Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?  Is it an exercise in futility? 

Writing should be a joy but it is often a struggle.  I write about God and his amazing salvation; of Christ and his atoning work; of the Spirit and his ministry- it should be a joy.  It should bring satisfaction.  I write and warn people about the counterfeits that so easily befall us.  It ought to be rewarding, but I struggle.

I got the idea to write a book.  So, I began by putting together an outline.  I then fleshed it out until it grew into over 30 pages.  I thumbed through thousands of pages of books in order to get quotes to strengthen my work.  It was a chore.  And I can't help to think, why?  Why am I trying to write a book?  Can I write a book with my pride and shortcomings?  A book would be the oxygen to mix with the fuel of pride ignited by the flame of self-love that exists in my heart.  It could explode; it could be dangerous.

But I press on.  I will complete my task for the glory of God.  I write because I can (I'm not saying that I am a gifted writer, but only that I physically can).  I write because I have something to write about.  I write because I hope that people want to read.  I write because there is so much trivial fluff that fills the shelves and minds of professing Christians.  I write because I feel compelled.  I write because I can't stop writing.  I write because it is fun.  I write in order to edify the saints.  I write to teach.  Why do write?  I write because there is a burning down in my bones; I have to write.  If I don't do it, who will?  Surely, God can call others to write (and he has).  But, he has called and gifted (to a degree)me.  I have to do it. 

Many people will not understand this.  That is alright.  Many of you will, however, understand what I have written.  Some may think that his was a waste of a blog.  Others will sympathize with me and the struggles that face writers or want-to-be authors.  I wrote this as an exercise.  I put into words what I have been feeling and wondering for years now.  It helps to spell things out; to write and then read your thoughts.  This may not benefit anyone else, but this has helped me.

Writing is hard work.  Mentally and spiritually, it can be taxing.  I pray that it will pay off.  I am not talking monetarily, but in fruit.  Hopefully and prayerfully my work will bear fruit.  I hope to impact people spiritually.  That would be the true reward/payment-seeing people come to Christ in genuine repentance and faith; confused people being helped to better understand God's plan of redemption; people who have trusted in a counterfeit gospel coming to that realization and trusting Christ; people who have false assurance being assured by God's grace and not simply trusting in anything that they had done, etc. 

The Faith of Demons is my book.  It has grown to well over 300 pages thus far.  The Faith of Demons seeks to combat easy-believism and casual Christianity (if it can be called "Christianity").  I do so by examining in detail the knowledge and experiences of Satan and his demons.  The point: to show that true saving faith must go beyond what is common to demons.  They know God, scripture, the gospel, etc.  So, just because a person says that they believe in God or knows the gospel does not mean that they are saved.  A person must repent and trust Christ.  Salvation is not by knowledge alone; salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.  Demons cannot and do not trust Christ. 

There is much more to be said, but you will have to buy the book.  God willing, it will be completed and published early in 2014.  Please pray that the Lord will use this work for his glory.  Also, visit my website to find out more.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Is The Gospel? Part 7

God sent his Son

Not only did God decide to save sinners in order to glorify himself, but he actually did save them (of course, he is still saving sinners). It was not just a whim or short-lived impulse. No, this was God’s passion and moved him to inaugurate his glorious plan of redemption. So much so, he sent His Son. The second Person of the Trinity came to earth with the mission to save the lost. How was this enacted?

Jesus took on flesh. He had to partake of the same things and be made like his brethren. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things... he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (Heb. 2:14-17). Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).

Why? Why was Christ born of a woman? Why did he have to be made like us? It was to atone for sinful man’s iniquity. Man was the one that offended God. It is man that stands condemned before the tribunal of God. So, Christ took on flesh to die in the place of man in order for men to be saved. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. But, the perfect and sinless sacrifice of the Son of Man can.

We must not miss the point. God sent his Son. Yes, it is important that we acknowledge that two natures are in one person by way of a hypostatic union. But, God sent his Son. His only Son. This is earth-shattering news. This changes everything. This truly is what all of history had been leading too and looking back on. Man, who lies dead by the wayside, desires everything except God and sweet communion with him. He loves his sin. By contrast, he hates what is holy and pure, including God. But God sent his Son. Christ came to redeem lawless, rebellious, unlovable, devilish, men.

How did this happen? Christ took on flesh and lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to God the Father and the law. Jesus obeyed perfectly. He succeeded where Adam failed. This is key because God demands a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was perfect so when he gave himself for sinners, God accepted it; he was propitiated. We are ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:19-20). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ, our high priest is “without sin” (Heb. 4:15). The Westminster Confession states,

The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him (VIII. V).

