Monday, November 29, 2010

What's "Of First Importance" according to the Scriptures?

One of our Associate Pastors filled the Pulpit Sunday morning at Church while our senior Pastor was away for the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, and this was one of many Scripture passages he used.    The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."
Although this was not the Pastor's main text, (Psalm 103 was), that phrase "of first importance" really stood out to me, and spoke to my heart, convicting me of my need to re-focus on what's really important in life.  Don't you just love how the Holy Spirit shows you things you need to see and apply to your life in a passage that you've read and studied for years, but seemed to pass right over?  Sometimes in the "hustle and bustle" of this world, our priorities can get out of order and things can get out of balance.  In the midst of stress, health problems, work, church, theological or doctrinal issues, family, politics, etc., (and on and on the list could go), I (we) can easily forget what is of "first importance".  

Forgive me, Father, and help me to always remember, and share with others that which is of first importance, "what I also received: that Christ died for our (my) sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." In Jesus name I pray, Amen!

And let us be like Charles Spurgeon, who said:
"I take my text, and make a bee-line to the CROSS." 
No matter where Spurgeon took his text from, he would quickly show where all Scripture points to Jesus.   (A good topic for a future blog)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just How Sovereign is God?

Charles H. Spurgeon, the 19th Century "Prince of Preachers" once said in a sermon entitled "God's Providence":

I believe...that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes —that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens —that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphis over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence —the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche. He that believes in a God must believe this truth. There is no standing-point between this and atheism. There is no half way between a mighty God that worketh all things by the sovereign counsel of his will and no God at all. A God that cannot do as he pleases—a God whose will is frustrated, is not a God, and cannot be a God. I could not believe in such a God as that.

You might say, Wait a minute! What about human choice? Well, just prior to the quote above, Spurgeon led up to it with the following:

Providence is amazing. O! that thought, it staggers thought! O! it is an idea that overwhelms me—that God is working all! The sins of man, the wickedness of our race, the crimes of nations, the iniquities of kings, the cruelties of wars, the terrific scourge of pestilence—all these things in some mysterious way are working the will of God! We must not look at it; we cannot look at it. I cannot explain it. I cannot tell you where human will and free agency unite with God's sovereignty and with his unfailing decrees. This has been the place where intellectual gladiators have fought with each other ever since the time of Adam. Some have said, Man does as he likes; and others have said, God does as he pleases. In one sense, they are both true; but there is no man that has brains or understanding enough to show where they meet. We cannot tell how it is that I do just as I please as to which street I shall go home by; and yet I cannot go home but through a certain road. John Newton used to say, there were two streets to go to St. Mary Woolnoth; but Providence directed him as to which he should use. Last Sabbath day I came down a certain street I do not know why—and there was a young man who wished to speak to me; he wished to see me many times before. I say that was God's Providence—that I might meet that young man. Here was Providence, and yet there was my choice; how, I cannot tell. I cannot comprehend it.
I believe...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spurgeon's Pulpit Prayer

I do not come into this Pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are Mine, and you shall be Mine. I claim you for Myself." My hope arises from the freeness of Grace, and not from the freedom of the will.

C.H. Spurgeon
(I gave a copy of this Spurgeon quote to a former Pastor/friend of mine 10 to 15 years ago. He later told me he taped it in the front cover of his Bible to remind him of this Truth before he ascends the Pulpit)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

God Saves Sinners! One-Point, not Five

The following post is a most excellent and most helpful word-for-word quote from J.I. Packer.
"The very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that
God saves sinners.

God the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
Saves does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
Sinners men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen."
J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essage,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.

Amen!  Well stated (as usual) Dr. Packer!  (No offense intended to all my 4-Point or 3-Point friends)

On a personal note, I prefer the term "Doctrines of Grace", to describe my "Soteriology", which I first read about in Dr. Tom Nettles' excellent book "By His Grace and For His Glory", because I don't follow John Calvin.  Although he was a great Reformer and a great man of Faith, he was a sinner like we are.  I follow my LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. If someone asks me if I'm a Calvinist, I ask them to define their term. I respectfully disagree with some of Calvin's and Reformed Theology's views such as infant baptism, their Eschatology, their position on Israel and the Church, etc., but I do fully agree with "Calvinism" on what is commonly called the 5-Points, or T.U.L.I.P., or the "Doctrines of Grace". However, as Packer said, these 5-Points were actually counter-points in response to the heresy being taught by the Remonstrants (followers of Arminius) at the Synod of Dort, after the deaths of both Calvin and Arminius. The acronym T.U.L.I.P. was coined even later, and could probably be better worded for better understanding of what these Doctrines teach (might be a subject for a whole other blog topic in the future). John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul both recently taught through them with their recommendations for better wording for each, but their acronyms weren't as "catchy" as "TULIP".