizes God’s astounding sovereign grace is Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Paul, this grace makes both Jew and Gentile co-heirs of God’s kingdom with faithful Abraham (Rom. 4:16). It establishes peace between God and sinners who are His enemies (Rom. 5:2). Since only this grace is stronger than the forces of sin, it brings genuine and lasting freedom from sin’s dominion (Rom. 5:20-21; 6:14). Divine grace equips Christian men and women with varied gifts to serve in the church of God (Rom. 12:6). This grace ultimately will conquer death and is the sure harbinger of eternal life for all who receive it (Rom. 5:20-21), for it is a grace that reaches back into the aeons before the creation of time and, without respect to human merit, chooses men and women for salvation (Rom. 11:5-6).

This idea that salvation owes everything to God’s grace is the overarching theme not just in Romans but in all of Paul’s epistles. For example, Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with a prayer for the church in which he says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). “God’s seed will come to God’s harvest,” Samuel Rutherford writes. Salvation is neither our earning nor our doing. That is why Paul prayed with joy and thanksgiving every time he remembered the Philippians. If man had begun the work of salvation, was continuing it, and had to complete it, Paul’s praise would be silenced. But because salvation flows from a divine work that persists day by day despite man’s struggles and setbacks, a work that most certainly will be perfected in the great day, everything is to the praise of the glory of the triune God. This is why Paul thanks God for all the doctrines of grace and is moved to joy whenever he thinks of believers drawn to Christ. By clinging to God’s grace, we, like Paul, can be joyful Christians who victoriously confess, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

Grace calls us (Gal. 1:15), regenerates us (Titus 3:5), justifies us (Rom. 3:24), sanctifies us (Heb. 13:20-21), and preserves us (1 Peter 1:3-5). We need grace to forgive us, to return us to God, to heal our broken hearts, and to strengthen us in times of trouble and spiritual warfare. Only by God’s free, sovereign grace can we have a saving relationship with Him. Only through grace can we be called to conversion (Eph. 2:8-10), holiness (2 Peter 3:18), service (Phil. 2:12-13), or suffering (2 Cor. 1:12).

Sovereign grace crushes our pride. It shames us and humbles us. We want to be the subjects, not the objects, of salvation. We want to be active, not passive, in the process. We resist the truth that God alone is the author and finisher of our faith. By nature, we rebel against sovereign grace, but God knows how to break our rebellion and make us friends of this grand doctrine. When God teaches sinners that their very core is depraved, sovereign grace becomes the most encouraging doctrine possible.

From election to glorification, grace reigns in splendid isolation. John 1:16 says we receive “grace for grace,” which literally means “grace facing or laminated to grace.” Grace follows grace in our lives as waves follow one another to the shore. Grace is the divine principle on which God saves us; it is the divine provision in the person and work of Jesus Christ; it is the divine prerogative manifesting itself in election, calling, and regeneration; and it is the divine power enabling us freely to embrace Christ so that we might live, suffer, and even die for His sake and be preserved in Him for eternity.

Calvinists understand that, without sovereign grace, everyone would be eternally lost. Salvation is all of grace and all of God. Life must come from God before the sinner can arise from the grave.

Free grace cries out for expression in the church today. Human decisions, crowd manipulations, and altar calls will not produce genuine converts. Only the old-fashioned gospel of sovereign grace will capture and transform sinners by the power of the Word and Spirit of God.