Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Month: May 2006

And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” … It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

> John 10:14-18 and 10:23-30

What a sovereign, all-powerful Savior and God who doesn’t just make salvation possible, where a person’s eternal destiny hinges on sinfulness and frailty (inherent within man), but He makes salvation actual in those the Father has given Him to purchase with His blood, His chosen one’s, His sheep! What a wondrous thought this is indeed, that God pursues any sinner at all, despite the sinner, His choice to act mercifully in this way being based only on His free, sovereign love that He dispenses as He sees fit. Why did He choose me and not another? I was in no way more deserving than any other person; I am a sinner of sinners, to be despised! The reason He chose me is based solely on His eternal counsel with Himself (and with no other) that I simply cannot fathom. I can boast in no action on my part, that I in any way contributed anything to the price of my salvation (that is to say that I do not even boast in my faith as my contribution in salvation), but I boast only in the cross of Christ, where He purchased my pardon and everything necessary to bring me to Himself. How can I boast in the fact that I have faith and another doesn’t? Is this not itself a gift and blessing of the cross, given to me by grace (grace = receiving something you do not deserve)? Why did He choose this sinner? All I can answer to these things is that my salvation is all of grace, from beginning to end … to which I fall on my face before the LORD with tears of joy inexpressible, praising the God of grace, that He not only rescued me from eternal death in the just fires and torments of God’s wrath, but even better, He reconciled me to Himself! He is my sovereign joy, the Great Satisfier, my great King from all eternity! Who compares with the great God, Yahweh, who from eternity past always saw His sheep as being reconciled through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ!? There is no other worthy of such praise and glory … And the LORD doesn’t just give His sheep salvation and leave them to fend for themselves in this life, but He keeps them and holds them by the power of His word through the Spirit, with cords of heavenly love inwardly bestowed, in order that they will follow Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

Personal, Humbling Encouragement from Christ Today

Today was a very exciting day for me. Over time, by the mercies and grace of God alone, I have had the privelage of witnessing over and over again to co-workers, neighbors, and others I come in contact with, in hopes the Holy Spirit will use the discussions to bring people to faith in Christ for salvation (as He sees fit). However, I have seen very little evidence that anything was actually happening in the lives of these friends and have been a little discouraged. It is the equivalent of casting out seed and watering it, but never seeing anything grow. After you do that for a while and see no evidence of your labors, you can become a little discouraged and feel that it’s to no avail (though I know that’s not true in the context of giving God glory through witnessing, regardless of the outcome). And I’ve felt discouraged for a while now; that is until today.

This one particular friend (who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons) started talking with me about various random things and then all of a sudden the discussion turned into talking about God, Christ, sin, justice, the cross, mercy, salvation, etc. He told me his story about how when he was younger, he went to a Southern Baptist church and believed in Christ, but the teaching was very moralistic and left the sinner even more burdened before they came. And so as a result of this teaching (though he was still responsible for his actions), he turned to his sin, all the while feeling wrong about all he did (very similar to my own experience in regard to turning away and feeling terrible about it the whole time).

However, recently, he told me he has been very convicted about his actions and how they haven’t lined up with that of Christ’s, and it started bothering him even more. And when I asked him what led him to this conviction, he told me, “Seeing your life and the way you live has been the Gospel to me, and I thought to myself, ‘I want that again, I have missed it for so many years.'” All I could do at that point was not point to myself and say, “Well done, David. You really are a righteous guy, good for you, you’re a great example and he should follow your pattern,” but rather point him to the One who has changed me of His free grace and mercy and attribute any change in me that works itself out in my life to God alone, mainly because simply following my example won’t produce the change he so desperately needs. And all this in hopes that my friend would look to the beauty and worth of Christ alone even moreso than he is now, in order that he may be forever changed (sanctified) and drawn near to the Father through the blood of Christ.

If my life, my actions, and my words were a witness of the Gospel to him, praise God for using such an unworthy sinner as me to do His divine work. Praise God He works despite the vessel He chooses to use. I am in no way qualified to be a witness of God on my own, but I preach the Gospel only on the basis of the death and resurrection of Christ. Firstly, who am I that He would choose me for salvation to begin with; but then secondly, who am I that He would use me as an instrument to do His mighty, powerful work in the life of another soul? How glorious is this, that the righteous, holy, perfect, just God who spoke the universe into existence, with whom there is no imperfection, would use the crooked, defiled, lisping tongues of sinners to save sinners? How humbling …

But at the same time, I was very encouraged because it was so refreshing to see that God has indeed been using me and that my work (to His glory) has not been in vain. How uplifting this has been for me today! All glory to God! This also illustrates something else I have been talking about recently a lot in my blogs: that in this instance, and every instance, it is God alone who changes people’s hearts, we do not. That is our only hope in witnessing and teaching. All we do is open our mouths and God either sovereignly (on the basis of His own will, design, purpose, and counsel alone) convicts someone to the core of their being, or He sovereign chooses not to and thus leaves them (justly) to their own sin. It’s His doing and His perogative to change the disposition of someone’s heart in order that they believe in Christ, as well as grow in Him. In addition to this point, just as much as preaching a clear concise Gospel is so important, so also living that Gospel out in our lives is equally important. Toward the end of our conversation, my friend told me that he had heard what I had to say in the past, but he said that seeing it work itself out in my life and how much joy it gave me on a day to day basis was what struck him even more than my words. As he said, “Your actions reinforce what you said, and I see what you mean by those words.” Man, praise God that He alone sovereignly saves and changes people. What other hope do we have?

Conversion of the Will … John Calvin

Conversion of the Will is the Effect of Divine Grace Inwardly Bestowed – John Calvin

“A must read for all Christians who aspire to better understand the Bible’s teaching on God’s work in bringing a sinner to faith in Christ.” – John Hendryx

“The beginning of right will and action being of faith, we must see whence faith itself is. But since Scripture proclaims throughout that it [faith] is the free gift of God, it follows, that when men, who are with their whole soul naturally prone to evil, begin to have a good will, it is owing to mere grace. Therefore, when the Lord, in the conversion of his people, sets down these two things as requisite to be done, viz., to take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh, he openly declares, that, in order to our conversion to righteousness, what is ours must be taken away, and that what is substituted in its place is of himself. Nor does he declare this in one passage only. For he says in Jeremiah “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever;” and a little after he says, “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me,” (Jer. 32: 39, 40.) Again, in Ezekiel, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh,” (Ezek. 11: 19.) He could not more clearly claim to himself, and deny to us, everything good and right in our will, than by declaring, that in our conversion there is the creation of a new spirit and a new heart. It always follows, both that nothing good can proceed from our will until it be formed again, and that after it is formed again in so far as it is good, it is of God, and not of us.”

– Excerpted from a portion of Ch.8, Book2 of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

“It is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense mercy (but also wrath, Ex 34:7) on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name.”

– John Piper – The Justification of God, pp. 88-89

Why Postmodern Thinking Cannot be Adopted into the Church

Eros Spirituality Vs. Agape Faith by David F. Wells – Excellent!

The philosophical nature of Postmodern thought can essentially be described as this:

“In postmodernism the intellect is replaced by will, reason by emotion, and morality by relativism. Reality is nothing more than a social construct; truth equals power. Your identity comes from a group. Postmodernism is characterized by fragmentation, indeterminacy, and a distrust of all universalizing (worldviews) and power structures (the establishment). It is a worldview that denies all worldviews (“stories”). In a nutshell, postmodernism says there are no universal truths valid for all people. Instead, individuals are locked into the limited perspective of their own race, gender or ethnic group. It is Nietzsche in full bloom. (CIM)”

(Quote from Monergism.com – Postmodernism)

So if this is true of postmodern thought, how in the world can this possibly jive with the absolutes presented to us within Scripture? Well, it can’t. And that’s why the Emerging church in particular is doomed to fail in its endeavor. It does indeed have legitimate beefs with the modern day church, and is itself a revolt against many of the problems that I also see within the church. But it has swung out to another extreme. In order to reach the postmodern culture of our time, the Emerging church has adopted postmodern thought as a way to make Christianity more palatable, but this is just not possible. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) If we are preaching the Gospel in its true Scriptural light, why would the word of the cross be folly to those who are perishing unless they deny the truthfulness of what is stated (thus implying the word of the cross is true)? But if we are preaching a relativistic Gospel (and thus a false Gospel) what truth is there to deny? What is faith in Christ except that you are stating His Gospel is indeed true? And so how can relativism be reconciled with the Gospel? It cannot.