What is the gospel? Jeremiah Burroughs explains,

All mankind was lost in Adam and became children of wrath, and was put under the sentence of death. God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in chains of eternal darkness, has thought upon the children of men. He has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again. Namely, the Second Person in the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Him and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with man’s sin, and answering for it by suffering what the Law and Divine Justice required. He made satisfaction and kept the Law perfectly, which satisfaction and righteousness He offered up unto the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls of those that are given to Him.1

Oh, Christ is precious. He alone is our everything; he is our all in all. Christ is our Head, Shepherd, Prophet, Priest, King, Righteousness, Light, Mediator, Advocate, Propitiation. He is the Rock, Bridegroom, Door, Gate, Lamb, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, Way, Truth, Life, Prince of Peace. Christ is the Holy One of God, adored by the heavenly host, the Father’s Beloved, infinite in beauty and splendor, worshiped by angels, obeyed by all creation. He is all wise, full of grace and mercy, patient and loving, powerful and just. Christ is sufficient, worthy, excellent, to be desired above all, magnificent, regal, amiable, eminent, glorious, and resplendent. Who could ever begin to comprehend his manifold illustriousness? He should be treasured, obeyed, feared, sought, trusted, followed, hallowed, worshiped, and magnified.

Jesus died on a cross

Oh, the cross of Christ. All of known history had been leading up to this one event. It changed everything. We now look back to Calvary. The cross has a special place in the hearts of every believer. For it was where our Savior died. We sing about it, preach it, meditate on its significance, sit at its foot, shudder at the horrific scene, yet gaze at it in a stupefied awe because it was necessary. How else would our sins be atoned? As dreadful and appalling as it is, we cherish the Savior and the cross in whose relentless grip he hung because this is what the blessed Trinity ordained in order to save man. The cross is where wrath and mercy meet. Heaven and hell converged.

The rapturous Horatius Bonar said it this way,

It is only through blood-shedding that conscience is purged; it is only at the cross that the sinner can meet with God; it is the cross that knits heaven and earth together; it is the cross that bears up the collapsing universe; it is the pierced hand that holds the golden scepter; it is at Calvary that we find the open gate of Paradise regained, and the gospel is good news to the sinner, of liberty to enter in2

The cross. What happened on that Roman torture instrument? In short, Jesus died a substitutionary, penal, vicarious, propitious, atoning death. In other words, he died in the place of others. And not just others, but sinners. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Believers are justified “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation” (Rom. 3:24-25). Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2). Jesus said that he “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). He did not come to serve but “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus “gave himself for our sins” (Gal. 1:4). Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom” (1 Tim. 2:6).

The death of Jesus on the cross is paramount to a proper understanding of the gospel. Without it we’re doomed. With it we have deliverance. The centrality of Christ’s death on the cross cannot be overstated. It is the primary message of Christianity; it is at the very heart of the gospel. It was what Paul preached; “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). It was what Paul knew; “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Greg Gilbert has written that “the death of Jesus is- and must be- the heart of the gospel because the good news is precisely that Jesus saves sinners from their sin.”3 And he accomplished this by dying in their stead. He took their place. He took their curse. He bore our punishment; took what we deserved. The innocent Son of Man was raised up and killed for something he did not do. Oh, but millions are eternally grateful that he did.

What transpired on the cross? What happened? What was the point of all of the pain and suffering? Who better than Paul to adequately disclose the meaning of the cross? He wrote, “For our sakes he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). What happened at Calvary? Why the darkness? Why the cries of being forsaken? Because Christ became sin. Let that sink in. The Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, spotless, sinless, holy, Son of God had sin laid upon him. He bore the curse. He bore guilt. He bore the shame. He bore the punishment. He bore the Father’s wrath.

The sins of the elect were laid upon Jesus. They were credited to him. As the Substitute, our sins were made his. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). Christ was offered to “bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). Isaiah's account is even more remarkable. He prophesied some seven hundred years before the time of Christ, but it was as if he stood at Calvary and watched the Servant of the Lord die.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all... he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people... he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors (Is. 53:4-6; 8; 12).

As a result of sin being laid on him, Jesus bore the wrath of the Father. God the Father punished Jesus for sin. He who knew no sin became sin and took the penalty that it deserved. The Son, who enjoyed perfect communion and harmony with the Father, endured the righteous indignation for sins not his own. Oh, the love; the justice. What severity; what mercy. What heart can grasp the gravity of this forsakenness?

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Is. 53:10).

How do we not adore the One who suffered undeserved punition at the hands of sinners? Even more compelling is that the Son was sent and crushed by his loving Father. We must remember that the loving Father loves himself supremely and ordained the suffering of the Son in order to redeem fallen sinners so that they may share in that love and enjoy him glorifying himself through redemptive love for all eternity.

1Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Conversation (Orlando Fl., Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1995), 3-4.

2Christ Is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin & Darrin R. Brooker (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2007), 79-80.

3Greg Gilbert, “The Gospel: God’s Self-Substitution for Sinners” in Don’t Call It a Comeback (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011), 73.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Is The Gospel? Part 6

The Good News

The good news is truly good. But, it is even better after following such bad news; when seen in the light that scripture shines onto sinful humanity. Oh, this is good news. This is great news. The gospel is so stellar because, as we have considered, mankind is depraved and has zero chance at saving himself. He is lost, doomed, damned, condemned, hopeless, ruined, wretched, guilty, and on the broad way which leads to destruction.

But God. God intervened and began to do a mighty work among sinners. This is so sweet after something so bitter. The gospel is a lush oasis in a dry wasteland. It lifts us up from depths so deep and dark. Believers are enraptured and captured by the omnipotent, efficacious, splendiferous, ineffable, loving grace and mercy of our amiable God. He did not leave mankind to its demise. No! He rescues the lost; adopts the discarded; cleanses the filthy; makes whole the incomplete; pardons the guilty; justifies the unrighteous; redeems the enslaved; reconciles the estranged; brings near those who are distant; gives new life to the dead; and glorifies himself by bringing piteous rebels to glory! That is good news.

God chose to save

That God chose to save, to enact deliverance, is astounding. He did not have to, but he chose to before the creation of the world. Which means that both the fall of man and angels was all part of his sovereign and good plan. How do we explain this? What we as believers know is this: God designed to glorify himself. In order to due this, God ordained the Fall and the redemption of some to magnify his attributes. Since he is sovereign, just, righteous, good, and holy, God acted how he pleased and only according to his will. It was God’s prerogative. He orchestrated everything with his own end in mind. He was and is motivated by one factor- his glory.

The gospel glorifies God. “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great” (Ps. 25:11). “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins. For your name’s sake” (Ps. 79:9). “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Ps. 106:8). Read closely the words of Isaiah and John,

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I might not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Is. 48:9-11).

And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev. 5:9-14).

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Rev. 15:3-4).

These verses make it clear that God chose to save to glorify himself. From the deliverance of the Israelites, to Christ sacrificing himself on Calvary, God does all things for the fame of his name. All things. For his glory.

Another aspect of God glorifying himself in the salvation of sinners through the gospel is the magnification of his attributes. Because of the love for himself and his glory, God sent his Son as a substitute to die in the stead of his chosen so they could relish in his love and enjoy his glory. It was the mercy of God that provided redemption. God’s grace is on display by drawing sinners unto himself. We see his power in the resurrection. Note his wisdom in contriving the plan of salvation. His faithfulness is demonstrated in the covenants. His wrath is seen in punishing the Son. The holiness of God is witnessed in his forsaking of the Son. Justice is satisfied by the imputation of sin to the Son in his propitiatory atonement. And mark the sovereignty of God in ordaining all things and bringing them to fruition.

If God does all things for his glory, then we can assume that his actions extol his attributes. Since God’s attributes are who he is, his characteristics, then they are put on display whenever he works. In other words, we read, experience, or see God’s work. Whether in creation, redemption, or his word, he reveals himself; he unveils his character and properties. He tells mankind who he is. All the world is his stage and he brilliantly acts out his attributes in all that he does. If he does not give a person what they deserve, God shows himself to be merciful. If he gives an individual something that they do not deserve, he makes known his grace. God “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6). “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:11-12). The Holy Spirit is “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14). God saved his elect “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). God “saved us... according to his own mercy” (Tit. 3:5). “According to his great mercy, he [God] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7).

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Is the Gospel? Part 5

Man is an enemy of God

God by nature is holy and pure. He hates sin and cannot allow it in his presence. Humanity is sin. Not only that, but man loves sin. Naturally, mankind hates all that is holy, right, and good. This means that we hate God. If two beings hate one another they are enemies. God and man are enemies. There is opposition between God and iniquitous man. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jms. 4:4). “For the mind that is set on the law flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). Part of Jesus’ work was to “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:16).

Sinful humanity is without excuse

Not only can sinful man offer nothing to God in an attempt to placate his wrath and become acceptable in his sight, but upon being judged man will be silent. Those before the judgment seat will be without excuse. When they stand before God in all his glory, power, and majesty, they will be utterly speechless. They will not be able to speak a syllable in their defense. What could they say? What evidence do they have to the contrary? There is no smoking gun. All human beings will stand condemned (the unconverted that is). They will be without excuse. They willingly and knowingly sinned against God. They suppressed God’s truth in unrighteousness and served themselves or some devilish god in the place of the One True God.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:15-16). “If I had not come and spoken to them [the world], they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (Jn. 15:22).