Friday, June 28, 2013

Self-examination (part 1)

There is a great need for believers to examine themselves.  This lost art needs to be revived and practiced again especially in our day and time where it seems anything goes and everything is acceptable.  Thomas Boston wrote, “There is no need of it [self-examination] in heaven or hell; for there are no false colours worn there; nor do any there seem to be any more but what really they are.  But here, in the visible church, are foolish virgins as well as wise, and foolish builders as well as those who are not.  Great is the need then of self-examination.”[1]  Unfortunately, there are tares among the wheat and goats mixed with the sheep.  Indeed, the need is great.
The Westminster Confession says,
Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be there justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.  It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to shew what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law (XIX. VI)                   


Christians must examine themselves in order to make certain their salvation.  This has to be done because death awaits.  Unless the Lord tarries, everyone will experience death.  Because of sin, all of mankind is destined to die.  It is lurking and stalking each and every person.  Hebrews 9:27 says in part that, “it is appointed for man to die.”  “What happens”, the author of Ecclesiastes reveals, “to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other” (3:19). 
Not only is death approaching, but the consequences are eternal (Rom. 2:9-10; Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:9-10).  We are dealing with timeless matters.  Choices made on earth reverberate throughout eternity.  An individuals destination is fixed while living, there are no second chances. 
Examination is to be done to make certain of salvation, lastly, because of the preciousness of the soul (Ps. 49:7-8; Gen. 2:7; Mk. 8:36).  A person may gain the entire world, all the riches and resources, and be wretched and miserable by losing his soul (Matt. 16:26).  There is a lot of truth wrapped in this saying of the Blessed Savior.  The soul is the most precious thing a person possesses.  “Thy soul is a jewel more worth than heaven and earth... if that be lost, all is lost, and thou art undone forever.”[2]  The soul is worth more than a thousand worlds.  Brooks’ words are as beautiful as they are truthful,
The soul is the breath of God, the beauty of man, the wonder of angels, and the envy of devils.  It is of an angelical nature; it is an heavenly spark, a celestial plant, and of a divine offspring.  So that nothing can suit the soul below God, nor nothing can satisfy the soul without God.  The soul is so high and so noble a piece, that all the riches of the east and west Indies, nor rocks of diamonds, nor mountains of gold, can fill it, or satisfy it, or suit it.[3]

If the soul is as priceless as it has been described, then we must not risk forfeiting heaven for hellish torments.  How foolish would it be to give up glorifying and enjoying God for all eternity in order to gain earthly riches, prestige, or honors?  Do not sell your soul for temporal, fading pleasures and earthly pursuits that cannot last or satisfy. 

[1]Thomas Boston, “The Necessity of Self-Examination” in The Complete Works of Thomas Boston, 12                        vols. (Tentmaker, 2002), 2:504.
[2]Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 vols.                    (Banner of Truth, 1980), 1:85.
[3]Thomas Brooks, “An Ark For All God’s Noah’s” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 vols. (Banner of                       Truth, 1980), 2:28.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Evangelical Catholicism: Negative Trends

There has been a negative tendency the past few decades that must not be overlooked.  I am referring to what may be called evangelical Catholicism.  This is a trend and must be headed as a warning to not succumb to the trap.  Why is this a danger amongst Protestants?  Why is there a desire to return to Rome?  Why would people who cherish God’s free grace and Christ’s finished work on Calvary prostitute themselves and become one flesh with the Babylonian whore?
We live in a day when political correctness and tolerance is more important and worth fighting for than doctrinal and gospel accuracy.  Our day sees Catholics and evangelicals uniting and writing watered down statements of faith.  Since when can light and darkness have fellowship?  How can Christ and Baal focus on what they have in common instead of the differences that separate them like night and day?  What follows are trends.  They do not describe the church as a whole.  But some are characteristic of mainstream ministries and certain deluded groups.  I am also not saying that these churches have all of the negative leanings.  I am saying that some churches take on attributes that can be classified as popish.
What are some of the trends within the evangelical church that resemble Rome?  First, there is among some groups an extreme want to see the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem.  This, we are told, is the fulfillment of prophecy.  Temple sacrifice must be reinstated.  Doesn’t this resemble the Mass?  Catholics sacrifice Christ anew every day.  What would temple sacrifice be but a return to a Christless sacrifice?  Christ died once for the sins of his people, there remains no other sacrifice for sin.  Why then the desire to have animal sacrifices?  They say it is a memorial.  Where is that found in Scripture?  Christians should not be supportive of reverting back to Old Testament ceremonialism.  Believers ought not encourage blasphemy, false worship, abominable practices, and idolatry. 

Secondly, as was the case throughout much of church history (especially the Catholic church), the average church member is biblically ignorant and therefore, the clergy controls the interpretation of Scripture.  Whatever the pastor says is gospel truth.  Most people are not equipped or trained to read the Bible for themselves.  They are at the mercy of the minister.  There are extreme cases where preachers convinced followers to do unbiblical things like: commit mass suicide, murder, fornicate.  But, there are also smaller and less obvious departures from Scripture that are encouraged and taught.  Things that do not matter but are constantly taught and held as standards of holiness or even salvation.  The normal church attender does not know any better, so they submit to the teachings that they hear.  These teachings may include: hair length, clothing requirements, conditions on facial hair, prohibiting movies and cards, demands on what to watch and listen to, insisting on what not to watch or listen to, dietary laws, who to support, who to boycott, and so on.  These are non-essentials that some pastors make hills to die on.  And their flocks blindly resign to follow because they cannot or do not read and study God’s word. 
Thirdly, just as the Catholic church places saving emphasis on their sacraments, some Protestants fall into the same snare.  Many church goers believe they are saved because they have been baptized and joined a church.  Baptismal regeneration (akin to Rome’s baptizing of infants in order to wash away original sin) may be denied but it seems that so many cling to that act as proof of conversion or why they are saved at all.  Then, church membership is viewed as the roll that is called up yonder.  The church roll is the Book of Life.  So many people when asked if they are a Christian answer by saying, “I was baptized” or “I go to so and so church.”  This reveals a lot about what they think about salvation and Christianity.

Fourthly, similar to the priest and his office in the Catholic church is the sentiment that some have toward their pastor.  Some pastors are elevated to heights that no mere man has any business of being.  It appears that some church attenders think that pastors are holy, closer to God, without sin and struggle, and able to intercede on their behalf.  They have a special access to God also that enables their prayers to be heard and answered.  There is a tendency in some churches and denominations to worship the pastor.  Now, they do not see it this way, but there is an unbiblical and idolatrous adoration for some pastors.  They are followed, cherished, believed to almost be infallible, unerring, without blemish or weakness.  They are held in an iconic status.  Sometimes it is through no fault of the preacher.  What is often the case is that the preacher has been dead for years. 
Today, some pastors and theologians are revered to a degree that nearly resembles Catholics and the veneration of saints.  Names like Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper, MacArthur are esteemed.  These were and are great men of God, but they are just men.  We have to be careful about treasuring idols in our hearts.  Anything and anyone may become an idol or stumbling block.  Anything can take our eyes off of Christ.  Beware!

Fifthly, the sale of indulgences is big business today.  I am not talking about the famous swindler Tetzel, but those who pawn salvation to the masses.  Christianity is peddled and marketed as if it was just another product in a long line of items sold to consumers.  Christian consumerism is colossal.  There are movies, music, concerts, events, fashion, entertainment- anything the world has a promoter or an opportunistic business man has taken and slapped a “Christian” label on it.  Christianity has its own celebrities and whose who.  This is the church competing with the world.  Well, it is the church the non-church would have us believe is the true church.  The world has been let in the front door.  The church has been absorbed by the world.  The god entertainment sits on his throne while we slothfully gather around in dazed amusement.  What is sad is that the church does not penetrate into the world.  Why would we?  We have everything the world has to offer, we just christianize it and accept that this somehow legitimizes blasphemy and idolatry.
So called Christians buy these things and think that they are on the way to heaven.  They get caught up in what’s new and better.  Gathering toys and trinkets is the thing.  After all, we are consumers.  Whoever has the best stuff at unbeatable prices will get the sale.  So, many fall prey to the siren’s call and sell all to gather material objects in order to gain eternal life.  I spend money on “Christian” memorabilia and my soul is secure.  I can rest assured because I purchased God honoring, conscience easing holy novelties.  Isn’t it telling that heaven is described as having streets of gold (Rev. 21:21)?  I speculate that this is purposeful.  Could it be that the very thing that we hold dearest and nearest on this earth will be trodden in glory?  Riches amassed on earth will be under the feet of glorified saints in heaven.
Other leanings toward Rome are legalism, the white-knuckled clenching to traditions, and an unbiblical view of the dead.  Legalism has always been a danger.  Men think that they must finish what God has started by adding their good works.  This may be done unconsciously.  Or, many have a notion that they have to pay God back for what he has done.  The attitude is wrong.  We do not pay God back, we joyfully and willingly do what he has commanded and ordained to glorify him.  Good works stem from a rapturous heart soaked in grace, not from an enslaved spirit shackled by guilt. 

Traditions are defended more earnestly in some places that the truth.  Churches have split over the silliest things.  Certain ideas or habits are followed until they become confused with truth.  Traditions take on a place in the heart of some that it is seen as sacrilege if discarded.  Carpet color, padded pews, types of music, choir robes, annual offerings, pieces of furniture, time of service, and order of service (to name a few) are argued over more than the deity of Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, duration of hell, extent of the atonement, and Christ’s return.  Traditions are just that, cultural or local heritages.  They neither save or make someone more saved.  Some are unbiblical it is true, but mostly they are non-essentials that take the focus off Christ.
An unbiblical view of the dead is widespread.  Just as Catholics pray to departed saints, some Protestants speak to the dead.  They will say things to that person or believe that they are “looking down on them.”  Some see in coincidences the deceased speaking.  They interpret as signs something that normally goes unnoticed.  Some make vows or promises thinking that the departed loved one hears them.  Others ask for forgiveness of those from beyond the grave. 
These trends and similarities to Catholicism are leanings.  They are characteristics only and does not mean that these people are traitors.  They may however be confused, deceived, lost, convoluted, and desperate for the truth.  False gospels are serious.  God only has one way to save sinners and if one makes a mistake here souls perish. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Negative Trends Within Evangelicalism (part 2)

The denial or neglect of key biblical doctrines is another negative trend flourishing today.  With the focus placed squarely on man, churches do not want to offend or appeal to only a small fraction of people.  So, they compromise and jettison doctrines in order to attract a wider range of prospects.  The first to go is anything pertaining to hell and judgment.  This is not popular and can only breed fear and guilt, so it is removed or never spoken of.  The sovereignty of God is also rarely considered.  The kingly rule of God is not a favorite of red-blooded Americans who live in and love democracy.  Plus, we want to be in control of our destinies.  As a result of being convinced that we are completely free, we decide what to believe, how to worship, whether or not to go to church, where and how we are saved, what the Bible says, and what to believe.

The penal, substitutionary, propitiatory, atonement of Christ has even been black listed.  In our day of enlightenment and sophistication, we cannot possibly be expected to believe in something so barbaric and primitive.  Can we?  Besides, the thought of God the Father torturing his Son sounds to much like cosmic child abuse.  The overly-sensitive western church could never hold to these antiquated teachings.  Sin, sacrifice, appeasing a wrathful God, a vicarious replacement, can that be preached to a lost world?  We would be ridiculed and mocked.  We would lose all respect and our message would not be plausible. 
What does God’s word say?  Is the gospel supposed to be popular and cherished by the masses?  Was it designed to be unoffensive?  Hardly.  Paul was sent by God “to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).  “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (vs. 21).  “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). 
The doctrine of justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ have been altered or disregarded as well.  Why wouldn’t it? it is and has been a crucial doctrine and is the quintessential teaching on salvation.  Sinners are declared righteous by a gracious and just God due to the perfect obedience of Christ and his finished work on the cross.  He took our sins and in exchange we are credited with his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).  This is the glorious truth of God’s gospel so it stands to reason that it will be attacked.  Doctrines such as these are humbling and God-centered.  Modern man simply cannot have this so they are redefined, contorted, rejected, twisted, or forgotten.

Not only are certain doctrines denied or neglected, but the affirmation of other ideas and teachings soon follow to accommodate the perverse sensibilities of post modern man.  God goes by a new name today- Tolerant.  In the name of tolerance, entire religions are being spawned.  Sin is no longer sin, and God is not angry anymore, so anything goes.  The church can now accept homosexuals, look the other way on divorce, and even endure abortion.  Feminism reigns too.  Woman can be ordained and do everything a male can.  Consequently, the true gospel is watered down and is deemed archaic and old-fashioned.  Something new is needed.  Something like (I wish that I was making this up, but I’m not) the gospel according to Peanuts, Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Simpsons, Twilight, the Beatles, Starbucks, Hollywood, and Tony Soprano!  Wow, really?  This is what many see as a creative way to communicate the gospel.  This is not the gospel message.  It does not need to be adapted to worldly culture to be effective.  The gospel is the power of God to salvation.  It does not rest in the power or abilities of man to be successful.  Why do we think that God requires our help?  Why must we seek to entertain in everything we do?   Why can’t we recognize blasphemy and sacrilege? 
Universalism and annihilationism are adopted to soften the blow of judgment and an eternal hell.  In an effort to remake God’s image and to improve his popularity, undesirable attributes are weakened or altered.  Hell and the wrath of God are declared fallacious and unloving. This is blatant idolatry and will not go unpunished.  The irony of this should not be missed; the very truths that these cretins attempt to discredit and destroy, will be the very same that will hold them in a merciless and graceless grip for all eternity.  They may scoff now, but the day will come when hell and God’s righteous indignation will be all to real.
Join me in examining ourselves and our churches.  Pray for a true revival.  May God have mercy on us!  The gates of hell will not prevail, but do we have to make it so close?  Our only hope and solice is trusting God.  He has a plan and is executing it perfectly according to his will.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Negative Trends Within Evangelicalism (part 1)

That the gospel of Jesus Christ is being subverted and corrupted cannot be denied.  But, that is not all that we must be aware of and consider.  There are a number of negative trends within evangelicalism that have to be addressed.  Many, unaware of the dangers that lurk below, are standing on a slippery slope or being led by the blind.  A sad truth, but a truth none the less, is that sheep stray and wolves devour.  What often occurs is that sheep follow a wolf because it is in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).  So many blindly and stupidly follow the lemming in front of them, which is blindly trailing the one in front of him, not realizing that there is a cliff ahead.  Oh, what a fall; what a long and treacherous fall. 
One such negative trend developing is a Christless Christianity. [I claim no originality for this insight.  Michael Horton has written an outstanding book on this issue.  Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008)].  Alarmingly, Christ is neglected in churches that claim to be evangelical.  Note, this is a developing trend.  Jesus is named, but pushed to the back because the new comers are more “exciting” and “relevant.”  The focus is taken off of Christ and placed on man.  What a surprise!  People still need Jesus, he is just regarded in other roles.  He is transformed into a counselor, life coach, buddy, co-pilot, wing man, genie, spiritual ATM, security blanket, advise columnist, and whatever else anyone wants.  How blasphemous and unbiblical!  The King of kings relegated to the role of a servant, may it never be.  The Prince of Peace seen only as a family counselor, God help us. 

Another such trend can be termed churchless Christianity.  Alleged believers do not see the need to fellowship with the saints, be held accountable, sit under the preaching of God’s word, worship God corporately, or be obedient to Scripture (Heb. 10:25).  With access to cable, internet, and other technology, people do not have to leave the house to go to church (so they think).  Hundreds of churches are broadcast on televisions throughout the world.  Your favorite preacher can be seen and heard right in the living room.  And there are many perks: you don’t have to tithe, be around hypocrites, you can stay in your pajamas, no church discipline, no awkward visits from the pastor or others, it’s comfortable and convenient, and you can change channels. 
Is this the New Testament church though?  No, I don’t think that it is.  The body of Christ is called to gather together to edify one another, hold each other accountable, minister to people using their God given gifts and talents, love each other, evangelize, pray together, give, worship and glorify God, and experience a foretaste of heaven.  People are supposed to interact and be assembled.  This cannot be achieved in the privacy of your home.  The church is called the Body of Christ.  A severed body is not the intention. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oh, The Irony (ironies at the cross)

We don’t often see it but there is a great deal of irony at the cross.  It begins in Matthew 27:27-31.  Jesus is already condemned to die on a cruel Roman cross.  But this is to be the end of his tortuous experience.  Before the cross, he is mocked and beaten without mercy.  In the verses before us, Roman soldiers strip Christ and clothe him in a scarlet robe.  They then fashion a crown of thorns and smash it down upon his head.  The soldiers begin to kneel before Jesus and hail him as King of the Jews.  These reprobates spit on the Savior and hit him more.  Bloodied and humiliated, Jesus does not mutter a word.  He stands, or falls, in silent submission.  He knows that he is indeed the King of the Jews.  Not only that, Jesus is the King of kings.  The soldiers mock but one day Christ the King will be sitting on his throne and they will in turn beg for mercy.  There is the irony, they feigned allegiance to Jesus and smote him in an effort to abase and deride; they did not know that he really was a king.  They will!
In verses 37-43 we see more ironies.  To begin with, in verse 40 men filled with scorn and hatred rebuked Christ by restating what he said about destroying and rebuilding the temple.  They then preceded to tempt Jesus to save himself.  They railed accusations toward him implying that if he was who he said he was, he would come down from the cross.  The irony is that Jesus is indeed who he testified to being.  He is the Son of God and he could save himself.  But, he did not because he was in the process of rebuilding the temple that sinful men were destroying- his body. 

Verses 41-42 contains another ironic twist.  The religious leaders joined in the fun of mocking and furthering the abasement of Jesus.  These dastardly hypocrites hinted that he could save others but was powerless to save himself.  They were poking fun because they did not believe that he saved anyone; they never trusted his words.  The ironic thing was that he chose not to save himself because it was expedient that he hung, bled, and died to bare the curse for sinners in order for them to be saved. 
They then pretended that he was the King of Israel and said they would believe if he only came down from the cross.  Again, the irony of it all.  Jesus stayed on the cross because he was the King and was offering himself as the substitute for sinners.  He was obeying the will of the Father completely and he stood to inherit a kingdom.  So, by not coming of off the cross, Jesus proclaimed himself to be the perfect, victorious, conquering, King of the universe.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Another irony is that these hypocrites should have believed on him because of what he had done and spoken.  They knew the Old Testament but they missed the Messiah.
Verse 43 contains another remarkable irony.  They indicated that since Christ is suffering that God had no desire for him.  He was deceived about his relationship with God.  They did not think that he was the Son of God.  Wrong again.  The Father did indeed delight in his Son.  The Son perfectly obeyed everything and pleased his Father.  And by this, the trust spoken of, Christ commended his spirit into the Father’s hands.  He laid down his life because he completely trusted that the Father would raise him up.  It was not the will of God to deliver Jesus from this foreordained suffering. 
These, along with other examples that could be given, show how the plans of God and the choices and actions of man intermingle and result in ironies.  They are ironic because the truth was proclaimed unbeknownst to the person wishing to further humiliate Jesus.  Their words were meant for evil, but God used them to reveal life-changing truths.  Not only that, we cannot miss the grace of God in all of this.  Remember, this was God’s plan of redemption.  It was dripping with grace.  Christ did not save himself so we could be saved.  That’s grace. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Karen, Happy Anniversary