Postmodern thought states that there are no absolute truths, and yet the Bible is the entire unfolding of God’s absolute truth. These two approaches to the world and man cannot be reconciled. One is divine, the other is secular and worldly, self-focused. Postmodernism/Relativism is just another philosophy of the age spun out by the world to deny the true God. So why would we want to adopt thinking along these lines? Paul warned the Colossians not to be taken captive by any philosophy or empty deceit in Colossians 2:8. Speaking of absolute truths within Scripture, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There are no other alternatives.

Truth is not dependent on the individual or what he perceives as reality, a notion that makes self the center of the universe. No individual defines for himself what is right or wrong. They may think they do, but they will think differently when standing before the judgment seat of the eternal God. But rather truth is based on God, who He is, and what He’s done. God defines reality, He alone defines what is true, because He is truth. And He defines right and wrong. For an individual to say “I define my own truth,” is the same as saying he is his own god. We are saved by Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone. There can be no “other” way. If someone denies this truth, then so be it, he must answer to God. But there are not multiple ways to God, as if truth were based in the individual. In speaking to the Jews, Peter states in Acts 4:11-12, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

In adopting the current philosophy of the age, the Emerging church is self-contradictory in that the very thing it wants to offer, namely salvation through faith in Christ and hope of eternal life in Him, is the very thing it cannot successfully offer, because to offer the Gospel is to imply the truthfulness of it. And as believers, we cannot waiver on the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is not relative truth, it is absolute.

So what’s the answer to addressing our postmodern culture? A full, unbridled recovery of the Scriptural Gospel within the church, that we may bring it to our culture and that many may be saved through the “foolishness of what we preach,” by the power of God alone. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24) We must reaffirm all of the truths of the Gospel within Scripture, lest the church become even less effective in its witness to our culture than it already has. The answer to the problems the Emerging church sees within the larger evangelical church is not to adopt another secular philosophy in its place, but rather go back to the core of our faith, Christ and Him crucified, and corporately state the doctrinal truths of Scripture. We must return to the Gospel, and by the power of God exhibited through the cross of Christ, not be swayed by the empty deception and philosophy of the world that will not cease to rise and fall until all things are made new by God.

We must stand firm for the cause of the Gospel, for the truthfulness of it, in order that God’s name would be glorified, and that many would be made sons of the living God, by the power of God through the cross. If the church in any way adopts the ways of the world, how can it possibly be effective in its witness for Christ? We must not adopt a dead, fleshly, worldly way of thinking, but rather preach Christ, Him crucified and risen for sinners that have infinitely offended Him, and through that message the power of God through the Holy Spirit can transform the most hostile of sinners.

Other Resources pertain to this:

The Spirit of the Age and the Reality of the Risen Christ – John Piper
Emerging Church – Monergism.com

Together for the Gospel: Final Statement

Together for the Gospel – Final Statement (PDF)

Here is a link to the final version of the Together for the Gospel statement. It is my opinion every Gospel-loving church should sign this statement and affirm these truths because as time progresses, more and more churches are falling victim to worldly influences and powers that seek to squelch the message of the Gospel. As they say at the beginning of this statement, “We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ.” Right on. Check this out … it’s a great modern day document defining core Biblical, historical truths we must re-establish and refuting errors that have risen in the modern-day American church. We must recover the Gospel for the name of Christ, that He may be pre-eminent in all things.

What’s the big deal with the Da Vinci Code? It’s just fiction!

