Friday, July 30, 2010
What a great week at VBS. We saw God do amazing things. The cloud moved in if you will. This week we had our highest number of children on our church campus in the history of ETBC! One night alone we had over 80 middle schoolers, they even spread mulch at Taylorsville Elementary school! Each night our workers fed over 500 people. We had around 100 volunteers. I even had the privilege of working with the preschoolers every night. The theme was God's Word. So thankful to Pastor a church that loves and lives by the Word of God. The highlight of the week was Wednesday night when many children responded to the Gospel message! God's Word is "life changing" Let's Go!!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I am thankful to pastor a church that loves to hear the Word of God preached. You can tell how spiritually mature a congregation is by how they respond to Biblical preaching. But isn't this God's method anyway?
Below Greg Laurie speaks to this very thought:
There are many ways God could have come to us. He could have dropped visual images like photographs or paintings to describe what He wanted people to know.
Certainly God does speak to us, to some degree, through the testimony of nature. After all, Psalm 19:1 tells us, "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship."
But God has chosen to primarily make Himself known to us through preaching. As the apostle Paul wrote, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21)
Some of Paul's most emphatic words to Timothy were, "Preach the Word!" (2 Timothy 4:2).
When Paul spoke on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece, He could have used drama to make his points. After all, drama started there in Greece. He could have had someone present the gospel in "three acts," or have it put to music.
But he didn't do either of those things. Instead, he preached to them.
Music, drama, and the arts all have their place, but they are nowhere near the importance of the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
I mentioned music earlier, and the early Church certainly placed a premium on the singing of praise and worship songs. But we must be careful to not "worship" worship!
I once saw one of those TV infomercials for a collection of worship songs, which I think is great in and of itself. But what disturbed me about this particular commercial was that they had what seemed to be "testimonies" of people who talked about how "worship music" had gotten them through hard times in their lives, and "worship music" had done this or that for them.
I know God can and will work through worship music, but it is God who works in our lives. Perhaps that is why Martin Luther called music the "handmaiden of theology."
Yes, worship has its place, but preaching still needs to be the priority of the Church today. I know this is true, not only because the Bible says it is, but also from personal experience.
I have had the privilege of teaching for more than 35 years in many places, ranging from great stadiums and arenas to small home Bible studies. I can tell you that it is God's Word preached that touches lives.
Trust me when I say that the last thing I ever wanted to become was a preacher. I was a cartoonist, a graphic designer. That was all I ever wanted to do. I was never a speaker in school. In fact, I dreaded speaking publicly.
But the first time I had the privilege of preaching the gospel, I saw the power of God at work. My life was touched by the teaching and preaching of God's Word, and I still am. I love to listen to preaching, and I listen to sermons and messages from different pastors all the time.
The arts have their place. Thank God for Christian musicians, designers, tech people, and all the rest. I love the arts and people who are gifted in this way. I count myself as one of them.
But one thing will never change: "It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."
Friday, July 23, 2010
Do you love the Book? Do you love to read the Book? Do you long to hear the Book preached or had you rather settle for "other things" in a church service? Sadly today, many will attend a church where the Book is never opened and are happy about it. Let it not be so!
Piper sums it up well here:
We are a people of the Book. We know God through the Book. We meet Christ in the Book. We see the cross in the Book. Our faith and love are kindled by the glorious truths of the Book. We have tasted the divine majesty of the Word and are persuaded that the Book is God's inspired and infallible written revelation. Therefore, what the Book teaches matters…
There is no salvation from sin and guilt and condemnation and hell apart from faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-17; 1 John 5:12). And there is no other authority besides the Scriptures to show you who Christ is and to give you his Word. So don't leave the Bible, children. Don't leave the Bible, young people. Don't neglect the Bible, dads and moms. Don't ignore the Bible, single people. Under God, the "sacred writings," the Scriptures, are the greatest treasure in the world. They alone make us wise unto salvation through Christ. O don't neglect this Book!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Is it ever ok to take scripture out of context to fit my theology or my sermon point. Well of course not. But so many do today. I think this is allowed in some churches because the preaching is so shallow and diligent study is not applied by many today. I am guilty myself at times.
One verse that is often taken out of context is Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Some will say if two or three gather in His name He is in the midst. Well true, but also if one gathers in His name He is in the midst or if none gather in His name He is in the midst because He is omnipresent. This in NOT what this verse is talking about!!
