Month: December 2007 Page 1 of 2
Well, I ordered Courtney, my wife, a laptop from Dell on December 7th and it’s still not here. Not only that, the arrival date has been changed, once again, to January 8th. One month! That’s a long time for an order to come through. And considering the fact that I can get a comparable laptop for $150 less than this Dell laptop at Best Buy just down the street (and get it right now, as opposed to one month later), Dell is showing to me at least how much their service has gone down hill over the years. They apparently did not logistically plan for the number of orders they received this Christmas season and now they are paying for it. I logged in to the Dell support chat to see if they could give me an extra GB of memory for having to wait and they refused. When I asked why, he just told me they couldn’t without any real reason. But when I called into support, they told me the laptop was almost finished being assembled and was close to being shipped so that’s why they couldn’t add anything to the order. So that made a little more sense. Oh well, I mean it’s not a huge deal … but if someone can get a cheaper laptop with almost the exact same specs right now, why would they want to order a Dell at all? I’m thinking this may be the last time I order a Dell. Tell that to Dell’s CEO.
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” – John 17:4
The point of Christmas is the proclamation of the Gospel. This work Christ speaks of above is the point of Christmas, Jesus entering the world as a baby born to die such an awful, grueling death, and take in Himself the wrath deserved by His people for their sins, rise from the grave in power, ascend to heaven in glory, where we now await His return to judge the Earth. Satan would have his way with Christmas and make it an idolatrous, materialistic purchasing extravaganza, or a series of events and parties that crowds out Christ and His call to salvation, as well as His call to deep, personal, satisfying fellowship with Himself. However, God in His sovereign love, has made Christmas that time of year where a window is open for people to hear the Gospel, when those who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior are singing songs about the very Gospel itself! Just read all the old time Christmas songs. All of them start with Christ entering the world as this child, and end in His perfect, sacrificial work for sinners through His death and resurrection. All of these old time Christmas songs about Christ are all Gospel messages of salvation for those who believe.
And this Gospel is that God entered the world in Christ, in history, to accomplish the work God the Father had given Him to accomplish, namely a salvation that we could never have achieved by our own moral power, strength, or will. Christmas is not merely about a sweet, divine baby as much as it is this wondrous work for which He came, wrought out and accomplished on the cross for awful, hell-bound sinners. And this work was to redeem and purify for Himself a people for His own possession. Jesus came to accomplish and effectually give salvation to those given to Him by the Father through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross as the “once for all time” sacrifice for sins. Christmas is about proclaiming that Christ has reconciled sinners to God through His blood. All of you who disbelieve this message, by the power of the Holy Spirit (ask God Himself to help you see the truth of the Gospel!), believe in Him and His work for sinners and you will indeed be saved!
“If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.” – Martin Luther
“…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.” – John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70
“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:1-2
To those who created their faith? To those who willed their faith out of their sinful nature? To those who merited their faith? No, none of these … rather, “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.” Peter is writing to those who obtained the same faith he had. But if they obtained this faith from somewhere outside of themselves, was it anything they did by which they obtained it? No, but rather, it was granted to them to believe. And more specifically, they obtained this faith “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Christ gave them this faith. How did He grant them this faith? Was it not through His perfect obedience and perfect, absolute, definite sacrificial work on the cross? To me, it is an insult to the work of Christ to say and boast that our faith came from anywhere other than this wonderful work on behalf of His people whom He foreloved from eternity.
One of the reasons I praise God for my salvation, amongst the plethora of reasons, is that He turned my heart to see Him when I was in total darkness, love Him and cherish Him when I was running away from Him in rebellion, anger, and hate, doing drugs, disobeying my parents, and living a dishonorable life. Praise God He does not just sit around and wait to see if we’ll turn ourselves. I surely would not have unless He sovereignly intervened in my desperate situation. And indeed He did. God does not help those who help themselves. That’s why the Pharisees stumbled over the stumbling block, which was Christ. They thought they could help themselves. God helps those who cannot help themselves because they are sinners, dead in sin, and are desperately broken beyond repair apart from the infinitely valuable work of Christ in them. See how great is the depravity of your own heart that He would have to go to such great lengths to rescue us in His condescension, life, death, and resurrection. In addition, see what lengths He had to go to in your own life, that He would have to go into your inner being and bring you back to life from the dead, regenerating every aspect of your heart, will, and soul. What a wonderful God!
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.
And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.”
Praise God that Christ entered history in order to redeem us from eternal peril under the just wrath of God. Praise God He sent His Son into the world, as a baby born to die, and, by the power of God, rise for our justification before Him.
“To suppose that we are delivered from the law in the sense of such obligation would bring contradiction into the design of Christ’s work. It would contradict the very nature of God to think that any person can ever be relieved of the necessity to love God with the whole heart and to obey his commandments.” – John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg.44
Many would seem to suppose we are freed from the obligation of the law of God as a result of the reconciliation provided through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, as Paul points out in Romans 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Not on the basis of yourself, but on the basis of the reconciliation you’ve experienced in Christ, and His fulfillment of the law, by his power, now obey it. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) As John Owen says, “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” We are reconciled to God in order that we may now freely obey Him from the heart, in order that we may glorify Him with our lives. We have been enabled, by His power to now gladly submit to His law. So indeed, the law absolutely has a place in the life of the believer. Tim Keller puts this very succinctly, “The gospel is ‘I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey’ while every other religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey, therefore I am accepted.'” The difference is vital to see.
This true missionary story is such an excellent picture of how the Gospel can come in to even the most morally backward culture and transform it from the inside out. It seemed Don and Carol Richardson were up against impossible odds; indeed they were. How can a stone-age tribe who valued treachery more than sacrifice possibly comprehend, let alone believe the sacrificial message of Christ’s redemption for sinners? Only the Holy Spirit alone could make this possible. And at the same time, the Holy Spirit used the difficult work of the missionaries to clearly communicate this message to the Sawi people in Netherlands New Guinea.
To start off, Don and Carol had to learn their language. Then they had to attempt to communicate the Gospel, and in so doing, the Sawi people wound up valuing Judas’ betrayal of Christ more than Christ’s sacrifice! How in the world could they possible communicate the Gospel now? Little did Don know God had foreordained redemptive analogies within the Sawi culture long ago that would be used to display the wondrous work of Christ. In order for the tribe to make peace with another tribe nearby where there had been enmity for quite some time, each tribe had to offer a peace child: one of their own children was given over to the other tribe in order to establish peace. And as long as the children lived, there was peace between the tribes, no matter what one did to the other. However, if one of the children died, peace no longer reigned between the tribes.
Don realized he could use this analogy to communicate that Christ is the Perfect Peace Child, the one who was given on behalf of sinners to create peace between us and the true God, forever; and He is the One who will never die, unlike their frail children, in an environment thick with diseases and no cures. Once the Sawi people saw this beautiful display of the Gospel in a way they could finally comprehend and see as valuable, by the work of God’s Spirit alone through the message preached, many believed, and slowly the tribe began changing from the inside out. Over time, through the continued communication of the Gospel, they no longer valued treachery, but rather they valued the Ultimate Peace Child who was given on their behalf so they could be at peace with God. In addition, the Gospel message spread to many of the other tribes and there was unity that had not been there for possibly eons. Not only did the Gospel come in and save their souls from eternal destruction, but it came in and revolutionized the culture, their ethics, value systems, and it reversed the curse of Satanaic darkness that had held this people in spiritual bondage for so long. Praise God for such a wonderful picture of how the Gospel can come in and not only revolutionize individuals but also entire communities!
The Gospel and its message is no different in our Western culture. Though we come from a Judeo-Christian background (or really post-Christian in many respects), we have value systems, beliefs, understandings of reality, that all need healing and reversal by the work of the cross. In the same way the Sawi people were held in bondage by ideas of reality that were lies of Satan (doctrinal error, if you will), so also, our culture has ideas that need reversing by the message of the Gospel. This book is a great illustration of contextualizing the Gospel to a unique people group so they can see the light of Christ. And at the same time, this is exactly what we need to be doing with the Gospel in our own increasingly secularized setting we find ourselves in. With the missionary ideas of Gospel sharing and preaching presented in this book, it is my hope we all realize we too are missionaries in our respective settings and that we have the message of eternal life to present to many who just assume they are Christians because they are Americans.
“Most [theological] liberals don’t start out as liberals; they start out as well-meaning evangelicals, and they only become liberal by the way that they make use of scripture.” – Dr. R. Scott Clark in this lecture (MP3)
And I ask, is this not true of most of those leading the emerging/emergent movement(s)/conversation? And again, while I agree with their critiques of modern evangelicalism, their applications to solve these problems are historically dangerous for the Gospel itself, and thus people’s salvation. The only guys I’m really in agreement with at all who are still involved in the conversation are Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler because they uphold the critiques of modern evangelicalism (that I hold) while standing by propositional truths in the Scriptures, as well as holding to Scripture itself as the infallibly authoritative Word of God. However, Rob Bell, for instance, though I feel he is very well-meaning in what he does, in an article in Christianity Today (here), states he has, “‘[discovered] the Bible as a human product,’ rather than the product of divine fiat”. This is quite dangerous. In a similar fashion, theological liberals in the early part of the 20th century were saying something very similar, to the effect of, “There is no way to empirically prove the Scriptures as God’s divine word to man. Therefore, though we believe it be such personally, it is not necessary to believe this.” That thinking gutted the Gospel in the 20th century to where most mainline denominations in our day are now void of any Gospel truth so that people may be saved. It is a Christianity made in their own image.
Nowadays, the argument goes, “We cannot know anything for sure, with absolute certainty. Therefore, we cannot know the Bible is the word of God. So let’s look at it in terms of a human product rather than a product of divine [Holy Spirit] inspiration.” If the Bible is no longer upheld as an infallibly authoritative word spoken to us by God through the pens of men, then what final authority does it have over our lives, to intrude and cut against us as sinners so that we may be rescued from His wrath to come? If the Scriptural foundation is corrupted from the very beginning, then all other doctrines (of the Gospel) follow in its corrupted wake and the whole house falls, thus incurring the eternal wrath of God for failing to obey the Gospel. This is what happened with liberalism in the 20th century, continuing even to this day.
