En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘law’

A Reminder For Us Believers…Be Gracious!

Posted by Scott on October 15, 2009

Titus 3:1-7

1. Submit to the governing authorities-God has placed them in charge for a reason

2. Be obedient by living under the laws of the land so long as they do not violate God’s high law.

3. Do good to everyone every chance you get.

4. Do not talk bad about other people in an evil, untrue manner.

5. Do not get into fights constantly.

6. Be gentle with other people around you, be gracious.

7. Be courteous to those around you.

Remember, we were once unbelievers thinking the opposite of these things. We were once unholy and unruly in our ways in this world. However, God did a tremendous work in our hearts so that we can treat people differently. This work in our lives enable us to treat other respectfully, graciously, and with tenderness in order to win them over to the Lord.

Remember, God showed us undeserved favor when He saved us. This same grace can be shown to our fellow man as we go about our daily routines. Those not in our spiritual family may not act right, but how can they, their father is the father of lies, so they remain deceived all the time, but we on the other hand can live in contrast to that, by pouring on the love to them which our adversary hates.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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A Pastor Believes in hell-Alert the Media!!!!

Posted by Scott on September 10, 2008

Written by Albert Mohler Jr.

Hell just emerged as an issue in Election 2008, and the campaign now enters a zone where politics and theology collide.

The catalyst for this emergence of eternal punishment as an issue is a “Belief Watch” column in this week’s edition of Newsweek magazine.  In “A Religious-Right Revival,” Lisa Miller suggests that the nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee for Vice President represents a resurgence of the so-called “Religious Right.”

There is something to this argument, of course, given Gov. Palin’s record and positions on key controversial issues.  Her pro-life credentials, even taken alone, would be enough to encourage many evangelical Christians, as the response to her nomination now demonstrates.

But what makes Lisa Miller’s article most interesting has nothing directly to do with abortion, marriage, or any social issue.  The most interesting (and revealing) part of her article is a sentence that does not refer to her campaign, nor to her role as Governor, but to her church:

The senior pastor of that church, in sermons that circulated online before they were taken down last week, preaches hell for anyone who isn’t saved by Jesus.

In the event a reader might miss that sentence, the magazine put the words, “The senior pastor of Palin’s church preaches hellfire for anyone who isn’t saved by Jesus” in large type in both print and electronic editions.  In other words, these words are intended to catch a reader’s eye as newsworthy — an attention grabber.

Miller went on to explain that the fact that her pastor preaches such a message “puts her squarely in the tradition of the old-school religious right.”

Of course, belief in hell as the just punishment of the impenitent is part and parcel of historic biblical Christianity.  Taken at face value, the belief that “anyone who isn’t saved by Jesus” faces the verdict of hell is as normative as any other Christian belief.

There is no way to read the New Testament without encountering the very clear message about the reality of hell.  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Jesus warned.  “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” [Matthew 10:28].

True, there are those who have denied both the reality of hell and the exclusivity of the Gospel.  Some attempt to deny that those who do not believe in Christ will spend eternity in hell.  Nevertheless, even those who propose doctrinal theories such as universalism and inclusivism (or those who promote annihilationism with reference to hell) must admit that their position does not represent what most Christians throughout the centuries have believed — or believe now.  We should be concerned that these theories may be spreading in influence, but it should hardly be surprising to find that an evangelical pastor preaches historic Christianity.

What this article in Newsweek represents is the absolute confidence that discovering people who believe that those who do not believe in Christ will go to hell is supposed to be shocking.

So we find in Sarah Palin’s pastor an evangelical who believes in hell and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of escaping hell.  In other words, he is an evangelical preaching like an evangelical.  Alert the media.


See my articles “Hell Under Fire,” Parts One and Two, and my chapter in the book, Hell Under Fire.

See also my review of Richard Florida’s new book, Who’s Your City, at The Reading List, here.

Join us today for “Ask Anything Wednesday” on The Albert Mohler Program.

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John Piper: 20 Reasons I Don’t Take Shots At Fundamentalists!

Posted by Scott on June 3, 2008

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I’ve met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

10. Their “social action” is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn’t usually get written up in the newspaper.

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don’t have any better track record than non-Christians.

12. They resist trendiness.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

15. They still sing hymns.

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

19. My dad was one.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

By John Piper

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Interpreting Scripture!

Posted by Scott on March 5, 2008

Interpreting Scripture (Hermeneutics)

Hermeneutics is defined in one dictionary as “the art of finding the meaning of an author’s words and phrases, and of explaining it to others.” When applied to Scripture, accurate hermeneutics would require the scholar to:

  • Study the context of the passage and the theme of the book.
  • Look up the actual meaning of each word in the original languages.
  • Note the verb tenses, the cases, and other grammatical determinants.
  • Learn the cultural setting of the passage.
  • Determine what the original readers understood it to mean.
  • Check out cross-references to see how the words are used in other contexts.
  • See how the first mention of the word or topic is presented in the Bible.
  • Confirm an interpretation with two or three similar passages.

These are all proven study methods. However, it has always puzzled me how Bible scholars who claim to follow all of them arrive at totally opposite interpretations of the same passage.

For example, in a seminary in the Northwest, two professors wrote on the topic of divorce and remarriage. Each one assured his readers that he was following sound rules of Biblical interpretation. Yet, each one arrived at a view that was opposite of the other.

One day, I called up my former Greek professor at Wheaton Graduate School. He had written on the subject of hermeneutics, and I asked him if he could summarize the rules of hermeneutics in a concise list. His answer startled me. He said, “Bill, there is no such list.” I asked how we would know if we are breaking hermeneutical rules if there are no rules. He explained that there are certainly guidelines of interpretation. However, they cannot be confined to one set of rules.

So, what are the additional factors of correct Biblical hermeneutics?

1. Spiritual Perception Over Intellectual Understanding

The first factor of interpreting Scripture is to approach it as an exercise in spiritual discernment rather than just an intellectual pursuit. Paul emphasized this in his letter to the Corinthian believers. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14). Jesus Himself confirmed that Biblical understanding does not come from human reasoning but from spiritual enlightenment. He said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).

The Holy Spirit is the One Who inspired the writing of Scripture, and He is the most qualified One to interpret its meaning to each reader. Jesus assured us that the Holy Spirit would indeed guide us into all truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

This being the case, it is also reasonable to conclude that if a person who wants to interpret Scripture has sinful habits or practices in his life that grieve the Holy Spirit and quench His power, the Holy Spirit will not reveal the truth of Scripture to such a person. In fact, God warns that such individuals will take Scripture out of context to their own destruction. (See II Peter 3:16.) This result supports the axiom that a man’s morality will dictate his theology and his philosophy.

