Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Still a Bad Idea

I am still aghast at John Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren as a guest speaker at this year’s Desiring God Conference. And receiving the email advertisement this month for the conference just stirred me up a little more. Yes, I have listened to Piper’s reasons for inviting Rick Warren, but it is still not convincing. Rick Warren may claim to believe many of the same things, but in practice through his pragmatic methodologies, he distorts the message of the gospel. The practice of his ministry actually undermines what he professes to believe. Warren constantly misquotes and mishandles Scripture, and as a result, he has a tendency to obscure the meaning of Scripture. As to Rick Warren’s profession to believe what Piper believes; Rick Warren, as Phil Johnson aptly pointed out in a post awhile back, has a tendency to be “chameleonic”, changing his stance whenever the situation demands it, in an attempt to be liked by everyone by telling them what they want to hear.

Do I think that John Piper should not try and influence Rick Warren in a positive manner if he has the opportunity? No. But inviting the man to be a guest speaker at your conference is not the best way to achieve this. This sends a confusing message that somehow Rick Warren is OK, and that we are in agreement with his ministry methods, even if that perception is unintentional. Carry on a dialogue behind the scenes, but please, do not invite him as guest speaker.

Now, I still like John Piper and his ministry has been and will continue to be a great blessing to me. This situation does not change that. But I still shake my head in disbelief. Seeing Rick Warren’s picture along with men like Al Mohler and R.C. Sproul is…well…like a weed sprouting up on an otherwise well manicured lawn.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

For the Sake of the Gospel

We had a great turnout for the “For the Sake of the Gospel” conference. We had people from over 80 different churches present at the afternoon sessions (over 200 people) and at least 500 people at the evening session! The audio downloads for the conference can be accessed at the Grace Bible Church podcast page.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pastor’s Conference on June 4th

The Greater Columbus Gospel Coalition is sponsoring an event entitled “For the Sake of the Gospel” for pastors and church leaders on Friday, June 4th, with Alistair Begg as the speaker. The event will be held at our church, Grace Bible Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The afternoon sessions are geared more for church leadership teams and there will be an evening worship session at 7:30 PM for congregations all across the Columbus area.

The two afternoon sessions will be from 2:00 to 5:30 PM and will cover the following topics:

Afternoon Session 1: “What is the Gospel? How does it impact Ecclesiology, Philosophy, Teaching, and Discipleship?”

Afternoon Session 2: “Communicating the Exclusivity of the Gospel to An Inclusive and Pluralistic Culture.”

Evening Service (7:30 PM): “What is a Gospel Centered Church?”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I’ve Been Up To

Well, it has been awhile since I have posted here. I hope to get back up to speed again soon. But I figured I would give a little update on what I have been up to lately.

2009 was definitely a challenging year with getting laid off from work last spring. I finally found another job in September, and I am grateful that my period of unemployment was relatively short. So I am grateful to the Lord for His provision.

In November, I started suffering from frequent stomach pain. It was a dull ache that lingered for hours before subsiding, and by the middle of December the attacks were more frequent and increased a bit in intensity. I actually had one of these “attacks” back in August, but simply dismissed it as an isolated occurrence that was probably due to something I ate. My wife was really urging me that I really needed to schedule an appointment. Of course, being a typical guy, I put it off as long as I could and finally went to the doctor toward the end of December. I called the day before Christmas Eve and the doctor got me in during the morning of Christmas Eve. He was not sure exactly what was causing it, but he thought that it could be my gall bladder. Which is what I suspected could be a possible cause as well, after doing some research into the symptoms. Of course, there is always the concern that it could be something more serious.

The doctor scheduled me for some tests the following week, including an ultrasound to check my gall bladder, and got the results back the morning of New Year’s Eve. The diagnosis? My gall bladder, to put it in the terms of the receptionist, was “packed full of stones”. The only remedy for this, of course, is surgery to remove my gall bladder. However, I was hoping there would be an alternative, like when someone has kidney stones, that you can eventually pass the stone. But unfortunately, it does not work that way with the gall bladder. In fact, some of the home remedies that I read about where people can ingest some home-made concoction to help try and pass the gall stones can actually be dangerous. The stones can easily get lodged in the bile duct, causing bile to back up into the pancreas requiring emergency surgery, and could end up being lethal. So I ended up having surgery in January to have my gall bladder removed. Fortunately, my surgery could be done through laparoscopic surgery, requiring only three minor incisions with minimal recovery time. I went into the hospital in the morning, had surgery and was released to go home that night. A few days bed rest (and some lingering soreness for a few days) and I was back to a relatively normal schedule. Full recovery took about ten days, so I had to take it a little easy. This used to be major surgery before laparoscopic surgery, with extended recovery time. Amazing what they can do today, and very grateful. This was my first (hopefully my last!) surgery that I have ever had.

