Monday, September 29, 2008

My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1
"The Lord's my shepherd, I shall not want."

This precious portion of Scripture speaks of a depth of matter which we could never fathom, and such as we will never, in all eternity. Here are two statements, penned by the sweet psalmist of Israel, David. Here, David wrote as he was carried by the Holy Spirit. David was inspired to write this as the Lord revealed it to him.

As a shepherd himself, when still a boy, he understood what a shepherd was. He understood their role and purpose. He understood the different motivations and the difficulties. He understood the dangers and the commitment and vigilance required. David himself often went after a lion or bear that was endangering the flock, and the Lord delivered the bear and lion into his hands. David knew that a shepherd's role was to look after his sheep. How well a shepherd performs this role is measured by two factors - the shepherd's motivation and ability.

In this verse, David has come to realise that the Lord is his shepherd. To begin with, David has first acknowledged that he is a sheep, not only so, but the Lord's sheep. A sheep who knows the Lord and is known by Him. A sheep who hears His voice and follows. He acknowledges that he is not in control but that God is - therein lies his comfort and ours in this Psalm. The shepherd guides the sheep and keeps the sheep on the right path. The shepherd guards and protects the sheep and makes sure nothing can attack the sheep.

Often the shepherd will have to use forceful measures, the staff and rod to keep the sheep on the right path and away from danger. But this is for their good. Here we see the comfort also, which David recognises - the comfort of discipline keeping him on the right path and away from danger. In this David recognises also that he is stubborn and prone to wander. He delights in this discipline because he dare not imagine where he would be without it.

Secondly, that as David is a sheep, he declares that the Lord is his shepherd. It is one thing to have good friends and family to help look after you and keep you on the right path, but it is entirely another to have the Lord watching over you. As it says, "the Lord who watches over Israel does not slumber nor sleep." Even the best of earthly shepherds must sleep, but not God - God never loses sight of His sheep, they are always before Him and He will not cease to watch them and will not sleep. This is the care of the Lord.

There is no danger ahead, which the Lord has not seen and will not protect His sheep from. Indeed, in His sovereignty, He has ordained these dangers to show His sheep how much the length to which He would go to protect them, and the almighty power of His protection. An earthly shepherd may occasionally come across dangers unforeseen and too great and lose his precious sheep. Not so, with the Lord. "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth."

Not only does the Lord never tire of watching over His sheep, He also delights to watch over them. Some shepherds may be hired men, working only for money, and for others it may be their livelihood. One cares not for the sheep because he does not need them and is only interested in money, and the other cares for them only because he needs them. God is a shepherd unlike either of the two - He cares for His sheep not because He needs them; He cares for them despite not needing them. God cares for His sheep unconditionally. He needs nothing from them, and yet His care is greater than any other. He needs no reason from them to care for them, He is content to bestow His almighty care on them merely by His sole delight and choice.

How deep and rich is this care that the Lord has for His sheep? Immeasurable. If the Lord is unchangeable and infinite, then so too is His care for His sheep. God is not a man that He should relent. If God has decreed an unconditional promise to be David's shepherd, then He will "hasten His word to perform it." "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." God has not said to David, "I will be your shepherd unless you wander from me." He has said, "I am your shepherd, and when you wander, I will bring you back, I will fight for you, I will not let you go, I will be jealous for you, I will discipline you, I will keep you on the right path, I will speak my word to you, I will cure you of your wanderings." Otherwise, David would have found no comfort and could not have said, "I shall not want."

David has, in this opening statement of this Psalm, in short, realised that God has chosen to be his shepherd. David has realised that he belongs to the sheep-flock of God. He has realised he has found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He has realised that he belongs to the Lord eternally. In response to this revelation, "The Lord is my shepherd", David says, "I shall not want."

"I shall not want."

This should be the response of all who call upon the name of the Lord. All who the Lord has called His own and ransomed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. If the Lord has bought us with His blood, He will not, cannot, forsake us. If his sheep wander, He will search high and low to bring them back. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. The Lord God Almighty's decree has not failed, the precious blood of Jesus has not failed, the power of the Holy Spirit has not failed. "I will hasten my word to perform it." If Jesus Christ has died and risen again for His sheep, that sovereign unconditional promise of the Lord come to pass, then believe on Christ as one of His sheep and you will say: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Antithesis and the Christian battle

On the subject of being different to the world, as Christians, our lifestyle should be totally different. The world curses and swears, practices fornication and adultery, makes lewd and vulgar jokes, pursues vanities and endless entertainment, but we bless and pray, we practice purity and chastity and fidelity in marriage and honour marriage, we abstain from foolish talk, but build each other up in the truth, we pursue the glory of God and delight and take comfort and rest in Jesus Christ not in worldly attractions.

This is the concept of the antithesis.

1 John 1:5
"God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all."

1 John 2:15
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

Romans 12:2
"Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds."

John 17:17
"Sanctify them by the truth, Your word is truth."

1 Peter 1:16
"Be ye holy, as I am holy."

John 3:19-20
"This is the condemnation, that the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."

Ephesians 5:13
"Whatsoever doth make manifest is light."

Matthew 5:14
"You are the light of the world."

Ephesians 5:11
"Do not take part in the wicked deeds done in darkness, but rather expose them."

By living as "children of light", in following Jesus, we live totally at odds to the world, and like the contrast between light and dark, or placing something beautiful next to something abominably ugly, it shows up the light and the beauty for what it really is, and shows up the dark and the ugly for what it is. God has designed the world in this way and put His Spirit within us so that He would be glorified in this way.

Another aspect of this antithesis is the battle that we face as Christians. It is one totally different to the rest of the world; it is the battle for the truth, because it is the truth that sets us free. The Truth is of course, Jesus Christ our God and King as revealed in Scripture. There are many false "Christs" being preached today that we must oppose if we are to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). Only the Jesus of Scripture is the Almighty Saviour who died on the cross to take the punishment we deserve so that we would be reconciled to God by His death and saved by His life. This Jesus is who must be preached for the salvation of souls for the glory of God.

Acts 4:12
"For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Discernment of the Spirit - not of man!

Spiritual discernment is not by subjective and easily mistaken gut feelings. Spiritual discernment is from careful study of God's word and applying it to every sphere of life. We discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by matching it against the Bible's teaching. The Apostle John explains that God's people listen to the Apostolic teaching, and therefore, all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus also taught this, that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27), and all of the Bible is Jesus' voice. 1 John 4:5-6 says this:

"They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

So for a Christian who is humble before the Scriptures, this issue of spiritual discerment is a simple one although it requires diligence and attention. God has given us the Scriptures so that we can discern what is correct and what is not. It is not by airy fairy gut feelings and "super-spiritual" emotionalism that we discern correctly.

The next question for us is, what should we question as Christians? What should be tested?

1 Thessalonians 5:19-24
“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

The Apostle tells us not to quench the Spirit and then explains how to not do this: by not despising “prophesyings” and proving all things (not just some things) and holding fast to what is good and abstaining from evil. Prophesyings refers to any form of teaching purporting to being from God. Therefore, teaching should not be disregarded off-hand, but proven. If proven it must be held fast to. If it cannot be proven or if it is disproven, then it must be rejected (Proverbs 30:6). We must test everything. Notice who this command is for! It is not simply for certain “special” people or only pastors, but for all of us! And we are to help each other (Proverbs 27:17). The noble Bereans are a good example to us of how to test, as they tested even the Apostolic teaching against the Old Testament, because God's word cannot contradict itself according to human reasoning:

Acts 17:10-11
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were of more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

They knew the principle given in Isaiah 8:20 and used this principle and were commended for doing so:

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Tell me then, how we may fulfill this biblical command:

1 John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

The verse makes it absolutely undeniable that anyone who is telling you not to question them or to question their teaching is telling you to ignore this biblical command. I have heard people threaten curses upon people who would question them. If we ask why they would do this in the light of these verses, it is clear that they do not want questioned because they cannot stand under the test of Scripture. Even the Apostles' teaching was to be tested against Scripture. Any who refuse to be questioned are both claiming to be greater than the Apostles and superceding the Word of God.

Paul's life after he became a Christian was one full of challenges and hardships everywhere he went. He suffered and was treated shamefully, but he said this:

Philippians 3:1-21
(1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
(2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
(3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
(4) Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
(5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
(6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
(7) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
(8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
(9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
(10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
(11) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
(12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
(13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
(14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(15) Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
(16) Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
(17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
(18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
(19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
(20) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
(21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Paul, in other places felt compelled to name some of these enemies of the cross by name, as a warning so that there would be no mistakes made:

2Ti 1:12-15
(12) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
(13) Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
(14) That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
(15) This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

And also:

1Ti 1:18-20
(18) This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
(19) Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
(20) Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Note that these false teachers were in the church (!!) – they claimed to be Christians and even looked and acted like Christians for the most part. Jesus Himself warned us of this:

Matthew 7:15
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

As did the Apostle Paul and Jude:

Acts 20:29-30
“For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

Jude 3-4
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All faithful pastors and believers are called to this same responsibility: To warn against false teachers by name. May God raise up more pastors with the spine to actually do this.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

Monday, September 22, 2008

Substitutionary Atonement

It might be said that the very heart of the Gospel is a promise; no, the promise of God from which all promises of God proceed. And that this promise is none other than the fullness of the promise of salvation.

The promise willed by the Father.
The promise worked by the Son.
The promise witnessed by the Spirit.

The promise foreordained by the Father.
The promise fulfilled by the Son.
The promise fixed by the Spirit.

The promise decreed by the Father.
The promise delivered by the Son.
The promise demonstrated by the Spirit.

The promise purposed by the Father.
The promise purchased by the Son.
The promise proven by the Spirit.

The simplicity of the Gospel is evident since it has been revealed to babes. Yet also its depth cannot be fathomed and the weight of God's glory revealed in it can never be measured and all the faculties of our heart and soul are wholly insufficient to rejoice enough in this wonder and majesty and render praises to God that would befit such glorious splendour as has been revealed in so great a salvation.

It is clear here that our understanding of the doctrine of salvation is essential for our correct understanding of the Gospel itself. For ourselves, this is probably the most important doctrine for us to consider. Not only the nature and result of this salvation, but the means by which it is accomplished. Christ says this regarding the importance of this doctrine of salvation:

"What profiteth it a man, if he gaineth the whole world, but loses his soul?"

I have said before, and we have often heard it said regarding the means of salvation, that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, and all this to the glory of God alone. This is what Scripture indeed reveals to us, as I have often commented on. These truths are the biblical truths recovered in the reformation. We may also phrase it that salvation is to the glory of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, and all this by grace alone. This is exactly what I have said above, but some may at this point have disagreed. And this concerns me.

At the heart of this biblical doctrine of salvation is without controversy, the work of Christ on the cross. That is what the biblical church has always confessed. The centre of the Gospel itself is the work of Christ on the cross, this is the centrepiece of God's glory, the blazing heart of His majesty, where righteousness and justice kisses mercy and love, where God's love and grace are demonstrated most vividly and where also His justice and holiness are just as clearly demonstrated.

"Salvation is of the Lord."

So, what is this work of Christ on the cross? As I have also said before, it is crucial to a right and saving knowledge of this work to understand the nature of who the Person of Christ is.

"Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh."

The Nicene and Athanasian creeds expound carefully and precisely the nature of this man who hung on the tree. Jesus is the Christ, whose name means "The LORD saves", and He is both fully God and fully man, in perfect holiness, eternal and co-existing with the Father and one with the Father; the fullness of the Godhead dwelling within Him. We may neither take away from any aspect of the fullness of His divinity, nor of the fullness of His humanity (though being without sin), nor may we ever take away from the truth that the Lord is one.

And having laid this crucial foundation of having a basic understanding of who this Person on the cross is, we now look at the nature of the work of Christ on the cross. To call this work, substitutionary atonement, sums up both the work and the Person who performed this work, because when we understand the nature of this work, it becomes evident that only this Person, Christ as revealed in the Scriptures could ever accomplish this work.

Again I say, this work has been called substitutionary atonement and this is an appropriate description. So, going back to my first paragraph it can be said that the very heart of the Gospel is this substitutionary atonement. This term tells us also the necessary nature of Christ when it is considered who this atonement is between. This atonement is between the holy and righteous God and the wicked and sinful human. This atonement is accomplished by substitution; it is substitutionary atonement.

The justice of the holy and righteous God demands the infinite punishment of the wicked and sinful human because their offenses are against the infinitely righteous God. This substitutionary atonement is a Person being substituted for these sinners. It is this Person taking the fullness of this infinite punishment that these sinners justly deserve from the holy God. It is absolutely clear that first of all, for this substitution to leave these sinners guiltless, that all of this infinite punishment must be taken, and secondly that the one being the substitution for these sinners must not be deserving of any punishment Himself, because then that punishment would fall on the sinners in His stead.

We conclude then that this Person must be both entirely guiltless and righteous, and entirely capable of taking all the fullness of this inifinite punishment and overcoming it so that His guiltlessness and righteousness may be substituted to the sinners' account, just as the sinners' wickedness was substituted to His account. Further, this Person must be of a nature that He can actually be a just substitution. If a goat took the place of a human, it could not be a just substitution. Anything less than fully human, could never be a just substitution for a human.

Again, we see that this substitutionary atonement could then only be accomplished by the only One entirely guiltless and righteous and also entirely capable of bearing and overcoming the infinite punishment of the infinitely holy God and also fully human so that He might be a substitution for humans.

Therefore the problem is that only One both fully God and fully human could ever satisfy this criteria. But this has been revealed in Jesus Christ:

"Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh."

The nature then of this substitutionary atonement is that God the Son became a substitutionary atonement for humans. He took the fullness of the punishment they deserved by suffering and dying on the cross under the holy and just wrath of God the Father and overcame this punishment by being raised to life again on the third day, and by this life, as the wickedness and sinfulness of humans was laid to His account, so by His life, His guiltlessness and righteousness was laid to the account of these humans.

"No-one takes my life from me, I have the authority to lay my life down, and to take it up again."

When we gaze and marvel at the wonder and glory of this substitutionary atonement, we ask ourselves, what do the Scriptures say of this? This is what the Scriptures are all about. This is indeed the heart of the Gospel and the doctrine of salvation. We can only marvel at the sufficiency and security and assurance of so great a redemption - paid with the highest price, the blood of the Son of God. When contemplating this feat wrought by the Saviour on the cross, how could we ever doubt that His work on the cross is surely more than enough to secure us all the benefits of salvation.

"For He made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

"But God commendeth His love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

It is clear that when we correctly understand the glory of this atonement, this heart of the Gospel that all the rest of our theology fits into place. This is, as I said, what the entirety of Scripture points towards - Christ and His work on the cross. At one time, the Evangelicals knew this and held firmly to it, but the enemy infiltrates and sows seeds of discord and doubt and strife and contention.

But, next we must ask, if this is indeed the nature of the substitutionary atonement, then if Christ was the substitutionary atonement for every single person on the planet, then surely every single person on the planet would be saved? Yes. When we correctly understand this substitutionary atonement, it is clear that every single person for whom Christ was the substitutionary atonement, will be saved. As I said, all the rest of important correct Biblical theology falls into place. If Christ had died for every single person, then every single person would be saved. Seeing the truth of substitutionary atonement, the very heart of the Gospel, we can only conclude that Christ did not die for every single person, but only for some.

He laid down His life for the sheep, not the goats. He gave Himself up for the church, not the world. He prays for those who will believe on His name, and not for the world. As we contested before, we now say again, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. I could also say it this way: the only reason any of us are saved is by grace alone, by the work of Christ on the cross alone.

The only reason any of us are saved is by the work of Christ on the cross, there He accomplished the fullness of salvation for His people, that they would be saved by grace alone and that salvation would be in Him and His work alone, and that it would be to the glory of God alone. So it is clear that when we also say that salvation is through faith alone (in Christ alone - Him and His work on the cross - the substitutionary atonement) that this faith could only be also wrought by the work of Christ on the cross, otherwise all of salvation could not be by grace alone and to the glory of God alone and in Christ alone!

It is not that this faith is a work that we are saved through it, but it is that this faith rests in the work of Christ alone, and thereby declares instantly of itself that it is a useless work and rests not in itself for salvation but only on the work of Christ on the cross alone. Because this saving faith is in Christ alone, it declares of itself that it is only accomplished by the work of Christ on the cross. It is the means by which we behold this substitutionary atonement, the means by which the work of Christ on the cross is applied to individual sinners - the work of the Holy Spirit regenerating them and thereby creating this resting in Christ alone in the heart of a sinner.

So, we see three levels to this great salvation - the unconditional election of these sinners by the Father, the substitutionary atonement for these sinners by the Son, and the regeneration of these sinners producing faith in Christ alone by the Holy Spirit. The Father plans this salvation from the beginning and determines to save His people and sends His Son, His Son gives Himself as a substitutionary atonement for His people to accomplish this salvation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds to apply this salvation to His people by regenerating them to produce faith in Christ alone in their hearts.

What of free will, someone cries! What of it? Our will is enslaved to our nature, and unless our nature is changed from darkness to light, we can never be saved. And if "free will" took any part in our salvation, then we could never say (except being doubletongued and liars) that salvation is by grace alone, and salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, and that salvation is in Christ alone, and that salvation is to the glory of God alone.

If left to our will, we would never trust in Christ alone for salvation, and further, I speak as a fool, for if we looked to Christ by our "free will", we could not be trusting that all of our salvation was in Him alone, but in our "free decision", and His work. And it further denies the work of Christ on the cross and tries to add our work to the work of salvation, and it denies substitutionary atonement and says that the work of Christ was insufficient and says that Christ did not actually pay for our sins, but only somehow made a bridge by which we could go to God if we chose to, and that He certainly did not pay for the sin of unbelief, and that His righteousness is not imputed to all those for whom He died, and that we could do something to please God before being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, it says that Christ did not actually save anyone but only enabled men to save themselves.

To say that Christ saves men with their help is exactly the same as saying that men save themselves with the help of Christ. This is the reality of what synergism means. But when we trust in the subtitutionary atonement of Christ alone, then we are immediately speaking of monergism. It is the "alone" factor that can only mean monergism, and that God helps the helpless without their help, and that His help is never reliant on their help, and they never need any more help or any other help or any of their own help than His help once He is their help. It is in fact this "alone" factor that is the offense of the cross which Paul spoke of; that our salvation is Christ's work alone.

There are few doctrines more unscriptural and anti-Christ and anti-Gospel and deceptive and blasphemous than this one of faith proceeding from "free-will" or synergism. It says that Christ is not the Saviour, but the Helper for men to be their own Saviours. There is no difference between this insistence on the freedom of the will and the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation by works. What do we mean by works?! We mean anything not of grace, anything that is of the sinner. Those who trust in Christ alone as their salvation recognise that their own will wrought no part of salvation, but that their will to have faith in Christ alone is the result of Christ's work alone. Those who believe that their own will to have faith is not the result of Christ's work alone, do not really have that faith in Christ alone. I call them not to be offended by this, but to examine themselves to be sure that their trust is in the finished work of Christ alone, and not any work of themselves.

"And if by grace it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."

So then those who trust in the substitutionary atonement of Christ alone for salvation, say "We only have faith because of the election of the Father." Those who trust also in "free will" say totally confusedly, "We are elect of the Father because we have faith." It's plain to see here that the very nature of election is then rendered meaningless, as are the insistent Biblical claims that election is before the foundation of the world. For all intents and purposes, the election here is purposeless and futile, and certainly not before the foundation of the world because it relies on something far more recent. I could continue, but perhaps another time.

For now, I commend the Gospel to you all - the substitutionary atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross by which we are made co-heirs with Him and partakers of all His benefits - that being that we become the recipients of eternal life, and eternal life is this: to know God and His Son whom He has sent.

And here is the result of this promise of salvation of the Gospel - that we know God. That we dwell in relationship with in Him, under no condemnation but beloved of Him as is His Son. That we behold Him in His glory, that we will see Him face to face, that we delight and rejoice in Him and enjoy Him forever. And now we have but a taste of this, and we long for the day when these present sufferings and our sanctification by the work of the Spirit shall be complete.

"For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Assemblies of God teach a false health "gospel"

The Heidelberg Catechism has this to say regarding the comfort of the Christian:

Question 1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him."

And John Piper has this to say regarding the health, wealth and prosperity "gospel":

However, one of the four "cardinal doctrines" of the Assemblies of God makes this bold assertion:

"Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers. (Isa. 53:4,5; Matt. 8:16,17; James 5:14-16)"

I could stop right there and you would know exactly what is wrong with this - but I am compelled to explain and place the nature of this false teaching beyond all doubt. Aside from their dubious views on "Holy-Spirit-Baptism" and tongues-speaking being the necessary evidence of this (and therefore of salvation - thereby destroying the doctrine of assurance, 1 John 5:13, John 3:18, Romans 4:18-25), this particular doctrine incontrovertibly shows that the Assemblies of God officially teaches the false health prosperity "gospel" which is no gospel at all.

Before continuing any further, I must clarify beyond any doubt that it is absolutely true, not only that God actually heals people today (possibly both by natural and special providence), but also that we are instructed to pray for healing as James 5:14-16 says (though the context suggests that this refers to an affliction of not being able to pray for oneself). Divine healing however is not an integral part of the gospel nor is deliverance from sickness the privilege of all believers, nor is it provided from in the atonement. This is a different "gospel" to one which the Spirit bears witness to in scripture. I also hasten to add that there will be eventual deliverance from sickness in that there will be no sickness in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:4).

The Gospel of God is exactly what Christ has done on the cross. This necessarily includes not only the work of Christ on the cross, but also the Person of Christ on the cross. His work was to purchase redemption by the payment of His blood for His people (Ephesians 1:7). His blood flowed to cleanse us from sin. He died in our place, so that we would be delivered from death. He bore the full wrath of God that was against us so that not a drop of the fury of God is left toward us. He bore in entirety the punishment for our sin that we deserved. By this perfect and eternally secure redemption, our full salvation is provided for, being as secure as the unchanging character of God, as sure as it is impossible for God to lie.

He could only accomplish this work by His Person, being the very eternally begotten Son of God; fully man and fully God, the one mediator between God and man, and our kinsman-redeemer; the descendant of Adam according to the flesh. He is also a priest forever in the order of Melchisedek; being Prophet, Priest and King, and having an indestructible life. He is the Sovereign Lord under whose absolute authority forever is everything that ever was and is and ever will be. He is the Holy One of Israel, the Great Jehovah, perfectly righteous in whom there is no iniquity even in His human nature; there is not a shadow of turning in Him and no darkness at all. He is full of grace and truth, full of mercy and justice, full of compassion and zeal, and many other glorious qualities which we could never be finished speaking of, but at this time suffice to say that He is unsurpassed and infinite in glory and beauty, and all glory is His.

He rose from the dead to conquer the power of death once for all, and to break all the power of sin in His people. He lives that we also may live in Him and share in His righteousness imputed to us by the bond of faith in Him alone which He works in our hearts by His Holy Spirit by His grace alone because He has removed the wrath of God from us. As a consequence, we are not only justified in the sight of God, being declared righteous by Christ's righteousness imputed to us, but by this faith we are also partakers of Christ and all His benefits.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:" - Ephesians 1:3.

We are adopted as children of God and no longer children of the devil. The very love that the Father has for the Son is the love He has for us, this is the love with which He loved us in election before the foundation of the world and made possible by the death and resurrection of our Saviour Jesus the Christ. Being reconciled to Him by His death, how much more are we saved through His life!

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures:" - 1 Co 5:1-4.

"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." - 2 Co 5:21.

In the light of this glorious Gospel to which all of Scripture attests in all its glorious promises to all those who trust in Him alone and put no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3), which we have now discussed and described, we must now ask the question, does the atonement wrought by Jesus on the cross provide deliverance from temporal sufferings, hardships, sicknesses or difficulties? We have affirmed that we are delivered from the punishment of sin in that we have eternal life in fellowship with God, and from the power of sin in that though we still groan in our sinful bodies awaiting the redemption of our bodies and fall into grievous sins on occasion, but that in the present time by the Holy Spirit in us we are yet turning away from sin every day so that our conduct is one marked by a holy life lived in righteousness, submitting to our Lord in humility and godly grief and repentance when we do sin. Does this atonement also give us any promise of removing any of the temporal effects of sin on our lives such as sufferings and sicknesses or any kind of tribulation? The epistle of Paul to the Romans has this to say while speaking of what is provided for in the atonement:

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were ye without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." - Romans 5:1-11.

Not only is it clear here that God indeed helps those who cannot help themselves, in that we were without strength when Christ saved us, but it is also clear that we are to rejoice in tribulations. This is reiterated in many places in the Scriptures, which would take a far longer essay to expound fully in all their glorious encouragement for the called of God: James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-8, 2:19-25, 3:14-16, 4:12-16, Hebrews 10:32-37, 11:13-16, 24-27, 11:32-12:11, 13:10-15, 2 Timothy 3:9-13, 2:3, 1 Timothy 5:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 3:1-7, Galatians 4:13-15. I could not even list all the Scriptures which speak of the sufferings of God's people, but these are listed to give a taste of what Scripture teaches on this subject.

These passages prove not only that God's people endure sufferings, including physical illnesses, but also that such sufferings are promised to God's people and not only that but that God brings them for the good of His people and for His glory. The grace of God toward us provided for all believers in the atonement then is not that we are delivered from these tribulations, but that we are delivered through these tribulations and even that these tribulations are used as part of the means of the application of this grace in our lives to conform us more to the image of Christ, that is they are part of the means of our sanctification. The grace of God does not remove these tribulations from us (though eventually it will, Rev 21:1-7) but upholds us and strengthens us through these many trials (included physical ailments) and even uses these to sanctify us. This is what the prophet Isaiah says:

"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." - Isaiah 43:1-2.

This is repeated explicitly in the epistles, that we are delivered not from these troubles but through them:

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in time of need." - Hebrews 4:15-16.

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

So then we can see how God's grace works in us, despite many infirmities to strengthen us for our good and for His glory that we might rejoice in Him even in our infirmities. And so we see that even in this the promise of Romans 8:28 holds true:

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28.

Our response then to all situations and calamities and infirmities and all manner of sicknesses and illnesses and disasters and tribulations should be that of Job and to fulfill the command in Philippians:

"Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." - Job 1:20-22.

"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." - Philippians 4:4.

Now, to misunderstand the glory of God and the comfort of the believer in tribulations would perhaps be a small matter, but in the doctrine of the Assemblies of God, it is taught that divine healing is part of the Gospel and deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement and is the privilege of all believers. This is trying to add to the work of Christ on the cross and trying to add to the Gospel. It is therefore a false "gospel" and will therefore lead to false and deluded converts who will simply come in the hopes of being healed. But Christ says this to all who would follow Him:

"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." - Matthew 10:38.

God gives us the grace to bear our cross until the final day, His grace does not mean that we have no cross to bear. We must openly declare the same to all who would believe in the Gospel, lest they deceive themselves. From all of this it is plain to see that to preach this doctrine of the Assemblies of God is heresy and a "false" gospel. Therefore with a heavy heart, I call all my friends to forsake this organisation and remove yourselves from it lest ye be ensnared by Satan to do his will and I beseech you all to take heed to the stern words of the Apostle Paul:

"I marvel that ye are so soon moved from the Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any preach any other gospel unto you than that which ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:6-10.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Those that walk in pride he is able to abase."

It seems like I live a life of torture.
Torture in all the early days of school,
Educated with grim exclusion,
Tutored by isolation and hatred;
My teachers were scoffing and violence.
I cried friendless and lonely.

Moving cranked the wheel of the rack.
Stretched out further on the coals of abuse,
Heaps of mockery fell like scalding irons,
Thrown in the mud and scraped on the tarmac;
There was no mercy for a four-eyed freak.
The tears on the outside all dried up.

Inward turmoil was my closest study.
Oppression grew me a hardened casing,
Bitterness became my only protection,
Foolish boasts and jokes deflected the blows;
Laughing at the pain was my wretched strength.
The well of my heart drew no more water.

My heart was crushed and powdered.
The eyes of my head could see no light,
The world around was like the darkest pit,
Despair and emptiness invaded my soul;
To the point where I could only see I was dead.
No brighter sight could I then have seen.

In such a hopeless state, I hungered.
A thirst for light and help remained,
Deep longing harboured in my weakest frame,
Despair became kindling for a mighty flame;
Loneliness became fuel waiting for a spark.
God had brought me low and then struck a match.

Blessed regeneration flared within!
Jesus preached to my heart and soul,
A joyful fountain erupted in my well!
A volcano of hope and life exploded;
My eyes were filled with light and glory.
The Spirit gave me the blessed rebirth.

Though I was a sinner in every respect
And full of transgression and evil and debt,
Yet Christ was more gracious and full of mercy.
He filled up my heart with the faith to behold
His righteous and holy perfection untold.
What I had deserved He had borne on the tree.

In case you were unsure about Benny Hinn

2 Peter 2 "... And through covetousness shall they make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. ... Having eyes full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: ..."