Drinking Deeply

Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 1:10 PM

Lord's Day 2

Q. How do you come to know your miserable condition?
A. The law of God tells me.

Q. What does God's law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22: "'You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your minds [and with all your strength].' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 10:14 PM

Defining "free"

Ok, so the post I've been sort of planning for a week or two. I'm not going to go through every single verse I'm presenting here, but if someone requests I can. They should be read in context, but the context doesn't change their universal truths.

A couple biblical definitions of the word "free."

1) Freewill offerings - offerings that were not obligatory in the OT Law. This does not include tithing or sin offerings. In this case freewill offerings are given free from the moral obligations of the law.
Exodus 35

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.
2) free from sin (or free from righteousness)- A release from bondage. No longer considered a slave, but free. A slave was bound to his master. As we were slaves to sin, we were bound to sin, and sin reigned in our bodies.
John 8

31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 33They answered him, "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?"

34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave[b] to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."

Prior to our conversion, we were indeed free. We were free from righteousness and a slave to sin. Our minds were set on the flesh and we were unable to please God.
Romans 6

20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 8

7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 14


23But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Hebrews 11

6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Finally, there is the "free-will" that is spoken of by Arminians and Calvinists.

Eh, I'm tired. I'll cover that tomorrow.

Vincent Cheung - Freewill Offerings

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 1:42 PM

Reading Deeply

It's been a while for one of these posts, mostly because I've been busy and haven't been reading as many blogs as I used to.

But here are some good articles that have crossed my path:

CoffeeSwirls thinks we should fire our youth pastor. I agree. The comments section is insightful as well.

The A-Team blog posts on the need for men to be in charge because they are better equipped to seek justice rather than be empathetic. The post is by a woman. I thought it was particularly interesting.

Reformation Theology posts on the sovereignty of God. It ends with this quote by C.H. Spurgeon:

"There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation - the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands - the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by world-lings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne." - C. H. Spurgeon

Pyromaniac has stopped blogging... and restarted a group blog Pyromaniacs. I'm excited to see what they come up with. Check out this post on Lone Ranger Christians. And as I was typing up this post, they came out with another one on Satanic compassion.

9 Marks Ministries reviews Blue Like Jazz. Tough call. Something sounds overly harsh about the review, but I agree with it.

Reflections of the Times shares a story proclaiming God's sovereignty and grace in the midst of pain.
If it takes these painful attacks for Him to get my attention and bring me to my knees, then so be it. Oddly enough, I have a closer fellowship with Him in those times, than in my daily prayer time. I suspect you can all understand why.

See that graphic down there? To God be the glory. And amen.
I'm reading Piper's "The Passion of Jesus Christ." Insightful and biblical. Humbling and convicting.

Here's a question to throw out there for the thinkers:

As people who have been born again, saved by grace, no longer slaves to sin, is it appropriate to refer to ourselves as sinners? For it is no longer sin that defines us, but Christ. No? Yes? Thoughts? Overthinking? What does the Bible say?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 11:35 PM

Assent vs. Trust

A friend sent me this on Assent vs. Trust. I thought it was informative so I'd pass it on.

He wrote:
For me, the difference is between words and actions. I would say that assent is a verbal (or mental-verbal) acknowledgement of a proposition, whereas trust is acting as if that proposition was true. So suppose the proposition in question is “I will not fall if I step off this cliff.” Assenting to that proposition would look like me saying, “I will not fall if I step off this cliff.” In that situation trust, as opposed to assent, would look like stepping off the cliff. Similarly, if I assent to some proposition of Christ’s, I will say that it is true or acknowledge it as true if questioned. But trusting that proposition entails doing something.

That seems to be a fair distinction. As to how it meshes with my personal "knowledge vs. belief" idea, it looks like I do not see a distinction between assent and trust. Namely, if I assent to a proposition (truly), then I will live in a manner consistent with that belief. An example of this would be if I told you that hamburgers were poisonous but continued to eat them daily. I suspect after a little bit people would doubt the validity of my assent (or knowledge, maybe I thought poisonous meant "very good tasting").

As to whether this is supported in Scripture, I think I would point to James 2, where James makes the distinguishment that faith without works is dead. This is in contrast to faith which works in love. It seems to be drawing the line between knowledge and belief. One person believes in God (which even demons do), but one person has faith working out in love. This seems analogous to our knowledge vs. belief. (though I must confess the terminology is a little mixed up. Maybe I should change my terms).

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Monday, January 23, 2006 at 12:36 AM

Lord's Day 1

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such redemption.

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Friday, January 20, 2006 at 1:05 PM

Love thy neighbor

The third question on the docket is "love."

I asked "What does it mean to love your neighbor?"

I think Eric's response is pretty close to the money. He said "seek what is good for other people."

But unfortunately, many people do not quite have that same impression. Love, to them, is an emotion. Love, to them, is a passion. To love their neighbor means that they "like alot" or "care about."

Now, I'm not saying that love does not include those things. Surly when David writes "Oh how I love your law!" in Psalm 119:97 it is an expression of devotion and passion. But notice this love does not stop there, for he follows it up immediately with "It is my meditation all the day." in that same verse.

Love is not only an emotion, it's also an action. When God commands us to "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength," He's not just saying "feel affectionate towards God." Surely there is a delighting in God, but there is also something that demonstrates that delight is true. That thing is action. This means not offering up our bodies as slaves to sin, this means meditating on whatever is true and noble, the decrees of God.

In Luke 10 we have the parable of the good Samaritan. I want to focus on one thing here.
25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."

29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
v. 29 sets our context. The lawyer had just answered his own question correctly. The thing to do to inherit eternal life is to love the Lord with everything and love our neighbor as ourself. But to the lawyer there still was issues. Much in the same way we try to get out of commands binding upon on consciences by redefining the terms or saying that the context doesn't apply to us, the lawyer is seeking to get out of that command somehow by restricting it. "Who is my neighbor?" he asks.

As a side note, it is necessary to properly determine the context in order to apply some commands. We don't avoid touching a football. Why is that? But at the same time, there is a lot that applies though we don't want it to because we're sinful.

One thing he does have over people like you and I is when we redefine terms, we often don't ask the right people. We do it ourselves, we ask other people that will give us answers we like, and so on.

Our lawyer asks the right person. He asks Jesus. We must do the same thing. "What does the Bible say?" This may mean asking our pastor, checking commentaries, doing in depth Bible studies, and so on.

30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

How does Jesus respond? He tells us a parable. There are a lot of really good insights to this parable, but I want to focus on his answer. What question does he answer? "Who is being a neighbor?" (v. 36) The lawyer expected Jesus to restrict the definition of neighbor but rather Jesus focuses on what? On what "love" is. Love is being a neighbor. How do we do this? We act as "the one who showed him mercy." We love our neighbors not just by feeling sorry for them and praying for them, but we care for them, binding their wounds, feeding them, and clothing them, especially when they are in need.

Just as faith without works is dead, one could make the claim that love without works is dead. (In fact, it would seem that James is addressing that very point!). Love is patient, love is kind... these are all actions, and not emotions. In fact, I think I could make a strong argument that the love expressed in the Bible does not have to include this "emotional" aspect to it, but rather is a policy of action towards someone. But that would probably take far too long, so as now I will simply leave my point as proven that love must include action.

But guess what? Yeah, we need the Gospel. We, on our own, cannot love. We are born sinful from birth, longing for our own desires. We wake up and we are selfish. No baby is born and desires to honor their parents! No, they want milk. At 3AM no less. You, I, all of us.

But there is hope. There is hope, not because we can somehow change ourselves, but because there is a God who can transform us from the inside out. A radical (from the root) transformation. When Jesus tells us "now go and do likewise," all we can do is confess, "God, I can't. I'm selfish. I run away from them, from you. I need help. I need to be raised from the dead" and God has promised that those who call upon Him will be saved. God can and does enable us to act in love. To seek to put others above ourselves, so that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.

So seek God. We can love because He first loved us. If you don't know this love, this saving love that frees us from the sin that dwells within our hearts, you're dead and unable to please God. If you think you do, remind yourself of it daily, for it is only in looking back to the cross are we able to serve God with the Spirit of Him who dwells in us.

One final note, right after the good Samaritan is Martha and Mary. This serves to illustrate one key thing. You see, Martha was trying to be a neighbor to Jesus. She was trying to serve him, to cook and clean for him. But Jesus rebukes her and says one thing is necessary, and that is to sit at his feet and be his disciple. What does this mean for us? It means that theology is primary. It means that our study of God is our greatest act of love for God. Now, this love is not true love without showing fruit in actions, but it is the one thing necessary.

Adrian Warnock has similar thoughts.

Vincent Cheung has an exposition on the one thing needed.

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at 12:10 AM

Grace vs. Mercy

Sometimes people make the claim that grace is distinct from mercy by defining it as:

"Mercy is witholding something you deserve and grace is giving something you don't deserve."

But if one really thinks about, they pretty much amount to the same thing.

Mercy is withholding justice from someone, Grace is giving that person freedom from judgment.

Is this right?

Anyways, it seems pretty indistinguishable in the Bible for me. They also seem closely affiliated with peace, which lead me to guess that all three are the same. For proof examine the biblegateway searches for:

Grace+Mercy

Grace+Mercy+Peace


Pretty much the same verses. It's not like they're key to understanding anything though. Probably no real theological issues (like the heart/head one) at risk here, but I think it's always good to think about common things being said in the Christian community. Some of it seems harmless (this one would be an example) some of it is not.

Of course, if they are distinguishable, that should be fairly clear from comparing some verses. Someone willing to step up to the plate?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 10:31 PM

Head vs. Heart

Oftentimes people talk about the "head knowledge vs. heart knowledge" comparison. The question in the table is "is this Biblical?"

I think Eric got a good answer when he said, "In Matthew he says that in many cases their doctrine is quite correct, and the trouble is that they don't do what they preach. He doesn't use the words "head" and "heart," but isn't that a classic case of what we mean by "head" knowledge vs. "heart" knowledge?"

Yes, that seems to be how we as Christians oftentimes talk about "head" vs. "heart," (though the caution would be that the Sermon on the Mount was about how they completely got everything turned around, so it seems that they lacked even "head" knowledge then).

One thing I do want to point out is that man in the Bible is not head, heart, and body, but rather is head and body. This is, in some regards, a terminology issue, but I will explain why it's important later. To prove my point:

Some resources:(http://bibletools.org//index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.default/alpha/A)

Heart
(From Easton's Bible Dictionary)

According to the Bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. "Heart" and "soul" are often used interchangeably (Deuteronomy 6:5; 26:16; Compare Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30,33), but this is not generally the case.

5. Heart and Mind:
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

As the central organ in the body, forming a focus for its vital action, it has come to stand for the center of its moral, spiritual, intellectual life. "In particular the heart is the place in which the process of self-consciousness is carried out, in which the soul is at home with itself, and is conscious of all its doing and suffering as its own" (Oehler). Hence, it is that men of "courage" are called "men of the heart"; that the Lord is said to speak "in his heart" (Genesis 8:21); that men "know in their own heart" (Deuteronomy 8:5); that "no one considereth in his heart' (Isaiah 44:19 the King James Version). "Heart" in this connection is sometimes rendered "mind," as in Numbers 16:28 ("of mine own mind," Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) ex proprio corde, Septuagint ap' emautou); the foolish "is void of understanding," i.e. "heart" (Proverbs 6:32, where the Septuagint renders phrenon, Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) cordis, Luther "der ist ein Narr"). God is represented as "searching the heart" and "trying the reins" (Jeremiah 17:10 the King James Version). Thus, "heart" comes to stand for "conscience," for which there is no word in Hebrew, as in Job 27:6, "My heart shall not reproach me," or in I Samuel 24:5, "David's heart smote him"; compare I Samuel 25:31. From this it appears, in the words of Owen: "The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil."

~~~

Ok, having proven that the heart is equivalent to the head in Scripture, I want to answer the question: "Why is this important?"

A couple of reasons:

1) A head = heart perception allows us to realize something important about the link between emotions and thoughts, and that is that emotions are part of our thinking process. We should be as much in control of our emotions as we are of our thoughts. In fact, if you consider it, extreme emotion (like rage) in a human (it's different in God) is actually a problem of thought.

Lets take rage as this example for man.

Say I'm really angry at someone. Maybe I discovered that my wife was cheating on me or something like that. I, in my fit of rage, decide to buy a gun and shoot her. I later regret that decision, having been caught, thrown in jail, tried, and executed. To top it off God says He's going to judge every single work, so unless I excercise saving faith in Jesus Christ as my only savior, I'm going to be eternally punished for that as well as other sins.

This probably was not the most rational system of thought. One such possibility (which is more rational at least) is to realize that she will be judged for her adultery, in this world as well as the next, and trust in God when He says "vengeance is mine, I will repay."

Thus my rage demonstrates itself in a failure of logic. Instead of trusting God's promises, I doubt Him and take the law into my own hands.

Now, with God this isn't the same, since God isn't controlled by emotion, but rather He controls emotion, which is the same policy we should excercise toward emotion.

2) Being Biblical is important. If all of Scripture is useful for equiping for every good work, then knowing the Bible and living the Bible is important for every good work. As we learn more from Scripture, it, being God's Word, teaches us more about the nature and character of God. This is a knowledge that is of great importance.

To understand properly the connection between the head and the heart (namely that they are the same thing) opens the floodgates to understanding many passages that often seem very "emotional/spiritual" but in reality are highly intellectual in nature. "Open the eyes of my heart" is a common prayer and a fairly well known song, but little do they know that the verse is from Ephesians 1:
6I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
What is this actually a petition for? Not just a prayer of devotion, but a prayer asking God to give us knowledge. To have a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knolwedge of God. To know the hope to which he has called us, which are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. To know the greatness of God's power for those who believe... the verse continues and it is a prayer for knowledge.

So now the question is, "but what about those people that know God is faithful, but don't really believe it?"

Now, this is typically what we call the "head/heart" distinction. But notice that there aren't really "emotions" involved as we would expect, but rather it's a problem of "belief."

The distinction the Reformers drew (they affirmed the dichotomy [two parts] of man) was between knowledge, assent, and trust. Now, I don't see a difference between "assent" and "trust," but that may be because I never had them formally defined, so let me give my perspective.

There is a difference between cognitive "knowledge" that states "The Bible says that God is faithful and works all things out for His glory" and a belief that lives that out, trusting God with his very life, ascribing to God all good like Job.

The difference is in the head. One is just repeating of words absent meaning, but the other is words lived and acted. Faith, biblical faith, is the same as "belief" and "trust" as I understand it. It plays itself out in works, though it is aquired (supernaturally) through words and teaching. This is the same with "knowledge." Do we live it out? or do we just repeat words?

Yes, we will always have that "I believe, but help my unbelief!" problem. The solution is not to try to look within ourselves to see if we can dig up within our "heart" the answers. The solution is twofold -

1) knowledge of Scripture. Sometimes the problem is simply that we don't know enough to have faith. We don't know that God promises that all things will work for those whom he has chosen. We don't know that God will not withold any good thing. Or maybe we've forgotten. We do need to constantly preach to ourselves. "Why are you downcast oh my soul? Do you not remember that God is faithful and will deliver us? Has delivered us?"

2) The cross - Through the cross, we are given the blessing of the Holy Spirit. With that knowledge, we need God to apply it to our minds, to convict our minds and bring us to places of repentance and faith, which results in a life that trusts God. This is what the Spirit does for us, and that is one of the many spiritual blessings we have in our war against sin for God's glory.

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at 1:13 AM

A quick post

Got back from Resolved. It was great. God is great. Biblical preaching, convicting power... simply awesome. But anyway, not much time to post, (and I want to get to those questions) so here's an email I sent off to a friend a while ago.

I went back and looked at it and am now wondering: Is this biblical? Most of it is, but there is some that seems "pragmatic" or "nice thought" but may not really be biblical. What do you guys think?

I'm writing to encourage a friend to pray aloud, especially at the end of our officer meetings and I write:

1) Prayer aloud encourages other people to pray themselves along.

I cannot mention how much having someone else's prayer to guide my prayers have helped me not only to formulate my own prayers but help me remember what to pray for later on my own.
2) Prayer aloud opens other people to our burdens

Oftentimes in our prayers we pray about what has been on our hearts. This oftentimes broadens my perspective a great deal. When I pray on my own, I oftentimes pray for the same things over and over.

3) Prayer aloud forces us to think about what we're praying for and to say it.

Sometimes it's difficult to think and we end up just "praying" blanks. Truly, God does know our hearts better than we do ourselves, and he does listen to the Holy Spirit as it interceeds for us in groans too deep for words, but when we pray, it challenges us as well. It reminds us what we are seeking (God), and brings us to remember what He is doing. When we pray "blanks" there is no such challenge, and it's all too easy to just let things slide.

4) Prayer encourages the one we're praying for if they're there

There is nothing more encouraging than to know that people are interceeding with the Almighty on our behalf.

Some reasons not to pray aloud:


1) Preaching

We aren't preaching when we pray, we're not calling down condemnation out of pride and a desire to be proven right, we're coming before a Holy God, and that posture should be in humbleness

2) Desire for recognition

Christ's words are sufficient for this

Matthew 6

5"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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Friday, January 13, 2006 at 12:03 PM

Some questions to think about

I'll post on these in the future, but...

1) Everyone talks about the head vs. heart knowledge. But what is "knowledge"? Does the Bible support a distinction between the "head" and "heart" knowledge? Does the Bible support a distinction between the "head" and "heart"?