I was able to attend Together for the Gospel back in April. This year’s theme was “The (Unadjusted) Gospel”. There were about 7,000 men in attendance, and it was very encouraging and inspiring. I came back with even more eagerness to boldly proclaim the gospel. I would encourage you to listen to the messages from this year’s conference (T4G 2010).

I have had the opportunity to teach several classes at our church over the past several months including The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (based on Mark Dever’s book), The Truth War (John MacArthur) and an abbreviated version of Systematic Theology, “Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know” by Wayne Grudem. I have enjoyed teaching those classes and look forward to teaching more this fall.

But one thing that I am particularly excited about is the prospects of attending seminary, hopefully this fall. I would actually be starting out taking many of the classes online, and it would be awhile before I would have to take class on campus. I will be applying for the Master of Divinity program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I am starting the application process soon. I have actually started filling out the paper work, and need to have everything submitted by the middle of July. So please keep this in your prayers, that everything will go smoothly and I will be accepted.

Well, hopefully I will get back up to speed posting here. Actually, I hope I will be able to post more frequently than I have for, oh, say the last year or so :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Alistair Begg on the Manhattan Declaration

Alistair Begg shares his thoughts on the Manhattan Declaration and why he did not sign it.

Article from TruthForLife.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Manhattan Declaration

The Manhattan Declaration is the latest response by key Christian leaders over key moral issues facing our society today. No one can deny that the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and the family is under attack today. Nor can anyone deny that our religious liberty is threatened as well.

There is already a long list of signatories from numerous religious leaders from a very diverse background. And I do mean a very diverse background; the list includes those from Catholic and Orthodox persuasions.

Now, I certainly commend the effort to speak out in an attempt to prevent the further slide away from traditional marriage and family values in our culture. And I certainly believe that we should speak out against the merciless slaughter of multitudes of innocent unborn lives. I share the same opposition to the key moral issues that are rampant in our culture.

So, why am I not so enthusiastic about this declaration? My objection stems from the fact that this is being touted as a “Christian” movement. However, many of the signatories, particularly from the Catholic Church, embrace a brand of Christianity that diminishes the significance of the finished work of the cross. The Catholic Church to this day denies salvation by grace alone through faith alone. This has been the chasm that has divided Catholics and evangelicals for centuries. This is no insignificant matter, but rather strikes at the very core of the gospel, which is the true essence of the Christian faith. To deny this one crucial point is to ultimately nullify the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, and to severely diminish the message of the gospel. The Christian faith is much more than merely upholding moral values. It is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, resulting in an individual embracing and fully trusting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the atonement of their sins, by faith alone. It is characterized by repentance for sins and a life that exhibits ongoing sanctification and a desire for holiness in their lives. The gospel is the only thing that can truly reform people’s lives and ultimately impact the culture.

Particularly disturbing is that nowhere in the document is the gospel ever actually given or clearly explained. This is extremely troubling and further confuses the issue of what it means to be a Christian.

The way I see it, to sign this agreement is to give an endorsement of the beliefs of those who, while bearing the label Christian, essentially deny a crucial core element of the Christian faith. We are essentially giving a nod of approval of groups such as the Roman Catholic Church and confirming their beliefs as a legitimate expression of the Christian faith. Rather than clarifying the Christian message, it muddies the water and obscures the clarity of the gospel. Even if this effort would bring about a resurgence of conservative values in America, I am afraid that we would merely be dressing up corpses who embrace moral reform, but never receive new life in Christ, the very thing that will save their souls and restore a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is the true essence of what it means to be a Christian.

