Thursday, July 31, 2008

...when conflicts arise, how should we respond and work towards resolve?

When we are wronged, spoken falsely about, our character maligned and reputation smudged, how should we as Christians respond? What does the Word of God teach about this, especially when it comes to the arena of blogging?

There has been an issue of late where a dear man of God, Ken Silva, and his website were forced to go dark because of one complaint lodged against him by another blogger. This other blogger claimed he was slandered by Ken; IMHO, after reading all the documents I could find, he wasn't. This other blogger made a few mistakes: he never contacted Ken directly; he did not follow biblical guidelines for resolve; and he tried to deal with this by reporting Ken to an easily intimated web hosting company of his blog. The next thing you know, Ken's site is gone - sent to electron heaven.

I posted a comment about this on the blogger in question's website asking him to state specifically what the offense was and the words Ken used to describe him that he thought were slanderous. Not only did he not answer my polite and reasonable question, he deleted my comment. After a few other comments, he then closed comments on his thread.

As many of you know, I have had many bloggers say the most outrageous, egregious, and untrue statements about myself and my theology for years. Some do it with an unbridled reckless abandon as if they were a character in a comic book or something. Some react without thinking and are just plain foolish. Some do it to elevate their own self-worth. Some do it because I have challenged them biblically and out of embarrassment in not being able to defend their skewed theology... attack. And then some, in a godly attitude with cogent and meaningful dialogue say strong things because they were right and I needed to see another side of an issue. Regardless, whether from good or bad motives, I am grateful for all of it for the Lord has used it and continues to use it to conform me to Himself. Though I have to admit I have had my share of tears shed and sleepless nights over some of the very ugly commentary directed at me. On occasion, my own attorney would very much like "to minister" to some of these amateur journalists and theologues clothed in blogging rags, but I have instructed him otherwise. It doesn't serve the gospel or the ministry of God's Word to do so... does it? As my dear friend, Dr. John MacArthur, told me years ago, "don't spend your time defending yourself Steve. If you do, you will do nothing else. Defend the Word of God and His gospel and let the Lord take care of others and their opinions of you. Be teachable and thank the Lord for even their unkind and untrue words. Your reputation is not what is ultimately important, God's glory is." Great advice that I try to honor by God's grace.

So how should conflict about message and messenger biblically be handled in the blogosphere? Here are a few thoughts that I hope will prove helpful and be an encouragement to you.

1. Go to your brother privately
If there is an offense between two people of a personal nature, the offended one or the one doing the offending has the biblical duty to go to each other and to do so without delay. They should seek a quick and godly resolve. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus:
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison." -Matthew 5:23-25

2. Church discipline
If an offense or sin occurs between two believers in the Lord, they are first to go to each other and try to win their brother. If that one on one process fails, then they are to take two or three witnesses to confirm what has happened. Within these witnesses should be a pastor or elder of your church. If the party in sin doesn't "hear them" - meaning resolve the matter, then it is to be told to the church. This is not for revenge or retribution, but for repentance, reconciliation and resolve. Lastly, if the party in sin does not repent, then they are to be treated as a nonbeliever. Treated as such, not declared as such, but treated as such. So many people in a rush to judgment will declare someone is not saved and that is not the meaning nor the spirit of church discipline. How do you treat a nonbeliever? With respect, with Christlike love, with humility, and with boldness proclaiming the gospel to them. IOW, continually, lovingly, and with grace, respect and humility give them the gospel and call them to repentance to follow Christ. BTW, the only sin anyone is ever treated as a nonbeliever for is for lack of repentance. Whatever the offense might be, if they repent, all is forgiven and restoration may occur. This is one reason why commitment to a local church is so important. It is a protective and a proactive way to deal with sin and conflict and wrongs that can surface with other believers.

Listen to the words of Jesus:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses 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. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” -Matthew 18:15-20
3. Protect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
The Apostle Paul says,
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." -Ephesians 4:1-3
After three great chapters of doctrine and theology, Paul begins the last three chapters as to the responsibility of our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. His command? Walk worthy to your calling. Where is this first evidenced? In the local church with other believers. And how is this manifested? With humility: (a small opinion of ourselves and a high view of God); gentleness: (taking the mistreatment, injustice and wrongs against us free from revenge, malice and retribution accompanied by doing acts of kindness to the very ones causing the offense trusting in God through it all in how He uses that situation to conform us to Christlikeness. It is the surrender of our rights.); patience: (endurance in the provocation until the healing comes.); and bearing with one another in love: (keeping the greater goal of our testimony in the Lord chief even while being misused by another.

IOW, live and walk in forgiveness and unfailing love. This takes grace for we are not strong enough to do this in and of ourselves.

4. Lastly, why not rather be wronged?
The Apostle Paul gives very clear instruction about how not to handle grievances with other believers in the Lord. Lawsuits are strictly forbidden. And in the case of the blogosphere, pursuing legal action, even if the case is not civil, to resolve a wrong is forbidden. "It is the glory of a man to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11). "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8); IOW, it protects the scope of who has knowledge of another's failings. And we should demonstrate that kind of love not only to fellow believers in the Lord, not only to our neighbors, but to our enemies as well (Matt. 5:40-44).

Listen to Paul's strong and stern words for the church at Corinth:
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! -1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Bringing it home
How does this effect us in the blogosphere, and in specific, how would one respond to the unfortunate incident brought against our brother Ken recently?

If someone writes an article about us where we feel we might have been mischaracterized, misrepresented or even slandered, go to that person first and settle it there. If still no resolve, go to your local pastor and have him handle this within the local church where he may even have to go and meet with another church on your behalf. Let us do all that we can as much as it depends on us to be at peace with all men (Roms. 12:18); especially those within the household of faith endeavoring to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace. Lastly, if persistent God-honoring communication fails to produce resolve, you can trust the Lord and say it is better that I am wronged than I pursue my rights to be right and bring fracture and harm to the body of Christ. Your witness for the gospel and your life representing the Lord Jesus is more important than you being vindicated.

Some tips to help guard against slander and libel:
1. Speak the truth
2. Do your homework and research well; don't just vent, study to be approved
3. Document well and link accurately to corroborate your views
4. Develop your post and conclusions from the Word of God
5. Don't make it personal, stay on message
6. Check motives and be willing to immediately correct any wrongs
7. Debate, discuss, and dialogue; don't defame
Beloved, this little vaporous life we live here is not ultimately about us, it is all about Him and His glory. Living in forgiveness and Christlike love doesn't condone wrongs against us or minimize their impact or consequences. But it does mean we will be free from causing needless conflict, free from bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor and slander. Our little reputations and carefully cultivated bios are not what is the chief concern here.

Are we honoring God's Word? Are we willing to give up our rights to glorify Him? Is a blog worth dividing the body of Christ or protecting our wounded egos?


Monday, July 28, 2008

...none are such real enemies as false friends

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.