This section of scripture is talking about Church discipline or confronting a brother in Christ not a Sunday service or prayer meeting.
John MacArthur said "In other words, we're doing heaven's work. We're doing the Father's work. And then Jesus Himself has the final word in verse 20. “Where two or three have gathered together,” not for a prayer meeting, folks. How many does it take for God to show up at a prayer meeting? How about one. “Lo, I am with you always.” It doesn't take two or three. It doesn't have anything to do with a prayer meeting, it has to do with a discipline situation where two or three have gathered together which means this process is in motion, there I am in their midst. Never is the church more in tune with heaven, more in tune with the Father and more in tune with Christ Himself then when it's dealing with sin."
Before this he talked about this section of scripture by stating "Matthew 18, beginning at verse 15. “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax gatherer. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst.”
I had great difficulty with that passage of Scripture because I in my entire life had never experienced a church, heard of a church that did that...no church that I had ever been did that..people confronting people about their sin, people taking two or three witnesses, people telling the whole church about an impenitent sinning member. The only part of that Scripture I ever heard quoted was the part about two or three being gathered together in My name and there am I in the midst, and that was almost like a popular axiom to remind folks that only when a couple of people showed up for prayer meeting, God showed up too. That was the universal exegesis of that verse.
I didn't know any church that did this. I never heard of any church that did this. And it consumed me in my thinking. I read extensively on that subject and I could find commentators and theologians who explained the text, but I couldn't find anybody who actually applied it."
So the text is talking about church discipline and not "God Showing Up" in a worship service.
On this same text Jim Bordwine said "Verses 19 and 20 have left people with a lot of questions, primarily because they are taken out of context. In this context of the church dealing with sin, how should we interpret these verses? Jesus is saying that when the church must handle a case, such as He has described, the wisdom of God must be sought. This isn’t a blanket invitation to ask God for anything knowing that as long as two people agree, God is bound to give what is requested. In this context, once again, we are talking about rendering judgment. It seems, therefore, that Jesus is saying that when there is agreement regarding a judgment, assuming the principles of Scripture have been followed, the church may feel confident that God approves and will support that judgment, so to speak. This process is, once again, extremely serious since we are considering a person’s spiritual state. It requires the application of collective wisdom."
Monday, July 19, 2010
Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. The preacher worships-exults-over the word, trying his best to draw you into a worshipful response by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. (The devil could do that for his own devious reasons.) My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Most Famous Sermon in American History
Several years after his sermon on saving faith in Jesus Christ, Edwards preached the most famous sermon in American history, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In his homily, he sought to sweep all false views of hell and leave his hearers with biblical images that would drive them to faith in Christ.
Edwards diagnosed the presumptuousness of the unredeemed human heart in words designed to scorch away its natural narcissism.
Were it not that so is the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun don’t willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth don’t willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air don’t willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies.
God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and don’t willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. (Works 22, 410)
Pursuit of Conversion
Having laid out in great detail the agonies of hell and the frailty of human existence, Edwards summoned his hearers to the mercy of Christ while they could still grasp it. He modeled godly shepherding in his preaching on saving faith, which he did throughout his ministry. The pursuit of conversion—the cornerstone of missional faith—was always on his mind. He knew that he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of his people and that this role necessitated that he publicly articulate biblical truth for the health of his people and also for the salvation of some who thought themselves converted.
For Edwards, truth and doctrine were not minor matters, mere footnotes of the Christian faith that believers arranged as they saw fit. If he and his fellow ministers tinkered with these truths, Christians would grow weak and worldly. Their minds would grow confused, their hearts weak, and men and women would spiritually suffer even as God lost glory due to him.
If churches held fast to truth, however, and preached it passionately and vigorously, Christians would flourish and stand firm in their faith.
They would taste the rich blessings of theological confidence and spiritual hope. Unbelievers would see this distinctive way of life and question their beliefs and behaviors. Though embattled, the church and its members would remain faithful and fruitful. God, observing and orchestrating these events from his throne, would gain glory. This is what can happen when a pastor preaches with purpose and passion, the Spirit moves, and men and women join him on mission in the name of Jesus.
taken from: (Resurgence)
Thursday, July 15, 2010
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you... John 14:2 KJV
How many times have you heard preachers talk about a departed loved one going to Heaven and getting "their mansion"? As if, when we get to Heaven we all get a Brick Home with a 3 car garage that would make any Rapper from MTV Cribs jealous.
