Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Moment of Truth

Anyone who knows me knows 2 things about me: I love Jesus, and I love to let people know that I love Jesus; in fact that is why I write this blog. There is a ministry out there that also love to let people know the good news about Jesus - not the watered down, feel good Gospel of the modern American church, but the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel that says we are all retched sinners before God and that we are deserving of His wrath for our sin (we should all - myself included - be condemned to Hell for our disobedience to God and His law) but in His grace and mercy He has provided a way for our sin to be forgiven and the case against us to be dismissed; all we have to do in return is to repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

The ministry I am talking about is called The Way of the Master and is lead by a man named Ray Comfort. If you have never checked out the Way of the Master website, please do so. You will find many useful tools for sharing your faith with others. And if you have never done so I highly recommend that you take some time to listen to Ray's sermon Hell's Best Kept Secret (you can listen to it free here).

Finally, below is a brief video featuring the TV show Moment of Truth followed by Ray doing what Ray does best - sharing the Gospel in a way that anyone can understand it.

Now go share this message with anyone who will listen - their eternity depends on it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Importance of Self Examination

I love the writings of the Puritans. Every time I read any of them I come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I see all of the areas of my life that I have fallen short of what God requires of us all. There is just something about they way that they wrote that shows me what is truly in my heart and leads me to repentance. I thank God for the power that they had in the words that they put to paper, I thank God that He has seen fit to preserve them for us today, and I pray that He will use the words that I write to touch people the way that the writings of men like Thomas Watson, Thomas Vincent, Octavius Winslow, and many others have touched me.

Here is another very convicting excerpt from Puritan writer Matthew Mead. This short excerpt, taken from "The Almost Christian" shows us the importance of making sure that we are truly in the faith.

A man may preach like an apostle, pray like an angel—and yet may have the heart of a devil!

Many have gone to hell, laden with spiritual gifts. No doubt Judas had great gifts, for he was a preacher of the gospel. What a grand profession Judas had! He followed Christ, left all for Christ, he preached the gospel of Christ, he cast out devils in the name of Christ, he ate and drank at the table of Christ—and yet Judas was but a hypocrite!

The Scriptures speak of some who have "a form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof." That is, they do not live in the practice of those graces, which they pretend to profess. He who pretends to godliness by a specious profession—and yet does not practice godliness by a holy life, he has a mere form of godliness—but denies the power.

Grotius compares such to
the ostrich, which has great wings—but yet does not fly. Just so—many have the wings of a fair profession—but yet do notuse them to mount upward in spiritual affections,and a heavenly life. As many go to heaven with the fear of hell in their hearts—so many go to hell with the name of Christ in their mouths!
Matthew Mead (1661)

The apostle Paul also wrote of the importance of examination; in his second letter to the Corinthians he wrote:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)
From this verse we can see that it is possible to think that we are in the faith and discover that we are not; it is possible to fail the test. Take some time today and examine yourself in light of God's Word. Ask Him to show you anywhere you fall short, repent of what He shows you, and then praise Him for the salvation that He provides. That is what I will be doing today.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mark Driscoll On Predestination

Here is a video of a sermon by Mark Driscoll that I just finished listening to and I highly recommend it to anyone who has questions about predestination; Mark does an awesome job of tackling this often heated topic.

And after you have viewed this please feel free to comment; this could lead to some interesting discussions.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Test Of Obedience

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

We now come to the next test of genuine faith in 1 John - the test of obedience. John tells us here that the one who knows God keeps His commandments, and conversely the one who does not keep His commandments does not know Him, and is a liar if they say that they do. John also tells us two times in these three verses that this is how we can know that we really know Him and that we are abiding in Jesus, so let's go through this passage in a little more detail and see what we can learn.

John starts by saying, in verse 3, "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep his commandments." What does it mean to know God? Have you ever thought about that question? I think about that question a lot. I am the kind of person who likes to do research and likes to study so it is a real danger for me to study and know all kinds of things about God and not really know Him. This may be a danger for you as well, so be on guard.

The Greek word used here is the word ginó̄skō, which means to know by experience. The word used here is aa active verb in the perfect tense, which in Greek indicates that this is an action that is being accomplished by the subject of the verb (in this case we) and that is is an action or process that has taken place at a point in the past, but the results of which have continued on to the present. In other words what John is saying is that we can say that we know God, but if we are not keeping His commandments then the knowledge that we have of Him is just that - knowledge - we have not known Him experientially, we have only known about Him.

This then leads us then to another question, which commandments is John referring to here? Is he talking about the 613 ceremonial laws in the Old Testament? Is he referring to the 10 Commandments? Or is he talking about something else entirely? This is an important question to answer, because according to this passage, if we get this one wrong we are lying when we say that we know Him. I think John gives us a clue as to what he is referring in verse 5 where he writes, "whoever keeps his word..." The his in this verse refers back to the subject of verses 1 and 2, which is Jesus Christ. So what John is saying is that it is the keeping of the word of Jesus (His commandments) that proves the genuineness of our salvation.

