The Gospel


By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. III:3

Those of mankind who are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto.
The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, III:5

Jonathan Edwards

The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husband, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How High is Your View of God?

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Days of Calvinism

This is awesome! Thought it was appropriate to post for Christmas. Run across this post on

On the first day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, the fallen nature of man.

On the second day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the third day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, John chapter six, called and chosen, and the fallen nature of man.

On the fourth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, Synod of Dordt, John chapter six, called and chosen, and the fallen nature of man.

On the fifth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt, John chapter six, called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the sixth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the seventh day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the eighth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me belief is a work, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the ninth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, errors of middle knowledge, belief is a work, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the tenth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, Arminian heresy, errors of middle knowledge, belief is a work, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me, Romans 8 & 9 ; Arminian heresy, errors of middle knowledge, belief is a work, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Calvie explained to me that I’m really a Calvie, Romans 8&9; Arminian heresy, errors of middle knowledge, belief is a work, predestination, world isn’t world, 5 GOLDEN POINTS! Synod of Dordt; John chapter six; called and chosen and the fallen nature of man.

The Most Important Page -- Bob Hanks

Welcome to The Most Important Page.

You know , everywhere we look we see people in vigorous pursuit of what is most important to them. If you stop and think about it, that is what our lives consist of . We work for and seek after those things that are important to US. It might be fame, money, social standing, or any combination thereof. We spend our lives tending to what’s important in our own minds, our own way of thinking. If you want to see what is first in a mans life, look at his calender and his checkbook. You will see his priorities.

That’s why I call this The Most Important Page. If God exists (and He DOES!) then ultimately in the light of eternity , and realizing our own mortality , the only thing that is REALLY important is Him. What God requires is the only thing that is really and eternally significant.

So how do we access God and get right with Him ? The Apostle Paul said in Acts 16:31 to ” believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. “ But Jesus warned in Matt. 7:21-23 that many who claim to believe in Him would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven , and we read in James 2:19 that there is a type of faith that does not save ; ” the demons also believe and shudder. “

What we must have is SAVING faith , which is trusting in The Lord Jesus Christ to forgive our sins through His finished work on the Cross, the Substitutionary Atonement where He bled and died in our place. WE deserve the Cross, ” But God demonstrates his own love toward us , in that while we were yet sinners , Christ died for us . “ ( Romans 5:8 ) When we realize the enormity of our sin debt , and our desperate situation in the sight of God , and we realize that Christ has paid that debt through His suffering and agony on the Cross , our response will be heartfelt repentance , turning our backs on our sinful ways , with a sincere desire to walk with the Lord and learn His Word.

All of our best efforts can never bridge the chasm that exists between God and the natural man . Only Christ can save us . If you have not trusted in the Work of Christ on the Cross to forgive your sins, you are separated from God and are without hope. Call on Him today and He will save you !

Please read Romans 10 : 9-13. Ask God to grant you a repentant heart and a teachable spirit. God will hear your prayer !

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Multi-cultural Glory in the Church: Should We Have Black Churches and White Churches? Or Cowboy Churches?

Author: Jim Elliff
To Read the Entire article click on this linky

..... So, I will say as strongly as I can, you should not start (or have) “a black church” or “a white church” or a “homeschooling church” or a church for professional people and another church for poor people. Nor should you start a church aimed at younger people or older people. In this the modern church has erred. I do not mean that we should not be evangelistic toward all categories and types of people (actually, that is my point), but in building the local church our aim is too low, and frankly, sometimes selfish. We are forfeiting something of the glory of the church by not seeking to blend all kinds of people together, even if we cannot fully accomplish it. A cowboy church or a country music church may reach cowboys or country music lovers, but is this anything like what God intends to promote as the primary social implication of the cross? Does it depict real earth-side yearning for a future glorious church? We have diminished the meaning of the church by doing this. Paul simply refused to have a Jewish church on this end of town and a Gentile church on the other.

Again, if language barriers mean that some churches must be started for specific language groups, you must be as diverse as possible within those language groups to fulfill the intention of God. We have also not fully worked out the possibilities of multi-language churches through simultaneous translating yet, but it surely would also magnify the glory of the cross and of the church if we could find some way to do so successfully.

We all know that more homeschooling people or Hispanic people, or White people, or Black people or urban poor people may be in attendance in a given church, but that is no excuse to be a “homeschooling church” or an “Hispanic church” or an “urban poor church.” The actual demographics are God’s business; ours is to seek all people in Christ, “the desire of all nations.” We know that there may be more Asians in this particular part of town and that most in attendance will be from that background, but do not make the mistake of making your church an “Asian church.” It may be Korean-speaking, if necessary, but it should not exclusively be a KoreanChurch. If it is Christ’s church, then be aware that He does not intend it to be exclusive. Do not work against the glorious cultural ramifications of the cross with your good intentions.

Even though moving from a single-culture church to a multi-cultural church (or better to a Christ-cultural church) is sometimes a daunting task and causes many to say, “Where do we begin?” it still must be the intent of the local church, and the message of the local church, when addressing its constituency. I read an advertisement about a church in our city that said, “We sing the Old Hymns.” That was all they said. What does this say to our objective? Granted, I have likes and dislikes in music and so do you, but, in the final analysis, we really should not separate over whether old or new is sung. I’m not offering full solutions about a difficult issue here at all. I am saying that the gospel demands better solutions than dividing ourselves. We don’t work hard enough at understanding what our separations are projecting to the world and to the heavenly authorities. As difficult as it might be, the early church had far more to work through than what music would be sung. Their struggles and successes are instructive to us who may have less to work through than they did. It will be sad to face Christ in the future and say, “We could not be the glorious church you called us to be because we could not get together on the music.”

One of the by-products of thinking in the way I’m suggesting is that some of the silliness in church life goes away. Emphasizing oneness in Christ among diverse people has a way of purifying the church. No church that is multi-cultural can make it without prayer, sound doctrine, close pastoral oversight, Christ-centered worship, and biblical evangelism, all of which are unifying aspects of church life. Such churches work harder at what the people have in common, the ground that is shared in Christ. They have to let the rest go. Paul worked to de-emphasize cultural likes and dislikes that are inconsequential (if not downright divisive) in favor of New Covenant principles and behavior. It takes biblical thinking to get there. This was exactly what Paul was laboring at in so many of his letters. Sadly, we, on the other hand, just specialize in one type of people and what they enjoy (sometimes even if it has no organic relationship to the gospel at all), and avoid the need for the labor. But we must do the hard work, the kind that brings joy and glory to God.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When the Pastor Suffers

When the Pastor Suffers

Matt Chandler comforts an anxious church following his Thanksgiving seizure.

Collin Hansen
posted 12/14/2009 09:28Am
Few understand cancer better than pastors. They regularly visit hospitals and counsel church members who suffer from this devastating illness. Cancer strikes nearly every family at some point. But for pastors caring for multiple families at all times, cancer is a never-ending fight. They watch beloved friends who formerly looked so healthy begin to whither away as they withstand bouts of chemotherapy treatments. In the worst cases, pastors are left to comfort the grieving family and conduct the funeral.

But who is left to comfort pastors when they get the dreaded diagnosis? Cancer doesn't exempt pastors, either, no matter how sizable their influence. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis announced in January 2006 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then on Thanksgiving last month, rising young pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church in Dallas suffered a seizure and hit his head. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where doctors eventually discovered a tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain. Surgeons removed the tumor on December 4, but the pathology report has not yet returned. Meanwhile, the rapidly growing church that draws about 6,000 each week waits anxiously to learn the diagnosis.

The spotlight turns on pastors in these cases because we're accustomed to them offering words of comfort and wisdom to the suffering. Perhaps we wonder if they will heed their own advice to trust God despite the circumstances. Maybe they will forsake what they have been telling the grieving all these years and forsake God. But good shepherds don't stop shepherding when danger threatens. That's when their work really begins. Both Piper and Chandler have modeled for their congregations how to turn the dreaded diagnosis into cause for thanksgiving, praise, and sanctification.

Chandler wrote shortly before his surgery that he felt "anxiety, fear, sadness and a deep and unmovable joy simultaneously and in deeper ways than I have felt before." In the aftermath of his Thanksgiving seizure, he expressed gratitude for a "heightened sense of things." Then he offered a list of 10 things for which he gives thanks. The list included health insurance, his friends on the pastoral staff, his wife Lauren, his three children, the doctors, and the people of Village Church. Chandler acknowledged the support from thousands who heard of his condition through the Internet. Their prayer and fasting "has brought far more tears to Lauren's and my eyes to receive this kind of attention from the Church universal than this tumor has."

Then in a widely distributed video recorded between the seizure and surgery, Chandler shared reflections on his career and future. Chandler has been preaching lately about the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, the moving description of leaders such as Samson, David, and Samuel who stopped the mouths of lions and put foreign armies to flight (Heb. 11:32-34).

"I'm 35 years old, and up until this point in my life, we've shut the mouths of lions and put foreign armies to flight and we've fought against injustice," Chandler said. "Nothing but good has come."

But Chandler observed how the passage's tone abruptly changes in 11:35. Some of these champions of faith were tortured. Some were sawn in two. Some were destitute. How did they still walk by faith? Chandler is learning, because God has now counted him worthy to suffer. If God should allow Chandler to preach from Hebrews 11 again, no one will ever wonder if he truly understands the implications of God's Word. Speaking as a "guy who could lose everything," Chandler promised that he would demonstrate through his suffering that God is enough, come what may.

"For those of you who keep living in fear and would try to use this as an excuse to continue in that fear, don't you dare use me as an excuse to continue in your lies," Chandler told his church. "My hope would be that you would see that he is good in all things, and he would never send any of us things he does not provide strength for."

Chandler's message resembles what Piper wrote in February 2006 when he urged Christians, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." Chandler explicitly credited Piper for teaching him to hold his life cheap as he trusts in a "strong view of God's sovereign will." Piper is no stranger to suffering, either. The implications of his theology hit home in a powerful new way after his cancer diagnosis. Yet Piper did not back off.

"It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it," Piper said. "What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design."

Piper urged Christians suffering from cancer not to look for comfort by calculating their odds. Invoking Psalm 20:7, Piper likened taking comfort in the percentages of survival to trusting in chariots, and weighing the side effects of treatment to counting horses. But as for Christians, they trust in the name of the Lord alone, even as they submit to treatment. This trust transcends even the worst cancer can bring.

"Cancer does not win if you die," Piper said. "It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God's design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ."

Cancer quickly reveals who and what we ultimately trust. It can bring life into eternal perspective, so long as we don't despair in our illness. If we feast on Christ, we will find our sins don't taste so rich any longer. Even well-known pastors must fight this battle. They might appear to have it all, but they actually have more cause for despair that we usually imagine. Thousands turn out to hear them speak in conferences. Thousands more buy their books. Megachurches sprout where they serve. But cancer threatens to end that influence. Of all people, they are tempted to think they are too important for God to take.

Yet God wants us to count all fear and pride as loss so we may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). After all, the God we worship did not spare his own Son the suffering of the Cross (Rom. 8:32). And he did not spare his servant Paul the thorn in his flesh. Still, God's grace was sufficient for him, as it is for all who believe.

"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

Collin Hansen is a CT editor at large and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists.

Copyright © 2009 Christianity Today.

Are many practices and traditions in Christianity actually pagan in origin?

In their 2008 book Pagan Christianity, authors Frank Viola and George Barna present the surprising origins of many of the practices commonly found in churches today. The authors claim that many common church practices / traditions actually have their roots in paganism (non-Christian religions), not in the Bible. But is it accurate to claim that the practices of modern Christianity are pagan? Is what typically occurs in a church supported by what the Bible teaches about the church?

Many Christians recognize that some pagan ideas and practices have infiltrated the Christian church. Sadly, much of what Jesus Christ abolished by His death and resurrection, the early Christians re-established. Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled God’s requirements, ending the need for any further sacrifices (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). The early church, due to pagan influences, warped the celebration of the Lord’s Supper into a re-sacrifice / re-offering of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice abolished the need of a formal priesthood (Hebrews 10:12-14), creating instead a “kingdom of priests” (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). The early church, again influenced by paganism, re-established a priesthood that added a barrier between the “ordinary” believer and God (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15). These are just two of many possible examples.

Most Christians wholeheartedly agree that beliefs / practices such as these need to be rejected and the biblical truth upheld. Following are the primary issues Pagan Christianity raises.

(1) The Church Building. The New Testament records the early Christians meeting in homes (Acts 2:46; 5:42; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). Neither Jesus nor the Apostles encourage Christians to build temples / church buildings. In John 4:21-24, Jesus declares that a time is coming where worship will not be tied to any particular location or building. For the first few hundred years of the Christian faith, church buildings were very rare. It was not until Constantine and his succeeding Roman Emperors made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire that Christians began to build temples. In some instances, Christians, with the aid of Roman soldiers, took over pagan temples and “Christianized” them into churches.