I have heard this response from many people I know and I’d like to explain what’s wrong with it. Yes, it’s fiction. But Dan Brown himself has come out publicly and said that within the story, he intends to challenge the historical account of Christ as well as that of Scripture itself by asking, “How do we know any of the things said of Christ are true?” Hmm, that’s a big problem to me, and it’s coming from the author himself. And what a better way to do that in the form of fictional, conspiratorial entertainment that captivates the average American. He has found quite a platform to launch his real agenda.

The story itself is fiction, it never happened, yes. Any “in-your-face” unbeliever must admit that, if they know anything concerning Christianity. It’s really an intriguing story and from what I’ve heard a real page turner. But what Dan Brown does within the fictional story is raises the question, “How can we possibly know if Scripture is breathed out by God, and if that’s the case, how do we know if anything is historically correct about who Christ actually was? If there are 80 other gospels that were written back in the early church, but only 4 were accepted in the canon of Scripture, how can we know if those gospels are accurate in any manner?” One of the big problems is that Dan Brown knows more historical information concerning the early church than most people, and specifically more than most Christians (though he’s dead wrong on about half of it, and it can be proven). He then takes that information and twists it with absolute historical lies in an attempt to paint a picture of the early church that is dead wrong.

The danger of this book is not that people will believe the fictional story actually happened (those who do are missing his main point any way), but rather the danger is that Brown raises questions about the truthfulness of Christianity altogether, and he knows the average American Christian cannot answer the questions that unbelievers will now be raising (which sadly, in my personal estimation, is true). The positive aspect about these questions being raised is that I believe it will separate out those who are the faithful of Christ from those who are frauds. It will separate the sheep from the goats, basically, because much of modern day Christianity has been blurred with the ways of the world because of the passive, watered-down, culture-friendly preaching by pastors within much of the church. We must return to and know how to defend the 5-Solas of the Reformation: Salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone, infallibly revealed in Scripture Alone, all for the Glory of God Alone.

Persecution is good for the church, mainly because it purifies her and makes her holy, sets her apart from the world and it’s ways, and exposes those who do not truly believe within the church, that they may be shown for what they are. Could it shake the faith of some unestablished believer’s? Sure it could. But it will challenge them to know why they believe what they believe, and thus get them established in their faith, that they may know that the roots of their salvation are in God alone and His Son’s work on the cross to bring them back to life from spiritual death … And that they may know that God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures alone and that what has been canonized as Scripture has been breathed out by God Himself through the pens of His people.

Response to Barbara Nicolosi’s Article “Let’s ‘Othercott’ Da Vinci”

Let’s ‘Othercott’ Da Vinci – Barbara Nicolosi

Let me start out by saying that I know Barbara hates that people slam Christ, just as I do. It makes me angry when they slam my Savior. But how is it we as believer’s should respond to this? Should we engage or disengage the skeptical culture at hand? Well, all I have to say to this article and the way the author desires to respond is …

Good grief. Pastors and theologians like Spurgeon, Calvin, Dever, Mohler, Sproul, Piper, and Keller would have words with her concerning her attitude toward evangelizing and engaging the culture. Sure, what she says about the book and its fallacies are good, and I echo her statement when she says, “I love Jesus. It makes me physically sick to entertain discussion about the ways in which the defining acts of his life—his Passion, Resurrection and establishment of the Church—could be a diabolical scam that he never anticipated nor experienced.” And I don’t dispute any of that. But how should we react? Does this mean we disengage the culture altogether, or pursue them with the Gospel all the more? This movie coming out and really any attack on Christianity is one of the many reasons why theology, apologetics, and at least a basic knowledge of church history are so essential. What unbeliever would ever read this article and take her seriously? What unbeliever would ever gain trust with her and entertain anything she has to say with this kind of attitude as a backdrop? I sure wouldn’t, I’d just walk away … and many do because of Christians like her. Believers with this type of rhetoric are one of the things that are wrong with the church. No heart or care for the lost, for those who throw up arguments in our faces. Those people are eternally lost unless they believe in Christ! Believers like this, especially with the ability to write articles on ChristianityToday.com, flatten other Christian’s effectiveness in witnessing and they make unbelievers even more hostile to the church. It’s like a fellow soldier in battle with you that every time you try to engage the enemy, your fellow soldier trips you, and then goes and does something to enrage the enemy even more. These believer’s attitude is basically, “Unbelievers hate us Christians, therefore we should hate them back; and I will not talk with them about this, and for that matter, about Christ. They don’t deserve it.” Well, no one deserves Christ, which is why we must engage them in this, that some of them may be saved.

