Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is Satan A Calvinist? (Part 1 of 10)

I can hear it now.  The Arminians are screaming “YES!” believing all the time that Calvinism is the doctrine of devils and spewed forth from the very depths of hell.  Any chance that they get to equate Calvinism with Satan is gladly taken and enjoyed.  What Arminian wouldn’t want these doctrines vilified by throwing Satan into the Calvinist’s camp.
The Calvinist, on the other hand, does not want the negative publicity that the devil would bring.  No one in their right mind would want him or say they believe the same way.  Who would write a book and then solicit Satan himself to pen a blurb for the back cover?  Certainly not a true, biblical Calvinist.  But, Satan and demons are orthodox; theologically sound.  And Calvinists know that their system and doctrine are pure and truly biblical.  So, if Satan knows and believes the truth, and Calvinism is the nearest to the truth that fallen humanity can get, it follows then that Satan is a Calvinist.  Right?  Not so fast.  We will answer the question later, for now some definitions are in order.
James Boice wrote, “while Calvinism is much more than a mind set, it nevertheless begins with a mind that is enlightened by the truth of the gospel.”[1] “The Calvinist believes”, said Beeke, “that God is the Lord of life and Sovereign of the universe whose will is the key to history... He is free and independent of any force outside Himself to accomplish His purposes... He knows the end from the beginning... He creates, sustains, governs, and directs all things....”[2] 
This is a great place to start.  Calvinism views the gospel as true, and sees God as God.  He is the key to history; there would be nothing without him.  God is the source of life and as the Creator he has the right to govern his creatures.  This implies that he is the Lawgiver, is sovereign, and has the power and ability to accomplish all that he wills.  Another implication is that God has plans and purposes for his creation and as a result, directs all things to their appointed ends.  Nothing that has been said would be denied by the devil and demons.  They would acknowledge these truths.  But, this is only the beginning; we must go deeper.

Unfortunately, Calvinism has been defined and boiled down to five points.  This may be a good place to start, but I do not think that we can stop here.  The five points are beneficial, but they are open to misinterpretations and caricatures.  They will be briefly defined but we will move beyond them.
The first point is the depravity of humanity.  Mankind possesses a fallen, sinful nature.  It is our nature to sin.  Just as a dog licks itself and barks, due to the fact that it has the nature of a dog, we sin because that is our nature.  It is what we do naturally.  We have to try to stop sinning, but we do not have to try to sin.  Read carefully the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, pens some very condemning and humbling words.  Unconverted man is spiritually dead and has a sinful nature.  And as such, stands to inherit wrath. 
The words of Paul in Romans 3:9-20 are no less telling and sobering.
What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.  The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Jeremiah 13:23 says, “can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” wrote Isaiah in 64:6.  Ecclesiastes 9:3 says that man is “full of evil”.  Genesis 6:5 reveals that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart [man] was only evil continually.”  The list of verses go on and on; the next one just as damning as the previous. 

The verdict is in- mankind is depraved; we are incarnate devils.  Humanity is sinful and corrupt; incapable of any good toward God.  “The whole of man”, wrote Calvin, “is overwhelmed- as by a deluge- from head to foot, so that no part is immune from sin and all that proceeds from him is to be imputed to sin.”[3]  He wrote further that, “original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath... we are so vitiated and perverted in every part of our nature that by this great corruption we stand justly condemned and convicted before God... this perversity never ceases in us, but continually bears new fruits....”[4] Michael Horton is just as accurate and definitive when he writes,

the human race in Adam is now the false prophet, who misrepresents God’s word in its futile and treasonous demand for autonomy; the false priest, who corrupts God’s sanctuary instead of guarding, keeping, and extending it; and the false king, who is no longer the medium of God’s loving reign but now exercises a cruel tyranny over the earth and his fellow vice-regents.[5]

Herman Bavinck summarizes the teaching on depravity well when he wrote, “corruption of human nature is so total that humans are by nature incapable of any spiritual good, inclined to all evil, and on account of it alone deserving of eternal punishment.”[6]  The Westminster Confession reads, “By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body” (VI. II).

[1]James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines Of Grace: Rediscovering The                           Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton: Ill: Crossway, 2002), 180.
[2]Joel R. Beeke, “The Marrow of Calvinism” in Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction To Calvinism                       (Orlando, Fl: Reformation Trust, 2008), 39.
[3]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles                                (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 2.1.2.
[4]Ibid. 2.1.8.
[5]Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Zondervan,                          2011), 414.
[6]Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker                    Academic, 2006), 3:98.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How Can Christians Worship A Wrathful God?

    At the onset it must be said that true believers are not under God’s wrath.  We are however to fear him.  Our worship should be reverent.  We are coming into the presence of a holy God.  But, when it comes to worshiping God it is not readily apparent how we can do so in light of his wrath.  Biblical believers know that they cannot pick and choose which attributes of God they like or dislike.  We are to worship God!  That’s it.  Anything else is idolatry. We do not merely show gratitude for his love and mercy.  We must also glorify him for his wrath, justice, righteousness, and holiness.  How?
1) Be thankful for justice
God has instituted government (Rom. 13:1-7) in order to punish wickedness and lawlessness.  When someone breaks the law by committing a crime and is penalized, then we can be thankful that justice was served.  Our judicial system is not perfect.  Although it was established by God it is run by fallen sinners.  None the less, when sin is punished justly, we can thank God that punishment was dealt, the streets are safer, restitution made, and his character was vindicated (albeit imperfectly).  Christians must be careful to rejoice in justice and not cruelty, excessive penalties, torture, or vigilantly justice.
2) Be thankful for God’s patience and warnings
Christians can rejoice in the fact that God delays judgment.  We live in a fallen world that deserves to be annihilated by a holy God.  But he is longsuffering and patient.  When God pours out his wrath in scripture, we can be thankful that we have these warnings that serve as examples to awaken our consciences.  Then we pray for mercy and that God would send a true revival.  We worship our patient God because he was patient with us before we were converted.  Since conversion, has he been any less patient?  Of course not.  Christians can rejoice.  Our God is longsuffering and often warns of impending doom.  He is just and will punish the unrepentant.  So, believers must proclaim his message during this time of postponement.
3) Reflect on the heinousness of sin
When sin is seen for what it is, lawlessness, God-dethroning rebellion, evil, self-exaltation, unholy and impure filth, then the wrath of God is seen in a different light.  It is viewed as necessary.  We have such a low view of sin and an even lower view of God’s holiness.  Because we are sinners and do not realize the depths of our depravity and the magnitude of its treasonous nature, we see the wrath of God as harsh, over the top, cruel, unnecessary, unfair, extreme, arbitrary, unjust, and unworthy of our “God of love.”  We fail to see that God honors himself by justly punishing those who have merited condemnation by dishonoring God and sinning against him.  God hates sin; it is an affront on his very nature and character.  He will punish evil doers.
4) Run to Calvary
The cross of Christ is where the wrath of God and his mercy meet.  We worship a wrathful God by praising him for sending Jesus.  We worship because Christ took our punishment and bore the wrath of the Father.  He took what we deserve; he took what we merited for being vile wretches.  God be praised for pouring out his wrath on our Substitute so we can be forgiven.  We worship our God who appeased himself.  We praise Jesus for propitiating the wrath of God for us. 
The wrath of God is very real.  Believers should acknowledge this and preach the gospel.  We are to warn others of the wrath to come.  But, we are to also tell them the good news of Christ and his wrath satisfying atonement.  
So, how do we worship a wrathful God?  We can be thankful for the glimpses of justice we see on this side of heaven.  Gratitude can be shown to our great God for being so patient and delaying his well deserved judgment.  Next, by meditating on the sinfulness of sin, we come to better understand God’s holiness and his hatred of sin and desire to punish it.  Then, we dwell at Calvary.  We overflow with adoration for our God who punished our sins in Christ and then showered us with grace and mercy.  God is wrathful, but praise him for making a way out.  His wrath no longer abides on those who repent and trust Christ alone for salvation.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
How don’t we worship a wrathful God?  We don’t revel in violence.  We do not promote hatred or inequality.  We don’t call down judgment on our enemies.  We do not proclaim that every natural disaster is his wrath (we do believe that he is sovereign and controls the wind and rain, but we do not have the right to make this claim.  There is no special revelation saying that what happened was sent by God as judgment.  It is wise to not make so bold a claim.  It may be true, but we do not know how God plans to work and glorify his name in and through certain calamities.)  We are not to act wrathful ourselves as if we can do God’s work. 
There is one more aspect of this we must explore.  Now, we know in part.  We are sinful and cannot begin to comprehend completely the wrath of God.  We believe it because it is scriptural.  But, there will come a day when we are in glory.  We will be as he is.  We will be before the throne worshiping for all eternity.  This same eternity that houses the damned in hell.  The same eternity that will be filled with the righteous indignation of the Lord being poured out on unrepentant and unconverted deserving sinners.  Our worship will not be stalled or abated.  God will get all the glory and all the praise.  We do not understand it now because we are imperfect and sinners ourselves.  But we will worship God for his wrath forever.  We will see him in all his splendor and majesty.  We will recognize how holy he is and how unholy sin is.  This recognition will cause us to see how sinful sin is and how gracious grace is.  This is a difficult truth, I know.  We will be transformed; we will be changed.  We will understand better by and by.  God be praised for his grace and mercy.  Soli Deo Gloria.  

