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Only A Seed . . .

It was just before Christmas during my second year at the first church I was called to pastor.  As I spoke with this dear little lady who happened to be the wife of one of the earlier pastors of the same church,  now widowed and alone, she spoke to me of the future, drawing attention to a little shriveled pecan that had remained on the branch of the tree just outside her kitchen window.  All the other pecans had fallen to the ground – but this one remained – tenaciously holding on to the branch, not letting go.

As we talked she lifted her gnarled and wrinkled hand and pointed and placed her finger on the window pane.  The little shriveled pecan became a reflection of her own finger as if she were pointing to a mirror.  She said it was “no good for nothin'” – that it was like her – that when that pecan fell she too would fall from the branch of the tree of life God had placed her on.  For some reason she felt that her life was very closely tied to that one little pecan – stuck on the branch – wanting to move on the next stage of life, but for some reason still hanging on.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had touched on a very profound thought which the Apostle Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians.

But God  gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of  fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable  body; it is  sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is  raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So  also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

1 Corinthians 15:38-50

In death, what will the future be like?  In this life our bodies may be worn out and tired, shriveled and wrinkled,  but what will the resurrection life be like?  What kind of body will we have?

In an attempt to describe the essentially indescribeable and to express the inexpressible, Paul uses the analogy of a seed. The seed is put into the ground and is transformed, but ultimately it rises with a very different kind of body from that which was sown.  Paul shows that at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference and continuity.  The seed is dissolved;  when it rises from the ground there is a vast difference in the body God gives it;  yet in spite of the differences, it is the same life, the same seed. There is continuity.

Our earthly bodies will be buried and will in a sense dissolve.  Yet they will rise a different form, but it is the same person who rises.  Our loved one may be dissolved by death, but our assurance is that same loved one will be changed by resurrection into a glorified body – ‘sown in weakness, raised in power’.

Paul asserts from this analogy that there is not just one kind of body.  Each separate part of creation has its own body.  The acorn is resurrected into an oak tree, never into a spruce.  Wheat seed produces a wheat stalk and wheat grain, never rye.  Corn produces corn.  The tulip bulb always becomes a tulip.  The pecan always becomes a pecan tree.  There is an identification and continuity in nature, with each seed having its peculiar resurrected stalk and blossom.  So God gives to each of us human creatures a body that is uniquely ours.  It is reasonable to expect a suitable, recongnizable body suited for resurrection life, the same, but different, particularly suited for immortality.

In order for a seed to do the work of a seed, it must be sown. It must fall from the tree.  It must die in order to live.  That pecan one day fell from the branch of that tree and in a sense so did that dear little lady.  She let go of this earthly existence and fell safe and secure into the mighty hands of our living God.  Torn between remaining here and going to be with the Lord she seemed to be saying with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Corinthians 15:51-58

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark

Categories: Death, Faith, Resurrection Life

Sin Stinks!

“And in Him there is no sin.”
1 John 3:5

I remember visiting my grandmother one summer when I was young. More years ago than I would care to admit, my family drove to a quiet little town on the West Central side of Missouri to a place called, Nevada, not too far from Kansas City. Because it is my birthplace and the place where “Granny” lived,  it has always held a special place in my memories.  I remember one particular summer, my cousins also visited and brought with them several little furry, black and white creatures.  Cute and cuddly with a long white stripe running from their heads down to their tales, these baby skunks were the center of attention for a few days.

Now if you’ve ever had the bad fortune of smelling a skunk when it has raised its tail and defended itself, you know it is not the most pleasant of aromas.  Polo cologne it isn’t!  If you have had the misfortune of being sprayed by one of these cute little animals, you know the odor is not something you can easily rid yourself of. That ‘skunk’ smell permeates your clothing and your hair. It seems to embed itself in your skin.  It goes everywhere you go.  It’s there even before you get there! No one wants to be around you because of the offensive smell surrounding you. It seems to bother everyone – everyone but the skunk and others who smell the same. Isn’t it interesting that the very animal whose smell is most offensive to us has no idea that they are offensive and are not offensive to one another!

So it is with sin and the sinner.  The one who is covered with the stench of sin has no idea what a vile thing he is in the presence of God. Those around him who are covered with the same odoriforous smell of depravity are not bothered by the smell either. But,  oh, how offensive it is to the One who is totally without sin.  And none of us are totally without that odor.

“Mortal man can never realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the sight of that holy and perfect One with whom we have to do. On the one hand, God is that eternal Being…in whose sight the very ‘heavens are not clean’. He is One who reads thoughts and motives as well as actions and requires ‘truth in the inward parts’ (Job 4:18; 15:15; Ps. 51:6). We, on the other hand – poor blind creatures, here today and gone tomorrow, born in sin, surrounded by sinners, living in a constant atmosphere of weakness, infirmity and imperfection – can form none but the most inadequate conceptions of the hideousness of evil. We have no line to fathom it and no measure by which to gauge it. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael and the queen’s head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ…And a man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect – perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope; perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as it rolls around the sun; perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.”

(J. C. Ryle, Holiness)

Sin is detestable to God (Jeremiah 44:4). He cannot look upon that which is evil (Hab. 1:13). For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). The soul who continues in sin is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4). The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  It is God who judges the secrets of men’s hearts (Rom. 2:16).  The wicked will be sent away to eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46). Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful (Rev. 21.27). The stench of sin will not be tolerated in the presence of God who is holy and spotless and pure. It cannot be.

There is no greater proof of the fullness of sin than at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The  entire  doctrine  of  His  substitution  and  atonement  is  evidence  of  the seriousness of sin and God’s hatred of it.

“Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops as of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (Matt. 27:46).  Nothing, I am  convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we shall have of sin and the retrospect we shall take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never till the hour when Christ comes the second time shall we fully realize the ‘sinfulness of sin’.” (Ryle)

Our sin separates us from God. It is a stench in His nostrils. Just as we can’t stand to be in the presence of those little creatures with odoriferous scents, God refuses to allow any who are covered with the scent of sin into His presence. Thanks be to God, that by His Grace, He has provided a way for us to fellowship with Him. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). God turned His face away from Jesus while he was on the cross. Our Holy God ‘forsook’ Him who knew no sin as He (Jesus) became sin for us. Our sin, and the stench of our depravity, Jesus presented to the Father, as a holy and living sacrifice. His righteousness is our righteousness as we come before the One God, Holy and Righteous, and Pure, through faith and repentance in the one who is our Righteousness, Jesus Christ.

No matter what you do to a skunk, it will always be a skunk. Even when its scent gland is removed, it still carries a distinct odor of ‘skunk’. We are still sinners, saved by God’s grace, allowed into His presence because Jesus Christ intercedes for us, but we are still sinners none the less.  May  we  with  an  ever increasing  awareness  understand  the seriousness of sin.  Individually it separates us from God.  Corporately if left unchecked, it will destroy His Church. We should rejoice that our sins are covered, but we should mourn over the remaining sin in our lives. That mourning should force us to our knees as we bow before Him asking for forgiveness, repenting of our sins and turning from our evil ways.

O My Saviour,
I thank thee from the depths of my being
for thy wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and  beauty.
as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;
Make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties,
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
And by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.
(from the Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett)

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

Nothing is Everything!

As I’ve been preparing for Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday services, it struck me once again that so many of the ‘realities’ of God’s kingdom are ‘ironies’ in this world . . the first are last, the last are first . . .the blind are those that see . . . the lame are those who walk . . . in order to live you must die and dying ushers us into another world where we are more truly alive than now . . . everything here is really nothing – only shadows of the reality that is to come where the nothing of the now becomes the everything of then . . .

I know of a place
where richer is poorer
and poorer is richer
where nothing is everything you see.

I know of a place
where wisdom is folly
and folly is wisdom,
where nothing is everything to me.

I know of a place
where the first become last
and the last become first
where nothing is everything you can be.

I know of a place
where servants are leaders
and kings become slaves
where nothing is everything to me.

I know of a place
where living is dying
and dying is living,
where everything is nothing you see.

It’s another world’s place
where the humble are lifted
and the proud are abased,
where the best is totally free.

Where is this place?
You may ask so to know.
This place is right here and right now.
You must become blind
so that you may have sight
and then enter
with faith as a child.

M C S

The Way

“I am the Way”
John 14:5

Have you ever set out on a trip with directions someone had given you? You listened  attentively as they described how to get there. You tried to  follow their directions to the best of your ability.  You were  determined to arrive at your destination without stopping to ask for clarification. Have you ever become totally disoriented, confused and lost as you frantically tried to follow their directions as you searched for the way?

If you only had someone to show you the way.  If you only had someone to lead and to guide you to your final destination, everything would be OK!  In a world of so many different paths, we often are tugged  and torn in different directions as we search for the right way. Often we find ourselves lost,  lonely, and confused asking, “Where am I going?” “How am I going to get there?” “Which way is the way?”

The crowds and the Pharisees during Jesus’ earthly ministry had been asking directions too – asking the way to the Father and in their confusion they couldn’t see that Jesus was their road map, THE WAY. He was the one who could provide clear directions to their destination.  Simon Peter in his bewilderment asked where Jesus was going that he might follow (John 13:36).  Thomas  Didymus, challenged Jesus’ statement that the disciples knew the way and the place where he was going.  Jesus responded with the well-known description of himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:5).  The disciples were confused and bewildered even after all this time with Jesus. They still  thought in terms of a real place, an earthly kingdom set up by the promised Messiah, not realizing that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual destination, an eternal kingdom.

Many today become lost in a maze of deception as they search for the truth. There are those in the world who would tell you that there are many ways to the Father. They say there are many ways to salvation and eternal life. There is the way of nature. There is the way of charity and good deeds. There is the way of perfection.  But all these “ways” are attempts to climb over into the fold by “some other way.”

There is only one way to the Father.   He is called God’s “highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). He is the joy of the Redeemed. He is Jesus Christ. He is the Way. He alone is THE path to the Father, to God himself, so we might “glorify and enjoy him forever.” He is the only way for the lost to have hope of eternal salvation. He is the only way for the redeemed to have confidence in that same hope.

There was once a missionary who was preaching in the villages of Angola, Africa.  After one memorable meeting with a chief and his men, this missionary asked if there were other villages that would give him the same kind of welcome and listen to his message of hope and salvation. The chief said, “Yes, there is a village right through this forest.”

“But,” the missionary replied, “I don’t know the way.” “That is no problem,” assured the chief.

He then called one of his men and instructed him to take the missionary through the forest to the adjacent village.

After traveling for several hours, the missionary said, “We have been traveling a very long time and we haven’t arrived. Do you really know the way?”

The man grinned, took his axe from his shoulder, and said to the missionary, “Do you see the marks on those trees there? I made those marks when I blazed the trail.  Do you see this axe  I hold in my hand? With this axe I cut the way through this forest. Do you see these marks on my body? They are wounds I suffered when I first pushed my way through the undergrowth to make the way.”

And then standing his full height and tapping his massive chest, the guide said with resounding confidence, “I am the way; follow me!”

Our Lord, Jesus Christ has blazed the trail for us to follow. He points to the nail wounds in his hands and the wound in his side and says, “These wounds I suffered when I made the way to heaven through the dark jungle of sin for you.  I am the Way; follow me.”

May each of you have a blessed week following in the Way of the one who has gone before.

Pastor Mark

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

Come Let Us Worship . . .

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God,
and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools….

Ecclesiastes 5:1
 
 
 Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

For the past year and a half I have been preaching through the monumental book of Revelation during our Sunday Morning time of Worship.  I must admit there are many parts of that book that will remain shrouded in mystery until that time when we meet Jesus at his return and are able to ask Him to clarify those things signified in His apocalyptic words.

Oh, there is certainly that promise of blessing to those who read and those who hear and heed the words of this prophecy (Rev. 1:3). Since obedience must follow understanding, we can be assured that there is much within John’s inspired revelatory words that is understandable.

The themes of the sovereignty of God, of Christ as conqueror, and the Spirit’s powerful presence are golden threads running through the crimson fabric of the Lamb’s sacrifice. The theme of worship and honor and glory and praise are woven into that fabric so those who read and hear are able to clearly understand that the highest calling of the saints of all ages is to come before our Triune God bringing uninhibited worship to Him who sits on the throne in sovereign rule and power and authority.

Revelation 4 and 5 remind me of one of those greeting cards that has a message stored on a voice recorder. As we open these two chapters and read the message of encouragement we can also hear the crescendo of voices, first of the four living creatures, then of the twenty four elders, now the harps and the voice of myriad of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels added to the voice of every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them saying:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

What a glorious encouragement this ought to be to each of us to come before that same throne of grace in a time of corporate worship and adoration with the saints of all ages.

Why is it then that all too often we enter public worship so distracted by worldly concerns? Have you ever found the preacher’s words flying in one ear and out the other, leaving no discernible impression on your mind and heart? Do you find it difficult to concentrate in prayer because your thoughts so easily wander? There is probably not one reading this who has not experienced distraction and coldness of heart in worship and prayer.

The tragedy lies in those who attend church week after week without realizing the vanity of their own worship. They might sense that something is wrong, but instead of looking inward, they seek to blame their lethargy on everything and everyone else. The pastor isn’t interesting enough. The music doesn’t stir their soul. Worship is just not exciting! And on and on ad nauseum…. If these complaints sound familiar, maybe you need to examine your own heart instead of trying to find aesthetic or sentimental satisfaction in those things that are not the essence of worship. It has been said that a church will find true spiritual vitality if only it were gripped by the holiness and the majesty of God in worship.

This is exactly what the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is driving at. He exhorts God’s people to stand in awe of God. Worship should never be entered into with levity or distraction, but with sobriety, humility, and reverence. We ought to enter into God’s presence ready to receive profitable instruction: “Draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil” (Eccl. 5:1b).

David’s psalms are deeply concerned with proper worship: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those who are around Him” (Ps. 89:7); “Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (Ps. 93:5); “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You will I worship toward Your holy temple” (Ps. 5:7).

In his treatise on A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in Worship, Richard Steel (1628 – 1694) describes 12 causes of distraction in our worship of God. The fourth cause he writes is “lukewarmness.” He says, “He that is intense in anything hath few thoughts to spare. Distractions are but the idlings of the heart . He that runs, looks at nothing but the goal, though he meet passengers, or pass by palaces; he is in earnest, and stops for nothing; it is he that walks at leisure who turns his eye to every trifle, and descants on every object, because he is not in haste. Even so the zealous soul, though he forgets not those things which are behind, yet reaching forth to the things that are before, presseth towards the mark; he hath business in hand which concerns eternity, and he cannot stand to whisper with every passenger, nor trifle with every object….Wherefore the apostle, Rom. xii. 11, directs us to be fervent in spirit while we are serving the Lord; not drowsy, but fervent in spirit, or boiling hot, as the word signifies. The busiest flies will not meddle with the scalding honey; though the sweetness entice them, yet the heat terrifies them. The base flies of thy distractions will not molest thy heart if it keep boiling hot in the service of God.”

As you come before the Lord in public worship, set your affections and your full attention on the person of Jesus Christ, who alone sanctifies our worship. Endeavor to rid yourself of vain and worldly thoughts and distractions. Focus on the Lord and not on the inadequacy of the preacher, or the music, or anything else. Be captivated by the holiness of God. Listen to His instruction and discover the glorious blessings of dwelling in His presence.

Martin Luther said that in this day, men approached God “…as if He were a shoe clerk’s apprentice.” If that was true in Luther’s day, how much more true is it in our own? Let’s remember whose presence we enter as we come to worship. Why not begin each Saturday evening. Pray that God would prepare your heart for worship and keep you from being distracted. When you wake each Sunday morning, read Psalm 95 and pray that God would draw you to Himself. Leave for church on time. Fellowship with others when you arrive, but refrain from worldly talk and earthly chatter. Give yourself zealously to the task set before you. Worship God in all His splendor.

Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,

and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance

the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;

May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;

Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;

may my meditations be sweet,

my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from your throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defence the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus. Amen

Blessings and Peace to You All,
Pastor Mark

Categories: Faith, God, Worship Tags: ,

Regeneration, Faith and Repentance

October 1, 2010 1 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 comes 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.” 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