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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos 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.
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The Buzz

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

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

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
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Friday, January 14, 2011
The word of grace
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. - Acts 20:32 [ESV]

Paul was about to depart from Ephesus, on his way to Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit had informed him he would be incarcerated. He knew this was going to happen, but if he was daunted by it at all, it is clear that his willingness to obey God in the matter overcame this concern.

The verse reveals not only the heart of the Apostle in his concern for those at Ephesus, but also his understanding that the gospel was, at its very core, the message (word) of God's grace, which was able, not only to justify those who were presently lost, but also to sanctify those who were presently justified.

To be so certain that God has done something for you that you not only did not merit, but could never "deserve" is to trust in the grace of God. Unless a person is able to trust that God will show them grace, they do not have a faith that can save them. If they are lost and cannot trust that God will be gracious, they will remain lost, and again if they have trusted in God's grace to justify them, and there found their trust arrested, so that they will not trust God to sanctify them, then they will not be sanctified.

I want you to understand the relationship between sanctification and trusting in the grace of God. The person who has trusted in God's grace for justification is certainly able to trust in God's grace for sanctification - but the flesh doesn't want to. The flesh -did- want to trust in God's grace for justification, because it wanted to avoid wrath, but the flesh has no interest in sanctification, and so the the work of sanctification is harder for the one who has learned to love his flesh.

Briefly, there are some who are not saved but think they are because they have assented to the orthodoxy of some profession - that is, they assent to the fact that the gospel is real, and rest their hope in the fact that they have "rested their hope" in the "right" gospel. They are not trusting God to save them so much as they are trusting their faith to save them. It's subtle, but their hope isn't in God, it is really in themselves - they trust that they have believed the appropriate belief, and having checked that off the salvation list, God is required to save them. If you ask them they will give you the orthodox expression of faith, but for all that, they still are not trusting in God personally, rather they are trusting that what they have done will require God to do something, and their trust, at the core, is in themselves for choosing the right way to make God do something.

These who are not saved, but imagine themselves to be saved, will likewise fail to pursue sanctification by trusting in God - they may not pursue sanctification at all, but it is likely that they will, and this because it is something that others expect of them, and again, their religion expects of them. In order to convince themselves that their faith is real, they must do what faithful people do - even if pursuing sanctification is utterly alien to their unregenerate condition. That is what being deceived looks like - you try to do everything a legitimate believer does, not because you trust God, but because that is what you are convinced "proves" you are a Christian.

So when I speak of the justified believer who accepts sonship by having rested his trust in the certainty that God has indeed extended grace to him, but thereafter halts or stutters in the walk of sanctification because the flesh has no desire it, I want to be clear that both genuine believers, and false believers will have the same struggle. The genuine believer still has the same sinful desires as the false believer - and those desires are more than sufficient to overcome all his affections for God. The difference between the true believer and the false believer is that the true believer will have an uncompromised and unquenchable desire to become holy in order that he or she may be more pleasing to God, while the false believer will desire only that God would accept him as he is, and resent (deep down) the call to holiness - pursuing it begrudgingly, and self-servingly - as one might willingly embark on a healthy diet and course of exercise in order to avoid health problems, and not out of a love for healthy eating and exercise.

I make the distinction between the false and genuine believer on this point because the encouragement I intend to offer will be of little benefit to anyone but a genuine believer, and again will be entirely different than the advice I would give someone who is a false convert and deceived into believing his faith is the genuine article.

I encourage you, if you are trusting your orthodox expression of faith to justify you before God, to reconsider. The Pharisees mistook the correctness of what they believed and did as meritorious, and you are making the same mistake. God isn't obliged to passover you in judgment because you have acknowledged that the gospel is in fact true, nor is God obliged to spare you His wrath simply because you have believed the truth and thereafter began worshipping God and trying to be a better person. Unless you repent of your rebellion against God you will not be reconciled to God through Christ, and you will not repent of your rebellion against God until you trust God personally. Don't put your trust in the things you do or believe, but your trust in God - trust that He will extend grace to you when you repent of your rebellion against Him, and you will be baptized into Christ even as God has promised. This is the new covenant, and you cannot enter into it sideways.

I encourage you, genuine believer, who are halting at your sanctification - to remember the gospel by which you entered into God's grace. It was not anything you did that brought you here, but that work in your heart whereby you surrendered your whole self, not only in the here and now, but all your being and all you would ever be, to Christ. In this humility you entered through the gate, and now, and it is in this same humility you must walk. The desires of your flesh kept you away from God, and almost damned you eternally - these can produce only death, if not in you, it will fortify it in others - do not lay down in peace with these desires, but rise up and make war. Yet do not war as a fool wars, but pick up the weapons that are effective for the fight - they are spiritual weapons - humility (willing obedience) is the greatest - but it finds its strength in Gods grace. That is, all the surrender in the world counts for nothing if I don't believe God is going to be gracious. I must trust in God's grace as I surrender.

I know that your flesh has no desire for surrender, and that is why you are halted - because although you are a believer, yet you are living as though you were not. You are living in the flesh, and being in the flesh, you refuse to surrender your will to God, and this you do because you don't believe God is going to do anything if you "do" obey. That is where you are making a critical error. God commands you to walk in the Spirit - to be filled (as a sail is filled with wind) by the Spirit, which means only that you are to be surrendered to the will of the God who is with you in the person of the Holy Spirit, who informs your conscience through the scriptures, and convicts you so that you know the path of righteousness. The reason you don't surrender to the Holy Spirit is not because you don't know how, it is because you don't believe that doing so is going to "work". The problem, as our Lord said, is that you have little faith. Not that your faith is small, for even the smallest faith can move mountains - but rather that you have little practice in exercising faith.

Become, therefore, experts in faith - and faith is just the resting in the certainty that the promises God has made will be applied to you as an act of grace on God's part. Christ walked in the promises of God, showing what faith looks like. We are supposed to do the same. My encouragement then is that, if you are rejecting sanctification for yourself, ultimately because you don't want to trust in God's grace, though you have known the saving power of it - that you get judgment-day honest with yourself and stop abusing God's grace. You are being like an insolent child who knows the will of his father, but resists him because you want to have your own way. What father does not chastise such a one? Every good father does, and my encouragement to you then is to avoid this, for if you are a genuine child of God, and you continue to resist that sanctification that He is working in you - you will be chastised, and I know that you know this, which makes your rebellion even more sour.

Not that I would encourage you with threats of chastisement only, let me also remind you of that joy of your salvation - the day that you surrendered your life to Christ, and basked in the sweetness of fellowship - would that this precious moment of unity, certainty and joy could wash over you again. It can. In fact it can be your every day experience. Christ came to give life, and that more abundantly. Why settle for less? Repent - that was Christ's final message (in scripture) for the church, and if ever it was relevant, it is relevant today. Repent, trust in the word of grace which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:16 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The apathetic Christian
I wish this weren't so, but I believe it is. I believe that the average person who professes faith in Jesus Christ does not make it his or her daily practice to walk in the Spirit.

Do you understand what that means? It means that I believe the average Christian is apathetic when it comes to living the Christian life.

Somewhere along the way the ability to articulate an orthodox expression of evangelical faith became trump, and it didn't really matter all that much if you were actually walking in that faith.

I can't imagine painting this picture with a bigger brush, and by that I mean I understand that I am making a statement so broad that there will likely be a great many exceptions to what I have said, nevertheless I believe it is true.

Yet why is that? Why do I think that the grand slice of Christianity is Christian in theology only, and not in actual practice? I think that way because I don't see a great deal of surrender in the church; perhaps I am blind or have a jaundiced eye - I allow the possibility that it is not the church that is suffering, but rather my discernment. I would prefer that this was the case, but if I am deceived, then I am wholeheartedly deceived, because I believe this thing will all my being. I do not see sacrificial living, rather I see a sort of Christianized paganism, and let me be the first to say, I am not guiltless in the charge I bring.

Whenever I have heard this person or that person say, "this is my 'life verse'", I have always wondered what that meant. I supposed that it meant that this particular verse was definitive to them in some way - that is, it defined for them some principle that they had settled on as the primary principle by which they lived. If that is the case, I think Paul said it best when He said, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain", I think if I were going to choose one single teaching from the scriptures to set up as the primary "goal" or though - Paul's thought there would be a good one.

But really, I could find dozens of texts that would be just as suited to that purpose, in fact I would be hard pressed to actually choose just one verse - though I think I might be able, if pressed, to select a single theme; knowing Christ for instance. Yet I would not find it difficult to find a single verse to describe the way Christians are supposed to be living their day to day lives. For that I would choose, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16 [ESV]).

But I don't see surrender in the church, more often than not, I see religion. I see people who profess a faith that they are unwilling to surrender their lives and live. They have grabbed hold of a better afterlife, but haven't let go of this one in their heart.

Worse still, if they are genuine... they know they are doing this.

I encourage you, therefore, believer who is apathetic, to repent while you are still able.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:41 AM   1 comment(s)
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Prayer versus scripture reading
"Read your bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow"

In our assembly, we call spending time each morning in prayer and study of God's word our "morning devotions". Typically, and I am sure this is common amongst most bible preaching assemblies, we call our members to practice a daily regiment of bible study and prayer, and we regard the keeping of this regiment as a good indicator as to where a person is at spiritually speaking - and it is a pretty reliable indicator. The Christian who is walking in (or by) the Spirit will spend time pondering God's word, and talking to God, and the Christian who is walking in (or by) the flesh will avoid the same.

But as is often the case, every act of legitimate devotion can be twisted into a form of "legal" bondage. When the study of God's word becomes something we must endure for the sake of appearances, or prayer becomes a begrudging, and guilt ridden task we must continue for the sake of checking our list off in the morning - we are no longer worshipping God and/or walking in the Spirit, but are like the Israelites who offered up sick and/or lame sacrifices to God, that is, we are like those who offer to God the things we ourselves have rejected.

A "good" bible-studying, daily praying believer doesn't go from a state of spiritual health, to one of spiritual calamity over night, usually it takes weeks, months, or even years. Like the man who has a great estate but begins one day to sell of the edges, a little here, a little there, so that his descent into poverty happens slowly, even peacefully. One day he wakes up, like the prodigal son, realizing he is in mire with the swine, starving and longing for what used to be.

I want to write briefly today about one aspect of this decline: pitting prayer against bibles study.

If you find that you spend a lot of time in prayer, but hardly any time at all in the study of scripture, it is likely that you are avoiding scripture. Like the man who says "yes" while shaking his head to indicate "no", you are on the one hand pursuing God in prayer, and on the other rejecting Him in the study of scripture.

The same is true of the one who spends a lot of time in the study of scripture and little time in prayer.

Of the two, I would guess that the latter is more common -- and that probably because I am personally more inclined to err according to that scheme being a teacher in the church. It would be difficult to prepare for a Sunday lesson on scripture without actually studying the scripture - at least for me. I know that for some preachers (given what passes for a sermon in some corners) this isn't a problem - they can write a sermon that more or less ignores or even contradicts the word of God - searching the scriptures in preparing their sermons the way another would use a phone book.

My point is not to argue which sort of spiritual decline is better. Rather it is to draw attention to the symptoms of spiritual decline that those who find themselves shaving off the edges of their spiritual life can recognize what they are doing, though I know that anyone who is in decline knows they are in decline. Sometimes however, having someone else point it out, makes a big difference.

The point is if you are short-changing your time in the word, or your time in prayer, you are doing so -because- there is something in your life that you refuse to set aside, even though you know that doing so is the will of God. You have begun to make "peace" with this enemy and in order to do so, you have had to compromise your surrender to God. Like an ember who picks itself up from the fire, and sets itself amongst the stones somewhere, you are growing colder, and the cold slumber of this separation is slowly, but inevitably overtaking you.

No grape withers while it is connected to the vine. In order for a grape to wither, it has to have its connection to the vine severed. So also with the believer who is withering, the problem is that he has turned away from Christ to pursue other things - or should I say it this way, to "set his heart" on other things. I think of that brutish husband who, having gained a beautiful and charming wife immediately loses interest in her, for once he had acquired her, he had succeeded in what he had originally set out to do, and had no intention of fostering any greater relationship, instead she became just one of the things in his life that he "did" - a marriage that was all about himself.

So it is with the believer who has begun to finds himself no longer spending time in prayer or in the reading of God's word. This one is withering on the vine, having set his heart on something else now that he "has" God, and this one is in more danger than he understands. Like a seed that has fallen into fallow, thorny soil, the things he chooses to pursue in this life are choking out his pursuit of God, if this one continues along the trajectory he is one, he will eventually set God aside altogether, and show himself to have been a false convert.

You see, it isn't that he didn't assent to the truth of the gospel, it is that he didn't allow this truth to save him from his sin, but instead pursued the things in the world. This is what a superficial faith looks like - it begins with a flourish that can last months or years, then declines into that same nothingness from which it sprang up.

When I spell it out like that, my inclination is to soften it a bit. I want to remind the reader that this is only the case for those who are unregenerate and believe themselves to be regenerate - and that the genuine believer, no matter how he stumbles, will not ultimately fall and remain down. But while this is true, no one who considers himself a believer imagines that he is a counterfeit one - that is, he knows "what" (as opposed to "who") he believes, and is convinced that having believed the correct information, and pursued God with genuine vigour and zeal, he is the "real deal" and as such his decline is not something he should be all that concerned about, since he "can't lose his salvation". It is true that no genuine believer will lose that salvation which Christ has already secured for them - but not everyone who imagines themselves to be genuine is, in fact genuine.

So if you find yourself withering in your faith, know that you have set God aside in order to pursue something in this world, and that unless you repent, you will surely perish, regardless of how accurate your statement of faith may be. Consider this a call to repentance, directed at those who imagine themselves to be secure. While those who belong to Christ are definitely secure in Christ, not everyone who imagines themselves to be in Christ is actually in Christ. Examine yourself therefore, if this applies to you, with the sober gravity of one who stands on fatal precipice, and ask yourself the hard questions - if I refuse to repent today, why am I trusting God to save me tomorrow?

John wrote the following in 1 John 3:4-10, read it and let the truth of it work in you:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.. - [ESV]

I battle with the desire to comfort and the desire to proclaim the truth from the rooftops. To comfort those genuine believers who are struggling to walk worthy of their call, and to shake into life those who have never fully repented and being deceived they are trusting in their knowledge of the truth coupled to their religious fervour which they regard as evidence of the genuineness of their faith.

If you are living in the surety that we find in 2 Peter 1, that is, if you have added to your faith all the things that naturally flow out of a genuine faith (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love), that is well and good. If you are living in the surety of some profession you made, and see no evidence of that profession today, then both tremble and also take heart, tremble because of what that says about the integrity of your faith, but take heart that you are not without hope - repent, if you are able, and be reconciled to God on His terms and not on yours, and you will grow, grow, grow.

Whether your faith has always been genuine, or whether you have been deceived doesn't really matter much today, all that matter is that you choose today to serve the living God through Christ. Turn away from every created thing, and towards the one who is the Creator - as if fitting for every one of His creatures - and you will find the only peace that matters. Do you want to be hungry for prayer and the study of God's word? I will say it another way: Do you want to be hungry for God Himself? Then turn and face Him instead of giving your affection to the world. It is that simple.

It doesn't matter how bad you were yesterday, or this morning, or even where you at right now, however dark a place you might be in. God is light, and even the blackest night is dispelled when the day comes - so it is for every sinner who is in love with their sin - turn from it today, embrace the Lord, and go from there. Don't worry about yesterday, worry about right now, for this is the only moment you can do anything in.
posted by Daniel @ 5:55 AM   0 comment(s)
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