Concerning the DVC, Christians like her essentially say, “This book isn’t even worthy of my godly assessment and therefore I will not even engage an interview with any unbeliever. It doesn’t even deserve a response.” In my estimation, though I’m not authoritative in any manner concerning this and it’s simply an opinion, this is a scapegoat for not having a proper defense for the hope that is in her, sharing Christ with those who desperately need it. Maybe it’s because theologically, apologetically, and historically, she doesn’t even know where to start to defend her faith (who knows, not saying she doesn’t, but with a response like this, how can anyone know? It just seems like a scapegoat to me, because it’s not an easy task at hand and requires a ready defense). Maybe she gets into those types of arguments with people she cited where they don’t let her speak because of her attitude toward them to start with. Has she ever thought of that? If the church wants to pigeonhole itself away from society and not bring the Gospel near to those who desperately need it (even if those people fight against it), then it needs more people like her who avoid interviews or debates, and any meaningful conversation with unbelievers at all costs. She states, “I get lots of calls to do interviews about The Da Vinci Code, but I duck as many of them as I can. Basically, I hate talking about DVC because I have a personal relationship with Jesus.” This is utterly tragic. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Because you love Christ you want to engage the culture and share with them the all-satisfying joy you have in Christ, by properly defending against this heresy? I for one am sick of people who claim the name “Christian” possessing this type of attitude, and I personally want all of us believers to engage the culture in order that as many as possible can be saved, as God sees fit to work in the preaching of His Gospel. Can she look at the cross and not see how desperate her condition is herself and see that she doesn’t deserve salvation either? It just seems she may have forgotten that fact. There just seems to be this type of arrogance among those with the name “Christian” and this is just one example. Prior to conversion, was she not a sinner slapping Christ in the face and nailing Him to the cross with her sins, hostile and arrogant in nature, just like all of us? Me, you, all men under heaven? Barbara, you’re acting just like they are. And whatever happened to the words of Christ, “Love your enemies?” She’s attempting to defend Christianity by adopting the very same attitude of the world that hates us and it defeats the purpose of sharing Christ with those who hate us, and even injures the cause of other believers to properly defend against heresy and share the Gospel.

There have been people I’ve talked with that have said they would listen more to what Christians had to say if they didn’t have to speak with people like this lady who ruin the message of the Gospel with their attitude, thus disengaging the very people we need to reach with the Gospel! What unbeliever would ever care to engage someone like this? I know she wouldn’t care to engage them, but still. She says in that article, “DVC as great opportunity for evangelism? Hmmm. The climate of evangelism is not consistent with a posture of defiance and cynicism.” What about her cynicism toward unbelievers? I’m sorry, but who is it that does the work in salvation? It’s not us, we’re just instruments in God’s hands, and He does what we cannot: change the disposition of people’s hearts. Do we avoid those who oppose us? No, absolutely not, but like Paul, when they beat us and throw us out of the city for the Gospel, we get right back up and walk right back in to preach the Gospel more. Cannot God the Holy Spirit disengage the most hostile of people through the message of the Gospel? Maybe if through the kindness of believers presenting the Gospel in love, some may get a taste of the kindness of Christ, thus leading them to repentance and faith in Christ. She goes on and sarcasticly asks, “Is slander an opportunity?” Yes! Read the book of Acts, the whole thing! “Is angry superiority an opportunity? DVC represents all the ‘opportunity’ that the Roman persecutions offered the early Church. Rah.” Okay … many people were saved in the early church because of God working through the faithful believers who persisted and endured to share Christ with the culture, despite the opposition! How else do you think the church survived?

The Da Vinci Code is absolutely an opportunity to defend the faith and absolutely a chance for evangelism … in fact, it’s more of an opportunity now than if the book was never written at all, because people are asking the questions we want them to ask in order that we may share the Gospel with them. I personally have had several very meaningful conversations with unbelievers as a direct result of this movie about to come out, in which I was able to preach the Gospel to 5 or more people at one time, and they listened to every word! (God has opened that opportunity, I take no credit for anything, just giving a subjective example that thwarts her statements). I would question whether or not she’s even engaged anyone at all concerning this. The people I talked with definitely had their share of questions and arguments against things, but they allowed me to answer (opposing her assumption that people won’t let you speak), and it generated a conversation that gave me a chance to defend the name of Christ among unbelievers … and did they not listen to me because the Holy Spirit was working to disarm their hostility toward Christ? If she and others like her want to stick their heads in the sand because of this book and “every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,” go for it, I’d rather they not open their mouths anymore and let people like Keller, Piper, and other like-minded pastors speak on behalf of believers. I’d rather us all engage the skeptical post-modern culture before us and give them the very thing they most desperately need: truth, forgiveness, cleansing of sin, and a saving, love-relationship with the God of the universe, in Christ Jesus the Lord.

I found it ironic too that when I went to this article, there was an advertisement on the right-hand side that said, “The Da Vinci Code – How Will You Repsond?” Well, not like Barbara … try this out instead … The Truth About Da Vinci.com

What God Demands of Us in the Law, He Freely Gives Us in Christ

In order to stand before God, it is necessary that we meet His holy standard of perfection. This standard of perfection was set forth in God’s law, particularly in the Old Testament. This is a weight and burden when laid at the feet of men, and when men believe to have fulfilled the law by their fleshly striving, they boast in themselves, and when they fail they attempt to make the wrong right by working morally to make it so. Did not the history of Israel prove the very fact that man, even when God Himself revealed Himself to him, always turns from Him to his idols and sin? Israel failed over and over again and made it clearly known that man is infinitely incapable of fulfilling the law of God. So what’s the point of the law?

Isaiah 64:6 shows our problem to be even worse though, and it is very clear that even when man performs his best moral duties, even externally fulfilling some of these laws, those very righteous acts are like filthy rags before the presence of God. Like filthy rags! Who would ever take filthy, oily car-engine rags as a ransom for a bad deed done against someone? It’s like someone killing your entire family and in jail they say, “Here you go, I know I killed your family, but I just thought this might make it up to you. Here’s my ’67 Mustang engine rags.” Would this not infuriate you even more? And how much moreso with the God of the universe do we infuriate Him with our so-called “righteous acts?” His righteous anger against sinners is like nothing we’ve ever seen.

So with the weight of the law given to us, and our infinite inability to fulfill the law laid at our feet in Scripture, what hope do we have that we’ll ever escape God’s wrath? Absolutely none, except one way: faith alone in Christ alone. The law in and of itself is not a bad thing (Romans 7) because it’s God’s written standard for how we should live. The problem is that in and of ourselves, we could never even begin to come close to fulfilling the law in such a way that we could justly stand before God without being obliterated by His holy, just, righteous wrath. The gap between man and God is infinite. How arrogant is it of man that he would ever think he could fulfill the law of God perfectly? It’s comparable to attempting to swim across the Pacific Ocean while you are still tied to a post on a dock. It’s an impossible task for man! And so through the law itself, no one is ever saved. So what was the point of the law? Why would God give it at all to begin with? To point out our inability and failure to meet God’s righteous requirement, but then ultimately to point to the One who would fulfill the law for us: Christ Himself; in order that we might not rely on ourselves for anything, but in the Savior, the Messiah.

I would venture to say every religion in the world (except true authentic, Gospel-centered Christianity) puts this burden upon the shoulders of men, that they must fulfill this or that deed in order to obtain a good outcome. Even the Catholic church does this; and in fact, they’re guilty of a greater error because they confess Christ’s death and resurrection and think they still must please God with their works; as if the infinitely worthy blood of Christ, the death and resurrection of the Son of God, were not enough of a payment for sin! In some far east religions (such as Buddhism and Shintoism), when the followers have not morally performed as they ought, will walk on their knees, making them seriously bloody and infected, sometimes for days until their wrong has been atoned for by their works. Specifically within our country, the conservative leans toward the legalistic mindset and says, “You have to do this in this particular way, or else,” and there is a lack of compassion towards law breakers, to rehabilitate them. But then the liberal mindset comes along and says, “All that matters is that you love others and this is what justifies you.” But all of these mentioned systems and religions err on the side of moralism, just like every single religion in the world. All of them say you have to do something in order to be made right before God, before your own eyes, or before someone else. This is the natural tendency of man to default into moralism; and religion after religion after religion teaches this. No wonder there are many people that are just totally turned off from any religion at all. What a burden laid on people!

So what’s the answer? As I stated at the beginning, the law, in and of itself is good because it’s God’s perfect standard of righteousness given to men. But we cannot bear the load. Instead, what God did for us, knowing we could never fulfill the law and would never turn to Him on our own (mainly because our desires, will, everything is in chains and bondage to sin), is He sent His own Son into the world as a human: Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah that can rescue us from this hopeless plight. He sweat, He hungered, He walked the road marked with suffering, and was tempted in all things just as we are, and yet He was without sin. Christ fulfilled the law, and did what we humans could never do, on our behalf! And the very thing that God demands of us (perfect conformance to His righteous standard), is the very thing He gives us in Christ. And this includes not only the fulfillment of the law on our behalf, but also includes the very gifts of faith and the granting of repentance we need in order to believe in Christ that we may be saved (not that repenting of sin saves you, but it’s the natural out-flow of true authentic, God-wrought faith). So the very thing God commands us (i.e. fulfillment of the law before the Father, faith in Christ to be saved), He freely gives to us as a result of the work of Christ. God doesn’t believe for us, we ourselves do or do not believe in Christ, but He alone makes us willing to believe; a gift of the grace of God itself, through the cross.

Do you see a theme here with God, that everything comes from Him and is for Him and His glory? Everything we have is ours because of Christ’s work on the cross, including our faith and the ability to believe, results of the work of Christ on the cross at Calvary. God granting the ability to see Christ as Lord and Savior is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “Unless a man is born again, He cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5-6) Even the conviction of a sinners’ heart for their wickedness is the work of the Holy Spirit, giving the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear. Just as God spoke creation into existence from nothing, so also He makes men alive and able to believe in Him by speaking a word into their hearts and creating something within them that wasn’t there: a desire, love, and hunger for God. “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b) What are the implications of this? Well, salvation and the granting of mercy isn’t dependent on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16). You must come to a complete end of yourself, give up on your filthy rags that only infuriate God more. You, in and of yourself, have nothing to offer God, as if He needs anything from anyone (Romans 11:34-36). Come empty handed and throw yourself at the feet of the sovereign Lord who grants salvation to those who ask for it in faith. If you do not believe in Christ alone through faith alone, you will not be saved, none of these blessings apply, but rather the wrath of God still remains on you, even now. That is hard to hear, but it’s the truth.

Salvation is totally dependent on God, from alpha to omega. God has truly said that anyone who comes to Him He will not cast away, and that’s true. But in and through the person crying out to God for mercy is the Holy Spirit going before that person, working in him, and thus making him able and willing to believe … because, as Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” We are so totally dependent on God, we cannot even begin to understand this until we see that even our ability to believe and repent of sin is dependent on God granting mercy and changing our sinful nature to do those things! All glory then rightfully goes to God and we can hold none for ourselves (as we are naturally prone to do).

