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*Which Comes First – Repentance or Revival?

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If we all repent as Christians, will this bring revival to our land? We might also ask, “Will revival bring repentance to our land?” Which comes first? Will our repentance bring down revival upon us or will revival bring repentance upon us? These are interesting questions to ponder. Actually, we should always be repenting of our sins as Christians. This is a part of our daily lives. God always calls us to repentance. If we all live better Christian lives, will this then cause revival to break out? We could also ask that if God sends revival will it not cause all Christians to live better Christian lives? If we think that by our repenting that God will send revival, we may have the cart before the horse.

What is revival anyway? Iain Murray in his book Pentecost – Today? gives this definition for revival: “A revival is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, brought about by the intercession of Christ, resulting in a new degree of life in the churches and a widespread movement of grace among the unconverted. It is an extraordinary communication of the Spirit of God, a superabundance of the Spirit’s operations, an enlargement of his manifest power.” (p. 23-24) By this definition, it seems that revival has it’s origin in God and that the result of sending revival is that repentance breaks out among both believers and unbelievers. It also indicates that revival is extraordinary and results in widespread evidence of its presence.

Alexander Moody Stuart in 1840 wrote, “While the Holy Ghost is always present in his church, there are times when he draws manifestly nearer and puts forth a greater energy of power. Every believer is conscious in his own soul of changes corresponding to this; for the Spirit is always with him, abiding in him, and yet there are times of unusual communion and far more than ordinary life. And as the Spirit draws near to an individual, so does he draw near to a land, and then religion is revived, spiritual life is revived, spiritual understanding, spiritual worship, spiritual repentance, spiritual obedience.” (quoted by Iain Murray in Pentecost-Today? p. 24-25) When true revival comes, spiritual repentance comes. It comes as a result of the revival not as a prerequisite. It is a fruit of the revival and comes because God has sent the revival. Now, we are talking about repentance on a large scale by a multitude of people resulting from a pouring out of God’s Spirit on that people.

In old times, revivals were called awakenings. They came from God and were sent to wake up a people to their spiritual condition bringing about great conviction of sin and widespread repentance. So, we have the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening in America. They did not come because the Christians had all repented and brought on the Awakening. On the contrary, the Awakenings came as a surprise and brought repentance with it. Iain Murray writes, “The sheer unexpectedness of such events bears equally against the view that revivals are conditioned by the preceding actions and efforts of Christians. Those who believe that a certain line of conduct or prayer must secure revival have history against them. Revivals come unheralded. They are, as Edwards witnessed in Northampton in 1735, ‘the surprising work of God’. Of the Great Awakening of 1740 it is said that ‘it broke upon the slumbering churches like a thunderbolt rushing out of a clear sky’.” (p. 22-23)

What about 2 Chronicles 7:14? This verse says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This has been a very popular verse for the last forty years or so which has been commonly put forth as a formula for revival in the land. If all the evangelical Christians in America do what this verse says, will revival come? So far it hasn’t happened. 

First, all the evangelical Christians in the land have not repented and secondly revival has not yet come. This promise was given to the people of Israel concerning their nation. It was an Old Testament promise and if the people did what God asked them to do, He would surely heal their land. 

Today, not only do evangelical Christians need to repent of their sins but also the people of the whole nation. Such a wide scale repentance will come only when God pours out His Spirit in great convicting power on the land. Such a wide scale repentance has happened in times past such as in the First and Second Great Awakenings and again in the great revival of 1858-59. However, the people of the nation had not repented first before these revivals came. On the contrary, the revival itself caused people to repent. When such a large scale repentance happens, the land will be healed. Iain Murray makes this point concerning the above verse, “But if our actions do not determine revival what are we to make of such promises as the one given to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14?…The first thing to say is surely that what is being promised is not revival, for the promise has to be understood, in the first instance, in relation to the time when it was given. It is of Old Testament Israel and her land of which healing is there spoken. The promise cannot be of revival, for revival has to do with the abundant giving of the Holy Spirit and that giving, as Old Testament Scripture made clear, lay in the future.” (p. 13, Pentecost-Today?) Well, this may be the case. However, this verse certainly describes what happens when revival comes. When God pours out His Spirit in great power, it humbles a people and causes them to repent and turn back to God. What we need to pray for is that what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says will happen in our land and that not only the Christians but the whole nation will repent and turn back to God.

