In this week’s installment of your Friday Phil, he addresses answering the difficult questions that are sometimes posed by the lost (most often). His basic premise is that the answer, if it is to be Godly, should not necessarily take into consideration the possibility that the hearer will reject our answer. Enjoy.
ecently I got an e-mail that raised an excellent, but difficult, question about apologetics. My correspondent was trying to make sense of the inevitable tension we face in those moments when we are called upon "to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you . . . with gentleness and respect"—and yet we know that the best biblical answer we have to someone's question or challenge is strongly counter cultural and possibly even offensive to the person we're speaking to.
My friend wrote:
I attended a weekend seminar on "Cultural Apologetics" taught by a well-known philosopher/apologist. Toward the end of the final session, the professor opened up the floor to general apologetics questions.
One gentleman asked, "How do I defend the sacking of Canaan by the Israelites?"
My answer was that the Canaanites were destroyed because they were an abomination unto God. There is scriptural basis for that position: "For every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31). The professor said that was not a good answer, because a non-believer wouldn't care that God's laws had been transgressed.
He then said it was an extremely difficult point to defend against.
I've been wondering ever since. What is the appropriate response? If an unbeliever brings this up, should I divert the conversation and talk about the resurrection instead?
[this was edited somewhat to preserve everyone's anonymity]
I have no problem with the answer you gave. "Because they were an abomination to God" is a perfectly valid response: It's true, and it is, after all, the correct biblicalanswer to the question.
I think it's a serious mistake to evaluate answers to difficult questions by imagining whether a non-believer is likely to respond positively or not. Jesus never did that. He simply proclaimed the truth. That's the same approach we need to take. If unbelievers reject the answer anyway (and some always will, regardless of the cleverness of our strategies), then that's not necessarily an indication of failure on the ambassador's part.
Certainly we should do all we can legitimately do to minimize offense (and eliminate unnecessary offense) to unbelievers, but to dismiss a truthful answer as "not a good answer . . . because a non-believer wouldn't care" is in my view a gross miscarriage of our duty as Christ's ambassadors.
The professor's attitude toward biblical truth reflects in microcosm the very point where contemporary evangelicalism went astray and Protestantism lost its vigor. When people get timid about declaring what Scripture plainly says—especially when that apprehension is driven by fear about how unbelievers might respond—someone has lost sight of what it means to give a defense of the truth.
Being apologetic about the truth of Scripture is something quite different from being an apologist for it.
In prior occasions we have looked at the union between Christ (His divinity) and Jesus, Salvation (being saved), and Justification. As we continue to dispel some of the ignorance of some to terminology that is basic to the Christian faith we now turn our attention to Sanctification or its root Sanctify. So with it being Thursday, yep you guessed its Terminology Thursday.
Is FIRST the act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.
God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (2 Thess 2; 1Peter 1).
And SECOND it is the act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose, that is consecration.
Sanctification is closely aligned with Justification in that just as God justifies the sinner He also sets them apart (Sanctifies them) for salvation and ministry. So that there is Sanctification in our Atonement which is the process by which God purifies the believer, and is based on the sacrificial death of Christ. For instance in his letters, Paul noted that God had "chosen" and "reconciled" us to Himself in Christ for the purpose of sanctification (Eph 1:4; 5:25-27; Titus 2:14).
We must acknowledge that Sanctification is God's Work. We are sanctified by God the Father (Jude), God the Son (Heb 2:11), and God the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). Perfect holiness is God's command (1 Thess 4:7) and purpose. As Paul prayed, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely" (1 Thess 5:23). Sanctification is a process that continues during our lives as believers (Heb 10:14). Only after death are the saints referred to as "perfect" (Heb 12:23).
However, there is alsothe Believer's Work in Sanctification. Numerous commands in the Bible imply that believers also have a responsibility in the process of sanctification. We are commanded to "be holy" (Lev 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-16); to "be perfect" (Matt 5:48); and to "present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness" (Rom 6:19). Writing to the church of the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul made a strong plea for purity: "This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (1 Thess 4:3-5).
So that we see sanctification is both a completed work in which God sets us apart and a continual work in which we are being sanctified. So that Sanctification is God's gracious and powerful work of making sinners holy in heart and conduct through the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ to them, so that they increasingly die to sin and live unto righteousness in the whole man.
