RSS

Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Book Review on Bold Reformer by David S. Steele

512gRA0wLhL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I have to start out this review by commenting on the author. Dr. David S. Steele, I am privileged to say is a very dear friend with whom I am blessed to have known for close to 30 years. We met at Multnomah University (Multnomah School of the Bible) back in the mid 1980’s, where we were roommates and have remained good friends ever since. We also earned our doctorates together in the early 2000’s in Seattle. I write this to say that I am very biased in whole heartedly recommending this book because the author is one of the men I most admire and respect on planet Earth. Whether he speaks or writes – I listen! He is one of the most disciplined pastors I know. He loves God deeply, and is passionate that others would come to know Him through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are both Lead/Preaching pastors in our respective churches (he in Washington; I’m in California); approximately the same age; and both have had our share of trials and triumphs in ministry. I believe what makes this such a great book to recommend is because Dr. Steele writes as a theologian, pastor, and practitioner. There are no theories here. What is written are biblical truths that have been forged in the trenches of ministry. Dave Steele is indeed a Bold Reformer in the ilk of men like Martin Luther, the Apostle Paul, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and other godly men who have been courageous in the trenches of ministry who preceded us.

Bold Reformer is a great book because it cuts through theories and fads and hones in on essential theological truths that are necessary whether past, present, or future. It is a book that I have now read twice, and will definitely read again. It’s especially a helpful book for pastors in the trenches and would-be pastors. In this book Dr. Steele writes about the essential foundations a pastor needs to believe and promises he can rely on through thick and thin. I am grateful for my friend, and grateful that out of his own trials he has written a helpful and encouraging book for pastors to never give up.

This year (2017) will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous nailing of the 95 Theses on the castle door at Wittenberg that sparked the Reformation. I truly believe that this book has the potential to spark a new reformation in pastors today. The same principles that Martin Luther applied are necessary today and needed desperately in order to bring about reformation and revival. I am hopeful that Bold Reformer will be used to bring about a new reformation of and for the glory of our awesome God as it is widely oread and practiced.

 

The Christian’s A-Z’s of Thanksgiving By Dr. David P. Craig

 

norman-rockwell-thanksgiving.jpg

What do Christians have to be thankful for every day and not take for granted as we contemplate the many blessings we have through Christ? Here are my A-Z’s of Thanksgiving:

A = Adoption – I have been chosen unconditionally and eternally into the family of God: Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

B = Baptism – I have been cleansed, washed, made new, and am now identified with Christ through the ordinance of baptism an external symbol of an inner reality: Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

C = Christ – I am a new creation in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

D = Disciple – I have a perfect Leader to follow – the Lord Jesus Christ: Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

E = Evangelism – I have good news to share with every human being on the planet: Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

F = Father – I have an intimate relationship with a perfect Heavenly Father who loves to answer my prayers: Matthew 6:6, “But 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.”

G = Glory – Everything I do can be done for God’s glory: 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

H = Heaven – I know that Jesus has prepared a perfect place for me to live when I die: John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I = Identity – In Christ my identity is totally secure: Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

J = Justified – Because Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed to me in exchange for my sin I am declared sinless and righteous by God the Father forever: Titus 3:6-7, “whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

K = Kingdom – I belong to an everlasting Kingdom ruled by a Perfect King: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

L = Love – I am loved by a perfect Lover: John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

M = Mission – I have a purpose to live for that matters forever: Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

N = New Birth – I have been made alive spiritually in Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

O = Obedience – I have a new inclination to love God and my neighbor with my heart, mind, soul and strength: 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

P = Peace – I am at peace with God forever by faith in Jesus: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Q = Qualities I share character attributes of God: Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

R = Rapture – I will one day meet the saints and Jesus in the air: 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

S = Scripture – In the 66 Books of the Bible I have all the revelation from God I need for salvation and sanctification: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

T = Truth – In Scripture I have all the objective truth I need to guide my every thought and decision for living a godly life: John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

U = Unity – Just as the members of the Trinity are one; I can be unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world: Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

V = Vengeance – I don’t have to worry about my enemies; God will deal justly with those who have hurt or betrayed me: Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

W = Wrath – Thank God He has punished Jesus for my sins and as a result I will never experience His wrath: Romans 3:24-25, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

X = Xenophobia – I no longer need to be afraid of God: Romans 5:10-11, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Y = Yahweh – I am grateful that God is the “I AM”. He has the power of being in and of Himself and thus is totally capable of sustaining His creation and carrying out His glorious purposes: Revelation 1:8, “ I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Z = Zion – I can look forward to a fortress – my eternal home – that will never be destroyed, or decay – a perfect city to live with Christ and His family forever: Isaiah 60:14, The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”

 

Tags: , ,

BOOK REVIEW OF NICHOLAS WOLTERSTORFF’S “LAMENT FOR A SON”

REVIEWED BY DR. DAVID P. CRAIG

LAMENT FOR A SON

HELPS US GRIEVE IN A HEALTHY AND BIBLICAL MANNER

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a brilliant professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. This little book (111 pages) can be read as short devotionals; in one sitting; or used as a resource to guide a person through their own grief or helping a friend in their own grief.

What makes this book unique is that Nicholas wrote the book as a very personal expression of his own grief in grappling with the death of his son (aged 25) who died in a rock climbing mishap while living in Europe in 1983. Wolterstorff’s journaling allows the reader to enter into one’s pain at an emotional, theological, and philosophical level.

The most helpful section of the book is when Wolterstorff delves into how God suffers with us in our losses, and how he contemplates the sufferings of God the Father and His own Son’s death on the cross for the sins of humanity.

Reading this book makes one appreciate the brevity, emotions, and depths of ultimate meaning in contemplating what loss signifies; and what ultimate gain means because of the reality of the Gospel – that Jesus empathizes with our plight and has entered into our suffering from the inside out. I highly recommend this book for parents that have lost a child; widows and widowers; and pastors, counselors, and friends who seek to comfort their friends who have experienced the loss of a loved one (especially a young child or young adult).

The author has done grievers a great service by entering into his own pain; the suffering of God; and gives us helps for wrestling with our pain in grief. This book can only help lighten the load of grief for those experiencing great loss. I would also recommend this book be used as a gift to give to loved ones grappling with the big question: “Where is God in all of my pain?”

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

A GUIDE FOR PRAYING THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

PRAYING THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

Praying with Your eyes open Richard Pratt

(Adapted from Appendix B in Pray With Your Eyes Open by Richard L. Pratt Jr.)

Incommunicable Attributes (Qualities that belong to God alone):

INDEPENDENT: “…He does whatever pleases Him” (Ps. 115:3; cf. John 5:26; Rom. 11:35-36).

INFINITE: “…from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:1-2; cf. Pss. 33:11; 93:2; 145:13; Heb. 1:8-12).

ETERNAL: “…the LORD, the Eternal God” (Gen. 21:33; cf. Neh. 9:5-6; John 8:58; Rev. 1:8).

INCOMPREHENSIBLE: “…beyond our understanding” (Job 36:26; cf. Isa. 40:18-26; Matt. 11:27; Rom. 11:33-34).

PRE-EMINENT: “…all things were created by Him and for Him…” (Col. 1:15-19; cf. Exod. 15:1,11, 18; Rev. 19:11-16).

SOVEREIGN: “I will do all that I please…” (isa. 46:10; cf. Ps. 135:6; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11).

TRANSCENDENT: “…beyond our reach…” (Job 37:23; cf. Exod. 33:20-23; Ps. 104:1-4; Isa. 40:21-26; 1 Tim. 6:15-16).

THE ONE AND ONLY: “…there is but one God…” (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 2:5).

MAJESTIC: “In the greatness of Your Majesty…” (Exod. 15:7; cf. 15:6, 11; Job 37:22; Ps. 8:1,9; Jude 25).

EVERYWHERE (OMNIPRESENT) : “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jer. 23:23-24; cf. 2 Chron. 2:6; Ps. 139:7-16; Acts 17:272-8).

ALL-KNOWING (OMNISCIENT): “…You alone know the hearts of all men…” (1 Kings 8:39; cf. Ps. 139:1-6; Prov. 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 2:10).

ALL-POWERFUL (OMNIPOTENT) : “…Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14; cf. 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Ps. 18:13-15; Rev. 19:6).

UNCHANGING (IMMUTABLE) “…You remain the same…” (Ps. 102:27; cf. Mal. 3:6;James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8).

Communicable Attributes (Belong to God & can be reflected in us via the HS):

HOLINESS: “Your ways, O God, are holy” (Ps. 77:13; cf. Isa. 6:3; 57:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Rev. 4:8).

WISDOM: “…magnificent in wisdom…” (Isa. 28:29; cf. Jer. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:2-3).

TRUTHFULNESS: “…God is truthful…” (John 3:33; cf. Num. 23:19; Isa. 45:19; John 14:6).

LOVE: “…His unfailing love…” (Ps. 33:5,18, 22; cf. Exod. 15:13; Pss. 13:5-6; 89:2; Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 3:17-19; 5:1-2).

GOODNESS: “…He is good…” (2 Chron. 7:3; cf. Gen. 1:31; Pss. 119:68;145:9; Mark 10:18).

FAITHFULNESS: “…He is the faithful God…” (Deut. 7:9; cf. Pss. 33:4; 100:5; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:24).

MERCY: “…His mercy is great…” (2 Sam. 24:14; cf. Neh. 9:31; Dan. 9:9; Luke 1:50, 54).

KINDNESS: “…He shows unfailing kindness…” (2 Sam. 22:51; cf. isa. 54:8; Jer. 9:24; Romans 11:22).

PATIENCE: “…His unlimited patience…” (1 Tim. 1:16; cf. Neh. 9:30; Rom. 3:25; 2 Peter 3:15).

JUSTICE: “…all His ways are just…” (Deut. 32:4; cf. Job 37:23; Psalm 99:4; Luke 18:7-8).

RIGHTEOUSNESS: “…My righteousness will never fail…” (Isa. 51:6; cf. Ps. 89:14; Jer. 23:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:30).

WRATH: “…expresses His wrath every day…” (Ps. 7:11; cf. Deut. 29:28; Isa. 13:13; Rom. 1:18; 5:9; 9:22; Rev. 19:15).

JEALOUSY: “…a jealous God…” (Exod. 34:14; cf. Deut. 4:24; Nah. 1:2; Zech. 8:2; 2 Cor. 11:2).

GRACE: “…God, gracious, and compassionate…” (Neh. 9:17; cf. Exod. 34:6-7; Isa. 26:10; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5-7).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Prayer Helps

 

Tags: , ,

A 12-Step Way To Pray by Dick Eastman

HTCTW Eastman

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. 

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , ,

ON “FREE WILL” BY DR. R.C. SPROUL

380400_w185

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 9: Of Free Will

Sec. 1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

Sec. 2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

Sec. 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

Sec. 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

Sec. 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.

We come now in our study of the confession to a separate treatment of the subject of free will. Every time Reformed theology is presented in open discussion, it seems inevitable that the subject of free will arises. For many, the idea of God’s sovereignty is antithetical to one of the most precious and axiomatic principles of human understanding—the idea of free will.

When we examine the question of free will from the viewpoint of biblical theology, we are pressured by the massive impact that secular views of free will have had on our thinking. If there is any place where secular humanism has undermined a biblical view of human nature, it’s with respect to the idea of free will. The prevailing view of free will in the secular culture is that human beings are able to make choices without being encumbered by sin. On this view, our wills have no predisposition either toward evil or toward righteousness, but remain in a neutral state from birth.

This view of human freedom is on a collision course with the biblical doctrine of the fall, which speaks of the radical corruption of our human condition. The whole person is caught up in the fall, including the mind, the soul, the will, and the body. The ravages of sin have affected us profoundly and deeply. Nonetheless, we are still able to think. Similarly, although the will has been tragically marred by the fall, we have not lost our ability to make moral choices. We still have wills, which are able to make choices without being coerced by God. The fact remains, however, that when the Bible speaks of our condition, it speaks of bondage or slavery to sin, which the confession addresses.

Sec. 1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

Here the confession speaks of natural liberty, a liberty that is part and parcel of our nature as human beings. We were given a will that is not coerced or forced to make any decision by any absolute necessity of nature. Here the confession distances itself from every form of moral determinism, which would subject human choices to fixed, mechanical, or physical forces, or even to the arbitrary influences of fate. In a word, Reformed theology categorically rejects fatalism and any determinism based upon the forces of nature. We are not coerced or forced by natural causes, or by our environment, either to do good or to do evil.

Section 2, however, goes on to make an important distinction be- tween the state of the human will as it was created and its state after the fall.

Sec. 2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

Here the confession asserts and affirms that in creation the human will had freedom and power to do what is good, to do what is well pleasing to God. Before the fall, human beings had the moral capacity or the moral ability to choose righteousness and obedience before God. But this endowment from God was mutable. Man was capable of change and falling away from his original disposition.

Saint Augustine stated that in creation we had both the posse peccare (the ability to sin) and the posse non peccare (the ability not to sin). After the fall, we continued to have the ability to sin, the posse peccare, but we lost the power or ability not to sin, the posse non peccare. We were left in what Augustine called a state of moral inability. This truth can be illustrated from a rational perspective and from an analytical perspective. According to Jonathan Edwards, free will is our freedom to choose what we want—our ability to choose according to our own inclinations. Not only are we able to choose according to our strongest inclinations, but, in a very real sense, we must choose according to our strongest inclination in order to be free.

This is the essence of freedom: to be able to choose what you want, rather than what somebody else wants for you. We also recognize that we are creatures who have multitudes of conflicting desires. We are torn in more than one direction, and the intensity with which we want things changes and vacillates.

If we desired only to obey God, we would never sin. As Christians, we have some desire in our heart to please Christ. Unfortunately, we still desire to please ourselves, to gratify our own lusts, and to do what we want to do, rather than what Christ wants us to do. Now we are confronted with a choice between obeying Christ and disobeying Christ. If our desire to please Christ is greater than our desire to please ourselves at this point, what will we do? Whenever our desire for obedience is greater than our desire for sin, we will obey Christ. However, whenever our desire for sin exceeds our desire to please God, we will sin. In a real sense, we are slaves to our own freedom. We not only can be free, but must be free. We are volitional creatures, and to be volitional means that we choose according to our will. We make choices according to what seems best or most pleasing to us at the moment of decision.

What does that say for our sanctification? Is there any way that we can fool ourselves? This is important for our realization of how we function as sinners, having conflicting desires in our soul. We want to grow in grace, we want to please God, we want to obey Christ, and yet we still have desires for self-fulfillment that are sinful. We are told in the New Testament to feed the new man and starve the old man. Put the old man to death and seek the renewal of the new man, the strengthening of the inward man.

What can we do to strengthen our sanctification? The level of our desire to obey Christ has to increase, and the level of our desire for the things of this world has to diminish. Because we are always going to follow our strongest inclinations or desires, the only way to grow in grace is to feed and strengthen our positive desires for God and to starve our negative desires.

What are some things that we can do to strengthen the inner man? It certainly helps to spend time in the Word of God. Paul says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). When we read Scripture and hear the Word of God reinforced, we begin to understand that certain behavioral patterns that are acceptable in the culture in which we live are totally unacceptable to God. When we sin, we know that we are sinning, but we trivialize our sin. We say, “I know I am not supposed to do that, but it’s not a big deal.” As we come under the scrutiny of the Word of God, we begin to see that things that we do not regard as a big deal are indeed very important to God. We get a deeper understanding of righteousness and of evil.

The Scriptures also encourage us to obey God and discourage us from sin. So the Word of God is what we call a means of grace. When we spend time in the Bible, something happens to the inward man. Our mind gets changed. We start to think differently, and we approach decisions in a different way, all because our minds are saturated with the truth of God.

Have you read the whole Bible at least once all the way through? I have asked this question all over the world, and the overwhelming majority of professing Christians have never read the whole Bible. We all know that we should read the whole Bible, and we all know that spending time in the Word will have an impact on our souls and on our decisions. Many times we resolve to spend time in Scripture, but we do not, because something else comes up that we want to do more than we want to read Scripture. The desire is not compelling enough to cause us to act in a diligent and disciplined manner to feed the new man in Christ on the Word of God.

What can we do about that? What do we do about dieting? When we are really struggling at the table and can’t lose weight, even with the best resolve, we go to Weight Watchers, spend money, make a commitment, and enter a group. We become part of a group that is going to root for us every week and cheer when we succeed.

This is not a promotion for Weight Watchers, but in many ways it is an image of the church. We come to church partly to lose the excess baggage that we brought into the kingdom of God with our conversion. We come to church for help in killing the old man. We come to church so that our souls can be nurtured, and so that we can be instructed in the things of God in a way that is going to change our life. It changes our life by strengthening our resolve to do one thing rather than another. If you want to learn the Bible, and you are not doing it on your own, get into a Bible study group. If you want to learn the things of God and you do not have the discipline to start, get into a Sunday school class, not just for one hour a week, but to study and work on assignments for the rest of the week. The whole Christian battle is a battle of the will. It is a battle to overcome a will that by nature is bent in the wrong direction.

I am amazed when I hear people say the will is free, as if our will were indifferent to good or evil, with no inclination to go to the left or the right. I wonder if these people have spent any time in the Christian life or have struggled in the inward man to overcome the appetites, desires, and inclinations that drive our choices all our life. No, the will is not neutral.

Sec. 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

The Reformers believed that the will, although in a fallen state, could still achieve civic virtue or civic righteousness. Fallen man can still obey the traffic lights and so on, but he cannot incline himself to the things of God.

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65). “No one can” means “nobody can.” Remember your third-grade teacher? You raised your hand and asked, “Mrs. So-and-So, can I go to the pencil sharpener and sharpen my pen- cil?” She replied, “I’m sure that you can, but the question is not whether you can, but whether you may.” May has to do with permission; can has to do with ability. “No one can” means that no one is able.

We argue and discuss the doctrine of sola gratia, “of grace alone.” Does fallen man have the ability to turn to Christ and to choose him before he is born of the Holy Spirit? Most professing evangelical Christians today believe that faith comes first and then rebirth. This presupposes that the unconverted person has the ability to incline himself, or to choose to come, to Jesus Christ. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards said that no one is able to do that. I don’t care if you disagree with them, but you should not stand in defiance of the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you continue to think that in your fallen state you have the moral ability to come to Christ apart from the grace of God, you do so at your own peril. In John 6:65, our Lord clearly says that no one is able to come to him unless the ability to do so is given to him by the Father (“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”).

Fortunately for us, Jesus puts the word “unless” in that statement. That word points to what we call a necessary condition, a sine qua non. A necessary condition has to be met before a desired result can occur. The desired result is coming to Christ; the necessary condition is that the ability to come must be given to the person by the Father. Only God gives that ability. Nobody can come to Christ on his own; we are just not able to, unless God gives us the moral ability to do it.

Now, even Arminius agreed with that. How could he not, when he read the same Bible that we do? God, he agreed, has to do something to make it possible for a person to come to Christ. In a narrow sense, even Arminius would say that the Spirit must work in a person before he can choose Christ. However, his understanding of what the Holy Spirit does here differs radically from the Augustinian tradition. Arminius says that God makes people able. However, in his view, even when God gives you the grace to come to Christ, you still have the ability to refuse that grace. Some people accept that grace, that assistance to come to Christ; other people reject the help. Those who cooperate with the offer of grace are saved, and those who refuse the offer perish. So, in the final analysis, the reason why one person perishes and another person is saved is that one person cooperates with grace and is saved, while another per- son refuses to cooperate with grace and perishes. Once again, it all comes down to a person’s choice. One person makes the righteous choice, and another makes the unrighteous choice.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that in the end you must say that you are saved, while your neighbor isn’t, because you are more righteous. You have done the right thing to get saved, while your neighbor has not—and now you have something to boast about. But the Bible says that you may not boast before God, because it is God and God alone who enabled you to choose Christ. He actually worked faith in your heart, not only giving you release from prison, but giving you the positive inclination by which you then willingly came to Christ. Since the fall, the human will has been in bondage to sin, until liberated by God. He gives you what you lack, a positive desire for Christ.

The next chapter of the confession is on effectual calling. When the Holy Spirit gives you the grace of regeneration, its purpose is to bring you to Christ. God does not just give you the ability to come to Christ (John 6:65), but also draws you to him: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (6:44). Many evangelicals look at that text and say, “That means they will never come on their own initiative unless they are enticed or lured or encouraged or wooed. The Holy Spirit comes and woos people, encouraging them and drawing them like the flame draws the moth. But all of that enticing and drawing is merely the external influence of the Holy Spirit. He will not invade your soul or shape your will. He will just try to encourage you, saying, ‘Come on now; it’s a beautiful thing. Come to Christ.’ Some will be persuaded, and some will not.”

I was asked to debate this question at an Arminian school several years ago with the head of the New Testament department. When he quoted John 6:44, I mentioned to him that the Greek verb translated “draw” in this verse is the same verb that is used in the book of Acts when some men in Philippi dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities for casting an evil spirit out of their slave girl (Acts 16:19). Those men did not try to entice them to come before the magistrates; they compelled them to come. The professor interrupted: “But there are references in the Greek poet Euripides (or somebody) where this same verb refers to drawing water out of a well.” Smiling to the audience, he asked, “And Dr. Sproul, does anybody compel water to come out of a well?” Everybody laughed, and I responded, “How do you get water from a well? Do you stand at the top of the well and call, ‘Here, water, water, water’? Or is that water dead in the pit and absolutely inert unless you lower the bucket into the water and you drag it up to the surface?”

Jesus’ point in John 6:44 is that people cannot come to him unless they are compelled to come by the Father—unless God drags them. If you are in Christ, that is exactly how you came to Christ. The Holy Spirit dragged you there. He did not drag you kicking and screaming against your will, because he had changed your will before you came. Had he not changed the disposition of your heart, had he not put into your heart a desire for Christ, you would still be a stranger and an alien to the kingdom of God, because your will, while free from coercion, is still in bondage to sin. That will that you think is so free is, in fact, a slave imprisoned to yourself. You are your own slaveholder. Your will is enslaved to your dispositions, to your desires, which, the Bible says, are wicked continually, prior to conversion.

That sounds like determinism. B.F. Skinner, in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, argued that human decisions are the result of materialistic determinism. He claimed that people have no control over their destiny and no real freedom, because their decisions are determined by the physical forces around and within. I am saying that you do have freedom in the sense that you have the capacity to do what you want to do, but that you are also subject to a kind of determinism, which we call self-determination.

Self-determination is virtually synonymous with freedom or liberty. To be self-determined means that you are not forced or coerced to do something against your will; you are able to do what you want to do; you determine your destiny and make your choices, so it is the self that determines the will. But the problem is that the self is fallen and spiritually dead. It gives us desires and inclinations that are sinful. If we accordingly make sinful decisions, they may be made freely (from coercion), but they are still made in bondage to sin. Therefore, the capacity to make our own decisions does not give us the liberty we need.

Sec. 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

Sec. 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.

Before conversion, we are free to sin; after conversion, we are free to sin or to obey God. In heaven, when we are in glory, we are free only to obey. That is what we call royal freedom, the most wonderful freedom, where our choices will only be good. We will have no inclination whatsoever to do anything wicked or evil. The humanistic view, that true freedom means that we have an equal ability to go to the left or to the right, to do what is sinful or what is righteous, is a myth. It is not only unbiblical, but irrational. We must rid our minds of that notion and realize that at the heart of this matter is original sin. Prior to our conversion, we are enslaved to wicked impulses. But when the Spirit sets us free from bondage to sin, then we are truly free.

Adapted from Dr. R.C. Sproul. Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Volume Two: Salvation and the Christian Life. P&R: Philippsburg, N.J., 2007.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 Benefits of Giving Thanks by Charles F. Stanley

“Give Thanks in Everything”

Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives.

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by.Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy.There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What will you choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: