Reformation Day - Martin Luther - 95 Theses 

Praise God for raising up someone to oppose those who were holding down the Gospel through greed, power and manipulation. There had been those before Luther such as John Huss and John Wycliffe who some would consider the first line of troops to break the stronghold of the "Normandy beach" but most of the initial Reformers died for the sake of Christ (and His correct Biblical doctrine!) in making His Gospel known. But Luther was the first to gain a foothold on the beach by nailing his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 - aka Reformation Day (though it had already begun in debates and dialogs with various Roman Catholic theologians. It was revolutionary, the explosion of the Protestant Reformation was about to take place all over Europe. After seeing the Gospel pop out of the Scriptures before his eyes when reading Romans and Galatians in particular, that the righteous shall live by faith in Christ alone and nothing else (no works, etc), he could not help but see the unbelievable fallacies and evils of the Roman Catholic Church in direct opposition to the Gospel itself in the Scriptures. He saw they had set up a legalistic, religious system of approach to God, offering to all that more was needed than the blood of Christ alone to be saved, such as penance, purgatory, etc. Luther opposed this by showing that Salvation is by Sovereign Grace in the cross work of Christ on behalf of His people. Luther's main emphasis in the Reformation was a returning to the Biblical Gospel, that we are saved by sovereign Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone revealed in the Scriptures Alone to the Glory of God alone (the Five Solas).

Luther considered his most important work to be The Bondage of the Will, which spread like a wildfire throughout Europe, a book written to Erasmus, a Roman Catholic theologian debating Luther on the Scriptural validity of the will being free from the corruption of sin or not. The heart of the Reformation itself dealt with the will, i.e. does God have to regenerate the will by the work of Christ to turn our affections and desires; whether God has to do a supernatural work in the heart to make a person willing to believe in Christ alone in order that they may be saved. Monergism vs. Synergism was the core issue. The doctrine of faith alone simply supported Grace Alone. It is God who saves from beginning to end, Alpha to Omega, the flesh is of no avail, just as Jesus said. I find it ironic that today most Protestant evangelicals in the West use the same arguments of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic theologian) when defending free will theology, whereas Luther would oppose them, just as he does in his most important book. It is odd that many disagree with the very conclusions of the heart of the Reformation itself, all the while benefiting from all that came out of it, even though this was the key issue to the whole thing, according to Luther himself. Regardless, praise God for raising up faithful people to spread his Gospel, even when it cost them their lives. Praise God for Reformation Day!

One of my favorite quotes from Luther:

"Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his salvation, he remains in carnal self-confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore is not duly humbled before God, he believes he may lend a helping hand in his salvation, but on the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly on the will of God, such a person renounces his own will and strength; he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain . . ." - Martin Luther

Martin Luther - Lessons from His Life (MP3) - John Piper
Biography of Luther
Luther's 95 Theses
What is Monergism?
Bondage of the Will - Martin Luther
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Paul Washer - If You Have Not Heard Him, Watch These Videos 

For those of you who have not had the privilege of hearing Paul Washer, I highly recommend watching these two videos. Paul Washer is a missionary in Peru and started an organization called HeartCry Missionary Society @ www.heartcrymissionary.com. The first video is Paul being interviewed on Way of the Master by Kirk Cameron, which airs on TBN (of all places, which is awesome) and on the radio. I post it just because its an intro to the second video, which is much harder to hear, but so good. In the second video, Paul preaches to a group of about 5000 students at a youth conference. He does not hold back. It is a shockingly true message, and does not just apply to students, but really all Americans who claim Christ as Savior and have succumbed to the heresy known as, "Easy-believism." It is hard to hear, and grates against our flesh, but we all need to hear it. For me, the sermon shows me my utter inability to rescue myself from my sin, and calls loudly for me to throw myself at the feet of Christ for cleansing by His blood. I am nothing before Him. He is everything, my all in all. I cannot just think good thoughts or work myself up into an emotional love for God. He alone has to come in and do a mighty work within me, or I am lost.

There are many who claim to be Christians and look so indistinguishable from the world, it is hard to escape the conviction, based on Scripture, that they may not and probably are not saved. Most American Christians who cannot handle the difficulty of this sermon will cry out, "legalist!" But Jesus' words are inescapable. Salvation is indeed by faith alone, as shown by Paul in Romans, Galatians and elsewhere. But the conclusion of Jesus, James, Paul and other writers in other passages, is that faith is never alone, but always produces a hatred of sin, and strong affections for Jesus, to honor him with words, deeds, and actions. A good tree produces good fruit, as Jesus says; a bad tree produces bad fruit. A bad tree does not produce good fruit, nor does a good tree produce bad fruit. What is the fruit? Works that honor God or do not, good or bad fruit. The nature of the object determines what comes from it. An apple tree does not produce oranges, nor can it force itself to, and vice versa. So also, a believer, regenerated by the supernatural power of God, will always produce fruit honoring to God, albeit imperfectly. Jesus then says later on in the passage, thus you will know them by their fruit. The Scriptural nature of the sermon is inescapable. Please watch these and throw yourself at the mercy of Christ!



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Tim Keller on Gospel Realisation (MP3) 

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Making a Terrible Name for Christ, His Church, and Historic Calvinism 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/26/us/26 ... nted=print
http://www.eveningsun.com/portlet/artic ... siteId=140

This is just unbelievably sad and angering to me for the sake of Christ. The people of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, protesting at the funeral of a soldier killed in action, and calling yourselves believers in Jesus Christ? And then Calvinists? They would be hard-pressed to show how they line up with the tender, loving, compassionate hearts of Charles Spurgeon, William Cary (who was himself opposed by hyper-Calvinists for doing missions), George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards, who were themselves Calvinists. I wouldn't post a link to their website if they were not in the national news, just because these guys are a bunch of wingnuts and need no attention shined on them. However, because they are in the national news and are claiming to be Christians as well as Calvinists on their site, and do things so unloving in His name, they deserve all the attention in the world so they are exposed. If you go to the comments on the news article, you can see those who are already opposed to Christianity making their case even further because of these guys actions (granted, they too have no excuse for denying Christ, but still, I mean if you're going to reject the Gospel, don't reject it because of some fanatics).

These my friends are hyper-Calvinists, as well as neo-gnostic Calvinists (only "true" Calvinists are saved; absolutely repugnant). And after viewing many websites of hyper-Calvinist churches, I have never seen more hate-mongering than this church. Frankly, it's unbelievable how hateful they are toward others and self-contradictory in their teaching. It seems they honestly believe they are without sin based on what they say. Where's the humility? The poverty of spirit before the throne of God? It is non-existent, at least from what we can tell from a merely external point of view. It makes me angry first and foremost what they are doing to the name of Christ, totally stomping it under their feet. Next they are making an awful name for the church in America. And then finally the awful name they are making for Calvinists. I'm sure some people will hear the phrase Calvinist now and think of these guys, which is just sad.

Did Jesus not abhor the self-righteousness of the Pharisees more than anything else during His earthly ministry? It was so repulsive to Him that he addressed them at almost every turn in the Gospels. These hyper-Calvinists hate all "workers of iniquity" as they say, and yet, based on their actions toward other people who are trying to conduct a funeral for their slain family member, they are just that. They view themselves as being righteous enough to have been chosen by God (conditional election, though they would never say this directly) and are thus on "God's side" because of how good they are and the rest of us are not chosen because of how morally repugnant we are. Everyone who doesn't see things exactly as they see them (on every little jot and tittle of theology) are hell bound (myself included), as they say, "end of story, period."

These people only make Christ, His church (as well as Calvinists) look awful. They reek of lives full of hate and evil toward other people. These are the type of people out on blogs making such hateful comments concerning the sovereignty of God to others who are either struggling with it or opposed to it and just need some more patient, loving, good Scriptural explanations. Were not the Pharisees just like these people in terms of their hate? Claiming to know the things of God, and yet their hearts were far from Him, as Jesus said? He said that you will know them by their fruits. And that is some bad fruit my friends.

I'm very sorry for the name of their site, as this type of hate-speech is not what characterizes true, historic Christianity, but is a fringe, cult-like group:
http://www.godhatesfags.com/main/index.html
http://www.godhatesamerica.com/
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A.W. Pink on the Cumulative Knowledge of Election in Christ 

"How may I know I have understood the gospel and that I am elect?

"First, by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced. Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by a divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope. Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ. Fifth, by the resistance which the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it. Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness. Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces and using all diligence to this end. Thus the knowledge of election is cumulative.