Before us this week is the topic of Demonism as it relates to the Biblical accuracy and necessity of “Deliverance” ministries.At the heart of this discussion is, ‘Can Holy Spirit indwelt believers be demon possessed (indwelt)’ and if so, by extension, ‘Is deliverance of said “believer” the proper approach needed.’To answer yes to the first question leads to the second, however to answer no to the first, if indeed the person is possessed calls for much more than what the deliverance ministry offers; for what is needed is salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ not just deliverance from a demon.
First, ‘Can Holy Spirit indwelt believers be demon possessed (indwelt).’Now in proper biblical hermeneutical fashion we must observe one of the first rules of doctrinal formation; that clear doctrinal passages have priority over parables, idioms and figures of speech, unclear historic references, Old Testaments types and shadows, etc. and ‘experience’ as well. It is the clear position of the scriptures that once an unbeliever becomes a believer, he is FILLED with the Holy Spirit.Yet those in the opposing view would seek to compartmentalize the believer separating the spirit from the soul thereby allowing God to reside in their spirit and the demon in their soul. One may ask and in fact God does “…what communion has light with darkness?And what accord has Christ with Belial” (2 Cor 6:15).Further, the scriptures make no distinction along these lines between the body, soul, or spirit of the believer but declare the believer’s body the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16).
For the purveyors of such doctrine, the scriptures must be often times ripped from out of their context or make claims that simply are not supported by the revealed facts; often reading into them things not stated as with and improper treatment of Luke 13: 10-17.At best it is sloppy hermeneutics, at worst it is a willful twisting of the scriptures to suit sinful lusts.Take for instance the two passages relating to Saul (1 Sam 18:10-11; 19:9-10) often cited by deliverance ministries as proof that believers can be possessed.The scriptures note of (1 Sam 18:10-11) the distressing spirit did not possess but came ‘upon’ him, and this spirit was from God ‘Elohiym’. In 1 Sam 19:9, 10 the evil spirit was not in but upon Saul and, again, the spirit was sent from the LORD ‘Yahweh’.In each case, the spirit was sent by God to oppress not possess Saul.A somewhat similar thought occurs with Job in which Satan was sent by God to “test” Job in Job 1:12 and 2:6.
However, some would attribute these differences to differences in interpretational understanding, but the Bible is not entirely silent on this question.Through the understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, one is lead to the inescapable conclusion that a Spirit filled, blood washed, born again believer cannot be possessed by a demonic spirit. So, by answering question 1 with no, question 2 is negated.
But one must ask why in light of clear Scriptural teaching and church doctrinal history would this heretical teaching be gaining greater acceptance?To answer we must allow for the ignorance of some and affirm the greed of others.Many, especially “laity” are ignorant, some willfully, of the teaching of Scripture and this is to their shame.And of the purveyors, again we must allow for stupidity but many teach this out of nothing more than greed.And this is on both sides of the equation, for the professional money, recognition, and prestige is a strong lure and for the “laity” it removes the responsibility of ones sinful actions.For if a believer can be demon possessed then it is true what the prophet Flip Wilson said in the early 70’s “The Devil made me do it” and he is responsible not me.
As we continue our look some of the principles shared within the Godhead we have up till now seen that He exists and therefore wants us to know Him as God, as well as that God is Eternal.This week we will look at the fact that God is Immutable.That is He does not change.As stated last week that “since God is eternal it is also very good that He be Holy” and to add … it is also good that He does not change.
Again the goal here will be to offer enough of a foundation from which to operate.
As usual a brief definition:
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines Immutableas:
Invariable; unalterable; not capable or susceptible of change.
I think that his definition bares a closer inspection.He states that to be immutable you must be “unalterable” as well as “not capable … of change” and here we have two great statements of God as it relates to His being immutable.1) That He is not alterable, that is no outside force can or will change Him.And logically we must acknowledge this for if He could be changed then the force changing Him would be greater than Him and of necessity He would not be God.2) He is not capable of change that is He is incapable of change not that He could change and chooses not to but no He by His very nature cannot change.
A. W. Pink reminds us that... “God cannot change for the better, for He is perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse”
And it follows that since He is not capable of change then by definition His essence cannot change that is His very being cannot be something it is not already.He cannot increase.He cannot decrease.He cannot self-evolve.He cannot develop.He is unchangeable.