How many times have we all heard and sung this song by Eugene Bartlett "Victory in Jesus":
I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory,
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea.
About the angels singing and the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory.
But is this what the word "mansion" means in this verse?
Notice in John 14:2 Jesus says, "In my Father's house are many mansions..."
Just think about it, how do you get many mansions inside of a house? The use of “mansions” gives an impression of a grand, spacious house of our own inside of the Father’s House. I have seen mansions by themselves on a lot, but cannot conceive of how you put a mansion inside of a house as is rendered in the King James Version: “In my Father's house are many mansions:...” (John 14:2). Do you see the point? John is not talking about large stately manors built inside of a house or even in lots along the streets of gold.
The Greek word mone translated “mansions” actually means:
“Mone (mon-ay); Word Origin: Greek, Noun Feminine, Strong #: 3438 1) a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode 2) to make an (one's) abode.” (Strong’s Greek/Hebrew Lexicon)
“mone: a staying, abiding, dwelling, above: Jn. xiv.2,” (Thayer, p. 417).
The Greek term was used to refer to soldiers using temporary tents as they traveled. The English term “was first a place that held soldiers overnight, on their marches” (Joseph T. Shipley, Dictionary of Word Origins, 300).
Many of the newer translations do not use “many mansions,” but “many rooms” or “many dwelling places”:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms...” (English Standard Version)
“many rooms;” (New International Version)
“many rooms” (Revised Standard Version)
“many dwelling places.” (New American Bible)
“ many resting_places.” (Weymouth’s N.T.)
“ many rooms” (International Standard Version)
“rooms enough” (BBE: Bible in Basic English)
“many rooms” (Montgomery Translation)
“many rooms” (Goodspeed Translation)
“many rooms” (Contemporary English Version)
“many dwelling places” (New American Standard Version)
"many dwelling places" (New American Standard Version)
Furthermore, many New Testament scholars explain the meaning of the Greek term mone in this context:
“The noun mone (allied to meno, ‘stay’, ‘remain’) occurs twice in the NT - here and in verse 23. It means ‘a place to stay’, and when it is said that there are many such places in a house, ‘rooms’ is the most natural rendering” (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John, p. 297).
“...It is commonly understood as affirming that in heaven there is ample room to receive all who will come;...” (Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes, The Gospels, p. 325).
“Jesus is preparing rooms in heaven (V. 2) and someday will return to transport his followers there (v. 3).” (Baker Commentary on the Bible, p. 868).
“The rooms represent abiding-places, symbolic of the ample spiritual provision which God makes for his children.” (New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 958).
“‘Mansions’ in the Gk. is actually ‘abiding places,’ speaking of the permanency of our heavenly home.” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament, Warren W. Weirsbe, p. 249).
“The imagery of a dwelling place (“rooms”) is taken from the oriental house in which the sons and daughters have apartments under the same roof as their parents. The purpose of His departure was to make ready the place where he could welcome them permanently.”
“’Mansion,’ the older translation, has led to very unfortunate misunderstandings. At the time of William Tyndale and the King James Version ‘mansion’ also, like mone, meant a dwelling place or stopping place. It could also be used of the physical dwelling place or of the manor house of a lord, but these seem to be secondary to the earlier uses as in the Greek.
Now, however, we understand a mansion as being limited to a physical dwelling and having specific socioeconomic implications” (The IVP New Testament Commentary: John).
So, “mansion” as used in the King James Version does not mean a large, stately house as we use it today, but it meant a dwelling place. In Britain, about 1607, when the translation was made the term “mansions” (plural) could mean “an apartment house.” Thus, again in the Father’s house (oikos) are many dwelling places or rooms or apartments.
Note that John also uses mone in verse 23: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Perhaps, this is the real spiritual meaning behind the use of the term. God is always wishing to provide a means for His children to be near or close to Him.
Monday, July 12, 2010
By Chuck Swindoll
"Just before Moses died, he spoke these words to God. Read them carefully:
“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight.” (Numbers 27:16–19)
I don’t know your circumstances today. I cannot be certain how God intends to use this episode from the life of Moses in your own life. But I do know what it’s like to be a shepherd . . . and so I can imagine some possible scenarios.
It may be that these words fall on a very hungry heart. Or perhaps you have been strengthened and encouraged with the thought that you’re exactly where God wants you to be. Or maybe you’re engaged in the challenging task of finding a man or a woman for a position that carries a huge weight of responsibility . . . and you’ve been reminded that you are dependent on God, more than ever, to locate His “Joshua.” Or perhaps you are that Joshua, and you’ve been asked to accept a responsibility broader than you ever dreamed.
Whatever your circumstances, I want to remind you that our heavenly Father cares about areas of your life that would seem insignificant to a distant deity. I know you’re aware of these things—you’ve preached them often. But may I remind you of what I often remind myself? He’s never too busy to hear your hurts, to wipe away your tears, to whisper words of encouragement, and to put His big shoulder under your load. He’s the God who cares about the details.
As I write these words, I’m praying that our sovereign Lord might be a very personal comfort to you this week. I pray especially for you pastors who are wrestling with loneliness and discouragement. Even though you’re surrounded by people and their admiration, deep inside there’s an ache. Believe me, my friend, God can meet your need as only He can, even as He did in the heart of Moses just a few hours before the great man’s death.
If you’re God’s Joshua, you don’t need to worry that you’ll be forgotten. You needn’t fear that the shadow of your predecessor will eclipse you and your ministry in the years to come. In fact, you don’t need to worry about anything. If you’re God’s Joshua, you’re right where you ought to be.
Remind yourself that He is sovereign. He has everything under His control. He will have His way in His time and for His glory. That includes your life, your position, your past, and your future. Worrying over any of that is a waste. He’s got every detail covered.
Yes, every one.
Think of it this way: there’s no such thing as God being almost sovereign."
Friday, July 9, 2010
With the whole world watching the LeBron announcement I thought it would be good to put things in perspective:
North Carolina alumni have 41 NBA title rings in the past 44 NBA championships.
If LeBron wanted NBA Championships he should have gone to UNC!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
c. Genuine Regeneration Must Bring Results in Life
In an earlier section we saw a beautiful example of the first result of regeneration in a person’s life, when Paul spoke the gospel message to Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14; cf. John 6:44, 65; 1 Peter 1:3). Similarly, John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1 NIV). But there are also other results of regeneration, many of which are specified in John’s first epistle.
For example, John says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9 NIV). Here John explains that a person who is born again has that spiritual “seed” (that life-generating and growing power) within him, and that this keeps the person living a life free of continual sin. This does not of course mean that the person will have a perfect life, but only that the pattern of life will not be one of continuing indulgence in sin.
When people are asked to characterize a regenerated person’s life, the adjective that comes to mind should not be “sinner,” but rather something like “obedient to Christ” or “obedient to Scripture.” We should notice that John says this is true of everyone who is truly born again: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin.” Another way of looking at this is to say that “every one who does what is right has been born of him” (1 John 2:29).
A genuine, Christlike love will be one specific result in life: “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 NIV). Another effect of the new birth is overcoming the world: “And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God has overcome the world” (1 John 5:3–4 NIV).
Here John explains that regeneration gives the ability to overcome the pressures and temptations of the world that would otherwise keep us from obeying God’s commandments and following his paths. John says that we will overcome these pressures and therefore it will not be “burdensome” to obey God’s commands but, he implies, it will rather be joyful. He goes on to explain that the process through which we gain victory over the world is continuing in faith: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4 NIV).
Finally, John notes that another result of regeneration is protection from Satan himself: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God [that is, Jesus] keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him” (1 John 5:18 NIV). Though there may be attacks from Satan, John reassures his readers that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NIV), and this greater power of the Holy Spirit within us keeps us safe from ultimate spiritual harm by the evil one.
We should realize that John emphasizes these as necessary results in the lives of those who are born again. If there is genuine regeneration in a person’s life, he or she will believe that Jesus is the Christ, and will refrain from a life pattern of continual sin, and will love his brother, and will overcome the temptations of the world, and will be kept safe from ultimate harm by the evil one. These passages show that it is impossible for a person to be regenerated and not become truly converted.