-Psalms 55:12-13

V12: The reader will do well to observe how accurately the psalmist described his own Psalm when he said, "I mourn in my complaint, "or rather "give loose to my thoughts, "for he proceeds from one point of his sorrow to another, wandering on like one in a maze, making few pauses, and giving no distinct intimations that he is changing the subject. Now from the turbulent city his mind turns to the false hearted councillor.

For is was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it. It was not an open foe, but a pretended friend; he went over to the other camp and tried to prove the reality of his treachery by calumniating his old friend. None are such real enemies as false friends. Reproaches from those who have been intimate with us, and trusted by us, cut us to the quick; and they are usually so well acquainted with our peculiar weaknesses that they know how to touch us where we are most sensitive, and to speak so as to do us most damage. The slanders of an avowed antagonist are seldom so mean and dastardly as those of a traitor, and the absence of the elements of ingratitude and treachery renders them less hard to bear. We can bear from Shimei what we cannot endure from Ahithophel. Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him.

We can find a hiding place from open foes, but who can escape from treachery? If our enemies proudly boast over us we nerve our souls for resistance, but when those who pretended to love us leer at us with contempt, whither shall we go?

Our blessed Lord had to endure at its worst the deceit and faithlessness of a favoured disciple; let us not marvel when we are called to tread the road which is marked by his pierced feet.

V13: But it was thou. He sees him. The poetic fury is upon him, he sees the traitor as though he stood before him in flesh and blood. He singles him out, he points his finger at him, he challenges him to his face. But thou. Et tu, Brute. And thou, Ahithophel, art thou here? Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man? A man mine equal. Treated by me as one of my own rank, never looked upon as an inferior, but as a trusted friend. My guide, a counsellor so sage that I trusted thine advice and found it prudent to do so. And mine acquaintance, with whom I was on most intimate terms, who knew me even as I knew him by mutual disclosures of heart.

No stranger occasionally conversed with, but a near and dear friend admitted to my secret fellowship. It was fiendish treason for such a one to prove false hearted. There was no excuse for such villainy. Judas stood very much in this relation to our Lord, he was treated as an equal, trusted as treasurer, and in that capacity often consulted with. He knew the place where the Master was wont to spend his solitude; in fact, he knew all the Master's movements, and yet he betrayed him to his remorseless adversaries.

How justly might the Lord have pointed at him and said, But thou; but his gentler spirit warned the son of perdition in the mildest manner, and had not Iscariot been tenfold a child of hell he would have relinquished his detestable purpose.

-charles spurgeon

...a hymn of man's desperation and God's provision

The greatness of God's power in saving sinners can only
be seen against the background of man's desperate condition.
What a glorious doctrine is the new birth to the helpless sinner!
May the Church return to biblical doctrine so that it may evangelize
again to the glory of God.

Here are some rich convicting and comforting words
from the pen of Isaac Watts that I have entitled as HELPLESS.
May the Lord encourage you this day in His gospel of grace.

"But God, being rich in mercy, 
because of the great love with which he loved us, 
even when we were dead in our trespasses, 
made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
-Ephesians 2:4-5

by Isaac Watts

How helpless guilty nature lies,

Unconscious of its load!

The heart, unchanged can never rise

To happiness and God.

The will perverse, the passions blind,

In paths of ruin stray;

Reason, debased, can never find

The safe, the narrow way.

Can aught, beneath a power divine,

The stubborn will subdue?

Tis Thine, almighty Saviour, Thine,

To form the heart anew.

O change these wretched hearts of ours, 

And give them life divine!

Then shall our passions and our powers,

Almighty Lord, be Thine!


declaring the good news of the gospel of graceReconciliation began with God himself; 

"All things are of God", originally, in nature, providence, and grace; particularly this, "Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 5:18). It began in the thoughts of his heart, which were thoughts of peace; it was brought into council and settled in covenant, called the council and covenant of peace. It was carried into execution by Christ, who is frequently represented as the author of it, by his death, and the blood of his cross (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-22), and it was made unto God, against whom sin is committed, whose law is broken, and his justice offended; and who is the Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16), and it is a reconciliation for sin, to make atonement for it (Dan. 9:24; Heb 2:17), and of sinners and enemies in their minds to God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21), which may be further illustrated,

3a. First, by observing the character of the persons reconciled; which will show the cause, reason, and necessity of a reconciliation to be made; they are "enemies"; and in one of the texts referred to, they are said to be "enemies in their minds by wicked works": which is expressive,

3a1. Of the internal enmity there is in their minds and hearts; the carnal mind, as every man’s mind is naturally carnal, is not only an enemy, but "enmity" itself, "against God" (Rom. 8:7), to the Being of God—wishing there was no God—to the nature and perfections of God, denying some of them, misrepresenting others, and framing him in their minds, as altogether such an one as themselves—to the purposes and decrees of God, which they cannot bear, and to which they insolently reply; and to the providences of God, they charge with inequality and unrighteousness: and they are inwardly and secretly enemies to Christ, to his person and offices; particularly his kingly office, being unwilling that he should reign over them; and to his gospel, and the special doctrines of it; and to his ordinances, they care not to be subject unto: and so they are to the Spirit, to his Person, whom they know not, nor can receive; to his operations, which they deride and ridicule; the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to them: and they are enemies to the people of God, there is an old and implacable enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the saints are hated by the world, because chosen and called out of the world; God’s elect themselves, while in a state of nature, are hateful, and hating one another; Paul, a chosen vessel of salvation, was, while unregenerate, exceeding mad against the saints. But,

3a2. There is an external enmity, which appears by wicked works and sinful actions openly committed: which are acts of hostility against God, are contrary to his nature and will are abominable in his sight provoke the eyes of his glory, excite his wrath, and cause it to be revealed from heaven, and for which it comes on the children of disobedience; and all are deserving of it: sins are breaches of the law of God, render men liable to the curses of it, and to death itself, the sanction of it; they not only all with enmity to God, and show it to him, but set men at a distance from him; so that they have no communion with him, are far off, are without him, and separate from him. But,

3a3. Men are not only enemies internally, and externally to God, but there is an enmity on the part of God to them; there is a law enmity, or an enmity declared in the law against them; they are declared by the law of God as enemies; traitors, and rebels to him; and as such God’s elect were considered, when Christ died to make reconciliation for them; for it is said, "while they were sinners Christ died for them, and when they were enemies they were reconciled to God, the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:8, 10). Now the far greater part of those for whom Christ died, were not then in an actual sinful state, nor in actual rebellion and enmity against God; for then they were not in actual being; but they were considered as in their apostate head, as sinners in him, and so as rebels and traitors; as such they were deemed by the law, and proceeded against, proclaimed guilty, judgment came upon them to condemnation; they were, in the eye of the law, and in the sight of justice, viewed as enemies, and declared such: and this law enmity is what was slain by Christ, and removed at his death; and not that enmity that was in their minds; that was not removed by and at the death of Christ; that is removed at conversion, when the arrows of the word become sharp in these enemies, which bring them to fall under, and be subject to Christ; when they are made willing in the day of his power, to be saved by him, to submit to his righteousness, and to have him to reign over them: this is the work of the Spirit of Christ: there is a two fold reconciliation, one of which is the work of Christ, and was made at his death: the other the work of his Spirit, at conversion; when, by his grace, men are reconciled to the way of salvation by Christ; and both may be seen in one text (Rom. 5:10).

