Friday, September 30, 2005

on free will

"Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
- Mark 10:26, 27

"He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
- Matt 15: 16-17

"If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright."
-Martin Luther

"To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect."
- John Owen

"if the final decision for the salvation of fallen sinners were left in the hands of fallen sinners, we would despair all hope that anyone would be saved"
- R.C. Sproul

"Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure"
- George Whitefield

"Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven"
- C.H. Spurgeon

"God’s predetermination of second causes is that effectual working of his, according to his eternal purpose, whereby though some agents, as the wills of men, are causes most free and indefinite, or unlimited lords of their own actions, in respect of their internal principle of operation (that is, their own nature), [they] are yet all, in respect of his decree, and by his powerful working, determined to this or that effect in particular; not that they are compelled to do this, or hindered from doing that, but are inclined and disposed to do this or that, according to their proper manner of working, that is, most freely"
- John Owen

"The will is not destroyed but rather repaired by grace."
- John Calvin; Institutes of the Christian Religion; Book 2, Chap. 5, Sec. 15

Thursday, September 29, 2005

valley of vision

I added a new link today to the devotional section, Puritan Prayers. It's a collection of prayers from a volume called The Valley of Vision. I own a copy which I purchased from a thrift store for $1. Prayer doesn't come easy for me, so at those times I know I should pray or confess, I sometimes pick up this little volume and let these words be my prayer. It literally is a treasure trove full of spiritual jewels. I suggest you read them slowly and thoughtfully because they are very rich - not unlike cheesecake. Here's a prayer of confession and petition:

"Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Thy mind in Thy Word, of neglect to seek Thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless Thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do Thou rule over me in liberty and power.

I thank Thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with Thy patient work, answering 'no' to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Thy grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in Thee. Then I shall bless Thee, God of jeshurun, for helping me to be upright."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

before the throne

This is one of my favorites. It was written by Charitie L. Bancroft in 1863.


Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

law and gospel

What is the role of law and gospel in the Christian life? Here's a great hymn written by Isaac Watts in 1709 to help us understand this relationship:

The Law commands and makes us know
What duties to our God we owe;
But ’tis the Gospel must reveal
Where lies our strength to do His will.

The Law discovers guilt and sin
And shows how vile our hearts have been;
The Gospel only can express
Forgiving love and cleansing grace.

What curses doth the Law denounce
Against the man that fails but once!
But in the Gospel Christ appears,
Pard’ning the guilt of numerous years.

My soul, no more attempt to draw
Thy life and comfort from the Law.
Fly to the hope the Gospel gives;
The man that trusts the promise lives.

Friday, September 23, 2005

today is a good day to die

"Today IS a good day to die!" is a phrase used by Worf, a Klingon in the Star Trek universe. That line popped into my mind yesterday. It's one of my favorites because it says alot about this race of aliens. Why do we like Klingons? Well, if you've seen any of the Star Trek episodes or movies, you'll notice the Klingons are unique. They're fierce, warlike and full of honor. I think what appeals to us is the fact that they'll actually die for something, and by doing so, uphold the honor of their family lineage and their race.

Not unlike the Jewish people, the Klingons refer to themselves by their family line, ex: "Worf, son of Mogh". Compare this to 2 Samuel 3:3b: "Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;" (there are many more examples). They're very concerned about their family lineage - as is the Bible concerning Jesus' human ancestry.

Death plays a big part too in the Klingon culture. They are willing to die, placing honor above their individual lives. Well, this got me to thinking... in the Christian life, we are called to die as well:

"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." - Romans 6:11-14 ESV

"Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." - Heb 11:36-40 ESV

Thursday, September 22, 2005

ready, set, grow!

If you read yesterday's post and thought to yourself, "Ok, but what about the Christian life?", then this is the post for you. The phrase, "snow-covered dung" is a bit rattling if you've never heard it before, and I talked about it to point out our position in Christ - fully justified, yet still sinner.

Fine, but don't we grow in our Christian life? What about sanctification? Isn't there some kind of change that takes place?

Yes. But I want to stress the point that sanctification (the Christian life) flows out of, and is motivated by our justification (declaration of "not guilty"). Interested in reading more? I highly recommend this article:

Gospel Driven Sanctification by Jerry Bridges

Here is the section on sanctification from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Chapter XIII
Of Sanctification
I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

snow-covered dung?

It was Luther who coined the paradigm "simul iustus et peccator" as a nutshell description of the state of the Christian believer. Simultaneously justified and yet sinner. This is a controversial statement to say the least, even among Christians. Some say, "Don't be so hard on yourself! You're not a helpless worm, you're a child of God!" Still, others would take the other side and fall into a helpless state of despair - not unlike Luther when he was a monk. What is the state of a true believing Christian? Is it not both?

I happen to believe the Bible clearly states that both are applicable to Christians. We are, as Christians: dirty, rotten, stinking transgressors of the law of God. Even our own 'righteousness' must be repented of. Our motives are never pure, there remains in us remnants of sin (flesh) till our death, and it can at times bring us very low.

However, there is a bright side: the gospel! How wonderful to read in Romans 7 of Paul's "normal" Christian life. A life of struggling to do what he ought, but not doing it; or trying not do disobey, but nevertheless sinning.

How is that wonderful?

Because that was the Apostle Paul's experience! He struggled with sin too. When he finally gets to Romans 8 he declares triumphantly, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." And at the end of the chapter he says, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Did you catch that? "ALL THINGS". We are blessed as Christians beyond all measure, and God holds nothing back. We are His beloved children, His bride for whom He died, was raised, and will return one day for. Christians are sinners, but they are covered with the spotless righteousness of Christ, a righteousness we never did nor ever will deserve. We are snow-covered dung.

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," - Romans 3:21-24