Other results of regeneration are listed by Paul where he speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit,” that is, the result in life that is produced by the power of the Holy Spirit working within every believer: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). If there is true regeneration then these elements of the fruit of the Spirit will be more and more evident in that person’s life.
But by contrast, those who are unbelievers, including those who are pretending to be believers but are not, will clearly lack of these character traits in their lives. Jesus told his disciples:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. (Matt. 7:15–20)
Neither Jesus nor Paul nor John point to activity in the church or miracles as evidence of regeneration. They rather point to character traits in life. In fact, immediately after the verses quoted above Jesus warns that on the day of judgment many will say to him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” But he will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers” (Matt. 7:22–23).
Prophecy, exorcism, and many miracles and mighty works in Jesus’ name (to say nothing of other kinds of intensive church activity in the strength of the flesh over perhaps decades of a person’s life) do not provide convincing evidence that a person is truly born again. Apparently all these can be produced in the natural man or woman’s own strength, or even with the help of the evil one.
But genuine love for God and his people, heartfelt obedience to his commands, and the Christlike character traits that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit, demonstrated consistently over a period of time in a person’s life, simply cannot be produced by Satan or by the natural man or woman working in his or her own strength. These can only come about by the Spirit of God working within and giving us new life.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
B. The Exact Nature of Regeneration Is Mysterious to Us
Exactly what happens in regeneration is mysterious to us. We know that somehow we who were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) have been made alive to God and in a very real sense we have been “born again” (John 3:3, 7; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13). But we don’t understand how this happens or what exactly God does to us to give us this new spiritual life. Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Scripture views regeneration as something that affects us as whole persons. Of course, our “spirits are alive” to God after regeneration (Rom. 8:10), but that is simply because we as whole persons are affected by regeneration. It is not just that our spirits were dead before—we were dead to God in trespasses and sins (see Eph. 2:1). And it is not correct to say that the only thing that happens in regeneration is that our spirits are made alive (as some would teach), for every part of us is affected by regeneration: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Because regeneration is a work of God within us in which he gives us new life it is right to conclude that it is an instantaneous event. It happens only once. At one moment we are spiritually dead, and then at the next moment we have new spiritual life from God. Nevertheless, we do not always know exactly when this instantaneous change occurs. Especially for children growing up in a Christian home, or for people who attend an evangelical church or Bible study over a period of time and grow gradually in their understanding of the gospel, there may not be a dramatic crisis with a radical change of behavior from “hardened sinner” to “holy saint,” but there will be an instantaneous change nonetheless, when God through the Holy Spirit, in an unseen, invisible way, awakens spiritual life within. The change will become evident over time in patterns of behavior and desires that are pleasing to God.
In other cases (in fact, probably most cases when adults become Christians) regeneration takes place at a clearly recognizable time at which the person realizes that previously he or she was separated from God and spiritually dead, but immediately afterward there was clearly new spiritual life within. The results can usually be seen at once—a heartfelt trusting in Christ for salvation, an assurance of sins forgiven, a desire to read the Bible and pray (and a sense that these are meaningful spiritual activities), a delight in worship, a desire for Christian fellowship, a sincere desire to be obedient to God’s Word in Scripture, and a desire to tell others about Christ.
People may say something like this: “I don’t know exactly what happened, but before that moment I did not trust in Christ for salvation. I was still wondering and questioning in my mind. But after that moment I realized that I did trust in Christ and he was my Savior. Something happened in my heart.” Yet even in these cases we are not quite sure exactly what has happened in our hearts. It is just as Jesus said with respect to the wind—we hear its sound and we see the result, but we cannot actually see the wind itself. So it is with the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Monday, July 5, 2010
We may define regeneration as follows: Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us. This is sometimes called “being born again” (using language from John 3:3–8).
A. Regeneration Is Totally a Work of God
In some of the elements of the application of redemption that we discuss in subsequent chapters, we play an active part (this is true, for example, of conversion, sanctification and perseverance). But in the work of regeneration we play no active role at all. It is instead totally a work of God. We see this, for example, when John talks about those to whom Christ gave power to become children of God—they “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Here John specifies that children of God are those who are “born...of God” and our human will (“the will of man”) does not bring about this kind of birth.