- A .W. Pink
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"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia." - 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." - Romans 8:16-17

"And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." - 1 John 2:3-6

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." - 1 John 2:1

"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." - 1 John 4:13

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." - Philippians 2:12-13
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Global Environmental Issues 

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/25/ ... nviron.php

I believe at this point, people are so divided on "Global Warming" and now the new phrase that has been coined in its place, "Climate Change," we need to all at the very least look at the problems and address them quickly. When you put global issues in terms of over-population, the destroying of vital terrestrial ecosystems like the rain forests, pollution of all forms (whether or not it's causing global warming or not) are issues that all nations very quickly need to address with great urgency, because the world population is fixing to explode by 50% in the next 45-50 years. Here's the problem though. In my estimation, every consumer "going green" only solves a marginal amount of the problem. Maybe more than marginal. But we need something more drastic.

Just down the street from me, bulldozers, dump-trucks, and other industrial machinery are pumping out tons of toxins into the atmosphere and are totally flattening fields in preparation for building more homes as well as setting up a new gas well. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, just making the point that massive pollution is taking place and landscape is being destroyed. If we want things to start turning fast in favor of the environment, we need to go to the root of the problem, do we not? This involves, of course, newer power plants, factories, mines, maybe more efficient (or altogether newer technology - hydrogen fuel) for industrial machinery. But how do we do it? I have no answers for how you get corporations so reliant upon current technology for profits (which fund your mutual funds for your financial future, might I remind you) to move over to newer technology in a fast, seamless manner.

Over-population is another issue. I did not realize how bad this problem was until I read a statistic from a UN report today. By the year 2050, in 43 years, (when/if I'm 71) the world population will have increased about 50% to between 8 and 10 billion people from the current 6.6 billion. Here's the report: http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/media/index.asp Unbelievable. 20 years ago, the UN realized the world was at an unsustainable pace for consumption of resources. But their predictions of the world's consumption rate were wrong. We have been consuming resources at a rate they never anticipated. What will the world look like in 43 years? So much has changed just in the past 43 years. World PopClock: http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html

All I can say to all of this is praise God He will make the world new. I have no idea where the world is headed. Eventually, it's headed to renewal, but not until things get worse, per Revelation. Our hope is not like the rest of the world though, in trying to make perfect something that has been cursed by God at the fall of man into sin. Our hope is in Christ, the resurrection of our perfected bodies and a totally regenerated world, not in anything present. However, at the same time, there are things we can do to turn the tide of problems we're bringing upon ourselves (i.e. more efficient ways of living, whatever that means). But it needs to happen at the producer level primarily, and then at the consumer level, when at the present time, it seems to be reversed. The whole going green thing is just a nice marketing slogan for corporations to bring in more dough (which I guess is good for mutual funds, but still, actually do something the helps the environment, instead of just trying to bring in customers).
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Response to a Forward of a Forward of a Forwarded Email from Ben Stein (?) 

I checked on Snopes.com and part of the email is legitimate: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/benstein2.asp but part of it is not.

People send around these Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: emails and when its something promising money if you send it to so many numbers of people, etc, I respond to all with a www.snopes.com article refuting the email with very long explanations. This time I was sent an email to a large number of people, most of whom I do not even know, that had an article written by Ben Stein on his acceptance of Christmas even as a Jew. As I say in my response (to all), "I sincerely appreciate Ben Stein's inclusiveness of Christmas into the holiday season with all of its traditions (so thankful someone with the popularity of Ben Stein is defending that on behalf of those who love Jesus Christ, just as I defend his political right to celebrate how he wants, that's what makes America great is that there is religious freedom, in a world of religious tyranny and oppression)." I appreciate his defense of Christians to their political rights in this country to not be oppressed by relativistic secularists who desire to cast out religion from the public square altogether. Thank you Ben Stein for defending us and standing against the moral outrageousness of our culture!

However, Ben Stein has a particular religious relativism within his message that I do not share and cannot stand with him on. There is one way to God, Jesus Christ, not multiple ways. And in all reality, we are not all brothers and sisters, but rather if we are in Christ, then we possess that relationship. Outside of Christ, we are children of the devil, as Jesus Himself said to the Pharisees. You are one or the other. Most of those the email was sent to probably say, "yeah, Ben!" to all that he says about being united under our general belief in God, and I cannot stand with them pertaining to the statements that we're all God's brothers and sisters. I took that email as an opportunity to witness to the glorious supremacy, power, justice, love, intimacy, nearness, and compassion of Christ for sinners, as well as His wrath to come against those who disobey the Gospel. I wanted to share the Gospel with them in all its glorious heights, exceeding depths, and rough edges, despite the relativism of our culture that hates this message. I pray it edifies you. What edified me the most about writing it was going through all those various passages of Scripture, bread for my soul.

So I will first post Ben Stein's statements and then post my response to all that received the initial email.
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My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a church, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away .

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards .

Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein
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http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/a ... usive.html

I sincerely appreciate Ben Stein's inclusiveness of Christmas into the holiday season with all of its traditions (so thankful someone with the popularity of Ben Stein is defending that on behalf of those who love Jesus Christ, just as I defend his political right to celebrate how he wants, that's what makes America great is that there is religious freedom, in a world of religious tyranny and oppression). I thank God and gratefully appreciate His sovereignty in this: that I can read the Scriptures (God's spoken Word to man) and pray to the Lord Jesus without fear of persecution by the state or others as in Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Darfur, amongst hundreds of other places. I also appreciate Stein's political positions on almost every subject. In addition, I am very excited about his new movie coming out which I highly recommend seeing!

However, as a believer that Jesus Christ is THE way to God alone, I cannot stand with him as many are inclined to do in our society (even those who call themselves Christians, sadly) simply because he is nice and politically inclusive, that anyone who believes in a general Judeo/Christian/Islamic "God" is saved from the wrath that is soon to come upon us for the sin and wickedness of our souls. The Scriptures emphatically deny that Jesus is just A way, but rather state that He is THE way; that faith alone in Christ alone is what is necessary to be saved from this coming eternal wrath (John 3:36). Jesus said this very thing about Himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This is a radical statement, and we would all do well to pay attention to what He says in our day of popular cultural thinking called inclusivism (that no view is a wrong view). Jesus is making the claim that through Him alone is the way to eternal life. Is this true or false? You must decide this and not brush it off as some mere "theological semantic" discussed among scholars. This impacts you, myself, and all of us for all time. If He is who He says He is, The Way, and we deny Him, we are in a heap of eternal trouble because of our sin and wickedness. In our quietest moments, we all know we have blown it on a spiritual level. Isn't that true? "There is no one righteous, no not one." (Romans 3:10-18) But if we embrace Him as Lord and Savior, the one who took our place of punishment if we believe in Him, we will be given the greatest joy forever: the very presence and power of God Himself for all eternity!

But In addition to Jesus' words, in Acts 4:11-12, when Peter and John are before the Jewish council who is commanding them not to bear witness to the name of Christ any longer in Jerusalem with the threat of imprisonment, the response is unmistakably either a true or false statement, not religiously inclusive. They say to the Jewish council, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Either these are true or false statements concerning salvation only being available through faith in Jesus. And to say there are other ways to God than Christ is to say Christianity's claims are false. These Scripture citations amongst many do not leave any room for our relativistic, culturally-shaped thinking to say that Jesus was basically a good teacher, a prophet, or just an excellent moral instructor amongst many. Will you have Jesus as your Lord and Savior alone? Trusting in Him for you eternal well being, and not in yourself? He is our only hope of heaven.

Augustine, in the 4th century of the Christian church, made the statement, "Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all." Basically, this means that if Christ is lumped into all the other religious teachers who have come and gone, then He is not valued at all, because, as the Scriptures attest and prove with the resurrection, He is indeed God in the flesh, who descended from His throne in heaven (Philippians 2:5-11), lived the perfect moral life we fail to live up to every second of every day (Romans 8:3-4), died the eternal death on the cross we should die right now for the way we treat Him and His glory (Romans 5:6-11), rose from the grave historically (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20), ascended into heaven where He now reigns on high (Acts 1:6-11, Revelation 1:12-20), and commands all people everywhere to repent of sin and believe in Him for salvation (Acts 17:30-31), before He returns at any moment to execute wrath upon the world (Revelation 14:18-20, Revelation 20:11-15). By God's mercy in the cross of Christ where He paid the debt that sinners could never repay (because it is infinite) you can be on the King's side as an heir of the royal inheritance purchased by Christ for His people, or you can go your own way, denying Him, as His enemy and stand, even now, under His wrath, justice and condemnation for your sin (John 3:36, Jude 10-13). By believing in Christ, either have your sin removed as far as the east is from the west, or continue in it forever and have no hope of returning. So either Jesus was God who came to suffer the eternal punishment on the cross that we all deserve, on behalf of anyone who would trust in Him alone for salvation, or He was a lunatic, out of His mind (which, by the way, His family members, during the time of his Earthly ministry, thought this very thing as stated in Mark 3:21).

Jesus is not one of many ways to God (as our current cultural climate dictates that all religions lead to the same God), but Jesus Himself says He is, "The Way, The Truth, and The Life." Please carefully and prayerfully read the entire page of the link at the top and bottom of the page as to whether Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, not just A way amongst many. Just consider the things spoken, analyze the Scriptures themselves (the inspired, divinely written word of God Himself to us), ask God to reveal Himself to you, and come to your own conclusion. My interest is not in advancing any agenda other than the good news of redemption and reconciliation offered through Christ, which is the hope of the world, the renewal of all things, the world made perfect again at the end of time, the best of all possible worlds (Revelation 21-22) (and man is it a messed up world we live in as a result of sin). I ask for God to open all of our eyes to the greatness of Jesus Christ in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection! May He have mercy on us all in His kindness. Yield your life to Him that you may find the greatest joy ever given to man, the gift of the presence of God Himself, the One true God. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying in your soul than to be loved by the only One who ever mattered, through faith in Christ.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/a ... usive.html
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The Prosperity "Gospel" - John Piper - Right On 

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Predestined for Adoption Through Jesus Christ - A Testimony 

"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace." - Ephesians 1:5-6 (ESV)

Paul starts these verses with two words that are pivotal to our understanding: "In love." The words of these verses are packed with faith-sustaining theology that experientially sets my heart ablaze with love for God in His unmerited, free, "un-asked-for" grace toward a wayward sinner like myself, who was not seeking Him in any manner at the time when I fell in love with Him. I take no credit for ever first loving Him. As Ephesians 2:1-2 states, and I gladly confess with it, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked." I was running from Him angrily toward deeds of wickedness, gratifying my sinful nature, miserable in my rebellion against an infinitely holy God. I did not have any basically good intentions toward the Lord at that time. I was dead, a spiritual waste, as that one song goes, a burned out forest, no life at all. It was His sheer grace I was not obliterated on the spot during my rebellious days (same now for how I treat His grace toward me). But who am I that He would have mercy on me, when I had turned my back on Him willfully, outright defying Him to His face for the trials in my family I knew He had sovereign authority and reign over? I ran from Him with what strength and might I had, employing my members (as Paul says) in the service of evil, pursuing friends who denied Him, who hated Him, pursuing drugs and outright rebellion.

But in His sovereign love toward someone as fallen as myself, He had mercy on me the summer after my sophomore year in high school by cutting me to the heart with His eternal kindness and beauty, even at the time when I was pursuing wickedness in the form of drugs and outright rebellion against my parents, and most importantly, God Himself. He pursued me before I pursued Him. In fact, I confess experientially that I pursued Him precisely because He first pursued me (1 John 4:19). He didn't just give me a nudge to help me lay hold of Christ, but He had to change the entire disposition of my heart to be able to see the beauty of Christ first, and then I could not help but lean upon Him for eternal rest because He was irresistibly lovely to me. I mean, to be honest, I began reading the Scriptures in the midst of smoking pot in my back yard! I sat out with a lawn chair at 2 in the morn, smokin' it up, and reading the Psalms. And upon reading the Scriptures of God's forgiveness toward sinners through the blood of Christ, God broke my heart for the evil in my life and He lavished grace after grace upon me. On a merely experiential level, this proves what is stated in Ephesians 1, Romans 9, etc. God saved me. I did nothing but receive grace upon grace. And having been shown grace, how could I not trust Christ for salvation at that very moment?

As Spurgeon said so beautifully (my paraphrase), what led me to read the Scriptures in the midst of my rebellion but the Holy Spirit preempting my will, going underneath my thoughts, beliefs, coming in and doing a supernatural work within me, even while I was partaking of sin? What led me to see the utterly ruined state of my soul before a sovereign, just and holy God but the work of the Spirit alone coming in power through the Scriptures to show me my total depravity? And then to make me seek Him with heart-felt desires? I owe it all to the grace of God, working in His due time and season. And according to Ephesians 1:4-5, this was His plan for me from the foundation of the world! That is massive, faith-sustaining doctrine right there, the kind of doctrine that can sustain a soul undergoing persecution, illness, loss of loved ones, financial woes, broken marriages, just name the trial. If this is true of the believer, as Paul states in Romans 8:35, what can separate us from the love of Christ if God has been for us before the foundation of the world!? Is this the plan for all people though? Sadly it is not. How do I know this? Because at the end of Revelation, looking into the future at the judgment of men, some will perish for all eternity due to their rebellion against the Creator. And I should have been one of them, if God had let me go my own way. With my sinfully corrupted will, had God not intervened, I would have freely chosen the fires of hell over Christ, even when presented with Him. Just like the Pharisees in the Gospels, had God not first turned my heart, I would have just gotten angrier at the mere sight of Christ. That's where I was headed, no doubt. But God worked in my heart first and made me willing! The prophecies of the new covenant in Ezekial 11:19-20 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 had become a reality within me.
"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."

And also,
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

The only reason God made me to differ is due to His singular, sovereign work, which He had chosen long ago to carry out in me. Was I seeking this change from the heart? No, I was seeking sin and ways to displease Him. My will, desires, mind, body, all of me lied dead in sin, enslaved to its power over me. Praise God though for His electing love that I never earned, deserved or even asked for (namely because I didn't care to)! God made me willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3). That is my only explanation as to why I am a believer in Jesus Christ and others have rejected it. What have I that I did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7) Including faith and desires for Christ? Were these not granted by God as a gift? If not, did I produce them while I was dead in sin? I think not. And that is not my experience either.

If you think of the predestining work of God as this harsh, grandfather character making random choices as to who will and who will not enter heaven, please discard that from your mind. God does not make random choices. Greek determinism, as it has wormed its way into Christian doctrine, that God saves by sheer decree without any reference to the work of Christ for sinners, has no place in the Word of God! I realize people may have presented this rather harshly and frankly acted like jerks toward you in presenting this. Please come to His Word though with a mind free from the doctrines of men and their wicked behavior. Again, the first two words of the verses above are, "In love." "In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ." This is the backdrop for everything concerning predestination. Love. Every time predestination is spoken of by Paul or Peter, it is always for the edification of His readers, not as some philosophical mind game used to try and draw the intellectual crowd. No, rather, "Rejoice! You are freely chosen by God for salvation through the work of Christ on your behalf! Weep for joy at the mercy God has granted you!" Paul emphatically shows us the vastness of the love of God precisely in predestination with the letter to the Ephesians!

The next point we need to see in these verses is that in great, infinite, eternal love, the Father predestined us for adoption as sons. Adoption into the family of God is what we were meant for as believers, from eternity! When I think about where I should have gone had it not been for the work of God to first change my heart, and then see that I am not only accepted by God but brought into His family, it makes me cry with joy in my heart that He would do such a wondrous thing for me, when I deserve nothing but eternal torment in hell. We have been predestined for adoption into God's family. There is nothing greater than to be adopted into the only family that will ever matter, God's. How wonderful!

But how did God bring about this great work to change those sinners (who justly deserve hell) whom He has set His unconditional, loving affection upon? He brought it about through the work of Christ on the cross. This was the plan from the foundation of the world. Several times throughout this passage, Paul makes the statements, "In Christ," "Through Christ," "In Him". Predestined for adoption through Christ is the short way to say the verse. Our election is never out of sync with the infinitely valuable work of Christ to redeem His people whom He fore-loved. Our election is right in line with the cross. Our election to salvation is accomplished through the cross. Jesus stated in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." In love, the Father chose a people before anything had been made (v. 4, Revelation 13:8), sent His Son into the world to live the perfect life they could never have attained (Romans 8:3-4; John 17:19), died the awful eternal death they should have died (Revelation 5:9, John 10:11, Mark 10:45), gave them His perfect record and righteousness through faith (Romans 5:1), historically rose from the grave by the power of God (John 20), and in due time in history, effectually called His people (by the work of the Holy Spirit) whom He has chosen from every tribe, language, people, and nation for salvation through the indiscriminate preaching of the Gospel to all people (John 11:51-52, Romans 10:14-15). This has been the plan all along.