This then leads us to our next question, what are the commandments of Jesus; what is His word that we are to keep? To answer this question we need to go back to the Gospels and see what it was that Jesus told us we are to do; when asked directly which commandment is the most important of all Jesus replied:
The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

And in the Gospel of John, Jesus said:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

So according to John, we can know that our faith is genuine if we keep the words of Jesus. And the words that Jesus gave us to obey are these: love God above everything else, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ironically, if we obey these words of Jesus we will also have obeyed the 10 commandments as well. On the other hand, John also tells us that if we do not do these things we are showing that our faith is not genuine and that we have reason to question our salvation.

John then tells us that whoever does these things, in them the love of God is perfected. What does this mean? I believe what John is teaching us here is that as we obey God we will grow more and more to love Him and we will find that we are no longer doing these things because we were commanded to do so, but because of our love for Him.

John concludes these verses by stating again the importance of obedience; in verse 6 he says, "By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."

We are to walk as Jesus walked. In the Bible to word walk is often used to depict action or lifestyle. In other words, what John is saying here is that as a professing believer in Jesus Christ we are to live our life in the same way that He lived His life here on earth; we are to do what Jesus did. This goes back again to what Jesus told us we are to do: love God, and love each other. These are the things that Jesus did, and these are the things that He told us to do as well.

Take some time today to examine yourself in light of 1 John 2:3-6. If you pass the test rejoice and praise God for the salvation that He has given you. And if you find that you fall short, confess your sin, repent and rejoice that you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Then obey what He commanded you to do.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

James White vs. Steve Gregg

Over the past few days I have enjoyed listening to a debate between James White and Steve Gregg on the Doctrines of Grace. While anyone who knows me or who reads this blog regularly knows which side of the issue I come down on I still think this is a worth while topic to discuss and I highly recommend taking the time to listen.

The debate took place over the last 5 days on Steve's radio show with each participant having the opportunity to both represent their respective positions, and to rebut the other. No matter which side you take here I you will definitely find something to make you think. You can find links to all 5 days at the Alpha and Omega Ministries website, and this link will take you right to the correct page:

James White, Steve Gregg Debate

Also, I do apologize for taking so long between posts lately. I have been writing a lot of other stuff and I will try to get back to posting at least a few times each week as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Puritans (Part 7) - The Wrath To Come

Yesterday I finished up the post on 1 John 2:2 and this morning I opened my email to find this from Grace Gems. If you have any question about what it was that Jesus saved us from, or why it is that we need a Savior, just read this.
"Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come!" 1 Thessalonians 1:10

By "the wrath to come" we are to understand the infinite wrath of the sin-avenging God—in comparison with which, the wrath of all other creatures in the world is mild, and not in the least to be regarded.

This wrath which is to come, will be most bitter—beyond any gall or wormwood to the taste. This wrath will be most pure—without any allay or mixture of any comfortable ingredients. This wrath will be most plentiful—the treasury of which will be opened in hell, and all the damned will be filled with it abundantly. This wrath will be most weighty—beyond any mountain of lead, to sink sinners down into the bottomless pit. This wrath will be most fierce—and so powerful that all the powers of men and devils shall not be able to make the least resistance. This wrath will be intolerable—and yet must be borne; it will be implacable—so as never to be appeased; and it will be eternal—so as never to be ended!

This wrath will include the punishment of loss—will consist of the loss of the crown, glory, and happiness of heaven, where the righteous shall be admitted to the immediate vision and full fruition of God the chief good, which will fill them with soul-ravishing, inconceivable, and eternal joy. But from this, all the wicked will be eternally shut out, and wholly denied any share in the least of that happiness which, when they come to understand the worth and excellency of it—will above all things be most vexing to them!

This wrath will include the punishment of sense—will consist in the horrible pains and tortures which shall in extreme measure be inflicted upon every part of the bodies of all the wicked, by the most dreadful and unquenchable fire into which they shall be thrown; and the horrible anguish which, through the immediate impressions of God's wrath, shall be inflicted upon every faculty of their souls in hell, where they shall have no ease or release forever! Matthew 25:41, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" Revelation 14:10-11, "They shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night."

The wicked are vessels fitted by sin for destruction, and prepared for wrath; and therefore they shall be filled with it! God has treasured up wrath for the wicked—as they have treasured up sin! God will give them that which they have so much deserved, and which He has prepared for them. However sinners may vainly hope to flee or hide themselves from the stroke of God's vengeance, yet God's right hand will find all those who hate Him; and He will make them as a fiery oven in the time of His anger, swallow them up in His wrath, and devour them with the fire of His indignation! (Psalm 21:8-9).

