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Category Archives: Book Excerpts

Book excerpts – many of which are unavailable or out of print – These excerpts are here with the hope that you will like what you read and purchase books by the authors (if available) for your own study and the edification of those you influence as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

COVENANT, DISPENSATIONAL, & REVELATORY THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS COMPARED

A CHART COMPARING DISPENSATIONAL & COVENANTAL SYSTEMS

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Pattern of History:

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Works with Adam; Covenant of Grace with Christ on behalf of the elect (some distinguish between the covenant of Redemption with Christ and the covenant of grace with the elect).

Classical Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations (usually seven); e.g., (1) Innocence (pre-fall), (2) Conscience (Adam), (3) Human Government (Noah), (4) Promise (Abraham), (5) Law (Moses), (6) Grace (Christ’s First Coming), (7) Kingdom (Christ’s Second Coming).

Progressive Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations, of which four are prominent: (1) Patriarchal (Promise); (2) Mosaic (Law); (3) Ecclesial (Church); (4) Zionic (Millennium, the New Heavens and New Earth).

Revelatory View: Revelation and election initiatives succeeded by human failure to respond appropriately. Periods of transition then lead to further initiatives.

God’s Purpose in History:

Covenant Theology: There is a unified redemptive purpose.

Classical Dispensationalism: There are two distinct purposes, one earthly (Israel), one heavenly (church).

Progressive Dispensationalism: To manifest His glory in a progressive redemption that covers every sphere of creation and every structure of human relationship.

Revelatory View: The objective of self-revelation is pursued culminating in the revelation of a plan of salvation, whereby the goal of relationship may be achieved. It is a unified purpose, but not soteric throughout.

View of Biblical Covenants:

Covenant Theology: They are different administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Temporal promises are conditional and applicable to the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: They mark of periods of time during which God’s specific demands of people differ. Temporal promises are unconditional and are applicable to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: The biblical covenants of promise (Abrahamic, Davidic, and New) are made originally to His people, Israel. Believing gentiles are included through Christ, who is the means of blessing for all who believe. All covenants have an “already-not-yet” structure.

Revelatory View: There are revelatory initiatives facilitated through various types of election. Temporal promises are conditional but remain applicable to ethnic Israel. The covenant is characteristically redemptive; ultimately soteric; but essentially revelatory.

Relationship of the OT Law to the NT:

Covenant Theology: Acceptance of OT teaching required unless specifically abrogated  by the NT.

Classical Dispensationalism: OT prescriptions are not binding unless they are reaffirmed in the NT.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Individual aspects of the Law are assessed canonically on a case-by-case basis. Christ completes and fulfills the law.

Revelatory View: OT legal passages function within the covenant serving a revelatory purpose that continues to be relevant. The law of Christ has been superimposed on the law of Moses.

Relationship Between Israel and the Church:

Covenant Theology: The church is spiritual Israel, in continuity with true Israel of the OT.

Classical Dispensationalism: The church is the spiritual people of God, distinct from Israel, the physical people of God.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Church = the unified community that receives God’s spiritual blessings in Christ. Israel = the national and political community in the midst of nations that ultimately will be blessed fully by God. Ultimately united in redemption.

Revelatory View: The Church is the people of God defined soteriologically. Israel, previously the revelatory people of God, now may cross over and become a subset of the soteriological people of God (now that their revelatory function is complete) if they respond by faith to the plan of salvation.

Old Testament Prophecy:

Covenant Theology: Refers to God’s people, the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: Refers to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Fulness of blessing to be given to believing Israel (and those in the nations who believe) in the final dispensation.

Revelatory View: Refers to ethnic Israel but conditional upon their faithful response.

Church Age:

Covenant Theology: God’s redemptive purpose continued to unfold.

Classical Dispensationalism: There is a parenthesis between past and future manifestations of the kingdom.

Progressive Dispensationalism: From Pentecost to the rapture, a phase in the progressive outworking of God’s wholistic redemption. It is not a parenthesis in the kingdom program.

Revelatory View: The period begun when the people of God are defined soteriologically as a result of God’s plan of salvation being reveled.

*Chart adapted from John H. Walton. Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. John H. Walton has proposed the “Revelatory View.”

 

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Is Mankind Two or Three?

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The Dichotomist Position: Man as a Twofold Being = Body and Soul/Spirit

(1a. For) God breathed into man but one principle–a living soul (Genesis 2:7, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”).

(1b. Against) The Hebrew text is plural, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of (lives); and man became a living being.”

(2a. For) The immaterial part of man (the soul) is viewed as an individual and conscious life, capable of possessing and animating a physical organism (body).

(2b. Against) Paul states that man has both a spirit and a soul, which are housed in a physical body (1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”).

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(3a. For) The terms “soul” and “spirit” seem to be used interchangeably in some references (Genesis 41:8, “So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.” & Psalm 42:6, “and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” & Matthew 27:50, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” & John 12:27, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” & John 13:21, “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” & Hebrews 12:23, “and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” & Revelation 6:9, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”

(3b. Against) Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” If the soul and the spirit were the same, they could not be divided.

(4a. For) “Spirit” (as well as “soul”) is ascribed to brute creation: Ecclesiastes 3:21, “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” & Revelation 16:3, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.”

(4b. Against) The term “spirit” or “soul” may be used for animal “life” or “animation” but never in the unique sense in which a human spirit or soul is used. Human spirits continue beyond physical existence, unlike the animals, and human spirits are in relationship with the divine spirit of God (Matthew 17:3, “And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” & Acts 7:59, “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” & Galatians 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” & 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ).

(5a. For) Body and soul are spoken of as constituting the whole person (Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” & 1 Corinthians 5:3, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” & 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”).

(5b. Against) The spirit, soul, and body are spoken of as constituting the whole person (Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” & 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” & 1 Corinthians 3:4, “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”).

(6a. For) Consciousness testifies that there are two elements in man’s being. We can distinguish a material part and an immaterial part, but the consciousness of no one can distinguish between the soul and the spirit.

(6b. Against) It is the spirit of man that deals with the spiritual realm. The soul is the dimension of man that deals with the mental realm, man’s intellect, the sensibilities, and the will–the part that reasons and thinks. The body is the part of man that contacts or deals with the physical realm. hebrews 4:12 does literally speak of the separation of the soul from the spirit (see also 1 Thess. 5:23 above; John 3:7-8, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” & Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” & 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 14:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.”).

The Trichotomist Position: Man as a Threefold Being: Body, Soul, and Spirit

(1a. For) Genesis 2:7 does not absolutely declare that God made a twofold being. The Hebrew text is plural, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [lives], and man became a living being.”

(1b. Against) It is not said that man became spirit and soul. And further, “living being” is the same phrase used of animals and translated “living creature” (Genesis 1:21-24, “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.”).

(2a. For) Paul seems to think of the body, soul, and spirit as three distinct parts of man’s nature (1 Thess 5:23 – see above). The same seems to be indicated in Hebrews 4:12, where the Word is said to pierce “even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”

(2b. Against) Paul is emphasizing the whole person, not attempting to differentiate his parts. Hebrews 4:12 does not speak of the separation of the soul from the spirit, but of the separation itself extending to that point. The Word pierces to the dividing of the soul itself. The soul and spirit are laid open.

(3a. For) A threefold organization of man’s nature may be implied in the classification of man as natural,” “carnal,” and “spiritual,” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 3:1-4, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”

(3b. Against) Body and soul are spoke of as constituting the whole person: 1 Corinthians 5:3, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”& 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” & Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(4a. For) In Luke 8:55, we read about the girl whom Jesus raised from the dead that “her spirit [pnuema] returned.” And so when Christ died, it is said that “he gave up his life,” “he dismissed his spirit,” (Matt. 27:50). “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:27). Pneuma refers to a life principle apart from the soul.

(4b. Against) Pneuma (spirit)and psyche (soul) are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. Both represent one life principle.

