Westminster Bookstore

The Absolute Best In Reformed Literature...Check 'em Out!!!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Simul Justus et Peccator (at the same time, Justified and a Sinner): The Glory of God in a State of Love and Trust

"It doesn't get better once you've seen the light; you wake to find that the fight has just begun." - Derek Webb

Saint and Sinner

It's funny what you can learn about yourself in 24 hours when given the right circumstances. For me, Friday afternoon was the right circumstance. I discovered that in spite of all that I've learned about love and relationships (in the general, as well as particular sense of the terms), there can be a serious disconnect between what I say and what I do. I took my current status and situation in this particular relationship for granted, greatly disregarding the need for trust and understanding. Needless to say, I hurt her deeply. If I had to describe it (without going into great detail for the sake of the other person's anonymity), it was the equivalent of waving a loaded gun in someone's face who was still healing from a gunshot wound. In short, I'm an idiot. We have spent some time getting to know one another better, which makes my actions at that point in time all the more condemnable - I should have known better. So the big question is: Knowing what I know, why did I do what I did?! The song above helps to answer that question - "A saint and a sinner is what I am"!

From Hubris to Humility

When one has been in Christ a while, it's easy to become complacent and forget that the peace that we find in Christ is only the beginning of the war. The moment that we forget this, we open ourselves up for attack. We begin to think that the smoothness and ease by which things may be happening in our lives and relationships is due to our choices and our initiative. Nothing could be further from the truth. We begin not only to take for granted the gifts of God by grace through faith, but the very Giver of grace himself. We take lightly that idea of sanctification being a process and begin to see it as a package deal. We get it all twisted around; we may be saved at once, but the sanctification takes time - a lifetime to be exact. None of us will ever be completely free of our sin nature this side of glory. We must remember that every temptation and fire trial that we come out of is only by the grace of God. The same goes for the other side of the coin; every act of hard Providence that we go through is wrought by the grace of God as well. It is through these moments that we learn what God truly desires as he softens our hearts and conforms our will to His own. There is no way that a relationship between two flawed, fallen, and sinful individuals can work apart from God's grace and a realization of the atoning work of Christ that was already done for them (no matter how "spiritual" they may be). After all, if it didn't work for Adam and Eve (given their set-up), how do we honestly expect to fair in our own endeavors?

Revelation and Repentance

I'm actually thankful for these "growing pains" in our relationship that have manifested early on. I have learned not to begrudge God's sovereignty—these things always happen for a reason. This, by no means, excuses my behavior. This isn't the last time that I'll mess up, that much I can promise, and I'm sure she'll have her moments as well. We've had our "disagreements", but I can honestly say I felt this one as much as she did, if not more. However, through this hard lesson, God has been gracious enough to show me where I need growth--Love. Come what may in this relationship (or any other), I will need to be reminded of the fact that I'm not perfect and neither is the other person, yet I still must love accordingly. It is only by grace and grace alone that she’s in my life to begin with and I should treat and cherish her like gift of God she has been to me; for putting up with me.

So the next big question is, "what happened after the fallout?"

Well, after I came out of "idiot mode" and began to contemplate her anger toward what I had done, I asked for her forgiveness for "losing my damned mind", as she put it; some things just aren't appropriate -- I know that now. I also had asked for God's forgiveness as well. I actually did that on the way back to her room before I asked her, and that he would keep me safe while I did it. Contrary to popular belief, she is a lot more gracious and mature in her anger than initially perceived...even more so than myself, I must admit.

God is good...even when I'm not. I pray that he continues to grant me grace and strength to overcome the feelings of guilt, shame and doubt that can be a hindrance in the pursuit of learning how to love, as well as being loved in return; may he continue to heal her hurt and anger towards me as well. I care about her intensely and would hate to lose her companionship behind a momentary lapse of discretion.

Give me the strength in my actions to match my heart, Lord. Amen.

I'm adding this last song because...well, it just needs to be here. If she ever she's this, she'll know why.


For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within meSo I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. - Romans 7: 14-25 ESV

"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly...Pray boldly--you too are a mighty sinner." - Martin Luther

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” - C.S. Lewis

“Love is doing what will enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest joy. What will enthrall the beloved this way is the glory of God. Love means doing all we can, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help people be enthralled with the glory of God. When they are, they are satisfied and God is glorified. Therefore loving people and glorifying God are one.” - John Piper

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philipians 1:6 ESV

If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself. - 2 Timothy 2:13 ESV

“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” - C.S. Lewis

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Evangel Lies: Heart Matters...Doesn't It?!

“There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who believe they are sinners, the sinners who believe they are righteous.” - Blaise Pascal

Watch. Listen. Observe...

I've already dealt with Joel Osteen's ability to mingle truth with grave error in a previous post, so I won't be dealing with that here. But what can definitely be seen here is how when you get the truth of the Gospel turned around (emphasis on works rather than faith), it plays out to its rational conclusion.

Osteen said that he believes that Jesus Christ is the way to obtain salvation, however, it is not his job to "judge another person's heart"--only God can do that. It may sound okay at first listen, but it doesn't answer the question. Even the caller noticed that he sidesteps the issue!! Larry King asked him if he thought that someone who didn't believe in Jesus Christ could obtain salvation. HE SAID HE "DIDN'T KNOW" (even when he was asked about an atheist). As a matter of fact this is about the only thing that we can be sure of from what he presents as an "answer"; he doesn't know. Yet somehow in all of that non-judgemental unknowing, he is certain of the fact that the people of India "love God", even though (once again) he "doesn't know much about their religion". Well, shouldn't he? After all, if a person does truly love God, and Osteen claims to believe that Jesus is the only way to obtain salvation (at least, that's what he said), then by all logic, his surety of the salvation of the person or persons in question should rest on the fact that they have a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior--not because they have "heart". Salvation is not granted by giving it the old college try; it relys solely on the justification of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Some may see this as Joel-hatin' or Lakewood bashing. It's not. This is written out of the deepest concern for the theology that is being disseminated from one of the notable pastors of our day, who shepherds one largest church congregations in the country (if not the largest). That being the case, one may wonder how I, a lowly blogger, can criticize a minister of his stature? How is it that I can be so sure that he has somehow gotten the gospel wrong?

This is how:

sdrawkcab lla si gnihtyrevE! Forget what you've heard--It's WHAT you're hearing:

**So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17 ESV

Besides, he brought the nail and coffin; so, I'll bring a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29).

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. - Genesis 6:5 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick; who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3 ESV

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6 ESV

“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.” - Blaise Pascal

Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Solo Christus...

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later: Hard Lessons on Terrorism, Evil and the Sovereignty of God

"In the fury of the moment, I can see the Master's hand; in every leaf that trembles and in every grain of sand." -Bob Dylan

I would like to think that after several years have past, I could put some distance between the events of September 11 and the anniversary by which it is now memorialized. Is it because it was a terrorist attack? Is it because I was a witness to the horrific event? Questions like these can go on forever. But whatever the case may be, every year seems like last year--always fresh as if no significant time has passed at all. I know that I'm not alone in this. Everyone has their stories. We can remember like it was yesterday.

Not only do the memories remain, but the questions remain as well. The peculiar thing that always seems to happen is, that for most, it's not so much a philosophical line of questioning, but a moral and spiritual one:

How could someone do something so evil?
Is there any hope for a human race that can produce this kind of corruption?

As the questions continue, they come to an inevitable conclusion:

If there's a God, why didn't he do something to stop this?
If God is so loving, why did he let all of those innocent people die?
If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world?

I have heard various answers given by those in the camp of religion and faith. In many of the interviews and press releases, however, these answers seem to contradict and often times leave us lacking any real substance to hold on to. They also have a tendency to fall into two totally different lines of reasoning.


This first camp tends to think that God has done these things because he is angry with America. I remember hearing several prominent religious leaders spouting rhetoric about God taking down our "hedge of protection" due to the fact that we kill babies and we allow gays to marry. I think this is pushing too far to one end of the spectrum. I do believe that God can bring calamities and disaster as signs of judgment. He is God and he does what he pleases (Psalm 115: 3), just as he did in the days of Noah. But to single out a particular group of people's sins over my own is downright pharisaic and fool-hearted. If God did indeed use 9/11 as a way of judging America for its sins, I better make sure that I include myself in that bunch as well!! Jesus warned of this kind of thinking when two terrible disasters of his day had occurred:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." - Luke 13: 1-5 ESV

When catastrophe hits, it is not our job to try to guess as to why they "had it coming". R.C. Sproul summarizes it this way:

We often ask the wrong question; we become concerned with why it happened to them. What we really should be asking is 'why didn't it happen to me'?

Jesus reminds those who are throwing accusations at the victims of those dreadful acts that instead of contemplating the sins of others, contemplate your own. If I believe that someone deserved it, I can best believe that I deserve it all the same (if not more). It is not our job to know why. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.


On the other side of the isle, we have our second camp. By using the word denial, I don't mean that those who fall into this category are delusional, but that they deny or limit the extent of God's activity in such catastrophic events. The best example I can give is from a couple of conversations that I had today, where each person stated that they were told by the leadership in their churches that God couldn't possibly have anything to do with something so evil--so heinous. This logic falls all the way at the other end of the spectrum. Also, much like its counterpart, it too is seriously flawed. While the other side believes that God acts in a heavy-handed manner, the denial camp would say that God loves his creation (people, in this particular case) and he would never do anything to harm to us. A beautiful sentiment, to be sure, but a survey of the Sciptures will point us to a very different conclusion :

"Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. - Job 2:10 ESV

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? - Lamentations 3:37-38 ESV

Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? - Amos 3:6 ESV

These are definitely some of the harder sayings in Scripture in terms of God's involvement of evil. Verses like these may even leave many angry and unable to accept the idea of God's sovereignty if this is what it entails. But we must be careful. As John Piper states:

The evil that Satan causes is only by the permission of God. Therefore, Job is not wrong to see it as ultimately coming from the hand of God. It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan (or sinful man) the power to frustrate the designs of God.

To put it another way, if we stick with the denial position, we will find ourselves in a place without hope. For if God has not ordained catastrophic events within his Providence and Sovereign will, then he is not God and all is lost. This would be the only rational conclusion that we could come to. The verses above, while they are indeed hard to swallow, should ultimately bring us comfort. Even as evil seems to run wild, we should take heart in the fact that God is there and he is working all things for good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

As Christians, it is times like these-- Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, etc. -- that we should be even more about the business of seeking to persuade the lost through the Good news of the gospel. We should remember Jesus' words to his fellow country men: "Unless you repent of your sin...". This should make us profoundly grateful for the grace that God has shown on us by giving us his son, and should compel us to share the message of Christ with others so that they too may partake of the goodness and mercy of God through the sacrifice of his son. If these events should teach us anything it should be this--

No matter how long, life is always too short. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. The aim of every man should be to seek the Lord while he may be found; because sometimes...

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. - James 4:13-14 ESV

"To the ones left behind
Who are picking up the pieces
Of planes, bombs and buildings
Of innocence and evil
When the news, the noise and flowers die
And you still wake up alone
There's a God who knows every tear you cry
And this world is on his shoulders."

- Sandra McCracken, Age after age

This post is dedicated to all those who were lost in the events of 9/11/01 and their families. Your heroism and bravery will never be forgotten.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Facebook Badge