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Gracious Provision

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

No one can come to Me
unless the Father who sent Me draws him,
and I will raise him up at the last day
John 6:44

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature’s night
thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
Amazing Love! How can it be that thou,
 my God, shouldst die for me?

 

These words from the hymn by Charles Wesley (1738) remind us that our salvation coChains that Bind Usmes to us, not by works of our own hands, but by the gracious provision of a holy God through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God effectually clothes those who would be saved with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, effectually calling them to freedom from the binding chains of sin.

 The Reformed or Augustinian doctrine of election is grounded in the fact that man is so sinful, so depraved in his fallenness, that apart from the irresistible grace of God no one could ever turn to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Notice he didn’t say some people can come. He didn’t say only a few people can come. He said NO ONE is able to come to Him. Absolutely no one can come unless God does something first.

Notice that Jesus said “can.” Can means “is able,” while may means “has permission.” Jesus did not say that no one has permission to come to Him, or no one may come to Him. No, he said that no one is able to come to him. No one is able because man is totally depraved. Every faculty – mind, will, emotions – has been corrupted by sin. No one seeks after God because no one is good, holy, and righteous even in the least.

Jesus said no one can come to Him “unless.” An exception is introduced. Apart from this exception, no one could ever come to Christ. It is God the Father who “draws” men to a saving knowledge of Christ. This word “draw” doesn’t mean to “woo” or “entice.”

Some people think that God gives grace to everyone, but that grace has a limited effect. It does not force people to come but only woos them. The final decision rests with the sinner. This view says that God foresees who will accept the gospel. Then because God foresees that particular person will accept the gospel, he regenerates him when that time comes. This makes regeneration a reward conferred rather than a gift which enables.

God “draws” to himself those He effectual regenerates. In John 6:44 we read, “Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Acts 16:19 says, “They dragged them into the marketplace.” The same Greek word is used in all three verses. Obviously, mere enticement is not meant.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that the word translated draw in John 6:44 means “to compel by irresistible authority.” It was used in classical Greek for drawing water from a well. When was the last time you enticed or persuaded water to come up from the well? Of course, this could never happen! We force the water to come to the top of the well, drawing it up in a bucket against the force of gravity. So it is with us. We are so depraved that God must “draw” us to Himself. While we were dead in transgression, He made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

G.I. Williamson in his study guide for The Westminster Confession of Faith writes: “Regeneration is something that man has no part in, so far as doing anything is concerned. He is wholly passive therein. He is not performing or operating in regeneration. Rather, he is operated upon, and the result of that operation is that he has another heart, mind, or soul. This regeneration is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel (in ordinary cases) but it is not the gospel which regenerates. It is the Holy Spirit. We may think of the Word of God as the instrument employed by God to effect his regeneration, but the regenerating is done, not by the gospel itself, but only by the Holy Spirit who is pleased to operate through it.

This regeneration effects an essential change in the whole soul – the reason, the emotions, and the will. Such a one who is regenerated begins, immediately upon regeneration, to think differently, to feel differently, and to will differently than before. And because this is so, he will thankfully accept the free offer of the gospel. So God’s call becomes effectual. It is effectual in every such case. Every such elect person repents and believes. And he does so because he begins to act out of a new nature created or implanted by generation.” p. 90

 

No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th’eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Every time you pray this week, thank God for His sovereignty in salvation. Thank Him for His unconditional love. Stand in amazement of His total provision. Know with certainty the reality of heaven. Express your gratitude and joy for God’s work of redemption in your life.

May God richly bless you this week as you rejoice in His eternal provision,

Pastor Mark

Addicted to Mediocrity

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.
1 Cor. 10:31

There is a disease that runs rampant among us today.  It has infiltrated our activities, our thoughts, our lives.  Its symptoms are apathy, compartmentalism, and mediocrity. 

Franky Schaeffer writes in his book, Addicted to Mediocrity, “In the ninetheenth century and early twentieth century, something happened within the church.  A strange truncated unscriptural view of spirituality grew up.  First spirituality was seen as something separate from the rest of real life.  It was above ordinary things;  it was cut off and not part of the everyday working out of our lives.  Spirituality became something religious and had a great deal less to do with truth, daily life, and applying Christian principles through that life.  It became something in itself, both the means to an end and the end in itself.  Spirituality became a thing separated from the rest of life.”

He goes on to say, “Either God is the creator of the whole, man, the whole universe, and all of reality and existence, or he is the creator of none of it.  If God is only the creator of some divided platonic existence which leads to a tension between the body and the soul, the real world and the spiritual world, if God is only the Creator of some spiritual little experiential “praise-the-Lord” reality, then He is not much of a God.  Indeed, he is not I AM at all.  If our Christian lives are allowed to become something spiritual and religious as opposed to something real, daily applicable, understandable, beautiful, verifiable, balance, sensible, and above all united, whole, if indeed our Christianity is allowed to become this waffling spiritual goo that nineteenth-century platonic Christianity became, then Christianity as truth disappears and instead we only have a system of vague experiential religious platitutdes in its place.  This indeed is what has happened . . . People’s lives have become compartmentalized.”  (Addicted to Mediocrity, Cornerstone Books, 1981)

Every facet of our lives is to be conformed to the image and likeness of God through faith in Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus calls his disciples to conform their lives to His way of life . . . to walk in a manner worthy of HIS calling, i.e., our way of life, our thoughts, our words, or actions should reflect the character of the One by whose name we are called . . . “Christian.”

Jesus says in Luke, “So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?  It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile;  it is thrown out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (Luke 14:33-35)

 . . . and in Matthew, Jesus says . . . “Your are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck measure, but on the lamp stand;  and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)

Let me ask you Christian, “Are you salt and light?  It means that EVERY area of your life must be under the authority of the one who is the searcher of our souls.  It means submitting to Christ’s authority at all times, in all ways, in every place.  It means working out our salvation with fear and trembling.  It means living every day trusting in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God is the creator of the whole man and to that end, we are to “glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.”  He is the Great I AM and because HE IS, we are.

May you live as God’s “treasured possession” a chosen race, a royal Priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-12)

It is jy prayer that each of you would experience a glorious week, basking in the Light of His Word, reflecting the Light of His Glory that you profess to be in your heart – that light that is the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5), and considering that whatever you do , it is to be done – ALL OF IT –  to the glory of God.

Cast off that addiction to mediocrity!

May the Lord our God bless you and keep you.

Pastor Mark

Categories: Christian Living

Undivided Devotion

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“I am saying this for your own good . . .
That you may live in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
1 Cor. 7:35

 

I’ve been away for the past two weeks visiting family.  Normally I get on an airplane and leave the ‘driving’ to someone else, but this time I decided to travel by car.  During my 2700 mile road trip I had plenty of time to turn the radio off, listen to the hum of the tires on the highway and be still and know that God is God.  I had lots of time to think about planning for the year and priorities in my life. As I was thinking this passage of Scripture was brought to my mind.

 What was Paul saying when he wrote, “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on even (1) those who have wives should be as  though they had none, (2) and those who weep, as though they did not weep; (3)and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; (4) and those who buy,  as though they did not possess (5)  and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it. For the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

Paul seems to be saying in these two sentences that we are to ignore our personal relationships, deny our emotions, and forget about paying our bills. Is this what he meant? Or was Paul saying that in light of the brevity of life and the shortness of time, we can’t afford to let anything in this world – not marriage, not sadness, not happiness, not material possessions, not anything that passes away so quickly – come between us and our eternal relationship with God.

It is this second interpretation that I believe is consistent with Paul’s others letters. Sensing the shortness of time, Paul seems to be silently shouting, “Wake up! Open your eyes! It’s getting late and time is short! We can’t afford to give ourselves to those things that will not last. We can’t afford to give our hearts in blind devotion to a marriage partner! Our emotions are not as important as they feel! We can’t take our material possessions with us!”

I know such thinking sounds extreme, but there is wisdom in Paul’s “madness.” He knew that a man who is more interested in pleasing the Lord than he is in pleasing his wife is a better husband than those who worship their wives. He knew that a wife who is more interested in submitting to God than she is in submitting to her husband is the best friend a man could have. He knew that property owners and investors who love God above all else are the only ones who can use this temporary world that is passing away without being possessed by it.

He explains that time for doing the Lord’s work is short and is quickly coming to an end. There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all we want or feel like we need to do. And the older we get, the quicker each year seems to fly by.  Tempus fugit!

So Paul warns every believer not to be overwhelmed by the social and material problems of this world, but to live as for the Lord in all things. In our personal relationships, we should live for the Lord. If life brings sadness, live beyond it, and do not be bound by it. If things are joyous, don’t be engrossed by them, but realize where those joyous times come from. Those who are blessed with material possessions are not to cling to them as though they will always have them, but are to use them in wise and productive ways to further God’s kingdom.

God wants every part of each of us – our minds, our wills and our emotions. He wants  our “undivided devotion” in all we do. He wants to be at the center of every thought, every word, and every deed. He is a jealous God (Deut. 4:24).

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33), he was reminding us as Paul, that God must come first. He must be our number one priority on our daily ‘To Do’ list. When He comes first, everything else falls into place.

Where is God in your life today? Does your relationship with Him and His son, Jesus Christ, take precedence over all other relationships in your life? Does your day begin and end with Him, or has He become an addendum to your daily plans?

Everything in this world is passing away. The only thing that will not is our relationship with God. Are you living in undivided devotion to the Lord? If not, then why not begin now. Just do it, because as Paul said, “It is for your own good. . . ”

May you each have a glorious week acknowledging the primacy of the Triune God in your life. . . rejoicing as you submit to His Will in all things!

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark

Categories: Christian Living