Above adapted from H. Wayne House. Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1992.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in Book Excerpts

 

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Will Everyone Go To Heaven?

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Varieties of Universalism

(1) Universal Reconciliation (The View of some Barthians – followers of Karl Barth): Maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. Whatever separation exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature, existing only in man’s mind. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.

(2) Universal Pardon (The View of C.H. Dodd): Maintains that God, being loving, will not hold unswervingly to the conditions he has laid down. Though threatening eternal punishment he will in the end relent and forgive everyone. God will treat all persons as if they had believed.

(3) Universal Restoration (The View of Origen): At some point in the future all things will be restored to their original and intended state. Full salvation may be preceded by cycles of reincarnation or by some purgatorial period at the beginning of the life hereafter.

(4) The Doctrine of a Second Chance: The work of Christ is sufficient to secure the salvation of the elect, but salvation is effectually secured by the means of faith (Romans 10:10-13, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”). All people, even those who have heard and rejected, will be confronted with the claims of Christ in the life to come. Everyone given such an opportunity will of course accept it.

(5) Universal Temporal Blessings: The natural benefits of the world are also enjoyed by everyone. These benefits include sunshine, rain, good health, etc., and are a result of God’s common grace. These things are given from God because of his character.

Arguments For and Against Universalism

(1a. For) It is ridiculous to think that a living, all-powerful, and sovereign God could create a system whereby a portion of mankind (the epitome of his creation) would be condemned to everlasting punishment.

(1b. Against) God will not do anything that contradicts any of his attributes. hence in order to harmonize his perfect love and perfect justice, he devised the biblically explained system of redemption. We must accept the biblical record, not our own finite reasoning.

(2a. For) To condemn the unsaved to everlasting punishment as a result of a relatively short life span on earth is unjust.

(2b. Against) God is the final standard of justice, not man.

(3a. For) If an all-powerful sovereign God desires all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” and 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”), then surely all are saved.

(3b. Against) The Timothy and Peter passages in their context refer to all kinds of people and to “all” the elect in their contexts. Although God desires salvation for all mankind (specifically the elect) a person must respond to God’s offer of salvation and many do not (John 5:40, “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” & Matthew 7:14, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

(4a. For) Christ’s death has acquitted all mankind of their condemnation before God, just as Adam brought the entire human race into sin (Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” & 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

(4b. Against) The context of both of these passages clearly shows that the benefits of Christ’s death are for those “in Christ,” just as the penalties of Adam’s sin are for those “in Adam.”

(5a. For) The theme of the New Testament is the of God’s sovereign love. If his love is sovereign, it must be completely victorious. To say that God’s love is not adequate to secure the salvation of all mankind in the end presumes a finite God.

(5b. Against) Agreed, God has infinite love, but he also has justice and holiness. He has already devised a plan consistent with all his infinite attributes. It is up to man to accept God’s plan, instead of devising his own plan and calling God unjust if he does not accept it.

(6a. For) Christ paid the penalty of sin on behalf of all mankind (Hebrews 2:9, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”), and legally, if such as adequate substitution is made and accepted, it is unjust for the creditor to require the original payment also.

(6b. Against) The substitutionary death of Christ was sufficient for the salvation of all (efficient only for the elect); however, each person must believe in order for it to be effectual on his behalf (2 Corinthians 5:19-20, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”).

(7a. For) God’s all-encompassing attribute is love. His judgment is only a temporary measure to reform unrepentant persons, and hence is itself motivated by love. Ultimately all people will be reformed, whether in this life or in the after-life, and hence ultimately all will be saved.

(7b. Against) Scripture never refers to the abode of unbelievers after death as a place of reformation. It is always referred to as a place of destruction and punishment (Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” & John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”). The only reference to any encounter of Christ with unbelievers after their death is 1 Peter 3:19, and this passage is applicable only to unbelievers in Noah’s day.

(8a. For) Ultimately all mankind will believe, whether in this life or the hereafter (Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” & 1 Peter 3:19-20, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”).