2. God’s Revelation Over Human Reasoning

In the final analysis, accurate Biblical interpretation is based on the revelation of Jesus Christ throughout the Scriptures. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than on that walk on the road to Emmaus. The disciples had been personally taught by Jesus for three years. However, they still did not understand the Scriptures from which He taught. They were distracted by the conflicting interpretations of contemporary scholars. It was not until Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained how they revealed Him that they understood the true meaning of Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). They later recalled, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

The scholars of Jesus’ day carried out heated debates over the correct interpretation of Scripture, but Jesus counseled them to search the Scriptures on the basis that they testified of Him. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

3. Genuine Love Rather Than Justification of Selfishness

Since the Scriptures reveal the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, it also follows that the primary theme of the Bible is the love of God and how we are to live out His love in our daily words and actions.

When a clever lawyer tried to involve Jesus in a wordy battle, He began his forensic sparring with the question “Which is the greatest commandment?” The reply that Jesus gave is a profound principle for Biblical interpretation. All the Law and prophets are based on the command to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Therefore, we must interpret Scripture on the basis of how it teaches us to love God and to love others. Love is the theme of the Bible. All good character qualities are simply practical expressions of genuine love. When the Pharisees used the Law of Moses to justify their harsh and unloving treatment of wives, Jesus reproved them for hardness of heart and took them back to the Creation design of one man and one woman becoming one flesh for the rest of their lives.

The lawyer who tried to engage Jesus in debate then tried to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” to which Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

4. Christ’s Commands Over Man’s Theology

Every interpretation of Scripture is based on some foundational structure of reasoning. Jesus provides the structure of truth in the commands that He gave to His disciples during His earthly ministry, and they are the guiding lights for correct Biblical interpretation. They clarify what was written in the Old Testament and are further explained in New Testament teaching. Jesus promises that if we keep His commands before our eyes, He will reveal more of Himself to us. This was the great goal of Paul: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). Jesus further promises, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).

It is customary for a Bible scholar to base his interpretation of a passage on the theological position that he has accepted. The problem with this approach is that no theological system is totally without some human error, because it is not inspired. It is man’s explanation of Biblical truth.

This is not to say that theology is unimportant. Wrong doctrine leads to wrong behavior. No one was more concerned about false doctrine than the Apostle Paul. He maintained a continual battle against false teaching. However, he did not base sound doctrine on the theological views of his day but on the words of Jesus Christ and that which leads to Christlike living.

He explains this in his epistle to Timothy. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (I Timothy 6:3–5).

5. One Interpretation and Many Applications

The Bible makes it clear that there is only one interpretation of Scripture. However, there can be many applications. It is the Holy Spirit Who guides us not only to the right interpretation of a passage but also to the precise application of Scripture to our daily lives. If our lives are in harmony with the Lord, we can expect the Holy Spirit to illuminate certain passages of Scripture for our personal application. When this happens, it is God giving us a “rhema” of Scripture.

In the New Testament, the Word of God is generally referred to by the Greek word logos. Jesus is identified as the Living Word (logos). However, there are many references that use the Greek word rhema to define the Word of God. A rhema is a precise direction of Scripture for a particular person or circumstance. When Jesus told Peter to cast his net on the other side of the boat, Peter replied, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word [rhema] I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). Jesus did not tell every one to cast their nets on the other side of the boat—only Peter.

It is on the point of the Holy Spirit applying a passage of Scripture to a decision that critics often rise up and claim that this is not acceptable hermeneutics. Their quarrel is not with believers who know in their spirits that God is directing them by the witness of two or three rhemas, but with the Holy Spirit Who confirms the application of rhemas.

Jesus used rhemas in overcoming Satan’s temptations, and one of the passages He used affirms rhemas. “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

6. Correct Divisions of Truth Versus Truth Out of Balance

Paul gave Timothy wise instruction in hermeneutics when he wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

Scripture is a living, powerful instrument in the hand of God. It functions on what appears to us to be paradoxes. In a similar fashion, the muscles in our bodies are only able to function by opposing tensions.

On the one hand, Scripture presents the Law of God, but then it contrasts this with the grace of God. Scripture teaches the need for justice, but then it counters this with mercy. We are told to cease from our own labor and enter the rest that is in Christ. At the same time, we are commanded to work for the night is coming when no man can work and to labor for the Lord. We have freedom in Christ. However, we are to make ourselves servants to all people.

If we emphasize only one side of God’s Biblical equation, we can certainly support it with verses of Scripture, but we will come out with the wrong answer. Truth out of balance leads to heresy. For example, if we emphasize the “rest” that a believer has and fail to give equal and primary emphasis to the “labor” of a believer, we will view any emphasis on working for the Lord as legalism.

Paul put labor and rest together when he wrote, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:9–11). Similarly, there is certainly freedom in Christ. However, if we focus on freedom, we will react to God-ordained authority as being oppressive and cultish.

Proper hermeneutics requires diligent use of all the above factors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Copyright © 2002–2006, William (Bill) Gothard. All Rights Reserved.

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-From A Dad: Devotional For Dads/Psalm 119:1-8 One

Posted by Scott on November 29, 2007

All of us dads have times in our lives when we feel like we are being chased and persecuted by our enemies.  It does not matter how spiritual we seem to be or our devotion to God…the enemy will attack without notice.  Sometimes it depresses us, causes us ulcers, gives us a headache that seems to never go away, drives us to anger, and at other times it creates in our minds a sense of helplessness.  Psalm 119 has been instrumental through my trials and tribulations as I long to experience the fullness of God Himself and deal with each issue that thrust its way into my life.  In my in-depth look into the heart and mind of God I have found a place of solitude that surpasses anything I have experienced in my life.  In the midst of praying through Psalm 119 a divine devotion has grown from the fertile ground that God placed His word in….my heart!

I will share with you on a daily basis the verses and devotion that God so poetically engraved into the soul of my being.  I encourage you to glean from the passages and testimony the encouragement, instructions, promises, and restful peace that is found there.

-Day One-

Psalm 119:1-8 (1599 Geneva Bible Translation):

Blessed are those that are upright in their way, and walk in the Law of the Lord.” 

-Those are blessed that keep their conversation and ways without hypocrisy.  They are not blessed who think themselves wise by their own judgement with no regard for God’s wisdom.  Nor is this blessedness for those that think themselves with a certain kind of high holiness.

“Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and seek Him with their whole heart.”

“Surely they work none iniquity, but walk in His ways.”

-These are under God’s rule and embrace no other doctrine but His.

“Thou hast commanded to keep thy precepts diligently.”

“Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!”

-Here David is acknowledging his imperction, but he desires that God reforms his life and conforms it to God’s word.

“Then should I not be confounded, when I have respect unto all my commandments.”

“I will praise thee with an upright heart, when I shall learn the judgements of thy righteousness.”

-True religion stands in serving God without hypocrisy.  In God’s precepts is His perfect righteousness.

“I will keep thy statutes, forsake me not overlong.”

-David refuses to be tried by these temptations, however, he fears that he may faint if God does not aid him in his troubles in time.


Integrity is a hard characteristic to develop, but our joy is found in the law and instruction of the Lord.  This integrity will be challenged on a daily basis by our enemies.  As we are obedient to His commands and search diligently for Him with our whole heart we will discover Him in ways we never could have imagined.  Sometimes in prayer I find myself groaning from the depths of myself that I did not know existed.  This groaning comes during times of great distress and even in times of deep depression.  The Holy Spirit takes those groanings to the very throne of our merciful Majesty in heaven and turns it into words that God will understand and has been waiting to hear.  Psalm 34:18-19 (NLT) says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.  The righteous face many troubles, but the Lord rescues them from each and every one.” When we are at our lowest point and groanings begin to growl out of our mouths from our hearts that are broken, God is there to rescue us and pick up the pieces of our lives that have been left shattered in the wake of the storm.  The Lord tells us that we will encounter many troubles…it does not give us an option in that.  However, He will rescue us from each and every trouble…guaranteed!  It will be according to His graciousness and richness, but whatever way God chooses to rescue us will be the best way and we can all rest assuredly in that.

As a father of 10 children I find that I must stay the course and not compromise with evil doers or compromise my integrity for anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect by any means and fail daily, but the goal is to stay on course and correct known mistakes immediately.  No amount of money, wealth, or instant gratification is worth lowering my standards for.  Praise Him always and rejoice in the Lord.  We will not be disgraced no matter what people may try to do to us as long as we keep His commandments and word.  It has been my goal daily to consistently be a reflection of principles of my heavenly Father.  So, as always I ask the Lord not to give up on me even though I may fail from time to time.  I cry out daily for new mercies, so I can make it through another day.  I am guaranteed that He keeps His promises always.  Jesus has told those of us that are weary and heavy hearted to place all our cares upon Him and take His rest.  So, rest in the peace that God will give and believe that He will see you through.  We will never know the depths to which God may draw His peace, rest, encouragement, rescue, wealth, healing, and more from…He has already charted a trail for us to follow in His word and I intend to do my best within the power of the Holy Spirit to stay on that trail…bumps, cliffs, trees, tall weeds, beast, and all.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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Puritan Evangelism-Did They Really?

Posted by Scott on November 9, 2007

Puritan Evangelism
How the Puritans evangelized in contrast to the modern age we now live in. How did they accomplish their evangelistic efforts to win souls?