2) We also often make a distinction between "grace" and "mercy." Does the Bible make such a distinction?

3) What does the Bible mean when it says, "love your neighbor"?

4) Define the term "free" in "free will"? Since we are free from something to do another thing, what are we "free" from? to?

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at 12:00 PM

Spiritual warfare

This is really rough but I figured I wanted to post once more before I go to Resolved.

One topic that came up a lot at the camp was the topic of spiritual warfare. One person mentioned that he had seen spirits floating around and it had physically attacked him at night. Soon afterwards many people in the rooms mentioned that they were all really tied and felt like they were being attacked by demons. What follows is my personal position (which I am convinced by Scripture of) upon the topic of spiritual warfare.

Most of the focus for many people on the aspect of spiritual warfare is on demon possession and oppression. People talk about waking up being completely unable to move but still conscious. Let me state right now at the outset that this isn’t the main area of spiritual warfare, but I will address it.

While I believe all of this is possible and I am certainly not about to argue with a person who says that he feels like he’s being oppressed by demons or spiritually attacked, let me reaffirm that it is God who is in complete control over all aspects of creation, and this includes Satan. Satan needs God’s permission in order to do anything. Thus we, as Christians, have absolutely nothing to fear on the physical side of things. While we may be in danger of some physical attack, we are confident that God is working for His glory, and thus we can call upon Christ’s name in faith and cast out any and all physical manifestation of Satan.

But at the same time, there is no hope for the unbeliever. Remember the story in Acts 19)

13Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims." 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" 16And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

They did not know Jesus, and thus had no faith in order to resist Satan. What happened? Certainly nothing good!

But for us who are being saved, we are given authority over demons, not on the basis of what we have done, but on the basis of Christ and His abiding presence.

The end of Mark reads: 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Ephesians 1 reads as well: 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Christ is over all. Every name, every power, for all time. Christ is above and in authority over everything, and now we, as Christ’s children are under the shelter of His wings.

This does not mean that Satan will not succeed at all, but it means that all things that Satan does is directly under God’s authority, and by God’s active permission. Satan cannot do anything (and this includes exist) without God’s active workings in him. There is no possibility of evil triumphing over good in this battle. Evil exists only by good’s permission.

But let me tell you a secret. And it’s not a secret, it’s very obvious, but the problem with most churchgoers today is that their conception of “spiritual warfare” is this physical battle. Somehow there are demons that patrol the areas, looking for people to possess. This is completely without a stitch of biblical warrant. Nowhere does anyone in the Bible do battle with demons possessing land or hounding an area. Rather, spiritual warfare occurs primarily on the intellectual realm.

There are many verses that support such a view, but I will give two with a quick reference to one of Piper’s sermons in support of a third.

Ephesians 2:1-10)

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Notice who we were following: the prince of the power of the air. This is better known as Satan. Who is he at work at today? Sons of disobedience. But the key here is in what way did we follow him? We followed the course of this world. We lived in the passions of our flesh. We carried the desires of the body and mind.

Our war with Satan occurs with our sinful nature. We used to follow Satan, we sinned grievously, but now by God’s grace we are freed from that. This is what we now oppose. This is what we now are at war against. Not some mystical spirits that oppress us physically, but we are at war against sin.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

This is talking about true spiritual warfare. We aren’t waging war according to the flesh, aka we don’t fight with swords and guns, but we wage war with the weapons of divine power (see Ephesians 6) to destroy strongholds. These aren’t spiritual little buildings that demons occupy in the air, but these are strongholds in your minds . What does the rest of the passage say? We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. True spiritual warfare is on the intellectual realm. When someone struggles with pride, money, lust, they are waging war against Satan. When someone is atheistic, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, they are a son of disobedience, under the hand of Satan. This is what we war against.

But we may ask “there is no hope! For Satan is everywhere!” Yes, there is no hope for man. Man on his own is sinful and lost, but we as Christians are given the power of God. We carry our shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is stronger than any force Satan can muster and will intellectually annihilate all non-Christian worldviews.

Finally, John Piper made an excellent observation in one of his sermons, where he said something to the following, “The problem isn’t Satan, it’s sin. Satan doesn’t damn anyone. God damns people. Our sin damns us. This is why Paul spends sixteen chapters of Romans warring with sin before he finally mentions Satan in one offhand remark.”

20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

So how do we do spiritual warfare?

1) Recognize it for what it is. It is actually a mark of spiritual warfare that has blinded most of us to the truth that Satan is out to get our minds and not our bodies. As people focus more and more on the physical, they lose the big picture, that spiritual warfare is a war over your soul.

2) Pray. God is sovereign and it is His hand that protects us from Satan.

3) Preach. It is the wisdom of God that will ultimately destroy the foolishness of man. As we take thoughts captive and demolish arguments, Satan will lose his stronghold upon man, which is all happening in accordance to God’s sovereign plan.

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Monday, January 09, 2006 at 5:17 PM

Immanuel - God with us (and against you)

I came across an interesting sequence of passages today and it blew me away. Looking at the prophecies about Immanuel, I always used it in a "comforter" term. "Do not fear, for God's name is Immanuel, God is with us." Indeed, that is one of the aspects of the name, but the other aspect is one that the text showed me today, namely that of God as warrior.

Isaiah 7:14;18
14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

18In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.
The prophecy. (Now, it's interesting to look at how the NT sees this prophecy vs. how the OT does. It is, I admit, something that I do not quite understand completely, but I will bypass that for now) God will be comfortor. He will call those from far away and they will live in areas previously uninhabitable. But then...

Isaiah 8:9-10
9Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
10Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.
God is with us... Does that remind us of something? "Immanuel" again! But what is the context this time? God is not just our comforter, but He is our warrior. He stands against the nations that plot in vain. They will be broken.

We see another echo of this in the prophecies of Isaiah 9, some of my favorite passages:

Isaiah 9:6-7
6For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

What is this? A promise of God's reign, a time of of peace established and upheld with justice and with righteousness. But what does it come with?

Isaiah 9:7-12.

8The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
and it will fall on Israel;
9and all the people will know,
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10"The bricks have fallen,
but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
but we will put cedars in their place."
11But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
and stirs up his enemies.
12The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.
A promise of judgment against all the unrighteous. A promise that God, though He is the prince of peace, is also a vengeful and angry God, that when He says His name will be called Immanuel, it means "God is with us" and it also implies that "God is against you."

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Sunday, January 08, 2006 at 5:56 PM

John 6:35-71

John 6:35-71
35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And 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. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Look at v. 37: “37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” - What happens first? God gives us to Christ first. What happens next? We come to Christ. What is the promise? Christ will not lose anyone that comes to Him (v. 39)
41So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
v. 44 is another good one: “44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – What precedes us coming? God’s drawing (this is translated “drag” elsewhere in Acts I believe). It is God’s drawing that causes us to come to God, not our coming to God that causes God to draw us.

Now, the argument goes that God has drawn all people, and it’s up to them to make the choice. I will address that below.
45It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
v. 45-46) Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Notice the unconditioned “Everyone” in v. 45. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me (Jesus). But then Jesus qualifies it by saying that in fact it’s an “if and only if,” namely that everyone who is from God has seen God.

So now how can we possibly say that Jesus is talking about the universal call? Clearly Jesus is talking only of those that actually have come to Him. They have heard and learned from the Father, from Jesus Christ. He’s not pleading with these people “oh, please, come!” but rather he is making a matter of fact statement, “You can only come if God lets you.” But Jesus makes it more explicit later on.
52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." 59Jesus[c] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
I must digress a little bit, because this passage has been a source of controversy between Catholics and Christians. Catholics claim that this passage institutes the physical presence of the body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. A few things to note:

Jesus does not mention the Lord’s Supper in the passage, He talks about election and coming to Christ. This is clear from reading the passage.

Examine v. 54 in contrast with v. 40 :
v. 40) everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
v. 54) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
The parallels are obvious. Jesus is talking about a spiritual action of looking and believing, rather than some physical action of eating and drinking.

One final thing is that in order for Catholics to use this passage as they claim, they need to establish 1) Jesus is talking about the Lord’s Supper. 2) Jesus is talking about physically eating rather than spiritually and 3) Jesus meant the words for the future rather than for now.

To date I don't believe a single Catholic is able to do all three.

Now, what does the passage really say? Well, from the context it is clear that Jesus talking about who will end up coming to God, and He is drawing parallels, calling himself the bread of life and contrasting the eternal life that he gives from those who eat him (believe), with the temporary life that the manna from heaven that Moses provided. We must also understand it in the context of election, namely that those that God drags will eventually come to faith in Jesus Christ. They will come to Him and eat and never be hungry, drink and never be thirsty.
60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Notice how many of his disciples responded. They rejected Jesus and walked away! Jesus is not ashamed of the Gospel. Jesus is not ashamed of offending people. In fact, it would seem that He incited this! He gave them the hard lecture and caused them to turn away. Would we as Christians not be ashamed of offending people due to the content of our words, but rather seek to emulate Jesus in preaching the whole Gospel, sure that God will call whom He will call. We are dead, on our own we would reject God, but it is the Spirit who gives life. It is only by God’s grace that our words have any impact. Why do we think if we arranged things properly we’d get better results? No, God’s will stands forever.
64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
Here is the complete rejection of the idea that God draws everyone. If that was true, then the reasoning given in v.64-65 would be completely faulty. Jesus said that God must draw us in order for us to come to him because there were people who weren’t coming to Him! He knows. If it were true that God drew everyone, then Jesus would need another reason to explain why people don’t believe.
66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." 70Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." 71He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
So what was the end result of all of this? Some disciples walked away. So many churches and people today (including my own and me) are afraid of alienating people. Why is that? Are we seeking to please man or to please God?

Is hypocrisy a constant problem? Do you know why? It’s because we have many people who are false converts. People who do not realize that they are sinners. They say one thing with their mouth, and then turn around and deny them. Imagine what would happen if we preached the whole counsel of God, even the difficult ones like sin, hell, and predestination. People would leave in droves! But that neatly solves the huge issue of hypocrisy. Instead of having a lot of false converts pretending to be Christians and being poor witnesses, we’re left with the Remnant, the core, the ones that are convinced that Jesus is the only way, the ones that say “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Now, this doesn’t completely solve it, because Judas is still with Jesus, and Peter will later deny the Lord, but it certainly makes it much easier to deal with!

So repent and believe in Christ. That we are sinners in desperate need of a savior. All our works are but filthy rags in God's eyes. That Christ died for sin, so that all who believe have their sins washed clean. That Christ was raised again, so that we who have died with Christ may now live with Him. That this gift is given by God alone so that we have no work we can do, nothing we can "earn." But the promises are clear, all who come will be saved and raised up at the last day, that is, if the Father has given us and drawn us.

Man is not free, and God is sovereign. Glory to God.

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Friday, January 06, 2006 at 12:23 PM

Reading Deeply

So I'm finally starting to catch up on all the blog posts I've missed while I've been gone.

Some good reads:

Puritan Belief
gives a brief testimony of William Huntington.

9 Digits
discusses how difficult it is to find a Scripture centered life group.

Her brother Frank weighs in on finding Scripture centered fellowship, and uses that as an excellent launching point to remind us of the Goodness of the Gospel.

Godward Thoughts
continues in his series of great thoughts. Two excellent ones: Saved by Keeping the Law and living "distressed yet victorious"

Girltalk is at it again with excellent thoughts on daily living. Oh, and one of them is raising some crazy children. Memorizing psalms at 5? I have enough trouble memorizing verses!

Laura has an excellent post on the emotionalism and voluntarism in contrast with intellectualism.

Steve Camp reposts a post on hope that I linked to in the past, and I'll link to it again.

Tim Challies
points out the fallibility of exercising human judgment on someone's salvation and (in my mind) calls us back to proper church discipline.

Bookwise I had the blessing to take with me a stack of Vincent Cheung books to winter camp, and the only thing I don't like about his writing is that he covers topics I always think of and wonder how I would address (spiritual warfare is coming up) and goes on to give a biblical answer to it. I feel like I'm being handed the answer instead of thinking on my own. Bah.

Whatever the case, I thought Godliness with Contentment was very convicting, Renewing the Mind had a few insightful chapters, Good and Evil was decent, but basically a logic review, The Parables of Jesus was not structured as I expected, but still a good read, and Samson and His Faith was excellent and insightful. They are all only 50-85 pages or so, quick reads if you have an hour by yourself.

Have I mentioned how blessed I have been this week? It's been great meeting with people, sharing the faith, encouraging one another, getting into discussions about all sorts of things. Praise be to God!

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Thursday, January 05, 2006 at 10:42 PM

Ephesians 2:1-10

I bring this passage up in conversations alot. Might as well give an explanation of it. It ties in nicely with "my" (hah, as if I was coming with anything new) ideas on spiritual warfare. I'll get to that... eventually.

Ephesians 2:1-10

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Throughout the Bible there are many places where the Gospel is pretty explicit (and I would claim that the Gospel is implicit pretty much everywhere). This is one of my favorites and I used it for the small group.

The context is relevant, but we can get a basic understanding of this passage without examining it.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

The Gospel always starts out with the bad news: We are sinners. Without that, we cannot possibly understand what the good news is: We are saved.

In Ephesians 2, we start by learning that we are dead. What does it mean that we are dead? It surly does not mean that we are physically dead, for we live and breathe. We can walk around. But what it does mean is that we are spiritually dead. This has two possible meanings. One: We deserve death, for the wages of sin is death. We have sinned. We deserve death. This is certainly true, but I would argue that the verse does not limit itself to that context, but rather it is talking about an active spiritual deadness. We are dead in trespasses and sins, not dead because of trespasses and sins. We followed the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air. We sinned because we were dead.

We followed Satan (well, presumably that’s who the prince of the power of the air is, since he is now at work in the sons of disobedience). We followed the course of this world. Notice as well the strong dichotomy (clear line) being drawn between those who have been saved (presumably the readers of the letter), and those who have not. Follow the world. Sinned. Trespasses. Followed Satan. Sons of disobedience. By nature, children of wrath. We carried out our fleshly desires (our sinful nature). We followed body and mind in sin.

As a side note, I don’t believe the Bible teaches 3 parts to man: head/heart/body but rather two: body and mind aka the physical and the spiritual. This is pretty explicit in many places, but feel free to ask me to defend it.

Notice as well the strong line being drawn. We either are dead or we’re alive. We’re either following Satan or we’re following God. We’re either children of wrath or we’re sons of God.

One final thing this text tells us is that we are not all “sons of God.” In some senses, because God created us all, we are “creations of God.” But the title “son” includes the inheritance, the promises of eternity. In that sense we are either sons of God, or we’re sons of disobedience, and Satan is still at work in those sons of disobedience.

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Now here is one of the most beautiful “but”s in Scripture. We were dead. We sinned. We were by nature children of wrath. But God. What happened? God happened! We didn’t suddenly choose to come to life. God, because of His love, saved us and made us alive. God has saved us by grace. This is a gift. Now, some may argue that one must accept the gift in order for it to have any benefit. I will address that later on.

Now, God could have made us alive and then left us on our own. He doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t have to give us life in the first place. (And in fact, he doesn’t give some people life. We’ll talk about that in Romans 9.) But God, because of His love, being rich in mercy, he not only gives us life in Christ, but “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Not only are we saved from death, but we are granted life. We are raised with him and seated with him. Now, I didn’t talk much about the elevation of Christ which concludes Ephesians 1, but suffice to say that as God is placing (or has placed, depending on your view on the end times) all things under Christ’s control and reign. And we are promised to be with Him. We are adopted as Sons. This is what saves us from being a son of disobedience, but now we are sons of obedience. Not because we obey, but because Christ did.

Why did this happen? So that God might show his grace in kindness toward us in Christ. Ultimately it boils down to being about God again. It is all God. All the time.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Paul hammers home the truth. There is nothing to boast about. By grace (alone, since we are dead) you have been saved through faith (alone, since we are dead). What is this? Not of our own doing (we were dead). It is a gift. We do not earn this thing. There is nothing to boast about.

Now, to address the issue of “needing to accept the gift.” A few points that I think sufficiently refute that argument from this text. 1) We were dead and we followed Satan. If that is true, then if the gift was one we needed to accept, then our spiritual deadness and desire to follow Satan would prevent us from accepting it. 2) There is nothing to boast about. If it is true that we need to accept this gift (and presumably there are people who are given it and reject it), then it would seem that there was something in us to boast about. We were somehow smarter, better-looking, or whatever. Absolutely not. It is clear that in order so that no one may boast, this gift includes the hand that accepts it. Faith is a gift here, which grammatically is defensible from the passage (though I’ll admit it’s ambiguous), as well as explicit in other passages (Acts 16:14, 2 Timothy 2:25 as examples).

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is another one of God’s purposes. We were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Now, we must be clear that it is not the works that makes us righteous before God. It is Christ alone who makes us righteous before God, and it is God who gives that righteousness as a free gift, which includes the faith that takes hold of it. Yet at the same time, good works is the fruit of salvation. If we were saved, then we will produce good works. Not all the time, because we’re still sinners, but there are good works prepared beforehand by God for us to walk in them (do them). The distinction must be made between the fruit (good works) and the cause (faith). To say otherwise would be to retreat to earning God’s good graces. That somehow we had done well enough to please God, that we have something to boast about.

Once again, even with these good works, there is nothing to boast about. We are created for them, they are prepared in advance for us, and it is only by God who saves us by Jesus Christ that we are able to do them at all. When all is said and done, all we can say is “we are but unworthy servants, for we have only done our duty.” But at the same time, God will invite us in to share a meal and His joy for His servants because of His grace.


Are you boasting in your salvation? Are you boasting in your knowledge? Are you boasting in your gifts? Are you boasting that you are better than a non-believer on your own? Don’t, for you were just like them, deserving of wrath. The only reason you’re different is because God did something to you, you didn’t do something for God. There is nothing to boast about and nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. It is one given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, so that God alone would be glorified.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006 at 2:17 PM

Responding to James 1

In dealing with predestination, the question is immediately brought up from James 1:12-13
12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
This would be a short response:

The book of James is very much about practical living (some call it the proverbs of the NT), and often stresses the Christian's responsibility. He is dealing with how a Christian responds to sin rather than addressing metaphysics (the underlying nature of the world). James is saying that our response to struggling with sin should not be "well God is sovereign so we can't do anything about it" and use that to give in to sin, but rather we are to wage war against sin.

Notice if we were to say metaphysically James shows that God could not be the "tempter" (and we should define that term), then James 1 would contradict 1 Kings 22:19–23 ,where God sends a lying spirit to tempt someone, 1 Samuel 16:14–23, 18:10, 19:9, where God sends a spirit to torment Saul, and 2 Samuel 24:1-3, 1 Chronicles 21:1-3, where parallel passages show that God is actually using Satan to cause David to sin

(As a side note, this would how I would answer an appeal to v. 17 as well, pointing out that it isn't talking about the underlying nature of things, since it is God who forms light and creates darkness, per Isaiah 45:7 which is talking about God, his uniqueness, and his sovereignty (aka metaphysics))

Thus the Bible is clear: God is creator and mover. The author and originator of all things (that have a beginning of course, something like "logic","love", "justice" flow from God's nature and thus have no beginning). In all of this, God is just and righteous. He works all things in accordance to His good, pleasing, and perfect will, for the glory of His praise. He uses all things, this includes evil, as part of His plan for His glory. (that is why I would say "evil is not good, but since evil is created and sustained by God, the creation and sustaining of evil is good.") Glory to God.

**edit**

One followup thought. The control I am ascribing to God is much stronger than just tempter, for all a tempter can do is offer up some reward in exchange for some evil. He does not have control over whether or not the person chooses the evil or not. I believe it is God who works in us to choose evil or good. Every choice, foreordained and brought forth by God's sovereign will.

A better answer would be from Vincent Cheung and his book "The Author of Sin." It's the first entry in the pdf.

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at 2:09 PM

Ephesians 1:3-14

Ephesians 1:3-14.

I am not addressing all of Eph. 1, but interpretation of the rest of the passage does not change the interpretation we gain from verses 3-14. I’m not going to be able to touch all of what people have said about these passages, but I do believe God has graced me with a decent understanding of this passage, enough to draw a few insights and to explain a few things. Here goes:
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
A brief note on the context: The letter to the church at Ephesus is written to just that, a church. Thus Paul is addressing the church as Christians. His treatment of non-Christians is a bit harsher and not so uplifting *grins*.

v. 3 begins with blessings. Blessed be God and Father. He has blessed us in Christ (we will soon learn what that means) with “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Examining v. 14 we see that this “spiritual blessing” refers to the giving of the Holy Spirit, and thus we have a blessing based on the Trinity. Father, Son, Spirit.

This gives us a few hints as to how we are to understand a few things. 1) God’s doctrine brings us praise. 2) We praise God for who He is (Father of our Lord) as well as what He has done (blessed us in Christ). 3) Praise is through the Trinity. Praise God because through Christ He has given us His Spirit. Notice that v.3-14 composes of one long sentence, which is actually praising God. Theology drives worship.
4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
The second half of v. 3 and v. 4 tell us what being “in Christ” means. 1) Given spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (the Holy Spirit) and 2) being “chosen” before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before him.

The common free will argument asserts that God chooses us based upon his foreknowledge of our choosing Him. That God chooses Christ, and then we choose to be “in Christ.” Now, apart from the grammatical considerations (predestined seems to be an active thing rather than a reactive one), I don’t agree with that interpretation on the basis of the text itself. As we walk through the text, I will try to give an argument why I believe that interpretation is not being faithful to the text and rather “my” (the Calvinist) one is. Of course, different believers in free will believe different things, and for some of them (this includes me before God opened my eyes through passages like this), this belief is more out of assumption rather than being convinced by Scripture. If the reader is one of these, I pray God would give you a discerning mind to accept what is biblical and reject what is not.

Continuing with v. 4, we find that we have been chosen so that we should be holy and blameless before him and that this blessing is actually distinct (note the word “even”) from the spiritual blessings referred to in v. 3. What do I want to point to with this? Namely that there are two aspects of being chosen: 1) We are seen holy and blameless (this is known as justification) and 2) We receive spiritual blessings. Now the text here is not entirely explicit, but I think one could make a good argument that these spiritual blessings (given through Christ) point to molding us in Christ’s image, better conforming us to God’s commands. (sanctification).
In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Here would be my first salvo at the synergist’s (one who believes that man must cooperate with God in order to be saved, rather than a “monergist” who believes that salvation is all God) interpretation that predestination is based upon foreknowledge and is a reactive thing. The passage gives little support for that interpretation, and it is necessary to read our own understanding into the text. What does it say? God predestines us for adoption (this is a very important word, I’ll come back to it in Eph. 2) through Jesus Christ. This happens according to God’s will for God’s glory (to the praise of his glorious grace). The emphasis is purely upon God’s working actively rather than responding to us. His will, his purpose, his grace, his blessings.

He does this “in love.” I’d like to talk about how God does not actually have emotions in the same way we do, but that would probably lengthen this far beyond what I was expecting. You can ask me about it later, but I believe that when it says that God loves, hates, or is jealous, angry, wrathful, this isn’t an emotion, but rather a willing of action towards someone.
7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Paul continues to emphasize the blessings given to us in Christ, becoming more and more specific. Redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. We are sinners, alienated from God. We deserved God’s wrath (this will be brought forth in Eph. 2) but now Christ has died (shed His blood) for our sins, suffered the wrath we deserved, and bought our lives. We are redeemed and forgiven in accordance to God’s grace. Once again the emphasis is on “grace.” A gift. God doesn’t see us choosing Him, but rather freely gives what we could not earn. He chooses us in His wisdom and insight, not because of our wisdom and insight in choosing Him.
9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Some people like to talk about “mysteries” in Scripture. Now, they typically mean that there are things that people as a whole do not understand, but the implication is that people cannot understand it. We may never know. The common example is “free will and God’s sovereignty.” People think that both are taught in Scripture but they contradict. Now, in order to preserve the belief that God never contradicts, this is called a “mystery.”

Now, a few issues I have with that understanding of the word “mystery.” 1) While it may be true that they may not understand how two concepts in the Bible are reconciled, there is no grounds to say that we cannot. Are they omniscient, able to know the capacities of man? Of course not. At the same time however, we must acknowledge the effects of sin upon us and say that man is sinful, so our understanding of Scripture is never complete. It never matches up completely with God’s understanding of Scripture. Rather, what some call a mystery others can (if God has granted them illumination) no mystery at all. 2) The Bible uses the term “mystery” in a far different manner. A mystery in the Bible is something that was once implied in the OT, but is now revealed explicitly in the NT. Verse 9 talks about “making known to us the mystery of his will.” What was that mystery that is now revealed? That God planned to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. This (as the rest of Ephesians points to) includes the Gentiles. This was the mystery that is now revealed.

The free will “mystery” will be addressed further on. Moving on:
11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Here is my second attack on the synergist’s interpretation. I will boldly state that it is impossible to understand God as responding to us because of v. 11. We have been predestined according to the purpose of God. What does God do? God works all things according to the counsel of his will. While we might be able to make the case that this "all" only refers to "all things pertaining to the elect," making God in control of one group and another power (Satan possibly) in control of another, there is strong evidence throughout the rest of Scripture that "all" here literally refers to "all." The falling of a stone. The flight of a bird. Our choices. Adam picking the fruit and taking a bite. The crucifixion of His Son. God has predestined all things according to the counsel of his will. Now, how does this fit in with the free will/ God’s sovereignty “mystery?” Simply in this way: There is no such thing as free will. Everything is planned out. Everything is in accordance to what God has perfectly planned according to His will. Now what is God’s will but “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2)? If we are to ask “well, that’s not fair. I want free will.” Guess what? We are questioning God. If we are to ask “wait, then why does it say that we are responsible?” The answer would be better answered by Romans 9, but simply stated we are responsible because God decided to hold us responsible. He is holding us accountable, whether or not we have free will to do what he’s holding us accountable for. To ask “why” again is to once again question God. If God is perfect, righteous, and just and all He does are the same, then it must be perfect, righteous and just for God to hold us accountable for our actions, even when we don’t have free will. It must be perfect, righteous, and just for God to predestine us (some of it for sin!).
12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
God’s predestining has a goal: "So that we might be the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory". ok, so there are questions in my mind about being “first”, but the emphasis I would like to put is the “hope in Christ” would be that for God’s glory. God predestines things for His glory. This includes us being saved. Our predestining is not because "God loves us and has a wonderful plan for us" (which might be true, but it's not the reason for it), but it's because God is working things for His glory.

As a side note, this solves completely the “problem” of evil. We simply say “God is in complete control over evil, and is using it for His glory. What problem?” When we struggle with suffering (say a parent died), we can turn and say “God decreed this to happen for His glory. Praise be to God.” When a hurricane strikes and kills thousands we can turn and say “Glory to God.”
13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Finally, we get to the working of our salvation. What happened? Notice the key words “in him.” This means that the rest of the verse is in light of what Jesus has done. It is in Christ that when we heard the word of truth (which is the gospel of our salvation) we believed and were sealed. Christ’s death purchased these blessings, and when God places us “in him” (which happens before the foundation of the world), He promises that He will bring the Gospel of our salvation and give us faith. He will seal us with the Holy Spirit, which guarantees that we will gain possession of our inheritance. Why does this happen? To the praise of His glory. We live, we move, we act, for God’s glory. Does this include sinners? Absolutely. The flip side of it will be discussed further in Eph. 2 and Romans 9.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006 at 9:42 PM

Winter Camp and an invite

Winter camp was great. I was mad blessed by my small group, the fellow servants, the great discussions, honest questions, late night prayer, and so on. Ask me about specifics.

Well, one thing I'm doing for my small group (and also because a lot of people asked me about what I covered in small group, where we discussed a lot of different topics, some of them from the speaker, some not) is typing up a summary (and by summary I mean I'm fleshing out a lot of the points I wish I could have made but got sidetracked), of what I covered.

It's kind of long so it's coming out piecewise in emails. Let me know if you'd be interested in being placed on the email list. Whatever the case, I'll be posting some of the more interesting stuff here. (Matthew 6 was one of those)

Thus far I've covered:

the value of our story- testimonies
Primacy of the intellect
Bible study of Matthew 6:25-34
the importance of Scripture
An explanation and examination of Ephesians 1 (Predestination Part 1)

To come:

Predestination parts 2,3,4 - Ephesians 2, John 6, Romans 8-9
The Gospel - Ephesians 2 ->Calvinism and the 5 Solas
The Gospel - Double Imputation Romans 6
Loving God with all our mind - Refuting St. Francis of Assisi
Spiritual warfare
Dating and relationships
God focused music
Unity - What it means and what we need to achieve it.
Emotionalism and Revivalism

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Monday, January 02, 2006 at 4:49 PM

Matthew 6:25-34

So winter camp has been a blessing. I was greatly encouraged by honest questions, difficult theology, great discussions, plus a receptive small group which listened to me rant and rave about different aspects of Christianity. w00t w00t.

Well, I'm gradually putting together a summary of what we covered in small group (coupled with a commentary/wrap-up thoughts) and I figure I might post some of the more "significant" ones here (though since I'm so self-centered I'm considering posting all of it).

Matthew 6:25-34 is something that has crossed my path a few times in the past week, so that will be the first post.

Context: This was given to us as a QT topic, to look at the passage and think about things that we are anxious about. As I don't know how to apply things without first digging deep into things (to find out when it doesn't apply, what it means, etc), I turned it more into a Bible study than a QT. We went way overtime and did not cover all I wanted to but here is what I would have wanted to cover.

Matthew 6:25-34

25"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

1) What does it mean to be anxious?

2) Why shouldn’t we be anxious?

3) What does it mean to “seek first”?

4) What is the kingdom of God and His righteousness?

5) What are the promises that God makes with this?

6) Finally, what do we need in order to actually do this?

1) Anxious… Is it wrong to think and plan for tomorrow? The future? Should we just sit at home and read our Bibles, expecting that food will magically appear next to us?

Of course not. We need to understand the context of this term “anxious.” (translated a little more ambigous "worry" by the NIV) A key to that is recognizing that v. 25 starts with a “therefore.” What is the “therefore” there for? The line above provides sufficient context to understand this passage, though the passage should be read in the context of the entire paragraph above.

24"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

What is the context of the term anxious? It is in the context of serving something. What are we devoting our time to? What are we putting first in our life? Do we constantly think about how our grades are? What people think about us? It is not wrong to plan ahead, but it is wrong to worry about what the future holds. Don’t be anxious! Do not put your efforts into serving the world and it's ideas.

2) Why not? What’s wrong with being anxious? - Because anxiety is a sign of doubt. We are saying to God that we don’t trust His promises. He provides for the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, and we think He won’t feed us? No, we are sinning by worrying much. We are saying “God, I know you’re God and you can provide, but..."

3) Instead of being anxious, we’re commanded to “seek first.” This means first – primary, always. It doesn’t mean “oh ok, I’m going to pray in order that I get money.” “I’m going to pray, and then move on with my life.” It doesn’t mean we wake up and say “Oh ok, God today is yours” and then nothing changes. It is directly tied into the rest of the sentence.

4) The Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. What are these things? What does it mean to “seek first” these things? Practically speaking what does it mean? We talk about putting "God first." But what does that mean? Does that mean I have to go into ministry full time? Does it mean I should go on mission trips every break? That I should stop eating and just pray?

It is easy to figure out the meaning of those phrases by just examining them. What is the Kingdom of God? Well, a kingdom needs a king. God is that king! Well, what does it mean that God is king? It means that He reigns. Seek first to have God reign. That affects our inside and outside. In our hearts, it means we seek to conform to God’s Law. We seek to obey God in all that we do. We seek first to have God reign in us. Outside, it means we seek to bring God’s kingdom to the world. We share the Gospel, encourage our brothers and sisters, we preach the Word. We "take captive every thought" for Christ. Those within ourselves and those outside of us.

Similarly with “His Righteousness,” what else is God’s righteousness but His perfect Law? God is righteous in all He does, so we should seek to emulate God in all we do, this is through obedience.

5) With all of this, we must and should remember God’s promises. If we seek to obey Him. Seek to share His Gospel. He will provide. Sometimes that provision will be through death. Sometimes it will be through hunger. But God is rich and has good in store. We do not have to be anxious about food, money, career, image, grades, how high of a level our gunbound/diablo2/maple story character is. Seek first.

6) What is necessary for obedience? Knowledge. Let’s seek to Know God. To love Him. To learn about Him. As we grow in maturity, we will be able to seek Him better because we know what obedience looks like. Instead of studying sometimes, read a good commentary. Instead of going shopping for that perfect suit/tie combo and that slick shirt that brings out how studly you are , seek to serve your family by washing the dishes and cleaning the house. Instead of going to a friend’s house to play video games until 3am. Go to share concerns and pray for one another until 4am.

Guess what? We can’t do this. We don’t seek God. We don’t want to read our Bibles. We don’t want to pray. We would rather hang out and play video games and watch movies. We are sinners. (and I'm not saying those things in and of themselves is sinful, but our heart posture is sinful when we seek to run to the ways of the world to fill us) And that’s why we need Christ. He obeyed everything to perfection and took on our sins and our punishment. With that, He’s given us His righteousness so that we are able to do this. We can’t do it perfectly, but we can start, and we can progress. Remember the cross.

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