Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace

9781781912522mOn my shelf Monday, today, has become “wish it was on my shelf Monday.”  I do not yet have this recent John Piper book, and though I have listened to his 9 part series on TULIP (the five points of Calvinism) I am eager to get and read this one.  Here is some info for you:

Grace is the heart of God to do you good when you deserve it least.  But do we really know how deeply we don’t deserve it? Only God can reveal that to us. He does it through the Bible. And when he does, the wonders of his grace explode with brightness as never before.

These Five Points are about how Christians come into being, and how we are kept forever by his grace.

  • It reaches back into times past where we were freely chosen.
  • It reaches forward into the future when we will be safe and happy forever.
  • It reaches down into the mysteries of the work of Christ, purchasing the gift of faith for all God’s children.
  • And it reaches into the human soul, glimpsing the mysteries of the Spirit’s work as he conquers all our rebellion and makes us willing captives of King Jesus.

Piper believes that our experience of grace grows with our grasp of God’s gracious work. He invites us to come with him in this quest.

Listen to a 9-part seminar by John Piper entitled TULIP.
Source: Desiring God

About the Author:

John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis Minnesota. For 33 years, he served as pastor of vision and preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is the author of more than 50 books.

Endorsements:

“I love this new book by John Piper. I don’t know of any other brief book on this subject that so manifestly takes us down into the Scriptures and then so wonderfully lifts us up to see the glory of God. Many people will be encouraged, and not a few will have their faith jolted in the best way possible.”
– Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church. East Lansing, MI

“Nothing has changed my perspective and made more sense of God, life, and the world than the doctrines of grace. John Piper makes a complex theology understandable. Five Points will assist you to see how big and good our gracious God actually is.”
– Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, MO

“Imagine being able to chat over a meal with John Piper about the five points of Calvinism. That’s pretty much what you get in this book: a clear statement of these life-changing truths delivered with warm pastoral sensitivity in a conversational style. You won’t find yourself being browbeaten. Instead, you’ll find yourself invited to marvel at God’s wonderful grace. The only thing missing is the meal.”
– Tim Chester, Co-Director of the Porterbrook Network; Pastor, The Crowded House, Sheffield

Election Ought to Produce Evangelism

One major critique I’ve received of reformed theology is that is does not foster a desire to evangelize.  Is this true?  Not at all.  It is a straw man argument people make who are opposed to thinking hard about the deep things of God.

In Acts 18:9 God tells Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent.”  This is understandable taking into account the trip Paul just took.  He is in Corinth after just leaving Athens, and he’s had a rough go the past half-year or so.  Many people have come to Christ, churches are being planted, but Paul is clearly discouraged and afraid to continue speaking because this is precisely how God encourages him to keep going in 18:9.  Why would God have said these things if Paul really wasn’t feeling these things?

Most people stop here and do not continue further, merely stating that God encouraged Paul to keep sharing the gospel, keep preaching, and they move on.  But DO NOT miss 18:10.  In it God continues this encouragement to Paul, “…for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  The proper response to this is “What?”  Not many people have come to faith in Jesus, yet God encourages Paul to keep going spreading the gospel by telling him that He has many in Corinth who are His people?  Either God doesn’t know that lack of success Paul has had, or He has another purpose in this statement than usually taught.

What is happening here?  God is using the doctrine of election to produce evangelism in Paul.

You see it?  Not many have come to faith.  Yet God says He has “many in this city who are His people.”  God is telling Paul that many of the elect sons and daughters of the King of Kings are residing in Corinth, and they have not come to faith yet.  How will they come to faith?  Through the gospel being proclaimed to them in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is why Paul tells young Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:10 that he “endured everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ with eternal glory.”

You see, election ought to produce evangelism in us.  If it doesn’t, we either have a cold heart toward the lost, or do not understand election.

A Calvinist Can say “Come to Christ!”

Some of you may wonder at this title, but it is a controversial doctrinal issue with some people for sure.  Certain groups claim Calvinists cannot call men to come to Christ.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

They say we (I am a Calvinist) cannot call men to Christ because we believe in predestination, and if God has already made the decision and destined some for heaven and others for hell, why is it necessary to call men to salvation since it’s already been decided?  Well, apart from this erroneous view of thinking, there is a response to be given.

Calvinists can call men to Christ just as Jesus called men to come and follow Him. Calvinists know that behind the scenes of life, God is working in hearts, and only those that God is drawing to Himself have the ability to come to Christ because after all, a sinful heart will not want to come to Christ if it is not changed first.  Does this therefore mean that we should not call men to faith?  Of course not, how foolish to think so.

The difference between a Calvinist and an Arminian calling men to Christ is this.  A Calvinist calls men to Christ by saying, “Come to Christ!”  An Arminian calls men to Christ by saying, “Come to Christ, on your own.”  See the difference?  The one group believes God does the work in drawing men to Himself, while the other believes man does the work in coming to Christ, which allows God to therefore work in them once they allow it. This latter position is the view of the Arminian, and nothing could be further than the truth.

Facial Hair and Calvinism Are In, Are You?

You don’t have to look around the Church very far these days to discover trends happening in millions of hearts.  For the past 10-15 years, reformed theology, known to some as Calvinism, has been a growing trend gaining strength.  Along with this return to a robust historic doctrine, facial hair has also been a growing (no pun intended) trend alongside it.  Books seem to stack up around beards in our churches these days.  For me, the former is a glorious movement of God bringing more and more hearts into a deeper intellectual and inspirational faith while the latter is awesome as well though not joined by me due to God’s gift of a facial hair free face.  Oh well, I guess I can love deep theology pointing me to Christ even though I have a clean face, right?  Haha!

Enjoy this video below, it is wonderful, deeply intellectual, and inspiring to go after the heart of Christ in all of life.  It is 4 minutes long and it is called “The Calvinist.”  Written by John Piper, read by him and more of our favorite reformed friends around the world.

Go here 🙂

Was Redemption Through Christ Plan B?

I wonder if this thought has ever come across your mind? ‘If God is God than He cannot be surprised by anything, and therefore the fall of man did not take Him off guard, but in some way because He is sovereign, and governs all things, He was behind it.”

Another way to ponder it is this: “Was redemption through Jesus Christ plan B, making it a consequence of the fall of man? Or, was redemption through Jesus Christ plan A, even before the fall of man?” If we say it was plan B, certain implications about God’s control over all things and ability to be surprised come into view, and if we say it was plan A, certain implications about God ordaining evil come into view. So was Adam plan A, and Jesus plan B? Or was Jesus plan A, before Adam existed? Which is it?

That is a loaded thought isn’t it? This question has been pondered over long and hard by many people ever since the dawn of time it seems. This is where I stand, and this is where I think you should stand as well.

In answering this question, we have two options:

Option 1: Satan caused the fall of man himself. If sin originated in the mind of Satan, that means Satan is the cause if the fall of man, not God. This is appealing to many people because they rightly do not want to attribute any evil to God’s character. But there are a few things why I would caution you not to hold this view. If Satan caused the fall and not God, then that means Satan did something out of God’s will or not in God’s control. We know that this is false for 2 reasons. First, it is revealed through Job that God has a leash on Satan, and that Satan cannot do anything unless God gives him permission (see Job 1-2, and Luke 22:31-32). Second, Romans 8:20 says, “He subjected the creation to frustration (futility), not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope.” Whoever brought sin, or frustration onto the world had an agenda of hope. That is clear. The question then becomes, who has the agenda of hope? The last thing Satan wants is hope, it is never his agenda. Hope is God’s agenda every time! Therefore we can conclude that God caused the fall of man, in hope! Do you see why this first option clearly portrays why Satan could not have been the author of the fall?

Option 2: God ordained sin. If God is sovereign, God ordained sin to come to pass. Nothing happens to which God responds, “oops” to. Many people do not like this however because they think that it automatically puts evil in the heart of the good God, but with Jonathan Edwards I confidently agree, “It is not sin in God to will that sin be.” How than did God ordain the fall of man, in hope? Although this is a hard thought to think on, I think we can get a hint at why God did it; listen to John Piper:

“The terrorized and troubled world exists to make a place for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to suffer and die for our sins. The reason there is terror in the world is so that Christ could be terrorized, the reason there is trouble in the world is so that Christ could be troubled, the reason there is pain in the universe is so that Christ could feel pain. This is the world that God prepared for the suffering and death of His Son. Look at Romans 5:8, God shows His love for us, He wanted to show His loved for us, in that while we were yet sinners, there had to be sin, Christ died, there had to be death, for us. This world of suffering and death exists so that God could love like He could only love in this world.”

God does not permit anything to come to pass willy nilly, but permits everything with design and purpose. We have fallen in Adam, true. But in Genesis 3:15 God makes a promise to Satan that was in His mind before fall happened, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” This means that the victory we have over sin and the disease that the first Adam spread to all men was taken care of before the world was created. God for His purpose and for His glory, created a world, that would display His love to the greatest extent, through killing His Son, not because of anything in you, but because the praise of Jesus Christ is the goal of everything!

Now, some of you may be having trouble with this thought. But can you see that this is worth thinking through? The end of this study is increased delight in Jesus.

Who Subjected the World to Futility “in Hope?”

Romans 8:20 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.”

What is clear in this verse?  The world, all creation, was subjected to futility, or frustration.  It was not subjected willingly, in that it did not want to be subjected to futility.  That is clear.  What does it mean in the second half of the verse when it says, “because of him who subjected it in hope?” Albert M. Wolters, in his book, Creation Regained, says this:

“Paul states that the whole creation, not just the human world, was subjected to frustration (i.e., to ‘vanity’ or ‘futility’ or ‘pointlessness’) by the will of “the one who subjected it” (i.e., Adam, through his disobedience).”   (Creation Regained, page 56)

Is Wolters correct?  Was it Adam who in fact caused the whole of creation to be thrown into sin?   Did Adam sin, eat of the fruit the Woman gave him, in hope?  Absolutely not.  Adam ate and chose the created thing over the Creator.  It was a disobedient act and in it he tried to grasp equality with God (Phil. 2:6).  No, it was not Adam.  What Wolters does not address is the last phrase in the verse, “in hope.”

If Adam did not do it, who did?  It was not the serpent, he was trying to deceive and lie.  It was not the Woman, she grasped the fruit in doubt because of the serpents influence.  So who subjected the world to sin, in hope?  To answer this, we must ask a different question.  Who had an agenda of hope in Eden?  Adam didn’t, the Woman didn’t, the serpent didn’t.  Who did?  God did.  God had an agenda of hope in Eden.  God subjected the world to sin, in hope.  How?  Why?  Do I mean that God let, or allowed, or ordained sin into the world?  YES!

I really mean that, and I praise God for it.  How?  God, in letting sin into the world, opened the jaws that would eventually slam shut on His Son.  If sin were not present, Jesus would not have died.  If sin were not in the world, Jesus would never have been a man of sorrows, He would never have been crushed for our sins.  Read Romans 5:8 carefully, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” John Piper comments on this verse and says, “God wanted to show His love toward us.  While we were sinners, there had to be sin!  Christ died, there had to be death!” If sin and death were not allowed or ordained to come into the world, Jesus would not have died on the cross.

This is how God subjected the world to sin, in hope.  He did it for His Son.  He did it to display Himself fully to us!  He did it, because it was always plan A.  When sin came in, God did not say “Oops, let’s go to plan b. My Son, you have to die now!”  Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 tell us that the cross was predestined by God.  God does not say oops.

Albert M. Wolters later says:

“There is no sense in which sin ‘fits’ in God’s good handiwork…Any theory that somehow sanctions the existence of evil in God’s good creation fails to do justice to sin’s fundamentally outrageous and blasphemous character, and in some subtle or sophisticated sense lays the blame for sin on the Creator rather than on ourselves in Adam.”  (Creation Regained, page 57-59)

I do not say that man is not at fault in Adam’s sin, we are.  But behind our sin and guilt, God is at work always planning for His glory.  O’ how sweet the praise God is not getting because His sovereign plan of grace is not loved, exulted in and treasured above all!  He planned for the death of His Son and planned that grace would flow from it to sinners like me before the world began!  Because of this, He subjected the world to sin, to set the stage for His Son.  He subjected the world to sin, IN HOPE.  With Jonathan Edwards I agree, “It is not sin in God, to will that sin be.”

Does God Ordain Condemnation from His Word?

Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

This verse is stunning is it not?  Everytime we speak God’s Word it will never return to Him void, but will always accomplish His purpose!  When you think about this, it does not say what God’s purposes are does it?  We can say that all people will have one of two responses to God’s Word upon hearing it.  How can we say that?  2 Cor 2:15-16 says, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” Therefore one response is salvation and the other response is condemnation.  All people will respond in one of the two ways.  My question therefore becomes: Does God ordain (purpose) condemnation through His Word?  Or to put it another way: When God’s Word goes out of my mouth, will God act so a person hears His Word as the aroma of death; so that my sharing the gospel to them would actually be the means God uses to condemn them?  The answer is simple, but hard to swallow.

Yes, God does do this.

To whom?  All those who are not elect.  But, we ought to make it clear that we do not know who the elect are and who they are not, so we preach to everyone, hoping for salvation and praying that God’s Word would be the aroma of life to them.  Far be it from us to pray and hope that God’s Word would be the aroma of death to someone upon leaving our mouths!

Everyone Limits the Atonement

I am a Calvinist.  Or let me say it in more stark language…I believe the Bible to be true.  Therefore, not only do I believe Calvinism (Reformed theology) to be synonymous with Biblical theology, but I believe something particular about the atonement of Jesus on the cross, I believe the atonement of Jesus on the cross, was only for a specific group of people, not every individual person.  This view has historically been labeled Limited Atonement.

Many people claim that this doctrine is false and say that the atonement of Jesus is not limited in any fashion, but rather freely offers the gospel to all without exception.  I disagree, but that’s not the issue here.  The issue I want to talk about is that both groups (my group which says the cross was only for a group of humans, and the other group which says the cross is a free offer of salvation to all without exception) limit the atonement.  How?  Let me explain.

Those who are not Calvinists or not reformed limit the cross by saying; “The cross makes salvationpossible for all people.”  The people who are reformed say, “The cross secures salvation to a specific number of people, the elect.”  So the non-reformed person limits the cross by limiting the power of it, and the reformed person limits it by limiting the number of people who will receive it as saving, saying that the cross could save all men, but it only actually saves the elect.

Who limits the cross more?  Listen to Wayne Grudem, “Reformed people argue that it is the other view that really limits the power of the atonement because on that view the atonement does not actually guarantee salvation for God’s people but only makes salvation possible for all people.  In other words, if the atonement is not limited with respect to the number of people to which it applies, then it must be limited with respect to what it actually accomplishes.”  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 596, footnote 36)

John Piper too has a word on this, “It’s not a good label.  But the “limitation” is in the conscious design or intention of the atonement by God.  Calvinists believe that God really means to accomplish, through the atonement, the conversion of a definite (limited) group of people, not just hold out the opportunity to all people to believe.”  

So next time you get angry at a Calvinist, or someone gets angry at you for being a Calvinist, remember, everyone LIMITS the atonement.

How Calvinism Became Calvinism

In 1610, one year after the death of Jacob Arminius (a Dutch seminary professor) five articles of faith based on his teachings were drawn up by his followers.  The Arminians, as his followers came to be called, presented these five doctrines to the State of Holland in the form of a “Remonstrance” (a protest).  The Arminian party insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism (the official expression of the doctrinal position of the Churches of Holland) be changed to conform to the doctrinal views contained in the Remonstrance.  The Arminians objected to those doctrines upheld in both the Catechism and the Confession relating to divine sovereignty, human inability, unconditional election or predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It was in connection with these matters that they wanted the official standards of the Church of Holland revised.

In 1618 a national Synod was called to meet in Dort for the purpose of examining the views of the Arminians in the light of Scripture.  The Synod was convened by the States-General of Holland on November 13, 1618.  There were 102 men at this Synod.  There were 154 sessions held during the seven months the Synod met to consider these matters, the last of which was on May 9, 1619.  During these sessions the Synod deliberated and examined the five points given by the Remonstrance.  After comparing them with the testimony of Scripture, they failed to reconcile the Arminians teaching with the Word of God.  Thus, the doctrines of the Remonstrance were rejected unanimously.  But, the Synod felt that a simple rejection was not enough.  They concluded that they ought to set forth five points of their own regarding the teachings that were previously called into question.

This they did, and the five points they crafted became what we now call “the five points of Calvinism.”  The name Calvinism was derived from the French reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), who had taught and defended these views.  It may seem strange to many in our day that the Synod of Dort rejected as heretical the five doctrines advanced by the Arminians, because these doctrines have gained wide acceptance in the modern Church.  In fact, they are rarely questioned in our day while the vast majority of Protestant theologians of that day took a much different view of these matters.  They maintained that the Bible set forth a system of doctrine quite different from that advocated by the Arminian party.

Salvation was viewed by the members of the Synod as a work of grace from beginning to end.  We ought to view it in the same manner.

Free-Will: A Primer

An outline of the chapter on free will in Robert Peterson’s Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility.

Free Will and the Bible’s Story

-Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
-Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
-Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
-Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.
-True freedom = “the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin” (p. 131).

Freedom of choice or spontaneity = “the ability of human beings to do as they wish” (p. 126)

Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned

1. Reasons why people are saved
a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.

2. Reasons why people are condemned
a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam’s original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).

Free Will and Its Relation to God’s Sovereignty

1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.
a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.

2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.
a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.

3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.
a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.

How Sovereign is God?

Charles Spurgeon:

I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses – the creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.

Does Scripture really teach this? Below is a helpful answer from Justin Taylor.

I believe the answer is yes. Here is just a tiny sampling:

God Is Sovereign Over . . .

Seemingly random things:
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16:33)

The heart of the most powerful person in the land:
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
(Proverbs 21:1)

Our daily lives and plans:
A man’s steps are from the LORD;
how then can man understand his way?
(Proverbs 20:24)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

Salvation:
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
(Romans 9:15-16)

As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
(Acts 13:48)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30)

Life and death:
See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
(Deuteronomy 32:39)

The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
(1 Samuel 12:6)

Disabilities:
Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
(Exodus 4:11)

The death of God’s Son:
Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
(Acts 2:23)

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
(Acts 4:27-28)

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief. . . .
(Isaiah 53:10)

Evil things:
Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
(Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7)

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. . . . “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 1:21-22; 2:10)

[God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. . . . As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
(Psalm 105:17; Genesis 50:21)

All things:
[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.
(Ephesians 1:11)

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
(Psalm 115:3)

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
(Job 42:2)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
(Daniel 4:35)

And since compatiblism is true, none of this contradicts the equally biblical teaching that Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and that human choices are genuine and significant.

Why Regeneration Must Come Before Faith

Regeneration is a crucial doctrine to our faith. But it’s crucial-ness is partly determined in where we place this doctrine in the order of our salvation. Let me explain. Some people, not me, say that this doctrine must come after exercising faith. I say it must come before. So before I explain this, let me define what I mean by “regeneration.”

Regeneration is a secret act of God’s free grace in which He imparts a new spiritual life to us, where He raises our dead nature to life.

I say is crucial to believe that this doctrine of regeneration must come before someone exercises faith in Jesus, simply because it is true to say that. Without having been regenerated, no one can exercise faith in Jesus. In our natural sinful state Paul explains that we are “dead in our transgressions” (Eph. 2:1-3). Those that are spiritually dead cannot, and will not, make any move toward Jesus, because nothing in them desires to have anything to do with Him. They may make all sorts of spiritual decisions and choices to do this or that, but every sinner will not make a healthy spiritual move toward Jesus while being spiritually dead. Therefore, what the sinner needs most is to be awakened, to be raised from the dead as Lazarus was raised from the grave, to be regenerated. Ezekiel 36:26-27 talks about what happens in the soul when God chooses to regenerated a sinner.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

You see this? God does things this way in Salvation, He is the One who gives us a new heart, a moldable heart that’s soft rather than hard like stone. Once He does this, God will fill us with His Spirit and cause us to walk in His ways. Benjamin Joffe explains it like this:

If a lion is in a cage, and you put before him a bowl of meat, and a bowl of wheat, which one will the lion choose to eat? ”The lion will always choose the meat, he would never choose the wheat, because lion’s don’t eat wheat, that is who they are.” Right, a lion will always eat the meat because of who they are. Total Depravity is like this, in that our nature, using it’s freedom of choice, it will only and always choose sin! Why? That is who we are! It must take an act outside of ourselves to change what is going on inside of ourselves. We need to be made new creatures before we can choose something that is unnatural to us.

I am eager to say this act of God called regeneration must come before we exercise faith in Jesus, because of the above reasons, and because when we place it before faith, God gets the glory, not us. When we place it after faith, we make regeneration an act of God that is in response to our act of faith, which in turn makes God only able to act in us if we allow Him to. This is hurtful, and unhelpful to think in these ways about God.

Hamlet, Shakespeare, and Sovereign Election

Hamlet is one of the many plays written by Shakespeare. Most people have heard of it, or at least read parts of it sometime in their lives. What strikes me about it is how C.S. Lewis used this play to teach about how salvation happens to a human created in God’s world. I know this is a Lewis quote, though I’m sorry to say that the address seems to be evading me right now.

If Hamlet were to meet and know Shakespeare, it would have to be Shakespeare’s doing.

So too, if a sinful human being is to meet and know his/her Creator, it would have to be the Creator’s doing. For we cannot come to know what is holy and sinless while we are unholy and sinful. This shows the truth that salvation in Christ, is God’s doing from the beginning to the end (this means it is not ours).

1 Corinthians 1:30 affirms this, “By His doing, you are in Christ Jesus…”

Vacationing to the Glory of God

In Numbers chapter 29 God gives Israel the instruction to have a month of dedication to the Lord during the 7th month of their calendar year. Why did God choose the 7th month to do this? Because the 7th month for the Isrealites, and most ancient near eastern civilizations was a time of leisure because it was between harvest and seedtime.

On the surface it may not look interesting that God chose Israel’s vacation time to dedicate to Himself. But we must ask, why and for what reason did God choose the time that they would have the most leisure to do this? I see two big reasons:

1) God chose this time to be wholly dedicated to Himself because He does not want the Israelites to be IDLE. Idle hands reach for instant satisfaction in sin and gratification in sin more than busy hands do. During times of leisure in our lives, we become complacent about many things, including our time spent with God in the Word. God wants to keep Israel from things that Proverbs 19:15 says, “Laziness cast into a deep sleep, and an idle soul will suffer hunger.” So the first reason that God chose Israel’s vacation time and leisure time to be wholly dedicated to Himself, was to keep His people from being idle.

2) God chose this time to be wholly dedicated to Himself to make His people shine among the nations. Every ancient near eastern civilization near Israel at this time would harvest and pluck during the same time because they have the same seasons. So naturally, all these nations surrounding Israel would have this leisure time at the same time as Israel. So what? So, God chose this time specifically to set apart His people from the other nations. Israel’s vacation time will look drastically different than the surrounding nations! While everyone else is being idle and lazy, Israel will be having offerings, services, and worship to God! When the other nations hear of this, or see this happening, they will say this, “It seems that the Israelites treasure something more than their own vacation time, it seems that they trust in this God more, I wonder why?” Through this month, Israel will stand out among the nations and show the world that the Lord, the God of heaven, is more valuable than vacationing!

This was the Old Testament version of 1 Cor. 10:31 causing 1 Pet. 3:15. This causes us to ask one question: Does the way that I vacation, or spend my leisure time, show the world that I trust in something else than my vacation, or leisure time? It should! Your vacation time should be drastically different than the world’s. How so? That is the aim of your life! To figure out ways to “redeem the time”, spend the time “to the glory of God”, so that people will ask 1 Pet. 3:15!

W: The Place of Works in our Sanctification

What is the place of “works” in our pursuit of holiness? Before I answer let me tell why I think this is a very important question to ask. Works are a necessary part of our own holiness, but our holiness is not based on our own works, but the works of Jesus (incarnation, life, death, resurrection). As a Christian, you are just as holy when you do your daily devotion and prayer time as you are when you don’t do those things; and though we may feel more holy when we do our “Christian duties” we must not base our holy standing before God on these duties. So where do our own works come into play? Obviously we cannot become holy people by sitting around navel gazing, we must do something! But what exactly is the place of our own works in our sanctification? Philippians 2:12-13 shows us whats up.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

You see it? There are two things present here that must see in proper order. First, notice that there is a clear call to holiness in that we’re commanded to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Second, notice that God clearly states that He is “at work both to will and work” in us and through us what is pleasing His sight. Now the real question comes: which one of these comes first? Does our working out our own salvation happen first, or does God’s working in us happen first? If our works happen first, and God’s as a consequence of them, then that would mean God cannot “will and work in us according to his own pleasure” unless we move through “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” first. This is wrong, dishonoring to God, and I hope you see why – in this option, God is in a box and cannot do anything until we move first. This is a man-centered view of God. Think about the other way around. God decides in His own heart to “will and work in us according to His own pleasure” and because of this we have the ability to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” This is correct and very God-honoring, because we, not God, are in the box. In this option we do not do anything at all until God moves first. This is a God-centered view of God.

Do you see how this places our own works of holiness as the result of our salvation rather than the ground of it? Pursuing holiness will only happen by “works” done by us in fear and trembling, but those works only happen because God has first worked in us.

APPLICATION question: Have you reversed this idea by thinking the ground of your salvation was your own works of holiness? Hmmm…I know I have. Have you?