If there had been no other enmity than what is in the hearts of men against God, there would have been no need of the sufferings and death of Christ to make reconciliation; but there was a law enmity on the part of God, and his justice, which required the death of Christ to take it away. Not that there was any enmity in the heart of God to his elect; that would be inconsistent with his everlasting and unchangeable love, which appeared strongly towards them at the time Christ died for them, reconciled them, and became the propitiation for their sins (Rom. 5:8,10; Titus 3:3, 4; 1 John 4:10). But they were, according to the law, and in the view of justice, deemed and declared as the enemies of God. So when the subjects of a king rise up in rebellion against him, there may be no enmity in his heart to them; yet they are, according to law, proclaimed rebels, and enemies to him, and may be treated as such, and proceeded against in due form of law; and yet, after all, be pardoned by him. There was, in some sense, a reciprocal enmity between God and men, which made a reconciliation necessary; and which was brought about by the bloodshed, sufferings, and death of Christ, when he slew the enmity of the law, and blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that were against sinners, so making peace (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14). Which will further appear,

3b. Secondly, By observing what reconciliation signifies and imports: there is something similar and analogous in a case when it is made between man and man, though not altogether the same; and some caution must be taken, lest we go into mistakes: reconciliation between man and man, supposes a former state of friendship subsisting between them, a breach of that friendship, and a renewing and restoration of it: and there is something like it in reconciliation between God and man; man, in his primeval state, was in strict friendship with God, not only Adam personally being made after the image, and in the likeness of God, having dominion over all the creatures, made for his use, and which were brought to him, to be named by him; and having an habitation in a most delightful garden, where he was allowed to eat of all kind of fruit in it, but one; and where he enjoyed communion with God: in all this honour he was; and not he only, but all his posterity, considered in him, as their head and representative, were in a state of friendship with God; hence the covenant made with him, in which he was their federal head, is rightly called by divines, "foedus amicitiae", a covenant of friendship: but man abode not long in this state; sin, that whisperer and agitator, soon separated chief friends; alienated man from the life of God, caused him to apostatize from him, and to become a traitor to him; filled him with enmity to him, and set him at a distance from him; and in this state of alienation and enmity, all his posterity naturally are; with respect to the elect of God among them, Christ has interposed, appeased justice, satisfied the law, and made reconciliation for them, and brought them into an open state of friendship with God; so that they are considered, in consequence of this, as Abraham was, the friends of God, and are treated as such (Jas. 2:23; Song of Sol. 5:1; John 15:15), have the blessings of divine favour bestowed upon them, and rich communications of grace made unto them.

But here we must proceed warily, and observe some things to prevent mistakes and misrepresentations; for perhaps there is not one thing in the whole scheme of evangelical truths more difficult rightly to fix than this. It should be considered, that properly speaking there are no passions nor perturbations of mind in God, who is a spirit, simple and uncompounded, and not capable of such things; when therefore displeasure, anger, provocation, resentment, &c. are ascribed to him, it must be understood after the manner of men; that he says something in his word, and does something in his providence, and the outward dispensations of it, which is somewhat similar to what men say and do, when the above is the case with them; otherwise we are not to conceive that God is in a passion, and is ruffled, and his mind disturbed, as they are. Nor are we to imagine there is any change in God, as in men, who are sometimes friends, then enemies, and then friends again; he changes not, there is no variableness nor shadow of turning in him; he may change his voice to his people, and speak comfortably to them in his gospel, who before spoke terribly to them in his law; he may change his outward conduct and behavior towards them, and carry it friendly to them, when before as at a distance: but he never changes his mind, counsel and affections to them; his love is everlasting and invariable; he ever rested in it, and nothing can separate from it; his love is never changed to enmity, and from enmity to love again; his special secret favour, as it is never lost, needed no recovery; nor did Christ, by making satisfaction and reconciliation for sin, procure the love and favour of God to his people; for Christ’s being sent to be the propitiation, his sufferings and death, sacrifice and satisfaction, were the fruit and effect of the love of God, and not the cause of it (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The reconciliation made by Christ was not to the love of God, which was never lost, but to the justice of God, offended by sin; the flaming sword, which turned every way and threatened vengeance, was plunged into the heart of Christ, the surety of his people, which was done to declare the righteousness and satisfy the justice of God; and to open a way for mercy to display itself, and turn its hand upon the little ones; and thus justice and mercy happily met together, and were reconciled to one another in their different pleas and demands (Zech. 13:7; Rom. 3:25, 26; Ps. 85:10).

The reconciliation made by Christ is for sin, to make satisfaction for it (Dan. 9:24; Heb. 2:17), and on that account it is a reconciliation of sinners to God, he being thereby pacified towards them for all that they have done; being well pleased with what Christ has done and suffered for them; he is well pleased with him, and with all that are considered in him, who are accepted in him the beloved, and are admitted into an open state of favour; which is meant by their having access through Christ into the grace wherein they stand (Matthew 3:17; Eph. 1:6; Rom. 5:2), for though the love of God to his elect is invariable and unchangeable in itself, yet the manifestation of it is different; and it may be distinguished into secret and open love; there are obstructions by sin thrown in the way of love, which must be removed, in order to enjoy open favour and the blessings of it, and which are removed by Christ; thus Christ was made under the law, to redeem his people, that they might receive the adoption of children; and was made a curse for them, that the blessings of grace love had provided in covenant for them, might come upon them; and he was made sin, and a sin offering for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him; and be brought into a state of open fellowship and communion with him, who before were kept at a distance. Thus David, though he most affectionately loved his son Absalom, and longed for him, when for an offence he fled; and though through the mediation of Joab he was allowed to return to Jerusalem, yet the king would not suffer him to see his face for the space of full two years; when by the mediation of the same person he was admitted into the king’s presence, taken into open favour, and kissed by him (2 Sam. 13:39; 14:1, 21, 24, 33).

