Name:Daniel Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian. My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well. - Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice. - Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts. - C-Train
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day. - David Kjos
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year. - Carla Rolfe
Jim over at faith classics said, Repentance is not a one time thing but rather a continual dealing as the light of God's word exposes our natural thinking and self centered focus.
Jim, for those who you who don't know him, is a godly man whom I have met on several occasions. His hearts desire is that people stop pretending to be Christians, and get on with the real deal, and I share this passion with him without reservation. So my reply to him, which follows, is not intended to be overly correctional, but rather I am springing off that quote. You should read the post in context to understand what Jim is saying...
If the "repentance towards God" that Paul preached as half of his gospel (c.f. Acts 20:21) is in fact the ongoing process you describe, then we must conclude that justification is a process that is completed after we die, as it depends upon a completed regiment of repentance.
I think you are confusing justification and sanctification?
Repentance, first and foremost is something God grants , and we must understand what it is and what it is not.
Repentance, as I understand it, is a one time thing.
Notwithstanding - the nature of repentance is that one has changed masters - no longer do self and sin rule as master, but Jesus is Lord. That being the case, the believer thereafter is driven by the indwelling Holy Spirit to no longer walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Failure to do so results in chastening in the hear and now for as many as God loves.
I agree, there is no excuse to live a carnal and loose life given that we have truly been set free from that, but it is not the fear of judgment that ought to drive us - for no one has ever been sanctified by fear of judgment, and frankly, it is a beggarly motivator at best. Rather we are cleansed and made righteous by faith.
Which is not to argue that we sit around and wait to be made holy - we are commanded to walk in the Spirit by faith. We ought not to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit by Whom we are sealed unto that day, we are to walk in the good works prepared for us beforehand by God, but that in the strength that -He- supplies.
If we do all the right things in our own strength, we get the glory, and not God, and even these acts that seem righteous, and maybe even make us feel "good and right with God" so long as we do them - these same acts become the very thing that keeps us away from God, because rather than resting in the finished work of Christ, we look to our own righteousness to propitiate God and in doing so we turn away from all that Christ alone has done for us, and our second state is worse than our first, because from thence forth, unless we are sorely shaken from that path - we will always pursue God through our own righteousness, and the constant failure will only wear us out, or make us so arrogant we cannot be reasoned with.
Okay, so you have stopped playing at being a Christian, and have begun to take it all very seriously. You know that you are supposed to be one way, and hate it when you continue to be another - and so you feel guilty all the time, and you sense within a growing concern and maybe even a little quiet frustration - why oh why am I growing colder rather than hotter? Why does it seem that my brain wants more, but my flesh wants less? Why is it that I seem to be less sincere today that I was five years ago? I know I want to be sanctified, and that I want to be as holy as the name I bear (Christian) demands - I want to walk worthy of Christ!
Yet it seems there is some hindrance to the whole process, the more I try and apprehend it the farther I am from it! Would that I could simply identify the problem perhaps I might be able to put it in an eternal grave, and dance upon that grave in joy forevermore.
Well, I am going to tell you what, if this describes you, the problem likely is -- but you will find that while articulating the problem is very helpful to your brain, simply having the knowledge won't solve the problem; the problem isn't entirely rooted in mere ignorance, it is really a spiritual problem, and while spiritual problems need to be understood, yet it isn't the understanding of them that sets us free. The Lord sets us free, and when He does, we are free indeed!
How frustrating it must have been to ask, "What must I do so that I do the works of God" and receive, instead of a practical, "do this, do that" answer, to receive what seems to be an esoteric riddle, "believe on Him who sent Me." Yet as I grow I see with greater clarity the brilliance - the concrete, literal truth in that answer. Sometimes the sheer perfection of scripture magnifies the deity behind the truth, and this is one of those verses that for me is fire and life - a verse that booms throughout all creation - God must be real, for the level of precision in this truth is so profound that no human could possibly have uttered it. Yet the problem will be solved by the same truth found in this verse.
Now, your problem is pretty simple once you isolate the main reason many of us desire to be sanctified. No, it isn't for God's glory, though it ought to be. The main reason most of us desire sanctification is because when we sin, we feel like we are hypocrites, we hate ourselves for giving into the flesh, and what we really want is to be free from the overwhelming sense of condemnation.
I mean seriously, we agree with God that our sin deserves condemnation; we know that God is the one who condemns sin; we know that God knows our innermost thoughts, and sees us for the hypocrites we are; therefore we conclude (with our feelings at least) that God cannot like us in this state, and our desire therefore it to become pleasing to God by exiting this state.
Do you see how subtle pursuing God in our flesh has become?
We desire to be pleasing because above all, we are still thinking that it is the things we do that will make us pleasing to God. This is, of course, a very subtle form of the error made by the Galatians. They were seeking to be sanctified, not by faith, but by human effort.
Look and see that you are not, and can never become acceptable to God by your own effort. You are coming to the plow, but looking back all the time. You cannot look back brother, sister. Put your hand on the plow and plow! You are either right with God in Christ, or you are not right with God. You cannot "make" yourself right - if you could Christ died for nothing. Look and see. Chew on that - be convinced. If you are in Christ, you are acceptable to God. Period.