Christians building church buildings resulted in multiple problems. First, people began to think of a church building as “sacred space.” This resulted in a separation between what goes on inside a church building, and what takes place outside of a church building. Among some, blatant evil and immorality was tolerated outside of the church as long as behavior inside the church was proper. Second, some people lost the idea of God’s omnipresence. The biblical fact that fellowship with God could be had anywhere was lost, and replaced with the idea that a church building and/or the altar inside a church building was the only place one could connect with God. Third, some people lost sight of the fact that believers in Christ are the church, and instead began to think of the church as the building.

But is the idea of a church building pagan? Since the Bible does not instruct Christians to build church buildings, does that mean it is wrong to have a church building? The fact that the Bible does not command something does not mean the Bible is opposed to that something. The Bible neither encourages nor discourages the idea of Christians meeting in buildings that are specifically designed for corporate worship. The question of a church building is one where it is crucially important to recognize the difference between description and prescription. The New Testament describes the early Christians meeting in homes. The New Testament does not prescribe that Christians should only meet in homes. A church building in which the biblical truth about the church is declared is in no sense unbiblical. The building is not what is unbiblical. It is the beliefs that are often attached to the building that are unbiblical.

(2) The structure of the church. In many churches today, there is a “set in stone” structure for how a service will proceed. The structure changes somewhat from church to church, but the core items remain the same: announcements, corporate worship, meeting and greeting, prayer, the sermon, a closing song. In some churches, the order of service is absolutely unbendable. In other churches, there is some flexibility. Whatever the case, the idea of a church meeting having such a rigid structure is not presented in the New Testament. When a church has such a rigid structure, it can stifle, rather than promote, true worship and fellowship.

First Corinthians 14:40 teaches, “but everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” Order and structure are not unbiblical. Rigidity and legalism are unbiblical. While a church should ensure that its services are reasonably organized, it is unbiblical for a church service to be so structured that it prevents any participation, freedom, or moving of the Spirit.

(3) Church leadership. The Bible undeniably teaches that the church is to have godly leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17-20; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Sadly, the early church took the concept of church leadership, and due to pagan influences, molded it into a priesthood. While most Protestant and Evangelical churches do not refer to its leadership as priests, in some instances, the pastor/preacher serves in much the same role as a priest. Pastors are expected to do all, or nearly all, of the ministry work. In some churches, the re-introduction of the idea of a priest into Christianity resulted in the biblical identity of all believers being saints, ministers, and priests, being lost. In church leadership, the result can be burnt-out pastors or overly authoritative pastors. The result in the congregation can be passivity and inactivity.

The idea that a Christian can unenthusiastically sing a few songs, lackadaisically shake a few hands, inattentively listen to a sermon, and reluctantly give an offering – and thereby fulfill his/her role in the church – is completely unbiblical. The church is intended to be a place of healthy fellowship, active participation, and mutual edification. First Corinthians chapter 12 likens the church to a human body. All of the parts of the body must be functioning for the body to do what it is intended to do. In some churches today, only the “head” is functioning. And as physiology teaches us, a head cannot survive on its own.

(4) The sermon. The Bible clearly declares that God’s Word is to be taught (1 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:2). There is undeniably a place for a godly man teaching other believers in a sermonic / oratory format. One problem is that many churches fall into the trap of one man being the sole teacher. Another problem is when churches, whether intentionally or unintentionally, convey the idea that passively listening to a sermon is all that God expects. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul encourages Timothy to entrust teaching to others who are gifted by the Holy Spirit for teaching. The presence of a non-participatory sermon is not the problem. The lack of opportunities for others to teach and/or the lack of willingness to teach can be a problem. One of the goals of the church is to make disciples, not pew-warmers. Many churches could do a much better job at recognizing the gift of teaching in others and training and encouraging them to use that gift. At the same time, no one should seek the position of teacher unless he really has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, a fact which can be verified by the testimony of others who can give witness to the presence of this gift. In fact, James 3:1 warns us, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

For other issues raised by Pagan Christianity, please read the following articles:

It is undeniable that pagan ideas and practices have crept their way into the Christian church. To varying degrees, every church has practices that are not completely based in Scripture, either in the practice itself or in the understanding of the practice. But again, this does not mean these practices are pagan or wrong. Churches would do well to continually re-evaluate their methods and motivations, to make sure they are biblically solid. While no church practice should contradict Scripture, a church practice does not have to be explicitly biblical to be a viable choice. Nor does a practice not being taught in the Bible make it pagan. A practice having a pagan origin does not necessarily make it unbiblical. The key to avoiding “pagan Christianity” is comparing every belief and practice with Scripture and removing anything that contradicts what the Bible prescribes for the church. For those issues on which the Bible is silent, the church leadership should prayerfully consider whether or not to continue them.

Recommended Resource: Pagan Christianity:
Exposing the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola & George Barna.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Parable of the Drowning Man

Dear Friends:

Perhaps you have run into an earnest Christian, that when opposing the biblical teaching of the "bondage of the will", "salvation by grace alone" and "election" will use the common salvation analogy which likens the unsaved to a helpless drowning man. That a loving God gives us free choice while drowning whether we will reach out and take His hand to be saved or not. That only an 'evil' God, they say, would leave or not attempt to save people who are drowning in a lake. "How could a loving God be so cruel just to leave them there drowning," they argue.

There are quite a number of things that might be said in response to this. First of all we must clarify that what distinguishes our tradition from freewillism is not that one God loves people and the other conception of God does not. No... the distinction is between an intensive and an extensive love, between an intensive love where God actually expresses His love by laying down His life to redeem His loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in a generic sense but actually delivers no one in particular. Consider the parable of the drowning man again in light of these two perspectives:

(1) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. You call out to your child to use his willpower to swim back to the boat to save himself, yet he is entirely too weak to do so. You reach out your hand but it depends on whether your child is a good enough swimmer to get to you and has the strength in himself to reach out his arm. But you do nothing more than call for him to come and will only go as far as reaching out your hand since you wouldn't want to violate his free will to let him decide if he will swim back and reach for your help.

(2) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. But your love for your child outweighs all other considerations and without hesitation you leap into the water at the risk of your own life, due to the weather, and actually save your child from drowning. You drown in the process but your child is saved. In other words, you don't just wait to see if he is willing or has the strength. He doesn't. So you go in and save your child regardless of the cost to yourself.

Which of the two fathers is more loving I ask?

The first one, if you haven't yet guessed, is the Arminian "father". He sees his child in trouble and will only save him on condition that he has the capacity to swim through the waves and reach out and take hold of the father. The father will not, however, risk his life to actually MAKE SURE that the son does not drown. His love does not act so this love is ineffectual. It all depends on how the son responds. It is a love which is conditional. The Arminian gospel is just like this because if God violates the human will in any way it makes Him evil in their mind. [Note: I will tell you what. If I am stubborn and will not obey the gospel, afterwards I would be grateful if he "violated" my will to save me from drowning. What I want does not matter since I am only a child with reference to God. It is what God wants that matters. What I want will conform to what God wants when He opens the eyes of my understanding. This is not something I can produce naturally. The Holy Spirit must act or I die. If your child is to be hit by a car, do you wait to see what he will do or do you run out to save him? I don't care if the child did not want it at the time. I do it anyway if I love him. The fact is what kind of love just sits there and does nothing but woo and hope you will save yourself? Is that the kind of love we expect of a parent, let alone our Heavenly Father?]

The second analogy is the Augustinian father. His love is not weak-willed or ineffectual but he loves his children with a resolute will that accomplishes what His love dictates by actually saving his child, even by forfeiting his own life in the process. God is love, and God's love is like His Word ... He says of it, "It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." This is beautiful and what love is all about because it means we can take God at His word and promises.

Again, which father in the story is more loving?

Of course the analogy is flawed since the son, in real life is already dead to the things of the father and due to his autonomy and pride, would never take his father's help to do what he knows (or thinks) he can do for himself.

Naturally the next question is why does God not save everyone then? That is a deep mystery but we know God conspires with His own goodness and wisdom and always does what is right whether we fully understand His reasons or not. The same mystery equally extends to the question of why He bothers to save anyone at all. Given our hostility toward Him it is even more amazing that He chooses anyone. Why not give us what we all deserve, which is justice? So while it is true we may not know why He chooses only some for redemption, the Scriptures do teach the "what" and the "how" ...that He, in fact, does save a partuclar people for Himself. But it is not for us to pry into the mystery of why (since He has not revealed it) except that it was His good pleasure ... And it is not for us to presume, as some do, that election means He must have bad motives in doing so. We know, from revelation, that the character of God is always good and trustworthy so we can know with certainty that He does His choosing for good reasons that are in Himself even though we may not fully understand God's purpose. But to conclude, therefore, that God must be evil if He chooses some and not others is presumptious at best. The very fact that He does it is the highest reason in the universe. That He has covenantally set His affection on certain persons but not others is His prerogative. There cannot be a better reason than "God wills it". Can you think of a better reason?

But to perhaps gain some understanding from what God has revealed to us, consider the following:

The Arminian calls a God who leaves a rebel behind as evil. To expose the fallacy of this argument we should respond biblically by asserting that God would only be "evil" in leaving them if people were undeserving of just punishment. By using "drowning in a lake" as an analogy, they are making it sound like our condition before salvation is innocuous. This logical fallacy is called an "appeal to pity" (ad misercordiam). "Look at the helpless person drowning and the Calvinist God does nothing. This God must be an ogre".

Perhaps if our problem were only of a physical disability or of an innocent man drowning then, of course, we might be more tempted to make God out to be an ogre. But this is not how the Scripture describes the disposition of a sinner's heart. The Scripture says the unregenerate are rebels, hostile to God by nature. Realizing that analogies are imperfect, this drowning analogy still depends on pity for it to work at all, but is actually imposing an alien presupposition on the Scripture that we were just helplessly, innocently in need and God is, therefore, obligated to reach out to save us, lest we drown. So according to this analogy the one condition for us to meet if God is to love us is to reach out our hand and take hold of His, which He is obligated to extend lest otherwise He must be evil, they reason. Not only is this kind of love conditional but this love does nothing to help the helpless except call to him from afar. I hope you are beginning to see the clear problem with this line of reasoning.

Lets get the facts straight: nowhere does Scripture even hint that man is just innocently drowning. Rather it describes us as willfully and purposefully hostile toward God like an opposing army, suppressing the truth and replacing God with our own idols, having a debt we cannot and will not repay. The Text says that we love darkness and hate the light - which means our affections are bent on fleeing from God. Michael Horton once described it like this: “We cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can't find a police officer.” It is not as though we just had a physical inability, but our condition is described as a moral inability with darkened affections (John 3:19) in need of a new birth (John 3:3-6), i.e. a completely new nature that we might desire and understand the things of God (1 Cor 2: 5-14). One thing to remember is that we are all debtors for willfully breaking God's holy Law. We owe a debt we cannot repay - the price is too high, and further, we are unwilling. This means that we justly deserve God's wrath - all of us. Unless we can say that we justly deserve God's displeasure, save in the mercy of Jesus Christ, then we have yet to truly understand the gospel. If God were to completely wipe out the entire human race in one fell swoop, it would be entirely just for that is what we rightly deserve. If we were all thrown into an eternal hell, we would merely be getting our just deserts.

But since we are using analogies here is another: if nine people owed me money, and I canceled the debt of seven, the other two would have no grounds for complaint. In the same way if God canceled no one's debt it would be entirely proper, but if He cancels the debt of some of them, the others have no ground for complaint. They are responsible to repay but do not have the ability to repay (see Rom 3:20). God is in no way obligated to to cancel anyone's debt, but because He is loving and merciful He paid the debt for those He came to save according to His sovereign good pleasure (Eph 1:4, 5).

We must remember also that God has more than just one attribute ... and we must also remember that God is infinitely holy, just and wrathful. When we say we are saved what do we mean? What are we saved from? We are saved from God. Yes, saved from God. If God is truly a just God, His wrath must be poured out on the guilty. God is holy and no sin can stand in His presence - His justice requires just payment, a payment we cannot repay.

So God gives one of two things to humans in this life: justice or mercy. Those in Christ have received mercy. It wasn't because God saw anything in us that recommended us to Him, or because of our great resume or skill but because of his mercy alone that he saved us.

He didn't love us because of our faith but loved and redeemed us UNTO faith. We are justified through faith alone but we didn't produce faith in our unregenerate, hostile fallen nature ... God mercifully granted that we would repent and believe the gospel (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8). Apart from His grace, which He granted us in the new birth, we would never come to God on our own. Rather, God has set His affection on us from eternity. He came to find us and deliver us from death that we might worship and have fellowship with Him. So if men suffer in Hell it is not because God so determined that they would for no reason, but because of their sin, and if we are saved it is solely because of His grace.

In spite of ourselves God came in the person of Jesus Christ to bear the full brunt of God's wrath for His people. The punishment we deserved fell on Him. He saves many but passes over the rest. He leaves the non-elect to do what they will. They choose to rebel because this is their natural inclination - God did not have to coerce them. So is God an ogre standing over some poor helpless drowning man? No, He is faced with people who are wilfully trying to establish themselves against Him and do not want His help. In fact they take up arms against the King. They will do anything they can to flee from Him, to declare autonomy and mutiny.

God sends His servants and His Son but we kill them instead. Does God have the obligation to save those who killed His Son? Or those who conspire against Him as we once did? No, He is righteous if he casts them in the lake of fire. But in spite of all we have done against Him, He comes in love bearing the punishment we justly deserve on His own person. Great love. But He will have mercy on whom He will (Rom 9:15, 16). Who are you man to tell God He is evil or unjust for saving some and leaving others? We should marvel that He saves any. If anyone would agree that He is just in punishing us all (which Arminians do), how then can they be consistent to make Him unjust for punishing some and saving the rest for His own good and wise reasons?

We must ask ourselves in light of all this, what is love? What is a holy love? ... and which description most closely fits with true biblical love. Jesus said in John 10 that He not only "calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (John 10:3) but that "the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11,15) but he says of others that they "do not believe because [they] are not of My Sheep." (John 10:26) . He lays down his life for the sheep but some are not his sheep, and that is the reason they do not believe, Jesus says.


In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; (Matt 13:14)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom 11:33)

- J.W. Hendryx

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life's Toughest Question

Q -

How would you go about structuring a message titled: answering life's toughest questions?

Jim -

I have a brief answer. Woody Allen said in one of his films (they all run together at some point) that humans spend their time creating trouble and dilemmas in their life so that they won't have to face the really big issue, which is that we are all going to die. There's a lot of truth in that. I would add that we create dilemmas that are actually within our power to control or solve in order to fool ourselves into believing that we are the masters of our destinies and that we actually will have some control over our ultimate fate.

But, the real issue remains - we are all going to die.

I've heard a whole rash of sermons on the radio lately [they seem to run in cycles. I think the radio guys all listen to each other and when somebody comes up with an idea or series that sounds intriguing the rest of them jump on the bandwagon so as not to lose their audience...but, I digress) that have to do with Life's Tough Questions, and similar titles. And, of course, they all run through the litany of human troubles, especially those that are "big press" items, like abortion, race relations, marriage, crime, drinking, etc.

To be honest, those messages don't do much for me. I listen to them to try and get the pulse of "the church as entertainment" movement. But, they are always little more than popular questions with semi-Biblical, or pseudo-Biblical, answers. Abortion? Hate the sin; love the sinner. Race relations? Love your brother as yourself. Marriage? Husbands, love you wives as Christ loved the church. Crime? Thou shalt not steal. Drinking? Be not drunk with wine.

You get the picture. Basic answers to complex questions. It's sort of like Nancy Reagan's answer to the drug problem - Just Say No. Well, if the drug problem in America were so simple it could be solved with a slogan, we'd have licked it a long time ago.

Nevertheless, these questions are hardly anything new. These are problems that are typical of the human condition in any age. Sinners do sinful things. The sinful things that sinner do will always be a problem for the church. Well, at least they used to be a problem, until the contemporary church decided to embrace them as opportunities to be more "seeker sensitive."

My point?

The supposed "hard questions" of life aren't really that hard. They may be complex, but they are ultimately manageable. That gives us frail humans some sense that we can, by own effort, solve some of our own problems. And, most of what I hear called "the hard problems" are really quite basic, according to Scripture.

Human actions fall into two categories: right and wrong. Most reasonably educated people, or at very least people indwelt by the Spirit of God, have some sense of what's acceptable and what's not in God's eyes. Only sociopaths don't understand that killing people is at very least "anti-social." We may act as if we don't recognize any authority but ourselves, but deep down we all fear that there might actually be a God, He might actually be watching, and we may in fact be held accountable for our actions. But, we don't have to think about that if we fill our time and thoughts with problems we might actually be able to solve with a little brain-power and effort. We'll just push that "God" thing to the side.

So, are there answers to our social problems and ills? Sure.

Abortion? Don't do it. Children are a gift from God. Murder is wrong. There, that wasn't too tough. Race relations? Esteem every man as better than yourself and remember that the purest races are mixed breeds. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. He has made of the two "one new man." So, act like it. I could go on, but you get my drift. God actually has provided answers to our "toughest" questions. We just don't like His answers. Murder? Don't kill. Crime? Don't covet; it leads to stealing. Sexual immorality? Don't fornicate. Don't commit adultery. Those are the answers.

The simple reality is that God has laid down His standard and He expects His standard to be upheld. Now, will it be? Nope. Sinners to sinful things. Will it be upheld in Church? It should be, but that's why grace is so necessary. We all have come short of the glory of God.

So, are life's toughest questions that same list of social ills that's repeated ad nauseum in these sermons? No, absolutely not. Life's toughest questions are the ones nobody asking, because they are afraid of the answer. So, to avoid the answer, they don't ask the questions. It's easier to deal with questions we can answer in a thirty-minute, radio-friendly sermon.

So, what are the tough questions?

Let's start at the top: Is there a God and will He really judge me for my actions?

The answer, of course, is: Yes, there is a God. And yes, everywhere that He presents Himself in Scripture He represents Himself as a jealous God, who will judge in righteousness and who is willing to condemn people eternally.

Life's toughest questions #2: Is it true that all men are sinners, born dead in trespasses and sins and there's not one thing we can do to satisfy the holiness, or appease the wrath, of God?

Answer: That's right. You're born dead in sin. It doesn't matter whether you think you're a sinner or whether you have verifiable evidence that you're better than, say, Hitler. The standard of righteousness is not other people, the standard is the Holiness of God. And, whether it's Hitler or Mother Teresa, all we like sheep have gone astray and turned, everyone of us, to our own way. No human being that is tried on the basis of his or her personal works and individual level of sanctification will be allowed into Heaven. We are all guilty, and our best works of righteousness are nothing more than filthy, bloody rags.

Life's toughest question #3: Is it true that God is absolutely holy and that people have to attain a standard of holiness commensurate with God's in order to avoid eternal damnation?

Answer: Yep, that's the deal. The standard is impossibly high. Don't attempt to lower the standard in order to convince yourself that you can attain it. I mean, if real holiness could be achieved by how you dress, or wear your hair, or what church you attend, then we could certainly live up to that. But, those are manmade standards designed to convince egocentric people that they actually are impressing God with their actions.

Nevertheless, the true standard, according to Jesus, had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (who were actively attempting to achieve salvation through the actions of the Law). In other words, neither the Pharisees nor the disciples had yet to achieve a righteous standard sufficient to obligate God to save them. No one gets in by their personal merit. The standard remains and the standard does not bend. God does not grade on a curve. Only absolute, eternal, spotless holiness will achieve eternal salvation.

Life's toughest question #4: Oh my Heavens!!! What if those first three questions and answers are right????!!!! What will I do???!!!! I mean, if God is absolutely holy and I am absolutely depraved, then I am absolutely hopeless!!! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

And that, my friend, is life's toughest question. God is holy. I'm dead in sins. The gulf between us is insurmountable. What will I do?

That's the question no one seems to ask anymore. They want to make sinners look good, or bring God down to our level. Either way, they are creating a false answer to a seemingly impossible question. God's standard does not bend and dead men do not make themselves alive. We are in desperate trouble.

Life's one toughest question: What will I do about eternity?

Answer: Christ. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. That's the answer. Christ did not live and die in order to give us a simpler, calmer, more blessed life here on earth. He did not agonize on the cross in order to supply us with endless health and comfortable shoes. He did not endure separation from His Father, causing Him to cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" in order for us to make Him our bellhop and let Him know when we need something from Him.

The answer to life's toughest question is that only faith in Christ's finished work will result in salvation, the only thing you absolutely, positively must have when you leave this world. And, as I said, we're all going to leave. You can suffer through life's other miseries and do it with great aplomb or with wailing and gnashing of teeth, but if you don't know the answer to that one question, you will be cast off from God's presence for the rest of forever. Get that one question right, and Christ's own righteousness will be imputed to your account, and you will live gloriously through eternity, accepted in the beloved, and securely wrapped in the powerful, unchanging love of the Father.

Spend the rest of your life debating the minutiae of the human experience and you may never have to address that question.

So, if I were constructing a message with that title, that's the approach I would take. I know that life has bumps and troubles. But, that's life. The big questions are those that lead to eternal life or damnation, and those questions are far too frequently ignored in favor of the minor, more immediate dilemmas that are within our grasp.

Grace and peace, philos.

Jim Mc.

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