3c. Thirdly, the means by which this reconciliation is made, are the bloodshed and death of Christ; he only is the reconciler and peace maker; a sinner cannot make peace with God or reconciliation, that is, satisfaction for his sins; not by his works of righteousness, which are impure and imperfect; nor by repentance, which the law does not admit of, nor is it any satisfaction to it; nor by faith, for that does not make, only receives the atonement made by Christ; there is nothing a sinner can do, will make peace and reconciliation for him; and what will, he cannot do; which is no less than fulfilling the whole law, and answering all the demands of law and justice (Rom. 8:3, 4), death being the sanction of the law, and the wages of sin, there is no reconciliation to be made but by death; not by the death of slain beasts, which could not take away sin; nor by the death of the sinner himself: the Jews having lost the true notion of the atonement by the Messiah, fancy that a man’s death atones for his sins; but it is a false notion, there is no other way of peace, reconciliation, and atonement being made, but by the death of the Son of God; who being God as well as man, could and did give virtue and efficacy to his blood, sufferings, and death in human nature united to his person, as to make them adequate to the said purposes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

...preached a pure gospel; powerful gospel; passionate gospel

Here is a tremendous portrait of a true prophet of God heralding fearlessly the great gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was not given to flattery or cajolery; he wasn't one to brown nose his way into the favoritism of other religious leaders or movements. Whitefield was not a man of the times as much as he was a man of the truth. He preached amid much persecution, verbal assaults and physical intimidation. He was severely cross-eyed and became the brunt of mean spirited jocularity from nonbelievers and those who despised the very cross he gave his life for.

"There’s a story in the biography of George Whitefield about a man named Thorpe, who was a bitter opponent of everything that is holy. He and a group of his friends—all of them young, rebellious thugs—conspired together to mock and oppose George Whitefield’s evangelistic ministry while Whitefield was preaching in Bristol, England.

George Whitefield had severely crossed eyes, if you have ever seen a realistic likeness of him. And these guys used to refer to him as “Dr. Squintum.” They called their little gang “The Hell-Fire Club,” and they disrupted meetings, mocked Whitefield on the streets and in public places, and generally tried to make his ministry a reproach in their community. Whitefield’s preaching had already made a deep and lasting impact in Bristol, and these young ruffians hated him for it. So this guy Thorpe got one of Whitefield’s published sermons and took it to the local pub, where the “Hell-Fire Club” was gathered to drink together while they make a burlesque of Whitefield.

Thorpe was apparently pretty good at doing impressions, and he had all Whitefield’s mannerisms and gestures down pat. So he stood in the center of this pub and crossed his eyes and began to deliver a derisive rendition of Whitefield’s sermon. But in the middle of the sermon, the Word of God pierced his heart, and he suddenly stopped and sat down, trembling and broken-hearted. Right then and there, he confessed the truth of the gospel and gave his heart to Christ. His aim was to taunt and ridicule, but he accidentally converted himself! Or rather, the power of the Word of God penetrated his soul and cut him to the heart. He became a preacher himself and quite an effective evangelist, because he knew so well the power of the Word of God to penetrate hardened hearts.

Notice that the Word of God pierces to the very depths, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It probes to the deepest recesses of the heart, no matter how hardened or how closed the heart might be. In fact, only Scripture can do that." Source

Whitefield wasn't one to be trifled with. He was not prone to express his feelings as "words from the Lord" as some emerging boys of today's movements are likely to do. He didn't play with prophecy.  So please read the words of Ravenhill below and learn from the life and ministry (Heb. 13:7) of one of God's choice servants.

By Leonard Ravenhill
Peep with me through the window of history and see the eighteenth century cluttered with genius.
  • That pompous dandy we see over there is Beau Nash, famed as the master of ceremonies of the fashion courts in Bath. (Later John Wesley will puncture his pride.)
  • The interesting character now approaching is none other than the literary celebrity, Dr. Samuel Johnson. John Wesley once declined a late meal with Johnson because it would deter him from rising early for prayer the next morning. (Note that, preacher!) Dr. Samuel Johnson's companion with the sharp pen is Boswell.
  • In an unpretentious place not far away is a man weaving paints into what will become a famous picture, The Blue Boy. Well done, Gainsborough!
  • In another area, with sweat on brow, soul, and mind, Howard is laboring to effect prison reforms.
  • Over in the House, William Wilberforce, with a scorpion-like tongue, is lashing the lawmakers on the evils of slavery.
  • Philip Sheridan, the Irish playwright and politician, is elated over his School for Scandal. For some time Sheridan owned Drury Lane Theatre. I wonder if he had David Garrick, the prince of actors in that day, play a part in it.
  • Hear those heavenly strains? Here is another Englishman (naturalized). His name? Handel. With tear-filled eyes and arms upraised to heaven, this genius is singing some of the strains of his Messiah and interspersing it with some hallelujahs. (Is that why he was reported drunk when he wrote the blessed oratorio?)
  • Just before we leave the wonderland of England at this period and jump over the channel for a peep at the evil genius Voltaire, let us peep through a small window. Here is the wry face of Hogarth, painting one of his political satires which made him immortal.
Over now to France. 

Voltaire sits high and mighty on his throne of skepticism. Disclaiming that he is an atheist, this brilliant deist poured contempt and satire on the Christian doctrines. If he was the father of the French Revolution, he was probably goaded to it by the persecuting and bitter Jesuits lording their priestly benefits.

But Voltaire seems to have been a man of compassion too. He was honest in evaluation. Sangster of Westminster said, "Voltaire, when challenged to produce a character as perfect as that of Christ, at once mentioned Fletcher of Madely."

So there we end up with surveying the eighteenth century with its crop of intellectuals and men of achievement. All the afore-mentioned characters have a place in the sun. Each had an art.

But what Johnson and Boswell were in literature, what Reynolds and Gainsborough were in art, what Sheridan and Garrick were in the theater, John Wesley and George Whitefield were in the church of the living God - only they were so in a superlative sense.

Here is one of those blessed paradoxes that the Lord works. Just as years back the Beechers ruled the fashion of New England, so in old England the Wesleys were a family of culture and set the pattern. Yet this Oxford don, John Wesley, is the man the Lord uses to the miners outside Bristol, England. And the squint-eyed boy born in the tavern at Gloucester is the David selected to pass the Saul and Jonathan in order to evangelize the state rooms of England with their silk-clad patrons.

Fire begets fire. In my opinion, John Wesley caught something of his fiery zeal from George Whitefield. In this day some claim the revival, often called the Wesleyan Revival, was not Wesley's at all. At least, they say, he did not begin it. (To prove or disprove that, we can wait until the great day of judgment.)

In field preaching, the blazing Whitefield certainly preceded Wesley. Wesley picked up the revival torch that Whitefield dropped when he went to America.

Whitefield arrived in America after a battering on the stormy Atlantic in a boat that the Maritime Commission would not now license for a river trip. Again Whitefield dropped a coal of his zeal. This time it was into the heart of Gilbert Tennant, who, we are led to believe, could out-preach his tutor. (That seems impossible.) Yet greater crowds than Whitefield's tramped the snows to hear Tennant after Whitefield left New England.

Forget for a moment the other experiments Benjamin Franklin made. Right now we see him standing where Whitefield's pulpit is. Walking backward from there to where he could not hear too distinctly, he marked a spot. Later he measured the distance to arrive at the conclusion that 30,000 people had heard the anointed Whitefield at one meeting, and heard him comfortably without any amplification.

