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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Just pray

There are some times in our life when we feel helpless, we don’t know what to do or where to turn. Every Christian will experience times where they are down in a valley spiritually. Possibly discouraged due to sickness, death in the family, a midlife crisis, stress due to schoolwork, or whatever the case may be, all Christians will experience this discouragement in their life personally. I know I have felt these times where I have been so discouraged and didn’t know what to do. The only thing I could think of is prayer, and I turned to the Psalms and began reading through them. Upon turning to Psalm 55 verse 22-23 really spoke to me and challenged me, specifically verse 22. It says this, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” and then the chapter ends with this phrase, “But I will trust in you.” No matter the situation or burden in his life, David realized he needed to take whatever bothered him and give it over to God in prayer, trusting in God to handle the situation. As I read through this and thought about it I thought about Psalm 23 where the Lord is compared as our Shepherd while we are the sheep. Sheep will follow their shepherd trusting fully in him to guide them to the right place, protect them, provide for them, and take care of all their needs. Consequently, who more should we need when we have God our Shepherd to turn to in prayer? Run to the comforting arms of the Shepherd, what better place to be than in the arms of our loving Lord and Savior? When discouraged and unsure what to do, just pray. Oftentimes I tend to underestimate the power and sufficiency of prayer, but if you look at all those men God has used throughout history they were the ones who turned to God for every need in prayer. George Mueller had every need provided for him by God, always praying and letting God work and provide. Though Spurgeon went through periods in his life of difficulty and oppression, prayer and Scripture was what he always turned to. The martyrs of the Christian faith always sought God daily in prayer. As the Psalmist said, cast your burdens upon God. There is no trouble, trial, or difficulty to great for the God who created the universe and miraculously provided a way of salvation for such as us. As the sheep, let us turn to the Shepherd and go to Him for every need. I hope this will be an encouragement to those who read this, I know personally there has been no greater comfort than to pray when I have been discouraged or not sure what to do. In prayer God has carried me through, as He said to Paul His “grace will be sufficient for us” in every case and scenario. I hope that everybody who reads this will see Christ through this as the only source of comfort, the One who provides for all our needs, and who is waiting for us to cast every burden we face upon Him. Turn to Christ, and pray.

Here is a short poem I wrote a few days ago, even though I am not very good at poetry this poem expresses what I have been through and how God has helped me so much.

All of my thoughts to you I give,
This one life I have to live.
To love You with my heart, mind, and soul,
While living each day under Your control.

To live is Christ and to die is gain,
Even in a life that is filled with pain.
As I look and see Christ right by my side,
He gives me comfort, and in Him I’ll forever abide.

Even when we are down in the valley of despair,
The Comforter and Shepherd will never leave you there.
If you are unsure where to turn or what to do,
Turn to Him, for His promises are always true.

Cast your burdens at the foot of the cross,
Draw near to God, even in times of loss.
Trust in God, for the Shepherd is always near,
Do not be discouraged, what is there to fear?

No matter the storm, no matter the cost,
A life lived for Christ will never be lost.
My life contains only one solitary goal,
And this is to live under God’s full control.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Encouragement

 

What is Justification?

Many hear the word “justification” but do not have a very good grasp on what the word means and how it relates to the Christian. Instead of attempting to explain it myself, here is a post from Grace to You which clearly explains justification, the history of this doctrine, and how it relates to the Christian lifestyle.

The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy–Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism–rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide–justification by faith alone.

Back to the Beginning
In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).

One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life–and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness–and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).

Luther had always seen “the righteousness of God” as an attribute of the sovereign Lord by which He judged sinners–not an attribute sinners could ever possess. He described the breakthrough that put an end to the theological dark ages:

I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

Justification by faith was the great truth that dawned on Luther and dramatically altered the church. Because Christians are justified by faith alone, their standing before God is not in any way related to personal merit. Good works and practical holiness do not provide the grounds for acceptance with God. God receives as righteous those who believe, not because of any good thing He sees in them–not even because of His own sanctifying work in their lives–but solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, which is reckoned to their account. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). That is justification.

Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life.