A better Old Testament passage concerning revival can be found in Pslam 85:6 which says, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” I like the translation in the old Geneva Bible which says, “Wilt thou not turn again and quicken us that thy people may rejoice in thee?” This verse places the origin of revival in God and not man. It is God who must quicken us that we may be changed to a people that rejoice in the Lord. If God is the one who sends revival, then it is to Him that we must plead. We must ask Him to send revival on the land. We must cast ourselves on His mercy and ask that He send what we do not deserve. We deserve judgment as a nation for our sins, but we must intercede with God to have mercy upon us and to turn us around by His mighty power. The Geneva Bible translates Psalm 85:4 like this – “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and release thine anger toward us.” We need God’s mercy toward us in this hour that He might turn us around that we might be a people who will acknowledge Him and rejoice in Him.

What then should we do to bring on revival to the nation? We need to humble ourselves and realize that we can do nothing on our own. We need to realize that only God can send a revival to the land and we must humbly plead with Him in prayer to send such a revival in our day. We must be like the watchmen in Isaiah 62:6-7 where it says, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”

We should be watchmen for our nation and call on the Lord day and night to send revival to our land and make her to be the praise of the earth. When revival comes we can be a beacon of light to the whole world. This was the hope of the early Christians who came to America such as John Winthrop who wrote, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” (p. 700, America’s God and Country) William Bradford wrote of his hope for the nation and the influence of the early Pilgrims when he said, “Thus out of small beginning greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.” ( p. 67, America’s God and Country) Today, we need to call upon that same Jehovah who set a light in this nation so many years ago to rekindle that light and bring revival to this land. May we not rest until that light once more arises in our nation.

_____________

Works Cited

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.

1599 Geneva Bible. Tolle Lege Press, White Hall, VIrginia,2006.

Federer, William J. America’s God and Country. Fame Publishing, Inc. 1996.

Murray, Iain H. Pentecost – Today?. The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1998.

About Alex Dodson

Alex Dodson serves as president of Watchmen Radio Ministries International and as a staff evangelist. He has been in the gospel ministry for over thirty years. He was ordained in 1974 and has served as both a pastor and evangelist. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and is presently a member of International Ministerial Fellowship. He has also done postgraduate studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife Susan live in Portland, Oregon in the beautiful Northwest.

*Article by Alex Dodson adapted from ONEPLACE.COM

 

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Ten Key Ideas from C.S. Lewis’s Works

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(Adapted from C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction by James Como, Box 2)

These are central to Lewis’s  thinking: many of his arguments are based upon them and they were central to his life. Omitted are orthodox Christian ideas (e.g., the incarnation), as well as political ones (e.g., the danger of fetishizing equality: ‘I’m as good as you’):

  1. Joy (Sehnsucht): is a longing conveyed by some image or memory or event that does not originate in any of those but comes through them. It is from a place beyond the senses and kindles a hope that there is Heaven, that Heaven is our home, and that we will return there. It is painful because nothing in the world can satisfy it, no matter how hard we may try to do so; it is sweetly painful because we can intuit its origin and our destiny.
  2. Contemplation and Enjoyment (or At/Along), or knowing from the outside and from the inside, where a phenomenon (such as religious belief or being in love) may seem very different. We need both.
  3. Chronological snobbery: is the uncritical acceptance of our own intellectual climate, as though past beliefs or practices are useless simply because they came before us. A corollary is that our belief in progress is misplaced: we must ask what it is we are ‘progressing’ towards.
  4. Subjectivism is poisonous: because it leads to an exaltation of the Self, a form of idolatry, especially when applied to morality, as when something is deemed good because it feels good.
  5. Reason is objectively valid: and, though one’s logic may be flawed in any given case, is a sign of our non-material nature: atoms moving randomly in our brains is not thought. It is the ‘organ of truth’.
  6. Morality is objective: outside of any personal preference or perception and accessible to Reason. To be subjective respecting this Natural Law (the Tao) is to submit to those who have the power, especially the technological power, to enforce their preferences, leading to ‘the abolition of man’. It merits obedience.
  7. Imagination: especially when realized as metaphor, symbol, and myth, is the ‘organ of meaning’, antecedent to truth. It helps extend language without distorting or destroying it (‘verbicide’).
  8. Quiddity: is the ‘thingness’ of a thing, be it food, weather, or a person. We must pay attention to things as they are, name them appropriately, and respond ordinately to them.
  9. Personhood: is not at all the same as ‘personality’, the expression of which ought not to be one’s goal; rather we should apply the Law of Inattention, allowing us to pay attention to all sorts of signs outside of the Self, especially to other people. What am I feeling? matters less than What is that? After all, ‘feelings come and go, mostly they go’.
  10. Ultimate Reality: is not the plane of existence we occupy, which is but a ‘shadowland’, a sort of training camp for the realist thing. That solid place sends signs (e.g., Joy) and, because it is so much richer than our shadowland, must clothe those signs in words and objects that already have ordinary meaning to us (like erotic imagery symbolizing religious devotion). That is how sacramentalism works: a higher reality is transposed into a more limited key having ‘notes’ we recognize as ordinary.

About The Author: James T. Como holds a Ph.D. in Language, Literature, and Rhetoric from Columbia University and is now Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric and Public Communication at York College (CUNY). A founding member of the New York C. S. Lewis Society (1969), Dr. Como’s books include Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, a study of Lewis as a rhetorician, and Remembering C. S. Lewis. These, along with his many articles on Lewis in journals including The Wilson Quarterly and The New Criterion, and on-air commentary for five biographical documentaries, have established Dr. Como as one of the most highly-regarded Lewis scholars in the world. The Ten Key Ideas above are from his outstanding Introduction to C.S. Lewis in the series of books “A Very Short Introduction” published by Oxford University Press.

 
 

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*Ask People How You Can Pray for Them

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It’s a short, easily remembered question. You can use it with longtime friends or with people you’ve just met. It doesn’t seem too personal or pushy for those who’d rather give you a shallow answer just now, and yet it often leads to a full hearing of the gospel. You can ask it of people nearly every time you speak with them and it doesn’t get old. Just simply and sincerely ask, “How can I pray for you?” You’ll be surprised at the results.

Over and over I’ve seen one simple question open people’s hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I’ve seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, “How can I pray for you?”

This may not seem like such a powerful question to you. Perhaps that’s because you hear it, or a question like it, quite often. Your Bible study group or your church prayer meeting asks for prayer requests every week. You may even see requests for prayer solicited each Sunday morning in the worship bulletin.

But realize that most people in the world never hear such a question. And while many churchgoers know that a minister is willing to pray for them, in some traditions they’re expected to make a special donation to the church for such services. So when you ask, “How can I pray for you?” and it’s obvious that you’re asking out of love alone, it can touch a person more deeply than you imagine.

This question is similar to one that Jesus Himself sometimes asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32). For what we are really asking is, “What do you want me to ask Jesus to do for you?” And by means of this question, we can show the love of Christ to people and open hearts previously closed to the gospel.

I had tried to talk about the things of God many times to a business-hardened, retired executive who lived next door. He was a pro at hiding his feelings and keeping conversations at a superficial level. But the day we stood between our homes and I asked, “How can I pray for you?” his eyes filled with tears as hisBut the day we stood between our homes and I asked, “How can I pray for you?” his eyes filled with tears as his façade of self-sufficiency melted. For the first time in seven years he let me speak with him about Jesus.

It’s a short, easily remembered question. You can use it with longtime friends or with people you’ve just met. It doesn’t seem too personal or pushy for those who’d rather give you a shallow answer just now, and yet it often leads to a full hearing of the gospel. You can ask it of people nearly every time you speak with them and it doesn’t get old. Just simply and sincerely ask, “How can I pray for you?” You’ll be surprised at the results.

*Excerpted from Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003). Copyright © 2003, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. Read more sample chapters from this book at http://www.BiblicalSpirituality.org

 

 
 

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David Mathis on “What Does the Bible Say About Baptism? Six Texts We Cannot Ignore”

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Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, said, “There is on earth no greater comfort than baptism.” Luther was famous for fighting against sin and Satan by preaching to himself, “I am baptized! I am baptized!”

Luther was not claiming to be saved simply because he was baptized. Rather, he rightly perceived the wonder and glory of baptism. He saw the visible, external act of baptism as an objective reminder of the invisible, internal reality of new birth and the faith through which we are saved on the basis of Christ alone. Luther was, after all, the great champion of justification by faith — as well as one captivated by the power and grace of baptism.

Yet, as a baptist, I can’t help but observe that something was missing in Luther’s reminder to himself about his baptism. Luther was what we call a paedobaptist (or infant-baptist). He himself was baptized as an infant, not in response to a profession of his own faith, but because of the faith of his parents — the faith they prayed would be manifest someday in their newborn son. Luther himself supported and practiced infant-baptism not only of adult converts, but also of the infants of Christian parents.

How much more powerful would recalling his baptism be if he could actually recall it? What if his baptism would have been an expression of saving faith already plainly present in his soul, rather than just a hope and prayer of his parents?

Repent, Believe, Be Baptized

Luther is not alone in leaving something to be desired in his vision of baptism. God has embedded his sacraments with more than meets the eye. For all of us, the “visible words” of the ordinances teem with depths of wonder and power into which we grow and mature. Christians of all stripes can anticipate shades and textures of meaning in Christian baptism we have yet to realize.

Before I lay out six of the most important New Testament texts to consider, let me acknowledge at the outset that godly evangelical pastors, scholars, churches, and seminaries stand on both sides of this question. The issues are many, and the arguments often complex, and I have great respect for many dear infant-baptist brothers and sisters.

Nevertheless, we credobaptists (or believer-baptists) — who baptize, typically by immersion, only those who give a credible profession of faith — have a deeper case than only what’s on the surface of the biblical text. For instance, as you often hear from believer-baptists, if you go looking in the New Testament for an example of an infant being baptized, you won’t find one. We don’t overlook the obvious, but we do go further and deeper.

(1) Mark 1:5 

All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to [John] and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Without exception in the New Testament, baptism is tied to repentance and faith in the baptizee. John’s baptism, the precursor to Christian baptism, was explicitly, repeatedly, and irreducibly tied to repentance. “They were baptized by [John] in the river Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). John said, “I baptize you with water for repentance(Matthew 3:11). In the Gospels and Acts, John’s baptism is summarized as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; also Acts 13:24; 19:4). 

Then, in telling the story of the early church, Acts repeatedly ties Christian baptism to repentance and faith:

  • Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
  • “Those who received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).
  • “When they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip” (Acts 8:12–13).

(2) Acts 18:8 

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Infant-baptists often point to the “household baptisms” mentioned in Acts 16:33, 18:8, and 1 Corinthians 1:16 and argue that any infants in these households would have been baptized. However, as John Piper writes,

Nowhere in Scripture is there any instance of an infant’s being baptized. The “household baptisms” (mentioned in Acts 16:15, 33 and 1 Corinthians 1:16) are exceptions to this only if one assumes that the household included infants. But, in fact, Luke steers us away from this assumption, for example in the case of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:32), by saying that Paul first “spoke the word of the Lord . . . to all who were in [the jailer’s] house,” and then baptized them. (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry,  156–157)

In Acts 18:8, Luke clarifies immediately, in the ensuing sentence, that simply being in the newly Christian household was not enough for baptism. Belief in Jesus was prerequisite: “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).

The believer-baptist argument goes deeper than such instances in the Gospels and Acts, but we often begin here. And not just in the early-church narratives, which can be thorny in terms of prescription, but also in the Epistles. Four anchor texts in the apostolic letters bind baptism and faith with a clarity and simplicity that is unmatched in the infant-baptist argument.

(3) Galatians 3:26–27 

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Paul assumes that those who have been baptized and those who have saving faith are the same group (with no sanctioned outliers). Faith and baptism belong together in the church’s practice and in the individual Christian’s experience. Those who evidence saving faith should be baptized. And those who have been baptized have given expression to saving faith.

No allowance or provision is made here, or elsewhere, for some who would have been baptized apart from a profession of faith, in anticipation of faith to come.

(4) Colossians 2:11–12

In [Christ] you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

The mention of circumcision is important because one of the main arguments for infant-baptists is that as circumcision was administered to every male born into God’s first-covenant people, so baptism should be applied to every child (male and female) born into believing families of God’s new-covenant people, the church. However, this is not what Colossians 2, or any other New Testament text, says about circumcision.

Here “the circumcision of Christ” refers to his being cut off, at the cross, for our sins, and the “circumcision made without hands,” which Paul applies to every believer, is spiritual circumcision, that is, new birth (as commentator Doug Moo notes, “the connections . . . are between spiritual circumcision and baptism,” Colossians, 269, n18).

Of these new-covenant people who are born again, circumcised in heart, Paul expects the new-covenant inaugural rite of water baptism to have been applied. As we’ll explore more below, the new-covenant recipients of baptism, as the counterpart to old-covenant circumcision, are those who have new birth (not mere natural birth), a spiritual circumcision which does not happen apart from faith. Colossians 2:11–12, like Galatians 3:26–27, presumes active and professed faith in all baptized, not just their parents.

(5) Romans 6:3–4 

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.

As in Colossians 2, the baptized are those who have been buried into Jesus’s death and raised to new life in him. Not only does the image suggest immersion, rather than sprinkling or pouring, but more importantly, “newness of life” testifies to new birth and its effects, not mere first birth.

An “old self,” into which we were born (Ephesians 2:1–3), has been crucified (Romans 6:6) or put off (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9). And Paul says such is true of “all of us,” all the baptized. We all now “walk in newness of life,” not in the oldness of our first birth. The infant-baptist argument that presumes faith in the newborn does not do justice to the litany of New Testament texts about conversion, putting off an old man, and walking in newness of life.

(6) 1 Peter 3:21

Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This text is often avoided, by believer-baptists and infant-baptists alike, because it raises the question about what it meant by “baptism . . . now saves you.” However, if we understand the verse aright, we both clear up that confusion and see further confirmation that baptism is nothing less than an objective expression of subjective repentance and faith (new birth) already present (not simply hoped for) in the baptizee.

Peter anticipates we will be surprised to hear “baptism . . . saves you,” so he immediately explains. He does not mean that the external act of baptism, “as a removal of dirt from the body,” has salvific power on its own. Rather, the instrument connecting the believer to Christ for salvation is the invisible condition of the heart (faith) that is being externally expressed in baptism.

Baptism demonstrates objectively and externally the subjective and internal “appeal to God for a good conscience.” Baptism saves not as an outward act but through the inward faith it expresses. Peter’s statement hangs together on baptism expressing a saving, spiritually newborn condition of heart in the believer.

Plausible or Biblical?

Beyond the instances in the narratives, and the didactic words of the apostles tying baptism to faith, we also make our argument on theological and covenantal grounds. I’ll leave that for the next article, but there is something fitting about not moving on to those arguments too quickly. Essential to the credobaptist position is doing justice to the demonstrable teaching of the New Testament.

The best infant-baptist voices typically provide admirably plausible, reasonable, and consistent arguments. The key issue for us as Christians, however, should not be whether the argument is plausible and consistent, but whether it is taught by the actual text of Scripture.

While we must move on, in due course, to the more theological and covenantal arguments, we dare not pass too quickly over the plain, stubborn, obvious readings of the New Testaments texts. Whatever your tradition, a good argument for the nature and application of Christian baptism cannot ignore or minimize what the Bible actually says, including these six important texts.

*David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. This article was adapted from David Mathis’ article entitled What Does the Bible Say About Baptism? Six Texts We Cannot Ignore, desiringgod.org (May 27, 2019).  

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul Jr.’s – Growing Up With R.C. – Truths I Learned About Grace, Redemption, and The Holiness of God

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Reviewed By David P. Craig

I have to admit that I read this book with great reluctance. I was hoping it would not be another Franky Schaeffer angrily vomiting on his famous parents type of book. I was pleasantly surprised to read a book that endeared me even more to R.C. Sproul Sr., and made me appreciate the honesty and respect of R.C. Jr., for his wise and loving Heavenly and Earthly Father’s.

I am grateful that R.C. Jr. has written this book for three reasons: (1) It made me understand more of where he is coming from – I especially appreciated his transparency and humility in admitting his own struggles with the flesh; (2) I appreciated his insights and gleanings of grace and wisdom from his dad and mom over his lifetime; (3) I am grateful for his Christ-centered focus and glorying in the grace of God in the Gospel.

I just want to say “thank you” to R.C. Jr. for sharing your father with us. Thank you for owning up to your own struggles and modeling repentance and faith in Jesus alone. Thank you, Lisa (R.C. Jr.s, wife) for praying for and unconditionally loving your husband. And thank You R.C. Sr. and Vesta for your passion for Jesus and for the grace and mercy you have given your children. 

I heartily commend this book as a respectful tribute to R.C. Sr., and an even greater tribute to our Gracious and Merciful Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

 

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14 CLASSIC ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

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(1) The Argument from Motion There is motion (locomotion) in the universe. Something cannot move itself; an external agent or force is required. An infinite regress of forces is meaningless. Hence, there must be a being who is the ultimate source of all motion while not being moved itself. This being is God, the unmoved mover (*a posteriori) ~ Thomas Aquinas
(2) The Cosmological Argument Every effect has a cause. There must be an infinite regress of finite causes. Therefore, there must be an uncaused cause or necessary being. This being is God. (*a posteriori) ~ Thomas Aquinas
(3)The Argument from Possibility and Necessity Things exist in a network of relationships to other things. They can exist only within this network. Therefore, each is a dependent thing. However, an infinite regress of dependencies is contradictory. There must, then, be a being who is absolutely independent, not contingent on anything else. This being is God. (*a posteriori) ~ Thomas Aquinas
(4) The Argument from Perfection It can be observed from the universe that there is a pyramid of beings (e.g., from insects to humans), in an ever-increasing degree of perfection. There must be a final being who is absolutely perfect, the source of all perfection. This being is God. (*a posteriori) ~ Thomas Aquinas
(5) The Teleological Argument – Also Called The Argument from Design There is an observable order or design in the world that cannot be attributed to the object itself (e.g., inanimate objects). This observable order argues for an intelligent being who established this order. This being is God. (*a posteriori) ~ Thomas Aquinas
(6) The Moral or Anthropological Argument All people possess a moral impulse or categorical imperative. Since this morality is not always rewarded in this life, there must be some basis or reason for moral behavior that is beyond this life. This implies the existence of immortality, ultimate judgment, and a God who establishes and supports morality by rewarding good and punishing evil (*a posteriori) ~ Immanuel Kant, C.S. Lewis
(7) The Argument That God Is An Innate Idea All normal human beings are born with the idea of God implanted in the mind , though it is suppressed in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). As the child grows into adulthood, this idea becomes clearer. Critical experience in the course of life may make this idea come alive.  (**a priori) ~ Augustine, John Calvin, Charles Hodge
(8) The Argument from Mysticism Mankind is able to have a direct mystical experience with God resulting in an ecstatic experience. This union with God is so uniquely overpowering that it self-validates the existence of God. (**a priori) ~ Evelyn Underhill
(9) The Argument from Truth All people believe that something is true. If God is the God of truth and the true God, then God is Truth. This Truth (capital T) is the context for all other truth. Therefore, the existence of truth implies the existence of Truth, which implies the existence of God. (**a priori) 
(10) The Ontological Argument Major premise: Mankind has an idea of an infinite and perfect being. Minor premise: Existence is a necessary part of perfection.

Conclusion: An infinite and perfect being exists, since the very concept of perfection requires existence.  (**a priori) ~ Anselm of Canterbury

(11) The Argument From Finitude Humans are aware of their finitude. What makes them aware of this? God is continually impressing humans with God’s infinitude. Therefore the sense of finitude itself is proof that an infinite being, God, exists. (**a priori) ~ Aristotle
(12) The Argument  From Blessed-ness Humans are restless, with a vague longing for blessedness until they rest in God. This longing was given by God. The presence of this longing is an indirect proof of God’s existence. (**a priori) ~ Augustine, Thomas Aquinas
(13) The Argument From Perception Human beings are able to perceive (sense) things. This cannot be caused either by physical events (perception as a mental act) or by human beings themselves. Therefore, the existence of perception implies Gods existence as the only rational explanation for human perceptions. (**a priori) ~ Bishop George Berkeley
(14) The Existential Argument  God proves Himself via the kerygma, which is His declaration of love, forgiveness, and justification of mankind. Those who decide for the kerygma then know God exists. No other evidence is needed. God is not so much proven as He is known, and this occurs existentially, from experiences in life. (**a priori) ~ Auguste Sabatier

*a posteriori = knowledge, thought, statements or arguments that logically follow from, arises after, or are dependent on, sense experience.

**a priori = knowledge, thought, statements or arguments that are logically prior to, or arising from a concept or principle that precedes empirical verification, or that occurs independently of experience.

 

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Private Prayer by Dr. Joel Nederhood

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Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation (Ps. 5:3).

Those who develop the habit of private prayer follow Jesus in a very special way. The Bible says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

This was Jesus’ habit. Luke tells us that, the night before He called His followers and chose 12 disciples, Jesus “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (6:12).

The beautiful thing about being a Christian is that those who follow Christ can follow Him to the private place of prayer and can talk there with their Father in heaven. In this they may imitate their Savior in an extremely significant manner.

But what about this private prayer? I have a feeling that many Christians don’t know very much about it. Even those of us who know the secret of private prayer remember times when we called ourselves Christ’s followers but didn’t often follow Him to a private place to pray.

Those who do not know the joys and the power of private prayer must long for a deeper, more private relationship with God. Many of you who are reading this right now know something about Christianity, but you know virtually nothing about time spent alone in conversation with God. I don’t mean that you don’t pray. Of course you do. But your prayers are extremely brief. Once you have cried out in your need; you don’t know what else to say. The simple fact is that you spend very, very little time in actual prayer to God.

Don’t be satisfied with that. A little booklet called The Kneeling Christian says that prayerlessness is the secret of your failure. Often we talk about the secret of success, but what is the secret of the failure of gloomy, despondent,”unsuccessful” Christians? They do not speak freely about their Savior. They do not turn over their burdens to Him. They sometimes fall into gross sin. In their hearts, they harbor envy and anger and greed and all sorts of emotions that have no place in the lives of those who claim to follow Christ. Not one of us can claim that he or she has not experienced failure as a Christian. What is the secret of our failure? Our prayerlessness.

So we must follow Christ in prayer. We must look back across the centuries and see Him rise early in the morning and make His way to the solitary place where He prayed. We must follow Him to our own private place and there learn the reality of private prayer. It is a discipline, but, like every discipline, it yields freedom. Prayer is beautiful, and, if we are willing to let it, it can transform our lives. In this article, I wish to address whether we pray or not, where we pray, when we pray, what we pray for, how we pray (i.e., whether audibly or silently), what helps we need for our prayer, and what we should expect from private prayer. I write especially for those who have already confessed their sins and fled to Christ for salvation. I know that there are always readers who have not yet surrendered themselves to God’s saving grace—they have not asked Jesus to be the Lord of their lives. I hope, however, that, if you are not yet a Christian, you will continue to read about the blessings of private prayer. It could be that God will work in you and give you a holy jealousy so that you will not be able to rest until you enjoy private prayer yourself. I assure you that Jesus Christ wants nothing more than to have you come to Him in faith so that you can learn the glory of this holy exercise.

There are some people who believe in Christ but who don’t pray very much, because they tend to feel that it is really not very necessary to pray. If you ask them how they feel about prayer, they say something like this: “After all, God is in charge of everything anyway, and He will do what He wants, so why bother praying?” Then they say that God knows their needs anyway, that there’s no use telling Him about things He already knows. They pray occasionally, but they don’t arrange their lives so that they can have a time of private prayer.

I understand their feelings, and I am very thankful that the Bible contradicts them. In Luke 11, we have the record of Jesus’ disciples asking Him to teach them to pray. He does teach them—He gives them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer. He also does more. He indicates that they should use the avenue of prayer, that they should not hesitate to approach God and make their needs known to Him, because God does hear and answer prayer.

Jesus told His disciples several brief parables—special stories—in connection with prayer in Luke 11. (Why not look them up and read them?) They all can be summed up in this statement: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

So let there be no question about whether we should pray. God is greater than our logic, and when it comes to the things of the Spirit, we must not be logical and biblical. Jesus not only teaches us to pray, but also encourages us in the strongest possible language to practice prayer. Those who do not arrange their lives so that they can enjoy the advantages of private prayer miss out on the full wonder of what it means to be a Christian.

Surely we should pray. About this there is no doubt whatsoever. But where? In a sense, location makes no difference. There is a form of continual prayer, which I cannot get into now, that Christians should be involved in all the time. That kind of prayer obviously can and should be done everywhere. But when it comes to private prayer, the kind by which we follow Christ to the solitary place, it is good to have a special place to pray.

In Matthew 6:6 Jesus tells us, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Each of us should have a special room to go to in to pray. I realize that many of us just don’t have a room that we can use, because our apartments are too crowded. Some of you who are reading this little article are living in barracks or even in cell blocks. Privacy is very precious, and, unfortunately, many people these days have a hard time finding any. If you are in a situation in which privacy is scarce, you will have to use your ingenuity to try to find some somewhere. Maybe you’ll have to go out into the garage, or storeroom, or somewhere in the basement.

If you have a room available to you, that is the ideal place to go. And I strongly suggest that you have your private prayer in the same place as much as possible. It should be a place where you cannot be observed or heard, and where you cannot hear all the sounds of what is going on elsewhere.

Privacy is not just incidental in this kind of prayer. Private prayer must be between yourself and God. You should not discuss your prayers a great deal with others. Prayer is powerful when it is not affected in any way by the judgments of others.

Now, finding a private place can be related to your time of prayer, for some places are often more private at one time than at another. When should you pray? Well, there is a 

sense in which people pray all the time—they try to live in obedience to God and to think about His will for their lives, so what they do and say is a form of prayer. But private prayer—the kind of prayer Jesus clearly practiced and recommended that you practice—when should you have such prayer?

In answering this question, you must make allowances for the fact that people differ with respect to when they are most alert. We should remember that there are morning people and night people. It would be unrealistic to suggest that night people have their private prayers in the morning. One very fine Christian I know says very frankly that his faith is very imperfect before 9 a.m., especially before he has his first cup of coffee.

Even so, there is reason to believe that, when the Bible talks about private prayer, it considers that in many cases there will be morning prayers. Jesus’ solitary prayers were early morning prayers and prayers that went on through the night. Apparently, the important thing about the matter of time is that private prayer works best in a time of stillness. And it is not necessary to limit such praying only to one time of day. Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.”

There are, however, several advantages that come with early morning. First, the stillness of the time before dawn helps in private prayer. Second, and this is even more important, our own minds are still uncluttered by the events of the day; Then, too, when we rise early to call upon the Lord, it is often the easiest time to find a private place.

In connection with this, I also want to mention that private prayer should be of some substantial duration. Jesus spirit extended periods of time in private prayer. If you are new at praying in private, you may wish to start with five or ten minutes, but, before long, fifteen minutes will probably become a minimum for you. You will look forward to days when you don’t have to go to work, holidays and the like, when you can spend more time praying. Yes, there should be a time set aside that is approached carefully and arranged deliberately so that you do not pray quickly and then rush away as soon as possible. You may need some kind of clock that helps you make sure you get up on time and that signals when you should conclude your prayers (because there are other things that must be done). 

Many of you will have to arrange your lives so that you can get up on time to have your private prayers. This may mean that you will have to go to bed earlier in the evening, but all this is part of the discipline of prayer, a discipline that ultimately yields liberation.

How should you conduct your private prayers? Should they be audible or silent? It is possible to pray to God silently. When you have good control, your thoughts can march through your mind as efficiently as if you were speaking out loud. But you often do not have good control of your mind, do you? People who pray silently in the early morning are very apt to find themselves becoming drowsy and confused; when they are through, they may wonder what they have actually prayed about. In general, then, your time of private prayer is a time to formulate your prayers audibly. It is important, as well, to arrange your thoughts and to speak sensibly and coherently to the Lord. Many times, combinations of silent and audible prayer may work out well. The important thing is that you maintain your attention and do not think that you are praying when you are actually in the process of falling asleep.

Therefore, it is also important that you have proper posture in prayer. When it comes to prayer posture, no one has found an improvement on kneeling. For many, this is surely the posture of choice in private prayer. It would be a mistake to try to pray while lounging in one’s favorite easy chair. That is quite counterproductive.

Now the important question—what should you actually pray for, or pray about, during your time of private prayer? I cannot begin to answer this question in such a brief article, for there are so many subjects to pray about that will come up in your private prayers over a period of time, especially as you become more and more accustomed to having this special time with God each day.

You must remember, though, that the primary idea in prayer is asking. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He taught them a prayer that was made up of requests. In Luke 11, we read that He encourages them to pray by saying that those who ask for things will receive them. In private prayer, you can lay all your needs before

the Lord. It is a time to pray for others, as we all are obligated to do. Often God brings difficult circumstances into our lives or the lives of those who are very precious to us so that we will learn to lean on Him in prayer. This is what Psalm 5:3 expresses when it says, “In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.”

In your private prayers you will find that, along with your requests, you will also naturally offer praise and thanksgiving to God for all His mercies to you. One cannot experience the joy of private prayer without being moved to praise God for His goodness. You may find yourself calling out, in the words of Psalm 145, “I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever…. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom” (vv. 1,3).

There will also be your confession of sin. The person who meets God in private prayer grows to see himself or herself as the chief of sinners. There is nothing like private prayer for humbling people. The sins of others recede into the background, and pray-ers see themselves for what they really are. It is a time to bare your heart before the Lord and to ask Him once again—you always end up asking for something, you see—to cleanse you and to fill you with His Spirit.

In addition to all of this, you will need helps in order to get the full benefit of private prayer. You will need the Bible. Often when praising God, it is best to use the words He gives us in His Scripture. You should have it open before you as you pray, and, over a period of time, you will learn to look to special places for the words you want—to tell God how much you love Him and how much you want to magnify His name. In the Bible, too, are words of confession—Psalm 51 tells us about our own unworthiness. You may want to write passages on cards and use them as you pray. Over a period of time,· those words will be burned into your memory. Surely you need God’s Word right there with you in your solitary place.

lt is also good to have a prayer list—to make sure that you remember all you should remember when you come to God. As you pray more and more, you will realize that you have a great responsibility to pray for others and that you can do this best by having some kind of list. There will be in”stances in Which you should pray for speCific things for special people. And as you pray for the salvation of certain people whom God has put on your heart, you may find it helpful to have a special card for each person.

When you pray for someone who has cancer, for example, you should not simply ask God to bless that person, but pray that He will destroy cancer cells in that person’s body. You should pray as specifically as you can for people. You owe it to them; Those who belong to Christ have this high priestly responsibility.

The blessings that accompany private prayer are too numerous to list. l will conclude with a brief consideration of a few of the more obvious ones.

There is the joy of anticipation—you are always able to look forward to meeting God in that private place, and you know that there you will again be able to cast your burdens on Him. There is also the peace that passes all understanding. When you bring to God your deepest needs and the needs of others, you can feel the calm that comes from knowing that He is in control, and that you can trust Him. There are so many situations in life over which we have no control, but we can pray about them. 

Another blessing is this: as you learn the discipline of private prayer, you will know that one of the reasons these situations have happened is that God is heeding your request. Private prayer is an overwhelming privilege, and it is there for anyone who humbles himself before the Lord and learns to pray.

In our private places, we are in the presence of our loving Father, and we realize that He is preparing us for eternity- when we will be able to talk to God face to face.

Our continual prayer needs to be, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We have much to learn. We need to overcome our tendencies to put all sorts of things ahead of our need to pray. We need God’s help in arranging our lives so that we really do pray. And when we come to the private place, we need to be taught the wonder and glory of talking with such an awesome God!

About the author: Dr. Joel Nederhood, a minister of the Christian Reformed Church, serves as radio minister of The Back to God Hour,a weekly broadcast of his denomination. This article is an edited version of a radio address given by Dr. Nederhood in January 1986. Also available at biblical studies.org.uk/pdf/ref-rev/01-3/1-3_nedorhood.pdf. The article in full can be seen in Reformation and Revival: A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership: Volume 1, No.3, Summer 1992.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Prayer Helps

 

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