But Whitefield's audiences were not always large. On one trip across the Atlantic while he was still but twenty-five years of age - tall, graceful, and well-proportioned - he addressed a group of just thirty people. His pulpit was the swaying deck of a ship whose sails were tattered and whose gear was out of gear! His blanket was a buffalo hide, and though he had slept in the most protected part of the vessel, he had been drenched through twice in one night. It had taken the vessel three months to sight the Irish coast.

On the Atlantic or on either side of it, whether preaching to a few on a ship's hatchway or galvanizing the vast audience of the field into rapt attention, Whitefield's message was the same: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

The lamp that lit the path that led to the kingdom for Whitefield was a book. At Oxford, Charles Wesley had seen Whitefield and passed on to him Henry Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man.

In America, Whitefield pushed through the matted forests to reach the Indians. From tribe to tribe he went and from wigwam to wigwam. To get to the encampments of the Delawares, he shot the angry rapids in a frail bark canoe. He ferreted out the backwoodsmen. Men must hear the message; they must have the life of God in their souls.

From the squalor of Indian camps this seraph-like preacher moved with ease of disposition to the stately historic homes of England. Whence all those carriages? What drew those poets, peers and princes, philosophers and wits together? Proud of their blue blood and pedigree, those aristocrats came - some of them three times a week - to hear the scorching words "Ye must be born again."

From a lordly chamber heavy with the pungent aroma of costly perfumes, Whitefield would race off to a street meeting. Catch his joy as he says,
"There I was honored with having stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and pieces of dead cats thrown at me."
Coming from Gloucester as he did, Whitefield knew that for being too outspoken on the things of Christ during Queen Mary's reign, Bishop Hooper of Gloucester was burned within sight of his own cathedral. Whitefield cared not about consequences for obedience. Tyndale was a Gloucester man too, and think what his faith cost him!

Whitefield was of the Baxter-Brainerd-McCheyne mold; he wore the harness of discipline with ease. He drove stakes deep into his own mind. His "thou shalt not's" were for himself, and he never forced others to wear his sackcloth.

The Pope's flattering (?) words about Luther, "This German beast does not love gold," might have been said of Whitefield too.

What was the secret of Whitefield's success? I think three things: He preached a pure gospel; he preached a powerful gospel; he preached a passionate gospel.

Cornelius Winter, who often travelled, ate, and slept in the same room with Whitefield said, "He seldom if ever got through a sermon without tears." On the other hand, a lady of position in New York said, "Mr. Whitefield was so cheerful that it tempted me to become a Christian."

Literary men of his times frequented his meetings. Lord Chesterfield, icy as he was, warmed under his preaching. Lord Bolingbroke, not a generous critic, said, "He is the most extraordinary man of our times. He has the most commanding eloquence I ever heard in any person."

David Hume, Scottish skeptic in philosophy, and deist though he was, is said to have raced off at five in the morning to hear Whitefield preach. Asked if he believed what the preacher preached, he replied, "No, but he does!"

Franklin of America, a cold-blooded, calculating philosopher, said of the revivalist Whitefield, "It was wonderful to see the change made by his preaching in the manners of the inhabitants of Philadelphia. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if the whole world were growing religious."

John Newton, a giant of a preacher as well as poet, said of Whitefield, "It seemed as if he never preached in vain."

John Wesley comments about him:
"Have we read or heard of any person who called so many thousands, so many myriads of sinners to repentance? Above all, have we read or heard of anyone who has been God's blessed instrument to bring so many sinners from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God as Whitefield?"
Old Henry Venn of Huddersfield and Yelling stated, "Scarce anyone has equalled Mr. Whitefield."

George Whitefield walked with the great-with the Marquis of Lothian, the Earl of Leven, Lord Dartmouth, Lady Huntingdon. But better still, he walked and talked with God. He heard what God said, saw as God saw, and loved as God loved. An Arabian proverb says, "He is the best orator who can turn men's ears into eyes." This amazing soul did just that.

God of Whitefield, give us today men like Whitefield who can stand as giants in the pulpit, men with burdened hearts, burning lips, and brimming eyes. And, Lord, please do it soon!


Used by permission of Bethany House Publishers. This article by Leonard Ravenhill appeared in DAYSPRING copyright (c) 1963 by Bethany House Publishers, a ministry of Bethany Fellowship, Inc. All rights reserved. For further information about the missionary outreach of Bethany Fellowship or for a complete listing of Ravenhill titles and others, please contact the publisher at 11300 Hampshire Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55438; ph: (612) 829-2500; FAX: (612) 829-2768.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

...where faith and culture collide

In the highly charged, politically sensitive environment affecting the church today, "an ecumenical movement" has gradually surfaced within Christianity, crossing all denominational lines, advocating political remedies to correct the moral maladies facing our nation. This is an effort in futility. Well-meaning, but confused, evangelical leaders are attempting to accomplish this societal moral sea-change absent of the gospel of Jesus Christ (sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus) and the authority of God's Word (sola scriptura). Because of the biblical vacuum that exists within ECB, here is how The Ten Commandments could be rewritten for today to champion their philosophy of co-belligerence. (Though written in a "tongue in cheek" manner, it is a sad - heartrending reality that Christianity is now known in government circles by political policy, rather than by the preaching and ministry of the gospel--"Jesus Christ and Him crucified.")

1. Thou shalt keep all family values and moral/social causes continually before you
2. Thou shalt not let the Word of God, doctrine, theology, truth, or the gospel of Jesus Christ keep you from “standing together” with anyone to reach our goal of impacting our culture by returning it back to moral traditional values through legislation, judicial process, and co-belligerent partnerships
3. Thou shalt remember the Lord's Day and keep it political; rename it by changing it from the Lord's Day to "Justice Sunday." Be sure to substitute the worship of God; the preaching of His Word; prayer; the heralding of the gospel, turning the Sunday evening worship service into a political rally; making certain you feature non-Christians from different faith-based groups to share the pulpit and platform to insure a wide tolerant political religious ideological appeal
4. Thou shalt not take the name of family value/moral causes in vain; but use every social cultural political co-belligerent means necessary to strong arm politicians to win the day
5. Thou shalt honor thy senator and thy congressman as long as they stand for what we tell them to stand for (this is the first commandment with a vote)
6. Thou shalt boycott, protest and petition against all who act immorally and who try to filibuster judicial Presidential appointees
7. Thou shalt fault, criticize and belittle unsaved people for living like unsaved people given every opportunity possible. It’s OK for them to remain unsaved people, but they just can’t live like they're "too unsaved."  (They can be unsaved, but just can’t be outwardly gay; they can be unsaved, but just can’t be vocally pro-choice; they can be unsaved, but just can’t believe in euthanasia; they can even remain unsaved, but must be for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage)
8. Thou shalt faithfully turn the body of Christ into The Pope’s Political Action Committee (TPPAC): The Lord's Lobbyists; Value Voters, Patriot Pastors; the Largest Special Interest Group in America; and most importantly, Christocrats.
9. Thou shalt not do anything to shrink the mailing list of any Para-church ministry for three things are always necessary for success: donations, donations, donations.
10. Thou shalt always remember to keep your primary focus on the family and not on the faith

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

...what God has prepared for those who love Him

by Jonathan Edwards

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'"
(Matthew 25:34).

"When a mortal man speaks anything of that eternal blessedness of the Saints in glory, he is like a blind man discoursing about the light which he has never seen, and so cannot distinctly speak anything concerning it." Likewise, for one to write of those things which are only vaguely described in Scripture is similar for a man to write a travel guide for a land he has never visited or seen. It is to attempt to describe the indescribable with words which cannot come close to expressing the glory of heaven. Paul wrote these words: "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9). Some question whether these words directly refer to heaven: they may not, but from all that we do know, they are certainly true of heaven and of the indescribable nature of that glorious place. Things which eye has not seen: can you imagine it? Men's eyes have seen abundant treasures upon the earth. Men have seen golden thrones, palaces, exquisite diamonds, rubies, and pearls. Men can conceive of handfuls of diamonds, fields of jewels, and buildings of gold, glittering in the noonday sun, but men cannot imagine the glory of heaven. It is beyond our imagination. Such is the task before us: to speak of the glory of heaven using words that cannot describe it; to try to picture for you that which cannot even be conceived by your heart.

Why be so concerned about heaven? What purposes will be served by doing so? There are several reasons which make it profitable to both hear and think about heaven: 1) The doctrine of heaven serves to comfort true believers on earth who are weary and struggling or under persecution. 2) Hearing of heaven should stir up believers to witness to friends and neighbors on earth who are not followers of Jesus Christ. Meditating on the glory of heaven and the frightening alternative should be one of the greatest incentives to evangelism there can be. And 3) The concept of rewards for obedience and of punishment for disobedience is a major theme throughout all of Scripture. Why would God do this if it were not to urge otherwise senseless men to consider eternity before it is too late? Hearing about heaven then is an incentive to the ungodly to turn to God now while there is still time. We will speak in more detail of these later. Let us now try to understand what the Bible tells us about what heaven is like.

Heaven is a place of unspeakable glory where the elect of God live with one another in the immediate presence of God and of the Lamb and where they behold Him in all His glory face to face. It is a place where the curse of sin and all of its effects have been removed forever from all who dwell there; they, being made joint heirs with Christ, inherit all things and live with unmixed joy in a state of perfect happiness incapable of being described or exaggerated forever and ever.

Heaven is called by Jesus Christ "a kingdom." "Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). It is called "the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). This tells us that the exceeding glory of this kingdom far outweighs the glory of all earthly kingdoms combined. This is a heavenly kingdom where Christ is King. Not only that, but those who live there with the Blessed One are declared by Christ to be "priests to His God and Father" (Revelation 1:6) and proclaimed by Peter as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (I Peter 2:9). What kingdom is like unto this kingdom? What earthly kingdom can be compared to it? There are none.

Heaven is called "the third heaven" (II Corinthians 12:2) and "the heaven of heavens" (Deuteronomy 10:14) to show its great eminency. By this it is distinguished from the sky above, the atmospheric heaven, which is also called heaven, and the starry heaven containing all the celestial orbs: the sun, the stars, the planets, and moons of the universe. Think how vast and great are the starry heavens above. The heaven of heavens is far greater still. Here we see only the objects of creation. There God's children will see, worship, and dwell with the God who created the universe and everything in it.

In the parable of the unrighteous steward, Christ refers to heaven as "the eternal dwellings" or as one version translates it "the everlasting habitations" (Luke 16:9). This tells us that heaven is a place, not a dream or an illusion. It is a place where glorified saints and angelic beings live together with God. We are told that God "has prepared a city for them" and we are given a preview of the glory of this city in the book of Revelation: "Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, or a stone of crystal-clear jasper...the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone...And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass...the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:11, 18, 19, 21, 23). It is also a place that remains forever. It is called "eternal" or "everlasting" and of its inhabitants it is said, "neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and are sons of God" (Luke 20:36). Those who go to heaven live in that glorious city for all eternity.

When Christ was dying on the cross the penitent thief next to Him made a request of the Lord: "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Christ responded to him: "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42, 43). Heaven is called Paradise. Men often refer to an exotic, tropical island as "paradise," yet this paradise will make all earthly paradises look meager and barren.

In Luke 16 heaven is also called Abraham's bosom. Christopher Love helps us understand this expression better: "Dives saw Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. And it is so called, because as the bosom is the receipt of love, and the friend of your bosom is your dearest friend, so in glory they are said to be in Abraham's bosom to show that God will love and shelter His elect, as a friend will do to this dearest friend, the friend of his bosom." This is Paradise indeed!

Lastly, heaven is called "the joy of your master." The servant who acted wisely with his master's talents is welcomed into the kingdom of God with these words: "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23). Psalm 16:11 tells us: "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever."

These expressions have given us a view of heaven which is like looking through a colored glass at a far distant kingdom which we cannot see clearly. Now we will look at the blessedness of heaven from two different perspectives. The first one will show us what those in heaven will be free from. The second will give us a better understanding of what the eternal blessedness of the soul consists.

The occupants of heaven shall be freed from sin itself, from the causes of sin, and from the consequences of sin. First, those who enter glory to live forever with God in heaven shall be free from sin itself. Sin is the cause of all the misery in the world. Sin is the reason we experience pain, sorrow, sickness, and even death. Paul mourns over sin and expresses in strongest language his desire to be rid of it: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). The true child of God longs to be where he will sin no more: a place where he will never commit another sin; a place where he will never even have another sinful thought. Sin is the greatest enemy of the one who loves holiness. Here sin makes war upon you as the flesh lusts against the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). As the hymnwriter asks: Would you be free from your burden of sin? Bunyan's Pilgrim fled the city of destruction seeking relief from the great burden of sin which he carried about with him. Heaven is the place where sin will be no more. This is pictured beautifully in Revelation 21:3-4: "And God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Why are there tears? Why is there death? Why do men mourn, cry, and feel pain? It is all because of sin. Sin brings all of those evils upon man. In heaven men shall be free from sin.

Second, in heaven men shall be free from the causes of sin. There are three primary causes of sin: your sinful nature, the temptations of the devil, and the lure of the world. Your sinful nature is the source of the sins which you commit. James tells us: "Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin" (James 1:14-15). Your sinful nature spews out poison, filth, and vileness every day of your life in this world. If the devil were chained up and not allowed to touch or tempt you, you would continue to sin because of the principle of sin which indwells you: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh" (Romans 7:18). In heaven your vile body shall be made like unto His glorious body and you cannot sin.

In heaven you will be free from the temptations of the devil. Here men are assaulted daily by the enemy of their souls. Here "your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). On earth the devil seeks to sift you as wheat as he sought to do to Peter. Soon the devil shall be thrown into the lake of fire and be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Soon, if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, "the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20). In heaven there shall be no more devil to tempt saints to sin anymore. In heaven men shall be free from the lusts of the world. These are described by John as "the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life" (I John 2:16). Here the world system seeks to press you into it's mold. Christians are constantly being bombarded by the ungodly influences of lust, greed, pride, etc. These ungodly influences working hand-in-hand with your corrupt nature bring much grief to your soul. In heaven the godly shall be free of the evil influence of the world for they will have overcome the world for all time through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Finally, in heaven men will be free from the consequences of sin. The primary consequence of sin is eternal punishment in hell. Scripture makes it clear that a person at death goes to either heaven or hell. There is no in between state or place, no purgatory, no other option. Those who go to heaven are spared the wrath of God which falls upon those in hell. They are delivered from "the wrath to come" (I Thes-salonians 1:10). Physical death which opens the door into eternity is also one of the consequences of sin. Death came originally, as a direct penal infliction upon man because of his sin for "the sting of death is sin" (I Corinthians 15:56), "but thanks be to God, who gives us the vic-tory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Death is swallowed up in victory" so that the child of God can boldly say, "Oh, death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54, 55, 57).

We shall now look at what the eternal blessedness of the soul consists of in heaven. Paul said, "Now we see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12). Certainly, the picture we now try to describe is dark indeed compared to the true glory of heaven. Who can imagine the things we now try to describe? "We shall never understand glory fully till we are in heaven. Let me give you some dark views only, some imperfect lineaments of that state of glory at which the saints shall arrive after death."3 The blessedness of the soul in glory consists of at least three things: 1) the seeing of God, 2) the perfection of graces in the believer, and 3) fulness of joy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). The saints in heaven shall see God in all His majesty. They shall behold the infinite glory of the Almighty One in as great a capacity as they are capable of. They shall not behold Him only at a distance, but "face to face" (I Corinthians 13:12). This is what the blessedness of the saints in glory chiefly consists of: the beholding of God. Yet it is impossible that a finite man should comprehend God. Revelation 22:5 describes some of the glory of seeing God: "And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them." The glory of God will swallow up the light of the sun as the brilliance of the sun now dispels the darkness of night.

The Father will not directly manifest Himself to those in heaven for we are told in the Scriptures that God is invisible: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (I Timothy 1:17). It is said of Christ that "He is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). The Father will not need to manifest Himself in any other way than through the glory and majesty of the exalted Christ. The Lord told His disciples on the night before He died: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jonathan Edwards described the believer's seeing Christ in glory this way: "The seeing God in the glorified body of Christ, is the most perfect way of seeing God with the bodily eyes that can be; for in seeing a real body, which one of the Persons of the Trinity has assumed to be His body, and in which He dwells forever as his own, the divine majesty and excellency appear as much as it is possible for them to appear in outward form or shape...They shall see Him, as appearing in His glorified human nature, with their bodily eyes; and this will be a most glorious sight. The loveliness of Christ as thus appearing will be a most ravishing thing to them; for though the bodies of the saints shall appear with an exceeding beauty and glory, yet the body of Christ will without doubt immensely surpass them, as much as the brightness of the sun does that of the stars. The glorified body of Christ will be the masterpiece of all God's workmanship in the whole material universe. There shall be in his glorious countenance the manifestations of His glorious spiritual perfections, His majesty, His holiness, His surpassing grace, and love, and meekness. The eye will never be wearied with beholding this glorious sight."

Not only will they see Christ face to face, but they will walk with Him and talk with Him. Christ shall treat them as brothers and shall speak to them as His intimate friends. Just before His crucifixion, Christ told His disciples: "No longer do I call you slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). If Christ could say this to His disciples while they were still clothed in their sinful natures, do you think He will not admit them nearer to Him in heaven when they have been fully purged of all stain and iniquity and stand before His throne spotless clothed in His blood? Certainly he will. The Scriptures speak of God's living with and among His people in glorious terms: "Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them...and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 21:3; 22:4).

Secondly, those who are admitted to heaven shall enjoy the perfection of all their graces. We shall look at three graces particularly: 1) the grace of knowledge, 2) the grace of holiness, and 3) the grace of love.

First, the grace of knowledge shall be perfected in glory. "For now we know in part, and prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away...For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known" (I Corinthians 13:9-10, 12). Now our knowledge of divine things is shallow and indistinct. We do not perceive things clearly. We are sluggish in our understandings. Then we shall know, as Christ now knows us. The grace of knowledge shall be perfected in the godly in heaven. The godly shall understand more fully Christ as Mediator between God and men. They shall understand the mystery of the incarnation, of God becoming man. To as great a degree as possible, those in glory shall understand the mystery of the Trinity. They shall understand the plan of salvation and how divine providence worked in all the circumstances of their lives. There all the difficulties, trials, and dark providences of life shall be seen as a glorious entity which will testify to the truth that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28). They shall understand the excellencies of Christ to as full a degree as they are capable. The knowledge of God shall be full, yet God shall not be fully known, for man can never completely comprehend the Godhead.

The grace of holiness shall be perfected in all who are received into glory. "We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him" (I John 3:2). Holiness is the transcendent beauty of God and the angels. Holiness is primary among the attributes of God. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:3) is the cry of the seraphim who constantly attend Him in glory. In heaven holiness will be perfected in the believer. Sin shall be no more. Then the words of God shall fully be brought to pass: "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16). Holiness is the fervent desire of the saint as he travels through this world of sin. There the saints shall be as the angels of God. There, as much as can be, they shall be like Christ Himself. They shall be holy.

In heaven the grace of love shall be perfected. On earth love to God is expressed in fits and spasms. Sinful flesh and self-interest dampen and hinder love to God. We cannot love God as we ought or even as we would like to. Although the spirit in the child of God desires with all that is within him to do what the Scripture says, to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5), it cannot be done perfectly here. But as he in his heart desires to do so, God accepts the desire in the believer as if the action were done perfectly. In heaven, unhindered love shall flow forth to God as none have ever experienced on earth. God shall be loved completely and fully and the saints shall love one another without carnality or selfishness being present.

Thirdly, those who are in heaven shall experience fulness of joy. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand are pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11). Fulness of joy could be described as experiencing the bountiful love of God to them as the waters of an ocean. Others, who have a far greater understanding of this than I do, have described it in this way: "From this glorious manifestation of God's love will flow infinite joy into the souls of the blessed; therefore heaven is called 'entering into the joy of our Lord' (Matthew 25:21). The seeing of God, loving God, and being beloved of God will cause a jubilation of spirit, and create such holy raptures of joy in the saints, that are unspeakable and full of glory." "They shall see in Him all that love desires. Love desires the love of the beloved. So the saints in glory shall see God's transcendent love to them; God will make ineffable manifestations of His love to them. They shall see as much love in God towards them as they desire; they neither will nor can crave any more...When they see God so glorious, and at the same time see how greatly God loves them, what delight will it not cause in the soul! Love desires union. They shall therefore see this glorious God united to them, and see themselves united to Him. They shall see that He is their Father, and that they are His children. They shall see God gloriously present with them; God with them; and God in them; and they in God. Love desires the possession of its object. Therefore they shall see God, even their own God; when they behold this transcendent glory of God, they shall see Him as their own." The one in glory shall enjoy God as far as their capacity allows.

The Psalmist wrote of the great blessing attending the worship of God in His temple: "How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! They are ever praising Thee...For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:4, 11). Those in heaven shall rightly say: "How blessed are those who stand in Thy very presence!" If the Lord withholds nothing on earth from those who walk uprightly, shall He then withhold any of the glory of heaven from His redeemed?

Here we enjoy God primarily through His Word, ordinances of worship, and prayer. There we shall enjoy Him "face to face." "Here you have God in expectation, but there you shall have Him in possession."7 There the saints in glory shall be filled with joy through the eternal enjoyment of the manifestation of God in all His attributes. It will greatly add to the joy and rejoicing of those in glory when they contemplate God's mercy shown to them in salvation and how they deserved to be among the damned, but were spared the torments of hell solely because of God's sovereign mercy given to them. Ministers will rejoice with those whom they led to the knowledge of Christ and the fruits of their labors will be fully seen there. Paul writes of this joy in I Thessalonians 2:19: "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" Other things will undoubtedly contribute to their joy, such as their being with loved ones and the saints of all the ages, the contemplating of God's providences toward them on earth, being in the heavenly city, but the greatest joy of all will come from being in His presence!

Monday, July 21, 2008

...uncommon sense drawn from the well of God's Word

A Heavenly Escort
"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest." -Genesis 28:15

By CH Spurgeon
Do we need journeying mercies? Here are choice ones—God's presence and preservation. In all places we need both of these, and in all places we shall have them if we go at the call of duty, and not merely according to our own fancy. Why should we look upon removal to another country as a sorrowful necessity when it is laid upon us by the divine will? In all lands the believer is equally a pilgrim and a stranger; and yet in every region the Lord is His dwelling place, even as He has been to His saints in all generations. We may miss the protection of an earthly monarch, but when God says, "I will keep thee," we are in no real danger. This is a blessed passport for a traveler and a heavenly escort for an emigrant.

Jacob had never left his father's room before; he had been a mother's boy and not an adventurer like his brother. Yet he went abroad, and God went with him. He had little luggage and no attendants; yet no prince ever journeyed with a nobler bodyguard. Even while he slept in the open field, angels watched over him, and the Lord God spoke to him. If the Lord bids us go, let us say with our Lord Jesus, "Arise, let us go hence." -source

Friday, July 18, 2008

...the latest trend in the emerging/emergent culturally irrelevant church growth movement

Top ten signs that you are visiting
a Submerging Church:

10.) The usher asks if you prefer the smoking or non-smoking section
9.) Regular attendees earn cash bonus points to local brewery
8.) Sunday School has been replaced by contemplative-walk-abouts
7.) Baptismal tank has a wave-maker machine
6.) Fifty dollar cover charge at the door (featuring open bar and local dance band - woman must wear red)
5.) Pew Bibles are The Message
4.) Sign out front has latest pastors name written with dry erase markers
3.) Chris Rock humor from pulpit mandatory to be considered missional
2.) Worship team performs their favorite Zeplin medley; altar call is "Stairway to Heaven."
1.) Banner across front of sanctuary reads, "Today's Worship Service Brought to You by Chevrolet."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

...salvation is of the Lord!

declaring the good news of the gospel of grace

"PEOPLE DO NOT drift toward holiness. 
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, 
prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. 
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; 
we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; 
we drift toward superstition and call it faith. 
We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; 
we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking 
we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness 
and convince ourselves we have been liberated." 
-D. A. Carson, For the Love of God

Those words pierce my heart everytime I read them; and thus the great need for the gospel in my life everyday is profound. Left to myself and my own devices, religious moorings and my own righteousness, I deserve nothing but hell. But God in His grace saved me (Titus 3:5) and in place of His wrath He gave me His grace; in place of His justice, He gave me His mercy; and in place of His enmity, He gave me His unfailing love.

IOW, God has saved me from Himself, and yet, unto Himself. 

He has taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh (Col. 2:11-12). He took a whitewashed tomb that was nothing more than full of dead men's bones, and made me a new creature
- and how I praise Him for His sovereign work of grace in my life! I am undeserving of it, can't merit it, wouldn't choose it of my own initiative, and can't buy it. Salvation is His free gift of grace to me and to all who love Him as Lord and Savior of their lives.

The one supreme joy that Luther emphasized 489 years ago
to a recalcitrant Roman church was that "salvation is of the Lord!" That is why the great system of theology known as Calvinism is referred to as "the doctrines of grace." We are saved only by grace--and all of grace, beloved--because it was God alone "in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
"Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen they cannot lift the axe of justice; who are so corrupt they cannot change their own natures; so adverse to God that they cannot turn to Him of their own strength; so blind they cannot see Him, so deaf they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves." -G.S. Bishop
Now that's grace beloved...

What Jesus has accomplished through His sinless life, His once for all sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and His bodily resurrection from the grave (1 Cor. 15:1-19; Heb. 2:9-18) we celebrate and glory in on this day of Reformation. Jesus was our propitiation (meaning: to satisfy, atone for and avert wrath; Jesus satisfied God's standard of holiness and justice; He gave His life on the cross as an atonement for our sins; and fully drank God's eternal wrath against us) and what man could never earn or merit of his own goodness, doing, philanthropic kindness, or religious good works--Christ has done fully and completely. And that by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone so that we may have peace with God forever! (cp, Roms. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 2:11).

These doctrines of grace were not invented by men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other reformers. These men of God simply recovered the biblical gospel over Rome's work righteousness and trumpeted them boldly as an evangelistic proclamation in the face of the false gospel of Romanism that even exists in our day.

In light of this, I would encourage you to read this brief article with accompanying video by Dr. James White today in response to Francis Beckwith's new tome  "Return to Rome."  It is excellent!

The following article by Dr. John Piper is a wonderful cause for worship, praise, joy and celebration in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. May it encourage you afresh to rejoice in the treasure of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ both to live it and proclaim it to another--even today.

Sola Fide,


Gal. 2:20-21

Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism
by Dr. John Piper 
(April 20, 2002)

These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available on tape from Desiring God Ministries, but I will put them here for wider use in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call "Calvinism."

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late '70's, the threefold statement of the goal of all God's work, namely, "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.

It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.
One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.

God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.

Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don't seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.

Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, "Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn" (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.
After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.

Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.

The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,

The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.
In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.

Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: "Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy."

You can also read in J. I. Packer's Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.

1 Timothy 3:15, "The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.

When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.

And I pray for awakening and revival.

And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.

We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.
All of life relates to God. There's no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Seeing God's sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that "he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.
The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. "Hallowed be thy name" means: cause people to hallow your name. "May your word run and be glorified" means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.

We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

"God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

"Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6).

"Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27).

"Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

"Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.

John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice."

It is God's work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
Isaiah 46:9-10, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose'"

Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
Email: Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.