by Dr. J. I. Packer
           M.A., Lecturer at Tyndale Hall, Bristol              

In the report of the Archbishop’s Committee on Evangelism, published in 1945 under the title: Towards the Conversion of England, the work of evangelism is conveniently defined as follows: “so to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in fellowship of His Church.”             Did the Puritans tackle the task of evangelism at all? At first sight, it might seem not.  They agreed with Calvin in regarding the “evangelists” mentioned in the New Testament as all order of assistants to the apostles, now extinct; and as for “missions,” “crusades” and “campaigns,” they knew neither the name nor the thing.  But we must not be misled into supposing that evangelism was not one of their chief concerns.  It was.  Many of them were outstandingly successful as preachers to the unconverted.  Richard Baxter, the apostle of Kidderminster, is perhaps the only one of these that is widely remembered today; but in contemporary records it is common to read statements like this, of Hugh Clark: “he begat many Sons and Daughters unto God;” or this, of John Cotton, “the presence of the Lord…crowning his labors with the Conversion of many Souls” (S.  Clarke, Lives of 52…Divines, pp.131, 222, etc.)  Moreover, it was the Puritans who invented evangelistic literature.  One has only to think of Baxter’s classic Call to the Unconverted, and Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted, which were pioneer works in this class of writing.  And the elaborate practical “handling” of the subject of conversion in Puritan books was regarded by the rest of the seventeenth-century Protestant world as something of unique value.   “It hath been one of the glories of the Protestant religion that it revived the doctrine of Saving Conversion, and of the New Creature brought forth thereby…But in a more eminent manner, God hath cast the honor hereof upon the Ministers and Preachers of this Nation, who are renowned abroad for their more accurate search into and discoveries hereof.”  (T.  Goodwin and P. Nye, Preface to T.  Hooker, The Application of Redemption, 1656).             The truth is that two distinct conceptions and types of evangelism have been developed in Protestant Christendom during the course of its history.  We may call them the “Puritan” type and the “modern” type.  Today we are so accustomed to evangelism of the modern type that we scarcely recognize the other is evangelism at all. In order that we may fully grasp the character of the Puritan type of evangelism, I shall here set it in contrast with the modern type, which has so largely superseded it at the present time.             Let us begin, therefore, by characterizing evangelism of the modern type.  It seems to presuppose a conception of the life of the local church as an alternating cycle of converting and edifying.  Evangelism almost takes on the character of a periodical recruiting campaign.  It is all extraordinary and occasional activity, additional and auxiliary to the regular functioning of the local congregation.  Special gatherings of a special sort are arranged, and special preachers are commonly secured to conduct them.  Often they are called “meetings” rather than “services;” in any case, they are thought of as something distinct in some way from the regular public worship of God.  In the meetings, everything is directly aimed at securing from the unconverted all immediate, conscious, decisive act of faith in Christ.  At the close of the meeting, those who have responded or wish to do so are asked to come to the front, or raise a hand, or something similar, as an act of public testimony to their new resolutions.  This, it is claimed, is good for those who do it, since it helps to make their “decision” definite, and it has the further advantage of making them declare themselves, so that they may be contacted individually by “personal workers.”  Such persons may then be advised and drafted forthwith into local churches as converts.             This type of evangelism was invented by Charles G. Finney in the 1820’s.  He introduced the “protracted meeting,” or, as we should call it, the intensive evangelistic campaign, and the “anxious seat,” a front pew left vacant where at the end of the meeting “the anxious may come and be addressed particularly…and sometimes be conversed with individually.”  At the end of his sermon, he would say, “There is the anxious seat; come out, and avow determination to be on the Lord’s side.”  (See Revivals of Religion, especially chapter xiv).  These were Finney’s much opposed “new measures.”             Now, Finney was a clear-headed and self-confessed Pelagian in his doctrine of man; and this is the reason why his “new measures” were evolved.  Finney denied that fallen man is totally unable to repent, believe or do anything spiritually good without grace, and affirmed instead that all men have plenary ability to turn to God at any time.  Man is a rebel, but is perfectly free at any time to lay down his arms in surrender.  Accordingly, the whole work of the Spirit of God in conversion is to present vividly to man’s mind reasons for making this surrender – that is to say, the Spirit’s work is confined to moral persuasion.  Man is always free to reject this persuasion: “Sinners can go to hell in spite of God.”  But the stronger the persuasion is, the more likely it is to succeed in the breaking down of man’s resistance.  Every means, therefore, of increasing the force and vividness with which truth impinged on the mind – the most frenzied excitement, the most narrowing emotionalism, the most nerve-racking commotion in evangelistic meetings – was a right and proper means of evangelism.  Finney gave expression to this principle in the first of his lectures on Revivals of Religion.  “To expect to promote religion without excitements is unphilosophical and absurd…until there is sufficient religious principle in the world to put down irreligious excitements, it is in vain to try to promote religion, except by counteracting excitements…There must be excitement sufficient to wake up the dormant moral powers…”  And, since every man, if he will only rouse up his “dormant moral powers,” can at any time yield to God and become a Christian, it is the evangelist’s work and duty always to preach for immediate decision, to tell men that it is their duty to come to Christ that instant, and to use all means – such as the rousing appeal and the “anxious seat” – for persuading them to do so.  “I tried to shut them up,” he says of a typical mission sermon, “to present faith and repentance, as the thing which God required of them: present and instant acceptance of His will, present and instant acceptance of Christ” (Autobiography, p. 64).  It is hardly too much to say that Finney regarded evangelistic preaching as a battle of wills between himself and his hearers, in which it was his responsibility to bring them to breaking point.             Now, if Finney’s doctrine of the natural state of sinful man is right, then his evangelistic methods must be judged right also, for, as he often insisted, the “new measures” were means well adapted to what he held to be the end in view.  “It is in such practices that a Pelagian system naturally expresses itself if it seeks to become aggressively evangelistic” (B. B. Warfield).  But if his view of man is wrong, then his methods, as we shall see, must be judged disastrous.  And this is an issue of the first importance at the present time; for it is Finney’s methods, modified and adapted, which characterize most evangelism today.   We do not suggest that all who use them are Pelagians.  But we do raise the question, whether the use of such methods is consistent with any other doctrine than Finney’s, and we shall try to show that, if Finney’s doctrine is rejected, then such methods must be judged inappropriate and, indeed, detrimental to the real work of evangelism.  It may be said that results justify their use; but the truth is that the majority of Finney’s “converts” backslid and fell away, and so, it seems, have the majority of those since Finney’s day whose “decision” has been secured by the use of such methods.  Most modern evangelists seem to have given up expecting more than a small percentage of their “converts” to survive.  It is not at all obvious that results justify such methods.  We shall suggest later that they have a natural tendency to produce such a crop of false converts as has in fact resulted from their use.             The Puritan type of evangelism, on the other hand, was the consistent expression in practice of the Puritans’ conviction that the conversion of a sinner is a gracious sovereign work of Divine power.  We shall spend a little time elaborating this.             The Puritans did not use “conversion” and “regeneration” as technical terms, and so there are slight variations in usage.  Perhaps the majority treated the words as synonyms, each denoting the whole process whereby God brings the sinner to his first act of faith.  Their technical term for the process was effectual calling; calling being the Scriptural word used to describe the process in Rom. 8:30, 2 Th.  2:14, 2 Tim. 1:9, etc., and the adjective effectual being added to distinguish it from the ineffectual, external calling mentioned in Mt. 20:16, 22:14.  Westminster Confession, X. i., puts “calling,” into its theological perspective by an interpretative paraphrase of Rom. 8:30: “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism analyses the concept of “calling” in its answer to Q. 31: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”             Concerning this effectual calling, three things must be said if we are to grasp the Puritan view:                (i) It is a work of Divine grace; it is not something a man can do for himself or for another.  It is the first stage in the application of redemption to those for whom it was won; it is the time when, on the grounds of his eternal, federal, representative union with Christ, the elect sinner is brought by the Holy Ghost into a real, vital, personal union with his Covenant Head and Redeemer.  It is thus a gift of free Divine grace.                (ii) It is a work of Divine power. It is effected by the Holy Ghost, who acts both mediately, by the Word, in the mind, giving understanding and conviction, and at the same time immediately, with the Word, in the hidden depths of the heart, implanting new life and power, effectively dethroning sin, and making the sinner both able and willing to respond to the gospel invitation.  The Spirit’s work is thus both moral, by persuasion (which all Arminians and Pelagians would allow), and also physical, by power (which they would not).

            Owen said, “There is not only a moral, but a physical immediate operation of the Spirit…upon the minds or souls of men in their regeneration…The work of grace in conversion is constantly expressed by words denoting a real internal efficacy; such as creating, quickening, forming, giving a new heart…Wherever this work is spoken of with respect unto an active efficacy, it is ascribed to God.  He creates us anew, he quickens us, he begets us of His own will; but when it is spoken of with respect to us, there it is passively expressed; we are created in Christ Jesus, we are new creatures, we are born again, and the like; which one observation is sufficient to avert the whole hypothesis of Arminian grace.” (Works, ed.  Russell 1,1, II. 369).  “Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts (persuasion), the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door” (T. Watson, Body of Div., 1869, p. 154).  The Spirit’s regenerating action, Owen goes on, is “infallible, victorious, irresistable, or always efficacious” (loc cit.); it “removeth all obstacles, overcomes all oppositions, and infallibly produceth the effect intended.” Grace is irresistible, not because it drags man to Christ against his will, but because it changes men’s hearts so that they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.” (West.  Conf.  X. i). The Puritans loved to dwell on the Scriptural thought of the Divine power put forth in effectual calling, which Goodwin regularly described as the one “standing miracle” in the Church.  They agreed that in the normal course of events conversion was not commonly a spectacular affair; but Goodwin notes that sometimes it is, and affirms that thereby God shows us how great an exercise of power every man’s effectual calling involves. “In the calling of some there shoots up very suddenly an election-conversion (I use to call it so).  You shall, as it were, see election take hold of a man, pull him out with a mighty power, stamp upon him, the divine nature, stub up corrupt nature by the roots, root up self-love, put in a principle of love to God, and launch him forth a new creature the first day … He did so with Paul, and it is not without example in others after him.” (Works, ed.. Miller IX. 279). Such dramatic conversions, says Goodwin, are “visible tokens of election by such a work of calling, as all the powers in heaven and earth could not have wrought upon a man’s soul so, nor changed a man so on a sudden, but only that divine power that created the world (and) raised Christ from the dead.”     

            The reason why the Puritans thus magnified the quickening power of God is plain from the passages quoted:it was because they took so seriously the Bible teaching that man is dead in sin, radically depraved, sin’s helpless bondslave.  There is, they held, such a strength in sin that only omnipotence can break its bond; and only the Author of Life can raise the dead.  Where Finney assumed plenary ability, the Puritans taught total inability in fallen man.             (iii)   Effectual calling is and must be a work of Divine sovereignty. Only God can effect it, and He does so at His own pleasure.  “It is not of him that willith, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).  Owen expounds  this in a sermon on Acts 16:9, “A vision of unchangeable, free mercy in sending the means of grace to undeserving sinners” (XV, I ff.). He first states the following principle: “All events and effects, especially concerning the propagation of the gospel, and the Church of Christ, are in their greatest variety regulated by the eternal purpose and counsel of God,” He then illustrates it.  Some are sent the gospel, some not.  “In this chapter…the gospel is forbidden to be preached in Asia or Bithynia; which restraint, the Lord by His  providence as yet continueth to many parts of the world;” while “to some nations the gospel is sent…as in my text, Macedonia; and England…”  Now, asks Owen, why this discrimination?  Why do some hear and others not? And when the gospel is heard, why do we see “various effects, some continuing in impenitency, others in sincerity closing with Jesus Christ?…In effectual working of grace…whence do you think it takes its rule and determination . . . that it should be directed to John, not Judas; Simon Peter, not Simon Magus? Why only from this discriminating counsel of God from eternity…Acts 13:48…The purpose of God’s election, is the rule of dispensing saving grace.”             Jonathan Edwards, a great Puritan evangelist, often makes the same point.  In a typical passage from a sermon on Rom. 9:18, he lists the following ways in which God’s sovereignty (defined as “His absolute right of disposing of all creatures according to His own pleasure”) appears in the dispensations of grace:” (1) In calling one nation or people, and giving them the means of grace, and leaving others without them. (2) In the advantages He bestows upon particular persons” (e.g. a Christian home, a powerful ministry, direct spiritual influences, etc.); (4) In bestowing salvation on some who have had few advantages” (e.g. children of ungodly parents, while the children of the godly are not always saved); “(5) In calling some to salvation, who have been heinously wicked, and leaving others, who have been very moral and religious persons… (6) In saving some of those who seek salvation and not others (i.e., bringing some convicted sinners to saving faith while others never attain to sincerity) (Works, 1838, II, 849 f.).”  This display of sovereignty by God, Edwards maintained, is glorious: “it is part of the glory of God’s mercy that it is sovereign mercy.”             It is probably true that no preacher in the Puritan tradition ever laid such sustained stress on the sovereignty of God as Edwards.  It may come as a surprise to modern readers to discover that such preaching as his was evangelistically very fruitful; but such was the case.  Revival swept through his church under his ministry, and in the revival (to quote his own testimony) “I think I have found that no discourses have been more remarkably blessed, than those in which the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty, with regard to the salvation of sinners, and his just liberty, with regard to answering prayer, and succeeding the pains, of natural men, continuing such, have been insisted on” (I. 353).  There is much food for thought here.

            God’s sovereignty appears also in the time of conversion.  Scripture and experience show that “the great God for holy and glorious ends, but more especially…to make appear His love and kindness, His mercy and  grace, hath ordained it so” that many of His elect people “should for some time remain in a condition of sin and wrath, and then He renews them to Himself” (Goodwin, VI, 85).  It is never man, but always God, who determines when an elect sinner shall believe.  In the manner of conversion too, God is sovereign.  The Puritans taught that, as a general rule, conviction of sin, induced by, the preaching of the Law, must precede faith, since no man will or can come to Christ to be saved from sin till he knows what sins he needs saving from. It is a distinctive feature of the Puritan doctrine of conversion that this point, the need for “preparation”  for faith, is so stressed.  Man’s first step toward conversion must be some knowledge, of God, of himself, of his duty and of his sin.  The  second step is conviction, both of sinfulness and of particular sins; and the wise minister, dealing with enquirers at this stage, will try to deepen conviction and make it specific, since true and sound conviction of sin is always to a greater or less degree particularised.  This leads to contrition (sorrow for and hatred of sin), which begins to burn the love of sinning out of the heart and leads to real, though as yet ineffective, attempts to break off the practice of sin in the life.  Meanwhile, the wise minister, seeing that the fallow ground is now ploughed up, urges the sinner to turn to Christ.  This is the right advice to give to a man who has shown that with all his heart he desires to be saved from sin; for when a man wants to be saved from sin, then it is possible for him genuinely and sincerely to receive the One who presents Himself to man as the Saviour from sin. But it is not possible otherwise; and therefore the Puritans over and over again beg ministers not to short-circuit the essential preparatory process.  They must not give false encouragement to those in whom the Law has not yet done its work.  It is the worst advice possible to tell a man to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once if he does not yet know his sins and does not yet desire to leave them.  That is the way to encourage false peace and false hopes, and to produce “gospel- hypocrites.” Throughout the whole process of preparation, from the first awakening of concern to the ultimate dawning of faith, however, the sovereignty of God must be recognised.  God converts no adult without preparing him; but “God breaketh not all men’s hearts alike” (Baxter).  Some conversions, as Goodwin said, are sudden; the preparation is done in a moment.  Some are long-drawn-out affairs; years may pass before the seeker finds Christ and peace, as in Bunyan’s case.  Sometimes great sinners experience “great meltings” (Giles Firmin) at the outset of the work of grace, while upright persons spend long periods in agonies of guilt and terror.  No rule can be given as to how long, or how intensely, God will flay each sinner with the lash of conviction. Thus the work of effectual calling proceeds as fast, or as slow, as God wills; and the minister’s  part is that of the midwife, whose task it is to see what is happening and give appropriate help at each stage, but who cannot foretell, let alone fix, how rapid the process of birth will be.             

            From these principles the Puritans deduced their characteristic conception of the practice of evangelism.  Since God enlightens, convicts, humbles and converts through the the Word, the task of His messengers is to communicate that word, preaching and applying law and gospel.  Preachers are to declare God’s mind as set forth in the texts they expound, to show the way of salvation, to exhort the unconverted to learn the law, to meditate on the Word, to humble themselves, to pray that God will show them their sins, and enable them to come to Christ.   They are to hold Christ forth as a perfect Saviour from sin to all who Heartily desire to be saved from sin, and to invite such (the weary and burdened souls whom Christ Himself invites, Mt. 11:28) to come to the Saviour who waits to receive them.  But they are not to do as Finney did, and demand immediate repentance and faith of all and sundry.  They are sent to tell all men that they must repent and believe to be saved, but it is  no part of the word and message of God if they go further and tell all the unconverted that they ought to “decide for for Christ” (to use a common modern phrase) on the spot.  God never sent any preacher to tell a congregation that they were under obligation  to receive Christ at the close of the meeting.  For in fact only those prepared by the Spirit can believe; and it is only such whom God summons to believe.  There is a common confusion here.   The gospel of God requires an immediate response from all; but it does not require the same response from all. The immediate duty of the unprepared sinner is not to try and believe on Christ, which he is not able to do, but to read, enquire, pray, use the means of grace and learn what he needs to be saved from.  It is not in his power to accept Christ at any moment, as Finney supposed; and it is God’s prerogative, not the evangelist’s, to fix the time when men shall first savingly believe.  For the latter to try and do so, by appealing to sinners to begin believing here and now, is for man to take to himself the sovereign right of the Holy Ghost.  It is an act of presumption, however creditable the evangelist’s motive’s may be.  Hereby he goes beyond his commission as God’s messenger; and hereby he risks doing incalculable damage to the souls of men.  If he tells men they are under obligation to receive Christ on the spot, and demands in God’s name that they decide at once, some who are spiritually unprepared will try to do so; they will will come forward and accept directions and “go through the motions” and go away thinking they have received Christ, when all the time they have not done so because they were not yet able to do so.  So a crop of false conversions will result from making such appeals, in the nature of the case.  Bullying for “decisions” thus in fact impedes and thwarts the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Man takes it on himself to try to bring that work to a  precipitate conclusion, to pick the fruit before it is ripe; and the result is “false conversions,” hypocrisy and hardening.  “For the appeal for immediate decision presupposes that men are free to “decide for Christ” at any time; and this presupposition is the disastrous issue of a false, un-Scriptural view of sin.   

            What, then, were the principles that should govern evangelistic preaching?  In the first place, the Puritans would insist, it must be clearly understood that evangelistic preaching is not a special kind of preaching, with its own distinctive technique.  It is a part of the ordinary public ministry of God’s Word.  This means,  first, that the rules which govern it are the same rules which must govern all public preaching of God’s Word; and, second, that the person whose task it primarily is is the local pastor.  It is his duty in the course of his public and private ministry of the Word, “diligently to labour for the conversion of souls to God” (Owen).  What God requires of him is that he should be faithful to the content of the gospel, and diligent in imparting it.  He is to seek by all means to make his sermon clear, memorable and relevant to the lives of his hearers; he is to pray earnestly for God’s blessing on his preaching, that it may be “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power”; but it is no part of his business to study to “dress up” the gospel and make it “appeal” to the natural man.  The preachers calling is very different from that of the commercial traveller, and the “quick sale” technique has no place in the Christian pulpit.  The preacher is  not sent of God to make a quick sale, but to deliver a message.  When he has done that, his work in the pulpit is over.  It is not his business to try and extort “decisions.” It is God’s own sovereign prerogative to make His Word effective, and the preachers’s behaviour must be governed by his recognition of, and subjection to, Divine sovereignty in this matter.             Does not the abjuring of appeals, and the other devices of high-pressure salesmanship which have intruded into the modern type of evangelism, make the preaching of the gospel a somewhat forlorn undertaking? Not at all, said the Puritan; those who argue so have reckoned without the sovereignty of God.   The  Puritan pastor had the same quiet confidence in the success of his evangelistic preaching as he had in the success of all his preaching.  He was in no feverish panic about it.  He knew that God’s Word does not return void; that God has His elect everywhere, and that through the preaching of His Word they will in due course be called out-not because of the preachers’s gifts and ingenuity, but by reason of God’s sovereign operation.  He knew that God always has a remnant faithful to Himself, however bad the times-which means that in every age some men will come to faith through the preaching of the Word.  This was the faith that sustained such Puritan pioneers as Richard Greenham, who after twenty years of faithful ministry, ploughing up the fallow ground in a Cambridgeshire country parish, could not point to any converts bar a single family.  This was the faith that God honored in Richard Baxter’s Kidderminster ministry, during which, over a period of seventeen years, by the use of no other means but sermons twice a week and catechetical  instruction from house to house, well over six hundred converts were gathered in; of whom Baxter wrote, six years after his ejection, that, despite constant exposure to ridicule and obloquy for their “Puritanism,” not one that I know of has fallen off from his sincerity.   Soli Deo gloria!

                        The issue with which we are confronted by our study of Puritan evangelism is clear.  Which way are we to take in our endeavours to spread the gospel to-day? Forward along the road of modern evangelism, the intensive big-scale, short-term “campaign,” with its sustained wheedling for decisions and its streamlined machinery for handling shoals of “converts?”  Or back to the old paths of  Puritan evangelism, the quieter, broader-based, long-term strategy based on the local church, according to which man seeks simply to be faithful in delivering God’s message and leaves it to the sovereign Spirit to draw men to faith through that message in His own way and at His own speed?  Which is loyal to God’s Word?  Which is consistant with the Bible doctrine of sin, and of conversion?  Which glorifies God?  These are questions which demand the most urgent consideration at the present time.

by J I Packer

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Kindling for Christian Hedonism by John Piper!

Posted by Scott on October 20, 2007

By John Piper October 30, 1983

Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Christian Hedonism is very much aware that every day with Jesus is not “sweeter than the day before.” Some days with Jesus our disposition is as sour as raw persimmons. Some days with Jesus we are so sad we feel our heart will break open. Some days with Jesus fear turns us into a knot of nerve ends. Some days with Jesus we are so depressed and discouraged that between the garage and the house we just want to sit down on the grass and cry. Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. We know it from experience and we know it from Scripture. For the text says (Psalm 19:7), “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” If every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before, we wouldn’t need to be revived.