As Bible believing Christians, we must never lose sight of the real mission that Christ has for us; proclaiming the gospel and making disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 15:1-8; Romans 1:16-17)

The Gospel is central to what we are called to uphold, and may we do everything we can to boldly proclaim it and seek to preserve its clarity above everything else.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

TNIV Bible Discontinued

I happened to be reading the SharperIron this evening and saw the announcement in the sidebar "Ligon Duncan and Randy Stinson react to NIV Announcement". Apparently the TNIV is being discontinued as a result of the controversy surrounding the gender-neutral translating philosophy. Another revision of the NIV is planned for 2011. The post at the SharperIron had links to Justin Taylor's article and a link to another article at CBMW. This is encouraging, but it will be interesting to see what they come up with in 2011.

Here are some other links to articles concerning this announcement:

Another article from Justin Taylor, "TNIV Going Off the Market, New Version of the NIV Coming in 2011"

Christianity Today article, "Correcting the 'Mistakes' of TNIV and Inclusive NIV, Translators Will Revise NIV in 2011"

Friday, August 07, 2009

The New Birth

Once God has opened up the heart of the individual to receive the truth of the gospel, the believer’s new birth takes place. It is at this point that regeneration has brought about new life in an individual.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3, ESV)

One must be “born from above” in order to get into the kingdom of God. The process is a monergistic work (regeneration carried out solely by the Holy Spirit) rather than a synergistic work (cooperation of the human will and the divine Spirit). Without the work of the Holy Spirit, sinners cannot respond to the gospel.

This in no way relieves us of the responsibility of evangelism. It is the means that God has chosen so that the truth of His word and the gospel message is made known.

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15, ESV)

“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, ESV)

Nor does it mean that man does not need to exercise faith. Scripture demands a response to the gospel, a response of repentance and belief in the gospel message. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit that causes the response to take place.

Our salvation is a gift from God that we did not deserve, and we could not even take part in it, had it not been for His sovereign work on our hard hearts. We were absolutely helpless.

All of this leads into the next crucial point in the discussion of the new birth. If the new life that we receive is all a gift of God, accomplished through His sovereign work, then it should be apparent that salvation is permanent and lasting. If there was nothing that we could do to merit eternal life, then there is nothing that we do to keep or maintain our salvation, nor is there anything we can do to nullify His work. We are forever secure in our salvation.

In John chapter 10, Jesus confirms the security of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

“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 my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30, ESV)

If you may be thinking that this is a license to sin and do as we please, nothing could be further from the truth. With Paul preaching so strongly the freeness of God’s grace, his critics had tried to accuse him of discounting the ethical requirements of the law thus leaning toward antinomianism. Paul addresses the false notion that grace is a license to sin in Romans 6.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4, ESV)

To live in sin would be antithetical to the new life we should experience through the new birth. If we were baptized into Christ’s death and raised again to walk in newness of life, then we should no longer be in bondage to sin to obey its lusts. If we died to sin, then how can we still engage in sin as a pattern of our life? To do so would be proof that we have not experienced the new birth.

“6 We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7, ESV)

We were once under condemnation, dead in our sins and following the world system and subject to the wrath of God. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

As a result of the New Birth, one is no longer an enemy of God. Our old self has been crucified with Christ and we are a new creation.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

We are adopted into the family of God and can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father”. (Romans 8:15)

Now we are adopted as God’s children, and are given a new nature. We should now see traits in our lives that reflect divine life, much like the personality and physical traits of our earthly parents are evident in our lives. 1 John refers to the evidence of divine life in Christ that should be a general characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Realizing what God has accomplished for us by changing our heart to change our disposition from indifference and hostility toward the gospel, enabling faith to be exercised when we had no inclination to do so, should inspire a deep gratitude for what He has done for us.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Folly of the Climate Change Debate

While the government is busy attempting to ram a climate change bill down our throats, a bill that will ultimately dramatically increase our energy costs, the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming looms in the background. Personally, I think any climate change we are experiencing has little to do with the emission of CO2 gases. There is legitimate reason to believe that any warming is related to sun spots, not the emission of CO2 gases by man. It is amazing how anyone offering evidence calling into question global warming is discredited and facts to the contrary is suppressed. Dooms day hype from the media is nothing new and has been occurring for years. In fact, in this ABC news article, a professor of Atmospheric Science from the University of Alabama recalls being told during his early college years that the world would run out of food and energy by the year 2000. And weren’t we told at one time that the earth was cooling?