He therefore cannot have any new attributes which would suggest change in his essential being. Now if any perfection could be separated from God, he would cease to be God.If we were, for example, to think of a God from whom his goodness were taken, then of course he would not be the infinite God that he was before.He cannot be wiser than he was before, he cannot be holier than he was before, he cannot be more righteous or more merciful than he was before, and He cannot be less merciful than he was before.
Further His will is unchangeable in His plans and purposes.He does not, for example, purpose something today that he changes tomorrow.He does not change his mind.He does not have to sit and think now what shall I do? Shall I do this or shall I do that? Well I think today I’ll try this, or I think tomorrow I will try that.Because God is infinite in his wisdom, then there is no error in the conception of his plans.All of his plans are perfect, and he does not have to reason them out.He has within himself the power to know that which is the finest plan.
So what comfort is there in knowing that God does not indeed cannot change?As we saw earlier God has set a standard and that standard is that we, you and I, be holy just as He is.But imagine trying to reach that standard if God were to change.It would be like trying to score a touchdown with the goal posts constantly moving. And this is what moral relativism does it constantly moves the goal so that anything is possible and defendable.But not so with God; He is immutable.
I just finished the book “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs a 17th century English puritan preacher that was first published in 1648 on the subject of contentment. His desire was to “revive the drooping spirits of the saints in these sad and sinking times,” in 1648 no less. Truly there is nothing new under sun is there?
In this continuation of last Monday’spost,he shows us three things to help us understand God’s ways of dealing with His people providentially which expands point 4 from last week.
God’s ordinary course is that his people in this world should be in an afflicted condition – ‘Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;’ (I Peter 4:12). People who do not understand God’s ways will think it strange that Christians should suffer and their enemies prevail, but it is God’s will for his people to be afflicted so that we may be conformed to the image of Christ.
Usually when God intends the greatest mercy to any of his people he brings them into the lowest condition – Usually the people of God, before the greatest comforts, have the greatest afflictions and sorrows. Those who do not have a proper understanding of God’s ways think that when he brings his people into sad conditions, that he is leaving and forsaking them, and that God does not intend any great good to them. But both Joseph and David are great examples of when God intends the greatest mercy, he brings men under the greatest afflictions.
It is the way of God to work by contraries, to turn the greatest evil into the greatest good – The greatest good that God intends for his people, he many times works out of the greatest evil. Understanding that God when he will bring life brings it out of death, he brings joy out of sorrow, and he brings prosperity out of adversity, and many times brings grace out of sin.
So you see having a proper understanding of the providence of God can do much to alleviate the stress and anxiety that our circumstances seem to bring on which then also leads to much murmuring and discontentment. Our Loving, Merciful, and Gracious God intends (gives) ALL things for our good and His ultimate Glory (Rom 8:28).
In sort of a continuation of last Friday’s post which really dealt with the loss of Biblical manhood and the inability of some to take/accept direct confrontation, we reach back into the Pyro archives to retrieve this classic post from Phil on the Sissification of the Church. Enjoy.
Let's face this honestly, like men: by every statistic you could possibly use to measure the growth and operation of evangelical churches worldwide, it is clear that church membership, church attendance, church leadership, and church activities are more and more dominated by women.
on't you think effeminate evangelicalism is yesterday's problem?" an e-mail correspondent asked. "Why write about that now? Over the past 15 years there have been some very influential men's movements like Promise Keepers; fantastic books for men like Wild at Heart; and other books honestly talking about this subject. Cage fighting is practically the favorite sport for Christian guys in my generation; beer and cigars are the main attractions at some men's groups in forward-thinking churches. You'rethe one rebuking young men for using virile language in church. What right do you have to complain that the church is too effeminate?"
Let's look at the examples my correspondent singled out. Have these things actually helped reverse the trends that are feminizing the church?
No, they haven't.
Most of the seminars, rallies, and books targeting evangelical men have actually made the situation worse. They are either dominated by feminine themes (personal relationships, dealing with your emotional hurts, learning the various "love languages," and other forms of sensitivity training)—or else they tend to paint a picture of masculinity that sounds like it is taken from The Brothers Grimm rather than Scripture.
And here's the clincher: despite all the chatter and attention this problem has received over the past decade and a half, men are stillless likely to participate in the church today than they were two decades ago.
