En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘catholic’

A Halloween that changed the world!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2008

On October 31, 1517, something happened that changed the world. No, it had little to do with Halloween. Do you know what it was? Even the man who did it didn’t know the effect it would have. On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest by the name of Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed a notice on the door at Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. To Luther, it was a relatively small act. This was the common way of scheduling a debate in those days. But the world has not been the same since.

Martin Luther is one of my favorite historical characters. This is not because he was perfect. He certainly had flaws (don’t we all?). It is because he so bravely stood for what he believed to be right and, by doing so, certainly helped to pierce the veil of darkness that then shrouded the world. Four hundred ninety years ago this month he nailed his famous “ninety-five theses” to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin was the firstborn son of Roman Catholic parents. His father Hans was a miner who scraped up enough money to send his brilliant son to university; there Martin studied the law. He earned his bachelor of arts in 1503 and his master of arts degree in 1505 at the age of twenty-three.

One July day, a thunderstorm frightened Martin as he walked along. He begged Saint Anne, the miner’s saint, for help, and vowed to become a monk. A few days later, Martin joined the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.

In those days, almost everyone in Europe was a Roman Catholic. Martin Luther hoped to find salvation for himself by being a perfect monk. He did all the prayers and works and confessions required of him. He venerated the relics. But he still felt unworthy of God. He believed he could never please God; he knew his sins and his sinful nature remained and that he was worthy only of eternal punishment.

He talked to one of the supervisors in his monastery about his troubled thoughts but found no peace in the solutions offered by the Roman Catholic teaching. Luther was given the jobs of teaching and preaching, so he spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures. Finally, God showed him the answer to his doubts. “The just shall live by faith,” wrote the apostle Paul in Romans 1:17. This meant that Martin could be justified (declared not guilty and seen as righteous) before God only by faith (putting his trust in Jesus Christ as His Savior), not by any works he could do. In Scripture, he had found the truth, and the truth had set him free!

Luther began to teach this doctrine to others. But he found himself in conflict with many of the Roman Catholic doctrines. He felt certain that the wrong doctrines could be straightened out by study and debate. He felt sure that the pope and the leading men of the Roman Catholic Church sincerely wanted to teach right doctrine from the Bible. He believed the church leadership had merely slipped into error, and they would readily correct themselves when the errors were exposed. This is why he nailed ninety-five points for debate to the church door on 31 October 1517. He wanted to initiate a scholarly debate.

But the reaction he received was vastly different than he expected, in two ways. First, the pope and leaders of the church did not want to debate. They did not want to change anything. They did not believe they were wrong! They firmly believed the authority to interpret Scripture lay with the pope and the church’s traditional teachings. They had no intention of listening to a German monk!

Second, the citizens of Wittenberg and many other areas began reading what Luther had written, and were in great agreement with it. (It had been originally written in Latin, the language of scholars and of the church, but it was very soon translated into the common German language.) Luther’s ideas and teaching spread like wildfire throughout Germany and soon to distant parts of Europe.

Luther continued to write about the doctrines he was finding in the Bible. He began teaching many things that were contrary to the official Roman Catholic teachings. He wrote several tracts and booklets. He was sincerely attempting to wake up and clean up the Roman Catholic Church. He was truly trying to educate the people in Scripture, for up until this time, people only knew and believed what the church leaders told them. Most people could not read Latin, or even get their hands on a Bible. Now, they were hearing the words of Scripture, which had been kept hidden from them by their leaders. They were astonished and edified by what they were now reading.

The pope was trying to raise money, by various methods, to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. One of the methods was to sell indulgences. A friar named Tetzel came into the neighborhood hawking these slips of paper. He taught the common people a jingle that said something like, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Many people still assumed the Roman Catholic Church and the pope had authority over them. The only way to have forgiveness of sins, they believed, was to get it from the pope. The people were eagerly buying these indulgences to free their loved-ones from purgatory and to give themselves license to sin. Martin Luther spoke out against this practice saying it is not in line with the teachings of the Bible. The pope and other church leaders found their sales dropping off and decided to put a stop to this Martin Luther!