The fact that we are passive in regeneration is also evident when Scripture refers to it as being “born” or being “born again” (cf. James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3; John 3:3–8). We did not choose to be made physically alive and we did not choose to be born—it is something that happened to us; similarly, these analogies in Scripture suggest that we are entirely passive in regeneration.
This sovereign work of God in regeneration was also predicted in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Through him God promised a time in the future when he would give new spiritual life to his people:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezek. 36:26–27)
Which member of the Trinity is the one who causes regeneration? When Jesus speaks of being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8), he indicates that it is especially God the Holy Spirit who produces regeneration. But other verses also indicate the involvement of God the Father in regeneration: Paul specifies that it is God who “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5; cf. Col. 2:13). And James says that it is the “Father of lights” who gave us new birth: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:17–18).1 Finally, Peter says that God “according to his abundant mercy has given us new birth... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3, author’s translation). We can conclude that both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit bring about regeneration.
What is the connection between effective calling and regeneration? As we will see later in this chapter, Scripture indicates that regeneration must come before we can respond to effective calling with saving faith. Therefore we can say that regeneration comes before the result of effective calling (our faith). But it is more difficult to specify the exact relationship in time between regeneration and the human proclamation of the gospel through which God works in effective calling.
At least two passages suggest that God regenerates us at the same time as he speaks to us in effective calling: Peter says, “You have been born anew not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.... That word is the good news which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23, 25). And James says, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (James 1:18 NIV). As the gospel comes to us, God speaks through it to summon us to himself (effective calling) and to give us new spiritual life (regeneration) so that we are enabled to respond in faith. Effective calling is thus God the Father speaking powerfully to us and regeneration is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit working powerfully in us to make us alive. These two things must have happened simultaneously as Peter was preaching the gospel to the household of Cornelius, for while he was still preaching “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44).
Sometimes the term irresistible grace is used in this connection. It refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. The term irresistible grace is subject to misunderstanding, however, since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary, willing choice in responding to the gospel—a wrong idea, and a wrong understanding of the term irresistible grace. The term does preserve something valuable, however, because it indicates that God’s work reaches into our hearts to bring about a response that is absolutely certain—even though we respond voluntarily.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Do you pray for the President?
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Romans 13:1-5
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2: 1-4
Thursday, July 1, 2010
By Charles Spurgeon
Today’s post comes from an 1884 sermon by Spurgeon. Though over a century old, its point is as relevant today as when it was first preached.
You [as preachers] have nothing else to employ as the means of good, except the salvation of Jesus, and there is nothing else worth telling.
I heard of a congregation the other day that was so very small that hardly any one came to listen to the preacher. Instead of blaming himself, and preaching better, the minister said he thought he was not doing much good by sermons and prayer-meetings, and therefore he would found a club, and if the fellows came in, and played draughts, that might do them good. What a lot of that sort of thing is now being tried! We are going to convert souls on a new system,—are we? Are we also to have a substitute for bread?—and healthier drink than pure water? . . .
[T]o hope ever to bring sinners to holiness and heaven by any teaching but that which begins and ends in Jesus Christ is a sheer delusion. None other name is given among men whereby they can be saved. If you have to deal with highly learned and educated people, nothing is so good for them as preaching Jesus Christ; and if the people be ignorant and degraded, nothing is better for them than the preaching of Jesus.
A young man said to another the other day, “I am going down to preach at So-and-so, what sort of people are they there? What kind of doctrine will suit them?” Having heard of the question, I gave this advice,—”You preach Jesus Christ, and that will suit them, I am sure, if they are learned people it will suit them; if they are ignorant it will suit them—God blessing it.”
When the great Biblical critic, Bengel, was dying, he sent for a young theological student, to whom he said, “I am low in spirit; say something good to cheer me.” “My dear Sir,” said the student, “I am so insignificant a person, what can I say to a great man like yourself?” “But if you are a student of theology,” said Bengel, “you ought to have a good word to say to a dying man; pray say it without fear.” “Well, Sir,” said he, “What can I say to you, but that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin?” Bengel said, “Give me your hand, young man; that is the very word I wanted.”
A simple gospel text is the word which every man needs who is in fear of divine wrath, and he may be sitting next to you at this moment, or he is in the same house of business with you, and needs that you should tell him about Christ. Do that, and bless his soul. May you all understand the Scriptures in this way, and may God make you a great blessing to those around you.