Saturday, January 24, 2015

Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the Holy Spirit's work through Common Grace

I listened to a wonderful sermon today. I've been enjoying and savoring Martyn Lloyd-Jones' series called "The Great Biblical Doctrines." The one from today was called Creation and Common Grace.

It's only 27 minutes long, because unfortunately the beginning portion has been lost. Nevertheless, you can easily understand the points this great pastor is making from the jumping off point where the sermon does open.

I was struck by the multi-layered aspect of the sermon. I've been studying end time prophecies for a long time, of course; and also on Wednesday nights at church we are going through Acts, and have recently studied both Pentecost and Stephen's sermon.

The sermon puts so many pieces together. The bible is one great, unified work. It's the revelation God wants us to know about Him and His work among the people and of earth. It is THE TRUTH, not a truth and not many truths. As you study to understand it precept by precept, a jot here, a tittle there, you begin to see a large picture emerge.

This sermon explains the work of the Holy Spirit through His ministry of common grace, and through understanding common grace, you'll understand how when the restraining ministry of the Spirit ends this will be a dramatic moment as the Tribulation begins. (2 Thessalonians 2:7). You'll understand how men could be so sinful that without the common grace of the Holy Spirit's restraint we'd all kill each other immediately. You'll understand why Jesus said that unless the days of the Tribulation were cut short, no flesh would survive. (Matthew 24:22). You'll understand that the Holy Spirit has been working on earth since before earth was created. You'll understand that it's the Spirit Who sustains all, Jesus does it through the Spirit. (Colossians 1:17).

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7:51).
The Spirit is the conscience that exists in all men. Though Jones's sermons sadly are not transcribed on the site, someone took the time to publish long excerpts of this particular sermon here.

Jones said of man's conscience,
You will remember that we are told in the prologue of John's Gospel about 'the true light which lighteth every man' (John 1:9). It does not matter how you translate that verse – 'the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' says the Authorised Version; 'the Light that lighteth every man was coming into the world,' says another. We are not concerned about that. We are interested in the phrase 'the light which lighteth every man'. And there is such a light. It is a kind of natural light, as we call it, natural understanding. It is the light that is in the conscience and there is that light of conscience in every person born into this world. Now that is one of the operations of the Holy Spirit in what is called common grace.

You will remember that in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 it is written, For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. When the Spirit lifts his retraining hand from man's conscience, sin will be loosed in such a way that it is today impossible to comprehend. No man will have a conscience. Sin will reach its full expression. The horror of the few believers who come to faith in the Tribulation and live long enough to see these horrors will be permanently scarred by what they see, save the promise that God will not allow them to remember. (Isaiah 65:17).

Dr Lloyd-Jones' delivered this sermon in 1954, and already back then he could see the decaying effects of a society being given over to its sin. That was 61 years ago, and how much more we see the accelerating effects of societies being given over to sin now. He said,
God, through the Holy Spirit, restrains the foulest manifestations of sin, but there are times when He gives people up to them. Are we, I wonder, living in such an age? Compare the twentieth century with the nineteenth. It is obvious that the moral level is very much lower today. That does not mean that everybody was a Christian in the Victorian era, but it does mean that even people who were not Christians were better men and women, speaking generally, than people now. Why? It was because of the general influence of the Holy Spirit. But it does look as if again, today, God is giving humanity over 'unto vile affections' as Paul outlines in Romans 1.
The Holy Spirit's influence in the world and upon the world is not to be underestimated in light of the more visible qualities of the Messiah Savior and Father God. Please listen to the sermon and its part 2, The Significance of Pentecost, where the Spirit's ministry dramatically changed when the Church was formed.

EPrata photo

Scripture photo: Life- fragile, ephemeral, a vapor

EPrata photo

Friday, January 23, 2015

So much grace and good gifts from the Father

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For the Lord God is a sun and shield,.... Christ is "the sun of righteousness", and it is in the house of God that he arises upon his people with healing in his wings, Malachi 4:2 he is like the sun, the great light, the fountain of light, the light of the world, that dispels darkness, makes day, and gives light to all the celestial bodies, moon and stars, church and ministers; he is a "sun" to enlighten his people with the light of grace, to warm them with the beams of his love, to cheer and refresh their souls with the light of his countenance, and to make them fruitful and flourishing and he is a "shield" to protect them from all their enemies; he is the shield of faith, or which faith makes use of, against the temptations of Satan; he is the shield of salvation, and his salvation is a shield which shelters from divine justice, and secures from wrath to come:
The graces of our Lord are manifold. He bestows grace upon grace to His children who believe in Him. What joy we have in worshiping and loving our Jesus.

He gives us the sun and our shield, as Charles Spurgeon says,
"A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a shield to ward off its perils."
His good gifts don't stop there, He gives favor and honor, too. Grace upon grace. As T. Guthrie says of Psalm 84:11-12,
Mountains have been exhausted of their gold, mines of their diamonds, and the depths of ocean of their pearly gems. The demand has emptied the supply. Over once busy scenes silence and solitude now reign; the caverns ring no longer to the miner's hammer, nor is the song of the pearl-fisher heard upon the deep. But the riches of grace are inexhaustible.
Turn to sweet Jesus today, pray for Him to comfort you, enliven your weary heart, to strengthen your legs and straighten your arms for the days ahead. Draw His grace around you as a blanket of eternal love from our wonderful God.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tender Moments in the Bible (repost)

I'm reposting this essay originally published in June 2014 in hopes that it will encourage.

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There are so many powerful moments in the bible. Where does one begin? Genesis 1, God creates everything, are verses that are awesome to ponder. The resurrection, when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. God is all-powerful.

There are thunderous moments too. When Mt Sinai trembles, when God was in the earthquake, when He split the ground under Korah and closed it back up again. God is to be feared.

But there are tender moments too. The God of thunder and wrath and all-power is so tender!! I'm not one of these who believes the wrathful God is the Old Testament turned into the sensitive ("boyfriend") Jesus of the New Testament. Read Revelation and you see it is the same God of wrath and anger against unrighteousness and sin. In the Old Testament (as well as the New), there are very tender moments which show us our Holy God is everything. He is simply everything good- including tenderness.

In Genesis 21:15-19, slave girl Hagar had been misused by Sarah (and Abraham). She and her son Ismael ran away to the wilderness, and there, thirsty, alone, and weak, they prepared to die.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

"God heard", "The Angel of God" [Jesus] called to her from heaven. He assured her. He made promises to her. He opened her eyes so she could drink. What direct, intimate ministration from Holy God in heaven!

In 1 Kings 19:4-8, we see tender ministrations again. Poor Elijah, downcast, alone, and fearing for his life. He, like Hagar, ran to the desert and wanted to die.

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston, 1817
 But did God let Elijah stay that way? No

Ferdinandus Bol, 1660, Elijah Fed By An Angel
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

The angel touched Elijah! He had prepared food for Elijah! He comforted Elijah, and gave him direction and hope. God is so good to us. He does that for us today.

In Matthew 4 we read that Jesus was in the desert 40 days and nights, alone, fasting, and tempted by satan. At the end of the trial, it says in Matthew 4:11,

"Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him."

One might say, 'Well, of course God would send angels to minister to His Son!' but perhaps the ministering angels who ministered to Jesus are also some of the same ones who minister to us? Just think on it! Overall, it is to His glory that he is so involved with His people, that ministration is a regular part of His interaction with us!

His ministration with sinful man began at the Garden after the Fall. He personally covered Adam and Eve

Genesis 3:21 says, "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."

The God who had just made the Universe, and upholds it by power of His will and His voice, personally made garments for his rebellious children, and wrapped them. I picture a child throwing a tantrum, and saying all sorts of things to his father, including, "No! I don't wanna! I hate you!" But after the storm is over and the timeout is finished, the father gives the boy a bath, wipes his tear-stained face, and wraps him in a towel. He holds him close to herself, his sniffles diminishing as the very heartbeat of the one who created him him and feeds him and cares for him saturates the boy's heart and mind, and eventually his brow unfurrows and his face becomes angelic, and he drifts off to sleep, still in his father's arms.

That is our God. Holy and Fearful, but a caring Father, holding us in His arms until the storm passes by and our rebellion subsides. He is tender. One day, there will be no more tantrums, and no more rebellion. We will love our Father perfectly and completely, just as He loves us now. What a day that will be.

Logos 6 review

I'd mentioned over Christmas vacation that I'd taken the plunge and bought Logos 6 bible software. I'd been watching it since Logos version 3, and the reviews were so good that when an updated version #6 came out, I took the plunge.

Coincidentally a week or two later, pastor and blogger Tim Challies reviewed Logos 6 because he also decided to commit to it. In his concise way, he wrote about it from a pastor's perspective and I recommend his review here, if you are at all interested in learning more. He said in one paragraph I particularly liked,
The greatest strength of Logos is its wider system. What a Logos book offers that a printed book does not is integration into that system. When you add a new book to your Logos library, you increase the power and usefulness of the entire system, because that book now links to and from every other book. It is less like adding a printed book to a bookcase and more like adding a new Christian with his spiritual gifts to your congregation—it improves and strengthens the entire system.

He also said that it doesn't do the work for you. Having the software system won't make you read the bible more. It won't get you to pray more. It is just a tool. He's right.

As for me, I'm a layperson. For me it's great. I love it. I enjoy the automatic reading plan. I plug in what book I want to read and at what pace, and the software organizes it for me, marking where I left off and where I need to begin. It also lets me know when I'm behind, lol. I always seem to be behind.

I get lost in the photographs of the Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee, a 120 year old tome containing photos from the late 1890s. I enjoy looking at what Israel used to look like back then and push my mind back a bit farther to imagine those scenes in Jesus' day.

The books I can read or refer to, the plants of the bible, animals of the bible, dictionaries, pronunciation guides, maps, even videos., are all stellar. I have a wealth of material even though I'd bought the lowest base package. It is plenty for me, really.

The commentaries are especially helpful. I am falling in love with Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary of the Whole Bible. I have access to the Concise Commentary online but the Complete Commentary deepens the background and elicits so much from the verse I can barely stop reading.

Something else I like is the home page. Excerpts of various books or essays are posted. Today there is one explaining salt and light, being missional, survivor's guilt, bond servant of Jesus Christ, Context Matters: Dr. John Walton Explains Why, and Perseverance, among many other items, including explaining some of the great art of the biblical scenes, and Logos promotions (they are unabashed about it).

One thing that Brannon Howse said in one of his programs on World View Weekend, when he was discussing his purchase of Logos 6 and why he liked it, is the Art of the Day. He was very excited about the home page daily verse put to art. I didn't understand his enthusiasm for it until I purchased Logos 6 and began seeing the amazing creative work the Logos artists do in putting abstract theology to visual art. Here is today's example. It is the verse noting Enoch's rapture.

Add caption

It was an expensive purchase but worth it.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

(Updated) Unity is over-inflated. Let's have more division, please. A report on the CCM free concert "We Will Stand"

UPDATED. Read the link at the end to see what true unity is.

A live-streamed event is occurring online tonight (and in a real life place venue located in Brentwood, Tennessee) which has the potential to reach 40 million people. It is being billed as a Christian event, but we'll see more about that in a moment. The event is titled "We Will Stand: An Online Concert" and is promoted as “the greatest night in the history of contemporary Christian music."

Well. The promoters are not without hubris, to be sure. But first, here is a bit of background on charitable single songs or concerts by super-groups--

Over thirty years ago, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" a song written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, was sung by a quickly put-together supergroup. It was written and recorded in reaction to television reports of the 1983–85 famine in Ethiopia. It was sung by a supergroup consisting mainly of the biggest British and Irish musical acts at the time. It was a huge success and raised a lot of money.

In America the next year, We Are the World was sung as a charity single for African relief. It was recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. Do They Know It's Christmas, sung by Band-Aid, was a direct inspiration for the single We Are the World. We are the World was very successful. (source)

Cut to thirty years later, and today we have the Contemporary Christian Musician's attempt at a Do They Know It's Christmas and We Are the World hit, replicated in "We Will Stand" but minus the charity. According to this article, "Stan Moser, Christian music industry veteran and founder of CCM United, he is seeking to create a “We Are The World” type of moment — but one that ultimately has its greatest impact on the world for Christ." Yet in an interview about the event, he stated his first goal is to be "part of a historic moment."

Details about exactly what the group stands united around are not clear, neither in that article or on their website. After reading the lengthy article published on 94 The FIsh radio station's site, and every page on their own website, I'm still not sure as to what is the message they'll be bringing, except that they will be "Glorifying God with One Voice and One Mind." - Romans 15:6 HCSB" and their slogan is, CCM UNITED, ONE MESSAGE. MANY VOICES. (source)

Christian Contemporary Music is not typically known for having a strongly doctrinal Christian message. It's saturated with sentimentalism, laced with emotion, and has an emphasis on experience. In fact, the organizer of this two-hour concert event happening tonight said the genesis for it was a conversation with God and a mystically intuited moment, sans the bible.

In its pursuit of mysticism and experience, CCM usually repeats one line many times until its choruses become mantra and mindlessness is achieved. Its emphasis is usually on our response to worshiping God rather than God's attributes and how He expects us to worship Him. CCM artists and music producers have not shown the best discernment regarding handling Christian doctrines in song. Nor have they shown the best discernment in who they partner with.

In addition to all that is the problematic nature of Christianity in general these days. Satan always attempts to re-define commonly understood words, until its original meaning has been twisted away from the biblical original meaning. At issue these days is the issue of Unity.

The bible urges unity within the body in many different verses. Here are just three:  Philippians 2:2, 1 Peter 3:8, and 1 Corinthians 1:10. The bible urges the brethren to mark those who cause divisions among us. (Romans 16:17). Originally, Paul meant for the brethren to mark those who are teaching contrary to the doctrines which have been delivered, because confusion divides. However, today it has come to mean mark the brethren that dare to exercise discernment and dividing them. The false teachers aren't marked out as divisive anymore, that is said to be unloving. Rather, the brethren pointing them out are said to be the divisive ones. What happens is that the false teachers are being protected and the true brethren are marked and shunned as dangerous. Nowadays, unity at the expense of doctrine is sought and seen as desirable, as long as "we agree on the basics."

The irony is, everyone is divided on just what the basics are, and so everyone gets past any whiff of disagreement by welcoming anyone and everyone as a brother. Unity around nothing is no unity.

Today's 'unity' has also come to mean, unite with Catholics.

CCM's lack of discernment as revealed repeatedly in their songs is on full display tonight. In addition to the contemporary Christian music they will be playing, appearances will be made by Roma Downey throughout the event. Ms Downey may be remembered for her role in the long-running television series Touched by an Angel, in which she appeared as a female angel. She and her husband Mark Burnett also produced a miniseries several years ago called The Bible, or as the more conservative, doctrinal, discerning Christians like to think of it, as "The-Missing-the-Mark Bible" series due to the fact that Downey and her team re-wrote or twisted many of the biblical events they portrayed in the show. The duo also produced and Downey acted in a theatrical release called Son of God, in which the life of Jesus was portrayed, with Downey playing Jesus' mother Mary.

Worse still, Ms Downey is a mystic, a Catholic, and a demonic summoner (divination) in which on live television she used a medium to contact and speak with her dead mother.

The bible says of divination, an activity hated by God and expressly forbidden:

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-1)

You can read more about the doctrinal problems with the faith that Ms Downey claims to have, which is no faith, here.

And lest one believes that God's hate for divination is just Old Testament wrath and not relevant to today's loving Jesus, Paul wrote to the Galatians that anyone practicing sorcery will not gain heaven. (Galatians 5:20)

Now when I say that the CCM artists participating in this event show lack of discernment, there it is in full display.

Worse, also participating in this event is Travis Cottrell, Beth Moore's band leader. Participating also is LifeWay Christian booksellers- they are donating the live-streaming for it.

If the concert event is donating the proceeds to some sort of charitable organization I've missed it. All I've been able to determine from quotes like the one above where the organizer said they want to be part of an historic moment, and this quote, that "CCM United was created to deliver the music, the ministry, and the life-changing message of many of the greatest CCM artists of today" and that it is a celebration of 40 years of contemporary Christian music, therefore all I can gather is that the event is just simply a celebration of themselves.

And this would make sense, because much of CCM is about celebrating ourselves. "God look at us worshiping you." "God look at us singing to you." "God see how we really, really love you." Why wouldn't 30 CCM artists get together and celebrate themselves?

I'm sad that they have partnered with Roma Downey. If they are attempting to get "one message" out, it is this:

Doctrine is not necessary, our version of love is; and mysticism, Catholicism, and divination are hunky dory. No wonder the organizer said five times in the interview that "We Are the World" was his inspiration and catalyst. They definitely are the world. They definitely are.

As for their event, "We Will Stand" I only have scripture to share:

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)

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Further Reading:

This is a good essay, explaining what true biblical unity is.

True Unity