Saturday, May 22, 2010

And yet, that void consumes me

The past few months have been challenging. There have been a multitude of various trials and I have to admit, I have not always been joyful in spite of them. I feel more like I am in a void, pleading as David, "Hear my cry LORD. Be gracious to me and answer. How long will You hide Your face from me?" And yet, like David, I know that I would rather have a day in His courts and stand at the threshold of His house, than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

I see things crumbling all around me: Marriages, families, churches, individuals, my country. I find myself overwhelmed trying to fix everything... no power... no ability... eyes on self.

I know what the Bible says. I may even know the right thing to say and how to Biblically encourage others. I know the truth. I know the only hope.

And yet, that void consumes me. I want to hide...


I will remember:
"My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders: ...I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known
Your strength among the peoples.

You have by Your power redeemed Your people...
Read: When God Leaves No Footprints in the Sand

and: Miracles: A Reflection

Eyes off self
Eyes on Christ

...My only hope

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tears of Repentance

ETERNAL FATHER, Thou art good beyond all thought, But I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind; My lips are ready to confess, but my heart is slow to feel, and my ways reluctant to amend. I bring my soul to thee; Break it, wound it, bend it, mould it. Unmask to me sin’s deformity, that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it.

My faculties have been a weapon of revolt against thee; as a rebel I have misused my strength, and served the foul adversary of thy kingdom. Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly, grant me to know that the way of transgressors is hard, the evil paths are wretched paths, that to depart from thee is to lose all good.

I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law, the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns, the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls, yet I daily violate and condemn its precepts. Thy loving Spirit strives within me, brings me Scripture warnings, speaks in startling Providences, allure by secret whispers yet i choose devices and desires to my own hurt, impiously recent, grieve, and provoke him to abandon me.

All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them cry pardon. Work in me more profound and abiding repentance; Give me the fullness of a godly grief that trembles and fears, yet ever trusts and loves, which is ever powerful, and ever confident; Grant that through the tears of repentance I may see more clearly the brightness and glories of the saving cross.

—The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 70.

The Gospel shows us how unsparingly God deals with sin

—From A. W. Pink, Studies on Saving Faith

It is generally recognized that spirituality is at a low ebb in Christendom and not a few perceive that sound doctrine is rapidly on the wane, yet many of the Lord’s people take comfort from supposing that the Gospel is still being widely preached and that large numbers are being saved thereby.

Alas, their optimistic supposition is ill-founded and sandy grounded. If the “message” now being delivered in Mission Halls be examined, if the “tracts” which are scattered among the unchurched masses be scrutinized, if the “open-air” speakers be carefully listened to, if the “sermons” or “addresses” of a “Soul-winning campaign” be analyzed; in short, if modern “Evangelism” be weighed in the balances of Holy Writ, it will be found wanting

lacking that which is vital to a genuine conversion,

lacking what is essential if sinners are to be shown their need of a Saviour,

lacking that which will produce the transfigured lives of new creatures in Christ Jesus.

It is in no captious spirit that we write, seeking to make men offenders for a word. It is not that we are looking for perfection, and complain because we cannot find it; nor that we criticize others because they are not doing things as we think they should be done. No; no, it is a matter far more serious than that.

The “evangelism” of the day is not only superficial to the last degree, but it is radically defective. It is utterly lacking a foundation on which to base an appeal for sinners to come to Christ.

There is not only a lamentable lack of proportion (the mercy of God being made far more prominent than His holiness, His love than His wrath), but there is a fatal omission of that which God has given for the purpose of imparting a knowledge of sin.

There is not only a reprehensible introducing of “bright singing,” humorous witticisms and entertaining anecdotes, but there is a studied omission of the dark background upon which alone the Gospel can effectually shine forth.

But serious indeed as is the above indictment, it is only half of it—the negative side, that which is lacking. Worse still is that which is being retailed by the cheap-jack evangelists of the day.

The positive content of their message is nothing but a throwing of dust in the eyes of the sinner. His soul is put to sleep by the Devil’s opiate, ministered in a most unsuspecting form.

Those who really receive the “message” which is now being given out from most of the “orthodox” pulpits and platforms today, are being fatally deceived. It is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but unless God sovereignly intervenes by a miracle of grace, all who follow it will surely find that the ends thereof are the ways of death.

Tens of thousands who confidently imagine they are bound for Heaven, will get a terrible disillusionment when they awake in Hell.

What is the Gospel?

Is it a message of glad tidings from Heaven to make God-defying rebels at ease in their wickedness? Is it given for the purpose of assuring the pleasure-crazy young people that, providing they only “believe” there is nothing for them to fear in the future?

One would certainly think so from the way in which the Gospel is presented—or rather perverted—by most of the “evangelists,” and the more so when we look at the lives of their “converts.” Surely those with any degree of spiritual discernment must perceive that to assure such that God loves them and His Son died for them, and that a full pardon for all their sins (past, present, and future) can be obtained by simply “accepting Christ as their personal Saviour,” is but a casting of pearls before swine.

The Gospel is not a thing apart.

It is not something independent of the prior revelation of God’s Law. It is not an announcement that God has relaxed His justice or lowered the standard of His holiness. So far from that, when Scripturally expounded the Gospel presents the clearest demonstration and the climacteric proof of the inexorableness of God’s justice and of His infinite abhorrence of sin.

But for Scripturally expounding the Gospel, beardless youths and business men who devote their spare time to “evangelistic effort” are quite unqualified. Alas that the pride of the flesh suffers so many incompetent ones to rush in where those much wiser fear to tread.

It is this multiplying of novices that is largely responsible for the woeful situation now confronting us, and because the “churches” and “assemblies” are so largely filled with their “converts,” explains why they are so unspiritual and worldly.

No, my reader, the Gospel is very, very far from making light of sin.

The Gospel shows us how unsparingly God deals with sin.

It reveals to us the terrible sword of His justice smiting His beloved Son in order that atonement might be made for the transgressions of His people.

So far from the Gospel setting aside the Law, it exhibits the Saviour enduring the curse of it. Calvary supplied the most solemn and awe-inspiring display of God’s hatred of sin that time or eternity will ever furnish.

And do you imagine that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to worldlings and telling them that they “may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their personal Saviour” while they are wedded to their idols and their hearts still in love with sin? If I do so, I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do you want to know God's Will?

In I Thessalonians 5, it says these things are "God's will for [true saving faith believers] in Christ Jesus"... so if you ever can't figure out God's will, start with what God says His will is for you in His Word. In context, this is primarily God's will for the body of Christ within their local assembly:
1. Be alert and sober (Prepare your minds for action!)

2. Fully armed and ready ("breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation."... In other words, STAND FIRM!)

3. encourage one another/ build one another up (Edify!)

4. appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction (Let them do their work with joy and not grief. Part of Appreciating them is not just expressing it verbally, but YOU, as a part of your church body, fulfilling God's will in these things we see here in I Thessalonians 5)

5. esteem them very highly in love because of their work (They are worthy of double honor)

6. Live in peace with one another (Be salty salt!)

7. admonish the unruly (busy-bodies, gossips, troublesome meddlers, unjust accusers, those that spread dissension and create contentious factions)

8. encourage the fainthearted (the anxious and fearful)

9. help the weak (yes, we are to help the orphans, widows, the oppressed, the needy, the feeble and the sick, but this Scripture actually specifically includes also "the weak in faith" according to Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8)

10. be patient with everyone (not just the one's that are easy to be patient with. See James 5:20 and Proverbs 10:12 and remember "love is patient")

11. See that no one repays another with evil for evil (I Peter 3:9)

12. ALWAYS seek after that which is good for one another and for all people (that which is good according to God, not man)

13. Rejoice always (no matter the trial, affliction, hardship... how? Because of that SURE HOPE IN CHRIST)

14. pray without ceasing (Ephesians 6:18)

15. in everything give thanks (even the trials, afflictions, hardships... they can be great reminders of that sure hope in Christ)

16. Do not quench the Spirit

17. do not despise prophetic utterances, But examine everything carefully (Be a Berean)

18. hold fast to that which is good (according to God and not man)

19. abstain from every form of evil (including that which gives the appearance of evil)
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass."-I Thess 5:23-24

Think about this... were you assuming that most of the above was the responsibility of just your Pastor, Elders and Deacons? According to God's Word, these things are the responsibility of the church body. They are "God's will for you in Christ Jesus"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two-step God-Centered "Repentance Program"

I have been prayerfully preparing to teach the Ladies of Legacy in Ephesians 2:1-7. This portion of Scripture sums up beautifully the doctrine of the Total Depravity of Man as well as the Doctrine of Grace. It has been INCREDIBLE to study these foundational doctrines to prepare to teach them.

I was supposed to teach this material tomorrow (April 13th), but we have prayerfully pushed back our scheduled teaching time in Ephesians this week to spend time in fervent, focused prayer as well as discuss this past Sunday's sermon that answered the question, "What is the nature of the church?" We will resume our regular teaching in Ephesians next time we meet (which is the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month). You can find our church's new sermon series here: What is the Church? That link will lead you to my church website with the mp3's of my pastor, Chris Taylor. Trust me, it is EXCELLENT!

To prepare for when we go over the material in Ephesians 2:1-7 (April 27th), I want you to think of practical applications of these great doctrines and then answer the questions within this post to prepare for our next meeting. Why? Because instead of me "teaching" I will lead you all into a round-table discussion on these practical applications and yes, Ladies of Legacy, we will be taping the whole thing and making it available as an mp3 on our church website with the rest of our series HERE. (no pressure)

I will give you one example of how to apply these doctrines in your marriage. I was inspired to write this 2-step program from Adrian Warnock's post HERE.

1. Step one: Know and understand the Doctrine of the Total Depravity of Man. If you do:

a. You will be rightly reminded that your spouse is married to a sinner

b. You will more fully understand that because you are a sinner, it is tough to be married to you

2. Step Two: Know and understand the Doctrine of Grace… which is to remember what it means to be saved by grace alone. If you do:

a. You will not burden your spouse with expectations he will never meet

b. It will remind you that your spouse’s performance is not the basis of your acceptance of him, any more than your performance is the basis of God’s acceptance of you.

These 2 God-centered steps are not only easier to keep up with then 12 man-centered ones, but when you do sin, they are far more likely to lead you to:The sorrow that is according to the will of God [that] produces a repentance without regret …” (2 Cor 7) and help you comprehend that your “adequacy is from God.” (2 Cor 3)

As our Elder, Jeremy, would say, “ God, His Word, and the Spirit of Christ are sufficient to save, and therefore are sufficient to sanctify. The introduction of external, pragmatic human enterprises deployed in an attempt to “supplement” the divine work of salvation or sanctification only serves as a hindrance, and subsequently robs the sinner of the very means by which God has ordained to deliver him…….namely, repentance. [Man-centered] “recovery programs “… distance [believers] from God’s omnisciently-architected “repentance program”. … the more we foolishly rely upon and glory in our “programs”, the greater we distance ourselves from that [God-centered, fully sufficient provision of grace].”

Warning: Applying the two steps above will likely result in the following when you do fall into sin:

(1) You will fall to your knees, possibly to your face, & repent

(2) You will pray for wisdom, forgiveness, and strength

(3) You will search the Scriptures

(4) You will humbly seek the Spirit-led counsel and accountability of godly elders and believer - within your own assembly - who are willing to “…bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ” (Gal 6)

(5) In this process of your sanctification, you will grow in His grace and knowledge and be utterly humbled by it

Now, I want to encourage you to prayerfully answer the following questions to prepare for our round-table discussion:

  • What does it mean we were dead in our trespasses and sins?
  • What does it mean that we were made alive?
  • How can I apply the 2 step "repentance program" to parenting?
  • friendships?
  • a member of my church?
  • ...if I am anxious or depressed?
  • unbelievers?
  • struggling believers?
  • people that annoy me?

As you prepare, I want to remind you that sin is sin before God. Knowing the Doctrine of the Total Depravity of Man should cause us to value human relationships and not have such a low view of humans that we forget that we are all made in the image of God. People are worth our time. Having such a high view of man that we fail to recognize that God alone deserves to be on a pedestal is another danger. Let's prayerfully keep the pendulum in balance.

Jesus is a friend of who? Sinners. Jesus said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The way we share the Gospel with a prostitute or an ex-con would foundationally be the same as a college graduate or successful business man. The way we minister to them will probably look different, as long as we are, as Jesus, not respecters of persons in the sense that we treat a rich man better than a poor man, etc.

Trust me, the prostitute could be genuinely repentant and the prideful, successful business man, though impressive on the outside, could be still utterly corrupt and unrepentant. In God's eyes, their sin is the same and yet He looks down on the one who is repentant with compassion and the one who is glorying in himself with perfect, and just wrath. One as redeemed, the other as His enemy.

Remember, apart from God we are all wicked and corrupt worms. Doesn't matter how pretty you look on the outside, how successful you are in this world- Not in the eyes of God... where it counts eternally.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Total Depravity of Man and New Birth

This is a re-do of a sketch I found on Sound Clear. (I re-did it in Microsoft Publisher) You will see a slight difference in wording inspired by one of the Elders at my church. If anyone knows the originator of this chart, I would like to give them credit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Hope of His Calling

by Arthur W. Pink

"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling."

Ephesians 1:18

In former times (before the Reformation) we worshipped God after a false manner: we had purgatory, indulgences, the idolatrous mass, the Scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, invocation of saints and angels, image-worship. O what cause have we to bless God for delivering us from popery!

If it be a great blessing to be delivered from Egypt, popish idolatry; then it shows their sin and folly, who, being brought out of Egypt, are willing to return into Egypt again; having put off the yoke of Rome, would fain put it on again. The apostle says, "Flee from idolatry." But these rather flee to idolatry; herein they are like the people of Israel, who, notwithstanding all the idolatry and tyranny of Egypt, yet longed to go back to Egypt; "Let us make a captain and let us return into Egypt" (Num. 14:4). But how shall they go back into Egypt? How shall they have food in the wilderness? Will God rain down manna any more upon such rebels? How will they get over the sea? Will God divide the water again by miracle for such as leave His service, and go into idolatrous Egypt? Yet they say, Let us make a captain, —And are there not such spirits amongst us, who say, "Let us make a captain, and go back to the Romish Egypt again?" And if we do, what shall we get by it? I am afraid the leeks and onions of Egypt will make us sick. Do we ever think, if we drink in the cup of fornication, we shall drink in the cup of salvation? O that any should so forfeit their reason, as to enslave themselves to the see of Rome! That they should be willing to hold a candle to a mass-priest, and bow down to a strange god. Let us not say we will make a captain; but rather say as Ephraim, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Pray that the true Protestant religion may still flourish among us, that the sun of the gospel may still shine in our horizon.