The Bible Kindles Joy

The reason David praised God with the words, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” is because he had bad days. There were days when his soul needed to be restored. It’s the same phrase used in Psalm 19:7—”the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Normal Christian life is a repeated process of restoration and renewal. Our joy is not static. It fluctuates with real life. It is as vulnerable to Satan’s attacks as a Lebanese marine compound to a suicide bomber. When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy,” we should emphasize it this way: “We are workers with you for your joy.” The preservation of our joy in God takes work. It is a fight. Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, and he has an insatiable appetite to destroy one thing: the joy of faith. But the Holy Spirit has given us a shield called faith and a sword called the Word of God and a power called prayer to defend and extend our joy. Or, to change the image, when Satan huffs and puffs and tries to blow out the flame of your joy, you have an endless supply of kindling in the Word of God. And even though there are days when we feel that every cinder in our soul is cold, yet if we crawl to the Word of God and cry out for ears to hear, the cold ashes will be lifted and the tiny spark of life will be fanned, because, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” The Bible is the kindling of Christian Hedonism.

My aim this morning is to motivate you to wear the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and to wield it for the preservation of your joy in God. There are three steps we need to climb together. First, we need to know why we accept the Bible as the word of God. Almost everybody in the world would agree that if the one and true God has spoken, then there will be no lasting happiness for people who ignore his word. But very few people really believe that the Bible is the word of the living God. Nor should they believe it without sufficient reasons. Second, we need to see some encouraging examples of how the Bible kindles and preserves our joy. Finally, we need to hear a practical challenge to renew our daily meditation in the Word of God, and to bind that sword so close around our waist that we are never without it.

Jesus—The Foundation for Confidence in the Bible

1) In the limitations of time that we have, perhaps the best way to take the first step is for me to commend to you why I accept the Bible as the word of God. The foundation of my confidence is Jesus Christ. You don’t need to believe first that the Bible is infallible in order to know that it presents you with a historical person of incomparable qualities. The possibility that the historical Jesus was a con artist or a lunatic is to me so remote that I am drawn to confess that he is true. His claims are not the propaganda of a deceiver or the presumption of a schizophrenic. He speaks with authority, forgives sin, heals the sick, casts out demons, penetrates the hearts of his opponents, loves his enemies, dies for sinners, and leaves behind an empty grave, not because he pulled the wool over the eyes of the world but because he is the ever-living Son of God who came to save the world. He has won my trust through his words and deeds.

From Jesus I move backward to the Old Testament and forward to the New Testament. All four gospels present different evidence that Jesus considered the Old Testament to be the word of God. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says he came not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets, and in Matthew 22:29 he says that the Sadducees err because they don’t know the Scriptures. In Mark 7:8–9 Jesus contrasts man-made traditions with the commandment of God in the Old Testament. In Luke 24:44 he tells the disciples that everything written about him in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. And in John 10:35 he said simply, “Scripture cannot be broken.” Therefore, I read the Old Testament as the word of God because Jesus did.

Six Observations on the New Testament as God’s Word

But Jesus did not stay on earth to endorse the New Testament. My confidence in the New Testament as God’s word rests on a group of observations which taken together provide a reasonable ground of confidence.

1) Jesus chose twelve apostles to be his authoritative representatives in founding the church. He promised them at the end of his life, “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said” (John 14:26; 16:13). 2) Then the apostle Paul, whose stunning conversion from a life of murdering Christians to making Christians demands some special explanation, explains that he (and the other apostles) have been commissioned by the risen Christ to preach “in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Christ’s prediction is being fulfilled through this inspiration. 3) Peter confirms this in 2 Peter 3:16 by putting Paul’s writings in the same category with the inspired (2 Peter 1:21) Old Testament writings. 4) All the New Testament writings come from those earliest days of promised special revelation and were written by the apostles and their close associates. 5) The message of these books has the ring of truth because it makes sense out of so much reality. The message of God’s holiness and our guilt on the one hand, and Christ’s death and resurrection as our only hope on the other hand—that message fits the reality we see and the hope we long for and don’t see. 6) Finally, as the Baptist Catechism says, “The Bible evidences itself to be God’s word by . . . its power to convert sinners and edify saints.”

For these reasons, when I read the Old and New Testaments, I read them as the word of God. God is not silent in my life. He is uncomfortably vocal and precise about all kinds of things. I count it as a singular act of grace on his part that he has appointed for me that my life work is to understand his word and teach his church. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. Which means that the things said about the word of God in the Bible apply to the Bible. And I have been simply overwhelmed in preparing for this message by how much the Bible has to say about the value of the word of God. What a treasure we have in the very words of God! “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

The Word of God Is Your Life

2) That leads us to the second step this morning, namely, some examples of how the Bible has so much value for us. Why is a life of meditation on Holy Scripture a life of joy? Most of the specifics I want to give you may soon be forgotten, but I hope the total impact of the Bible’s value will make you want to read it more regularly, more deeply, and more joyfully. Consider these benefits.

In Deuteronomy 32:46–47 Moses says, “Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you, but it is your life.” The Bible is not a trifle; it is a matter of life and death. If you treat the Word of God as a trifle, you forfeit life. Our physical life depends on God’s Word because by his word we were created (Psalm 33:9; Hebrews 11:3), and “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Our spiritual life begins by the Word of God: James 1:18, “By his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.” “You have been born anew . . . through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). And not only do we begin to live by God’s Word, we go on living by God’s Word: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Our physical life is created and upheld by the word of God, and our personal-spiritual life is born anew and lived by the word of God. Therefore, the Bible is “no trifle for you, it is your life!”

The Word of God Begets Faith and Hope

The Word of Christ begets and sustains life because it begets and sustains faith. “These things are written,” John says, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). “Faith comes by hearing,” writes the apostle Paul, “and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The faith that starts our life in Christ and the faith by which we go on living come from hearing the Word of God. If faith is of eternal importance for your daily life, so is the Bible.

Sometimes faith and hope are virtually synonyms in Scripture. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Without this hope for the future we get discouraged and depressed and our joy drains away. Hope is absolutely essential to Christian joy (Romans 15:13). And how do we maintain hope? The psalmist puts it like this (78:5–7), “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children . . . so that they might set their hope in God.” Paul puts it so plainly: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by the steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The whole Bible has this aim and this power: to create hope in the hearts of God’s people.

The Word of God Sets Free and Provides Wisdom

Another essential element of life is freedom. None of us would be happy if we were not free from what we hate and free for what we love. And where do we find true freedom? Psalm 119:45 says, “I shall walk in freedom, for I sought thy precepts.” And Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And lest we miss the point, he says later in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.” The word of God is divine truth that frees us from deception. It breaks the power of counterfeit pleasures, and keeps us free from stumbling into the stupidity of sin. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “I have laid up thy word in my heart that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11; cf. v. 9). The promises of God are the liberating, guiding power of godliness: “Through his precious and very great promises you escape from the corruption that is in the world . . . and become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4; cf. John 15:3). Freedom, guidance, likeness to God—all these come to us as we meditate upon and trust the Word of God, the Bible.

Of course, the Bible does not answer every question about life. Every fork in the road does not have a biblical arrow. We have need of wisdom in ourselves. But that, too, is a gift of Scripture. As the text says, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple . . . the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7–8; cf. 119:98). People whose minds are saturated with God’s Word and submissive to his thoughts have a wisdom that eternity will prove to be superior to all the secular wisdom in the world.

The Word of God Restores and Comforts

Nevertheless, our bent will and imperfect perceptions lead us time and again into foolish acts and harmful situations. That day is not sweeter than the day before, and we need restoration and comfort. Where can we turn for comfort? We can follow the psalmist again: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that thy promise gives me life . . . When I think of thy ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O Lord” (Psalm 119:50, 52). And when our failures and our afflictions threaten our assurance of faith, where do we turn to rebuild our confidence? John invites us to turn to the Word of God: “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). The Bible is written to give us assurance of eternal life.

Satan’s number one objective is to destroy your joy of faith. You have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). But what many Christians fail to realize is that you can’t draw the sword from someone else’s scabbard. If you don’t wear it, if the Word of God does not abide in you (John 15:7), you will reach for it in vain. If you don’t wear it, you can’t wield it. But if you do, what a mighty warrior you will be! “I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).

Devote Yourselves to the Word of God

3) So the Bible is the Word of God, and the Word of God is no trifle. It is the source of life and faith and hope and freedom and guidance and wisdom and comfort and assurance and victory over our greatest enemy. Is it any wonder, then, that those who knew best said, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8)? “I will delight in thy statutes, I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:16). “Oh, how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “Thy testimonies are my heritage for ever, yea, they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111). “Thy words were found, and I ate them, and thy words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by thy name” (Jeremiah 15:16). But are we to pursue this joy like Christian Hedonists? Are we to throw the kindling of God’s Word on the fire of joy? Are we to pursue our holy pleasure by meditating on the Word of Christ? Indeed, we are. For the Lord himself has said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

On this Reformation Sunday I beseech you not to let the blood of the martyrs be spilled in vain. Don’t let the labors of Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Zwingli be spent out in vain. God raised them up to free the Holy Scriptures for us. We despise God and insult his saints if we treat the Bible as a trifle in our lives. Martin Luther knew as well as any man who ever lived that every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. And according to Roland Bainton, he wrote these words in the year of his deepest depression:

And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him—
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.

© Desiring God

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

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Christianity or Pluralism by Doug Phillips!

Posted by Scott on October 17, 2007

You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)
By Me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. (Proverbs 8:15)

The Church is at a crossroads philosophically. To be determined is whether we believe that the Lordship of Christ is comprehensive, extending to all spheres and jurisdictions of life, or whether Jesus is Lord over our private lives but does not even want His people to declare His Lordship over this nation. We must determine whether it is our goal to acknowledge the God of the Bible, or just to join hands with the many gods of the world in common cause against “secular liberalism.”

We must determine whether He wants Christians to shelve the Bible in their public discourse and argue for general principles based on the consensus morality of the many gods of the world’s religions, be they satanic or occult, or whether we may boldly mention the name of Jesus Christ in the public square and proclaim the God of Christianity as the only true foundation of our laws and the only true God to be honored in our national landmarks.

We must decide if Messiah is THE King upon whose shoulders the government will be established, or if we are resigned to the ancient Roman notion that all gods are acceptable as long as none demand exclusivity.

One well-known writer has recently suggested that America has no claim to a distinctively Christian law system. In his view, we are a land of many gods. From his perspective, God actually wants there to be many gods running this country. He has even suggested that pluralism is “providential.”

As to the issue of what God has allowed, there is a sense in which this man is absolutely right. God has providentially allowed different influences to arise in our nation. This is providence. Providence refers to the Lord Jesus’ sovereign direction and control over His creation and man. God providentially directs all events. He is Lord over every detail of time, space, matter, and reality. He literally upholds the universe by the power of His word.

In another sense, this brother has made several key mistakes: First, he has wrongly concluded that, because God has providentially allowed evil to prosper, that therefore we are to work to maintain the status quo. Second, he has confused the claims of the many gods with the rights of Jesus Christ over our land. If every man in America was a raging Zoroastrian, Christians would still have to declare that our government is required by the higher law, as revealed in Scripture, to “kiss the son.” Furthermore, the fact that fewer Americans are Christian in the twenty-first century than in the nineteenth century does not mean that our distinctively Christian charters, common law, law systems, and covenants are null, void, or unenforceable.

Providence — there is a great mystery here that we may never fully understand. Though God is not the author of sin, yet he allows for sin and directs every sin and act of evil for His own glory. He is sovereign! So when somebody says that pluralism is providential, we may respond: “In one sense, yes. But only in the sense that the rise of the Nazi Third Reich, the death of Able, the boils of Job, the presidency of Bill Clinton, and the horror of 9/11 were also providential events.”

The fact that God allows and providentially directs even Satan himself does not mean that He approves of or will tolerate the behavior of Satan. Similarly, the fact that, providentially, many gods have emerged as “pretenders” seeking to displace the One True God from His throne as Lord over this nation certainly does not mean that we should declare the defeat of Christianity in America, and theologically, philosophically, and practically cop-out, capitulating to the claims of these false gods. Truth is not determined by majorities. Covenants, charters, and law systems are not rendered invalid by the fiat claim of the invading worshippers of false gods.

God has providentially allowed America to suffer for our sins. An evidence of this providential judgment is the surrender by Evangelical leaders of the rights of Messiah the King, in favor of their desire to sit at the table with the petty potentates who think they are running the show, and to give obeisance to the many gods of popular culture. These Evangelical pluralists claim that they can privately worship Jesus Christ, but that it would be wrong to mention His name in the public square or declare His exclusive Lordship over the nation, unless such references are merely historical that in no way, shape, or form are meant to imply exclusivity.

We must pray that God will providentially wake up our brothers in the Church so that they will no longer be ashamed of the Gospel when it comes to the history, leadership, and the laws of this land. We must pray that, instead of sounding retreat or making common cause with philosophies utterly foreign to Christianity, these men will once again earnestly call for our nation to acknowledge the God of our charters and our covenants and honor the faith of our fathers.

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place.’ (Isaiah 44:6,7)

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