(8b. Against) Contextually both of these passages do not prove the point from the context. The words of Jesus indicate clearly that some go to eternal life and others go to eternal punishment. Matthew 7:21-23,“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ &  John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” & Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” In this passage from Matthew the word for eternal is aionos, meaning “relating to the final order of things which will not pass away.”

(9a. For) Many will not believe in this life, but the after-life offers a second chance.

(9b. Against) The constant scriptural references to “saving faith” clearly indicate that some will NOT believe (John 1:11-12, “[Jesus] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”;  & John 20:31, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

(10a. For) Warnings of lostness are merely hypothetical and constitute one of the ways in which God secures the universal salvation of all mankind.

(10b. Against) Christ and the apostles were constantly warning people of God’s wrath and judgment on sin and urgently calling them to repentance. Hence, if universalism is true, Christ and the apostles were either ignorant or grossly deceptive. Other Scriptures points to the punishment of the non-elect (Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” & 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” & Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Some of the material above adapted from H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

 

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A 12-Step Way To Pray by Dick Eastman

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In the United States today is the “National Day of Prayer” and do we ever need to be praying. Our nation is crumbling before our eyes spiritually, morally, economically, and in many other ways. The only way I can fathom any significant change is for the gospel to go forth in power resulting in repentance and faith in Christ in droves.

One of the mysterious means God has given us as Christians to work in this world is the gift of prayer. Whereby Christ mediates our prayers in the power and through the working of the Holy Spirit to the throne room of God the Father. God answers our prayers in accordance with His sovereign plans.

Today I will be working through the twelve steps of prayer below presented as a template and expounded upon in the excellent book on prayer by Dick Eastman entitled: “The Hour That Changes The World.” Dick Eastman’s book is highly recommended in that it provides a plethora of outstanding resources on how to pray biblically, and therefore with great effectiveness and power. Today I will be praying through these twelve steps with a special emphasis on praying for the USA – and it’s much-needed revival!

Dick Eastman suggests using this template to pray for an hour. You may not be able to pray for an hour – and that’s ok. It’s not the time that matters. It’s really about your intimacy with God and focusing in and honing in on what’s important to Him so it’s also important to you – and you become a doer of what He wants done on earth. Revival starts with the Church and then results in penetrating culture. I hope you will join me today in praying for our beloved country and for all the nations of the earth that so desperately need to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus’ provision for them on the cross, and through His resurrection.

The Hour That Changes The World – By Dick Eastman 

(1) Begin with Praise – Recognize God’s Nature

Psalm 63:3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

(2) Waiting – Silent Soul Surrender

Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

(3) Confession – Temple Cleansing Time

Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

(4) Scripture Praying – Word Enriched Prayer

Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

(5) Watching – Develop Holy Alertness

Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

(6) Intercession – Remember The World

1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

(7) Petition – Share Personal Needs

Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

(8) Thanksgiving – Confess My Blessings

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

(9) Singing – Worship In Song

Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 

 (10) Meditation – Ponder Spiritual Themes

Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

(11) Listening – Receive Spiritual Instruction

Ecclesiastes 5:2, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

(12) Praise – Recognize God’s Nature

Psalm 52:9, “I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Book Excerpts, Prayer Helps

 

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Christianity is About a Relationship with Jesus

Receiving The Resurrected Redeemer

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Every single person who has ever lived on Planet Earth will be resurrected—some to eternal life and some to eternal torment. In the Lord’s own words, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). Everyone reading these words is in one of these two categories.

Relationship

The distinction between religion and relationship makes all the difference in the world. Religion is merely man’s attempt to reach up and become acceptable to God through his own efforts—living a good life, attempting to obey the Ten Commandments, or following the golden rule. Some religions even teach that this cannot be accomplished in one lifetime. Thus, you are reincarnated over and over again until you become one with nirvana or one with the universe.

The problem with the answer provided by religion is that the Bible says that if we are ever to become acceptable to God, we must be absolutely perfect! As Jesus put it in His Sermon on the Mount—one of the most famous literary masterpieces in the history of humanity—“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Obviously no one is perfect; therefore, if we are ever going to know the resurrected Redeemer here and now, as well as rule and reign with Him throughout the eons of time, there has to be another way. And that way is found in a relationship.

Relationship is what the Christian faith is all about. It is not primarily a set of dos and don’ts. It’s a personal relationship with God. That relationship does not depend on our ability to reach up and touch God through our own good works, but rather on God’s willingness to reach down and touch us through His love.

By way of illustration, if I wanted to have a relationship with an ant, the only way I could do so is to become one. Obviously I can’t become an ant, but God did become a man. The Bible says that God in the person of Jesus Christ “became flesh” and lived for a while “among us” (John 1:14). He came into time and space to restore a relationship with man that was severed by sin.

It is crucial that you understand the problem of sin. If you do not recognize that you are a sinner, you will also not realize your need for a Savior.

Sin

Sin is not just murder, rape, or robbery. Sin is failing to do the things we should and doing those things we should not. In short, sin is a word that describes anything that fails to meet God’s standard of perfection.

Thus, sin is the barrier between you and a satisfying relationship with God. As Scripture puts it, “Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2).

Just as light and dark cannot exist together, neither can God and sin. And each day we are further separated from God as we are further separated from God as we add to the account of our sin. But that’s not the only problem. Sin also separates us from others. You need only read the newspaper or listen to a news report to see how true this really is. Locally, we read of murder, robbery, and fraud. Nationally, we hear of corruption in politics, racial tension, and an escalating rate of suicide. Internationally, we constantly see wars and hear rumors of war. We live in a time when terrorism abounds and when the world as we know it can be instantly obliterated by nuclear aggression.

All of these things are symbolic of sin. The Bible says that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no accept ions to the rule. The problem is further compounded when we begin to understand who God is. Virtually every heresy begins with a misconception of the nature of God.

God

On one hand, God is the perfect Father. We all have had earthly fathers, but no matter how good—or bad, as the case may be—none are perfect. God, however, is the perfect Father. And as the perfect Father, he desires an intimate relationship with us. In His Word, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Yet the same Bible that tells us that God loves us and wants a relationship with us as our heavenly Father also tells us that He is the perfect Judge. As the perfect Judge, God is absolutely just, righteous, and holy. The Bible says of God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Herein lies the dilemma. On the one hand, we see that God is the perfect Father. He loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us. On the other hand, He is the perfect Judge, whose very nature is too pure to tolerate our sin. The dilemma is brought into sharper focus by a story I heard many years ago.

A young man was caught driving under the influence of alcohol after having committed several crimes. He was brought before a judge nicknamed the “hanging judge.” Although the judge’s integrity was beyond question, he always handed out the stiffest penalty allowable by law (to wit the nickname, “hanging judge”). It turns out that the judge was the young man’s father. As you can imagine, everyone in there courthouse that day waited with bated breath to see how the judge would treat his own son. Would he show him favoritism as a father, or would he, as always, hand out the stiffest penalty allowable by law?

As the spellbound courtroom full of spectators looked on, the judge, without hesitation, issued the maximum financial penalty allowable by law. Then he took off his judicial robes, walked over to where his son stood, and paid the penalty his son could not pay. In that one act, he satisfied the justice of the law and yet demonstrated extraordinary love.

That, however, is but a faint glimpse of what God the Father did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus Christ—God Himself—came to earth to be our Savior and to be our Lord.

Through His resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers with Buddha, Mohammed, or any other founders of world religions. They died and are still dead, but Christ had the power to lay down His life and take it up again.

Jesus Christ

As our Savior, Jesus lived the perfect life we cannot live. Earlier I pointed out that Scripture says in order to be acceptable to God we need to be perfect. Well, Jesus Christ came into time and space to be perfection for us. As the Bible puts it, “God made Him [Jesus Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

This is the great exchange over which all of the Bible was written. God took our sins and placed them on Jesus Christ, who suffered and died to pay the debt we could not pay. Then, wonder of wonders, He gave us the perfect life of Jesus Christ. He took our sins and gave us His perfection as an absolutely free gift. We cannot earn it or deserve it; we can only live a life of gratitude for this gift that God freely offers us. But that’s not all. Jesus not only died to be our Savior; He also lives to be our Lord.

As our Lord, Jesus Christ gives our lives meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. This is a particularly exciting thought when you stop to realize that the one who wants to be your Lord is the very one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. He not only made this universe and everything in it, but He made you. He knows all about you, He loves you, and He wants you to have a satisfying life here and now and an eternity of joy with Him in heaven forever.

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The resurrection of Jesus is an undeniable fact of history. Through the immutable fact of the resurrection, God the Father vindicated Christ’s claims to deity, thus demonstrating that Jesus was God in human flesh. To receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, one need only take two steps. The one step is repent, the other is receive.

Two Steps

The first step involves repentance. Repentance is an old English word that describes a willingness to turn from sin toward Jesus Christ. It literally means a complete U-turn on the road of life—a change of heart and a change of mind. It means a willingness to follow Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord. In the words of Christ, “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

The second step is to receive. To demonstrate true belief means to be willing to receive God’s free gift. To truly receive God’s gift is to trust in and depend on Jesus Christ alone to be the Lord of our lives here and now and our Savior for all eternity.

Receiving God’s free gift takes more than knowledge. (The devil knows about Jesus and trembles.) It takes more than agreeing that the knowledge is accurate. (The devil knows that Jesus is Lord.) True saving faith entails not only knowledge and agreement, but trust. By way of illustration, when you are sick you can know a particular medicine can cure you. You can even agree that it’s cured thousands of others. But until you trust it enough to take it, it cannot cure you. It like manner, you can know about Jesus Christ, and you can agree that He has saved others, but until you personally place your trust in Him, you will not be saved.

The requirements for eternal life are nit based on what you can do but on what Jesus Christ has done. He stands ready to exchange His perfection for your imperfection.

To those who have never received Him as Savior and Lord, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus knocks on the door of the human heart, and the question He asks is, Are you ready now to receive me as Savior and Lord?

According to Jesus Christ, those who repent and receive Him as Savior and Lord are “born again” (John 3:3)—not physically, but spiritually. And with this birth must come spiritual growth.

Growth

First, no relationship can flourish without constant, heartfelt communication. This is true not only in human relationships, but also in our relationship with God. If we are to nurture a strong relationship with our Savior, we must be in constant communication with Him. The way to do that is through prayer.

Prayer is the way we talk to God. You do not need a special vocabulary to pray. You can simply speak to God as you would to your best friend. The more time you spend with God in prayer, the more intimate your relationship will be. And remember, there is no problem great or small that God cannot handle. If it’s important to you, it’s important to Him.

Furthermore, in addition to prayer, it is crucial that new believers spend time reading God’s written revelation of Himself—the Bible. The Bible not only forms the foundation of an effective prayer life, but it is foundational to every other aspect of Christian living. While prayer is our primary way of communicating with God, the Bible is God’s primary way of communicating with us. Nothing should take precedence over getting into the Word and getting the Word into us.

If we fail to eat well-balanced meals on a regular basis, we will eventually suffer the physical consequences. What is true of the outer man is also true of the inner man. If we do not regularly feed on the Word of God, we will starve spiritually.

I generally recommend that new believers by reading one chapter from the Gospel of John each day. As you do, you will experience the joy of having God speak to you directly through His Word. As Jesus put it, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Finally, it is crucial for new believers to become active participants in a healthy, weal-balanced church. In Scripture, the church is referred to as the body of Christ. Just as our body is one and yet has many parts, so the body of Christ is one but is composed of many members. Those who receive Christ as the Savior and Lord of their lives are already a part of the church universal. It is crucial, however, that all Christians become vital, reproducing members of a local body of believers as well.

Scripture exhorts us not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together, as is the custom of some (see Hebrews 10:25). It is is the local church where God is worshiped through prayer, praise, and proclamation; where believers experience fellowship with one another; and where they are equipped to reach others through the testimony of their love, their lips, and their lives.

Application

I began by pointing out that Christianity is not merely a religion; rather, it is a relationship with the resurrected Redeemer. You can know of Him through historical evidences, but you can know Him only by the Spirit of God. Even now, if God’s Spirit is moving upon your heart, you can receive the resurrected Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Simply pray thus prayer—and remember, there is no magic in the words; God is looking at the intent of your heart.

Prayer to Pray

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You have provided a way for me to have a relationship with You; I realize that I am a sinner; I thank You that You are my perfect Father; I thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior and Lord; I repent and receive His perfection in exchange for my sin; In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Assurance

The assurance of eternal life is found in these words from the resurrected Redeemer: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Adapted from Hank Hanegraaff (Appendix A) – Resurrection The Capstone in the Arch of Christianity. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2000.

 

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6 Covenants of a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer

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(1) I am a church member,

I like the metaphor of membership. It’s not membership as a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now we are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).!

(2) I am a church member,

I will seek to be a source of unity in the church. I know there are no perfect pastors, staff, or other church members. But neither am I. I will not be a source of gossip or dissension. One of the greatest contributions I can make is to do all I can in God’s power to help keep the church in unity for the sake of the gospel.

(3) I am a church member,

I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. That is self-serving. I am in this church to serve others and to serve Christ. My Savior went to a cross for me. I can deal with any inconveniences and matters that are just not my preference or style.!

(4) I am a church member,

I will pray for my pastor every day. His work is never ending. His days are filled with constant demands for his time—with the need to prepare sermons, with those who are rejoicing in births, with those who are traveling through the valley of the shadow of death, with critics, with the hurts and hopes of others, and with the need to be a husband and a father. My pastor cannot serve our church in his own power. I will pray for God’s strength for him and his family every day.!

(5) I am a church member,

I will lead my family to be a good member of this church as well. We will pray together for our church. We will worship together in our church. We will serve together in our church. And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with his church, because He gave His life for her.

(6) I am a church member,

This membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became a part of the body of Christ. I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve others in our church. I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and to be a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.!

I am a church member,

And I thank God that I am.

*Adapted from pages 77-79 in Thom S. Rainer. I Am A Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. B&H: Nashville, TN.: 2013.

 

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Hermeneutical Principles from Dr. R.C. Sproul

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Hermeneutical Principles 

The Analogy of Faith – (Sacra Scriptura sui interpres) – Scripture is to interpret Scripture. This simply means that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. For example, if a given verse is capable of two renditions or variant interpretations and one of those interpretations goes against the rest of Scripture while the other is in harmony with it, then the latter interpretation must be used.

Since it is assumed that God would never contradict Himself, it is thought slanderous to the Holy Spirit to choose an alternate interpretation that would unnecessarily bring the Bible in conflict with itself. The analogy of faith keeps the whole Bible in view lest we suffer from the effects of exaggerating one part of Scripture to the exclusion of others.

Interpreting the Bible Literally – The literal sense offers restraint from letting our imagination run away in fanciful interpretation and invites us to examine closely the literary forms of Scripture. The term literal comes from the Latin litera meaning “letter.” To interpret something literally is to pay attention to the litera or to the letters or words being used. To interpret the Bible literally is to interpret it as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context.

The Bible may be a very special book, being uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that inspiration does not transform the letters of the words or the sentences of the passages into magical phrases. Under inspiration a noun remains a noun and a verb remains a verb. Questions do not become exclamations, and historical narratives do not become allegories.

Literal Interpretation and Genre Analysis – The term genre simply means “kind,” “sort” or “species.” Genre analysis involves the study of such things as literary forms, figures of speech and style. (E.g. Miracles – Jonah; Hyperbole “a statement exaggerated fancifully, for effect” [see Mt. 9:35]; Personification “a poetic device by which inanimate objects or animals are given human characteristics” [see Isaiah 55:12]).

The Problem of Metaphor – A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (e.g., Jesus saying: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.”).

The Medieval Quadriga – The “fourfold” method of interpretation examined each text for four meanings: literal, moral, allegorical, and analogical meanings. The literal sense of Scripture was defined as the plain and evident meaning. The moral sense was that which instructed humans how to behave. The allegorical sense revealed the content of faith, and the analogical expressed future hope. Thus passages, for example, that mentioned Jerusalem were capable of four different meanings. The literal sense referred to the capital of Judea and the central sanctuary of the nation. The moral sense of Jerusalem is the human soul (the “central sanctuary” of a person). The allegorical meaning of Jerusalem is the church (the center of Christian community). The analogical meaning of Jerusalem is heaven (the final hope of future residence for the people of God). Thus a single reference to Jerusalem could mean four things at the same time. If the Bible mentioned that people went up to Jerusalem, it meant that they went to a real earthly city, or that their souls “went up” to a place of moral excellence, or that we should someday go to heaven. During the reformation there was a firm reaction to this type of allegorizing. The Martin Luther rejected multiple meanings to biblical passages, he did not thereby restrict the application of Scripture to a single sense. Though a scriptural passage has one meaning, it may have a host of applications to the wide variety of nuances to our lives.

The Grammatical Historical Method – The grammatical-historical method focuses our attention on the original meaning of the text lest we “read into Scripture” our own ideas drawn from the present. Grammatical structure determines whether words are to be taken as questions (interrogative), commands (imperative) or declarative (indicative). For example, when Jesus says, “You shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8), is He making a prediction of future performance or issuing a sovereign mandate? Though the English form is unclear, the Greek structure of the words makes it perfectly clear that Jesus is not indulging in future prediction but issuing a command.

Other ambiguities of language can be cleared up and elucidated by acquiring a working knowledge of grammar. For example, when Paul says at the beginning of his epistle to the Romans that he is an apostle called to communicate “the gospel of God,” what does he mean by of? Does the of refer to the content of the gospel or its source? Does of really mean “about,” or is it a genitive of possession? The grammatical answer will determine whether Paul is saying that he is going to communicate a gospel that comes from and belongs to God. There is a big difference between the two, which can only be resolved by grammatical analysis. In this case the Greek structure reveals a genitive of possession, which answers the question for us.

Source Criticism – For example if we follow the notion that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke had Mark’s Gospel in front of them as they wrote, many of the questions of the relationship of the Gospels can be explained. We see further that both Luke and Matthew include certain information that is not found in Mark. Thus it seems that Luke and Matthew had a source of information available to them that Mark did not have or did not choose to use. Examining further, we find certain information found in Matthew that is found neither Mark nor Luke, and information that is in Luke that is found only in Luke. By isolating the material found only in Matthew or only in Luke, we can discern certain things about their priorities and concerns in writing. Knowing why an author writes what he writes helps us to understand what he writes. In contemporary reading it is important to read the author’s preface because the reasons and concerns for writing are usually spelled out there.

Authorship and Dating – If we know who wrote a particular book and know when that person lived, then of course we know the basic period when the book was written. If we know who wrote a book, to whom, under what circumstances and at what period of history, that information will greatly ease our difficulty in understanding it. By using methods of source criticism we can isolate materials common to particular writes (e.g. – most of the material we have about Joseph is found in Matthew because he was writing to a Jewish audience and the Jews had legal questions concerning Jesus’ claim of messiah-ship. Jesus’ legal father was Joseph, and that was very important for Matthew to show in order to establish the tribal lineage of Jesus).

Grammatical Errors – When Martin Luther said the “Scriptures never err,” he means that they never err with respect to the truth of what they are proclaiming.

*Adapted from Chapter 3: Hermeneutics: The Science of Interpretation from R.C. Sproul. Knowing Scripture. IVP: Downers Grove, IL.: 2009.

 

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