What is really tragic is that many evangelicals have gotten caught up in all the hype.
But we need not fear all the doomsday talk. Scripture tells a different story. God is not going to let the earth fall apart. We need not fear any notion that the polar ice caps are going to melt and flood the earth. Following the Genesis flood, God has already promised not to destroy the earth with a flood again. This subject was discussed by John MacArthur at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference (Brian McCrorie was there and wrote about it on his blog).

21And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (Genesis 8:21-22, ESV)

While it is true that the earth will eventually be destroyed, this time by fire, this will not take place until God allows it to happen at the Day of Judgment (2 Peter 3:7). The believer will never face this.

Colossians 1:16-17 tells us that Jesus created all things and that in Him all things are held together. The whole universe is sustained in perfect balance to support life. I think we can be assured that God has things under control.

16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17, ESV)

While I am not at all against the development of alternative energy – anything that will ease our dependence on foreign oil is a good thing – we need to exercise better judgment and not react to all the hysteria. Certainly we could benefit from energy sources that produce less pollution. However, I doubt that we are going to be able to develop enough alternative energy to completely replace any need for oil and coal.

So let’s drill for more oil and forget all these initiatives to penalize the use of fossil fuels that will only stall economic growth and ultimately lead to poverty and hardship. I’ll place my trust in God and His truth, rather than the folly of man’s wisdom!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

God’s Gift of Faith

It would be difficult to miss Paul’s emphasis on the importance of faith in chapters 3 and 4 in the book of Romans. Paul in Romans 3:22 tells us that God’s righteousness by which we are justified is credited to us through faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, from that point on through chapter 4, he uses the words “faith” and “believe” more than twenty times.

It is clearly apparent that Paul appears to feel strongly about the contrast between justification by faith and justification by keeping the Law. This is why it is essential to drive home the point that faith must be composed of complete denial of trust on our own righteousness through the Law, and a complete and total dependence on Jesus Christ and His righteousness. [1]

Faith is a gift of God. And this is out of necessity. In our lost state, we were dead in our sins and trespasses, and could not reach out to God, nor did we truly desire to do so.

“7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8, ESV)

The term “dead” is speaking of our spiritual condition. We were totally unable to respond to God. Even if we engaged in religious acts, we were still dead. Paul himself was zealously religious, persecuting the church in the name of in religion. But he was spiritually dead.

Before we came to saving faith according to Scripture, we were completely dead, spiritually speaking. Ephesians 2 describes the dire state of our spiritual condition.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
(Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV)

In our unsaved state, we are unable to receive God’s truth according to 1 Corinthians 2:14. While we may have been able to understand the facts of the gospel intellectually, we are unable to truly comprehend the full meaning of the gospel, at least to the point of genuine conviction and surrender. It requires the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s truth for us, opening up our hearts to receive and embrace the gospel. In our natural or unsaved state, we are blinded by our sins and unable to truly grasp the meaning of God’s revealed truth. It is through the illumination of the Spirit that we are able to respond to the ministry of the Word as it conveys the effectual call to salvation.

In our unregenerate state, being dead in our trespasses and sins, we were inclined to follow the ways of the world. The term “world” describes human society’s propensity to operate in opposition to God. This includes not only those whom we would readily classify as sinners, engaging in vile acts, but also those who are considered religious who are attempting to better themselves apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The world encompasses all attitudes that are in variance to God, regardless of the degree of opposition, whether mildly indifferent or outright rebellion and hostility. [2]

Paul also points out that we were under the influence of Satan in verse 2 of Ephesians chapter 2. Regardless of whether or not we consider or recognize this fact, this is what the Bible says about us in our sinful state. We may not be as completely bad as we can be, but we were blinded by Satan to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We were completely blinded to God’s truth and were in bondage, held in captive to Satan’s dominion. In our lost state, we cannot recognize our lost condition and our need for the Savior.

Scripture paints a very vivid and dismal picture of our lost condition. But this is what makes God’s Grace so amazing and so sweet. In fact, the description of our hopeless state, the fact that we could not choose to reach out to God on our own, is what magnifies God’s Grace and brings Him all the glory! It was all of Him and none of us. It was not a case where He met us half way and then the rest was up to us. No! It was all of Him and absolutely none of our effort! The faith that we exercised was a gift of God Himself.

Paul quite often paints a very grim picture of our spiritual condition before giving God’s remedy for our sinful state. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul says that we were dead in our transgressions and sins, and that it was God who had to make us alive in Christ. What can a dead man do? Nothing! He cannot respond, cannot do anything to revive himself. It takes someone else to rescue and revive them.

Scripture is replete with passages that affirm God’s sovereignty in salvation. John 1:13 says that those who do believe “were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Acts 13 describes the response of the Gentiles to the message of the gospel. Verse 48 says that “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The word order is extremely important here. It does NOT say that those who believed were then appointed to eternal life, but rather those who “were appointed” then believed. Lydia in Acts 16:14 first had her heart opened by the Lord in order to respond to the gospel.

God’s sovereignty in salvation in no way negates human responsibility. People must repent and believe in order to be forgiven. Scripture demands a response to the gospel message. But the reason that we respond is through the sovereign work of God to open our hearts in order to enable that belief to take place. Without that work, we are dead in our sins, unable to respond. In our natural unregenerate state, without the work of the Holy Spirit, the message of the gospel seems foolish to us (1 Corinthians 2:14). But the work of the Holy Spirit precedes our faith, and ultimately causes our response in faith to take place.

The fact of our total inability is abundantly emphasized in Scripture. When we truly understand how utterly helpless we were, it magnifies God’s grace, and should humble us, producing a deep appreciation for what Christ has done on our behalf.

[1] Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel for Real Life” [NavPress, 2003], pg.115
[2] Ibid, 117

Friday, April 17, 2009

When is it Time to Leave a Church?

Here is a good article by John MacArthur addressing the issue of when it is time to leave a church. While I don’t think it is acceptable to just leave a church at the first signs of trouble, I do believe that there is a point where it is time to leave. However, the first course of action should be to approach the leadership and give time for possible correction to take place. Think about it; if everyone took off at the first signs of trouble, how would there be any chance of corrective action to take place? I think there is something to be said for sticking things out for awhile and battling for the truth. Not in a disruptive manner, but with a desire for restoration to take place with a heart attitude of love. So when do we finally decide that enough is enough? I think it depends on the situation, on a case by case basis. But this article gives some excellent sound advice.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Absence

I know I have gotten lazy with my posting here. I have been co-teaching a class on evangelism at our church and have been busy with a few other things. I plan to jump back in here this upcoming week and start posting again.

I am also about to join the ranks of the jobless. I just received notice from my employer that my position is one of many that are being eliminated effective June 1. This came as quite a shock and was unexpected, but apparently due to changes in the economy they felt they needed to make some big cuts quickly. So effective immediately, I am looking for a new job. Not sure what God is going to lead me to, but I am sure that He has things under control.

My strongest desire and passion is teaching God’s word, but until the Lord would open up the opportunity for full-time (vocational) ministry somewhere, I need to support my family. So I am making my contacts and networking, and I already have some leads. But I would ask all who are reading this to keep me and my family in your prayers as we go through this troubling time.

Happy Easter

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." (Mathew 28:1-10, ESV)

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Death of Jesus

45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
48And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
50Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
54Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

(Matthew 27:45-54, KJV)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Our Reconciliation to God

Scripture quite clearly points out the fact that our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The result of our sinful state has made us enemies of God, and included with those who are hated by God. While it may not seem palatable that God actually hated us in our sinful state, Scripture actually states that very fact.

10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10, ESV)

Psalm 5:5 also tells us that God hates all who do evil.

5The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. (Psalm 5:5, ESV)

This is a description of God’s righteous hatred of us because of our sin. The description of us as enemies of God is not the result of our sinful hatred of Him, but of God’s attitude toward us as the result of sin. [1]

As Charles Hodge explains in his commentary on the book of Romans:

“The word “enemies” is applied to men not only to describe their moral character, but also their relationship to God, as they are objects of His displeasure. There is not only a wicked opposition of the sinner to God , but a holy opposition of God to the sinner." [2]

But like the notion of God’s wrath, this hatred of sinful man is difficult to understand because of the association with the human concept of hatred. The human expression of hatred is usually associated with a sinful attitude. However, God’s expression of hatred is the result of His righteous, holy revulsion against sin and an antagonistic attitude aimed at all who rebel against Him. [3] We were completely alienated from God and unable to do anything to reconcile our relationship with God. The act of reconciliation was only possible solely through God (Colossians 1:21-22)

The very fact of God reconciling us to himself is amazing. We had no strength or power to help ourselves. In fact, we had no desire to do so. Our minds were by nature hostile to God and we had no desire to be reconciled to Him (Romans 8:7). [4]

It was God who took the initiative to reach out to us. He sent His Son to die as our substitute, satisfying His righteous justice and absorbed His wrath that we deserved as a result of our rebellion against Him. We did not reach out to Him. He made the first move to reach us. God performed everything that was necessary to ensure our reconciliation. It was God who softened our heart, enabling our belief to take place. It was God who was offended by our actions, and yet He was the one who sought to reconcile us! (Romans 5:10)

This work of reconciliation though, must be received by us individually in order for it to be appropriated on our behalf. This is why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:

19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20, ESV)

Christ having completed reconciliation for us, now makes an appeal for us to receive that reconciliation. And again, it is God who makes the appeal to us, even though we were the ones who made the offense. What an incredible display of God’s mercy and grace![5]

But another important word that Scripture uses to describe the work of Christ (used extensively of Paul in Galatians and Romans), is the word justification. The word appears approximately forty times in the New Testament. To gain an understanding of the meaning of this word, look at Romans 3:20. [6]

20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20, NIV)

To put it more literally as in the ESV, “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight”.

So then, to be justified is to be declared righteous. God has forgiven us of all our sins and views us as righteous in His Son. [7]

To understand how this can take place, we need to understand our legal union with Christ. In the beginning of human history, God appointed Adam as the legal representative (federal head) of the whole human race. However, when Adam sinned, he brought guilt and depravity upon the entire human race. Every person born after Adam and Eve inherited a sin nature from their birth. This is what David spoke of in Psalm 51:5.

5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.(ESV)

This describes the presence of the sin nature even before birth before any sinful acts were ever committed. [8] The term “all sinned” in Romans 5:12, means more than simply the fact that every individual commits acts of sin, even though as a result of the fall we all sin due to our inherent sin nature. Since Adam was the legal representative of the human race, all bear the consequences of Adam’s actions. (Romans 5:18-19) This is the reason, like David, that we were born with original sin. As a result, we were all subject to the wrath of God.

Our heart from birth is inclined toward sin, prior to actually committing any sin. It is this inner inclination to sin that lies at the root of all the sins that we commit. This sinful bent was transmitted to us from Adam who was our first legal representative before God. Our nature was enslaved to sin and permeates every part of our lives, tainting every action of ours; even our best intentions are never as good as they should be. The phrase that describes our condition is “total depravity”. It does not denote that we are all as bad as we could be, but rather that every action is affected by sin, and therefore can never be meritorious in the eyes of God. This is why Scripture calls our works of righteousness “filthy” or “polluted” garment (Isaiah 64:6), since they fall woefully short of the perfect righteousness that God’s law demands.

It is important to understand our sinful nature, rather than merely our individual sins, in order to realize the magnitude of the depth that sin permeates our life.

It took Christ, who was the second or last Adam, to act on our behalf to impute His righteousness as our legal representative. Romans 5:14 tells us that Adam was a “type of Him who was to come”. In other words, Adam was the first divinely appointed legal representative of the human race. Adam’s sin forfeited the righteousness of those who were legally represented by him. In order to restore righteousness, the same pattern must be followed, but with a reversal of what took place. God made Christ the new legal representative of a new humanity, wrought through His obedience to death in order to gain justification for those who follow Him.

15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19, ESV)

This reconciliation is something that is permanent and eternal. Because it was accomplished through Christ it can never be nullified. This is despite the fact that even as believers we may not always do things that please God. Despite our inconsistencies and failures, we will never be cut off from God again.

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4, ESV)

Through this work of Christ, we can experience a true peace with God.

