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A Suffering Savior

March 2, 2015

To accomplish the Divine mission to deliver His people from sin Jesus had to suffer and die. In the weeks leading up to His death, Jesus told His disciples what was going to happen in Jerusalem. The first event in a tragic series that would end in Jesus’ crucifixion was His betrayal. Jesus was betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and scribes. The chief priests and scribes were supposed teachers of the nation regarding the coming Messiah and should have been the first to recognize the Messiah when He came. Instead, these men had already shown themselves to be in active opposition to the Messiah. Instead of receiving Jesus as the One promised by God to bring salvation to His people, the leaders of Israel rejected Him. They condemned their Messiah to die.

Israel’s governing body turned the King of the Jews over to their Roman conquerors. Jesus was the One the Jews were to receive as their long awaited King, their God and their Savior. He should have been paraded through the streets in praise and bowed before in humble worship. In their rage and jealousy, the Jews turned Him over to the Romans. The Romans received Jesus with hoots of derision, shouts of laughter and cries of mockery. Pontius Pilate sought to remove himself from an embarrassing situation by shipping Jesus off to Herod. Herod wanted to see a magic trick, but Jesus refused to entertain him. Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus. They clothed Him in a royal purple robe and mocked His claims to be the Jews Messiah before sending Jesus back to Pilate.

Pilate, hoping to appease the Jews anger, had Jesus scourged. A scourged was a whip with an end split into several different tips. To each tip was attached a piece of bone, stone or metal. The one sentenced to scourging was tied to a large pole, his hands stretched over his head. A soldier would drive the whip into the condemned back, tearing off the skin and muscle. As the lash struck again and again, the whip would drive deeper into the person, tearing cartilage and ligaments and chipping bones. Scourging was often so brutal it resulted in the prisoner’s death.

When Pilate’s soldiers were done scourging Jesus, they berated and mocked Him. They drove a crown of thorns on His head, beat Him with a reed and spit upon Him. As the chief sign of their disdain and hatred, the Romans spit on Him. Instead of praising the God of Heaven, their Creator who was on His way to the cross to die for them, they spat on Him as if He was the lowest piece of human scum.

After all the indignities and abuse were heaped upon Jesus He was sentenced to death on the cross. The cross was a brutal method of torture and execution. The cross was carefully designed to leave one hanging on the verge of death in intense agony for as long as possible. The cross is an instrument of horrible suffering perfected by a people who wanted every crucifixion to be a warning to any who would rebel against the power of Rome. Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of men, was to be killed.

The cross shows the horrible consequences of sin and the beautiful love of God. All that Jesus tells His disciples of His coming crucifixion serves to highlight the horrible tragedy of sin. Sin is such an wretched offense, such a heinous crime, such a vile treason, that only an infinite payment is sufficient to accomplish justice. Sin is so horrible that for it to be forgiven, God the Son had to be betrayed, rejected, mocked, scourged and executed. Jesus had to suffer the most horrible of physical agonies for our salvation. Jesus had to suffer the most horrible of spiritual agonies for our salvation.

His death was the end, but not for Him nor for His work of salvation. Jesus death was the end of the domination of sin and death. Jesus death was the end of the payment of sin. After finishing His task, Jesus was restored to life by the power and good pleasure of God the Father. The resurrection of Jesus is the triumph that concludes the victory of the cross. The resurrection is that which assures salvation. The resurrection is that which ensures everlasting life. The resurrection is the final, Divine certification that Jesus is God who made the only sufficient and satisfactory payment for man’s sin. The resurrection is the reason Christian’s have hope in this world today. The cross is a nightmarish atrocity necessary to rectify the unthinkable rebellion of wicked man. The Savior who died for sin has been restored to life. He is now alive and offers salvation freely to all who will receive Him.

Introductory Thoughts on Sanctification

February 26, 2015

“I now feel it a duty to offer a few introductory hints to those whose attention is specially directed to the subject of sanctification in the present day. I know that I do so at the risk of seeming presumptuous, and possibly of giving offence. But something must be ventured in the interests of God’s truth. I shall therefore put my hints into the form of questions, and I shall request my readers to take them as “Cautions for the Times on the subject of holiness.”

(1) I ask, in the first place, whether it is wise to speak of faith as the one thing needful, and the only thing required, as many seem to do now-a-days in handling the doctrine of sanctification?-Is it wise to proclaim in so bald, naked, and unqualified a way as many do, that the holiness of converted people is by faith only, and not at all by personal exertion? Is it according to the proportion of God’s Word? I doubt it.

That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness-that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ-that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness-that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy-that the life that we live in the flesh we must live by the faith of the Son of God-that faith purifies the heart-that faith is the victory which overcomes the world-that by faith the elders obtained a good report-all these are truths which no well-instructed Christian will ever think of denying. But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith. The very same Apostle who says in one place, “The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,” says in another place, “I fight-I run-I keep under my body;” and in other places, “Let us cleanse ourselves-let us labour, let us lay aside every weight.” (Gal. ii. 20;! Cor. ix. 26; 2 Cor. vii.! ; Heb. iv. 11; xii.! .)

Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense, and in the same manner, that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ. (Rom. iv. 5.) Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it “worketh by love,” and, like a main-spring, moves the whole inward man. (Gal. v. 6.) After all, the precise phrase “sanctified by faith” is only found once in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus said to Saul, “I send thee, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Yet even there I agree with Alford, that “by faith” belongs to the whole sentence, and must not be tied to the word “sanctified.” The true sense is, “that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified.” (Compare Acts xxvi. 18 with Acts xx. 32.)

As to the phrase “holiness by faith,” I find it nowhere in the New Testament. Without controversy, in the matter of our justification before God, faith in Christ is the one thing needful. All that simply believe are justified. Righteousness is imputed “to him that worketh not but believeth.” (Rom. iv. 5.) It is thoroughly Scriptural and right to say “faith alone justifies.” But it is not equally Scriptural and right so say “faith alone sanctifies.” The saying requires very large qualification. Let one fact suffice. We are frequently told that a man is “justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” by St. Paul. But not once are we told that we are “sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law.” On the contrary, we are expressly told by St. James that the faith whereby we are visibly and demonstratively justified before man, is a faith which “if it hath not works is dead, being alone.” (James ii. 17.) I may be told, in reply, that no one of course means to disparage “works” as an essential part of a holy life. It would be well, however, to make this more plain than many seem to make it in these days.

(2) I ask, in the second place, whether it is wise to make so little as some appear to do, comparatively, of the many practical exhortations to holiness in daily life which are to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the latter part of most of St. Paul’s epistles? Is it according to the proportion of God’s Word? I doubt it. That a life of daily self-consecration and daily communion with God should be aimed at by everyone who professes to be a believer-that we should strive to attain the habit of going to the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we find a burden, whether great or small, and casting it upon Him-all this, I repeat, no well-taught child of God will dream of disputing. But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more than generalities about holy living, which often prick no conscience and give no offence. The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject.

True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations-our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects-our dress, our employment of time, our behaviour in business, our demeanour in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty-all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. They are not content with a general statement of what we should believe and feel, and how we are to have the roots of holiness planted in our hearts. They dig down lower. They go into particulars. They specify minutely what a holy man ought to do and be in his own family, and by his own fireside, if he abides in Christ. I doubt whether this sort of teaching is sufficiently attended to in the movement of the present day. When people talk of having received “such a blessing,” and of having found “the higher life,” after hearing some earnest advocate of “holiness by faith and self-consecration,” while their families and friends see no improvement and no increased sanctity in their daily tempers and behaviour, immense harm is done to the cause of Christ.

True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favourite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings. (Rom. viii. 29.)”

– JC Ryle

He is worth it!

February 22, 2015

Jesus demands we give up all for Him. Jesus deserves all we give up for Him and much more. He is worthy of the greatest sacrifice. Those that love football may save and sacrifice to buy prime seats at a playoff game, or may spend more money every month to get the extra channels to watch all the games around the nation. We give our time and resources to the things valued most.
What is more valuable than Jesus? He that loves his wife is willing to set aside personal plans to spend time with her. He spends money on her and does things special just for her. We give time and resources for the one we love. Who is more lovely than Jesus?

How can we compare the greatness and glory of Jesus to anything or anyone in this world? He is more than a great King, He is the King of kings. He is more than a powerful ruler, He is the Lord of lords. He is more than an important personage, He God of all. He is more than a great leader, He is the Savior. How to tell the worth of God the Son? How to describe His value and
loveliness?

His many names give a glimpse of His excelling loveliness. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the One that was alive, and died and now lives forever. He is
the Wonderful Counselor. He is the Prince of Peace. He is Lily of the Valley and the Bright and Morning Star. He is the One who was sent, the One who has come and the King who is coming.
He is the Redeemer and the Lamb of God.

His many glorious works offer a hint of His supreme value. He created all things out of nothing. He emptied Himself of His Divine prerogatives and put humanity onto His deity. He humbled Himself. He took onto His shoulders the sin of men and died on a cross to pay the penalty of that sin. He ascended into heaven and sent His Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who believe Him to salvation. He mediates between His children and the Heavenly Father. He rules over all. He
rules over the church. He is working all history to accomplish His glorious will.

The consideration of all these glorious names and works fails to adequately reveal the brilliance of Jesus’ glory. He is surpassingly excellent and glorious beyond all description. If the richest, most important in the world were to give up all his possessions, all his influence and his own life for Jesus, he will not have given to Him the smallest fraction of the glory due to Him.

The call to forsake all to follow Jesus is not for His sake alone. The call of discipleship is a call to a person and a call to a mission. The mission is the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus doesn’t call men to leave everything behind and sit in a cave pondering eternal verities. He calls men to
follow Him in proclaiming salvation to the world. Following Him is a readiness to set aside self and resources to call the nations to salvation. Following Him is a willingness to forsake family
and friends to embrace strangers and declare to them the only One who saves from sin.

Once again, this is worth it. How many willingly risk their lives to rescue a stranger from impending death? How much more valuable is the eternal soul! A single convert is worth long years of labor, long seasons of suffering and perpetual poverty. The call of discipleship is a call to give up anything and everything for Jesus’ sake to go out into the world with the gospel.

Missing the Obvious

February 19, 2015

Wolf Looking SharpBy now the story of Mark Driscoll’s demise is old news. Most every one who follows the events of broader evangelicalism knows the accusations of plagiarism, the temporary step down from ministry that led to a full resignation and the subsequent disconnecting of the satellite churches to each form their own autonomous ministry. In the many articles rehashing and dissecting the downfall of Mark’s ministry, I have read very few that have actually gotten to the root of the problem regarding Mark Driscoll.

The problem of Mark Driscoll is not that he had too much power in his church, or that he did not have a group of leaders around him able to curb his excesses. The problem with Mark Driscoll is he was not qualified to be a pastor. I must confess I was at one time briefly enamored by Mark Driscoll. Never with his doctrine, nor with his ministry philosophy, but with his ability to communicate. My selective memory recalls that captivation lasting for about a day and a half. He was a persuasive, dynamic figure able to captivate his listeners. He was able to articulate truth in an engaging and shocking fashion that confronted, offended and fascinated at the same time. His Seattle grunge eloquence and the following it generated helped many to overlook the fact he was never Biblically qualified for the ministry.

The first letter to Timothy includes a detailed description of the kind of person the pastor is to be. As Driscoll ascended in popularity, his incredible communication ability that was at first so attractive began to be seen as having some glaring problems, problems that revealed a character unfit for the pastorate. For a time Mark was known as the cussing pastor. Yes, he cussed. He cussed from the pulpit. He used vile humor that can only be described as “locker room” humor. I realize he confessed and repented of the foul language, but that’s not the point. No man who uses profanity on such a regular basis that it becomes part of his preaching and teaching is qualified to be a pastor. Jesus commands through Paul that the pastors of His church must be above reproach, be noteworthy for their appropriate behavior and live a life of self-control. The pastorate is no place for a man whose tongue is so untamed that foulness spews from it. He should never have been entrusted with the pastorate until his tongue was under control and he showed himself to be a mature Christian man. Other disqualifying character flaws could be offered up as proof of this point, but I will leave those specific examples to ones whose knowledge is first hand. Mark Driscoll’s brilliant communication skills and charismatic personality drew a huge following. His massive success caused many to overlook his lack of Biblical qualification.

Why bother beating on the man now? His influence is lost and he has stepped down from pastoral leadership (for now, but I predict a resurgence). Mark Driscoll is worth mentioning because we never learn. Since the days of Charles Finney, evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity has flitted from one magnetic leader to the next. When a man shows the ability to attract a large following Christianity has shown an appalling tendency to disregard Biblical character and doctrinal qualifications. For that matter, dozens of churches every year call a pastor based primarily on his ability to preach. With little investigation into his character or background, a church will vote to call a man because he is a good speaker. Since when did preaching ability become the primary qualification of a pastor? A vicious, uncontrolled, selfish, arrogant novice has a good chance of being handed the responsibility for the souls of dozens, or hundreds, of Christians if he can only keep their attention for 30 minutes on Sunday morning. If he is a good speaker, a church will entrust a man with the vision, finances, children, future and testimony of the ministry. This is folly! Character matters! Doctrine matters! The importance of a pastor’s character is not negated by his ability to attract crows or create professions of faith. A man who packs the house and fills the aisles does not get a pass on his uncontrolled temper because people are getting saved.

In certain segments of fantasy writing, elves are said to have “glamour”. Glamour is the ability to project an appearance into the mind of people, so that the elf looks beautiful and the person feels worthless. This glamour hides the elves predacious nature and seduces otherwise thoughtful people into submitting to atrocities they would normally never allow. Churches and Christians have been “glamoured” by personalities, crowds, charisma and success. This has got to stop. Wipe the fairy dust out of your eyes. Examine men and ministries based on the clear requirements of the Bible. Don’t give well spoken charlatans, hooligans and barkers the respect and responsibility reserved for a Godly man who leads the church with wisdom, grace and faithfulness.

Salvation is Impossible

February 16, 2015

camel and needleSalvation is not doable by men. The disciples responded to the departure of the rich young ruler with the question, “Who then can be saved?” Their question implies that salvation is somehow a work of man. If a good man who kept the law from his youth cannot be saved, who can be? To show the impossibility of salvation, Jesus gives a vivid illustration. He calls up a proverb well known throughout the region to show something was impossible. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than . . .” Today it might be said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a politician to tell the truth.” Something impossible is proverbially harder than a camel squeezing through a hole in a needle. Think about what’s being said. A camel is large, unfriendly hoofed mammal that stands over six feet tall and can weigh over a thousand pounds. It was the largest animal in Palestine at the time Jesus was speaking. A needle is a small metal shaft with a tiny hole punched in it for inserting thread. Putting a tiny little piece of thread through a hole barely large enough to fit the string is difficult. One thing is certain, a large desert dwelling mammal will never squeeze through a tiny sowing implement.

Jesus grabs a familiar proverb about an impossible feat and says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This is why in Mark 10 Jesus told the rich young man to keep the law and then tells him to sell everything and give the money to the poor. The rich man did not believe salvation was impossible. He thought he could do something to get salvation. He did not know a rich man can never purchase his salvation. Never. This thing is impossible. A good man can never deserve his salvation. Never. This thing is impossible. A law keeping man can never earn his salvation. Never. This thing is impossible. All attempts to bring about one’s own salvation are impossible. Charles Spurgeon said, “It is not that which comes out of you which will save you, but that which goes into you.”

The rest of Jesus’ words bring out the supremely great truth of salvation. Salvation is impossible for a rich man, a poor man, an obedient man, a disobedient man, a respected man, a despised man, a powerful man and an unknown man. The disciples were mortified at the impossibility of salvation. Their astonishment was misplaced. “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) The disciples should have been astonished that God would do for men this most remarkable of deeds.

Only God can provide a complete substitute for all of men’s sin. Only God can take the penalty on Himself and provide full pardon. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Actus 4:12) Only God can change the heart. No man naturally turns away from his idols, his desires and his own flesh. That requires a supernatural work in the heart of man. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none that seeketh after God.” Jesus Himself says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44). Salvation is impossible. Yet what man cannot even begin to accomplish, God does to the fullest.

“With God all things are possible.”

Mr. President, you have no authority here

February 12, 2015

President Obama recently caused a stir with some remarks in his address during the National Prayer Breakfast. Others have addressed the inaccuracies of some of his statements. Something else troubles me about his remarks. Our President has the audacity to imagine he has the right to speak for any religion and remonstrate those religions which do not fit his caricatures of faith. To lecture believers on the true teachings and history of their faith, to interpret the basic principles of other religions, and to pontificate on the believers responsibilities to faith is an act of folly and arrogance. No president has ever been elected as the papal authority of American or international religions. Our president has every right to speak for the nation and to speak on political matters. He has the right to express his own beliefs and to express his own opinions about other beliefs. However, he has no right to teaach Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or any other relgious group what is the appropriate application of their tenets. Mr. President, teaching people how to live out their faith is way above your pay grade.

I make it a habit to not get involved in discussions on politics. I have refrained from expressing my thoughts on many political issues confronting the nation and will continue to do so in the future. This blog is not a political platform in anyway and I am convinced the change our nation needs is not political, it is spiritual. However, the government’s relationship with the church and the church’s relationship with the government is far more than a matter of politics. A clear division between the church and the government is a major part of the doctrines developed in the Bible. Jesus draws a distinction between the things of Caesar and the things of God. The apostles recognized the inability of the government, even a religious government, to dictate moral behavior for Christians. God instituted three spheres of authority, family, state and church. These authorities are mutually supportive and complementary but each remains distinct from the others. To blur those distinctions damages all three institutions. The church’s confusion of her God given purpose with political activism is as misguided and ill-advised as our president’s attempt to teach all the religions of the world how they are to behave.

Christianity is spread by the persuasive proclamation of the gospel and by continued instruction in the Bible. Christianity is not spread by national power. Christian ethics are promulgated by thousands of anonymous volunteers, pastors and ministry leaders. Christian ethics are not taught by Presidential fiat. The president of the United States has never had authority to lead the churches and believers of our nation. Mr. President, you were not granted religious power by any decision of our nation, and even if you were, you would still have no authority to teach the church what it believes or how it is to apply those beliefs. If you desire to teach Christians how to behave, get involved in your church, teach a Sunday School class, go to Bible college, get ordained or be called to shepherd a church. The Oval Office is not a church and the President’s desk is not a pulpit.

Idolatry and Worship

February 5, 2015

I had intended to post something else today, but I came across a sermon by Thomas Watson on the second commandment that was so good I had to share portions of it.

“When we trust him, we make him God to us; when we do not trust him, we make him an idol. Trusting in God is to rely on his power as a Creator, and on his love as a Father. Trusting in God is to commit our chief treasure, our soul, to him. ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Psalm 31:5. As the orphan trusts his estate with his guardian, so we trust our souls with God. Then he becomes God to us.”

On idolatry:

Trusting anything more than God is to make it a god. Common things men trust in:
•    Riches (Matthew 13:22; Ecc. 5:13; Pro. 10:15)
•    Strength of man (Jer. 17:5; Ps. 20:7)
•    Wisdom (Jer. 9:23; Job 5:13)
•    Self-righteousness (Is. 64:6; Mat. 23:27; Ps. 26:1)
•    Discipline

Loving anything more than God is to make it a god. Loves that often supercede love for God:
•    Possessions (Eph. 5:5; Matt. 19:22)
•    Pleasure (2 Tim. 3:4; Eccl. 7:4)
•    Desires (Phi. 3:19)

Identifying an idol:

  • What do I think most upon?
  • When unrestrained where do my thoughts naturally flow?

 

On worship:

Love to God must be:

  • Pure and genuine- loving God for Himself not the benefits He gives
  • With all the heart- love to God must be the highest love in the life. “The mind must think of God, the will choose Him, the affections pant after Him.”
  • Passionate- burn in holy love to God.

Evidences of real love to God:

  • Desire His presence
  • Does not love sin
  • Not much in love with anything else
  • Cannot live without Him
  • Will be at any pains to get Him
  • Prefers Him above things and life
  • Love His saints
  • Careful not to dishonor Him

How to stir up love for God:

  • Work to know God properly
  • Be familiar with the Word
  • Think much about God

Love for God keeps His commandments. “Love and obedience, like two sisters, must go hand and hand.” (John 14:15):

  • By faith (Romans 16:26; Hebrews 11:4, 6)
  • Exhaustive (Psalm 119:6; Phil. 3:14)
  • Willingly (Is. 1:19; 1 Chr. 28:9)
    “Good duties must not be pressed nor beaten out of us, as the waters came from the rock, when Moses smote it with his rod—but must drop freely from us as myrrh from the tree, or honey from the comb. If a willing mind is lacking, the flower is lacking to perfume our obedience, and to make it a sweet-smelling savor to God.”

-Thomas Watson

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