Posted by: forbygrace | December 11, 2008

Our labor is not in vain

Here is a great post from Reformed Baptist Fellowship’s site that I hope will encourage you, as it did me.

As it was with the building of the Old Covenant temple, so it is with the building of God’s New Covenant temple, the church. This is a work for more than one man or one generation. Spurgeon eloquently makes and elaborates on this point in a sermon from 1 Chronicles 22. David had gathered the materials for the temple while Solomon and those of his generation were assigned the task of building the house. Spurgeon points out that we see a similar thing with the church but the church involves many generations before it’s completed, not just two. It has been in the process of being built over the course of many centuries now and it’s not completed yet. Many generations have gone before us and they have passed the work to us.

David did his part in his generation, and it was a very important part. He fought all of those hard battles that established a peaceful context for the temple to be built. He was a man of war, slashing down Philistines, toppling giants, crushing the Jebusites, taking his sword to the enemies of God. His reign was a bloody reign but it prepared the way. There are men whose ministries are like that. They labor in difficult times when the Philistines are in the land; times when the Syrians are on the attack; times of conflict. These are tough men with foreheads of brass whom God uses to root out errors and to topple down heresies. These are men who reform churches and whose lives are often marked with conflict and controversy but their labors provide a more peaceful context for positive building work to be carried on by those who follow.
David also gathered the materials. And so it is that many a man’s work could be described as gathering materials. He gets a little group together. Perhaps he starts a small church; just a little flock of believers. He never lives to see it grow very much. He never sees many conversions in his time. He’s just used of God to gather the raw materials with which another man, or another generation, who comes behind him will build and expand.

David also found the site where the temple was to be located. He didn’t actually build it, but he purchased the spot where it would be built. He provided the ground, the soil, out of which the temple would grow. There are ministries that are like that. There are those who clear the land and make the paths straight and make way for a solid temple to be built upon that spot. John the Baptist tore down and prepared the way with his fiery preaching of judgment and repentance. Christ came along behind and began to build upon that foundation. Luther did a great work, Calvin especially did a great building work, but there were little known reformers who had gone before them to prepare the way. They didn’t have the same level of outward success. Men like John Wycliffe; men like John Huss who was burned at the stake. But their labors prepared the way for the great building work that the 16th century reformers were able to accomplish. That may be the role some of us will play. Our efforts for the cause of Christ may not seem to accomplish that much in our lifetime but others will follow after we’re finished and they’ll build where we left off. You may not personally reap, but there are reaping times for the church of Christ and they do not ordinarily come without the less noticeable and behind the scenes labors of the plowers and the sowers, or without the labors of those who gather the materials and prepare the way like David did.

I read recently about an elderly preacher who was rebuked by one of his deacons one Sunday morning before the service. “Pastor”, said the man, “something must be wrong with your preaching and your work. There’s been only one person added to the church in a whole year, and he’s just a boy.” The minister listened, his eyes moistening with tears and his hand trembling. “I feel it”, he replied, “but God knows I’ve tried to do my duty.” On that day this pastor’s heart was heavy as he stood before his flock. As he finished the message he felt a strong inclination to resign. However after everyone else had left, that one boy came to him and said, “Do you think if I worked hard for an education, I could become a preacher-perhaps a missionary?” Again the tears welled up in the pastor’s eyes. “Ah, this heals the ache I feel”, he said. “Robert, I see the Divine hand now. May God bless you, my boy. Yes, I think you will become a preacher”. Do you know who that boy Robert was? Do you know who he became? Well many years later an aged missionary returned to London from Africa. Nobles invited him to their homes. He had added many souls to the spiritual building of Christ’s church, reaching even some of Africa’s most savage chiefs. His name was Robert Moffat, the great missionary to Africa, the same Robert who many years before had spoken to that pastor that Sunday morning in the old Scottish kirk.

Dave Merck in his course for RBS on modern church history gives a very striking illustration of how one person’s work prepares for another, or for another generation, in the life of Arthur Pink. Many of us have heard of Arthur Pink. Many of us have been greatly blessed and helped by his books. His writings have been a major influence in the revival of the doctrines of grace that began in the 1950’s and continues today. But during his lifetime his labors appeared to be nothing but a failure. He was never very successful as a pastor. When he died in Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides, on July 15th, 1952, his passing was scarcely noticed save by a small circle of friends. The readership of his little monthly magazine, Studies in the Scriptures, barely maintained its existence over forty years. The number of readers was seldom above one thousand. Some of you are familiar with his book The Sovereignty of God; a book that has been mightily used of God in so many lives. In 1918 Pink approached a man who lived in Pennsylvania with the manuscript of that book desiring that he would print it for him. His name was I.C. Herendeen. Herendeen, an Arminian at the time, wrote back asking Pink what he meant by the sovereignty of God. Pink responded in a letter by referring to Jn. 6:44, underlining the words, “no man can come to me except the Father…draw him.” The Lord used this to begin to open the understanding of Herendeen and he began to study further the doctrines of grace. He also agreed to publish Pink’s book. 2,000 copies were printed but nobody wanted them. 95%, that is approximately 1,900 of them, went unsold. Later this same man, I.C. Herendeen would have an important role in bringing two brothers from Pennsylvania to an understanding of the doctrines of grace. One of them, Ernie Reisinger was later to become a key leader in the founding of the first Reformed Baptist Church of our day in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. But again when Pink died his ministry appeared to have had little success. But God’s ways are not man’s ways. Since his death hundreds and thousands of Pink’s writings have been sold and read by eager readers; books like the Attributes of God, the Sovereignty of God, the Satisfaction of Christ and many others. And remember the little periodical Pink put out that’s readership was seldom above one thousand. Think about that, that’s next to nothing in comparison with the world’s population; a readership seldom above one thousand. Yes, but guess who one of those readers was who was greatly benefited by Pink’s writings and who went on later to promote those writings? It was a man by the name of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and most of us know the great impact the ministry of Lloyd-Jones has had.

This is the romance of gospel work. Some plow, some sow, some water, but God gives the increase. Our concern is to do our duty. We are to do our part in this great work of building the temple of the Lord. Let us labor in hope knowing that no labor from a sincere heart for Christ’s cause will ever prove to be in vain. The day may come when your labors will prove to have been but the beginning of something much greater than you could have ever imagined. Ultimately God has called us to be faithful in our generation like David; to do our part in the building of this great temple, the church, until that day comes when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

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Posted by: forbygrace | November 22, 2008

A primer on Election and Predestination

Maybe you have read parts of the NT that discuss election and predestination and thought that it was too hard to grasp and so you went on to other things that seemed more fruitful. Here is a excellent synopsis taken from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on the workings of election and predestination in God’s redemptive plan of salvation:

“I will tell you the names of these stupendous Titans who have gone before [salvation]. . . . Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. “He must needs go through Samaria,” said Election; and Salvation must go there. Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house, Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation, it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road. In the everlasting decree of the Sovereign God, the footsteps of Mercy were every one of them ordained. As nothing in this world revolves by chance—as even the foreknown station of a rush by the river is as fixed as the station of a king—it was not meet that Salvation should be left to chance; and therefore God has mapped the place where it should pitch its tent, the manner of its footsteps to that tent, and the time when it should arrive there. Then came Redemption. The way was rough; and though Election had marked the house, and Predestination had mapped the road, the way was so impeded that Salvation could not travel it until it had been cleared. Forth came Redemption, it had but one weapon; that weapon was the all-victorious cross of Christ. There stood the mountains of our sins; Redemption smote them, and they split in halves and left a valley for the Lord’s redeemed to march through. There was the great gulph of God’s offended wrath; Redemption bridged it with the cross, and so left an everlasting passage by which the armies of the Lord may cross. Redemption has tunnelled every mountain; it has dried up every sea, cut down every forest; it has levelled every high hill, and filled up the valleys, so that the road of Salvation is now plain and simple. God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Sermon: Things That Accompany Salvation, September 20, 1857)

Posted by: forbygrace | November 11, 2008

Threat to the church

This video includes comments by John MacArthur on what he sees as a great threat to the church today.