In the life of a Christian who has been saved for a number of years though, the same thing applies. There is no difference. The Gospel is not only the thing that saves you, but it is also the very thing that progressively changes you. Or to put it in simple theological terms: The Gospel not only justifies you (Romans 3:21-26), but also sanctifies you (Hebrews 9:11-14). We shouldn’t say, “Alright, now I’m saved, now I have to get up and get some things done for God.” I promise you, you will wear out really fast if you approach your walk with Christ like this, because where does your strength come from in this line of thought? Yourself. But what have we already established? “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” We are totally reliant upon God for all things pertaining to salvation and our relationship with Christ. He must change us, we cannot change ourselves. Nor can we change others. Only the Holy Spirit can change the disposition of people’s hearts.

“Moralistic-duty teaching” is the approach of a majority of pastors in their preaching within the modern church, and they replace the daily application of the Gospel in the life of the believer with moralistic, worldly, pagan teaching that leaves the sinner dry, and with no hope. Simply telling a congregation, “Okay, now that you are saved, here is 10 steps on how to do this and that for God. Now get up and get it done!” That’s just another burden being laid at people’s feet that they can’t bear, and once again, these preachers return to the law instead of the Gospel. And more specifically, in and of ourselves, we can’t even do those things the preacher is telling us to do anyway. How defeating is that? Where is the power of God in a moralistic message? How is that good news to the ears of a believer deeply struggling with sin as it is? That’s just more weight on top of weight! And thus the believing sinner fails to grow in the knowledge of the grace of Christ that changes them, sanctifies them.

So what’s the approach in preaching and teaching? What is it believers need to hear (and unbelievers for that matter)? The pure Gospel. Over and over and over again. Every Sunday, at every Bible study. Personally, we must preach the Gospel to ourselves continually, lest we forget our standing and position before God, that we’re absolutely unworthy of God’s grace in the cross at all, but that before the Father we appear as Christ appears: pure and spotless. We need to understand and know what the implications of Christ’s death and resurrection is for us in order to be sanctified and changed, conformed to Christ. Because of our natural tendency to fall back into moralistic thinking every day, even after being saved, we must constantly preach the Gospel to ourselves and others and be freed from the hamster wheel of moral works, of thinking we have to please the Father more than Christ has already pleased Him for us. In 2 Peter 3:18, it says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And I simply like to put it this way: The more you understand and appreciate what took place at Calvary on your behalf from Scripture, the more you cannot help but be changed by Christ’s work on the cross. True life-change comes from understanding Christ’s work on the cross on your behalf, growing in that godly knowledge, and through understanding, having your heart and mind changed to love God more, know Him more, and in this find strength and power to do the very thing God commands of us. And the more and more you see His beauty, His worth, His lovliness, His passion for His glory, His love for you in the cross, the more you cannot help but be changed and are then given the strength and desire (by the work of the Holy Spirit alone) to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ. What God demands of us, He freely gives us in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit; and through the grace that comes streaming from the cross of Christ, we see that the very strength and power to live a life for Christ, comes from Christ Himself, not from ourselves in any manner! We are in total absolute dependence on Christ for salvation and for life-change, and not one hint of this work in our lives can be attributed to our moral working or running. It is All of Grace! Praise God for the work of Christ to bring redemption to His people!

Piranha Killer Sushi … Excellent Food, Bad Waiter

Courtney and I went out to Piranha Killer Sushi in downtown Fort Worth last night for her birthday dinner, and man was the food awesome. But the service was less than average; I really think it was just our waiter because everyone else seemed to be getting better service, but that’s neither here nor there … I believe that aspect was just random. We started out with vegetable tempura (fried vegetables) and that was really good. Then we ordered a Spider Roll (which was just amazing, one of my personal favorites), salmon, tuna, eel, and shrimp sashimi, two california rolls and a salmon sushi roll. The presentation of all the food was incredible, very artistic. It was all so awesome, we had a great time, and I highly recommend going there. It had an awesome atmosphere (kind of Neo-Asian/Fusion). The main issues we had with our waiter is that there was one point where he didn’t even check on us for a good 20 minutes. But again, I believe it just happened to be our waiter and not the overall service there. Two thumbs up to Piranha Killer Sushi!

Sundance Square – Piranha Killer Sushi

335 W. Third Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102

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