In America, we prize our free rights. It is exalted in the public square as something we are owed. Conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, independent, it doesn't matter. Our society operates on the "personal rights" principle. "If you interfere with my rights, I'll take you to court." So the idea of a sovereign God in our culture is absurd (which is where you get all the open-theists popping up in the church now, even amongst some theologically conservative denominations). And even further than that, the idea of a sovereign God who elects fallen men to salvation is just unfair and evil on the part of God. Why? Because it interferes with what we deem as fair in our democracy, and it interferes with our "free, deserved rights." Why doesn't He save all we ask? All we can answer is that His purpose, desire, and prerogative is to save who He wants. Who are we to talk back to God concerning this? Most American Christians, being that we live in a democracy, when presented with just the concept of predestination immediately say, "I didn't vote for that!" And unfortunately, the church has in most part adopted this thinking as well. The most common way of getting around the predestining work of God is to say God chose us because we first chose Him, based primarily upon a poor exegetical analysis of Romans 8:28-30 (i.e. they fail to take into account the historical and Biblical use of the word, "Know."

But if God's choice is based on our choice, what kind of a choice is that? It's not a choice, but simply a default reaction, and in no way exalts God for His power and might over all things, including salvation. When Moses asked God to show him His glory in Exodus 33:18-19, to show him the essence of His power and might, God's response to Him was, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will have mercy on whom I have mercy." Or in other words God is exalted and glorified the most in His freedom to dispense mercy upon whom He chooses. His response is basically, "I choose who to have mercy upon. This is the essence of my glory and freedom." And this is the exact passage Paul uses in Romans 9:15 to defend the predestination God and His justice (rightness) in it. This is the glory of the grace of God! Loving election! The Lord is free, unbound, especially by sinful man! And unfortunately, the predominant thought in American Bible studies when people arrive at Ephesians 1, Romans 8, 9, 1 Peter 1, John 6, etc, is that God chooses because we first choose Him. It's like Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church has said in talking about this error, "God votes for you, Satan votes against you, you make the deciding vote." So God is dependent upon the sinful will of man, that is dead in sin and will never choose Him? I don't think so. Arrogance. Have we been that conditioned in our free democracy that God must bow whenever we so choose? God is the sovereign One. We are not. The heart of this thinking is rebellion against God as the sovereign One.

Which explanation exalts the glory of the grace of God as Ephesians states? That God is dependent on our choice OR that we are utterly dependent upon His? Is this not what differentiates the message of Christianity from all other religions, that salvation is a work of God, not us? Predestination brings theological depth to that message all the more. Who gets the decisive credit for salvation in both explanations? Man retains control over his life if God chose us because we first chose Him. And that feels nice. And that is what is preached more often than not. Rather, according to the Scriptures, God chose us, "according to the purpose of his will," (v. 5) "according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." (v. 11) God gets all of the glory, not 99%. And if you think about it, if we get credit for that 1% decisiveness, who really gets credit for salvation? We do. God did most of the work, but with what strength we have we latched on with our "righteous" choice? We pulled ourselves up into the power of the cross? I sure didn't. This is works-based salvation at its core. Rather the cross gave me life when I was dead. And this was the core issue right here in the Reformation.

Predestination is for the glory of the grace of God (v. 6), according to His purpose (v. 5), which He brought to fruition in the Person and work of Christ (v. 4). It is a beautiful doctrine meant to sustain us who believe because we see that the roots of our salvation begin in God, not us. The roots of grace go into eternity past with God. What is grace even? An undeserved gift. Is this not what salvation is? The only reason you chose Christ was because He was pleased to reveal Him to you in power. Your story as a believer may not be like mine (or Paul's on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians for that matter), but all of us were saved in this way. It may have been a process of years that you came to understand the Gospel, just like a seed that is watered and gradually grows. But it is a definite event that occurs, just as seed planting and watching a tree grow as a result. People are saved in different ways. Nevertheless, if you have trusted Christ for salvation, at some point you saw the beauty of Christ, not because you were smarter, wiser, more spiritual, born into a Christian family, but because God worked in your heart in order that you would believe in Christ for salvation. He didn't leave you to your own wavering sinful will, but effected salvation, made sure it got done. How wonderful is the predestining work of God to save sinners like me! How unworthy I am that He would set loving affection on me when I had turned away so violently. The point of predestination is humility before the throne of your Maker. I am a ruined sinner before the throne of the Creator! Is this not what conformity to Christ ultimately looks like? Humility? Poverty in spirit? If predestination does not produce this in the life of the believer, it has not been understood in the Scriptural sense. It is meant to squash pride, produce humility, and bring about tears of joy, weeping at the wonder of God's unfathomable mercy in the cross of Christ!
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The Practical Implications of Calvinism - Albert N. Martin 

http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/theo ... Calvinism/

For those of you who claim to be Calvinists (or even if you don't really), this is a must read article. So you're a Calvinist. Alright then: have you seen God, been shocked by His glory and your utter unworthiness before Him, as to why He would have mercy on you through the work of Christ and not another?

Here are some quotes:

"I say by way of application, do not talk about being a Calvinist simply because your itch for logical consistency has been relieved by Calvinism’s theological system. Have you seen God? Have you been brought near to Him? That is the issue. I remind you of the words of B. B. Warfield: ‘A Calvinist is a man who has seen God’."

"The expression, a proud Calvinist, is a misnomer. If a Calvinist is a man who has seen God as He is high and lifted up, enthroned, then he is a man who has been brought to brokenness before that throne as was Isaiah. A carnal Calvinist? Another misnomer! The enthroned One is the holy One, and He dwells in conscious communion with those who are rightly related to Him as the enthroned One and as the holy One. These two things are brought together beautifully in Isaiah 57:15 where the prophet says: ‘Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and a humble spirit’. What is contrition? It is the reaction of a sinner in the presence of a holy God; and, what is humility? It is the reaction of a subject in the presence of a sovereign. Isaiah never forgot this vision, and he says, ‘This great God dwells in that high and holy place, with him also that is of a humble and a contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’"

"If your understanding of Calvinistic thinking has led you to the place where you can, as it were, boast in your liberty and use it as an occasion for licence, then you have never become a biblical Calvinist. God makes Calvinists today the same way he made them in Isaiah’s day."

"I submit that a man has no right to speak of being a Calvinist because he can repeat like a parrot phrases brought to him in the great heritage of Reformed literature. He must ask himself, Has the Holy Spirit brought me to this profound sense of God that has worked in me at least in some measure the grace of humility. Has God endowed me with gifts and abilities? if so, what have I that I did not receive? Who makes me to differ? if God has endowed me with gifts and abilities whether intellectual or otherwise, I acknowledge that I have those because a Sovereign upon a throne was pleased to dispense them to me, and the only difference between me and that poor retarded child that moves the pity of my heart, is that He was pleased to make me different. ‘Who maketh thee to differ?’ The man who stands in the presence of a God upon the throne, and who has had this sight and sense of the majesty of God, recognizes that all that he has, has been given. Humility is not diffidence. Humility is that disposition of honest recognition: He is God, I am but a creature. All that I have comes from him and must be rendered to him in praise, and in honour. It will bring with it the submission that we see in Isaiah. He sits upon a throne; I have no rights to assert, but I have the unspeakable privilege of knowing and doing his will. Was not that the reflex action of Isaiah? The Lord is upon the throne; I am the creature. What else can I do but say, ‘Here am I?’"

Here is another excellent quote about the point of Calvinistic doctrine by James White:

"[The Doctrines of Grace] tell us that God is the one who saves, for His own glory, and freely. And they tell us that He does so only through Christ, only on the basis of His grace, only with the perfection that marks everything the Father, Son, and Spirit do. The doctrines of grace separate the Christian faith from the works-based religions of men. They direct us away from ourselves and solely to God's grace and mercy. They destroy pride, instill humility, and exalt God. And that's why so many invest so much time in the vain attempt to undermine their truth. The religions of men maintain authority over their followers by 1) limiting God's power, 2) exalting man's abilities, and 3) 'channeling' God's power through their own structures. A perfect salvation that is freely bestowed by God for His own glory is not a 'system' that can be controlled by a religious body or group. And even more importantly, such a system is destructive of any sense of pride in the creature man, and if there is anything man's religions must safeguard, it is man's 'self esteem.'"

Best explanation of Calvinism I have read (Another must read!): http://www.davidwesterfield.net/static. ... =calvinism
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