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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving: Our Life of Gratitude In Christ

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away;the desire of the wicked will perish! - Psalm 112 ESV

"A thankful heart has a continual feast." - W. J. Cameron







The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 ESV

http://www.bloodwatermission.com/




"Thanksgiving is good but thanks-living is better." - Matthew Henry





Happy Thanksgiving...



Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How To Kill and Be Killed 101: "You Must Be Born Again..."


Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” - John 3:1-8 ESV


The doctrine of regeneration (or being born again) is something that has become muddled, if not altogether forgotten in today's evangelical circles. It is still stated from the pulpits and in the sermons that "you must be born again", but what is often left out is what it means as well as by what means one can actually achieve spiritual regeneration. So we are left with some lingering questions that all too often go unanswered:

-What does it really mean to be born again?
-How does one actually become born again?
-Who does this work belong to? Man or God?

Here in this clip, Pastor Mark Driscoll provides us with a biblical response to what it means to be regenerated by God. We will see by his application to the Word (as well as some added scripture references) that it is more than just walking down an aisle, signing your name on a card, saying a prayer, or being dipped (or sprinkled) with water. This is a divine act performed by a holy and sovereign God. Driscoll also goes on to point out the often misunderstanding of "sanctification (being set apart to do good works) as regeneration" and shows how the two teachings must be properly understood in their proper places. This is important due to the fact that it strikes at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13).

Mark Driscoll - The Doctrine of Regeneration





I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. - Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV

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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV




Soli Deo Gloria,


Shon


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Uncomfortably Well Off (Matthew 5: 2-5 applied): Sermon on the Mount Pt. 2

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” - Mark 10:17-31 ESV


Taking into account what has already been discussed (about what Jesus lays out for those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven at the beginning of the SOTM), we need to look no further than scripture itself to see this lesson aptly applied to show the relevancy of the conclusion. To review, let's summarize what has been stated previously:{What Jesus says to his followers in the first three beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, and blessed are the meek) are not statements of kingdom living, but how one must enter the kingdom itself.}The reason that this needs to be stressed is simple; if we don't follow the pattern that Christ sets before us, it becomes perilously easy to accept someone on mere appearances--only putting stock in the superficial. It reminds me of what Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said:"When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it, he keeps a very small stock of it within."A Case StudyIn the verses above, we meet the rich young man who is eager to follow Christ. However eager he may be, Jesus does not let him come easily. He doesn't just take the man at face value; he gets to the issues of the heart. There is no "easy believism" when it comes to following the Savior. This young rulers answers show him for what he truly is and not what he presents himself to be. Granted, he may have been sincere in his pursuits, but he pursued them wrongly.


'Why do you call me good?' (and why that's so bad)

While the young man does see Jesus as "good teacher", he does not truly see him for what he really is. He does not recognize Christ as Lord and Savior--only as a teacher of righteousness instead of righteousness itself. Mark records that the man knelt before him, yet at the same time, he fails to bow the knee of his heart. Here is where we can see a lack of poorness in spirit. He wants to gain eternal life, but not necessarily because he is lacking. After all, what do you get the man that has everything except everything? He asks what he must do; he never repents of anything. Basically his question is actually something along the lines of "tell me what to do and I will do it", never realizing that there is nothing that he can do at all. He may have made the intellectual connection to the truth of Jesus' teachings, but his heart remained unchanged.



The Law as Child's Play

Systematically, the next thing that we see is, due to the lack of a poorness in spirit, a lack of mourning for the fallen state of his human condition. When Christ asks the young man about the commandments, he says that he has kept them all, "from his youth". There you have it. No mourning on his part because he obviously has nothing to mourn. The irony of the statement is that he claims to have kept the law from his youth and yet the scriptures attest to him being a young man. His answer is impetuous (we could give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether or not he kept them all, but it is highly unlikely). The failure to see the emptiness of himself in terms of salvation are due largely in part to the fact that he fails to see the proper function of the law in bringing us to salvation (Romans 7:7-25; Galatians 3:19-26). He sees the law as a means of salvation, not as the thing that points to salvation; therefore he sees no need to mourn, for keeping the law for him is something that even a child could do. He is only concerned with what he is doing externally, but Jesus is trying to break him open to reveal the truest nature of his heart (Mark 7:14-23).



Too Hard to be Humble

After all is said and done, Jesus loves the young man enough to tell him what he lacks. What is missing in this young man's plight for eternal life is a heart of total devotion for God. He is unable to give up all of his worldly possessions because he is unable to see the infinite value in the inheritance of Christ himself. Why? Well, if he doesn't see himself as spiritually bankrupt, he won't mourn that loss. This places the means of salvation firmly upon his own ability to accomplish it if he knows what to do. Christ is just the guide--a "teacher" to point him in the right direction. So, it is only right for him to count this cost of absolute submission to God through the giving up of all worldly possessions as to high a cost. He is staring everything he will ever need in the face, yet he can't let go of what he has in order to keep it. Again, he may have liked what Christ was teaching, but doesn't have faith that Christ can sustain him. This will be his ruin (Hebrews 11:6). The truth of this condition definitely causes him grief. However, let's not be mistaken; it's the idea of losing his worldly possessions that cause him mourning, not loss of eternal life. He has chosen his master and for him there was no turning back (Matthew 16:26; Luke 16:13). Christ cuts to the heart of the matter and exposes the true nature of the young man's being, where meekness is nowhere to be found.


Conclusion & Application

Here we see a perfect biblical antithesis of what it is to be in the kingdom of God. There are several key points to be learned even for us in the church today if we want to avoid making some of these faulty assumptions:


1. Salvation is of the Lord. There is nothing that a man can do or say from within himself that can better his position with God. Natural man is an enemy of God whether passive or aggressive in nature. Only God can remove that hostility and bring man into right fellowship and communion with himself (Psalms 65:4; Ezekiel 36:25-27)
2. God sees the heart, not merely duty. We may fool others by actions and lip service (or be fooled ourselves), but never God (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:9-10).

3. Money and possessions should never be placed as a priority over Christ. Many of today's churches have resorted to teaching a prosperity "gospel", which seeks to make heaven on earth now; placing our greatest value on the inheritance of worldly things and not Christ (the living Word of God) and his kingdom that is to come. To quote Francis Grimke':


"And yet how often we find men in our pulpits searching heaven and earth for something new to preach about, while this treasure-house of wisdom and knowledge, of the things necessary for salvation, is neglected, passed by, and overlooked."

and again,

"They have preached on almost everything except Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God whose blood alone cleanses from sin. The thought of sin, from which we need to be saved, has largely dropped out of most of our preaching."

Money can never save the soul. Having more worldly possessions will never bring you everlasting happiness, nor should this be our chief pursuit. These are things that can only be found in God, through salvation in Jesus, alone. We may certainly have blessings in this world--monetary, as well as others. But those blessings will only come with pursuing a proper devotion to Christ and the Kingdom of God (Proverbs 30:7-9; Philippians 4:10-13; 1 Tim 6:6-10; James 4:1-3).


Let the world their virtue boast and works of righteousness; I a wretch, undone and lost am freely saved by grace--Take me savior as I am; Let me lose my sins in Thee--Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb; Thy blood was shed for me.
Full of truth and grace Thou art; And here is all my hope; False and foul as hell, my heart to thee I offer up--Thou wast given to redeem my soul from iniquity--Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb; Thy blood was shed for me.
Nothing have I Lord to pay, nor can Thy grace procure; Empty, send me not away for thou knowest I am poor--Dust and
ashes is my name; My all is sin and misery--Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb; Thy blood was shed for me.

- Charles Wesley


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6: 19-21 ESV



Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blessed Assurance for the Broken Hearted: Sermon on the Mount Pt. 1


And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." - Matthew 5:2-5 ESV


As we look at the beginning of the Jesus' discourse known as the 'Sermon on the Mount' (SOTM), one can't help but take notice of the first three conditions that he places on his followers:

-to be poor in spirit
-to mourn
-to be meek

Yet he called these conditions "blessed". The actual Greek interpretation of the word means "happy", which may leave one even more confounded than at first glance. These are not conditions by which I would begin to look for happiness in my life, yet this is what the savior asks--better yet, commands--of those who seek to follow after him. From a secular perspective, these are seen as weaknesses; traits of which no one who really wishes to seek out fulfillment in life would gladly heap upon themselves. There has to be something more, right? And there is. So much more.

Within these three verses, we are not looking simply at what it takes for kingdom living. After all, first things first; how am I supposed to live in the kingdom, if I'm not yet in it?! This is what Christ lays before them--we must know how to come to God before we can serve him. Salvation must come before any other action can be taken (
John 3:3,5).


"Blessed are the poor in spirit..."

The first thing that is required for anyone to come to Christ is that we realize that we bring nothing to the table in a salvific sense. Regardless of what talents and abilities we may possess, they serve us no purpose when it comes to entering the Kingdom of God (
Isaiah 57:12, Isaiah 64:6). The act of salvation rests solely with God through Christ alone (Psalm 37:39, John 14:6). Mankind in his natural state is spiritually bankrupt (Romans 3:9-20). To place salvation on anything and anyone other than the grace of God through the person of Jesus Christ amounts to unbelief (John 6:44, Acts 4:11-12). It is only to those who are poor in spirit that the Kingdom of Heaven is promised (Psalm 51:17).


"Blessed are those who mourn..."

As John Calvin states in his Sermons on the Beatitudes,

"Here he affirms more or less what we have already learnt. For if we are poor in spirit, we cannot avoid weeping; we cannot be other than distressed."

One cannot be poor in spirit (that is, made to see his lack of spiritual uprightness) and not mourn his condition. Or to say it better--one can; but this puts him on the same path that Cain went down. Instead of receiving the chastisement of God for his good, he became bitter. He becomes so embittered, in fact, that he receives neither consolation or warning from God. This hardens him to the point that he sinks deeper into the depths of sin (
Genesis 4:3-8). As Calvin again says,

"There may be many who indeed chafe at the bit...Although the Lord Jesus Christ keeps them on a tight rein, still they fume and grind their teeth, and their pride bursts forth worse than before. So God, for his part, has to bear down hard on them so to expel the poison which otherwise might kill them. Not that they improve as a result. They grow even worse, rant and rage and flaunt their devilish fury in the face of God...Does this mean, then, that their poverty, their experience of adversity, serves no purpose? Not at all! It makes their guilt all the worse when they appear before the bar of God. They are examples to us all."

May these examples serve us well. We must learn that our poorness of spirit should bring about our mourning--our repentance. There is a right way and a wrong way to grieve a broken spirit (
2 Corinthians 7:10-13a). We must understand that the revelation of the wretchedness of our natural state and the subsequent mourning are all a part of God's discipline of grace to bring us to salvation and to furthering our sanctification; to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 5:7-8, Hebrews 12:3-11). God hears our cries and promises that those who are his will indeed be comforted (Psalm 13:1-2; Psalm 56:8; Isaiah 42:3; Revelation 6:9-11).


"Blessed are the meek..."

This third key to true happiness actually serves as the culminating point to the first two beatitudes. If anyone is poor in spirit, not to mention mourning that poorness, how can we be anything but meek? As Martin Luther so eloquently states: "We are beggars". We all know that beggars can't be choosers. For a person to come before God as if he is owed is an unholy insult. It is not by our works that we are saved, but through the person and work of Jesus Christ (
Romans 4:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). We are to be like the tax collector, not the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). We live in a culture today that rewards the braggart; the more that a man makes of himself, the better. Our society tells us that meekness is weakness. This sort of thinking has even begun to effect the Western Church at large. However, nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Scriptures, we need to turn this paradigm on its head (Habakkuk 2:4). Any form of arrogance before almighty, holy God is sinful. For what does a beggar have to be proud? The only thing that sinful man has earned is death, but God has, through Christ, given us eternal life (Romans 6:23). If we are to boast anything, it should be that--not ourselves (Galatians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 1 Timothy 1:12-16). If there is ever any doubt that should creep in and try to prove us wrong, all we need to do is look to the author and perfecter of our faith himself (Hebrews 12:2) as the truest example of what it looks like to live in meekness and submission to God (Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 26:39).
It is through him alone that we find ourselves before God; the risen Christ is our inheritance. We need nothing more. We can be rest assured and comforted to know that if it is this "weakness" that grants us the power, then we thrive on what is greater than all of the world (
Matthew 13:45-46; Luke 17:20-21; John 14:1-3; Genesis 17:4-8; Galatians 3:7-9, 29; 1 John 4:4; Revelation 1:4-6).



But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. - James 4:6-10 ESV





Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"We Made A Mistake": Reformation At Willow Creek?!


“The church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example.” - Mark Twain


“Theology, not morality, is the first business on the church's agenda of reform, and the church, not society, is the first target of divine criticism.” - Michael Scott Horton





October 18, 2007
Willow Creek Repents?

Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."


Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.


So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?


Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”


If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.


In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”
Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”


Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:


Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.


Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.


Hybels confesses:


We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.


In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.


Does this mark the end of Willow’s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:


Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.



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


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Unconditional Election: Good News?!


And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. - Acts 13:48 ESV

"Divine grace is necessary before a person can even begin to will to love God." - Gerald Bonner, Augustine's Doctrine of Man


The video presented below is one the most concise at clearly explaining the doctrine of unconditional election. John Piper does an excellent job illustrating the comfort that should be found in this biblical teaching.

As I finished watching this clip, I noticed the comment that was left by a fellow viewer:


"I am a Christian and i fully believe in free will, i respect Mr. Piper for his views, but one thing that made me uneasy about what he was saying is if God chooses people to enter His Kingdom then He must choose for people to be destined to Hell. That cannot be though because he wishes no one into Hell according to James. I just disagree heavily on what was said in this video. I appreciate Mr. Piper and his God gifted work."




The problem that I have with this comment is not merely personal. I'm indeed a fan of John Piper and his work, but I'm not solely coming to his defense because I like him. My first issue is based upon the assumption that Piper is simply expressing his opinion. This is not the case; he is basing his beliefs on the Scriptures themselves and what they teach. The comment offers no such biblical reference other than "according to James". What passage in James? Would you like to expound on this? Have you actually searched the scriptures to find out whether or not these things are so? When we are dealing with matters as great as this, we must always remember to approach them with the seriousness that they deserve. This is a doctrine that is at the very heart of our evangelism methods. Secondly, to make a claim such as, "that cannot be", we need to be absolutely sure that we have taken the time to properly hear the statement and compare it to the writings of the Holy Bible before we go out on a limb. The reason this is necessary to bring up is because the commentator opens up their statement with, "I am a Christian and I fully believe in free will". Here is where the hand is tipped; the statement makes it clear from the outset that regardless of the information presented, their presupposition was going to rule the day. It was not going to ultimately be based on Scripture - but rather, opinions and emotional attachment to their own views. It is because of this that the person fails to see the full doctrine and concentrates on a particular aspect that doesn't seem to jive with their own convictions.



But What Does the Bible Say?


For those unfamiliar with the doctrine of unconditional election, it can be summarized like this:


God freely chooses whom he will save, based upon his own sovereign will and purpose, not on the merits of the individual being saved.

Can this be backed up with scripture? Absolutely! We can look at the two passages alluded to by Piper. First, he quotes from 1 Corinthians:


For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV


It is clear from the scripture above that God does, in fact, elect or choose those whom will be saved out of the world. Notice that it even goes as far to say, "And because of HIM you are in Christ Jesus". That means that it is God who brings us to Christ. This is done so that we can stake no claim in our own salvation. The Glory belongs to God alone.

The next passage we can look at is about the conversion of Paul himself:


Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." - Acts 9:10-16 ESV


It is important to note that Paul was perfectly fine persecuting Christians and had no interest in turning over a new leaf (Acts 9:1-2). Paul's conversion is a tale of a man interrupted. God elected him to be a witness to the gentiles. Paul's will of freedom of choice had nothing to do with it. It is the glorious intrusion of God that saved him from perishing - and so it is with all who believe (Psalms 65:4).



I Have Decide To Follow Jesus...But Why?

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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. - Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV


So what shall we say about free will? Does it have any role at all? Yes. But, we must remember that we must look at the will and election in the light of the Scriptures, not mere human reasoning. This is the response that I offered to the commentator in regards to what we must believe in regards to the freedom of our will.


Man does indeed have a will. But according to scripture, the will is only free to act on its strongest inclination - what it desires most. Therefore, Jesus states that,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin..." - John 6:34 ESV

This is why Paul is justified in his statement in Romans 6:20:

"For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness."

So we can draw the conclusion from these verses that if we are slaves to sin, we can do nothing but sin. We can see this brought to our attention more severely 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.

So in our natural state, how is it that you, me or any other believer comes to true faith in Jesus out of such a horribly depraved condition? Our will in bondage to sin and hearts darkened and hostile towards God (Colossians 1:21); what breaks our chains of bondage and brings us into the love of Christ? What causes me to choose to turn away from my sin? It obviously can't be me. From the scriptures, it has already been established that I am incapable of doing this! So, that leaves only one answer. Jesus states that,

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." - John 6:44 ESV

It is clear from this statement that we are not "free" to will ourselves to come to Christ apart from the divine initiative of God's. I always find it peculiar that all throughout the Old Testament, we find God choosing people and there's never an objection raised, yet when we get to the New Testament, we treat it as some sort of blasphemous or foreign concept. This objection, while it may be an earnest one, is misguided. It is the same objection that Paul expects and deals with in Romans 9:6-24:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?


While this is a hard saying in scripture, it should ultimately bring us comfort for it is the only way that we can be certain that we are saved. As Jesus, again, says:

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." - John 6:37 ESV

So if God calls us by the power of his spirit, then and then only is our salvation secured. If we rely on our so-called "free" will to bring us to Christ, it will be an exercise in futility. Faith may come by hearing the word of God, but it cannot be forgotten that this is because the Holy Spirit operates through the Word of God alone. If left merely to our will, this would leave us under the law, not grace. This means that you are obligated to fulfill the law through your own will, which is impossible.

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 works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:19-20 ESV



Praise be to the unconditional election of the Almighty God! But to see the beauty and mercy we must understand it from both sides of the coin. We can no more decide for God who he can save, than we can tell him who he can't. That is why it's called amazing grace...


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lest We Forget: The Minneapolis I-35W Bridge Collapse & the Sovereignty of God


"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C. S. Lewis

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. - Proverbs 19:21 ESV


When a tragedy such as this happens, it becomes easy to forget that God is sovereign. We become distracted--our vision begins to tunnel in on the pain and suffering. This can have a numbing effect; all of the wrong goes on so far and so long that we become desensitized to a God who is there and does care about humanity. We must not forget that amidst all that there is being said about having "Purpose-Driven Life", it is the purpose of God that drives all things. Even though it is hard for us to understand, especially in tragic times like these, we must take comfort and hope in the fact that even in the most tumultuous times, through the most seemingly unbearable hardships, that God has purposed it for a reason, even though the reasons may seem to escape us.

Let us also remember and pray for those who were injured and the families that have lost love ones in this tragedy. May the grace and peace of God be with them through this terrible time.






John Piper on Tragedy and the Sovereignty of God








Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. - Job 2:9-10 ESV


"We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them." - Charles C. West



Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon






Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Sins of the Fathers


"...but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." - Matthew 18:6 ESV



Gabcast! How Shall We Then...Blog (In Audio) #3 - The Sins of the Fathers

My thoughts on the record 660 million dollar settlement by the California Roman Catholic Diocese. Can money atone for the sins and crimes of these men? We can take a look at the call of ministers (bishops, elders, overseers) in scripture and hold it up in contrast to the vatican law...while we are talking mainly about what has recently happened in the Roman Catholic Church, this is something that is to be taken to heart by all churches that claim the name of Jesus Christ. There are some things money just can't buy.











Warning: These next clips from the Documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, contain language and subject matter that may be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.







The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. - 1 Timothy 3:1-13 ESV


This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. - Titus 1:5-9 ESV



Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon



Friday, July 13, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Joe: The Pope, Peter and The Church




Pope: Jesus formed 'only one church'
Benedict issues statement asserting that Jesus established ‘only one church’
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 8:52 a.m. CT July 10, 2007


LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.
Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.
On Saturday, Benedict
revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by reviving the old Latin Mass. Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II.
Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.
In the latest document — formulated as five questions and answers — the Vatican seeks to set the record straight on Vatican II’s ecumenical intent, saying some contemporary theological interpretation had been “erroneous or ambiguous” and had prompted confusion and doubt.
It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, “Dominus Iesus,” which set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the “means of salvation.”
In the new document and an accompanying commentary, which were released as the pope vacations here in Italy’s Dolomite mountains, the Vatican repeated that position.
“Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” the document said. The other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles...(
full article here)



Gabcast! How Shall We Then...Blog (In Audio) #2 - Say It Ain't So, Joe: The Pope, Peter & The Church

My response to an article in which Pope Benedict declares all other denominations to be 'counterfeit'








Martin Luther on Salvation Outside the Church of Rome




Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms







"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand."Edward Mote (1797-1874)


For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ESV





Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Systematic Mormonism: Last Things (The Beginning of the End)

“Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the Scripture laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of the more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously . . .” - Joseph Smith





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


And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. - Revelation 22:6-21 ESV



Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Monday, July 09, 2007

Systematic Mormonism: Church Order and Practices (Ecclesiology)


Moving right along, we now look into the church order and some of the major practices within the Church of LDS. We will see what their ordinances actually mean, where they originate, and where they get their authority.

Mormon Church Order & Practice (1)




Mormon Church Order and Practice (2)




Mormon Church Order and Practice (3)




To view the previous chapter, click here.



Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

Systematic Mormonism: The Way of Salvation (Soteriology)


With the doctrines of Revelation, God, Man, and Jesus Christ being so drastically different from that of the traditional Christian Faith, where does this leave them on the issue of the salvation of souls? The implications of their teachings clearly nullify the idea of the justification by faith in Christ alone--so in what or who does the faithful Mormon put their hope in order that they may acquire eternal life? What must a Mormon do to be saved? The answer will surprise you...


Mormons and Eternal Life


To view the previous chapter, click here.


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Systematic Mormonism: The Doctrine of Jesus Christ (Christology)




Here, we will take a look at the person and work of Jesus Christ, according to the writings of Mormonism, in contrast with that of the Holy Bible. While the content of this clip is short, the differences are not hard to point out even if one has an elementary level of biblical knowledge. Everything that we have seen up until now greatly effects this particular doctrine, just as every category that follows after this one will be greatly effected by this teaching as well. Leaves you with the lingering question, "How Christian can Mormonism actually be?"


Jesus Christ According to Mormonism








For previous chapter, click here.






Soli Deo Gloria,


Shon

Systematic Mormonism: The Doctrine and Study of Man (Anthropology)



In this section, we will survey the origin of the human species (anthropology) from the doctrines of Mormonism. We will look at some of it claims through historical, scientific, and archaeological evidence (or lack thereof). We will see a short history lesson on the life and character of the man, Joseph Smith, himself.



Mormonism v. Anthropology/Archaeological Evidence (1)







Mormonism v. Anthropology/Archaeological Evidence (2)


A Short History of Joseph Smith


To view the previous chapter, click here.


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Systematic Mormonism: God and His Attributes (Theology Proper)


In this section, we will look into the Mormon Doctrine on God. It doesn't take long to realize that Mormonism is not monotheistic, trinitarian God as in biblical Christianity. It is, in fact, a polytheistic religion.

The Mormon Doctrine on God and His Attributes


To see the previous section click here.


Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

Systematic Mormonism: Orgins of Scripture and Revelation (Prolegomena)

“It's a lot more common now for someone to know a Mormon rather than just know of Mormons out in Utah, ... We seem more normal. We're not as exotic.” - Brigham Young



Mormonism (Church of Latter Day Saints - LDS) has gained much attention lately due to certain current events--both positively and negatively. Most recently, it has grabbed much of the media spotlight thanks to the popularity of Republican presidential candidate hopeful, Mitt Romney, the capture of FBI's most wanted, Warren Jeffs, and also the success of the HBO series, Big Love. However, much of Mormonism remains a mystery to the general public. Most know some basic generalities:

-They claim to fall under the umbrella of the Christian faith.
-The founder was a man by the name of Joseph Smith.
-Some may also known of some of their flagship institutions (Brigham Young University, etc.)


But still, very little is known of the particulars of the Mormon Faith. After all, most who are apart of the faith are not very forthcoming when speaking of the origins and heritage of Mormonism and its founder(s).

Recently, the people over at Mormon Research Ministry (http://www.mrm.org/) have released a video series entitled, Search For the Truth: Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith. It serves as a comprehensive look behind the scenes of the LDS church and as a warm-hearted refutation of the doctrines held by Mormonism as it deviates from the truth of the scripture.

I have taken clips from this series and placed them into systematic theological categories to show that these differences are not just mere trivial matters; this is to show that in every way this religion that calls itself "Christian" contradicts and denies the Bible at every given opportunity. So we'll start with the Prolegomena (study of first things) of Mormonism-- The origin of revelation and their "sacred writings" as well as how this effects their interpretation of the Word of God (the Holy Bible).

Introduction




Origin of Mormonism (Joseph Smith's First Vision)



Joseph Smith's Translation/Revelation Method




More on Smith's Prophecies and Revelations


If you have difficulty viewing clip on this page, click here:
http://www.veoh.com/videos/v341671KzgqB33s



Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

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