Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Lot More Dying to Do: A Birthday Reflection

birthday-candles33

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday.

In most ways, the day was no different than any before.  If it was not for calendar dates, I would know no difference.  But there it was, November 25th and therefore another birthday come by the gracious hand of God.

I have never been one to think much of my age.  It’s just another number in many respects.  A course that all must follow granted and paved by the Author, Giver, and Sustainer of Life.

Since God called me to Himself in His Son by His Spirit through His Word a little over ten years ago I have lived with an ever present urgency toward life.  Tomorrow is a gift not a promise.  This urgency, at times for better and at others for worse, has encouraged my longing for the wisdom of age and experience separated from the life and time needed to cultivate such gifts.  A temptation for all – particularly Christians.

As I reflected on my birthday, I was humbled by what came to mind.  Throughout the day, God’s gifts in my life were constantly brought before me: His salvation, constant provision, care, and grace, my loving and compassionate wife, three beautiful daughters, a supportive and loving family and friends, the body of Christ to which we have been joined, and so many other expressions of grace.

But more than that, my mind was fixed on Christ’s death (bear with me for I am not attempting to be super-spiritual).  Tradition (not dogma) has been that Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, was 33 years of age when he was crucified.  This is the age I now bear.  Many, in light of the fleeting nature of life marred by the curse of sin, say to themselves and others as they grow older that they have a lot more living to do.  Therefore they set out to amass for themselves those things which they feel are lacking in enjoying a “fulfilled life.”  Yet, as I considered my life in relation to Christ’s death on my behalf I realized that it was not more living to my self that was needed but rather I have a lot more dying to do.

You see, this is why Christ came – that in dying he would give us life and in dying we would live.  In Luke 9, following Peter’s great, God-given confession of Jesus as “The Christ of God,” Jesus announces the plan to bring life through death and the way in which we might enjoy such life.  Luke records Jesus’s words:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (v 22-25)

There it is.  Death for life and life for death.  Christ’s substitutionary and sacrificial death purchased my life, freedom, and eternity.  But my experience and enjoyment of the life he died to give is directly impacted by the life, or better yet, the death I live.

It is not more living for my self, my desires, my ambitions, my dreams, and my happiness that I need but the perpetual putting to death of these for the greater joy of living for Him, his desires, his will, and his people.  This is life.  It is the life that every person in Christ is called to enjoy not just to do.  This is life more abundant found only in and through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, as I reflect on my life I still see too much of me: pride, lust, idolatry, foolishness, self-righteousness, and much those entail.  What I long for, by God’s gracious sanctifying work of the Spirit, is to see more of Christ in and through me.  Alongside God’s purpose in salvation to be praised for His glorious grace is His purpose to present us holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:3f).  While this will be brought to fulfillment in Christ’ return (1 John 3:1-3; Phil. 1:6), my desire and His intention is that I be, here and now until I take my last breath, conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29-30).  This conformation (or transformation, as used elsewhere) comes through death – a dying to self and a living unto Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; cf. Luke 9:23-25 above).

As I look back upon my life, I am thankful and humbled by God’s immeasurable goodness to an unworthy soul.  John Newton said it well, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. But still, I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God, I am what I am!”  Praise God!

So, as I look forward to what lies ahead, I wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) but not only in His return but the appearing of His glory even now in and through my life as I fix my gaze upon Him and am transformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

I am 33 but, by God’s grace, I have a lot more dying to do.

Soil Deo Gloria

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A Biblical Look at Election

christianWhat Election is Not

  • Election is not salvation but unto salvation (2Th 2:13-14; Eph 1:4; Rom 8:29-30).
  • Election is not exclusive of means (2Th 2:14; Eph 1:5, 13; 2Ti 2:10; 1Pe 1:2).
  • Election is not a respecter of persons (Rom 9:18-24). Fame, wealth, wisdom, position, etc., did not cause God to have respect for some and thus elect them (Job 34:19). All being ungodly, none could have been saved had he not shown grace to some.
  • Election is not “salvation regardless,” but unto salvation through the redemption of Christ, applied by the Spirit through the Gospel (Joh 6:37; Rom 10:17; 1Th 1:4-5; 2Th 2:13-14; Act 13:48).
  • Election is not opposed to the Gospel, but the Gospel is a means in accomplishing election’s purpose (see Scriptures already cited).
  • Election is not an enemy of righteousness, but through its appointed means it causes those once ungodly to live godly (Eph 1:4; 1Th 1:4-10).
  • Election is not based on unforeseen faith or works, but it produces faith and works (Rom 9:11-16; 11:5-6; Phi 1:6; 1Ti 1:9; Eph 2:8-10; Act 13:48; 1Co 3:5; Rom 12:3; Eph 4:7; Act 5:31; 2Ti 2:25).
  • Election does not shut the door of salvation but opens that door for all those who come to Christ (Joh 6:37, 44, 63; 10:9; 14:6).
  • Election is not a hindrance to Gospel preaching, but it assures the Gospel of success (Isa 55:11; Joh 10:27; 6:37, 45; 17:20-21; Act 15:14; 16:14; 18:27; 2Ti 2:9-10).
  • Election is not of the Jews only (Rom 9:24; 11:5-8, 11-12, 25; Joh 11:52).
  • Election is not merely to service but to salvation (2Th 2:13-14; 2Ti 2:10).
  • Election is not fatalism but is the work of God (1Th 1:4; Rom 8:28, 30).
  • Election does not destroy man’s so-called “free will.” The will of man is his desire, wish or choice. His choice is sin (Joh 3:19-20; 5:40; 3:11; 4:17-19; Jer 17:9; 13:23; etc.). Man “freely”chooses sin, and by God’s grace, the elect freely choose Christ (Psa 65:4; 110:3; Joh 6:44, 65; Act 13:48). Lazarus “freely” rotted, but at the word of Christ, he “freely” came forth (Joh 11); and so do the elect of God.
  • Election is not anti-missionary but gives the foundation for missions (Joh 6:37; 17:20-21; 2Ti 2:10; Isa 55:11; 2Pe 3:9, 15).
  • Election does not destroy the responsibility of man. Men are responsible with whatever light they have, be it conscience (Rom 2:15), nature (Rom 1:19-20), written Law (Rom 2:17-27), or the Gospel (Mar 16:15-16). Man’s inability to do righteousness no more frees him from responsibility than does Satan’s inability to do righteousness.
  • Election does not make God unjust. His blessing of a great number of unworthy sinners with salvation is no injustice to the rest of the unworthy sinners. If a government pardons one convict, is it injustice to the rest (1Th 5:9)?
  • Election does not discourage convicted sinners but welcomes them to Christ. “Let him who thirsts come” (Rev 22:17). The God who saves is the God who has elected men unto salvation. He is the same God who invites.
  • Election does not discourage prayer. To the contrary, it drives us to God, for He it is who alone can save. True prayer is the Spirit’s prompting; and thus will be in harmony with God’s will (Rom 8:28).
  • Election is not of man. Some say, “God votes, the devil votes, and man votes.” The Bible teaches that election is not of the devil and man, but “of God” (1Th 1:4; Joh 10:16; 1Jo 4:10, 19).
  • Election is not of reason but of revelation. At first it does not appeal to man’s reason; but when man accepts God’s Word, it is seen to be the only thing that could be “reasonable” (Mat 20:15).

Let me close this important chapter with a brief warning to those who reject and speak against the blessed doctrine of election:

  1. It is not wise to make derogatory remarks about what is in the Bible, whether you understand it or not.
  2. It is not wise to reject what the Bible teaches on any subject, especially if you have not studied what the Bible says about it.
  3. It is not wise to make a hobby out of any one doctrine. Although this doctrine is of vital importance, it is only one doctrine and must not be separated from all Christian truth.
  4. It is not wise to reject any doctrine because it has been abused and misused. All the key doctrines have been perverted.

If it were not for election, your will would take you to hell. You can only get rid of election by getting rid of the Bible. My foremost reason for believing in election is because it is clearly and plainly taught in the Bible.

Unbelievably, many people do not know that election is in the Bible. Worse yet, the Biblical teaching on the subject has been very little discussed, taught, or preached. Someone once must have thought it important because it is in our Baptist Faith and Message: “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.”

It is not only in our Articles of Faith, but we sing it in many of our hymns—the second stanza of “The Church’s One Foundation” begins “Elect from every nation…”

More importantly, it is in the Bible; and if only one point is made in this chapter, let it be that everyone who believes the Bible must believe in election.

Ernest C. Reisinger (1919-2004), God’s Will, Man’s Will, and Free Will, Ch.5 “Related Doctrines”.

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The Remarkable Case of the Dislocation of Humility

Gilbert_ChestertonIt is only with one aspect of humility that we are here concerned. Humility was largely meant as a restraint upon the arrogance and infinity of the appetite of man. He was always outstripping his mercies with his own newly invented needs. His very power of enjoyment destroyed half his joys. By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise. Hence it became evident that if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small. Even the haughty visions, the tall cities, and the toppling pinnacles are the creations of humility. Giants that tread down forests like grass are the creations of humility. Towers that vanish upwards above the loneliest star are the creations of humility. For towers are not tall unless we look up at them; and giants are not giants unless they are larger than we. All this gigantesque imagination, which is, perhaps, the mightiest of the pleasures of man, is at bottom entirely humble. It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything— even pride.

But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert— himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt— the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

At any street corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.

G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton  (1874-1936), Orthodoxy (Moody Classics), Chapter 3: “The Suicide of Thought”.

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