Friday, July 26, 2013


- Michael Horton on sin, “the human race in Adam is now the false prophet, who misrepresents God’s word in its futile and treasonous demand for autonomy; the false priest, who corrupts God’s sanctuary instead of guarding, keeping, and extending it; and the false king, who is no longer the medium of God’s loving reign but now exercises a cruel tyranny over the earth and his fellow vice-regents.” [The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way]

-Jonathan Edwards on God-centered salvation,  The redeemed have all their good of God... It is of God that we have our Redeemer.  It is of God that has provided a Saviour for us... It is of God that Christ becomes ours, that we are brought to Him, and are united to Him.  It is of God that we receive faith to close with Him, that we may have an interest in Him... It is of God that we actually receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased.  It is of God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell; and into His favour the redeemed are received, when they are justified... It is if God that the redeemed receive all their true excellency, wisdom, and holiness” [God Glorified in Man’s Dependence]

-Thomas Brooks on the soul, “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.” [An Ark For All God’s Noah’s]

-John Bunyan on the purpose of false teachings, “It is very expedient that there should be heresies amongst us, that thereby those which are indeed of the truth might be made manifest; and also that the doctrine of God, and His Son Jesus Christ, might the more cast forth its lustre and glory.  For the truth is of that nature, that the more it is opposed, the more glory it appears in; and the more the adversary objects against it, the more it will clear itself.” [“A Vindication of Gospel Truths Opened According To The Scriptures]

-Joseph Bellamy on loving God, “If we love God supremely, we shall live to him ultimately; if we love him with all our hearts, we shall serve him with all our souls; just as, on the other hand, if we love ourselves above all, then self-love will absolutely govern us in all things.” [True Religion Delineated]

-Stephen Charnock on sin,  “All sin is founded in secret atheism.  Atheism is the spirit of every sin... We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws; we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face; we disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our actions than that law he hath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone; and his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him.” [On Practical Atheism]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

False Assurance

That certain people are assured of their salvation falsely, should be beyond dispute.  There are several examples in scripture of this very thing.  For instance, Matthew records Jesus’ teaching on those who cry “Lord, Lord” on the last day.  They did many things in the name of Jesus, but he did not know them.  They thought that they were saved, but it proved false.  Their assurance was based on works that they did, which incidently, Jesus said was lawless (7: 21-23). 
In the days of Jeremiah there were those who cried “peace, peace, when there is no peace” (6:14).  At the judgment there will be those who will be condemned to hell because they did not do the works of Christ.  They did not seek to glorify him at all, neither through serving their fellow man or him.  They stand amazed at the revelation that they are doomed.  It appears that they thought that they were true believers (Matt. 25:41-46).  In Matthew 13:41-43, Jesus tells of the separation of the sinners and lawbreakers from his kingdom.  Note, these are represented as in the kingdom, no doubt falsely assured that they belong.  Also mark, that they will be cast into the fiery furnace.

Think of the Pharisees.  They indeed had a false confidence.  These claimed to be the offspring of Abraham yet hated Christ.  They thought that God was their Father, but Jesus exclaimed that their father was the devil (Jn. 6:39-47).  Paul told Titus to rebuke those who “profess to know God, but deny him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (1:16).  These made a profession, but their lives never bore any fruit to substantiate their claim.  No doubt they believed that they are redeemed and on their way to heaven.  Some have “the appearance of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5), others “deny the Master (2 Pet. 2:1), some “have the reputation for being alive, but... are dead” (Rev. 3:1), others think that they are rich, prosperous, and lacking nothing, not realizing that they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17).  Lloyd-Jones said, “self-deception with regard to the soul and its relationship to God is generally due to our relying upon false evidences of salvation.”[1]  That is exactly the point- these deceived people look to themselves or compare themselves to others instead of looking to Christ and examining their hearts. 
“False assurance is generally due to bad teaching, to false evangelism, to pushing people to decisions or trying to bring them to the birth before the process of the Holy Spirit is worked out” wrote Lloyd-Jones.[2]  This is manifested in such things as: following steps (I did my part), praying a prayer (I meant it), being baptized and joining a church (I am obedient), being reassured of salvation (I believe it), instructed to never doubt (I am secure).  This is a completely man centered message, observe all of the “I” statements. Notice that there is nothing about repentance and faith; nothing of Jesus’ atoning death, burial, and resurrection; nothing about costing everything; nothing of the Spirit’s work in drawing and convicting; nothing of the Father’s wrath being turned away.  Nothing!
False assurance can also be the product of misplaced trust.  What can occur is that trust is put in a minister, a church, or in other believers.  How awful is it that we can lead people to a false sense of security because we are not honest to them or ignore the signs of being unregenerate and never confront them?  Trust may also be placed in self, a decision made, feelings, or abilities.
Take heed of the penetrating words of John Owen,

Most men have some thoughts in general about what their state is, and what it will be in the issue; but they make no diligent search into this matter, because a number of common presumptions do immediately insinuate themselves into their minds for their relief; and they are such as all whose force and efficacy unto this end lies in this, that they differ from others, and are better than they; -as that they are Christians, that they are in the right way of religion, that they are partakers of the outward privileges of the Gospel, hearing the word, and participating of the sacraments;- that they have light and convictions, so as that they abstain from sin, and perform duties so as others do not; and the like.  All those with whom it is not so, who are behind them in these things, they judge to be in an ill state and condition, whence they entertain good hopes concerning themselves; and this is all that most trust unto.[3]

A final contributor to false assurance is unreliable or misinterpreted emotions.  Some may fear hell and be terrorized by the thought of judgment.  They are “saved” and think that all is well because they had an emotional experience.  Others may be overwhelmed by a sense of love.  They are told that God loves them and only wants what is best for them.  Naturally, people are assured by this and follow the steps in order to be saved.  They now think themselves safe because they are so lovable, after all, this was the message that they heard and responded too.
False assurance can stem from wanting to remove guilt.  Many live their lives under the constant weight of guilt.  They are told that all they have to do is be saved and God will remove the feelings of blame.  This they do and for a time they feel better.  But, what usually happens is that they do not measure up to other believers so they experience guilt.  Or, they do not read their Bibles and pray like they should so they feel more guilt.  It is an unending cycle.  They are not free but still in bondage; they remain unconverted and under the law.

Some desire fellowship, companionship, or purpose so they join a church or get saved to belong.  Of course, they have a false confidence in these things and see them as evidence of salvation.  They may yearn for acceptance so they will do anything to be received.  All of these are vain efforts to silence a excoriating conscience.  These breed false assurance because they depend only on the efforts of man.  Mankind has the uncanny ability to convince themselves of anything.  If you believe a lie and live it long enough it somehow isn’t an untruth anymore (we tell ourselves).  We say things like, “it isn’t really a lie if I believe it.”  Mankind would rather trust their own fluctuating and ever changing feelings instead of the immutable and eternal Christ. 
Consider Calvin on this matter,
In this ruin of mankind no one now experiences God either as Father or as Author of salvation, or favorable in any way, until Christ the Mediator comes forward to reconcile him to us.  Nevertheless, it is one thing to feel that God as our Maker supports us by his power, governs us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and attends us with all sorts of blessings- and another thing to embrace the grace of reconciliation offered to us in Christ.[4]

It is one thing to feel or think you feel something, and quite another to cling to Christ and his grace.  We trust a feeling or Jesus.  Which will it be?  Will it be faith in the perfect Savior, or faith in our emotions? 

[1]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 518.
[2]Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible, 3 vols. In 1 (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2003), 2:163.
[3]John Owen, “Meditations And Discourses Concerning The Glory of Christ, Applied” in The Works of                      John Owen, 16 vols. (Banner of Truth, 2000), 1:420.
[4]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.2.1.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seeking After God

Desperately seeking for God, along with most other things that are worth a little effort, just do not fit into our “I want it right now” culture.  Everybody is in a hurry.  Everything is prepackaged and convenient.  To earnestly seek after God takes dedication, exertion, a God-given desire, and time.  There you have it, time.  That is the one thing that we do not have- time.  We could make time for everything else, but there is no time to seek God.  He has to fit into our schedules.  We do not seek; he can seek after us and if we have time we will accommodate him.  “No one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11).  People want the benefits of God, but they do not want God.  Jesus fed the multitude and the next day they wanted to make him king.  But, they did not want him they wanted the benefits of Christ (Jn. 6). 
People’s souls simply do not pant or thirst for God (Ps. 42:1-2).  He is not sought, looked upon, or beheld.  Neither do souls find satisfaction in him (Ps. 63: 1, 2, 5).  God is not sought because the unregenerate hate him and love self.  Not to mention, we live in days when faster is better-especially conversion.  People are bribed down an aisle and fed lies in order for them to “make a decision for Christ”.  Gone are the days of telling searchers to pray, wrestle, read scripture, listen to godly counsel, hear the gospel, etc.  Churches are results oriented at all costs and no matter the cost.  Gospel veracity is sacrificed on the alter of pragmatism/relevancy.
John Owen, in his masterful way, comments,

He who hast been convinced of sin, who hast been weaned with the burden of it, who hast really designed to fly from the wrath to come, and hath heard the voice of Christ in the gospel inviting him to come unto him for help and relief, will tell you that this coming unto Christ consisteth in a man’s going out of himself, in a complete renunciation of all his own duties and righteousness, and betaking himself with all his trust and confidence unto Christ alone, and his righteousness, for pardon of sin, acceptation with God, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance.[1]

In our time, men are not convinced of sin, do not believe that there is a wrath to come, don’t care to hear the voice of Christ calling, will not go outside themselves, and trust only themselves.  They want the heavenly inheritance, but on their terms.  How foolish is it to think that they want to spend eternity in heaven with God?  Heaven will be a place of worship and praise at the feet of the Savior.  It is not a party or reunion.  But, sinful men, who don’t worship God now on earth, think they are destined for heaven.  How can this be?
What does it mean to seek after God?  Richard Sibbes wrote, “seeking implies that our happiness is out of ourselves... a man seeks out of some want, or out of some loss, or out of some duty... the creature, because his happiness is out of himself in communion with God, the fountain of all good, he must seek.”[2]  We have to be clear at the onset, seeking God is to be encouraged because only God can save.  This is not to be seen as a work.  When the gospel is proclaimed and the Holy Spirit begins to work, sinners must be informed to seek God.  It cannot and must not be simplified down to uttering a prayer or raising a hand and coming forward during an “invitation”.  Seeking means that a sinner realizes just that- he is a sinner.  Then, because of the great weight and burden felt, and the gained knowledge of God and his holiness, the sinner begins to seek relief.