When I was married, for example, Patricia and I stood before the minister (my father) and recited our vows. Near the end of the ceremony, my father declared, “By the authority vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife.” Instantly we were legally husband and wife. Whereas seconds before we had been an engaged couple, now we were married. Nothing inside us actually changed when those words were spoken. But our status changed before God, the law, and our family and friends. The implications of that simple declaration have been lifelong and life-changing (for which I am grateful). But when my father spoke those words, it was a legal declaration only.

Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent–depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty–fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, because of justification, believers not only are perfectly free from any charge of guilt (Romans 8:33) but also have the full merit of Christ reckoned to their personal account (Romans 5:17). Here are the forensic realities that flow out of justification:

We are adopted as sons and daughters (Romans 8:15)
We become fellow-heirs with Christ (v. 17)
We are united with Christ so that we become one with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17)
We are henceforth “in Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and He in us (Colossians 1:27)

How Justification and Sanctification Differ
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:

Justification imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Romans 4:11b); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Romans 6:1-7; 8:11-14).
Justification takes place outside sinners and changes their standing (Romans 5:1-2, sanctification is internal and changes the believer’s state (Romans 6:19).
Justification is an event, sanctification a process.

Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

Why differentiate between them at all? If justification and sanctification are so closely related that you can’t have one without the other, why bother to define them differently? That question was the central issue between Rome and the Reformers in the sixteenth century, and it remains the main front in renewed attacks against justification.

Justification in Roman Catholic Doctrine
Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification. Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner–not the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The Council of Trent, Rome’s response to the Reformation, pronounced anathema on anyone who says “that the [sinner] is justified by faith alone–if this means that nothing else is required by way of cooperation in the acquisition of the grace of justification.” The Catholic council ruled “Justification … is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just.” So Catholic theology confuses the concepts of justification and sanctification and substitutes the righteousness of the believer for the righteousness of Christ.

What’s the Big Deal?
The difference between Rome and the Reformers is no example of theological hair-splitting. The corruption of the doctrine of justification results in several other grievous theological errors.

If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.

What’s so important about the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It is the doctrine upon which the confessing church stands or falls. Without it there is no salvation, no sanctification, no glorification–nothing. You wouldn’t know it to look at the state of Christianity today, but it really is that important.

Here is the link below to the blog, I posted most of the article but not the full article. http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A194_Justification-by-Faith#.Tnj4fuvIbw4

Let us rejoice in what Christ has done for us, and find comfort in this truth knowing we are justified by the works of Christ and not our own.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Encouragement, Justification

 

Fulfilling God’s Law

Was reading today on MacArthur’s blog an excerpt from one of his books and wanted to share his blog post on here in the quotes below.

“In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:4

If the Holy Spirit resides within us, we will be able to fulfill the demands of God’s law.

Augustine once said, “Grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.” When God saves us He, by His Spirit, creates within us the ability to obey His perfect law. Because we now live “according to the Spirit”—walking by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit—we are able to do the righteous things God’s law requires.

Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord no longer expects His law to be lived out only by means of an external code of ethics? Now holiness, righteousness, and obedience to the law are internal, the products of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Ezek. 11:19-20).

God’s salvation is more than a spiritual transaction by which He imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. It is more than a forensic action by which He judicially declared us righteous. As great and vital as those doctrines are, they were not applied to us apart from God’s planting His Spirit within our hearts and enabling our lives to manifest the Spirit’s fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). We need to remind ourselves regularly that God’s purpose for us after He redeemed us was that we might live a holy life filled with good works (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14). Whenever you are disobedient to God’s will and purpose, you are quenching the Holy Spirit and fighting against yourself and what you know is right. Such disobedience makes about as much sense as the person who holds his breath for no reason and therefore makes his lungs resist their natural function. The believer who disobeys, especially one who persists in a sin, prevents the Spirit from naturally leading him along the path of holiness. We are not perfect after our salvation—that won’t happen until glorification (1 John 3:2-3)—but the Holy Spirit will empower us to live in ways pleasing to God, which is the kind of righteousness that fulfills His law.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Justification

 

A Knowledge of God

I am reminded today as I was reading through the Bible and studying some in a book by Carson the true importance of having a deeper knowledge of God. I am going to post some quotes relating to this issue by Spurgeon and others in the future. I pray that God will help us to see Him for who He really is and not what we think God ought to be.

“To whom be glory for ever.” This should be the single desire of the Christian. I take
it that he should not have twenty wishes, but only one. He may desire to see his
family well brought up, but only that “To God may be glory for ever.” He may wish
for prosperity in his business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this—“To
whom be glory for ever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it
should only be that “To him may be glory for ever.” This one thing I know, Christian,
you are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than
the one motive of your Lord’s glory.

Brethren, a pure and holy God cannot endure sin: he cannot have fellowship with it,
or with those who are rendered unclean by it, for it would be inconsistent with his
nature so to do. On the other hand, sinful men cannot have fellowship with God: their
evil nature could not endure the fire of his holiness. Who among us shall dwell with
the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? What is
that devouring fire, and what are those everlasting burnings, but the justice and
holiness of God?

If we are inclined to grieve because everything around us changes, our consolation
will be found in turning to our unchanging God.

God knows what you think of,
what you wish for, and what you are pleased with: he knows, not only the surface-
tint of your character, but the secret heart and core of it. The Lord knows you
altogether. Think of that. Does it give you any joy, this morning, to think that the
Lord thus reads all the secrets of your bosom? Whether you rejoice therein or not, so
it is and ever will be.

God has been pleased to write some of his promises in sympathetic ink, which can
only become visible as it is held close to the fire.

To take the sacred picture of providence, and, with our eye-glass, look at the canvass
inch by inch, is practically to see nothing; but to view the work of the Divine Artist as
a whole, with all its lights and shades, and all the fair proportions which manifest the
matchless skill—this is to see indeed. The fault of us all is this: that we judge
Providence by the moment, instead of regarding it in its true magnitude, stretched
upon the framework of that eternal love which knows neither beginning nor end.

If the disposal of the lot is the Lord’s, whose is the arrangement of our whole life?

We are called in Scripture “a temple”—a holy temple in the Lord. But shall any one
assert that the stones of the edifice were their own architect? Shall it be said that the
stones of the building in which we are now assembled cut themselves into their
present shape, and then spontaneously came together, and piled this spacious
edifice? Should any one assert such a foolish thing, we should be disposed to doubt
his sanity; much more may we suspect the spiritual sanity of any man who would
venture to affirm that the great temple of the church of God designed and erected
itself. No: we believe that God the Father was the architect, sketched the plan,
supplies the materials, and will complete the work. Shall it also be said that those
who are redeemed redeemed themselves? that slaves of Satan break their own
fetters? Then why was a Redeemer needed at all?

Opposition to divine sovereignty is essentially atheism. Men have no objection to a
god who is really no God; I mean, by this, a god who shall be the subject of their
caprice, who shall be a lackey to their will, who shall be under their control,—they
have no objection to such a being as that; but a God who speaks, and it is done, who
commands, and it stands fast, a God who has no respect for their persons, but doeth
as he wills among the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of this lower
world, such a God as this they cannot endure.

Your extremity is God’s opportunity. The difficulty all along has been to get to the
end of you; for when a man gets to the end of himself, he has reached the beginning
of God’s working.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Edification, Encouragement

 

My Light and Salvation

Just a short yet challenging reminder from the words of Charles Spurgeon

The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Here is personal interest,”my light,” “my salvation;” the soul is assured of it, and therefore declares it boldly. Into the soul at the new birth divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation. Where there is not enough light to reveal our own darkness, and to make us long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, arid in every sense our light: he is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. He, then, who by faith has laid hold upon God, has all covenant blessings in his possession.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Encouragement

 

Giving up to Gain

From the Grace to You blog:

One of the most frequently quoted passages church marketing specialists use to justify “contextualizing” the gospel is Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 9, he summarizes his gospel strategy by claiming he became all things to all men. But look again at what Paul is actually saying in these verses:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Cor. 9:19–23).

The first sentence in that brief excerpt shows clearly what Paul was talking about. He was describing not his willingness to sacrifice the message, but his willingness to sacrifice himself to preach the message. He would give up everything—even become “a slave to all”—if that would promote the spread of the unadulterated gospel. His desire to win souls is the heart of this text, and he repeats it several times: “that I might win the more”; “that I might win Jews”; “that I might win those who are under the Law”; “that I might win those who are without law”; “that I might win the weak”; and “that I may by all means save some.” So winning people to Christ was his one objective. In order to do that, Paul was willing to give up all his rights and privileges, his position, his rank, his livelihood, his freedom—ultimately even his life. If it would further the spread of the gospel, Paul would claim no rights, make no demands, insist on no privileges.

And that is precisely how Paul lived and ministered. Not that he would modify the message to suit the world, but that he would behave so that he personally would never be an obstacle to anyone’s hearing and understanding the message of Christ. He was describing an attitude of personal sacrifice, not compromise. He would never alter the clear and confrontive call to repentance and faith.

Paul was making the point that Christian liberty must be circumscribed by love. That is the whole theme of the eighth through the tenth chapters of 1 Corinthians. It is the context in which these verses are found. The Corinthians were evidently debating about the nature and extent of Christian freedom. Some wanted to use their liberty to do whatever they desired. Others leaned toward legalism, begrudging those who enjoyed their liberty in Christ. Paul was reminding both groups that Christian freedom is to be used to glorify God and serve others, not for selfish reasons.

Here’s an example of how that principle applies. Some of the Corinthians apparently had asked Paul whether they were free to eat meat offered to idols (8:1). Such meat often was collected from the pagan temples and sold in the marketplace at bargain prices. Paul told them it is not inherently wrong to eat such food, but if doing so places a stumbling block in someone else’s way, such an offense against another person is wrong. Paul summarized his reply with these words: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved” (10:31-33).

How did Paul use his own liberty in Christ? “Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (9:19). He saw his personal liberty and human rights as something to be used for God’s glory, not his own enjoyment. If he could trade his own liberty for an opportunity to proclaim the gospel and thus liberate others, he would do it gladly.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Edification

 

Why Are You Thrilled to Be Loved by Jesus?

From John Piper’s site.

Believers in Jesus are precious to God (we’re his bride!). And he loves us so much that he will not allow our preciousness to become our god.

God does indeed make much of us (adoption!), but he does so in a way that draws us out of ourselves to enjoy his greatness.

Test yourself. If Jesus came to spend the day with you, sat down beside you on the couch, and said, “I really love you,” what would you focus on the rest of the day that you spend together?

It seems to me that too many songs and sermons leave us with the wrong answer. They leave the impression that the heights of our joy would be in the recurrent feeling of being loved. “He loves me!” “He loves me!” This is joy indeed. But not the heights and not the focus.

What are we saying with the words “I am loved”? What do we mean? What is this “being loved”?

Would not the greatest, most Christ-exalting joy be found in watching Jesus all day and bursting with, “You’re amazing!” “You are amazing!”

He answers the hardest question, and his wisdom is amazing.
He touches a filthy, oozing sore, and his compassion is amazing.
He raises a dead lady at the medical examiner’s office, and his power is amazing.
He predicts the afternoon’s events, and his foreknowledge is amazing.
He sleeps during an earthquake, and his fearlessness is amazing.
He says, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” and his words are amazing.
We walk around with him utterly amazed at what we are seeing.

Is not his love for us his eagerness to do for us all he must do (including die) so that we can marvel at him and not be incinerated by him? Redemption, propitiation, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation — all these have to happen. They are the act of love. But the goal of love that makes those acts loving is that we be with him and see his jaw-dropping glory and be astounded. In those moments we forget ourselves and see and feel him.

So I am urging pastors and teachers: Push people through the acts of Christ’s love to the goal of his love. If redemption and propitiation and forgiveness and justification and reconciliation are not taking us to the enjoyment of Jesus himself, they are not love.

Press on this. It’s what Jesus prayed for. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24).

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Edification

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus