If God Is For Us…

Romans 8:31-32 — “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” esv

This is a profound application of the truth of the gospel — that by His amazing grace to us in Christ, God is for us. Such a grand truth for all believers to have and to hold. In a fine little booklet, The Heart of the Gospel: God’s Son Given for You, Dr Sinclair Ferguson lingers over this Scripture, unfolding the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, as well as the application of God’s gracious favor to Christians. heart__30386.1430240414.1280.1280

For example, Dr Ferguson says —

We must be very clear that it is not redemptive history that died on the cross for us. It was not typology that died on the cross for us, nor systematic theology, not preaching, nor the sacraments. It was the person of the Son of God in our humanity who died on the cross in an inner-Trinitarian transaction of grace between himself and the Father. He bore the holy curse of God upon his soul and prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). [page 19]

Near the end of this booklet, Ferguson employs biblical theology to explain the depth of Paul’s pastoral application here, and does it in a way that is helpful and heart-warming. (Ferguson is one of the best theologians writing today, with soundness and beauty).

Paul communicates something wonderful here about the truth of the gospel. What he says can transform our Christian lives and deal with our deep-seated needs, which keep unfolding from the depths of our being and which so often give rise to a mistrust of the Father. Paul is arguing that the fruit of Christ’s death on a tree reverses the fruit of the death that came from another tree [Gen. 3]. But there is even more than that! The fruit of the liberating truth enshrined in this death on the tree of Calvary is the ultimate antidote to the lie that caused death to come from the tree in the center of the garden of Eden in the first place. Remember that God set Adam in a garden surrounded by lavish plenty, but the Serpent hissed, “Has God said that he doesn’t want you to have any of this fruit?” That was a word from hell, and we have not escaped its echoes and implications reverberating in our own hearts and lives. Some of use hear it daily: “God doesn’t really want to do you good. Look what’s happening in your life. He doesn’t really love you.” Here, in this great statement of the gospel, Paul provides the medicine for this seat-seated sickness in your soul. If he did not spare his own Son for you, then you can be absolutely sure that the Father will stop at nothing to bless you, keep you, guide you, lead you, and bring you to glory. [page 22]

Amen! Friends, cling to the truth of Romans 8:32! I also encourage you to get a few copies of this fine booklet to read and giveaway to others. Believe the good news. Spread the good news.

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Caution: Busyness is not a virtue

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

In the Gospel of Luke, the visit of Jesus to the home of Mary, Martha & Lazarus brings about this brief but precious conversation — and an arresting statement. What is this “one thing necessary” that Jesus speaks about? busy-1446660-639x426

In directing Martha (and all of us) to turn to “the one thing necessary” our Lord points to a contrast here, that Mary had chosen better — a superior use of her time, a more important focus for her energies and cares. Jesus told Martha that she was anxious and troubled about many things. Granted, Martha was not doing anything inherently wrong; in fact she was doing much that was good! Yet, Jesus implies that her heart was tangled up, her busyness was not right. She was distracted and worried and upset in a worldly way. Our hearts can be pulled away from the Lord by busyness in respectable activities. God does not want our busyness — religious or otherwise. God wants our hearts. Indeed the greatest commandment of all of Scripture is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38). This is what Mary appears to be doing — learning at the feet of Jesus, even worshipping as she took in His words of truth and life. She put first things first and Jesus was so very pleased!

Jesus points to Mary and tells Martha (and us):  that’s the better thing, that is the one thing necessary!  Oh how the world misunderstands what God requires — and how much those who are merely religious miss the most important thing. Many people think they know what Jesus wants, but will not listen to His very words here to Martha! As a famous preacher once said, it should be our first and sole business to attend to our soul’s business!

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The First Promise of Grace

“14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Gen. 3:14-15 esv

MANTON MONDAY (from the writings of Puritan Thomas Manton)Manton

These words are a part of the gospel preached in paradise, or the first promise of grace and life made to mankind, now fallen and dead in sin. As God was cursing the serpent, He draws out this comfort to our first parents, who were confounded with the sense of sin and their defection from God. Satan’s condemnation is our salvation. He did the first mischief, therefore the crushing of his head gives hope of our deliverance out of that state of misery into which he has plunged us.

The words are dark in comparison of the larger explications of the grace of God by Jesus Christ which were after delivered to the church. Who would look for a great tree in a little seed? Yet the seminal virtue does afterward diffuse and dilate itself into all those stately and lofty branches in which the fowls of the air do take up their lodging and shelter. So do these few words contain all the articles and mysteries of the christian faith, which are the fountains of our solid peace and consolation. In the seed of the woman is contained all the doctrine concerning the incarnation of the Son of God; in the bruising of his heal, his death and sufferings; in the crushing of the serpent’s head, His glorious victory and conquest. As obscure as these words are, an eagle-eyed and discerning faith could pick a great deal of comfort out of them. The antediluvian fathers, so famous throughout all ages for their faith and confidence in God, had no other gospel to live upon. Abel, who offered a better sacrifice than Cain, Enoch, who walked with God, Noah, who prepared the ark, did all that they did in the strength and upon the encouragement of this promise.  [WORKS of Thomas Manton, XVII.241]

Confident Christianity

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrew 10:19-25 esv

cpc.jpgSunday’s sermon at CPCC is on this text of Scripture. Briefly, the passage first (vv. 19-21) recaps the amazing person and work of Christ as displayed in the previous chapters of Hebrews which give the believer great confidence. Then, the inspired author presents us with three exhortations, all of which begin with the expression “let us” —

•  (v.22) “Let us draw near…”
•  (v. 23) “Let us hold fast…”
•  (v. 24) “Let us consider…”

The connection here is important; those imperatives stand upon the truth of the indicatives. We can only obey the commands because of the reality of the work of Christ. And the invitation-like wording of these exhortations warmly draws the believer to find blessing and joy in obeying them.

May the Lord bless you as you feast upon His Word.
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Do You Know “Talkative”?

pilgrims-progress-18
“Talkative” is one of the characters in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. In a fine blog post today (here), Pastor Chris Braun says he is someone you should know. In fact, you might just be talkative.

His main points state:

Talkative looks better from a distance than near at hand.
• Talkative enjoys talking about Christianity.
• Talkative knows the Bible.
• Talkative’s hypocrisy shows in his home life.
• Talkative is self-deceived. His prayer life does not match what he says.
• Christians should speak plainly with Talkative so that he cannot easily continue in being self-deceived.

Take a look at his post for yourself. It includes some Bunyan quotes for each main point, and the actual dialogue from the original book.

Sadly, many will discover on Judgment Day
that their name is merely “Talkative.”

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Spiritual basis of liberty

Our founding fathers “were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power said President 1420900_87673103Calvin Coolidge on this date (July 5th) in 1926. He was in Philadelphia to a speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The whole text is available here. Coolidge emphasized that “in its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document.”

Such clarity of thought and understanding is near extinct in our land, so I urge you to read the speech, and breath its fresh and vital air. Here is an excerpt —

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed.
(emphasis added)

Yes, the things of the spirit come first! May liberty yet be revived in our land.

Omnipotence & Redemption

Here is a fine excerpt from a chapter on God’s Power, written by John Frame, in The Doctrine of God. It brought me to pause and praise our mighty Lord.

Redemption itself contradicts all human expectations. It is God’s mighty power entering a situation that, from a human viewpoint, is hopeless. God comes to Abraham, who is over a hundred years old, and to Sarah, far beyond the age of childbearing, and He promises them a natural son. Sarah laughs. But God asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). God’s omnipotence intervenes, and Isaac is born. The omnipotence is the power of God’s covenant promise. The Hebrew text literally r1413842_61268220eads, “Is any word of God void of power?” God’s powerful word comes into our world of sin and death and promises salvation. Isaac will continue the covenant, and from him, in God’s time, will come the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins. When the Messiah comes, He will be born, not to a barren woman like Sarah, but to a virgin — an even greater manifestation of God’s omnipotence. So to Mary the angel echoes God’s promise to Abraham: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36).

So God’s word never returns to Him void (Isa. 55:11). It is His omnipotence, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. Apart from God’s power, we could expect only death and eternal condemnation. But he brings life in the place of death. So the resurrection of Christ becomes a paradigm of divine power in Ephesians 1:19-23. A God who can raise people from the dead can do anything. He is a God who is worthy of trust.

[page 526]

Spiritual Self-Watchfulness

“There is need of constant watchfulness on the part of the professors of Christianity, lest under the influence of unbelief they depart from the living God, said Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858), commenting on a passage in Hebrews.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
Hebrews 3:12-13 esv

Passages such as this ought to arrest a presumptuous believer, and make him immediately more prayerful as he clings more closely to Christ.

Brown continues, There is nothing, I am persuaded, in regard to which professors of Christianity fall into more dangerous practical mistakes than this. They suspect everything sooner than the soundness and firmness of their belief. There are many who are supposing themselves believers who have no true faith at all — and so it would be proved, were the hour of trial, which is perhaps nearer than they are aware, to arrive. And almost all who have faith suppose they have it in greater measure than they really have it. There is no prayer that a Christian needs more presently to present than, “Lord, increase my faith” and “deliver me from an evil heart of unbelief.” All apostasy from God, whether partial or total, originates in unbelief. To have his faith increased — to have more extended, and accurate, and impressive views of ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’ — ought to be the object of the Christians most earnest desire and unremitting exertion.

Thoughts on the Presidential Election

Like so many I was stunned and saddened by the election results on Tuesday night. And I am terribly sad not because my choice for office lost but because of the awful repercussion the re-election of such a liberal administration will bring to our land. Actions have consequences; elections have consequences.

Insightful analysis is made by Dr Al Mohler here; let me share a few excerpts with you (emphasis added).

Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy. …
Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.

Christians must now pray for our President, he also reminds us, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2. You can read all of Dr Mohler’s thoughts here. (Some have labeled the election in even stronger spiritual terms, such as Tom Chantry at his blog).

Wednesday night at our church prayer meeting, I wanted to address these concerns, and move beyond political language and context. So I shared two verses from the Bible, from Isaiah 3:10-11. This was the text chosen by the puritan Thomas Watson for his farewell sermon, when hundreds of “non-conformist” pastors were ejected from their churches in 1662. This passage of Scripture gives clear words of encouragement for the righteous, and, words of woe for the wicked.

“10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.”

Those who are walking uprightly, by the mercy and grace of the Lord, have much for which to be thankful! And horrible circumstances around us cannot change that. Our God also gave us Romans 8:28 in the New Testament, to emphasize His sovereignty and His good designs for His people in all circumstances. Yet, evidently, believers must be told these things. Repeatedly.

This text from Isaiah 3 also puts forward a warning to the wicked, to those who do not walk rightly with their God – such as those who destroy life in the womb, and who boldly promote immorality as marriage, etc. Things will not go well for you, says the Lord. There will be an accounting.

The New Testament text to keep in mind here, for Americans and people everywhere, is from Galatians 6:7-10

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Amen.
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UPDATE: Further post-election help for Christians (“Dear Post-Election Self, Reading this letter, you know which man will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years….”) can be found from Colin Hanson here.

Happy Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses — which led the way to sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, and solus Christus (salvation according to the Scripture is by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone) — and the great Protestant Reformation was underway.