On this point then of the Scriptures (according to the emerging conversation), everything is up for debate and reinterpretation. In fact, ultimately the very Gospel itself can be redefined in “what I personally think it is” sort of terms (versus what it actually is) and is thus reduced from the “power of God unto salvation” to just an individually interpreted message [amounting to idolatry], with no divine power unto salvation at all. The Gospel message is then turned from salvation by God’s grace to the default mode of the human heart – salvation by my goodness and self-wrought righteousness. Lose the Gospel and we lose all hope of salvation for people. And the Gospel starts with absolute propositions and truth. And those truths are clearly set forth as the definitive Word of God. May we take the glaring warnings from history and apply them in our day and hold fast the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Though it is unpopular, may we continue to hold our confessions, though the world calls it absurd and antiquated.
In looking up some Scripture and quotes yesterday for my entry on the Ordo Salutis, I came across this article on faithalone.org, the website of the Grace Evangelical Society (Free Grace/No-Lordship position). The article was dealing with Acts 16:14, where, “The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Here are a couple of quotes at the beginning of the article in particular with my rebuttals:
“What is God’s part and what is our part in salvation? There are few more difficult subjects than this one. One extreme is to so emphasize God’s sovereignty as to totally eliminate any human role in salvation at all. Reformed theology does this.”
Ha! Really? I’ve never said that, and neither have most historic Calvinists. And if Spurgeon, Whitefield, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, ever said something along those lines, please quote it. All historic Calvinists affirm man’s responsibility to believe. Man does indeed choose something in response to the Gospel call, either affirmation of its truth and acceptance, or denial and opposition. Calvinists deny man’s ability to choose anything other than that which is displeasing to God though, because of the corruption of his nature by sin. Man is by nature an enemy of God, a child of wrath, and does according to that evil nature. Apart from God granting eyes to see, ears to hear the Gospel, we would all choose to turn away from Christ when presented with Him and His work. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44) So we preach the Word (the Gospel, that Christ bore wrath in the place of sinners and rose from the dead, that if you believe you will be saved from His coming wrath), and the Spirit does His job in bringing to faith those whom He desires. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
The “extreme” view Mr. Wilkin is arguing against is called hyper-Calvinism, not Reformed theology. Hyper-Calvinists deny man’s responsibility and believe that God forces people either into heaven or hell (a sort of unbiblical Greek determinism). This is highly erroneous and unscriptural. Historic Calvinists (and myself) affirm the responsibility of man to believe in Christ for salvation. We believe that because of the corruption of his soul though, by nature, every area of his being has been infected by sin, including his will, desires, heart, and mind. As a result, the only thing he wills and desires is evil in God’s sight, for he can do no other, of necessity. The natural man is unable to overcome the corruption of his own heart, desires and will in order that he might see the value of Christ, believe, and thus be saved. “It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.” Man’s nature, his heart, his will, are like a well bubbling up with cyanide. The whole well (along with the source of the problem, the spring) is ruined unless it is dug up by an outside source, and the water replaced with clean, pure, fresh water. This is the very thing the Lord prophesied long ago He would do for us in Ezekiel 36:24-27, decisively removing our heart of stone, giving us a heart of flesh. In man’s plight of sin, spiritual ruin, and the corruption therein of his whole being, it takes a supernatural act of God (the work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit) to raise us from spiritual death, regenerating every facet of our being so that we see who Christ really is and thus cannot help but trust in Him unto salvation. Jesus affirmed in John 3 that no one can even see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
“[Reformed theology] suggests that unbelievers are like rocks, totally incapable of responding to God.”
Bzzzzz. Wrong answer. Of course we affirm that man is capable of responding to God. The question is why does a sinner, dead in sin, ever respond to God positively, in faith? Where did his correct response come from if he was “dead in sin”? The answer is the work of the cross for us. The cross effected faith within us. As John Hendryx says (paraphrase), does faith arise on its own out of the unregenerate human nature? I see no where the Scripture affirms this. If the very foundation upon which a person makes choices is corrupted by sin, how can he make himself choose that which is good in God’s eyes (namely Christ)? We love Him because He first loved us, as 1 John 4 affirms. Something from outside of us must illuminate our minds, hearts, and yes, even regenerate our wills, so that we desire Christ and inevitably believe in Him. We need God to save us through and through. Apart from this gracious work, we would all choose to depart from God forever, in total rebellion against Him.
In sum, Mr. Wilkin would position himself as neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, and yet at the same time he borrows fundamental theological ideas from both systems, inconsistently. In addition, his statements characterizing Reformed theology as true Hyper-Calvinism shows me just how much he does not understand Reformed theology really at all.
Hyper-Calvinism Section on Monergism.com – Please read these before accusing Calvinists of excluding man’s responsibility in salvation.
Also, here is a great example of good Calvinist preaching that God does indeed desire all men to be saved; I believe that with all my heart:
http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/arti … il.php?436