Luther was summoned to a religious court hearing before the Emperor Charles V, church leaders, and civil leaders in the city of Worms, Germany. They asked him to retract his writings. They commanded him to stop teaching contrary to the Roman Catholic Church. He replied, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant for it is neither right nor safe for a Christian to go against his conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Charles V pronounced Luther an outlaw. He declared, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” He also made giving food or shelter to Luther a crime and gave permission for anyone to kill Luther. Luther escaped death because of the daring, undercover operation of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (the part of Germany where Luther lived). Frederick had Luther “kidnapped” by masked men and whisked off to Wartburg Castle, where Luther grew a beard and, for about eleven months, pretended to be a knight. During his stay at Wartburg, Luther continued to write. He also translated the New Testament from Greek into German so his countrymen could read it for themselves in their own language.

Many began to look to Scripture alone as the authority for their beliefs. They began to reject the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. The people questioned Roman Catholic doctrines. Most importantly, many began to rely on faith in Christ’s atonement and righteousness for their salvation, instead of upon works, penance, and indulgences.

But while at Wartburg, the Reformation began to get out of Luther’s control. He returned to Wittenberg to try to stop people who wanted to make extreme changes beyond what he had taught. Luther considered these people (who included Anabaptists) to be radicals and troublemakers because they were preaching the equality of man, the separation of church and state, and believer’s baptism. To Luther, this was going too far.

We might wonder how Luther could think this. But it might help if we try putting ourselves in his place. He was born into an extremely dark time in history. He was a monk and priest in a church that claimed to be the only way to salvation, yet it did not understand the Gospel. And, unlike today, Luther could not just read the writings of ministers in other churches or walk out of the Catholic Church and into a Bible-believing church to get help. Any churches outside of the Roman Catholic Church were small, persecuted, scattered in the wilderness, and secretive. Luther was brought up in, educated in, and totally surrounded by a worldview that contradicted the Gospel. But despite this handicap, God, by His grace, opened Luther’s mind to the Gospel and used him to light a light in that dark world.

True, his doctrines and practices were not perfect. But would any one of us, coming from the same background, living in the same circumstances, have done any better? Not only did God use him to directly preach the Gospel, but his influence resulted in many others preaching the Gospel. In fact, Luther was probably the most influential man to have lived from the time of the apostles to now. The Protestantism that sprang from his movement has helped to mold our civilization.

It is also true that some of the radicals did go too far and introduce violence. Luther wrote, “Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear.”

One of the most controversial events in Luther’s life was his connection to the Peasants’ War that started in 1524. At first, Luther expressed sympathy for the peasants’ complaints. But when the peasants became violent, Luther himself instigated violence by telling the nobility to treat the peasants without pity and put them down like mad dogs: “Whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly.”

So, Martin Luther was a complex person. He made great strides in some areas, especially in promoting the authority of the Bible alone, justification by faith alone, and freedom of the conscience. Yet, odd as it may seem to us today, Luther could not see that these teachings opened the door to more civil and religious freedom than he was willing to allow in his time. But these freedoms would inevitably come as people, including the Anabaptists and other radicals whom Luther tried to suppress, took these ideals to their natural conclusions, resulting in the religious freedoms and open society we have today.

© Copyright 2007 Peter and Mary Ditzel wordofhisgrace.org

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Martin Luther’s 95 Theses-Happy Reformation Day!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2008

To honor and remember the beginning of the great Reformation 490 plus years ago please take time to read the 95 These Luther posted to the door to the castle at Wittenburg, Germany.

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther
31 October 1509
 or 1517 (?)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers
mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

71 . He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

Published in:  Works of Martin Luther, Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38.

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Happy Reformation Day! 499th Anniversary of the Great Reformation Beginning!

Posted by Scott on October 28, 2008

This October 31st, 2008 marks the 499th Anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Germany. Through his sacrifice and courage to challenge the church at that time he made known that we can go before God without any human “go between”. Jesus Christ is our “go between” now. Please, enjoy the short article below as we celebrate another year this great reformation has survived.

Martin Luther

Luther Brings Faith and Grace to Everyday Life. Martin Luther’s great evangelism tool was the written word. Though Luther was famous as a preacher and teacher, he believed that everyone needed to build his or her own personal relationship with God through God’s word.

He translated the entire Bible into German (his native language), believing that every single person should be able to read well enough to read the Bible on his or her own. He also wrote the explanations in the Small Catechism, so that parents would have an simple way to teach their children the basics of their faith.

Luther had a complex and interesting life. The definitive biography is Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton (New American Library). John Osborne’s Luther (a play published by Criterion Books) was filmed in a version starring Stacey Keach, which is still available. But the important part of Luther’s life is the legacy he left to us of his overwhelming fascination with the study of God and God’s relationship to us. He based his view of God on a thorough rereading of the New Testament, from which come the key Lutheran beliefs of priesthood of believers (Hebrews 7, 9 , and 10) and justification by faith (Romans 3: 23).

The priesthood of believers includes all of us who are believers, and it means that each of us has the right to approach God directly through prayer and study without go-betweens and without wondering which of us is the most important to God: each of us is equally important to God. And in Christian community, we serve as priests to one another.

Justification by faith means that God loves us and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because he created us and we are his. Luther wrote, “In baptism, our sinful selves are drowned, and day by day a new self arises.” He encouraged us to remember our baptism every time we take a shower or wash our faces; God’s removal of our sins is that close and that constant. The knowledge of the closeness of God to us in every thing we say and do every day of our lives is Luther’s great gift to Christian life.

During Luther’s lifetime, he was the best-selling writer in Europe. What would our lives be like if Luther’s Small Catechism was at the top of the list of best selling books week-in and week-out?

More resources can be found at SundaySchool Lessons.

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Does Truth Matter Anymore?

Posted by Scott on October 15, 2008

A great 5 part series by John MacArthur on Truth. Excellence in preaching does not mean being creative. Simply preach and teach the entire Word of God. Watch and listen.

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

PART FOUR

PART FIVE

Your comments and questions are welcome. Scott Bailey 2008

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A Private Conviction About Murder? Al Mohler Jr. Explains

Posted by Scott on September 8, 2008

   

   

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, made headlines by stating that he accepts “as a matter of faith” that human life begins at conception, but he would not impose that view on others as a matter of law.

Sen. Biden’s statement is similar in form to those offered by other Catholic politicians like former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.  Nevertheless, what it really represents is far more horrifying than may be recognized at first.

Speaking on “Meet the Press,” Biden responded to a question from Tom Brokaw.  The anchor had asked Biden what he would say if Sen. Barack Obama asked him when human life begins [see video clip here]:

I’d say, “Look, I know when it begins for me.” It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths-Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others-who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They’re intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life-I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, “Well, what about fascism?” Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism’s all right? Fascism isn’t a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea.

Biden first calls the issue “personal and private,” an interesting way to introduce a statement about a matter that inevitably has relevance to public policy.  He claims to accept the teachings of his church, but then states that other religions hold to other views, and these believers “believe in God as strongly as I do” and are equally religious.

We live in a pluralistic society, he argues, and it would be improper for him to “impose” his judgment on others, who may be “equally and maybe even more devout than I.”

He then realizes something of the intellectual problem he has just created and argues that, for example, all good religious folk would oppose fascism, and thus we can presumably establish that as public policy.  “No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea,” he concludes.  So is the new criterion for public policy to be what a “good religious person” might think?

Brokaw then asked Biden about his support of abortion rights, given what he has just said about his belief that life begins at conception.  Biden answered, “I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception.”

Kate Phillips of The New York Times explained Biden’s predicament this way:

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Biden tried to walk the line between the staunch abortion-rights advocates in his party and his own religious beliefs. While he said he did not often talk about his faith, he said of those who disagree with him: “They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

Sen. Biden may have been attempting to “walk the line” politically, but a closer look at his actual argument is truly horrifying.

