Friday, February 25, 2005

Definite Redemption

There are about a zillion different terms used to describe this doctrine. "Limited atonement" is probably the most widely known and most hated, as well. Another common one is "particular redemption". So why throw another name into the mix? Well, I was thinking about this last night. I think this is one of the simplest ways to show what the doctrine teaches. It describes a definite or defined redemption. That is, according to us who believe this doctrine, the Bible teaches that God has defined the atonement from before the beginning of time -ie., the group for which the atonement is intended to redeem is pre-defined. Some people really don't like that idea. They want everything to be open for our "free-will" so that we can be the ones making the final decisions. In the end, we determine if God's plan will succeed or fail, so we think.

But that is not what the Bible describes. Check out these very clear examples. I will break this up into three headings and examine only two passages of Scripture. Take a look at the uniformity of teaching presented by Jesus in these two settings.

John 6:35-40,44-45
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
45 "It is written in the
prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

John 10:11,14-17,25-28
11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.
26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one
will snatch them out of My hand.

(for the full effect, check out these chapters in their entirety. I quoted these verses for the sake of brevity).
Here's what we have:

I. A Definite People

In both of these there is a pre-defined people. In John 6, they are the ones the Father has given to the Son. They are the only ones who will come to the Son (v.44-45). In John 10 we have the sheep. Notice that believing in Christ, hearing His voice and following Him, is characteristic of the sheep. They do not make one a sheep. In fact, the reason Jesus gives for the unbelief of those speaking with Him is that they are not of His sheep! Again, believing does not define sheep-hood. Sheep-hood defines those who will enter the gate, believe, follow the Shepherd.

II. A Definite Plan

In John 6 the plan is clear. Jesus was given a group by the Father, the Father draws them, they will come to the Son, and Jesus will not lose a single one of them. They will all be "raised up on the last day". This is echoed almost exactly in John 10. The sheep will hear and recognize His voice, they will follow, and He gives them eternal life. They will never perish. No one shall pluck them out of His hand. He won't lose a single sheep. This is language of purpose and certainty. Notice also that there are sheep who have not yet heard His voice. This mirrors John 6 where we are told that those give to Him will come to Him. The obvious implication is that there are many belonging to this group who have not heard from Him yet. They have not heard, have not recognized His voice, and have not believed. Yet they will hear and will believe. Amazing.

III. Definite Results

Lest we should doubt the words of our Lord, who has said quite clearly that these things will take place and that the sheep shall never perish -the very same ones for whom He explicitly says He lays down His life for- there must be evidence in the Bible that shows that His death has actually accomplished this, right? Yup. Here are just a few.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

[comment: He purchased with His blood (past tense) men from all over... not every individual, but from all races of men]

Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

[comment: God (Jesus) purchased with His own blood the church of God. This is, again, past tense completed action. The church here is referring to the true church -all who do believe and will believe in Christ throughout the ages.]

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"--


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

God or Santa?

I admit. I have a real problem with the following concept:

"Let's find out how to live as God wants so He can fill our lives with blessing!"

Many reading this already recognize it. Its quite popular. It is masked in many different marketable materials. Purpose Driven Life is one of them. I usually have a hard time articulating exactly why I have a problem with this, and other Christian invariable question me and probably think I am just being a stick-in-the-mud naysayer. I was pointed to a new conference coming out soon called "Reaching the Heart Experience" ( I don't know much about the conference, but I read this in the description and thought to myself, "YES!"

"Once we know God through Christ, the most natural thing in the world is to live in a way that we hope and pray will result in the blessings we want. We try to "get it right so life will work". But that's what Paul called the Old Way of the written code, and it's wrong on two counts: one, it values blessings from God over friendship with God, and that's idolatry. It's coming to God and saying "stack the presents under the Christmas tree. If you show up too, that's fine, but it's not necessary." Two, it cheapens the demands of the law into a set of principles; if we follow those principles "reasonably" well, we assume God will see to it our lives work "reasonably" well.

"But God's demand is perfection. Only Jesus passed the test. Now, in His death and resurrection, "...we have been released from the law to serve in the NEW WAY of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6). With the Old Way gone, we have the opportunity to know God better in the middle of every situation, good or bad, wonderful or terrible, and that is the FIRST THING desire in the regenerate heart. The longing for every other blessing (good kids, good health, good income, good ministry, good reputation, etc.) fits into the category of SECOND THING desires. Living with first things first and second things second is the New Way to live."

I think that is pretty dead-on. No, its not bad to want to live in a way pleasing to God. But it is very wrong to think you can or think that in so doing you can extract blessing from God. It is also very wrong to assume that "some" obedience to the Law is "pretty good". If we wish to be judged by the Law, then go right ahead. Paul reminds us that "cursed is everyone who does not obey ALL of the things written..."

To think that anyone should live, as a believer in Christ, expecting that if they try harder they can obtain blessings they desire from God is understandable, but still silly. This is not to say we should go ahead and live as we once did. No, we should live as new men because we are new men, as Paul tells us in Romans 6. We have died with Christ.

To those who still insist upon this type of thing, I ask one question, "if God declared that He would not grant us blessings at all until the day we die, would you still be so concerned with living in a way that is pleasing and Christ-like?" Shut up and accept the fact that any blessing we receive is a free gift from a gracious God. Accept the fact that you may love Christ as ardently as you can, but God may still send hardship your way -not to punish you, but to work "all things for good" (Rom 8:28), bring about His purposes, and conform us each into the image of Christ. Accept these facts and live in gratitude and joy because of it, with an eye on the prize that was won for us by Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bad Posture

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2)

This passage sprang to mind not long after a brief discussion with some friends this afternoon. We were discussing churches -which one to go to, which one not to go to. They mentioned they were checking out a Calvary Chapel. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and make a sour face. The idea of going to Calvary Chapel seemed almost unthinkable. Why? Well, because I know all about them -so I think. And to be honest, I probably do have a good idea where the church falls doctrinally. I have read some articles and papers stating the Calvary Chapel position on various topics. Its not really the point, though. Shortly after walking away from them, I felt the sting of guilt.

I saw myself in the mirror at that moment, and I did not like what I saw. I saw a man puffed up with pride -placing himself above others. Sure, maybe I am right about some doctrines where they are very wrong, but is that reason to exalt myself above them, or it is reason to, as Christ did, humbly go amonst them and minister the truth to them in love? It is clearly the latter -especially given that any truth that I hold dear has been given to me by grace and ushered through my sin-sick, sin-blinded soul and into my heart by the Spirit of God.

Oh, if Christ were to even in part act with the wickedness I harbored in my heart today, I would have absolutely no hope. For imagine the Lord Christ judging me for any reason whatsoever! I would be utterly destroyed, for there is no shortage of reasons for judgment within me -of that I know. Amazing how one who has received so much grace and mercy can turn around and scrutinize and condemn others in return.

To sum up: its ok to disagree, and even to think they are way off or even heretical, but it must be so with a posture of humility and service. The fact that someone teaches something unBiblical does not excuse us from being ministers of grace. Praise God for His grace toward us in Christ Jesus!
The Blessedness or Blindness?

Greate stuff here from the blog of James White:

Monday, February 21, 2005

Preach the Word

I read something that was sent to me from a Lutheran minister a few days ago. Apparently, he wasn't its author, either. Anyway, it reminded me of our duty as ministers of the Word (which includes every Christian... from the newborn believer to the seasoned saint!). It is to preach the Word, the whole Word -Law and Gospel. It is not to make people angry -God's Word will do that. It is not to make people feel guilty -God's Word will do that. It is not to try and get people to respond a certain way -God's Word will do that, too. It is simply to proclaim faithfully, clearly, and humbly what God has revealed in His Word.

Seems simple, doesn't it? If only that was the case! We are like Moses...

10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue..."

But our God is Mighty, and He uses even us -fools, sinners, vagabonds- as agents of His Word.

11 The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

12 "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." (Exodus 4)

It is altogether good, humbling, and reassuring that we not only cannot but must not perform the role of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of sinners. Rejoice! Not because our job is "easier", but because the salvation of our God is sure and certain for all of those He calls -not of the power of the preacher, but solely of the power of the Spirit working through the Word as it is sent forth through the lips of His greatful servants!

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isa 55:11)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Happily Delusional

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'"
4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die!
5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3, NASB)

A few minutes ago I was driving back from Walmart with my daughter in the back seat. She just turned 5 years old. We were talking a little about the Bible. Adam and Eve came up because we began talking about sin (as much as one can with a 5 year-old little girl :) ). It was a pretty cliche discussion -you know... "sin is disobeying God" and things like that. I wasn't about to jump into the issue of original sin. Anyway, she asked "why did they do that?", referring to Adam and Eve. I have heard lots of answers to this very question. And, at the root of all of it, sin does really stem from one thing... as a friend of mine said, "its us trying to be God". But for this particular episode, this critical episode, it just dawned on me how detailed the picture Scripture gives us really is. Sure, perhaps we don't know all of the motives of Eve or Adam, but we see one thing in particular.

It is unbelief. God spoke, Satan cast doubt, man bit. There are many scenarios for unbelief to rear its ugly head. We usually think of unbelief in regards to God's mercy, but I believe the most common unbelief is when we 'can what we know about God for something that suits us better. It is like what Paul says in Romans 1, about how we exchanged the truth of God for a lie. It is not as though God was ever unclear, but we exchange what God said for something more palatable to us. For Eve, Satan cast doubt on what God said. Look over the small discourse above in Genesis 3. See how Satan and Eve reason together. Suddenly, that which was declared forbidden is an emblem of self-obtained independence and wisdom. Eve looked upon the fruit and basically convinced herself that eating it would be good -despite what she knew to be true. The fruit looked good, and heck... making oneself wise is a noble desire, right? Being like God? Wow, doesn't get much better than that. Now, what were God's exact words again? Oh... umm... something... oh well...

So it is still with us all. We can all remember vividly spurning any idea of God's retribution for our sin. It seemed much more appealing to simply ignore these verities and go on what we felt was right. After all, we were good people. :) We loved this delusion so much that whenever it came under attack, we covered and protected it as gold. Our sin isn't that bad... and we certainly make up for it with all of the good we do. :p

I am reminded of this, not because we are immune to it as Christians (though some would like to they we are), but because it is one of the first things the Spirit does in bringing us to Christ. Our God is gracious to destroy this delusion. We see it corrode before our very eyes. For some it is gone in an instant, for others it weathers over time. Regardless, when it is gone, we see we are naked. It is at this time that our Father brings to us the Covering that is forever -the blood and righteousness of His Son.

Friday, February 18, 2005

"Look to Me!"

Here is a quote from a sermon I was reading by Charles Spurgeon:

How frequently you who are coming to Christ look to yourselves. "O!"you say, "I do not repent enough." That is looking to yourself. "I do not believe enough." That is looking to yourself. "I am too unworthy." That is looking to yourself. "I cannot discover," says another, "that I have any righteousness." It is quite right to say that you have not any righteousness; but it is quite wrong to look for any. It is, "Look unto me." God will have you turn your eye off yourself and look unto him. The hardest thing in the world is to turna man's eye off himself; as long as he lives, he always has a predilection to turn his eyes inside, and look at himself; whereas God says, "Look unto me." From the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the Garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Saviour sweat pardons, the cry comes,"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." From Calvary's summit, where Jesus cries, "It is finished," I hear a shout, "Look, and be saved." (Charles H. Spurgeon, sermon No. 60, Isa 52:22)

I don't know what I can add to such eloquence. I know first-hand the battle that wages within each of us to look to ourselves rather than looking to Christ alone. It disguises itself. It doesn't use words like "righteousness" or "worthiness". Satan is far too crafty. It comes masquerading as things that are in line with the truth but warped in such a small way as to make it nearly indistinguishable from the truth of the Gospel and yet bind our souls to anguish and misery -or blind them in self-righteousness! Yes, the Word of God commands repentance... yet is it repentance that saves? No. Yes, the Word commands us to believe... yet believing does not save either. How our fleshly mind loves to play word games to find a foothold for self-righteousness! Praise God for the Author and Finisher of our salvation, who simply calls the dead to life in saying, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Would You Run?

I received a forwarded email in my inbox recently titled, "Would you run?" I get emails like this often. Anyway, this was one with a common theme. Would you run? If you were going to die for being a Christian, would you sit there and proclaim your allegiance to Christ, or would you cower and run? Would you accept death like the young people in some of those romantic, and admittedly truly tragic, stories of the Columnbine school shooting? Its true, Christ spoke much of the costs of discipleship. Christ also spoke of those who are embarrassed of His name before others. These are things that are very true and important.

The main point of this blog entry is this: why is it we are so quick to put ourselves in the place of the one who would stay and take the bullet? Its funny. We are so much like Peter was. We insist vehemently that we would never deny the Lord. Jesus could speak to us personally and tell us, "yes, you actually will... and more than once", but we would swear up and down that we would never do such a thing. We put great stock in our spiritual convictions and abilities. How ironic! Peter saw clearly how foolish this is as he denied the Lord three times that night -just as the Lord said he would.

So, lets be real, folks. We aren't righteous in ourselves. I don't care how sanctified we think we are. I don't care how firm we believe we are in our faith. Our tendency is to look upon these issues with human pride or self-sufficiency and a resolve to try harder (and by all means, let us flee from unrighteousness!), but I believe they are primarily placed before us to do the opposite -to destroy our faith in our faith and resolve. As Jesus told Peter, Satan would have "sifted you like wheat" (Luke 22:31-32), but He prayed for him... for us. It is the strength of our Mediator, our Savior, our Intercessor, that makes all the difference.

Praise the Lord Christ for the 1000 times I fall and He restores me. Praise the Lord Christ for the other times that I am proudly content and firm with my own devotion, but then He is gracious to show me, as He did Peter, how weak I truly am.

Next time we thank the Lord, we partake of the Lord's supper, or witness a baptism, let us give thanks in particular for His sovereign calling and shepherding of our blind and wandering souls.