Seeking after God entails praying for repentance, faith, illumination, understanding, communion and fellowship with God, and a new heart to love and trust Christ.  “They should seek God” (Acts 17:27).  “Seek the Lord while he may be found” (Is. 55:6).  “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).  Men desirous of salvation must be directed to God.  This implies that they have heard the gospel and God has begun a work.  They need to be counseled and encouraged to cry out to God for a hatred of sin and a passionate faith in Christ. 
Seekers also need to be in the word.  God has ordained that salvation comes through the preaching and hearing of his word.  It is that simple; we have complicated it.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).  A couple of verses earlier, Paul quoted the Old Testament and said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (vs. 13).  He then progresses and reveals that in order to call on the Lord they have to believe.  In order to believe they have to hear.  And they cannot hear unless someone preaches.  Preachers have to be sent for people to hear.  There is a progression.  Preachers preach the gospel and some people hear it and the Spirit makes the words effectual.  They then believe what was heard.  Because of this belief, these now seek after and call out to God.  This belief is a confidence in and a reliance on Christ alone for salvation. 
The word of God must be studied by seekers.  It has to be read, meditated upon, memorized, trusted, prayed over, applied, and devoured.  The word of God is a well tended garden that lends beauty and repose to those who rest within its fences; it is a life-sustaining oasis in a parched land; its delicacies nourish the spiritually famished; it is a lighthouse that warns of the impending rocks and danger; it is a bright star that guides a weary traveler; it is the sun that warms and gives life; it is that anchor that holds firm in the most violent of tempests.  “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” (Ps. 70:4).

[1]John Owen, “The Doctrine of Justification By Faith” in The Works Of John Owen, 16 vols. (Banner of                      Truth, 2000), 5:293.
[2]Richard Sibbes, “The Successful Seeker” in The Works Of Richard Sibbes, 7 vols. (Banner of Truth,                         2001), 6:125.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Some Final Thoughts On Sin

Sinful, corrupt man is void of any true or saving faith.  They have faith but it is directed toward manmade and devilish doctrines and teachings.  They substitute falsehoods for God’s truth.  Anything and everything is believed instead of the word of God.  However, this faith is futile and worthless.  Faith is only as good as the object it is placed in.  This dead faith is not supernatural, life-giving trust in the holy God.  It is trusting in the crumbling religion of demons and hell-bound rebels. 
Satan, that great counterfeiter, has deluded and persuaded many men to follow and subscribe to his brand.  This faith is neither genuine or authentic.  It is manufactured by man and for man and influenced by demonic powers.  These parade around as if all is well, all the while they are dangling over the pit of hell by a slender thread.  Welcome to the masquerade.  Unless God intervenes and works effectually on these deceived and faithless perversions, the thread will give way and eternity will awaken the children of wrath; they will gain a new perspective of their false faith.  The truth will be made known, only it is too late-everlasting torment will now be the one thing that is faithful.  Faithful to the- not the end because there will be none.  (Romans 14:23, 9:30-32, Hebrews 11:6, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 3:2)

There is an enmity that exists between God and man.  We are enemies; there is hostility.  All is not well.  God’s soul hates the wicked and feels indignation every day (Ps. 11:5; 7:11).  There is a war going on, this is not peace time.  But, foolish man lives obliviously thinking that God is on their side and that they are serving him.  These sinners, schizophrenic in nature, have grand delusions that they are on the winning army.  The reality is that they are fighting a losing battle.  They are fighting against God; the all-powerful, all-mighty, all-knowing, all-seeing “man of war” (Ex. 15:3).  He cannot be out-maneuvered or out-flanked.  Victory will not be theirs.
Joseph Bellamy wrote, “the clearer apprehension a sinner has of God, the more his enmity will exert itself, because a sinful nature and a holy nature are diametrically opposite to each other... But yet they whose nature it is to hate him for being what he is, will hate him still, yea, hate him more than ever....”[1]  That is what enmity does, it causes hatred to grow and flourish.  Nothing but the grace of God can extinguish the burning hatred that exists between man and God.  Unless God moves and converts, this malevolence will grow, and continue to grow for all time.  Hell will not change man’s malignant attitude toward a holy God as he is pouring out his wrath upon their heads.  They will hate him more and more; each passing moment of agony will only add to the existing hostility.  (Jm. 4:4, Eph. 2:14-16, Col. 1:21-22, Rom. 5:10, 8:7-8)
Sin blinds the minds, eyes, and hearts of men.  We are in the dark until the Lord shines a light into our hearts and causes us to see the glory of the face of Christ.  Spiritually blind people do not see the glory of God, his work, grace, or mercy.  They definitely do not see any worth or amiableness in Christ or his atoning death. 
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (4:17-18).  The unregenerate are lost and wandering in darkness; they are without light.  They cannot see their lost condition or God’s redemption.  Neither do they see Calvary or the empty tomb.  A hardness and a veil lay over the minds of the perishing (2 Cor. 3:14-4:6).

Spiritual deadness
Every person that has ever been born (except the Lord Jesus Christ) is spiritually dead.  Dead to God and lifeless.  This does not mean that mankind is not religious.  Man has religion, it is not proper or accepted by God.  Being dead spiritually, man does not seek the true God of the Bible, nor can he.  He is also blind and an enemy of this God.  We are dead but still live; we really are the walking dead. 
The dead are opposed to life in Christ.  The dead are not created new so they do not hunger and thirst after the Blessed Savior.  The dead do not feel joy in him, are not comforted by him, follow him, learn from him, adore him, or worship him.  They are dead.  Just as dead people do nothing, spiritually dead people do even less.  (Eph. 1:1,5; Rom. 5:12; Col. 2:13)
Considering sin and its many attributes is humbling and not much fun.  But, it is a necessity when examining ourselves.  One of the most prevalent sins is idolatry.  We have to beware because anything can become an idol.  Idolatry is rampant in the world today.  It matters little that we are “sophisticated”.  All that means is that we have sophisticated gods. 
Idolatry was confronted in both testaments (Jer. 2:11-13; Ex. 32-34; Is. 40, 44:6-20; 1 Jn. 5:21; Rom. 1:18ff; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5).  It is not just confined to the Old Testament with all of the paganism and idol worship.  Idolatry is everywhere because it is formed in depraved and graceless hearts.  Calvin wrote, “man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols... Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.”[2]
     Idolatry can be complicated.  Stone and metal statues have been replaced (except for of course, homes, cars, boats, money, etc.).  In their place are erected other man-made creations.  A common idol is a god fashioned in the image of man (Rom. 1:23).  Horton writes, “Religion is one of the chief ways we cover up our shame without actually dealing with the guilt that gives rise to it.  And we project a god who will satisfy our suppression of the truth about ourselves.”[3]  When man is done, God becomes nothing more than a deity that resembles man and exists not for his own glory, but for man’s.  He lives to serve us and do our bidding.
Another monstrosity is the elevation of one of God’s attributes above the others.  This is done when people focus only on the characteristics which they find appealing.  Obviously, the love and mercy of God are elevated beyond biblical bounds.  God is indeed loving and merciful, but not at the expense of his holiness and justice.  God must not be divided; he is to be worshiped as he reveals himself.  “Scripture”, wrote Berkhof, “does not exalt one attribute of God at the expense of the others, but represents them as existing in perfect harmony in the Divine Being.”[4]
Furthermore, attributes may be dismissed in order to create a more appropriate god.  As above, some attributes are the focus, here certain ones are denied altogether.  Some of God’s attributes just don’t appeal to sinful man.  These are done away with and the result is a user- friendly god.  The first property of God to go is his wrath.  This is followed by his justice, holiness, jealousy, sovereignty, otherness, immutability, and transcendence.  What is left is not God; this god is weak, compromised, easily manipulated, and at the mercy of man.

Another form of idolatry is false worship.  Some may worship the true God in the wrong manner.  Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to be creative or innovative in our worship.  We must not worship God on our terms.  He dictates how he is to be approached and revered.  Remember Cain, he sacrificed and made an offering to the true God.  Something went wrong.  He did not offer up blood but produce from the ground.  God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice. 
Sin is evil.  Thank God for his mercy and grace in Christ.  As horrible as sin is, grace is all the more beautiful.  Praise God!

[1]Bellamy, True Religion Delineated , 48.
[2]Institutes, 1.11.8.
[3]Horton, Christian Faith, 429.
[4]L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 42.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Even More Thoughts On Sin

Michael Horton has captured the essence of bondage, “our will can choose only that in which our nature delights.”[1]  Unfortunately, we can only choose sin because we are in chains, incarcerated by sin.  Our natures are corrupted to the point that we delight in sin and drink iniquity like water.  Man cannot free himself.  The horrible thing is that he doesn’t want to be free; man loves his captor. 
The children of Israel illustrate this perfectly.  They were freed from captivity and delivered by the mighty hand of God.  The enemies of Israel were crushed and drowned by the Red Sea.  After only a few days they grumbled against Moses and God thinking that death was imminent in the hot and water-less desert.  They desired to go back to Egypt.  These ingrates would rather be salves to a cruel dictator than free men living under the loving and gracious rule of God.  Bondage.  Humanity is in bondage to sin.  Sin causes us to “despise this [God’s] word and truth in oppression and perverseness” (Is. 30:12).
Sin captivates and enslaves.  Humankind are slaves to sin (Jn. 8:34; Rom. 6:16-18; 7:6; 6:6-7; 2 Pet. 2:19).  Sin is a brutish taskmaster.  It is unescapable.  Freedom comes only by Christ (Jn. 6:44; 8:34-36; Rom. 8:1-2; Gal. 4:3-7). 
Perceived Autonomy

Another trait of sin is that man thinks he is sel-f governing.  This autonomy is apparent in how many live their lives.  They act as if they are completely free to live how they would and make whatever decisions based on their moral code or ethical creed.  “They proclaim their sin like Sodom” (Is. 3:9).  These “call evil good and good evil” (Is. 5:20).  Human beings attempt to become their own authority thus rejecting God’s sovereign rule.  Jeremiah Burroughs wrote, “sin resists God in His authority, in His sovereignty, and in His dominion over the creature.  The language of sin is, “God shall not reign!”  It is the setting of the will of a base, wretched creature against the will of their infinite, eternal, glorious God.”[2]
Examples abound in Scripture of people living as if they were autonomous.  You can look no further than Jonah and what he thought was his right to disobey God, Satan in the early chapters of Job, the retelling of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and the revelation that it was God who was at work in and through their evil and perceived autonomous actions, Pharaoh doing what his evil heart intended while we are told that God raised him up in order to bring him down, and the cruel and sinful actions of evil men putting Jesus to death (Acts 2:23).  All these thought that they had freedom to do as they will.  This freedom is bondage and they can only act out of their forsaken and depraved hearts.  See also Psalm 76:10, Isaiah 10:5-19, Acts 17:28, Genesis 20:6, Numbers 23:8-20, John 12:37-40, Philippians 2:12-13, Proverbs 16:9, Daniel 4:30-37.
These characteristics of sin build on each other.  Because man is depraved and prideful, they naturally love themselves, are self-righteous, flatter themselves, in bondage to sin, think themselves autonomous, and therefore are lawless.  They are lawless when it comes to God’s statutes.  They have laws, they are self-imposed and do not stem from God’s holy nature.  So, they are treasonous and unrighteous filth. 

God’s laws reflect his glory and perfection.  Mankind, because of sin, is not perfect or glorious.  It is not natural then, for us to love and desire to obey the laws of God.  It is against our natural inclinations to do this.  We rebel and forsake God’s will for our own.  “The way of truth is blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2:2).  We constantly return to our own vomit!  Unholy wretches, we deserve whatever the good Lord dispenses.  Let the reader ponder 1 John 3:4-10, Titus 3:3, 2:14, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, 2 Peter 2:8-10, 1 John 5:17, Romans 1:18, 29, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and Romans 2:2-5.

[1]Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Zondervan,                          2011), 564.
[2]Jeremiah Burroughs, Evil of Evils (Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), 34.