Believing in Grace or Resting in Grace? 

I have now finished reading John Piper's response to N.T. Wright concerning justification, entitled The Future of Justification. While I could go on about some of the things said in it, there was one particular point that struck me. In critiquing Wright's understanding of first century, Second Temple Judaism, Piper points out that it very well could be (as Wright asserts) that the first century Jews had doctrines speaking of the grace of God toward them and yet in reality were not resting in that very grace to save them, but relying upon their own supposed self-righteousness to make them right before God in the final judgment.

This made me start thinking about how many of us in the Evangelical world believe in the grace of God in Christ (as a nice and even excellent theoretical doctrine for many), but in reality do not rest in that grace provided in Christ, just as the Pharisees did not, according to Jesus Himself. This even makes me consider many of the students in our student ministry who seem (at least outwardly) to have no zeal whatsoever for the things of God. I'm not just talking about a zeal to be "good" and "moral," but a zeal for knowing God more in the Scriptures, seeing His grace in bigger and brighter ways through the work of the cross, and taking that grace to those in our surrounding communities and to our neighbors through missions, ministry work, witnessing, living lives of holiness, ... not just to be good, self-righteous, moral people, but to give God glory through works that please and honor Him. Read More...
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Thoughts on Piper's Book, The Future of Justification - A Partial Review 

In the past, just doing a cursory reading of some of N.T. Wright's statements on justification, I thought that I could at least grasp a basic concept of his understanding of this centrally important piece of the Gospel message. Then I picked up Piper's book. Now I'm even more confused than I was before; I now have some clarity on various points, but I see now I haven't even scratched the surface of where the man is coming from on justification. Wright's comprehensive picture of God's working out salvation in history seems to be coming from a totally different avenue, one the church has never been down in 2000 years. It seems Piper is confused at points to, or sees seemingly contradictory understandings within Wright that he is putting out there at various junctures. While reading Piper's critique and seeing quotes of Wright's, I think to myself, "This is a Catholic understanding of justification," and then at other points, I affirm with Wright that part of his articulation is the traditionally historic Protestant view (i.e. the "Wright" one ... get it? Wow, okay I'll stop ... you knew it had to come, ya know, a pun ... okay I'm digging a hole).

Things became much clearer tonight though as I continued reading (as much as it can in waters already muddied by a whole new articulation of a super vital doctrine that has never once appeared in all of church history). One of the things that has really come to bear in my understanding of Wright on justification is the way in which he distinguishes present and future justification. I have never even considered these as two separate, yet related doctrines (nor do I at this point still, just so I'm clear ... I believe I'm justified now and will be in the future on the same basis, Christ alone). In the present, says Wright, we are justified by faith alone, knowing that all Christ has overcome and achieved is ours, or in other words, the verdict is in: we are His and have been made His by Christ. Okay that's comforting. Here it comes though ... yet future justification, the justification yet to occur at the judgment seat of God, is faith and the entire life lived in love as a confirmation of true, authentic saving faith. Confused? Read More...
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The Porpoise-Driven Life: A Little Cynical But Not Untruthful 

Even our Catholic friends see through much of the marketed, profit-driven nonsense that drives so much of Evangelicalism now, which is now a far cry from the faith recovered during the Reformation:


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A Promise of God's Effective Grace to His People 

"For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land." - Ezekiel 34:11-13

Our God is not just a God who sits and waits for sinners to return to Him of themselves, but is One who goes out to find them, seeks them in power, who turns their hearts and their wills (being that they are dead in trespasses and sins), and brings them to Himself. Our God is not a God who just longs and desires for His people to be saved, but who actively goes out and saves them, through and through, from beginning to end, knowing they can do nothing of themselves, being utterly lost and ruined in sin.

In the New Testament, we then have the fulfillment of the verses from Ezekiel in Jesus when he says in John 6:39: "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." Jesus has saved His people on the cross, sealed in the resurrection, and it was an effective work, not a potential one. He Saved His people, He didn't just make them savable. And Jesus shall lose none of those people given to Him by the Father from before the foundation of the world. What a hope!

It is promises like these and the assured hope within them which give those of us believing in Christ the power to live in holiness, lives pleasing to Him. And it is promises like these in which the Lord gives us grace when we turn from Him in sin. He is the source of our salvation, but also the source of our sanctification, or progressive holiness, that is, being made closer into His image and likeness. Apart from His working in us to will and to work for His good pleasure, we can do nothing correctly in any way that pleases Him.

This promise is our hope in evangelism and missions of all kinds. We preach the Gospel through truth and actions, through Scripture and changed lives reflecting the image of God out to the world; and then God, in power, uses that as He sees fit to bring those He's chosen to save to faith, creating in them that which was not there: belief. God is the One who works to change people's hearts to believe the Gospel and He will save His people. And our hope in evangelism is that He will use our witnessing, teaching and preaching to save His lost sheep, whom He's appointed us to gather from among the nations, and down the street. Praise God for His effective grace! As a result, I can only echo with Paul, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36) That is the message of God's effective grace, that it comes from Him alone, it is through Him alone in Christ, and it is all for His glory alone.
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Unconditional Election - What Does It Mean? - Dr. James White 


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The Unreachable Demands of the Law of God 

"For whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law." - James 2:10-11

Our culture is strongly opposed to any idea of eternal judgment, wrath, torment, and separation from God because of wrong deeds we have done. Most people would say, "Sure I've done wrong things. But I'm no Hitler. I've raised my family well, I've provided for them, I've helped the homeless, helped orphans even; I've given to charities, I've given to church. Sure I've done wrong things in my life, haven't we all? But surely those good things in my life will outweigh the bad, right? Surely the Lord or Saint Peter or whoever will let me through the pearly gates because I'm basically a good person."

When weighing our worthiness to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it is natural for all of us to instantly begin comparing and sizing ourselves up to others around us or in history. We then deceive ourselves into thinking that since we personally don't see anything possibly worthy of eternal condemnation and punishment, then it must not be so in reality, objectively, outside of us. Yet, when weighing our worthiness or unworthiness, the Scriptures say nothing of the comparison of ourselves to others, but rather it compares us in relation to God and Him alone. Do you want to truly weigh your holiness (or lack thereof)? Then weigh it against the infinite holiness and majesty of God. Here is the place where you will see how far you fall short.

Now the unfortunate thing is that we have no ability naturally of ourselves to see the holiness and righteousness of God with which to compare ourselves to begin with, because we are spiritually blind and in fact we are, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). But that is why the Lord gave us the Scriptures, so that He can sovereignly reveal Himself, by His Spirit alone. We must wait on Him and His illumination though. Read More...
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Calvin: Man's Spiritual Blindness Shown From John 1:4-5 

"But we are drunk with the false opinion of our own insight and are thus extremely reluctant to admit that it is utterly blind and stupid in divine matters. Hence, it will be more effective, I believe, to prove this fact by Scriptural testimonies than by reasons. John very beautifully teaches it in a passage that I have previously quoted; he writes that: "Life was in God from the beginning and that life was the light of men; this light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not" [John 1:4-5]. He shows that man's soul is so illumined by the brightness of God's light as never to be without some slight flame or at least a spark of it; but that even with this illumination it does comprehend God. Why is this? Because man's keenness of mind is mere blindness as far as the knowledge of God is concerned. For when the Spirit calls men "darkness," he at once denies them any ability of spiritual understanding. Therefore he declares that those believers who embrace Christ are "born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" [John 1:13]. This means: Flesh is not capable of such lofty wisdom as to conceive God and what is God's, unless it be illumined by the Spirit of God. As Christ testified, the fact that Peter recognized him was a special revelation of the Father [Matt. 16:17]."

- John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2 of the Institutes, pgs. 278

All that to say: Regeneration precedes Faith and any understanding of spiritual things at all. God must open our eyes, our ears, open our minds and hearts if we are to ascend to the demands for understanding, true spiritual illumination, faith, and repentance in the Scriptures. What God commands of us He gives in Jesus Christ, including the very faith and knowledge to believe in Him. Therefore, anyone attempting to ascend to understand God of himself and his own devices will completely fail in this endeavor, for knowledge about God is revealed by God Himself. Darkness cannot reveal and ascent to the light. Rather the light illumines the darkness and causes it to flee from its presence. So it is with the Lord.
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Calvin: Science as God's Gift 

"Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn and reproach the Spirit himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity? Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how preeminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts. Those men whom Scripture, calls 'natural men' were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled if its true [spiritual] good."

- John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2 of the Institutes, pgs. 273-74

Isn't it amazing how something granted to man as a gracious and merciful gift (to sinners even) could be taken and used in the service of defaming and ruining His name and honor nowadays? One more example of the total depravity of man.
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Quotes from Calvin's Institutes 

I've been reading through John Calvin's magnum opus on the Christian faith lately, a piece of writing (whether people realize it or not nowadays) that has been one the biggest influences on the theological thinking of the evangelical Protestant church. I just wanted to share some choice quotes I have found recently and thought they might be encouraging to you.

"Whoever then heeds such teachers as hold us back with thought only of our good traits will not advance in self-knowledge, but will be plunged into the worst ignorance."

"Here then is what God requires us to seek in examining ourselves: it requires the kind of knowledge that will strip us of all confidence in our own ability, deprive us of all occasion for boasting, and lead us to submission."

"Nothing pleases man more than the sort of alluring talk that tickles the pride that itches in his very marrow. Therefore in nearly every age when anyone publicly extolled human nature in most favorable terms, he was listened to with applause."

"... But it does nothing but delight in its own sweetness; indeed, it so deceives as to drive those who assent to it into utter ruin."

- John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 1 of the Institutes, pgs. 242-43

"If there is no good in us, if man is wholly sin from head to foot, if he is not even allowed to test how far the power of the will can be effective - how could anyone possibly parcel out the credit for good works between God and man?"

"Whoever is utterly cast down and overwhelmed by the awareness of his calamity, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace has thus advanced farthest in knowledge of himself."

"If it is the devil's word that exalts man in himself, let us give no place to it unless we want to take advice from our enemy."

"We should not rely on any opinion of our own strength, however small it is, if we want God to be favorable toward us, Who 'opposes the proud but gives grace to the meek.' [James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5]"

"These [passages] testify that no one is permitted to receive God's blessings unless he is consumed with the aware of his own poverty [before Him]." (My insertions for clarification)

- John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2 of the Institutes, pgs. 267-68

If you want to get this, the best version is the one edited by John T. McNeill which you can buy here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/Institute ... 16211.html . An amazing gift to the church!
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An Example of the Nonsense Plaguing Evangelicalism - Pyromarketing 

(Original): http://www.challies.com/archives/articl ... ting-a.php
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/chri ... en%20Life/

A friend of mine posted this link under an item I posted recently on Facebook and so I thought it was pertinent to read in itself. It seems secular marketers have moved more and more into the Christian publishing market, and as a result, we are receiving what we "want" to read based on statistical analysis, not necessarily what we need to be reading as believers. We need to take it back for the glory of God, not the glory of profit. www.monergismbooks.com is a great place to start.

It's not wrong to make money off of a venture in the Christian publishing industry. However, is that the driving motivation for your business? Or is it getting good literature into people's hands so they will grow in the faith? Pyromarketing techniques in evangelicalism are watering down the Gospel to where there is really no Gospel left at all that resembles anything of what the Scriptures say, or at the very least a three deep reiteration.

I would also like to add as a disclaimer that I do not believe Warren's book has done no good at all, because it is very likely some people read it who never would have read anything even remotely Christian who then later had a better explanation of the Gospel than Warren's at their local church (hopefully). So we have no idea what individuals may have been affected. To presume to know so is nonsense.

Now I would also say, along with Paul Washer, that those who say, "But I was saved through that method," that you weren't saved through it but probably in spite of it, because many of these methods have so butchered and skewed the Gospel that is beyond recognition of what the Scriptures actually say.

Regardless, this article exposes an area in our Christian culture that possesses an increasingly worldly modus operandi that really is anything but Christian if the Christian publishing companies are all about profit instead of growing people in Christ.
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