The souls of the wicked, as soon as they are loosened by death from the ruinous habitation of their bodies, presently appear before God, are condemned to hell, and are dragged by the devil, hell's jailer, into that prison where they are bound in chains of darkness, filled with horror and anguish until the day of eternal judgment!

Oh, the dread and confusion which the wicked then shall be filled with—when they are summoned and dragged to the tribunal seat of Christ—and there have the books opened before them, where all their sins are written, and which will then be made manifest to the whole world; and when the sentence "Depart, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire!" shall be passed upon them; and when the Lord shall open the treasury of wrath to them, and give them that portion thereof, which is their due; and when they shall see the mouth of hell open beneath them, and a horrible flame issuing forth from there, giving notice of a more horrible fire within which is prepared for them!

Oh, the dread! Oh, the shrieks! Who can dwell with such devouring fire! Who can inhabit such everlasting burnings! How welcome would a great rock or mountain be—if they could find any that would fall upon them, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, and keep off the strokes of God's vengeance, which then will be inflicted upon them!

But, the sentence being pronounced—the execution will follow—and none can escape it! From Christ's tribunal seat, the wicked will be thrown into the fiery prison of hell, where they will be shut down and shut in, and that forever! There they will lie; there they will fry, and there they will cry! Though always dying—they will never die! The fire there will burn most dreadfully and continually, yet will never be extinguished! The wicked will be tormented there, in every part and in extreme measure—and their torment will never be ended!
Thomas Vincent (1670)

Remember, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and what could be more kind than being saved from this? Take some time today to thank God for sending Jesus to redeem us and thank Jesus for the salvation that He provided.

What an awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jesus Christ, Our Propitiation

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

As we continue our study of First John we come to what is arguably the most important word in the entire Bible after the name of Jesus; in 1 John 2:2 we are told that He (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation is somewhat difficult to define because there is so much more meaning here than anything we can express with mere words. Webster's Dictionary defines the word propitiate as: "to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of : appease, conciliate" and propitiation then as "the act of propitiating: something that propitiates: an atoning sacrifice." This is what the word means, but in the life of the Christian this definition does not adequately express what it means that Jesus is our propitiation.

In order to get a glimpse of what this word really means for us we need to first see clearly our condition before God apart from the propitiatory work of Jesus. We read in Romans that all have sinned and fall sort of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but have we really ever stopped to think what that really means? In Paul's letter to the Ephesians he wrote:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
What we see in these verses is that apart from Christ we are dead, we are under God's wrath, we are called sons of disobedience, and if we follow this all the way to chapter 5 Paul actually tells us that the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6). Once again we see that we have a dilemma; we are under the wrath of God and we have absolutely no way to appease that wrath. We need someone who can reconcile us to God and move us from being under His wrath to a position of favor - that is propitiation. When John writes that He is the propitiation for our sins what he is telling us is that Jesus has acted on our behalf and appeased the wrath of God that we were due because of our sin. And how did Jesus do this? I really like the way the NASB translates this verse because it tells us that "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins..." In other words, Jesus' death on the cross was the atoning sacrifice that God required to pay the penalty for our sins; Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, took our sin on Himself and took the wrath of his Father in our place and in return He gives us His righteousness so that we can have favor with God. Here are just a few verses that illustrate this point:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
And Finally:
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, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
As you can see, this is a very important doctrine, and I have only scratched the surface of all that this implies in the life of the believer. We could study this for the rest of time (maybe even eternity) and never exhaust or fully understand what it means that Jesus is Himself our propitiation.

John then finishes verse 2 by saying that Jesus is not just the propitiation for our sins but also for the sins of the world. This can be a very controversial verse and some have used it to teach a universal salvation meaning that because Jesus died for the sins of the whole world the whole world must be saved. But that cannot be what this verse means because this would contradict other passages that clearly teach that salvation is given only to those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ. So what does this phrase mean then?

I think that what John is telling us here is not that the whole world will be saved by the work of Christ on the cross, but that the work of Christ on the cross is sufficient to save the whole world. Let me put it another way; Jesus died for our sins as our propitiation, and His death is sufficient to pay the price for every sin that every person who ever lived ever has or ever will commit. However, in order to appropriate that payment to the account of the individual sinner it is the responsibility of each sinner to repent and turn to God for salvation. Or to put it yet another way, Jesus' death is the complete and perfect sacrifice and nothing else is needed or can be added to it, it perfectly covers every sin - we just need to accept it by faith, repent of our sins, and turn to God. When we do this there is a propitiation for all of our sins, and not ours only, it is also available to all who believe.