Sen. Biden says, and we must take him at his word, that he accepts as a matter of faith that human life begins at conception.  But, he argues, he is perfectly willing to support a woman’s right to choose to end that human life.

The killing of human life is called homicide. Murder is the willful taking of a human life.  The senator has here stated that he believes abortion to be homicide, but he defends a woman’s right to kill the unborn human life within her because he would not impose his beliefs about human life (and thus about homicide) on others.

In other words, if we take Sen. Biden seriously, he would defer to others who believe otherwise when it comes to the law.

How can he live with this?  There are significant questions about the extent to which some matters can properly be legislated.  But there is no question that the government — any government — must take a stand on the question of human life.  This is why the abortion issue simply will not and cannot go away.  The government takes a side on this question, like it or not.

I believe Sen. Biden to be a serious man, and that is what is most frightening about this.  Can a morally serious man really say that he believes that unborn babies are human beings, but that it should be a protected right to kill them?

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The Old Cross vs The New Cross!

Posted by Scott on July 22, 2008

The business of the Church is God. She is purest when most engaged with God and she is astray just so far as she follows other interests, no matter how “religious” or humanitarian they may be.


 

A. W. Tozer
Read about A. W. Tozer

The Church: The Old Cross and the New Cross

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. –Galatians 6:14

The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics–but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.

I well know how many smooth arguments can be marshalled in support of the new cross. Does not the new cross win converts and make many followers and so carry the advantage of numerical success? Should we not adjust ourselves to the changing times? Have we not heard the slogan, “New days, new ways”? And who but someone very old and very conservative would insist upon death as the appointed way to life? And who today is interested in a gloomy mysticism that would sentence its flesh to a cross and recommend self-effacing humility as a virtue actually to be practiced by modern Christians? These are the arguments, along with many more flippant still, which are brought forward to give an appearance of wisdom to the hollow and meaningless cross of popular Christianity. The Pursuit of Man, 53,54.

“Lord, it’s not popular today to be ‘old-fashioned.’ But I commit myself today to the old cross. Help me today to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow You. Amen.”

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The Goal of God’s Love May Not Be What You Think It Is!

Posted by Scott on July 22, 2008

by John Piper


 


Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God’s loving us is a means to our glorifying him. “Christ became a servant … in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, “In love [God] destined us to adoption … to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God’s loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: “I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great.” God’s love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was “to demonstrate [God’s] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable – he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn’t, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, “Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross.” No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ’s death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.

It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself – Grand Canyon-like – he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God’s passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us – or magnifies him – more.

Originally published in Dallas Morning News.


© Desiring God  By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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A Strange Fire In Worship Services Today!

Posted by Scott on June 30, 2008

The church today, possibly the Emerging Church and even many that do not claim the emerging title to their name are using “strange fire” in their services and calling it “worship”.  I want to speak about this topic in this post on a very serious note.  Our churches today have lost the seriousness, holiness, purity, and worthiness in the worship of God with our church services today.

Psalm 29:2 “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name.”

God is worth our time, our efforts, our best, our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our all.  Today’s church has reduced this to something very strange that is called “worship”, but resembles that of a Saturday night program on the Las Vegas strip.  The church has so diluted “worship” that true worship seems strange to most people.  The “seekers” certainly do not know what true worship is, because in these Emerging or similar churches true “worship” has never existed.

If you are at all concerned about the about truly honoring God in “worth-ship” worship, then read on.

In Leviticus 10:3 “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is that the Lord spoke saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified…then Aaron held his peace.'”

This was what Moses told Aaron after Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu were struck down by God in the temple.  Why did God strike the two upstanding young men to their death?  They entered the temple and worshiped with “strange fire”.  The sin these two committed according to all we find in scripture is that they offered upon the burning alter “strange fire”.  THe command was that the alter would burn constantly without going out…the same fire all the time.  Now, in Exodus 30:9 we see that they were forbidden from offering strange incense, but nothing concerning “strange fire”.  Could it have been the strange incense that created the strange fire?  The claim is they brought the proper incense to the fire, but the fire was not right.

God had never warned these two men nor can we find anything concerning this prior to this account.  God simply made His judgement known on the spot when the “strange fire” emerges from the temple.  What could this strange fire have been I have often wondered.  Is God this specific about worship towards Him that He will kill someone for worshipping Him in a wrong way?  Is this Old Testament account obsolete with the ushering in of the New Testament?  What does God think about the so called “worship” that goes on in many churches today?  What is true worship anyway?  Is God really this serious about how we worship Him?  If God an orderly God or does He just allow us the freedom to worship Him however we see fit?

God has told us here in the Old Testament that “I will be sanctified…”  The Greek form of this is “hallowed” which is “holy”.  He alone is to be worshiped.  He is to be worshiped correctly, not by any means we humans think we want to worship Him.  He is not immused by the entertainment styles of worship today.  He is not amused at all in the entertainment musicial worship of today’s churches.   So, how are we to worship as to not create this “strange fire” in the prescence of God Almighty?  We need to be very careful in our quest to be relevant in church services.  Creating worship services that are “user friendly” or “seeker friendly” is not biblical from what I can find.

“I will be sanctified.”  This means that God will have His people demean themselves and carry themselves so as to hold forth their acknowledgement of His holiness, so that by their  carriage God may appear to be a holy God.  If we are not willing to sanctify God with our worship, if we are not willing to make God’s name appear to be holy, and if we are holding back His glory due Him, then God says He will demean us and carry Himself towards us so that by His actions He will make it very clear what a holy God He really is.  God is not willing that we go through life living unholy lives while supposedly worshipping Him as well. 

I have heard it often put this way, “He will be glorified in our life or He will be glorified in our death..either way He will be glorified.”

God is sanctified by the holiness of His people in their actions and worship towards Him by holding forth the glory of God’s holiness.  Remember that the saints of God snactify the Lord in their hearts by fearing God as a holy God with reverence to Him as a holy God. 

God also sanctifies Himself in ways of judgement on those who do not want to sanctify His holiness or His name in holiness.  Read Ezekiel 28:22 as God speaks.  God wants His people to draw near to Him which is far better, but He will draw near to us as well in order for His sanctification to be fulfilled.

Now, dealing with worship in church these days we must realize that we are there to honor a most holy and righteous God.  We are not there to feel better!  We are not there to worship in whatever manner we fill we can!  We are not there to let loose and be ourselves!  When at worship we are there to lift up the holy name of God, Elohim and Adonai.  We are to approach the throne of God in holy reverence with the highest fearful respect that God requires and deserves.  God is not to be mocked, yet many thinking they are worshiping God are merely mocking the name of Christ with the entertaining games, rock n roll music, and flipent ways of worship.  Music is not exclusive to worship.

You can worship in praise music, you can certainly worship in hymns, you can worship with only the message of God presented by the pastor, you can worship simply in prayer.  Music is not the only act of worship.  This seems to be an issue with churches today as the music must take up an hour of the service, then leave about 15 minutes for a very surface topical message that does little to sustain the listener for more than a one hour lunch on Sunday. 

Something everyone needs to understand is that God killer two upstanding young men that were the sons of Aaron and Nephews of Moses for worshipping with a “Strange Fire”…what would we think if God treated those worshipping in the church today this way?  We have the Word of God to stand firm upon.  We do not have to wonder what direction we are to take.  We do not have to wonder what the truth is.  We can rest upon the truth that is found in the Holy Bible from our youth into eternity.

Be very careful presenting ourselves before God in holy worship to Him.  Although Aaron’s sons came with the right incense to present to God, but it was the strange fire that God was not accepted by God.  Worship is not to be altered to be more seeker friendly folks.  Worship is about God not the worshiper per say.  Worship is our expression of bringing holiness to the name of God because He is worthy.

Each week we can go to church to hear glorious music, sing glorious music, and hear a wonderful message.  Is it near the same “routine” each week?  That is perfectly fine.  There is nothing wrong with it being similiar week in and week out. 

Worship:

-Music

-Instruments

-Expository message each week

-Glorious Special music in service

-Focus on God not seekers or believers

Draw  near to God and He will draw near to you.  Worship in truth-worship in faith!

Scott Bailey 2008

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Our Father who is in heaven…!

Posted by Scott on April 25, 2008

Over the past few days I have spent some time researching Matthew 6:9-13 to which Jesus shows us how we should pray.  This followed Jesus explaining to us how “not” to pray.  I love the words of my Savior and take great heed to His words telling me how to pray.  He is telling the believers how to pray, not the general public mind you.  Think of it, how could someone pray like this who does not know the heavenly Father…the only way to know the heavenly Father is through the Son…Jesus Christ!  Refer to Matthew 11:27.

Prayer is no doubt something that is to be very personal and this model prayer is only to be used as a guide to enter into a very personal time with your heavenly Father.  Immediately in the beginning we are to make known exactly who it is we are speaking to.  This is not our earthly father.  No matter how frail or how great our earthly fathers where or are, we are still speaking in this moment with our most perfect parent of all…our heavenly Father.  He will never let us down.  He always loves His own.  He will carry us as an earthly father carries his own child.  We can count on our heavenly Father no matter what the circumstance we are in.  Do not think that He will spoil us, but He will give us exactly what we need and when we need it.  He never gives us too much or too little…it is always exact.  He listens to His children when they pray.  He longs to hear from us in this most intimate way…prayer!

After doing my early research on these words of Jesus a very personal and intimate prayer flows out from the text of verses 9-10 something like this:

“My dearest heavenly Father in all eternity, Your name is the holiest of all.  May Your royal kingdom come here, may Your pleasure be fulfilled here in my world as it is where You live in all eternity, the abode of heaven.”

The “abode” of heaven is a place elevated above all other places.  It is a place of dwelling in continuance.  This is where our self-existant heavenly Father lives…our God lives on high.  He has always been and always will be.  He lives in a place that has continued always without beginning or end.  Our heavenly Father right now is longing for the time in the future when He will share all eternity with His chosen people…this will be in the New Heaven…that is another subject by itself.  Think of your heavenly Father like what I have described above.  He is not a tyrant looking for someone to pounce on.  He is not an old judge without grace.  Our God is full of grace, mercy and love.  Our God is a “just” God.  He loves His chosen people and did so to the point He was willing to sacrifice His only Son on the cross for our sins.  Our heavenly Father is longing to be with us forever, but time is not an issue with Him, so He waits for His elect to accept Him.

In the meantime we have this beginning of Jesus’ model prayer.  I will continue later with the latter part of this prayer.  For now, just meditate on Matthew 6:9-10…these two verses alone once you understand and take into your mind the full meaning of Who you are praying to should be enough to leave you in awe of our wonderful heavenly Father.  Pray with great intimacy to our God in heaven.  He is waiting for His children to call upon Him.

In Christ,

Scott 2008

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You Must Be Born Again! By John Piper

Posted by Scott on November 19, 2007

You Must Be Born Again: Why This

 Series and Where Are We Going?


By John Piper November 18, 2007


John 3:1-18

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

If you go to the Barna Group online—it’s an organization that specializes in religious research and statistics—you’ll read things like this: “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians.” The same kind of statistics are given by Ron Sider in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? and by Mark Regnerus in his book Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers.

American Church Not Unlike the World

What I am picking up on here is precisely the term “born again.” The Barna Group in particular uses it in reporting their research. So that report is titled “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians.” Sider uses the word “evangelicals” but points out the same kind of thing: “Only 9 percent of evangelicals tithe. Of 12,000 teenagers who took the pledge to wait for marriage, 80% had sex outside marriage in the next 7 years. Twenty-six percent of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong. White evangelicals are more likely than Catholics and mainline Protestants to object to having black neighbors.”

In other words, the evangelical church as a whole in America is apparently not very unlike the world. It goes to church on Sunday and has a veneer of religion, but its religion is basically an add-on to the same way of life the world lives, not a radically transforming power.

A Profound Mistake

Now I want to say loud and clear that when the Barna Group uses term “born again” to describe American church-goers whose lives are indistinguishable from the world, and who sin as much as the world, and sacrifice for others as little as the world, and embrace injustice as readily as the world, and covet things as greedily as the world, and enjoy God-ignoring entertainment as enthusiastically as the world—when the term “born again” is used to describe these professing Christians, the Barna Group is making a profound mistake. It is using the biblical term “born again” in a way that would make it unrecognizable by Jesus and the biblical writers.

Here is the way the researchers defined “born again” in their research:

“Born again Christians” were defined in these surveys as people who said they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.” Being classified as “born again” is not dependent upon church or denominational affiliation or involvement.

In other words, in this research the term “born again” refers to people who say things. They say, “I have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It’s important to me.” They say, “I believe that I will go to heaven when I die. I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.” Then the Barna Group takes them at their word, ascribes to them the infinitely important reality of the new birth, and then blasphemes that precious biblical reality by saying that regenerate hearts have no more victory over sin than unregenerate hearts.

The New Testament Moves the Opposite Direction

I’m not saying their research is wrong. It appears to be appallingly right. I am not saying that the church is not as worldly as they say it is. I am saying that the writers of the New Testament think in exactly the opposite direction about being born again. Instead of moving from a profession of faith, to the label “born again,” to the worldliness of these so-called born again people, to the conclusion that the new birth does not radically change people, the New Testament moves the other direction. It moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many professing Christians are indeed (as the Barna Group says) not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again. The New Testament, unlike the Barna Group, does not defile the new birth with the worldliness of unregenerate, professing American Christians.

For example, one of the main points of the first epistle of John is to drive home this very truth:

  • 1 John 2:29: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
  • 1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
  • 1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
  • 1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
  • 1 John 5:18: “We 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.”

We will come back to texts like these in the weeks to come as this series develops. There are many questions to answer and we will distance ourselves plainly from perfectionism and deal realistically with the failures of genuine Christians. But for now, is it not true that these statements appear to be written with the very claims of the Barna Group in mind, namely, that born again people are morally indistinguishable from the world? The Bible is profoundly aware of such people in the church. That is one reason why 1 John was written. But instead of following the Barna Group, the Bible says that the research is not finding that born again people are permeated with worldliness; the research is finding that the church is permeated by people who are not born again.

“Regeneration”

Today we begin a series of messages about the new birth. What does the Bible teach about being born again? Another word for the event of being born again is “regeneration.” It is helpful to use that word from time to time. Would you be willing to add it to your vocabulary? Children would you help your parents with this? They have probably never used the word “regeneration” in talking to you. So they may not know what it is. Would you tell them when you get home, “Mommy and Daddy, did you know that ‘regeneration’ means being born again? And did you know that the word ‘regenerate’ is how you describe somebody who is born again? You say, ‘That person is regenerate.’ That means he’s born again”? If you could coach your parents with this, it will help me very much. Then we can all use words in the same way and not get confused.

1) The Desecration of the Term “Born Again”

Today’s message will be an introductory overview of where we are going and why. You can already see one of the reasons I want to focus on this issue. The term “born again” is desecrated when it is used the way the Barna Group uses it. And, of course, that kind of misuse of the biblical term is not the only kind. The term in our day simply means that someone or something got a new lease on life. So the internet says that Cisco Systems, the communications company, has been born again, and the Green Movement has been born again, the Davie Shipyard in Montreal has been born again, the west end in Boston has been born again, Kosher foods for Orthodox Jews have been born again, and so on. So it’s not surprising that we have to be careful when we read that 45% of Americans say they have been religiously “born again.”

This term “born again” is very precious and very crucial in the Bible. So I hope to make sure that we know what God intends when the Bible uses this language. What does being born again mean?

2) What Happened in Being Born Again

Another reason I am eager to focus on the new birth is to help you know what really happened to you when you were born again. It is far more glorious than you think it is. It is also more glorious than I think it is. It is wonderful beyond all human comprehension. But that mystery is not because there is little about it in the Bible. There is much about it in the Bible. It’s because when all is comprehended there is still more. So I hope that you will know more and know better what happened to you when you were born again.

3) What Must Happen to Be Born Again

Another reason for this series is that there are others that I want to help be born again. I want to show them what must happen to them. And I, with your prayers, would like to be a means of many being born again in these weeks. The new birth, we will see, is not a work of man. You don’t make the new birth happen, and I don’t make the new birth happen. God makes it happen. It happens to us, not by us.

Being Born Again Happens Through the Gospel

But it always happens through the word of God. Listen to1 Peter 1:23 and 25: “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” So even though God is the one who begets his children, the seed by which he does it is the word of God, the gospel that we preach. So pray with me that one of the great effects of this series will be that miracle. And bring your friends and family who need to hear about the necessity of the new birth. I will try to explain it clearly and show it from the Bible so people can see it for themselves.

And the reason I want you to know what happened to you in your new birth and others to know what must yet happen to them is threefold. 1) When you are truly born again and grow in the grace and knowledge of what the Lord has done for you, your fellowship with God will be sweet, and your assurance that he is your Father will be deep. I want that for you. 2) If God would be pleased to bring this kind of awakening to his church, then the world will get the real deal of radical love and sacrifice and courage from the church and not all these fake Christians that live just like the world. 3) If you know what really happened to you in your new birth, you will treasure God and his Spirit and his Son and his word more highly than you ever have. And he will be glorified. So those are some of the reasons why we are focusing on the new birth.

Crucial Questions About Being Born Again

There are several crucial questions we will be asking. One is: What is the new birth? That is, what actually happens? What is it like? What changes? What comes into being that wasn’t there before?

Another question is: How does it relate to other things that the Bible says God does to bring us to himself and save us? For example, how does being born again relate to

  • God’s effectual calling (“Those whom he called he justified” Romans 8:30),
  • The new creation (“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2 Corinthians 5:17),
  • God’s drawing us to Christ (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” John 6:44),
  • God’s giving people to his Son (“All that the Father gives me will come to me,” John 6:37),
  • God’s opening our hearts (“The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul,” Acts 16:14),
  • God’s illumining our hearts (“God . . . has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Corinthians 4:6),
  • God’s taking the heart of stone out and giving us a heart of flesh (“I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26),
  • God’s making us alive (“even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ,” Ephesians 2:5),
  • God’s adopting us into his family (“You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15).

How does God’s act of regeneration relate to all these wonderful ways of describing what happened to us when God saved us?

Another question we will ask is: Why is the new birth necessary? Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” Not, “I suggest it,” or, “Your life would improve if you added this experience.” Why is it that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)? This is one of the great reasons for dealing with this. Until we realize that we must be born again, and why we must be born again, we probably will not realize what our condition really is without salvation. Most people do not know what is really wrong with them. One way to help them make a true and terrible and hopeful diagnosis is to show them the kind of remedy God has provided, namely, the new birth. If you have a sore on your ankle and after the doctor does his test, he comes in and says, “I have hard news: We have to take your leg off just below the knee,” that remedy would tell you more about the sore than many fancy words. So it is with the remedy “you must be born again.”

Another question we will tackle is how the new birth happens. If it is the work of God, which it is, how do I experience it? Is there anything I can do to make it happen?

And a final question we must deal with is: What are the effects of being born again? What changes? What is it like to live as a born-again person?

Millions in Church Not Born Again

Which brings us back to where we started, namely, the claim that “born again” Christians have lifestyles of worldliness and sin that are indistinguishable from the unregenerate. I don’t think so. First John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” But my conviction is not rosy news for the church. It implies that there are millions of church attenders who are not born again.

Would those of you who are born again, and have the Holy Spirit in you, and love God and care about lost people, pray with me that the effect of these messages will be to awaken the spiritually dead—both the ones who never go to church, and those who have been there all their lives?


© Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

-Scott Bailey

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