If I continue to trust in myself to please God, it comes at the expense of trusting in Christ. I can never believe God loves me, and therefore never be free to love Him as I ought, so long as I am trying to do the impossible - "get right" with God by being good. The reason we continue on the mouse-wheel of works is because we don't really trust that God loves us without it. When we begin to see that the reason our sanctification is so stunted, beggarly, difficult, and tearful is because we have been pursuing it out of an irrational fear that if we don't do this God -will- reject us, then we may be ready to reexamine how God sanctifies us: which is by grace alone through faith alone.
You see, love is a far easier yoke than fear. Faith brings forth love, but effort only fear.
If you read a mere five chapters each day, you can read the entire Old testament once, and the psalms, proverbs, and the new testament twice.
Or alternately the old testament once, and the new testament three times.
If you read ten chapters a day, you can read the old testament twice, and the psalms, proverbs and the new testament four times.
If you set yourself to read fifteen chapters a day, you can read the OT three times every year, the psalms, proverbs, and NT six times a year.
It takes about half an hour to comprehensibly read five chapters.
If there are 16 waking hours in your day, that is 1/32 of your waking time. If you give God a whole hour, that is 1/16th, and if you were crazy enough to devote one tenth of your waking moments to the study of God's word, in ten years you will have read the New Testament, psalms, and proverbs over sixty times, and the old testament at least thirty times.
How long have you been a Christian? How well are you doing...
The World Famous Word Verification Free Association Game! # 1
Here is how you play it, and I am just making up the rules and the idea off the cuff right now, but if this works, we could make it a regular feature.
RULES: I will choose some notion or whatever, and you must use the verification letters to make a sentence using each letter, in turn, to begin each word in a sentence that has as many words as your verification word has letters. Your sentence should creatively summarize the notion given.
Example: Lets say the topic was "why Scottish men wear quilts." You would click on the "comment(s)" link at the bottom of this post, and after the comment window opened you would note the verification word you are given. Now you use that word to write your sentence telling me about (in this example at least) why Scottish men wear quilts. If your verification word were "ctgfs" I should expect to see something like this:
"[c]ause [t]heir [g]reat [f]or [s]nowmobiling"
Now the only rule is =no cheating= ! if you can't think of anything with the verification word you were given, refresh the page and see if you can do something with a different word. You will be tempted to "fudge" a letter or to to make it work better - DON'T! Just try and put in something.
OKAY the topic for the first ever World Famous Word Verification Free Association Game™ is:
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. - Romans 1:18-19 [ESV]
Pharaoh was pretty much set in his way. I mean, he had a whole Pantheon of God and a bucket load of tradition to boot. Who was this new Jewish God? Sure, He can do a few tricks, but what God can't? Pharaoh had his religious system all figured out, and he was set in it, comfortable with it, and entirely convinced contrary to progressive reality, that it was the "right" system. With each plague came an opportunity to be pried off his false truth, but no matter how glorious and obvious God presented himself to be, Pharaoh was satisfied with his own way of understanding things.
He could do that because God was hardening his heart. God wasn't working against Pharaoh's will in doing so, but in concert with it. To be sure, we are all sinners, and if God worked in concert with our nature - any one of us - we would certainly be on the high road to hardness of heart. Our nature is not to seek God but to sustain self without God. Thus the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was a work that was by no means contrary to Pharaoh's desires, but was giving Pharaoh exactly what he desired - a suppressing of the truth in order that Pharaoh could continue to pursue everything else but God. God was no "big meanie" here - he was only accelerating and affirming what was already there. It is like taking a glass of water mixed with poison and boiling out some of the water. The remaining mixture is more poisonous, not because more poison was added, but because less water remains. If God Had God continued to extend grace to Pharaoh, God could have held him back from sinning as much as he had (such as God did for David in 1 Sam. 25:26 or for Abimelech in Gen. 20:6), but God did not extend this gift to Pharaoh - perhaps this is how God hardens people? Either/or, it matters little, what matters is that we see that Pharaoh suppressed the truth because he favored unrighteousness.
We all have our own doctrinal quirks. Try talking to a Catholic who is sold out for the Catholic version of church history, and all the counsels - he is well satisfied with these authorities, and has no objection to filtering the word of God through them, indeed, he thinks it strange that you would not follow him in his zeal. Try talking to anyone, for that matter, who has convinced themselves that their theological view is correct and impenetrably so. You can see the same hardness of heart that blinded Pharaoh in some Christians, though to a lesser extent. They line up their theological ducks, write a confession, and are unwilling to move once they settle in. That's all dandy if they are 100% correct, but I imagine that amongst the bible studying variety of Christians we are all pretty much in the eighties and nineties. There is a lot of stuff I don't understand, and I am sure there are some things I am totally botching, but I am blinded to it because my pride prefers my own way when it comes to some things. I don't know what they are, or I would deal with them (I hope!).
So when we talk theology with one another, we ought to leave room for the possibility that truth is trying to pry its way past our pride, that is, there is room enough for that form of genuine teachability that comes with true humility. It is easy to act humble, less so to actually be humble. Let us not be as Pharaoh.
Sometimes I have nothing profound to say. Sometimes I just want to put up another post because I am tired of looking at the former one. Sometimes I don't even have the energy to find some nice picture to "sell" a "blah" post.
If this works it will let you play one of the songs I grew up with at Christmas time.
Whenever I hear Heintje sing, I think of my Oma and Opa.
UPDATE: The original snippet with the imbedded audio of the song Oma'tje Lief stopped working. So I put up this youtube video of "Ich bau dir ein schloss". Both grandparents on my father's side emigrated from Holland (Netherlands), and while we saw my mother's parents pretty much every weekend, we only rarely saw my father's parents except at Christmas. Without fail, we Heintje albums would be playing in the background - whether it was a Christmas thing or they always had Heintje playing I still wonder, yet the effect in my life has been that I get very sentimental about Christmas time, and dearly love to hear Heintje sing. The kid (these recordings are from around 1955) had an amazing gift - simply breath-taking. Let me know if you agree.
Normally a fellow from our congregation puts up sermons, but I find the sound quality to be poor. So I tried my had at it with the latest sermon. To be sure, googlepages only lets you upload files of 10 MB or less, so I had to break the sermon into two parts, but here there are.
If you give them a listen, and have listened to anything else I have preached, let me know if the sound quality is an improvement.
If someone were to ask me if I have ever changed my doctrinal opinion in a matter, I would have to say yes. Surely as my understanding of grace deepens, I have come to see just how broad the road that seems right to a man really is, and how narrow the road of grace truly becomes. Five years ago had you questioned me about sanctification, I would have given you an answer that isn't as refined as the one I might give today, and I suspect that in five more years, you would receive a more articulate answer from me that you might receive today. Which is to say that doctrinally speaking, I find that I am refining what I believe, and in that sense my doctrine has "changed" - in that it hasn't stayed stagnant, but has deepened, or perhaps I could say, it has become more established, more firm in my understanding - more real, more experiential.
I almost wish that I could say that I had gone through some serious doctrinal shift, if only to demonstrate my willingness to do so should the need arise. Though I confess, I have never been persuaded by any argument or opinion from what scripture has plainly taught me since the day I began asking God to open the scriptures to me.
So I am not really equipped I guess, to understand how it is that some Christians change their doctrinal position ten times over the course of five years. I mean, the bible hasn't changed any...
This seems a more common or even unique phenomenon amongst those who learn their doctrine primarily from secondary sources, such as lectures, theology texts, and scholarly books and debates. I believe that many and likely most (though certainly not all) who play doctrinal ping pong like this are not careful, noble Bereans, who hear a thing and test it against scripture, though I suspect they paint themselves thus - rather I suspect these come to an academic rather than a spiritual conviction about scripture; that is, they tend to regard the latest, best-est argument as correct until someone more clever comes along and refutes it with a better argument.
Part of the reason for this phenomenon is that in our ivy halls we are expected to exalt the avante garde intellectual for their clever grasp and witty articulation of whatever is the cutting edge position of the day, and students are quickly assimilated into that "feed the beast the chow it desires" mindset. Do you want to be exalted? Do you want your opinion respected? You better be cutting edge baby, you better be up to snuff on what everyone who is anyone has to say on the subject. You better have an answer for those who quote obscure references, because if you haven't read them, that marks you as a second class student, and regulates your opinion to that of an outclassed, backwoods bumpkin - and as such your opinions can be dismissed without ever being heard.
Unless universities have changed since my tenor, I expect that that kind of intellectual bigotry is alive and flourishing now as it was in my day, and that when it filters back into the church, it presents itself as a noble search for doctrinal purity, but in practice enables the sort of doctrinal flip-flopping I am talking about.
So when I see this sort of thing, I am usually looking at someone who spends more time reading the opinions of other men about scripture, than scripture itself - it betrays, I think, an underlying problem - that of being unable to trust one's own opinion unless one can bolster it from someone else's opinion. You will know when you are talking to someone like this because their opinion is always filtered through what this counsel, creed, confession, theologian, professor, or author had to say, and weight proportionate to the fame or character of the source is presumed to punctuate or underscore the certainty of the conviction. If the answer is given from scripture, it is not given from a first person study of it, but rather is distilled from someone else's presentation - "copied" rather than plumbed by one's own understanding.
Now only a fool would ignore the teachers God has given to the church, so to avoid the pendulum effect I say so - God has certainly given teachers to the church, and we do well to sit under their instruction, and to give careful thought to what they have to say - not only those who are alive today, but likewise those whose teachings have come to us having been preserved from centuries past.
I am concerned for Christians who cannot hold an opinion unless someone has made a good argument for that opinion. I mean, it is one thing to cling foolishly to a thing that reason and scripture show to be false, and I am not saying anything about that - I am talking about the believer who cannot believe a doctrine until he hears what his favorite teacher believes about it, and I am talking about the believer who can't make up his mind on which teacher's opinion to take as his own, such that in the space of ten years he flip-flops between teachers, and between their opinions as he adopts them himself.
I say, I am at a loss because I have never approached doctrine in this way. I hear what so and so says, and I compare it with what I have already learned in scripture. I don't just take it and check the proof texts, I instead regard it according to the whole account of scripture - does this teaching harmonize with the whole bible, or just pieces of it? Does it make sense? What theological presumptions (if any) are required to hold such a position? etc. I mean, I hear a thing and in the moment I hear it, I have already compared it against the whole bible and made some conclusion. Not because I am well read about what everyone else thinks of scripture, but because by reading the whole bible again and again, I have come to know know what the whole bible has to say.
There are some clever things out there, and there is some good teaching, and I benefit richly from such things - but my doctrine has only deepened, it hasn't flip floped back and forth over time.
I have concern for those who find it otherwise with themselves. How about you readers? Do you find yourself changing your doctrine significantly every so often?
I was reading a post over at Rose's blog, and made such a long comment there, that I thought I could make a post out of it and thereby look like I was more active in posting that I have been.
Rose has (to my knowledge) maintained that one of the reasons she rejects what we would call the "doctrines of grace" is because she could not see how anyone could tell a sinner that "Jesus died for them" unless she knew for sure that Jesus did in fact die for them. My comment was intended to show that rather than reject the doctrines of grace, she might want to rethink the idea that Jesus died for everyone.
Anyway - here is what I said, more or less. I apologize for the length, but I will add the same caveat I posted in my comment - that being that I would prefer you refrain from commenting unless you have actually read the article in its entirety - that is, don't comment on it if you have only skimmed it.if you intend on commenting - don't comment on the content if you have only skimmed it. This is a post that is meant to be read.
Judging by the lack of comments lately I am probably not in any danger regardless. ;-)
Noah built the ark to God's specification, a specification that included only enough living room for Noah, his wife, and his three sons, their wives, and only as many stalls and stores for as animals God had chosen beforehand to save.
It almost goes without saying, but the salvation of Noah and his family is an antitype, that is, it pictures our salvation -in- Christ.
We all agree here that we are saved by grace through faith (even if we may disagree about where the distinction between dead faith and saving faith lies). No one here I think would argue that we are not born from above (or born again if you prefer) in the moment that we are saved. John the Baptist spoke of the moment of salvation in this way - he said that one was coming (Christ) who would baptize, "en" the Holy Spirit (c.f. Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16). We should note that while the preposition "en" with the dative is showing a stationary relationship that is typically translated "in" or "into" yet in these passages it is often translated as "with" or "by". I think the reason for that is because we tend not to transliterate rather than translate the word for baptize. The word for baptize of course means to put one thing inside another - such as putting a submerging entirely a cucumber into brine or a putting a body entirely into a crypt or grave such that the thing that was baptized was entirely within the thing it was baptized into. These are not random examples, but literary examples of how the word was used in first century Palestine. So John the baptist technically said that while he was putting people into water, one was coming who would put them -into- the Holy Spirit and fire. It makes for a more flowing English translation if we choose to transliterate baptize, and so we read baptize "by" or baptize "with" the Holy Spirit, but if we translate this way, I think something of the original intent is lost. Understanding this give one some insight as they come to texts like Romans 6 where we see the same language: we were put into Christ, and that it is through this -union- that we are set free from sin, since it is through this union that we were with Christ on Calvary, that is, it is through this union that we pass through judgment -in- Christ.
Here is where we see the antitype of the ark portraying the coming Christ. Just as Noah and his family were placed into the Ark by God, and passed through the judgment that was going on outside the ark, so too everyone who was ever saved was placed into Christ so that even as God's judgment fell all around them (that is, on Christ), yet they being in Christ passed through that judgment and were saved.
Now, getting back to my curiosity: given that I regard this antitype as instructional, and correct, I am asking myself what Noah's preaching during that time must have looked like?
We recall that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and with a description like we expect that it is no strained presumption to conclude that during the 100 years or so years of building the ark Noah would have been engaged (at some time at least) in actually calling others to turn to God in faith. Yet Noah was building an ark that had been designed by God to have only enough room for Noah, his family, the animals, and their supplies. God hadn't delivered designs for an ark big enough for everyone in the world at the time - yet Noah preached righteousness to those around him.
Now we come to the source of my curiosity. Why didn't God instruct Noah to build the ark big enough for everyone?
1 John 4:19 teaches us that the -reason- we love God is not because we are naturally affectionate people, or because it seemed wise in our eyes to love God, or because we saw that God was lovable and chose to love him - rather the reason that we love God at all is -because- He first loved us. That is what the Spirit says through John. Yet we must be fair - if we insist that God loves everyone so that all are given an equal chance, we must conclude that everyone loves God since we love God because of this love with which he first loved us. Yet we do not see that. Therefore we must conclude that universal love - the love that God loves the world with - is not the same love that causes us to love God, or everyone in the world would love God. We must conclude, I believe, that the love with which God loves everyone is universally ignored by all, that it is -not- the same love that God pours out into believer's hearts through the Holy Spirit, but is rather a general love that is -not- poured into believer's hearts, but is rather a universal love poured out upon all of us, but not producing a reciprocated love in us.
You see, as a Calvinist, I have no problem with God loving the whole world. But I am careful what I mean when I say that. I know many Calvinists limit the love of God to the elect, and I would limit the love that scripture describes as poured out by God and into the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit - that love I would definitely limit to believers, for it cannot soberly be said that God pours this love into the hearts of non-believers, for surely those who do not love God are anathema (1 Corinthians 16:22). Yet to qualify what I mean when I say I have no problem with God loving every last person in the world, I mean that God loves them one and all - but that this love by no means reciprocates affection, nor does it call anyone to God. It is simply a statement of the character of God - God =is= love, and to imagine God as not loving someone is alien to any right understanding of scripture.
It is because God loved everyone in Noah's days that he gave them 100 or so years to turn to God in faith when Noah was preaching the gospel to them beforehand - that if they would turn from their wickedness and embrace God in faith they would be saved - but not one of them was interested in God. Noah himself, had not God intervened by grace, would have continued rejecting God, and would have perished along with everyone else, but God showed Noah and his family grace, and drew Noah to himself - causing Noah to believe, and then to be sanctified. Not unlike God does today - drawing believers to Christ according to His own counsel and will, and not according to man's counsel or will. No man is saved because they willed themselves to be saved, or ran in the right way but they are saved because God showed them mercy in drawing them to the Son first through a conviction of God's righteousness, and a conviction of their own sin - then by granting them faith to believe God for salvation, just as he did (no doubt) for Noah.
When I share the gospel, I don't tell them that Christ died for them. The bible doesn't say that, why should I? The bible says that Jesus died for sinners - and if they are a sinner, I let them know they qualify, but I don't tell them that Jesus died for them, because that would be like Noah preaching to the antediluvian host that he was building the ark for everyone. Do you see how wrong that is? Noah could well say that He had was building an ark and that God was absolutely going to save every single person upon the earth that turned to God in faith - and Noah would not be lying. Noah could plead with these people in tears and passion and it would not be acting - if any single one of them would turn they would certainly be on that ark - and I don't doubt that Noah did just that. "You see this ark? I am building it because God is going to judge the world, and anyone who isn't in that ark is going to be judged. Turn therefore from your sin and extend faith in God and I promise you God will see that you are put into that ark when His wrath comes!" But it would be quite another thing for Noah to say, "God loves you and has made a place for you on the ark I am building so that you can be saved from his wrath."
The subtlety may be lost, I am not sure, but let me know if this makes sense to you. As a Calvinist I am perfectly free to offer the gospel this way:
"God has decreed that every sin shall be punished by an eternity in hell. If you have ever lied, you can know today for certain what your eternal destiny is - at least according to the bible. You are condemned as a sinner, and you will certainly go to judgment the moment you die, and having commited just one sin, you will certainly be condemned and sentenced to hell where you are going to spend eternity away from God whom you presently want nothing to do with anyway.
Yet even though you are condemned, God hasn't taken your life away and dragged you off to judgment, not because you don't deserve it, you most certainly do, but rather because God is full of grace and loves you, and because he loves you and is full of grace, He is giving you every day from now until the moment you die to change your standing before him from condemned to righteous - that is, because God loves you, you have this day and all that follow it in your life to do something about your present condemnation.
Your sin must be punished. It cannot be canceled out by doing good, nor can it be overlooked. God -must- punish your sin, and He must punish it to the fullest. But thankfully God has provided a way for you to be saved. It isn't by suddenly becoming good, because God says that you can no more become suddenly good than a leopard can change his own spots. You might try and be good, but the bible says that whatever good you produce is not merely insufficient, but because it is motivated by a desire to coerce God into pardoning your sin, it is in fact an unclean thing itself - a rag so filthy that if you tried to wipe yourself clean with it, it would actually only make you -more- dirty. There is no "good" thing that you can do to undo your sin, and God would by no means continue to be a righteous God if he simply overlooked your sin. God must punish it, or He is not a righteous God.
You might ask, if I cannot cancel out my sin, and God cannot overlook it - how then can I be saved?
Well, because God cannot cancel out your sin, you must die. But in order to save you from this death God did a magnificent thing: He sent His own Son to earth, to be born as a human being named Jesus Christ, Who lived His entirely life without sinning specifically for this one purpose: to offer Himself to God for our salvation.
Our sin required our death, so Jesus offered himself to God, but not Himself only - on the cross Christ took into Himself all who would turn away from their sin and turn away from every other way of trying to appease God, and instead trust that God would save as many as would turn to God and put their faith, not in doing good works, but in God to save them - as many as are willing to believe that God will save them from their sin - these were united spiritually with Christ on the cross so that when Christ died, they died. God's justice was satisfied because sin was fully punished on Calvary. But because Christ was innocent, God could not justly allow him to stay dead - so God raised Christ, and because we were inseparably united to Christ, God raised us too, in Christ.
In this way God could justly condemn us and raise us from the dead - but the cost was profound - it cost Christ His life, but it stands as a stark testimony to how far God is willing to go to save you, if you are willing to be saved.
So you have before you the gospel - believe that you are a condemned sinner in need of salvation, and believe that you can by no means save yourself or avoid your damnation - believe that there is no other name under heaven by which you can be saved - for if you are not in the ark when the rain comes down - you will most certainly die. Choose therefore whether or not you will spurn God's love - will you trust Christ to save you from sin and be saved, or will you continue to embrace your sin and die.
You don't get saved by saying the 'right' prayer, or by doing the right stuff - you get saved by Jesus Christ if you turn to Him in faith. So I encourage you, turn to Christ in faith."
That would be a quick gospel presentation. Note that I don't at any time say that Christ died for you - I say Christ died for sinners, and if you see yourself as condemned and in need of salvation, and turn to Christ - He ==will== save you.
I believe that with all my heart. Only those who were in Christ on Calvary will be saved - no others. But I have no idea who these people are. So I dare not lie and say that Christ tooke everyone to the cross with himself, that is, I dare not suggest that Christ died for everyone - rather I would say that what scripture says: that Jesus died for every sinner who places his trust in God to save him from his sin and from God's wrath. It might sound the same, but it doesn't suppose (or require) that Jesus died for everyone - the offer is made to all, and rejected by all so that unless God shows a person mercy, they will by no means believe. But we have no idea whom God will show this mercy to, so when we make the offer we make it earnestly and honestly - God -WILL- save you -IF- you trust in Him. We could even tell the sinner that there is no way that they will be able to change their own spots - they cannot make themselves believe it - they must turn to God and beg him to grant them that belief, and even in this we would do no harm to the gospel. But if we tell people that Jesus died for people who will never get to heaven, I believe we mangle the gospel, and make Jesus into a failure.
This morning in my devotional time with my two eldest we were talking about the difference between pride and humility. My seven year old was having some trouble so I gave this example: I said, if there were only enough food in the house at supper time for one good sized meal, I could come home and eat it all, but the only way I could do that would be if I cared more about myself than everyone else in the house. Pride, I said, shows itself first by this principle: you think your needs are more important than everyone else's needs. I said if I were a humble man, I would not consider my own needs, but would regard the needs of others as more important.
I then explained how we can really miss the boat spiritually speaking if we have only that much information. We may well know that a humble man thinks of others before himself, so that when a situation presents itself we choose to take the "humble" path and go without, but simply doing that is by no means humble, and in fact, it can be just as much a matter of pride as taking all the food. What makes the act humble is the motive behind the act.
The humble man says, I know that God will provide for me even if I have nothing and the rest are fed. My hope is not in myself but in God to provide, and I see this as an opportunity to bring God glory in that He has provided a situation where I can trust him, whether he feeds me or not is not the goal of the trust - but rather to trust that my times are entirely in the Lord's hands and that whether he feeds me or lets me starve, his plan for me is perfect, and I trust in that plan.
A proud man might well give up his portion because that is the right thing to do, and he feels that doing the right thing will give him the biggest benefit, be it personal respect or be it divine benevolence, whatever the case, the proud man is always looking to do what is best for self, which is the difference between himself and the humble man who is not concerned with his own self because he trusts that the way in which God is going to looks after his needs is sufficient, and even preferable to looking after his own needs by himself and for himself.
I struggled with it a little because I wanted to make sure the children understood that humility and pride are not measured by the external action, but rather by whether or not one is trusting in God or in self.
About two months ago I was browsing Amazon.ca looking for prices on a newer version of Flash. Flash, for those of you who have never used the internet before, is the programming tool used to create flash cartoons etc. Normally the price for flash is ridiculous ($350 USD), so I typically never find anything in my price range. But way back in September I found a "first time seller" selling a used version of Macromedia Studio 8 (which includes not only the full version of Flash, but also DreamWeaver 8, and FireWorks 8. Cha-ching!) all for under $250 CAD (Canadian).
I was so happy that I could hardly wait for it to arrive.
But it didn't. A month went by, and I couldn't contact the seller after that - and frankly it started to stink of a rip-off, so I contacted Amazon, and sure enough, it was a rip off. Amazon did an investigation then reimbursed me.
So I was quite wary when I saw the exact same software being sold again at Amazon by a different "first time" seller. The price? Less than $200 CAD. But I threw caution to the wind and tried again.
The sale didn't go through.
Apparently the seller had some problem with their account. Fine.
So I was more than exceptionally wary when another "first time seller" but the same bundle up for less than $250 CAD. Honestly, I was ready to give up, but I thought I would give it another shot.
Well, to make a long story shorter, the sale went through. I immediately emailed the fellow and asked him to email me as soon as it shipped and to let me know by whom it was shipping - having been ripped off once, I wanted to be sure the guy was on the up and up. He replied that he was going to ship it the next day. I emailed him back asking how he was going to ship it, and to let me know when it shipped, and I didn't hear back from him.
This was all starting to sound too familiar, since that is pretty much exactly what happened the first time - but to my great comfort, the package arrived air mail today. Full, retail version for Windows/Mac.
As a programmer I can make good use of this tool. One of the things I have been thinking would be fun for my own kids, or maybe the kids in our church would be to make a flash tract, or bible story cartoon. Likewise, you can use the tool to make some very serious blog stuff.
12I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of ages, immortal,invisible,the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. - 1 Timothy 1:12-17 [ESV]
In Matthew 23 Christ describes the Pharisees as traveling land and sea to make a single convert, and that when a Pharisee finally makes a convert, the convert becomes twice as much a son of hell as the Pharisee who led him to that end ever was.
Paul, as you likely know, was not only the son of a Pharisee (c.f. Acts 23:6), but a Pharisee himself and was so entirely zealous a Pharisee that he personally led a one man persecution-marathon against Christianity. If your garden-variety Pharisee was a considered by Christ to be a son of hell, how much more a son of hell was someone like Paul who persecuted the early church?
We see therefore that Paul's description of himself as the foremost of sinners was not entirely hyperbole. Yet the account of Paul's conversion leaves us staggering under the truth of what Paul is saying here. See the reason Paul gives for his conversion? He says that it was because he was the foremost of sinners that Christ showed mercy on him. Do you see the flow of Paul's thought here? Christ came to save sinners, and if you doubt that you need only look to Paul whose conversion experience demonstrates loudly that salvation is not given to those who merit it by their own righteousness, but rather Paul's own salvation demonstrates that it is given as a gift to sinners, for only a fool would dare to argue that Paul was seeking Christ on the Damascus road... Paul's point is that his own salvation proves the character of Christ - for in saving Paul Christ put His own perfect patience with sinners eternally on display.
Paul wasn't fretting about whether or not he was "chosen" - his Damascus road experience was clear testimony enough, not only to him, but to us as well. Paul was chosen, his relationship with Christ began not as an initiator of his own faith, but rather in response to Christ's initiation. In Paul's experience, as well as in Paul's theology - God initiates faith, not man.
What we see here in this passage is that even though Paul was a sinner, and not merely a sinner, but a sinner who was by design and deep conviction a man entirely opposed to Christ and Christianity, even though Paul was as far from Christ as a man is likely to get in this lifetime - yet in a single moment on the road to Damascus, even this greatest of sinners was not hindered by his sin in coming to Christ, and especially, was by no means helped along the way by his own understanding of righteousness.
Paul knew and taught that we cannot take credit for our justification, that we cannot take credit for the faith that led to our justification, and that we cannot even take credit for the circumstances that gave us the opportunity to extend faith - that is, Paul understood that salvation is -all- of grace. That from beginning to end God decides whom He will show mercy upon, and that this decision by no means depends upon a person's worth or a person's initiating decision - or else Paul could not have been saved, for Paul was certainly not worthy by virtue of his great sin to receive salvation, and Paul was by no means the initiator of his faith, being about as far (at the time) from initiating a relationship with Christ as any man could ever be.
Paul's gospel was by no means Pelagian or SemiPelagian, it was all grace, yet what was orthodox has become repugnant, and what was heresy is now embraced. Men are offended by the idea that God chooses whom He will save by grace through faith. They picture all men as being equally deserving of salvation, when the right picture is that of all men being equally deserving of damnation. From their perspective, God cannot choose whom he will show mercy upon, because he must show mercy to all or he is "unfair". Thus they prune God down into a god who fits their understanding. They embrace an image of God wherein God is trying to save everyone, but can't save anyone unless the person does the right thing by coming to God in faith.
I hope you can see that were that the case, Paul could by no means have come to God in faith, because his own testimony teaches us that Paul was not coming to God in faith, nor in good works - but was in both running as fast as possible away from God IN THE VERY MOMENT that Christ came to him.
Whatever else Paul was, he was absolutely not SemiPelagian or Pelagian and by no means imagined that salvation followed the error of the Arminian scheme, whether in whole or in part.
God created all the powers and principalities that exist - all angels and heavenly hosts were made by God. In general we call all these powers and principalities by the same name, "Angels". Likewise, when one of these angels rebels against God, we call that angel a "Demon". When a man sins against God, he has recourse in Christ unto salvation - that is, man has a redemptive opportunity while he lives upon the earth to turn away from his rebellion, and to embrace the offer of salvation by faith, and thereby be saved from God's wrath and from sin's power. Demons are not given that opportunity.
Demons are very real, but Hollywood especially, and not a few old wives tales and urban legends and what not have really misinformed a great many about the nature of demons etc.. Many today regard demons as either superstition or as something you scare little children with - but not the sort of thing that anyone grown up should ever give any serious thought to.
Yet even amongst bible believing Christians, many are more superstitious than biblical in their understanding of demons, and have given themselves over (in this area at least) to all sorts of teachings that are extra-biblical, especially in the realm of exorcisms.
My own experience with demons has been very humdrum, and I must say, and I prefer it that way. I -have- had to deal with demonic things, and I certainly believe that people can be oppressed by demons, but I haven't seen any really freaky stuff, and I hope it stays that way. I know some abuse the idea of demons such that every running nose is regarded as a demonic encounter. But I know Christians of profound integrity who have in their history encountered demons in ways that are not humdrum, but frightening, tangible, and vivid. We don't see a lot of shrift given to that in the Christian blog-o-sphere, and perhaps that is because we want to maintain some decorum - we don't want to be thought of as superstitious freaks, or have our intellectualism questioned or lampooned. Yet I thought it might be good to talk about it anyway.
One former pastor of mine tells of an experience where a shadow flew around the room he was in as he and some others were counseling an oppressed young lady. The same pastor tells of another instance where a glass table top picked itself up and flew threw the air when the spirit of a Ouija board was asked about Jesus Christ. The same pastor tells of having once been grabbed by the throat and spoken to by something that wasn't there. Now, he has been in the ministry for over sixty years, and much of his ministry for the past thirty years has been itinerant - traveling all over the world. Never the less, if you knew the this fellow, you would not be able to lightly dismiss anything he said, for the man is not inclined to exaggeration, fabrication, or hallucination.
Another fellow I know was counseling at a summer Christian camp where some young girls claimed to have seen a demon in the woods, later that night one of them began shrieking and thrashing about believing that a demon was pulling her flesh off her. The girl, I am told, was so powerfully strong that no one could restrain her.
In my own experience, when I have had to deal with demons, they have been pretty subdued, so I don't have any freaky things to report myself, but what about the rest of you? Have you seen anything first hand that cannot be explained? We all have heard second or third hand things, can anyone share a first hand account?
I remember dealing with a young lady who was into cutting, drinking blood, and much worse sins. Her arms were a mess - literally scars upon scars. I don't think she was ever set free, even after we dealt with her. She couldn't understand her need to surrender all to Christ - she would agree with her mouth, but she had no follow through. She just wanted God to give her the life she thought she deserved, and if counseling might make that happen, she was willing to be counseled. It was tragic to me, but not freaky.
Another time a young lady was attending church and praying in tongues who had never received Christ - she wasn't a Christian yet, but having attended a charismatic church she had been told to pray for the gift of tongues, which she did - and she received something. After she heard the gospel and was saved, she continued to "pray" in tongues, but we tested the spirit (as scripture instructs), and when we did, she found she was unable to speak in tongues - in her own words, in our presence, it was as if her throat were closing up. After that meeting she wanted nothing more to do with our church. Sad that...
Anyway, as I say, I don't have any freaky stories, but I do have stories. Yet some of you may have some first hand accounts. Share them. Yet in saying that I caution, the point is not to bring glory to ourselves or to demons, but rather to say demons are real, and to demonstrate the damage they can do, and hopefully to hear of some deliverance.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." - Matthew 5:6 [ESV]
There are, I suppose, many ways to interpret the Beatitudes; how we have interpreted these can say a great deal about what we think of God, and how we think Christianity works.
For example, some read this and they interpret it in this way: God will bless anyone who hungers and thirsts after righteousness by satisfying their hunger and thirst for righteousness.
In this scheme God sort of obligates Himself to bestow a specific blessing upon the believer who has the good sense to hunger and thirst after righteousness; it is a transaction model - we purchase the blessing from God by meriting it through our hunger. Man initiates, God responds.
Those who take this approach to the passage see their relationship with God in that light - they are the ones driving the relationship by doing such things as hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and God is always responding to their efforts by blessing them when they do good and by not blessing them when they fail to do good.
The individual's understanding of his or her relationship with God therefore is that it depends entirely upon his or her ability to maintain it. Whenever the individual fails to pursue God, the relationship suffers, and the individual is to blame, and whenever the individual is actively pursuing God the relationship grows, and the individual gets credit for that as well.
The individual who embraces that sort of interpretation typically equates spiritual immaturity with personal laziness. The reason some Christians don't grow is because they haven't picked themselves up by their boot straps like we have, and the only way to make them do that is to coerce them into action either by brow beating them, by terrifying them, or by romancing them, but spiritual growth is something they have to initiate, and all manner of encouragement is given to get that ball rolling.
Another way of understanding the passage would be to say that the blessing is not earned by performing the action, but rather that it is the blessing itself that produces the result described. That is, when you see a person who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, you are looking at something that the person did not produce, but rather that God produced in the person - you are seeing the visible evidence of God's blessing. The person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness does so because that hunger and thirst -is- in and of itself something that God has blessed the person with - and that they are blessed indeed, for God will satisfy that same hunger and thirst in the future.
In this model, because the individual understands that it is God who is producing the hunger and the thirst within himself or herself, the individual will by no means take credit for what God has produced in them, but can only glorify God in laying that crown at his feet, and thanking Him for his grace towards them. This one will have grace for those who lack the same hunger and thirst, because he knows from where these things come, but will instead turn to Him who provides and ask the blessing for others.
It is remarkable to me that two Christians can share an identical hunger and thirst for righteousness, but understand the same so entirely differently. The one imagines that because he himself generated it he himself must maintain it, and anyone who doesn't follow his example in hungering and thirsting for righteousness is therefore at best insincere, and at worse a charlatan. The other understands that God is the one who has blessed him with this hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and so it is pointless to insist that men generate it themselves, but instead turns the eyes of all towards the God who has so graciously done this work in them. This one isn't trying to produce in someone else a similar trait, but is merely directing the praise and glory back to God. He may well pray and ask God to magnify his glory by blessing someone else in a similar way, but the driving motivation is not for God to "make men righteous" - but for God to magnify his glory in making men hunger for what is right.