The End Point of the Five Points 

We in the Reformed community talk incessantly about the Five Points of Calvinism like there is no tomorrow (from here on referred to simply as the Five Points). I'm even doing that in this blog post in fact. This is not without good reason, but I believe the Five Points themselves, if not kept in proper focus upon the One for whom they are meant to exalt can themselves become a distraction from the end goal: the glory and exaltation of God through Christ in the Gospel of His grace to sinners.

If you want a good summary of the Five Points of Calvinism, here it is: the exaltation of the glory of God's grace (hence why they have also been called the Doctrines of Grace). The Five Points are all Christocentric, that is Christ-centered, as John Hendryx has gone to great lengths to show in recent days in an article he's written, and any one point that is denied breaks the entire cohesiveness of their final point collectively: the exaltation of the glory of God's grace. If this is not kept in mind, we ourselves who claim the name Calvinist can become distracted by debating the finer points of a doctrine (for the sake of intellectual pride) without focusing one tidbit upon the One for whom they are meant to point: Christ and Him alone.

The sole point and purpose of their articulation is to focus our eyes, doctrinally speaking, upon the work of Christ to redeem us that we may find all our joy and satisfaction in Him alone and finally see how great His love really is toward us. All blessings, from conversion, to faith, to sanctification, to being mercifully blessed with enjoying an excellent glass of Pinot noir or a fat Chipotle burrito ... all these and so much more are blood-bought gifts purchased in the cross. However, the Five Points central focus, aim and goal is to look upon God's effective work in Christ to save His people, bring us to Himself in effective power and keep us so that we may not fall away into eternal destruction. Herein lies true love, that God in Christ would give His life for His bride effectively, not potentially.

I want to spend some time showing (as best as possible, by God's grace) how each of the Five Points lift up and exalt the work of Christ, though not necessarily following the traditional TULIP acrostic. This is not necessarily a Scriptural defense of the Five Points, that can be found here: http://www.westerfunk.net/theology/calvinism/ . This is simply a defense of showing how each point exalts the work of Christ to save us. Read More...
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The Calvinistic Resurgence in America - Humbly Thank God, Cease All Boasting 

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/arti ... l.php?1487

"To this reviewer the Reformed Faith means four things. First, there is a love for Martin Luther and what God wrought through him in the amazing re-establishment of the doctrine of justification by faith and clarity about salvation which has its source in the sovereign grace of God and not in the merit of the free will of man. Second, the Reformed Faith is confessional. I subscribe to all the chapters of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, known as the 1689 Confession. That Confession is the legacy of the English Puritans. Third, there is the clarity of the Five Points (TULIP) formulated at the Synod of Dort. Fourth, there is passion. Another word for passion is love. The church at Ephesus was commended for orthodoxy but was running low on love (Rev. 2:1-7). The doctrines of grace mean little if they reside merely in the head and do not live with love and passion in the heart. And if grace rules in the heart we will not be sectarian, cultish, censorious, judgmental or superior to others who are not ruled by grace." Read More...
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Contentment - A Puritan Prayer from The Valley of Vision 

Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love.

When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin's tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labour to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where Thou wilt show Thyself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.
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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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