Happy anniversary,  Pumpkin. I don't know how you've put up with me another year,  but somehow you did.  Thank you.  I'm grateful for your love and patience. I don't always express it but I am thankful for you. I look forward to another year of marriage. Who knows what is in store.  I pray that God will bless us so we can be a blessing to each other and our friends and families. Please forgive me for failing you so often as a husband. I can be selfish and consumed with my project,  but know that I love you. I appreciate your support and what you do for us. I love you. Happy anniversary.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I had the opportunity and privilege to tell my seven year old daughter the glorious gospel of Christ the other day.  What did I tell her?  I told her the truth.  I told her that we were created to worship God.  But we can’t.  We are fallen; we are sinful.  We do not love the Lord, let alone obey and honor him.  We deserve hell.  Our sin is a barrier.  God is holy and cannot look on what is unholy.  So, we have a problem.  We are supposed to worship God but we hate him.  We are supposed to be in his presence but we are unable due to our vileness.
But God.  Aren’t these great words?  But God, who is rich in mercy and grace, sent his Son to take our punishment.  Jesus took our sin upon himself and bore the wrath of the Father.  Jesus became sin even though he knew no sin.  He was and is perfect and sinless.  Now, men are commanded to repent and trust Christ alone for salvation.  We believe the gospel call to be: turn from your sin, turn to God, cry out for mercy, trust Christ for deliverance, lean not on your works.
The gospel is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit convicts and draws, the sinner feels the burden of sin and guilt, the Spirit blesses with the gifts of repentance and faith, the sinner desires salvation and calls on Christ to deliver, God hears and then forgives, justifies, cleanses, redeems, pardons, adopts, etc.  Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. 
I told my daughter to seek the Lord while he may be found.  I urged her to pray that God would give her a new heart.  A heart that hates sin and loves him.  I instructed her to pray that God would convict her of sin and convince her of his holiness.  Salvation is supernatural.  That means that salvation belongs to the Lord.  It is his work.

Notice what I did not tell my daughter.  I did not tell her to repeat a prayer after me.  I did not tell her to invite Jesus into her heart.  These are not found in Scripture.  I do not believe in what is called easy-believism.  If salvation is a supernatural work of God, then we are to pray to him to work.  We trust that he is working because she has heard the gospel and has questions.  There seems to be a genuine desire for God’s truth.  We are at his mercy.  I have a responsibility as a Christian and a father to preach the gospel.  I have done this and will continue to do so as long as God puts breath in my lungs.

My prayer: Lord, you are God.  I am not.  I throw myself down at your throne of grace and beg you to save my daughter.  Regenerate her; according to your word she is spiritually dead.  Please raise her to new life in Christ.  Show her your holiness thereby revealing her sinfulness.  Convict her and drive her to the healing waters.  Wash her in the life-giving blood of Christ.  Create in her a new heart, Lord.  A heart that pants for you, that thirsts for you, that seeks you, that rests in you, that desires your sweet communion and compassion.  Oh, lead her to the stream, the river where there are pleasures forevermore.  The seed of the gospel has been planted.  I pray for fertile Soil.  Water it, cause it to grow, bring forth fruit, Lord, for your honor and glory.  She has heard the word of Christ.  Give her faith, Lord, give her sorrow for sin.  Bring her down low that you might lift her up on the wings of eagles.  Break her so that you might mend her.  Grant her salvation, Lord.  Bestow upon her the gift of faith and repentance.  Plant her in your beautiful garden.  For the fame of your name, Lord, save her.  For your glory, Lord, deliver her from the wrath to come.  Rain down your grace; shine in her heart; draw her.  May she treasure Christ above everything.  May she serve you with gladness and her life.  Breathe into her, Lord, the breath of life.  Feed her with manna from heaven.  Quench her thirst with water from the Rock.  Lead her down the narrow path through the straight gate.  Give her the joy of salvation.  Gladden her soul in you.  Show her steadfast love.  I will continue to worship you, Lord.  You are the sovereign King of kings.  You are gracious, loving, patient, and kind.  Holy is the Lord.  Righteous and just is he.  You are worthy of all praise.  Lord, your will be done.  To you be all honor, glory, exaltation, now and forever.      

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Some Thoughts On Sin

·         God hates sin and unrepentant/unregenerate sinners (Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5-6)
·         Sin is evil. “The evil of sin is not so much seen in that one thousand are damned for it, as that Christ died for it.”(Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity: Contained In Sermons Upon The Westminster Assembly’s Catechism (Banner of Truth, 2000), 135)
·         Sin is rebellion against God, his laws, and his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:23; Prov. 17:11; Tit. 1:10)
·         Sin attempts to break or nullify God’s covenants (Is. 24:5; Rom. 1:31-32; Heb. 8:9)

·         Sin is unbelief and disobedience (2 Thess. 1:8-9; Tit. 1:15-16; Heb. 3:12).  “Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 are people of great faith... The problem is they believe in the wrong person and the wrong thing: they believe a creature rather than the Creator, and exchange the truth about God for a lie.  There is belief... in God- but it is belief in a falsehood about him.”(Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2007), 112)
·         Sin endeavors to overshadow or darken the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  “Every sin flows from the failure to treasure the glory of God above all things.”(John Piper, “Preaching as Expository Exultation for the Glory of God” in Preaching The Cross (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2007), 111)
·         Sin tries to stop or stall the work of God (Heb. 3:16-19)
·         Sin undertakes to besmear God’s attributes (Ps. 106:7-8; Jude 15)
·         Sin, as described above, is not an entity in and of itself; it is our nature (it is our godlessness) and characterizes everything about us: our thoughts, words, deeds, motives, desires, will, affections, actions, heart, soul, mind, and life.  “A veritable world of miseries is to be found in mankind, and we are thereby despoiled of divine raiment, our shameful nakedness exposes a teeming horde of infamies.”(Institutes 1.1.1) 
·         We would sin more however, we are restrained by God’s common grace and providence (1 Sam. 25:39; Ps. 19:13; Lk. 11:4; Gen. 20:6), and we may lack opportunities (2 Kings 8:11-13)
·         Sin has made mankind damnable, cursed, dark, idolatrous, adulteress (spiritually), guilty, impure, unholy, condemned, ungodly, and hell bound (Rom. 2:5-8; 5:6).  “Sin has blotted God’s image and stained the orient brightness of the soul... Sin stamps the devils’ image on a man.  Malice is the devils’ eye, hypocrisy his cloven foot.  It turns a man into a devil.” (Watson, Body of Divinity, 133)

Sadly, the book is not shut on sin.  Because of the pervasiveness of sin it has effects and consequences on other aspects that concern us.  Sin warps truth which leads to false gospels and false converts.  This results in false assurance. Some of these have been addressed, the others will be handled in time (Lord willing).


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some Thoughts On Pride

The first thing to share about pride is that God is debased (we are beginning with God which is an insult to pride).  “They [sinful man] have within themselves”, wrote Calvin, “a workshop graced with God’s unnumbered works and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing with inestimable riches.  They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride.”(Institutes 1.5.4)  God, in the minds and hearts of ungodly man, is dethroned.  They endeavor to un-god God.  In his place are a myriad of idols; they are erected to fill the void that exists within the breast of man.  He was created to worship and since the Fall, God is no longer his chief good (so he thinks).  Creation is worshiped then, instead of the Creator.  What is usually the case is that man worships himself. 
Humanity ascends, in their minds at least, into the very heavens and occupies the now vacant throne.  Pride lifts man up to lofty heights; heights that mere mortals were never intended to reach.  But alas, the higher they advance, the farther they will fall.  It will be realized that they were foolish, blind, deceived, and arrogant.  They chased a vapor that soon evaporated.  The truth, the true light will dispel all darkness and reveal every idolatrous deed.  Those farthest from God are nearest to hell  (Is. 14:12-22; Ez. 28:12-19).

Pride debases God by opposing and attacking Him directly.  “Pride sets a man in opposition against God.  Other sins are aversions from God, but this sin is a coming against God.  In other sins a man flies from God, but in this sin a man flies upon God.”(Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 vols. (Banner of Truth, 1980), 3:42)  This is done, not necessarily consciously, when God’s wisdom, knowledge, plans, and purposes are called into question.  Pride mocks God’s laws and contemns his justice.  It even impugns his mercy, grace, patience, and love.  Humanity governed by pride will try to tarnish the majesty and glory of God and defame his name thereby ruining his repute (Rom. 1:21-23, 25).  Prideful man is a god unto himself, therefore, he is disobedient and evil (Mk. 7:21-23).  “Pride is Satan’s disease... humility makes a man like to angels, and pride makes an angel a devil.”(Brooks 3:45)
God is not only demeaned by pride, but it exalts man.  Our iniquitous nature pushes God down while elevating self.  How deplorable.  Self-deification is the result (in our minds that is).  This cosmic treason harkens back to Eden where the devil whispered to then un-fallen Eve,  “You will be like God” (3:5).  This lie was believed then and has been ever since.  Humanity deludes itself into thinking that they are like God.  This of course is not the God of the Bible, but merely an idol fashioned by the hands and minds of sinful men. 
Deified man now sees itself as sovereign, wise, and unfailing.  As such, we deserve honor and glory.  We become our own authority, standard, rule, focus, goal, aim, reason for living, truth, judge, and deliverer.  John Bunyan said it this way, “the nature of sin, as sin, is not only to be vile, but to hide its vileness from the soul.... thus sin puffs up man with pride, and a conceit of themselves, that they are a thousand times better than they are.”(John Bunyan, “The Acceptable Sacrifice” in The Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols. (Banner of Truth, 1991), 1:704) Humanities religion surmounts to this: love myself with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love myself as myself.  God help us!
Not only does pride lift one up, but in so doing, it devalues others.  Look at Luke 18:9-12.  The “religious” Pharisee looked down on the lowly tax collector.  His pride caused him to be glad that he was unlike other men.  Pride tends to make one think more highly of oneself than it should.  We paint ourselves in such a beautiful light that all others pale in significance. 
This is not all.  There are many other expressions of pride.
·         Pride is a continuing lust fed by self-love (1 Jn. 2:16)

·         Pride always minimizes faults and denies weaknesses
·         Pride enslaves man to self
·         Pride desires recognition but finds it hard to give others honor (Lk. 18:9)
·         Pride is unsubmissive; it rejects authority (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
·         Pride substitutes man’s compassion and feelings in the place of God’s revealed truth, holiness, justice, and wrath
·         Pride is even so bold, arrogant, insolent, and irreverent that it will judge God, his actions, and even misinterpret his will or word (1 Sam. 23:7; 24:4,10; 26:8; 2 Sam. 7:3-5)
·         Pride is a monster that lives inside the heart and is almost untamable, unstoppable, and unconquerable (Prov. 16:18; 1 Pet. 5:5)
·         Pride leads to and causes: greed, ambition, boasting, hatred, strife, lying, ingratitude, selfishness, conceit, self-confidence, self-deceit, gossip, hypocrisy, judgmentalism, stubbornness, complaining, disrespect, un-accepting of correction or reproof (1 Cor. 8:1-2; Phil. 2:3; Gal. 5:26; Rom. 1:30; Jm. 4:16; Lk. 16:15; Col. 2:18-19)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Does Satan Have a Conscience? And Why It Matters (part 4)

One final piece of evidence must be submitted in order to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the devils have a conscience.  There is coming a day when all creatures will stand before God as he is seated on his magnificent, awe-inspiring, dread-producing throne.  Man and angelic beings will both be present.  The books will be opened and justice will prevail.  One enormous detail ought not be overlooked.  This will take place after the resurrection.  Every person who has ever lived will be reunited to a new body.  This glorified body will be fit for eternity in either heaven or hell.  The lost and redeemed alike will have perfected bodies which will be imperishable and accommodated for eternal life or everlasting death.  Those who inherit everlasting death will be punished physically and tormented mentally experiencing an anguished conscience. 

Satan and demons, however, are not physical beings.  They are immaterial, spiritual entities.  The resurrection does not affect or impact them in the least.  So, when they are hurtled into hell, the punishment and suffering that they are to endure will not be physical in nature.  Instead, they will be subjected to agony and distress in conscience.  It is admitted that there is some sense of mystery involved.  The fires of hell cannot be comparable to anything on earth.  God is able to administer flames that could consume and incinerate both physical and spiritual beings.  When all is said and done, the devils will know only misery and wretchedness.  This will be their plight for as long as the Lord of Life lives. 
As creatures fashioned by the Creator, Satan and demons appear to have had a conscience.  It is lifeless now, but will be awakened in eternity.  When they are finally and permanently committed to their everlasting place of anguish, their consciences will be aroused and will forever convict them of their sins.  The enormity of their fall and rebellion will be divulged; it will be at the forefront of their minds forevermore.  They will understand more completely how holy God is and far they degenerated from their position and privileged state.  These were once in the presence of God in heaven.  They saw and heard things that we long for; they saw the glory of God, heard him thunder, saw the Lord of Light explode into action and create.  They knew God and his many attributes.  His law was made known and they praised God because he is worthy.   But they fell.  Oh how great was their apostasy. 

When they fell, their love was turned to hate, but their memory would not have been affected.  They would have retained all of their knowledge and experiences.  The demonic forces would still know right and wrong, good and evil, but their consciences would have been made inoperable.  Having become completely and totally depraved, they became a law unto themselves thereby serving their lusts and desires; only doing evil continually.  They are devoid of any common grace or vestiges of holiness or righteousness. 
This is the reason why the devil and demons can sin so callously, they are without any feeling or remorse.  They are not grief stricken when they sin, they can sin unabatedly.  Demons are not slowed or prevented from performing any act of iniquity except if God sees fit to constrain or limit their intended malignant conduct.  Neither are they bound nor restrained by anything in themselves.  Demons will never feel sorry for a victim or have a change of heart.  They are all but conscienceless until eternity except when God intercedes and pricks or convicts them sending a lightening bolt of perspicacity into their very being. 
Lost men, those who have never been born from above, will have a share in the lake of fire.  Both man and demons will have a supersensitive conscience.  It will convict and convince of sin endlessly.  It will be an undying worm chewing and gnashing at the minds of the damned.  Grace and hope are nonexistent; just timeless and undiluted aggravation and exasperation.  The devil and demons have been convicted and exhibited some mixture of fear and uncommitted submission.  If this is discovered in a sinner on earth, because it is found in the devils and the damned in hell, it does not signify salvation or a work of grace by God on the heart.  Conviction of sin is essential to salvation but must go beyond this and has to contain something more.  If left alone, mere conviction makes one no better than a demon. 
It matters.  It matters because we live in a day of easy believism.  It matters because the gospel has been watered down.  Conviction of sin and a troubled conscience does not mean that a person is saved.  Salvation cannot rest solely on this; remember that demons and the condemned in hell experience these.  Conviction is essential to conversion, but it must result in repentance and faith in Christ alone.  Conviction is the beginning of the Spirit’s work in drawing a sinner.  Remember, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8).  These are the gifts of God.  When the gospel is proclaimed and heard, the Spirit may convict of sin.  Then, the Spirit generally burdens the soul and it cries out to Christ in repentance and trusts in him alone to deliver from God's wrath toward sin.  To God be the glory!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Does Satan Have a Conscience? And Why It Matters (part 3)

The next example is seen in Job.  Here Satan is permitted to consider Job and enabled to stretch out his hand against first, all that he has, and then second, against Job himself.  It is in Satan’s dialogue with God that we again see into his malicious heart.  He accuses God of protecting and blessing everything that Job has and does.  He then charges God to take away all that Job has and contends that he would then curse him.  Job does not curse God, instead he worships.  He worships when all is lost; Job does not change.  He worshiped God in plenty and he praised God when he became naked and desolate. 
Satan then ups the stakes alleging that Job will curse God if he is stricken and his health taken.  God allows Satan to stretch out his hand against Job.  As before, Job will not blaspheme his Creator.  The rest of the book of Job is curiously absent of the devil.  He vanishes.  His work being done, he is not spoken of again.  Satan is merely a pawn in God’s grand scheme.  The Tempter unwittingly serves God as he disobeys and opposes him.  God uses the devil to accomplish his purposes. 

Even so, we are interested in Satan’s conscience.  He was aware that Job was described as righteous and blameless by God.  Job was a man that feared God and turned away from evil.  Job even offered sacrifices on behalf of his family.  He is the exact opposite of Satan.  In an attempt to defame the name of God, Satan incited Job to sin against God.  He failed miserably.  But in so doing, he showed that although his conscience is dead for the time being, he is ethically and morally aware.  The entire idea of trying to get Job to sin, the act of tempting him, reveals that he consciously desires and wills iniquity and defiance against God.  There is the realization that God is just and vengeful.  He slips off of the scene and continues to go to and fro on the earth awaiting his next opportunity to tempt and place stumbling blocks in the way of the saints.  He is also awaiting judgment.  His conscience, though seared or dead, may have been activated for a time (as in the garden) to again give him a preview of the torment yet to come.  It seems that God may fan these tiny sparks into a small flame in order to irritate and vex the devil in order to remind him of his ensuing banishment. 
The last example is observed in the gospels and calls attention to demons crying out to Jesus.  One episode is enough to prove the point.  In Matthew chapter eight, Jesus casts out demons.  These demons “cry out” to Jesus and beg him to not torment them before the appointed time.  This shows fear and some sense of conviction.  They know that they are deserving of whatever fate Jesus assigns them.  Also, they know that they are corrupt and sinning against a holy God and his Christ.  They are just minding their own business, possessing men and tormenting them, when Jesus shows up and dispels these demons.  A spark of their conscience, a mere ember, seems to be ignited and makes the future judgment a very present reality.  Convinced of who Christ is and what he is able to perform, the demons are convicted of their evil deeds and the consequences they deserve.  These convictions do not lead to repentance, neither can they apart from the operation of the Holy Spirit.  The convictions do result in fear and submission, albeit, a feigned submission and compliance.