27 For You, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. 2 Samuel 7:27 (NASB)
Is there a difference between how a genuine believer should pray and how most professing Christians actually pray? Our perception is that we pray as we feel or desire or as the result of viewing both our needs and other’s needs. What we often overlook is that God is heavily involved in all aspects of our sanctification and that includes leading us in prayer. God loves those who are His and blessing them is part of His expression of that love.
Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.
We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you never were part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit. (1 John 4:1a)
It is quite true that a mark of maturity is unbelief as well as belief. It is as important that you do not believe certain things as it is that you do believe others. John indicates that this is a widespread problem.
Many false prophets, he says,
have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1a). In Matthew’s gospel, the Lord Jesus warned of this:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7:15). Here we have underlined for us the fact that we live in a world of deceit, and we are greatly pressured to conform to these things.
7 Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. Amos 7:7 (NASB)
In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the characters’ names usually define their character. For instance there is Ignorance. He refuses to believe Christian and Hopeful when they tell him that unless he goes through the narrow gate to begin his pilgrimage, he will not be allowed into the gate of the Celestial City. Then there is Talkative who equates making a fuss about one’s sin with actual repentance. Early in Christian’s pilgrimage, he comes across two other pilgrims named Formalist and Hypocrisy who come from a country called Vain-Glory. They tell Christian that the shortcut that they took to the path, bypassing the narrow gate, was necessary because it was too far to travel from Vain-Glory to it. All were revealed to be counterfeit Pilgrims and none of them made it into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ save Christian, Hopeful and Faithful.
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. Hebrews 11:31 (NASB)
5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Matthew 1:5-6 (NASB)
24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:24-26 (NASB)
How would you like it if your name was forever associated with the profession of prostitution? Rahab lived on the wall in the city of Jericho. When the two spies sent by Joshua entered the city, they stayed at her house. When the city officials knew of their presence, Rahab hid them then helped them escape. In return the spies promised to save her and her family when Jericho was attacked by the Israelites. Later, she was wed to Salmon of the tribe of Judah. Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer who married Ruth. Their son Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David the King.
This put Rahab in the genealogical line of Jesus Christ. However, she is still called Rahab the Harlot or Rahab the prostitute in scripture. Why? Rahab is a trophy of God’s grace. She is an example to us all that the good we do that is eternal is always by and through God’s grace. When we are weak, yet obedient, God is strong through us. That is why James can say that good works will always accompany genuine saving faith. As regenerate believers, we must learn this. Any works we do in our own abilities are not eternal. All of the work God does through us is eternal.
5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:5-6 (NASB)
Several years ago when I still worked in an office I had a fellow with whom I worked, when he found out that I was a Christian, demand that I listen to his “reasoning” why “everything is relative.” I told him I would listen to him if he could refute the following statement, “Aren’t you making an ‘absolute statement’ when you say, ‘there are no absolutes’?” He chuckled nervously and left my cubicle. I still pray that God will save him. My brethren, the scourge of relativism is a blight within the visible Church. It causes people to flee from the absolute. When truth is seen as relative then in what or whom can anyone have faith and trust? Do we read the words of our Lord in Sacred Scripture ever saying, “Well, it depends?”
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:1-3 (NASB)
I was not very surprised recently when there arose some resentments against what some label as “Discernment Ministries.” Some of those who are trying to raise the alarm against these ministries are making themselves “former friends” with some of us who actually do the work of warning the flock of Christ about the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false prophets, the false teachers, et cetera who Paul commanded us in his epistles to expose, for example, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” from Ephesians 5:11. In any case, those who do this work are also required to do it as unto the Lord with wisdom rooted in maturity in Christ. All of which means that those who are discerning are also mature and Christlike and so should represent His character in how they do this work. The Apostle Paul gave us a good example of Christian character in Philippians 2, which we must have if we are to be discerning and it must also apply to all those who are pastors and elders. Let us be honest. If church leaders followed what Paul taught in his epistles then there would be little if anything for us to do and that would be a good thing indeed.
11 And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry to the building up of the Body of Christ 13 until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ 14 that we should not longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. Ephesians 4:11-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In 1887, Robert Shindler, a fellow pastor and close friend of Charles Spurgeon, wrote in Spurgeon’s publication, The Sword and the Trowel: “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” If we think deeply and honestly on those searing words with all humility and willingness to repent of what God shows us about ourselves, I am certain that each of us must repent of falling for the fallacy of seeking that which is new or different in our theology. If we are honestly seeking the will of God that is both good and right, but if we are looking to have itching ears tickled or are pursuing the subjective or experiential as the means of fulfillment then all we are really doing is falling for some lie and are revealing that we are indeed just infants in the Lord who are being tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. I doubt if any one reading this really wants that.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)
The Church is in the midst of a Truth War. That is nothing new is it? We have been talking about this for quite some time; however, we must remain diligent while not surrendering the fight over what is Truth and what is not to the enemies of God’s Truth. The reason the visible church is being eaten alive by the world right now is that it has long ago forsaken God’s Word as His infallible Truth. The result is the compromised mess we see all around us now. Why is it that Rick Warren and his followers have such a hold on the visible church? Their paper-thin, worldly theology is geared to be man-pleasing and non-offensive by being sanitized with the removal of those things like the doctrines of the Total Depravity of Man, Justification by Faith, and then there is that bloody cross of Christ and why our Lord deliberately laid down His life there. You will not hear about any of that in those compromised churches because that might offend someone. What about those people comfortable in their religiosity, we couldn’t have them suddenly come under conviction that they are filthy sinners in need of a Saviour and the only way to be Justified by Faith is through that bloody Cross, taking it up and following Jesus Christ as Lord. Oh no we cannot have that, let us sanitize it up and make it easy so people can come to us and be comfortable in their religiosity so our churches can be large and growing.
2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or chara, “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or piptō, “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.”
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are; Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother (1 John 3:10).
Someone has said that people may be divided into two classes, the righteous and the unrighteous, and the classifying is always done by the righteous! Certainly it is true that humanity is divided into two classes—not three, as we often fondly imagine. We would like to think there are the children of the devil, the children of God, and then a vast group in between who are morally neutral, neither devilish nor godly. But God says
No, there are not three classes.
Nor is there one class. There are many today who would have us believe that all people everywhere are, by virtue of their natural birth, children of God. But the Bible never sustains that idea for even a moment. These words of John are the echo of the words of the Lord Jesus Himself when He said to certain Pharisees of His day,
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire (John 8:44). This is what the phrase children of the devil means. It does not mean that the devil created them, but it means that they reflect the nature and characteristics of the devil.
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:53-58 (NASB)
The condition of the “visible church” in our time is quite tragic. It is full of professing Christians who appear to be running headlong into apostasy in ever increasing numbers. In this post we will attempt to look at what it is in these people that has brought this about. Why have they fallen into darkness and we have not? There are leaders amongst those on the broadway that leads to apostasy that have a problem taking God’s Word as absolute truth. On the other hand, I have always taught God’s Word as literal truth yet there are many places in the Word that some professing Christians have a problem taking literally because, if we do, then it refutes their pet theology exactly to the point. That is the nature of God’s truth. I have had some very ugly discussions in Bible Study classes about doctrine in which certain people were insistent that a section of God’s Word cannot be taken literally even though the only refutation they have against doing so is human philosophy. This, my brethren, is unbelief in action.
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:10-13 (NASB)
Without a doubt, there is a growing apostasy in the Church. One of the main reasons this is taking place is that the majority of professing Christians have adopted the pervasive attitude in modern Western culture that says authority to determine right and wrong resides in the individual. Combine this with a critical spirit in a person and we have one who not only believes that truth is whatever he or she determines it is, but they also seem to take great pleasure in hypocritically judging others just as our Lord commanded us not to do (Matthew 7:1-6).
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 (NASB)
There are really only two groups of people in the world. There are those who are branches bearing fruit in the True Vine who is Christ and then there are those who either are totally separate from the vine in their rejection of Gospel or they are branches in in the True Vine who bear no fruit. Those branches which bear fruit have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word by Christ. Their sins are forgiven. The other group has not been cleansed so are in their sins whether they are in the True Vine or not.
“…no lie comes from the truth.” (1 John 2:21b)
Have you learned yet that no lie is of the truth, that there is no possible harmony between a lie and the truth? In other words, that there are no gray areas in life; that a thing is either black (a lie) or it is white (the truth), and there are no gray areas, though there may be a mingling of black with white. Every Christian has an ability to exercise moral judgment to distinguish right from wrong. It is amazing how many Christians have not learned this yet and still go on echoing the lie of the world, that there can be a blending of truth and error. John utterly cuts the ground out from under that.
I wrote to you, he says,
because you have found this out, if you know Jesus Christ. You may not have thought through the implications, but you must know that there is no possibility of blending a lie with the truth.”
The New Testament frequently reminds us of the difficulty that the true minister of the Gospel faces. The Apostle Paul says, “We are being killed all day long, we are like sheep led to the slaughter” (Rom 8:36), and, “We are in danger every hour. We die daily” (1 Cor 15:30–32). He says the servant of God is constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor 4:11). And yet Paul also says he does not lose heart (2 Cor 4:16).
And as he wraps up chapter four and begins chapter five of 2 Corinthians, he develops the theme of how a sure and certain confidence in the bodily resurrection fuels our joyful, enduring ministry, even in the midst of affliction. We do not lose heart, because momentary, light affliction is achieving for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:16-18). In the opening verse of chapter 5, Paul continues this thought.
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Paul can persevere in faithful service to the body of Christ—even the kind of service that requires him to lay down his life—because he knows something, because he has been persuaded of the truth. If you connect 5:1 with 4:16–18, you get, “Therefore, we do not lose heart . . . for we know.”
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us (1 John 2:19a).
Notice that the mark of an antichrist is finally breaking away from New Testament Christianity. All such invariably do. And when they do, they will insist that they are the true mainstream of Christian truth and that we are living in the backwaters of Christian doctrine. John puts this very plainly. The mark of genuineness is continuity in the truth, continuance in true faith. What does he mean by
us? Surely not Christendom in general. He means, as he makes clear in the context of this whole letter, those who love the Word of God and who possess the Spirit of God, those who seek to obey the Word in the power of the Spirit. The emphasis he has been making all along is on those who share the life of Christ by the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. Heretics will invariably cut themselves off from these people.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB)
When we look at the Moon in its phases what we are actually seeing is part of that created body orbiting the Earth facing the Sun and so reflecting its light back to us while the part not facing it being in shadow, appears dark. The dividing line between the two is called the Terminator. On one side is day and on the other is night. One side is light, one side is dark. However, we must remember that the Moon simply reflects light back to us, it has no light of its own, no brightness or luminosity generated that makes up its nature unlike the Sun. Also, if we look at our Lord’s Transfiguration, we see that the glory in which Moses and Elijah saw was actually the glory being manifested from our Lord. It was His glory or δόξα which awakened Peter, James, and John to their astonishment. As the passage above, from John 1, states, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” What is this light and what is this darkness? What is this life? What has this to do with the dividing line between God Centeredness and Man Centeredness?
63 The Spirit is who makes alive. The flesh does not profit anything The Spirit is who makes alive. The flesh does not profit anything. The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. John 6:63 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Things are either right or wrong. We see this very clearly in the non-compromising adherence to the truth with the Apostle John. However, let us not forget that what he wrote for us in God’s Word is that very thing. We are reading the inspired Word of God and in John 6, the very words of our Lord are, for the most part, in response to His critics who were in the darkness of unbelief.
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:1-8 (NASB)
Any attempt to please God by rule keeping or law keeping in order to “earn” right standing with Him is fruitless effort. Not only is it impossible, failure is inevitable. Also, for Christians to “evangelize” through legalism is a total waste of time. These well-meaning people tell unbelievers to stop sinning instead of preaching Jesus to them. I find this a ludicrous mind-set since no one who still lives in the temporal can be sinless. On the other hand, as we see in the passage above (Romans 8:1-8), those in Christ are in right standing before God because the law of the Spirit of life has set them free in their Saviour from the law of sin and death. However, this does not mean they are free to live this life as antinomians, that is, taking the grace of God for granted and living any way they choose. How can we live this life as we should my brethren? As we see in Romans 8:1-8 (above) those who walk correctly before the face of God do so according to the Spirit.
1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In John 15:1, we have our Lord’s last of His seven “I am” sayings signifying His claim of deity. The word “true” in v1 translates the adjective ἀληθινὴ, which is nominative, singular of ἀληθινός or alēthinos, “unfeigned, trustworthy, true.” The nominative case form, ἀληθινὴ of ἀληθινός means that the metaphor our Lord is making of Him being the “true vine” is subject to the main verb in the sentence with is εἰμι, which, of course, means, in this context, “am.” Therefore, our Lord is saying that the fact that He is deity means that He is the “true vine.” What this means, of course, is that there are “other vines,” but He is the only one who is “true” and God the Father is the γεωργός or vinedresser. The noun γεωργός or geōrgos, “can refer to the owner of a farm or to those who work the farm.” Here our Lord is using this term metamorphically to refer to God the Father as the owner of a vineyard, the “vinedresser.”
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)
Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?
As we have seen, Unconditional Election is the work of God the Father. Particular Redemption is the work of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is also at work in the salvation of the elect. It is His efficaciously gracious work to apply the benefits of Christ’s works to those elect whom Jesus has redeemed.
The Doctrine of Irresistible Grace refers to the way God calls us to Jesus Christ. However, to some, these words imply that God drags people kicking and screaming into His Kingdom. They also seem to imply that grace is never resisted by us. Obviously it is. However, this doctrine does tell us that no one called can resist effectively. When God calls us to faith in Jesus Christ he calls effectively, always succeeding. The grace of God’s calling is overwhelmingly efficacious, therefore, I prefer to call it “Efficacious Grace.”
26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:26-32 ESV)
Yom Kipper, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. It takes place on the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishri) on the Jewish calendar. Please carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Do you see the serious emphasis God places on the need for His people’s atonement? What is this atonement? Biblical atonement is the act of God canceling the debt of His people’s sin. Without it God’s wrath against their sin could not be appeased.
The Doctrine of Unconditional Election is not for sissies. What I mean by that is if we adhere to this doctrine then we had better be ready for those in unbelief to attack us with their broadsides and accusations. It seems that every Pelagian out there, whether full blown Pelagian or semi-Pelagian or Arminian, is convinced that Man is not dead in his or her trespasses and sins and is fully able to elect God or not. Of course, none of their arguments hold any water because they are derived either from man-centered philosophy or from Bible verses taken out of context (eisegesis). On the other hand, the Doctrines of Grace are all completely Biblical and are based entirely in Holy Scripture expositions done exegetically.