Even those who talk the most about the need for the church to reach men usually have a very childish perspective on manhood. "Virile language"? Cusswords? That's your "proof" that men in the church are coming to grips with their spiritual duty to act like men? Really?
One of the recurring figures of masculinity that John Eldredge keeps bringing up in Wild at Heart is Maximus from the movie Gladiator. Afantasy character! The subtitle of the book isDiscovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. But here is the secret of a man's soul according to John Eldredge: "Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue."
That's a fairy-tale perspective. It's an irresponsible little boy's notion of manhood. It lacks any biblical foundation whatsoever. But Wild at Heart is the single most influential book on Christian manhood published by any evangelical publisher in the past three decades. That says something about the state of the church. Meanwhile one of the best books actually dealing with the subject biblically is The Mark of a Man: Following Christ's Example of Masculinity—by Elizabeth Elliot.
Doesn't it say something about the state of the evangelical movement when so many men are writing bad books on Christian manhood, and the one current book that comes to mind dealing with the subject soberly and biblically was written by a woman?
Incidentally, it needs to be said that the crisis in the church is not primarily the fault of women who have shifted the focus of the church away from men. It's the fault of men who are too timid, too lazy, too fainthearted, too self-absorbed, too immature, too emotionally dysfunctional, too crude, too in love with fleshly values, or whatever. They have turned the church over to women.
In short, the problem is not that Christian women have overwhelmed the church with their feminine charms and seduced its focus away from where it ought to be. The problem is with Christian men who aren't manly enough to balance the equation.
That's a serious problem, and it is by no means a new problem. The tendency for men to abdicate their spiritual duties to women began in the garden of Eden at the fall.
And that in turn underscores the fact that the feminizing tendency in the church is not merely a cultural or sociological phenomenon that can be solved by sensitivity training or mere chest-thumping. It is a sin problem that cannot be remedied until we recognize the failure of men to lead the church properly and take significant steps to correct the problem—at its theological root, and not just in a way that masks the symptoms.
Here's the thing: manliness is not about bravado, and it's not about boyishness. Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness.
Real manliness is defined by Christlike character, and not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, strong passions, manly love, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.
That's what Scripture portrays as authentic manliness, and it's the duty of every man in the church to be a model of that kind of manhood. Until men themselves stop listening to those who define manhood in terms of beer, stogies, and cage fighting; until Christian leaders quit fooling around with various tokens of artificial manhood; and until Christian men en masse seriously begin to cultivate real courage, conviction, and commitment to Christ and the gospel, the problem will persist.
Well here it is Thursday again and time to look at a new word. As we saw last week the term (or phrase) being saved carried the presupposition of looming danger, rightly so. This week I felt we should build upon our understanding of being saved to look at the resultant effect of that salvation by looking at the word Justification.
Justification (being Justified)
JUSTIFICATION–– quite simply is God's gracious act of forgiving sinners (saving them) and treating them as if they had never sinned (Justifying them).
This little term has had great impact upon the Church and its proper biblical understanding was the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. During the time of Martin Luther, the church taught, among many things, that in addition to the works of Christ, man was also saved by his own “good” works. However, Luther became convinced that justification was the result of God’s gift resulting from faith in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9 cf. Gal 2:16). He explains his understanding of biblical justification in the Smalcald Articles stating:
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Rom 3:24–25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Rom 3:23–25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us ... Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).
So you see Luther was steadfastly convinced that it is our faith which justifies us allowing us to live at peace with God (Rom 5:1).
In a continuation of Our Fallenness in Adam, I wanted to look a little closer at the entrance of sin into the world.
When the topic of imputation arises, it is usually spoken of in terms of the imputation of man’s sin to Christ, and the imputation of His righteousness to man.However, not much is said of Adam’s sin being imputed to the entirety of the human race.As R.C. Sproul states in noting the objection of some: “We don’t mind having our guilt transferred to Jesus or having his righteousness transferred to us; it is having the guilt of Adam transferred to us that makes us howl.”However, Sproul makes the distinction between the imputation of Adam’s sin and the imputation of Adam’s guilt.This is an important departure from the position of say Charles Ryrie in that he (Ryrie) sees the sin of Adam as being imputed to all men but not his guilt.Ryrie in support of his argument points to Rom 5:12 as the case for the imputation of sin from Adam to all man kind.However, in the passage we find three clear teachings; sin entered through one man, as result of his sin death entered, and all sinned.It should be noted that sin did not originate with Adam it ‘merely’ enter into the world through him.
It is clear from this passage that the result of Adam’s sin was the inheritance of death to all men.It would also seem that a rendering of Ezek 12:20 would make it equally clear that the sin(s) of the father (Adam) is not imputed to the son.Nor is the sin of the son imputed to the father, but they both are accountable for their own sin.This however, does not answer the question as to how man is born under condemnation; clearly, Adam’s sin was effectual in some way.Some attempt to address this when by stating, “I was in Adam and justly condemned to die because I sinned when he sinned.”Whether they intend to or not they use an active past tense in describing how his (Adam’s) condemnation is their own.That is I sinned when Adam did and not that Adam’s sin was imputed upon him.
Yet the imputation of someone else’s sin to Christ is clear “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).This is the heart of imputation, in that the one who was without sin had sin imputed to him so that His righteousness would in turn be imputed to those who had no righteousness.This process however, does not leave the believer without problems in regard to sin.The two most common errors of believers related to sin 1) legalism, where a burdensome load of do’s and don’ts is placed upon their shoulders, 2) antinomianism, where a reliance on the grace of God is pressed to the extreme rendering a result not sanctioned by Scripture.In legalism, most would acknowledge the saving work of grace in the life of the believer but then reliance upon the law to keep one saved or to demonstrate salvation is enjoined.
However, Paul in his address to the Galatians 2 recounts this very thing in an encounter with Peter where he in hypocrisy, sought to return under the law, if only for a season.Paul states that a man is “not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (v 16).And later declares “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (v 21).In addressing antinomianism we again look to Paul where he speaks to the often reached conclusion of the license to sin found outside the law.In Romans he states, “What then?Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?Certainly not!Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness” (Rom 6:15-17). The very idea of the believer using God’s grace as a license to sin was repulsive to him and in the NASB “Certainly not” is rendered “May it never be.”
In prior posts I have established, even if in a basic form, the Existence of God and the Possibility of knowing God as well as that God is Eternal. As we continue to look into the Nature of God and the relationship that exists between the Godhead i.e. the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we will now seek to show that the Eternal, Knowable God is also Holy. From the outset we can see that if/since God is eternal it is also very good that He be Holy as well. Imagine a God that is eternal and not Holy; as the wisest snowman known said “tell me when it’s over.”
Again the goal here will be to offer enough of a foundation from which to operate.
I must admit a certain feeling of inadequacy in approaching this topic for it is very difficult to describe the Holiness of God in any real … adequate way. Anything said comes off lacking or somehow out of tune; you know it’s the best you can do but it’s just not quite right. I even thought I could/would attempt a unification theory of God’s attributes but the more I though about it the more impossible and distant its possibility seemed. I owe many thanks to Bob over at Faith Christian Fellowship for helping me along this line of thinking and while I have not given up, I think attempting to unify, in a hierarchal scheme, the attribute’s of God is sorta like herding cats, the more you work at it the less you seem to accomplish.
So let’s begin with a definition, Holy is: “to be set apart.” But that’s not much help is it? Maybe the difficultly is in the fact that Holiness is the very essence of God. It simply is who or what He is. It’s what makes God…well… God; and it is from Holiness that all of His other attributes flow or submit (if that’s possible).
1. [when] Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character.
2. Hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use,
4. Perfectly just and good; as the holy law of God.
5. Sacred; as a holy witness.
But we have lowered our understanding of what it means to be holy by using such exclamations as holy cow, holy mackerel, holy rollers, and such. And maybe this demonstrates the difficulty in our understanding in that we have cheapened words to the point where they have lost their true meaning altogether. For instance we “love” potato chips when in fact we like them. I hate liquorice when in fact it is only an intolerable cruelty. So that we have lost the ability to easily and properly understand some of the basic tenants of the Christian faith.
However, with the Holiness of God we should understand that the Scriptures place great emphasis upon His being holy. In the sense of His holiness Rev 15:3-4 declares:
"Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
It was Isaiah (Isa 6:3) who saw the seraphim in a vision declaring “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” In fact the angels in Rev 4:8 “will never cease to say Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.”
So really how important is holiness in general and holiness specifically as related to God? First generally God commands to everyone “BE HOLY [emphasis mine] for (or as) I am holy” 1 Peter 1:16 (ref. Lev 11:43) and this, admittedly is an impossible standard. We can never obtain that level of holiness but that is the standard. However, we must not fall into the mistake of thinking that God commands only the possible for those to whom He commands.
Specifically though if that is the standard and God has certainly commanded that we be Holy when in fact we cannot, then if God is to save anyone that standard must be set aside or fulfilled. If it is set aside God cannot be said to be holy any longer since in the setting aside the standard He Himself ceases to be holy in that He excuses sin. On the other hand if He is to remain Holy the standard “be holy” must be obtained and stresses our need for someone who can attain the standard?
And in resolution to this problem God is satisfied to place our unholiness upon the Holy One Jesus Christ “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). So you see in Christ alone the standard is met. In Christ alone we find our Holiness. In Christ alone “God, the Just, is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.”
I am currently in the process of finishing a book called “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs a 17th century English puritan preacher; truly one of the great old dead guys. This book is a compilation of sermons that he preached on the subject of contentment to “revive the drooping spirits of the saints in these sad and sinking times” and was first published in 1648. It is a slow read because of the language but also because it takes time to meditate on the depths of wisdom that comes from within this little paperback.
What he wrote over 350 years ago is still very relevant in our time. Discontentment is rampant among Christians today and is a sin that we easily fall prey to. You would think with the relative ease of comfort that we live our lives in today that it would not be so, but the human flesh is weak and is easily tempted if not on guard.
In Chapter 6 Jeremiah looks at how Christ teaches contentment and within that chapter is a section dedicated to the right knowledge of God’s providence. Therein lays four points.
The Universality of Providence – God’s providence reaches to every detail: not one hair falls from your head, not a sparrow to the ground, without the providence of God. Nothing befalls you good or evil. In every particular happening from morning to night every day, that there is nothing that befalls you that the hand of God is not in it.
The efficacy that is in providence – The providence of God goes on in all things, with strength and power, and will not be altered by our power. All our vexing and fretting will not alter and change its course. Job 18:4.
The infinite variety of the works of providence, and yet the order of things, one working towards another – We look at things by pieces but God looks at all things at once and sees the relation that one has to another. When God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? When you want to have your will in a certain detail, you may cross God in a thousand things that may depend on that one thing.
The knowledge of God’s usual way in the dealings with His people more particularly – The right understanding of the way of God in his providence towards his saints. Those who do not understand the way of God are troubled with the providences of God and think them strange.
Understanding God’s providential care for us, if applied properly, can lead to a contented life. What a witness to a much discontented world! Next time we will look at three things that will help us understand God’s ways in dealing with His people.
In a post response I made to Daniel over at New Self (my friends) I was charged with being "harsh' and "bitter" both by someone whom I have never met nor spoken to. So imagine my surprise that he was able to discern so much about me from such a one dimensional medium as a blog. And while I will strongly deny the charge, Phil's message and subsequent post of his 2010 conference remarks bears repeating if for only my sake. But I do think it bears repeating for us all; but especially to men who have been stripped of their biblical manhood so as to not be able to endure direct, to the point, confrontation. - So enjoy.
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
"Stand firm in the faith" (16:13).
et's face it: steadfast immovability is one of those virtues that has lost its luster in these postmodern times. "Epistemological humility" is the new supreme and cardinal virtue. We're supposed to refuse to be certain or dogmatic about anything.
Our culture thinks rank skepticism (or even spiritual nihilism) ishumility, and hipster Christians have overcontextualized themselves to the point where they seem to think that's true. Strong convictions—the very thing Paul calls for here—are out. If you don't undergo some kind of major paradigm shift in your theology and your worldview every few years or so, you are not only hopelessly behind the times, you are incurably arrogant, too.
That's why, according to any postmodern way of thinking,dogmatism is to be avoided at all costs, diversity is to be cultivated no matter what, and tolerance means never having to say "You're wrong."
That's not "humility"; that's unbelief.
It's not arrogant to have firm, immovable biblical convictions. In fact, it is our duty to be precise and thorough in our doctrine, and to come to strong, mature, biblically-informed convictions. Paul even named this as one of the necessary evidences of authentic faith: "If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard" (Colossians 1:23). We are not to be "children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Stability is a good and precious virtue—a necessary virtue for church leaders especially. Peter wrote, "Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability" (2 Peter 3:17).
Watch out for those who undergo regular, major paradigm shifts in their thinking or revamp their whole theology every few years—avoid them. Double-minded men are unstable in all their ways. Yeah, but isn't it wrong to be obstinate and inflexible?
Well, it certainly can be, but do you know what the Bible identifies as the very worst kind of stubbornness? It's the obstinacy of refusing to be steadfast in our conviction that the Word of the Lord is true. Scripture condemns such people as "a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast" (Psalm 78:8). How were they "stubborn" without being steadfast? "Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant" (v. 37). That's the very height of arrogance. "Stand firm." That's a command. "Stand firm in the faith." The definite article is significant. There is only one true faith, and if your faith in Scripture isn't strong enough to affirm even that fact without equivocation, you really need to ponder very carefully what Paul is saying here. Because in all likelihood, that question will be put to you by an unbeliever ("Is conscious faith in Jesus really the only way to heaven?"), and you need to be ready to give an answer. I'm amazed and appalled at the parade of evangelical celebrities who have flubbed that question on Larry King Live or other national platforms. If you are someone who undergoes regular worldview-sized shifts in your thinking; if your worldview changes every time a new fad or bestselling book comes along; if you are by nature fascinated with new perspectives and radical doctrines—don't become a blogger or use the Internet as a place to do your thinking out loud. Please.People like that only sow doubt and confusion. The Christian is supposed to be like a tree, planted by rivers of water—steadfast, immovable, growing in a steady, constant fashion rather than lurching wildly from one point of view to another all the time. He should be full of life and energy, but staunch and unwavering in his faith.
Of course I'm not suggesting that it's always inappropriate to change your mind—even on the big issues. You may have heard me making the case somewhere that if you're an Arminian, you ought to rethink your soteriology and adopt a more biblical view. I personally experienced precisely that kind of large-scale theological shift several years ago, and a few years before that, while reading Warfield's Studies in Perfectionism and comparing it with Scripture, my whole understanding of sanctification got an overhaul.
There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't become addicted to the idea of remodeling your doctrine just for the sake of having something new to play with. Bible doctrines are not Lego bricks—toys you can tear apart and put them back together in any shape you want whenever you tire of your most recent plaything. We're not supposed to be like the Athenian Philosophers inActs 17:21, who "would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new."The goal of our study should not be the constant shifting of our beliefs—but Christlike steadfastness—solid, settled, mature convictions.
And let me add this: if you do abandon Arminianism and become a Calvinist; if you leave one eschatalogical position and take up another one; if you undergo any major doctrinal shift—don't suddenly act like that one point of doctrine is more important than all others. Don't blog or talk about it constantly to the exclusion of everything else. Spend some time settling into your new convictions before you pretend to have expertise you frankly haven't had time to develop.
I think the tendency of fresh Calvinists to become cocky and obsessive about the fine points of predestination is one of the things that makes Calvinism most odious to non-Calvinists. Don't do that. It's not a sign of maturity, and you're not truly steadfast in the faith unless you are truly mature.
That is what Paul is calling for here: maturity, groundedness, stability. That's the heart of legitimate Christian conviction.
In fact, let's be clear about this: What Paul wanted to see in the Corinthians was not the ability to argue with zeal and vigor in favor of a particular point of view. Immature college kids can dothat better than anyone else. What Paul was calling for is firm belief, settled assurance, confidence in the truth of God's Word, and an unwavering heart. In short, spiritual maturity. And that's not an easy thing to come by in a culture like Corinth, where the fads and fashions of this world seem to have more appeal than the eternal word of God.
Listen to what Charles Hodge said about this command:
Do not consider every point of doctrine an open question. Matters of faith, doctrines for which you have a clear revelation of God, such for example as the doctrine of the resurrection, are to be considered settled, and, as among Christians, no longer matters of dispute. There are doctrines embraced in the creeds of all orthodox churches, so clearly taught in Scripture, that it is not only useless, but hurtful, to be always calling them into question.
"Stand firm in the faith," Paul says, and if you are tempted to tone that down, apologize for it, or explain it away because it conflicts so dramatically with the spirit of this age, then you need to repent of that attitude and ask God to give you more conviction and more courage.