Posted by: forbygrace | October 21, 2008

Revival Conference

Kayla and I had the opportunity to go to the Revival Conference in Atlanta this past Wednesday evening and hear brother Paul Washer speak. His message was one that I believe desperately needs to be heard by the church today–especially here in America.

Brother Washer spells out plainly and unapologetically 10 indictments against the modern church in America. The context is that we need revival!

  1. A practical denial of the sufficiency of scripture. The rise of the social sciences has led to a underemphasis of scripture in the church. This has given rise to the “self-esteem” movement spilling over into churches–even though we are clearly told to esteem God, not self.
  2. Failure to address man’s malady–that he is a sinner and has no hope in the flesh. The cross must be preached against the backdrop of human depravity–we are thieves if we do not speak about sin.
  3. Ignorance of the gospel within the church.
  4. Ignorance of regeneration–it is His work, not a human decision.
  5. Unbiblical gospel invitation. It is not that God has a wonderful plan for your life, the question is do you want to turn from sin. It’s not do you want to go to heaven, it’s do you want God. We have no authority to tell a man he’s saved–we point to God’s word and let the word convince him.
  6. Ignorance over the nature of the church. Christ died for the church–the church is the remnant.
  7. Lack of loving compassionate church discipline–it’s commanded.
  8. Silence on separation–the need to be holy. The Spirit will make us holy and if we are not, as believers, God will discipline us. If we are unholy and are not disciplined we are not His children.
  9. Psychology and sociology has replaced a biblical idea of the family. The family must be set according to scripture. Man must love his family and wife in the context of scripture. We obey all of scripture–we don’t sacrifice our family responsibility for ministry.
  10. Lack of discipline. The Lord’s work is hard and will cost you–you must be disciplined in all you do.

You can listen to this message here.

Let me say, look at what’s happening in the world, read the news, look in your own neighborhood and work–the world is getting worse, not better. The bible tells us it will happen and it is happening now. The church is to be salt and light in a wicked world. Pray that God would send biblical revival to His church–that men would stand up and be counted as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

Posted by: forbygrace | September 28, 2008

The Great Surprise

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:23). This is the response Jesus says many will hear at the Day of Judgment. I find this verse to be one of the most terrifying in all of scripture as it is spoken to those who are outwardly religious and believe themselves to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This confidence of theirs is evident by what they say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”

The first thing to see in their declaration is that they emphatically declare Jesus as Lord. When a Jew wanted to declare something strongly in the Hebrew language, they used repetition as we see here: “Lord, Lord”. Notice that these are not people who half-heartedly declared Christ—they were emphatic. In our day when lukewarm Christianity passes for saving faith, it must be seen that your confession, in and of itself, means nothing. If salvation was granted by the sole means of a confession, these people would be as saved as anyone else.

Second, we see that these people did many convincing works that would lead us to think them saved. It’s clear from the text that some of these people will be preachers, some are soul winners, some are the largest financial givers in the church, and others have been involved in the church all their life and yet, they will one day here the solemn words “depart from me”.

A common (and wrong) view of this prophetic warning from Jesus is that He is warning against those who try to enter heaven by way of works. While it’s true that none enter heaven because of their works, Jesus response to these people is not a rebuke for their works, nor is it a rebuke for their proclaiming Him as Lord. So what is it? Jesus gives us the answer plainly, “…you who practice lawlessness”. Their rejection is based wholly on them being workers of lawlessness (iniquity, sin, wickedness, violation of the law, unrighteousness). Those hearing their sentence of eternal damnation are not necessarily adulterers, drunkards, thieves, murders or openly profane persons. Rather they did the work of the Lord but it was done deceitfully; they sought after satisfying themselves and did not preach Christ, but themselves—their own views, philosophies, likes and dislikes. The sobering truth is that it will not be a few like this, but many will come in this manner.

It is because this matter is of eternal importance that we are commanded, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is vital that we know our hope is on the foundation that will stand in the Day of Judgment.

Jonathan Edwards in his work On Religious Affections writes:

When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of doubting to true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived. The comforts of true saints increase awakenings and caution, and a lively sense of how great a things it is to appear before and infinitely holy, omniscient Judge. But the false comforts put an end to these things and dreadfully stupefy the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding, that the true saints do. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint.

Will you hear the words “depart from me…”? Your confession, however doctrinally correct, your good works and your sincerity will not take you to glory. All you do and all you say must come from a pure heart. The old nature must die and the new nature must spring forth from a new heart. That is why it is…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3).

Posted by: forbygrace | August 27, 2008

Call to Revival

This is a powerful video that captures the hearts of men who longed to see the mighty saving work of God manifest in true biblical revival. The speakers include: Ian Paisley, Leonard Ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, A.W. Tozer, Paris Reidhead and T. Austin Sparks. I pray it will stir your heart to see a mighty working of God in what is surely these last days.

Posted by: forbygrace | August 16, 2008

Who are you, Lord?

That was the question that Saul of Tarsus asked when confronted with Jesus on the road to Damascus. It’s a question everyone one of us who is a believer has asked upon coming face to face with the gospel. The new believer may have a very basic view of who God is—his whole understanding may be nothing more than what we see in the thief on the cross who believed Jesus to be the King when he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

As we read and study God’s word and grow in our faith the milk of His word gives way to the meat and we come back, often with more questions, and ask again…”who are you?”

In our bible study class we just finished a series on the attributes of God where we strove to answer the question: “who is God and what is He like?”. It’s important that our answer to that question matches what we read in scripture. The God who gave living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26) is the same God who struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark (1 Chronicles 13:10). He’s the same God today as He was throughout all of scripture—so is His unchanging nature (Malachi 3:6).

Our natural way of thinking is to embrace the attributes of God that we find most acceptable to how we want to live our life. How often do we read and accept the passages that talk of God’s love, mercy and patience, and gloss over the passages that speak of His justice, holiness and sovereignty? I have heard it said, “Oh, that was the God of the Old Testament….and the Jews were far more rebellious than us in the church today”? But how is it in scripture? Recall, that it was the New Testament church where we saw Ananias and Sapphira struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-10). Paul goes on to tell us that there were many who became sick and others who died because of not honoring Christ in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).

You might ask: “If I know God saved me and trust in Him, isn’t that enough?” It’s a fair question on the surface and it’s a legitimate starting point, but it’s no place to stop. If you are married, imagine how your spouse would respond if you told them that you were content to know no more about them than you knew when you first met. What good marriage operates that way? If it’s unacceptable in marriage, how much more unacceptable is it that we think that way concerning our Heavenly Father?

C.H. Spurgeon was once confronted with the discomfort the doctrines he preached would bring and responded: “I do not like it, says one. Well I thought you would not; whoever dreamed you would!” You see, getting to know God is almost certain to cause us to wrestle with what we read. Because God is more concerned with making us holy than He is with making us comfortable, it stands to reason that our ambition should be the same.

Posted by: forbygrace | August 7, 2008

Myth of Free Will-Part 1 (Walter Chantry)

MOST PEOPLE say that they believe in “free will.” Do you have any idea what that means? I believe that you will find a great deal of superstition on this subject. The will is saluted as the grand power of the human soul which is completely free to direct our lives. But from what is it free? And what is its power?

THE MYTH OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL FREEDOM
No one denies that man has a will — that is, a faculty of choosing what he wishes to say, do, and think. But have you ever reflected on the pitiful weakness of your will? Though you have the ability to make a decision, you do not have the power to carry out your purpose. Will may devise a course of action, but will has no power to execute its intention.

Joseph’s brothers hated him. They sold him to be a slave. But God used their actions to make him a ruler over themselves. They chose their course of action to harm Joseph. But God in His power directed events for Joseph’s good. He said, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Gen 50:20).
And how many of your decisions are miserably thwarted? You may choose to be a millionaire, but God’s providence is likely to prevent it. You may decide to be a scholar, but bad health, an unstable home, or lack of finances may frustrate your will. You choose to go on a vacation, but an automobile accident may send you to the hospital instead.

By saying that your will is free, we certainly do not mean that it determines the course of your life. You did not choose the sickness, sorrow, war, and poverty that have spoiled your happiness. You did not choose to have enemies. If man’s will is so potent, why not choose to live on and on? But you must die. The major factors which shape your life cannot thank your will. You did not select your social status, color, intelligence, etc.
Any sober reflection on your experience will produce the conclusion, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but THE LORD DIRECTETH his steps” (Prov 16:9). Rather than extolling the human will, we ought to humbly praise the Lord whose purposes shape our lives. As Jeremiah confessed, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23).

Yes, you may choose what you want, and you may plan what you will do; but your will is not free to accomplish anything contrary to the purposes of God. Neither have you any power to reach your goals but that which God allows you. The next time you are so enamored with your own will, remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man. The wealthy man said, “This I WILL do: I WILL pull down all my barns, and build greater: and there I WILL bestow all my fruits and my goods. . . But God said unto him. Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:18-21). He was free to plan but not free to accomplish; so it is with you.

Posted by: forbygrace | August 7, 2008

Myth of Free Will-Part 2 (Walter Chantry)

THE MYTH OF ETHICAL FREEDOM
But freedom of the will is cited as an important factor in making MORAL decisions. Man’s will is said to be free to choose between good and evil. But again we must ask, from what is it free? And what is man’s will free to choose?

The will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your will does decide your actions from a number of options. You have the faculty to direct your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your decisions are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he does not wish. Your will guides your actions.
Yet this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites. In other words, your will is not free from yourself! Your choices are determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of your nature, but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is quite partial to what you know, feel, love, and desire. You always choose on the basis of your disposition, according to the condition of your heart.

It is just for this reason that your will is NOT free to do good. Your will is the servant of your heart, and your heart is evil. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY” (Gen 6:5). “There is NONE that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12). No power forces man to sin contrary to his will, but the descendants of Adam are so evil that they always choose the evil.

Your decisions are molded by your understanding, and the Bible says of all men, “And their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:21). Man can only be righteous when he desires to have fellowship with God, but, “There is NONE that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:11). Your appetites crave sin, and thus you cannot choose God. To choose good is contrary to human nature. If you chose to obey God, it would be the result of external compulsion. But you are free to choose and hence your choice is enslaved to your own evil nature.

If fresh meat and tossed salad were placed before a hungry lion, he would choose the flesh This is because his nature dictates the selection. It is just so with man. The will of man is free from outside force, but not from the bias of human nature. That bias is against God. Man’s power of decision are free to choose whatever the human heart dictates; therefore there is no possibility of a man choosing to please God without prior work of divine grace.
What most people mean by free will is the idea that man is by nature neutral and therefore able to choose either good or evil. This simply is not true. The human will and the whole of human nature is bent to ONLY evil CONTINUALLY Jeremiah asked, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots’? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23). It is impossible. It is contrary to nature Thus do men desperately need the supernatural transformation of their natures, else their wills are enslaved to choosing evil.

In spite of the great praise that is given to “free will,” we have seen that man’s will is not free to choose a course contrary to God’s purposes nor free to act contrary to his own moral nature. Your will does not determine the events of your life nor the circumstances of it. Ethical choices are not formed by a neutral mind but always dictated by your personality makeup.

Posted by: forbygrace | August 7, 2008

Myth of Free Will-Part 3 (Walter Chantry)

THE MYTH OF SPIRITUAL FREEDOM
Nevertheless many assert that the human will makes the ultimate choice of spiritual life or spiritual death. They say that here the will is altogether free to choose eternal life offered in Jesus Christ or to reject it. It is said that God will give a new heart to all who choose by the power of their own free will to receive Jesus Christ.

There can be no question that receiving Jesus Christ is an act of the human will. It is often called “faith.” But how do men come to willingly receive the Lord? It is usually answered, “Out of the power of their own free will.” But how can that be? Jesus is a PROPHET — to receive Him means to believe all that He says. In John 8:41-45 Jesus made it clear that you were born of Satan. This evil father hates the truth and imparted the same bias into your heart by nature. Hence said Jesus, “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” How does the human will jump out of man to choose to believe what the human mind hates and denies?

Further, to receive Jesus means to embrace him as a PRIEST — that is, to employ and depend on him to sue out peace with God by sacrifice and intercession. Paul tells us that the mind with which we were born is hostile to God (Rom 8:7). How can the will escape the influence of human nature which was born with a violent enmity to God? It would be insane for the will to choose peace when every bone and drop of blood cries out for rebellion.
Then too, receiving Jesus means to welcome Him as a KING. It means choosing to obey His every command, to confess His right of rule and to worship before His throne. But the human mind, emotions, and desires all cry out, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). If my whole being hates His truth, hates His rule and hates peace with God, how can my will be responsible for receiving Jesus? How can such a sinner have faith?

It is not man’s will but God’s GRACE that must be thanked for giving a sinner a new heart. Unless God changes the heart, creates a new spirit of peace, truthfulness, and submission. man will not choose to receive Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him. A new heart must he given before a man can believe, or else the human will is hopelessly enslaved to evil human nature even in the matter of conversion. Jesus said. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye MUST be born again” (John 3:7). Unless you are, you will never see His kingdom.

Read John 1:12 & 13. It says that those who believe on Jesus have been “born, not of the will of man, but of God.” As your will is not responsible for your coming into this world, it is not responsible for the new birth. It is your Creator who must be thanked for your life, and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation (II Cor 5:17). Who ever chose to be created? When Lazarus rose from the dead, he then could choose to answer the call of Christ, but he could not choose to come to life. So Paul said in Ephesians 2:5, “Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” Faith is the first act of a will made new by the Holy Spirit. Receiving Christ is an act of man just as breathing is, but God must first give life.

No wonder Martin Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will which he considered one of his most important treatises. The will is in the chains of an evil human nature. You who extol the free will as a great force are clinging to a root of pride. Man, as fallen in sin, is utterly helpless and hopeless. The will of man offers no hope. It was the will choosing the forbidden fruit that brought us into misery. The powerful grace of God alone offers deliverance. Cast yourself upon God’s mercy for salvation. Ask for the Spirit of Grace that He may create a new spirit within you.

Posted by: forbygrace | July 19, 2008

A highway of God’s design

Have you ever struggled or spoke with someone who struggled with assurance of their salvation?

The hymn writer wrote:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.”

You may sing that hymn at your church. And it raises a question in my mind: what is the biblical basis for assurance of salvation?

In evangelism two questions are often asked to discern one’s spiritual condition: “do you know you will go to heaven when you die?” and “why should God let you into His heaven?” While these two questions are a good place to start in engaging a person with the gospel, just knowing the answer to those questions (an intellectual matter) is not proof of having been born of the Spirit (a super-natural matter).

In the bible the way of salvation is referred to as a small gate and a narrow road. The road and gate are distinct from one another. The gate is Christ (John 10:9) and we rightly see that as His exclusive claim as mediator between God and man. But what about the narrow road? Isaiah says of the narrow road: “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8).

The narrow road gets far less attention because it makes obligations on us by convicting our consciences. While some may cry legalism, it is lawlessness (antinomianism) to think that one who is redeemed can live like the world and be assured of their salvation. It was well stated by CH Spurgeon: “Grace that does not make us hate sin is false grace” and “God has not come to save men in their sins but from their sins”. You can sense the road narrowing as you have a turning away from legalism on one side and an abhorring of lawlessness on the other. Walking in the way of holiness (the narrow path) is a difficult thing as you can be 1-inch or 1-mile off and you are in error, but God is faithful and He will keep your foot from wandering beyond recovery.

The journey all believers make along this highway is both the proof of our sanctification and the means of it. It’s the proof as we see our old sins loose their power over us; it’s the means in that God often uses that small step of obedience to prepare our hearts for greater acts of obedience. While everyone matures in the faith at different rates, we all mature who are born of his Spirit.

While I think it’s acceptable for a person to be assured by looking back at the time they were baptized, or prayed a “sinners prayer”, or made the good confession, how much less would some struggle with assurance if we encouraged one another to look at the lifelong fruit of the Spirit conforming us to Christ as the proof of the change wrought within us? Salvation is not a one-time act where one decides to jump out of the line going to hell and jump into the line going to heaven—it’s a supernatural act of the Spirit that begins in regeneration, continues in sanctification and ends in glorification. Look at what Paul tells the church in Corinth:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Corinthian 6:9-11

The point Paul makes is, they were changed! A real inward change that flowed outward so that the sins they once enjoyed and were ruled by became something they no longer embraced. He doesn’t tell them that they prayed a certain prayer, or that they were baptized, or understood the gospel message or even or that they now had great confidence—but rather he points to the change and it’s a change that even the unbeliever would likely see. Yes, prayer, baptism and confidence are biblically grounded, but without a real, inward hearty change that leads one in holiness, it is nothing more than window dressing.

Take some time and read the biblical accounts of men and women we are certain walked with God and into glory and then ask yourself if you see any similarity with them and you. Perhaps not in degree, but do you have that longing—is it what you would choose even if you could do otherwise without fear of punishment? Be encouraged in the fact that some of these men in scripture were murders, adulterers, blasphemers and swindlers, yet God chose them and saved them…and changed them! God frees some from the chains of past sins and habits quickly while He allows others to struggle and contend longer before they finally experience freedom, yet in all this He is faithful to give you victory in Christ Jesus.

Posted by: forbygrace | June 25, 2008

What is your Life

How often have you pondered that question? The question is asked in James 4:14 and it must be noted that the he did not ask, “what is life?” or even “what are the distinguishing marks of a Christian life?”, but he asks “what is your life?” Your life which is short and is like a vapor that appears and is then gone…what is it?

Paul states: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php 1:21). Paul saw what his life was—living for Christ and dying to self. He saw what every Christian should see and must see…He must increase and I must decrease. It is one thing to say that you will give up a little bit of yourself, a little of your time, a little of your money, but to give up yourself wholly…to die to self? It is entirely unnatural and against our fallen nature to live in a manor where God can ask anything of you and you’ll do it. Apart from the super-natural work of the Holy-Spirit in a man’s heart where he is regenerated, or born again, no one can live the life Christ calls us to and even if we had the will to we would not have the power to carry it out. The wonderful truth is that those who have been born again will be able to carry out such a life for He that began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. Living a life where we can testify with Paul that it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me, is both the proof of our good estate and the assurance and joy of our salvation. God’s word tells us that our life as His redeemed children is to be one that is as salt and light (Matt 5:13-14), as a life that bears much fruit (John 15:8), as a life lived in self-denial and taking up one’s cross (Luke 9:23). We may fall into sin, we may become cold for a short season, but the desire of heart will be to escape from such circumstances and live a life pleasing to God.

The late Leonard Ravenhill’s words strike a sobering note on that all important question…
“And there’s no room for Him in the inn.
He got a bit older, there was no room in His family, His family turned on Him.
He went to the temple, no room in the temple, the temple turned on Him.
And when He died there was no room to bury Him, He died outside of the city.
Well why in God’s Name do you expect to be accepted everywhere?
How is it that the world couldn’t get on with the holiest Man that ever lived and can get on with you and me?
Are we compromised? Are we compromised?
Have we no spiritual stature?
Have we no righteousness that reflects on their corruption?”

The witness of our own life will perhaps answer the question better than the words of our mouth. What is your life?

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