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1, ESV)

It is this peace that should provide a deep gratitude for what God has done for us. The wall that was between us and God has been removed, and we now can experience a peaceful relationship with God, where we cry out “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

[1] Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel for Real Life” [NavPress, 2003], pg. 85.
[2] Charles Hodge, “Romans” [Crossway, 1993], pg. 134.
[3] Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel for Real Life” [NavPress, 2003], 85
[4] Ibid, 85-86
[5] Ibid, 86
[6] Ibid, 93-94
[7] Ibid, 94
[8] Ibid, 24

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Understanding the Opposition

18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
19We know that we are from God, and
the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
20And we know that the Son of God has come and
has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:18-21, ESV)

Excerpt from “What Are We Up Against?” by John Piper

Satan's Opposition to Evangelism and Missions
The most compassionate and loving thing you can do for any person is to lead them into eternal life and joy through faith in Christ. To feed, clothe, heal, house, and educate a person without a view to their being converted to Christ is not truly loving, any more than merely giving a person pain killers for their fever is when you could offer them the antibiotic that would take the infection away. Therefore feeding, clothing, healing, housing, and educating are good, but they become truly loving as part of a call to repentance and faith in Christ. So evangelism and world missions are the centerpiece of the mission of a compassionate church.

And to be as effective in our compassion as we long to be, we need power, supernatural power. Why? Not only because human hearts are proud (John 5:44) and hard (Acts 28:26-28), but also because the whole world lies in the power of the evil one and he is actively engaged in opposing all we do in evangelism and world missions.

Some examples:

1. Satan Blinds the Minds of Unbelievers
2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers."
So even before we arrive on the scene with the gospel, Satan is exerting a stupefying, deadening, blinding effect on the minds of the world. We need power to overcome this supernatural effect of the evil one.

2. Satan Snatches the Word Away from People Who Hear
Matthew 13:4, 19, "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them . . . When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path."
Once the process of evangelism has begun, Satan increases his efforts. He is pictured as a flock of birds swooping down on seed that fell on a path. He tries his best to take away the Word that is preached so that no serious thought is given to it. He may use radio or TV or crying babies or squabbling spouses or broken cars or troubles at work or sexy billboards. Anything to take the Word out our memory and out of our consideration. Satan hates meditation.

3. Satan Does Deceptive Signs and Wonders
Matthew 24:24, "False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." 2 Thessalonians 2:9, "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with signs and wonders of falsehood, and with wicked deception for those who are to perish."

Satan has always been a great imitator. When the rod of Aaron turned into a snake as a sign of God's power, the Egyptian sorcerers turned their rods into snakes too by their secret arts (Exodus 7:11). One reason the new age fads are going to sweep so many away in our day is that they are not just fads: they have real satanic power behind them and there will be real signs and wonders worked not by God but by Satan, and people will be deceived. Revelation 12:9 says Satan is the deceiver of "the whole world."

4. Satan Uses People to Hinder Others from Believing
When Paul preached to the Roman proconsul on the Island of Cyprus in Acts 13, he was eager to hear the Word and was about to believe. But there was a Jewish false prophet and magician there named Elymas. Acts 13:8 says he resisted Paul and Barnabas and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But then Paul was filled with the Spirit and saw what was really happening in the spiritual realm and said,
You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time. [Notice the use of power!]
He calls Elymas a "son of the devil." That is what Jesus called the tares in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:38. The tares are the sons of the evil one. So Elymas is a tare that Satan has sown in a strategic place to hinder the faith of a possible new convert. In this case Paul counter attacked with supernatural power: "You shall be blind for a time"!

5. Satan Hinders Mission Efforts in General
In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 Paul tells the church that he had endeavored eagerly to come to them "again and again, but Satan hindered us." Satan devotes significant energy to messing up missionary plans and hindering the advancement of the gospel.

6. Satan Throws Christians in Prison and Persecutes Them
Revelation 2:10 (to the church in Smyrna), "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
This is mainly what Peter has in mind in 1 Peter 5:8 when he says, "Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world." The jaws of the lion are the "experience of suffering" caused by Satan.

Knowing What We Are Up Against
All of this is simply to illustrate what it means that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." What we are up against is a global power that touches, and in some measure controls, all culture and society. This power is not opposed to most ordinary things of life that you do: eating, sleeping, working, as long as you just go along like the world, he is willing to live and let live. But he is extraordinarily opposed to the centerpiece of compassion: advancement of the gospel. He blinds; he snatches the Word; he deceives with signs and wonders; he uses people to hinder faith; he messes up missionary plans; and he persecutes and throws in prison. If we are going to make headway against the kingdom of Satan, it means war. It means a conflict of kingdoms. It means learning the meaning of the kingdom of God in the world and how to exercise its power.

[This article can be read in its entirety as]

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: