Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Conversion is...

"However this relationship [with God, through Christ] is initiated -- quietly or dramatically, over a long or over a short period of time -- it inaugurates a life devoted to serving God.

"Conversion is not an isolated event but is related to the entire life of faith that follows from it. It is the moment of birth into a new life. It is like a doorway into a room. A person is born to live, not to linger on the edge of the womb in a time limbo. A person opens a door not for the pleasure of standing forever on the threshold but to enter the room. The evangelical worlds has strangely perverted this truth.

"Evangelicals often make the test of spiritual life one's willingness to testify about the moment of birth. Describing one's sensations in passing through the doorway is considered proof that one is in the room! This shifts the focus from where it ought to be -- the evidence of the Spirit's renewing work in producing a God-centered life, a God-fearing heart, and God-honoring character and witness -- and places it on a person's autobiographical account of the conversion crisis.

"The only real proof of conversion is an obedient and fruitful life."

-- David Wells, "Turning to God" (cp. Matt. 7:21-23; 28:18-19; John 8:31; 14:15; Acts 20:21; 26:20; Rom. 6:4,17ff.; Eph. 4:17-24; 5:5-6; 1 Thess. 1:9; Titus 2:11-14; James 2:14-26; 1 Pet. 1:2,22; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; 1 Jn. 2:3-6)

Monday, July 11, 2016

What does 'believe' mean in the Gospel of John?

Consider John 8:31-32 (and the context of vv. 30-37).

“Some ‘believe in Jesus’: whether or not their faith is genuine cannot be determined by the linguistic expression selected by the Evangelist [John].  But Jesus now lays down exactly what it is that separates spurious [bogus] faith from true faith, fickle disciples from genuine disciples:  “If you hold to my teaching, [NASB:  “If you continue in my word….”] you are really my disciples” (NIV) .   The verb rendered ‘hold’ means to abide, to remain – a theme of critical importance that returns in a concentrated way in ch. 15.  In short, perseverance is the mark of true faith, of real disciples.  A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’, his teaching…:  such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it.  It is the person who continues in the teaching who has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9; cp. Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:26).”

– D.A. Carson, commentary on John in the “Pillar New Testament Commentary” series  (lightly re-worded)

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Both nations in general, and private persons, are apt to grow remiss and lax in a time of prosperity and seeming security; but when their earthly comforts are endangered or withdrawn, it lays them under a kind of necessity to seek for something better in their place. Men must have comfort from one quarter or another. When earthly things are in a pleasing and promising condition, too many are apt to find their rest, and be satisfied with them as their only portion. But when the vanity and passing nature of all created comfort is discovered, they are compelled to look for something more durable as well as valuable. What therefore, can be more to the praise of God, than that when a whole people have forgotten their resting place, when they have abused their privileges, and despised their mercies, they should by distress and suffering be made to hearken to the rod, and return to their duty?"

-- John Witherspoon

Are men basically good?

' Men of lax and corrupt principles, take great delight in speaking to the praise of human nature, and extolling its dignity, without distinguishing what it was, at its first creation, from what it is in its present fallen state. These fine speculations are very grateful to a worldly mind. They are also much more pernicious to uncautious and unthinking youth, than even the temptations to a dissolute and sensual life, against which they are fortified by the dictates of natural conscience, and a sense of public shame. But I appeal from these visionary reasonings to the history of all ages, and the inflexible testimony of daily experience. These will tell us what men have been in their practice, and from thence you may judge what they are by nature, while unrenewed. If I am not mistaken, a cool and candid attention, either to the past history, or present state of the world, but above all, to the ravages of lawless power, ought to humble us in the dust. It should at once lead us to acknowlege the just view given us in scripture of our  lost state; to desire the happy influence of renewing grace each for ourselves; and to long for the dominion of righteousness and peace, when “men shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”* * Mic iv. 3.-

-- John Witherspoon  "The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men" (sermon)

The Unsearchable Depths of God's Providence

'There is an unsearchable depth in the divine counsels, which it is impossible for us to penetrate. It is the duty of every good man to place the most unlimited confidence in divine wisdom, and to believe that those measures of providence that are most unintelligible to him, are yet planned with the same skill, and directed to the same great purposes as others, the reason and tendency of which he can explain in the clearest manner." -- John Witherspoon  "The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men"

Core Beliefs of Our Founding Fathers

A majority of today's cultural elites in American may not believe in these realities, but the founding fathers and brave patriots who launched 'the American Experiment' most certainly did:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...
.. .appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions...
...with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence..."

-- excerpts from the Declaration of Independence

The Best Kind of Ministry

"The best kinds of ministry are, more often than not, long term and low key." -- Christopher Ash

Foundational Realities

The God of the Bible is the only real and living God. He has spoken to human beings, and we are all accountable for how we respond. If we respond in repentance and trust, we will be graciously saved through the redeeming work of Christ. If we respond in persistent defiance and unbelief, we will be justly condemned. Deep, deep down in our souls we know these realities are true, no matter how hard we try to repress them. Our American/Western culture is in love with its follies and the increasing decadence that accompanies our ridiculousness, but God is not mocked or fooled. If we actually loved ourselves wisely and well, we would profoundly repent.

Interpreting God's Dealings with You

"Have good thoughts of God and make good interpretations of his dealings toward you. It is very hard to live comfortably and cheerfully among friends when one makes harsh interpretations of the words and actions of another. The only way to keep sweet contentment and comfort in Christian societies is to make the best interpretations of things we can. Likewise, a primary way to help keep comfort and contentment in our hearts is to make good interpretations of God’s dealings with us."

-- Jeremiah Burroughs

Loving God Should Be Over the Top!

“To love God, then, with all your heart and with all your soul, means with your whole self, including your rationality, mental capacity, moral choices and will, inner feelings and desires, and the deepest roots of your life.  To this profound pair the Shema adds a third, remarkable item: (literally) ‘and with all your very-muchness’….   This word is everywhere else used adverbially, meaning ‘greatly,’ ‘exceedingly.’….  It may even be that this third word is simply intensifying the other two as a climax.  ‘Love the Lord our God with total commitment (heart), with your total self (soul), to total excess!’   Loving God should be ‘over the top!’ “ 

– Christopher J.H. Wright  “Deuteronomy:  Understanding the Bible Commentary Series” p. 99 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Crushed Beneath His Foot

"On the back of Satan's neck is a nail-scarred footprint." -- C.S Lewis

The Biblical Language for Conversion

I think it would be very wise and helpful if we would primarily stick to the Biblical language for what happens when a person truly is converted/saved. Here are two examples: "...you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God..." (1 Thess. 1:9). "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance." (Rom. 6:17). (Compare also Paul's phrase: "the obedience of faith" in Rom 1:5 and 16:26.) The language of 'accepting Christ' is unhelpfully vague, and only loosely connected to a few Biblical references (e.g., John 1:12).

Conversion and Repentance

“Conversion applies to all people, demanding a complete commitment that seeks forgiveness in full trust and surrender. Faith is its positive aspect (cp. Mk.1:15). It is God’s gift, but as such a binding requirement. By the baptism of the Spirit Jesus imparts the divine power that creates those who are subject to the divine rule, i.e., converted people. In all its severity, then the message is one of joy. ‘Repentance’ is not law, but gospel." -- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Divided Loyalty Is Idolatry

“A man may work for two employers; but since ‘single ownership and full-time service are the essence of slavery’ (Tasker), he cannot serve two slave-owners. Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all. Attempts at divided loyalty betray, not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.” -- D.A. Carson (on Matt. 6:24)

J.I. Packer on 'Faith'

"What did the apostolic writers have in mind when they spoke of faith? Nothing less than what they took to be the distinctive essence of Christianity: namely, a belief-and-behavior commitment to Jesus Christ, the divine-human Lord, who came to earth, died for sins, rose from death, returned to heaven, reigns now over the cosmos as his Father’s nominated vice-regent, and will reappear to judge everyone and to take his own people into glory, where they will be with him in unimaginable joy forever." -- J.I. Packer