So Great a Salvation

From The Cripplegate

“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation. 

The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.

The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.

In Eternity Past

Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.

1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).

Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.

After Creation, at the Cross

Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.

2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).

God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).

Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.

The Moment You Become a Christian

Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.

4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).

The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.

5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).

Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).

6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).

Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.

7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).

Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.

8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).

Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.

9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.

10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).

Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.

11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).

Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.

12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).

Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.

13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).

Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.

From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ

Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.

14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).

This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.

15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).

The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.

From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future

The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.

16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).

Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves. 

Conclusion

This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”

Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!

Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!

Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!

Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!

Glory to God! We are saved!

‘Useless’ Faith?

question?

First of all, I think it fair to say that we (professing believers) almost always think about faith in a positive light, as does scripture. The Old Testament is full of men and women of faith. The New Testament tells us we are saved “by grace through faith”. On occasion, Jesus commended individuals for their faith. In the book of Hebrews there is a long list of notable men and women of faith, as well as heroic deeds that were the result of their faith in a great God.

So what’s this about “useless” faith? Is it even a ‘thing’ from a biblical perspective?

I suggest to you that it is, and that ‘useless faith’ is a serious topic at least twice in the Bible, once from the perspective of the Apostle Paul, and once from the perspective of James, the brother of Jesus, in the book bearing his name. The Apostle Paul addresses the topic from something the Bible claims is a historical fact, while James approaches it with human works in view.

For a look at what Paul had to say about “useless” faith, we need only take a look at 1Corinthians, chapter 15, his great treatise on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the final resurrection of believers:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19)

Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who were denying the future resurrection of the dead, although it was being preached that Christ indeed rose from the dead, a fact attested to by witnesses.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul then states that if Christ has not been raised, his (Paul’s) preaching and the faith of Believers in Corinth is in vain (useless) (v 14), a point he reiterated in v. 17.

Moving on to what James has to say about “useless” faith, we’ll turn to James, Chapter 2.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.\

First Janes asks his listeners if want to be shown that faith apart from works is useless (v. 20) and then says very clearly that faith part from works is dead (v. 26). Clearly he is saying that faith without works is useless and dead, but in what context? We need only go back to an earlier verse (v. 14) to see that James’ conclusion is based on someone professing faith but never displaying works did not have saving faith. He is saying that if claims o having faith do not produce works, it was personal faith professed, but NOT saving faith possessed, and completely “useless”.

So yes, there is such a thing as ‘useless’ faith according to the Bible, from at least two perspective:

1. If Christ died but was not resurrected, our faith and indeed Christianity itself is useless (1 Cor 15). This is a serious doctrinal issue.

2. If we say we have faith, but our faith does not result in works to the glory of God, we never had the ‘gift of God’ faith (See Eph 2:8-9) that actually saves (James 2:14-25). This is a serious personal issue.

So we all have good reason to follow some sound advice from the Apostle Paul:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

(2 Cor 13:5, ESV)

“Final Word”

Psalm 19
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

 

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

___________________

The title of this post is the title of a small book by John MacArthur I’m reading and has been a blessing!

“The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church” by David Wells

“Twenty-five years ago, evangelicals were outside the religious establishment. That establishment was made up principally of the mainline denominations. But today evangelicals have become the religious establishments, however informally. But despite this, I believe that today we are in some peril. We have a fight on our hands and what we’re fighting for is our evangelical soul, for it is possible for us to gain the whole religious world while losing our own souls. I do not say this because I am one of those who thinks that the best is always what is in the past, that we are always in a state of decline, and that if we want to think of a golden age we have to think of something that is behind us. I do not think that way at all. In some ways we, today, are better off than we were twenty-five years ago. Perhaps a lot better off. And yet in spite of that, I believe there are matters within the evangelical world today which are seriously amiss.”

Read the rest of the article here. You won’t be disappointed.

SUICIDE AND THE SAINT

There has been a bit of speculation concerning this of late. . .

SUICIDE AND THE SAINT

Scanned and edited from the writings of A.W. Pink by Michael Jeshurun

“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou…

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Are you truly saved?

This is a chapter from, “Boldly Contending as a Military Chaplain,” which was written by Sonny Hernandez. When I found this article, I ordered the book. Caution: Not for the weak hearted.

American Evangelicalism is a dark ominous cloud on the horizon. It is a belief that embodies everything that is not orthodox Christianity, because it disregards holiness for happiness, substitutes the Gospel for gimmicks, exchanges theology for theatrics, disregards evangelism for entertainment, replaces overseers with opinions, embraces palatable, innocuous stories in lieu of powerful inspiring sermons, and does not promote sound churches, but social clubs. The delusion and superstition of American Evangelicalism will never liberate anyone from the retribution of God. Why? It is a truncated gospel that will never deliver, only deceive, and will never produce faithful servants, only false converts.

There are incalculable amounts of professing Christians that are in danger of false assurance. False assurance is walking the aisle at church and offering the lip service of magical prayers (asking Jesus into your heart), romancing Bible verses, oversimplifying the Gospel, and relying on the freedom of the will as a means of salvation. When professing Christians are encompassed by false teachers, rely on traditional conceits, and they embrace everything that syncretism offers, they must be warned that regeneration only comes from the Spirit, not superstition (John 6:63-66). This article will provide several questions for professing Christians to examine their lives to see if they are truly born again. Charles Spurgeon provides an invaluable injunction that will articulate genuine and false conversion:

Beware, I pray thee, of presuming that thou art saved. If thy heart be renewed, if thou shalt hate the things that thou didst once love, and love the things that thou didst once hate; if thou hast really repented; if there be a thorough change of mind in thee; if thou be born again, then hast thou reason to rejoice: but if there be no vital change, no inward godliness; if there be no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then thy saying “I am saved” is but thine own assertion, and it may delude, but it will not deliver thee.[1]

1.) Do you earnestly desire God?

The Bible provides a regulated commandment to love the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:12). If a professing Christian is truly in love with God, he or she will passionately cry out in fear of God to know and praise Him with joyful lips, and be clothed in humility when yielding and submitting themselves before the tribunal God of Scripture. Authentic love for God is when a believer prays without ceasing that God would forebear the executions of His wrath, and their life exhibits prayer, supplications, and lamentations for lost sinners. Authentic love for God will produce a vehement belief that the Spirit, which propels the Word of God, will strike a penetrating conviction in the soul to cause a believer to hate sin, yield to the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and be radically obsessed with love for the Law of God because they meditate and memorize daily. According to the apostle Paul: If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come (1 Corinthians 16;22)!

Most professing Christians will profess love for God. Notwithstanding a profession of love, professing Christians must offer more than just lip service. There must be evidence of salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5)! Without evidence of salvation, a professing Christian has nothing to measure their Christianity upon. On the Day of Judgment, if God were to ask professing Christians if they love Him, and they respond by saying: “yes Lord, you know I love you,” but their life does not reflect evidence of salvation, what will be the final disposition for professing Christians on that Great Day? Here are tenable questions that should motivate professing Christians to examine their lives for fruits of salvation:

1. If you say you love God, then why do you spend more time on Facebook than your face in His book?

2. If you say you love God, then why do you have over five hundred text messages and over one thousand minutes on your cell phone every month and yet you have no time in prayer? It’s obvious what lord you serve!

3. If you say you love God, then why do you pay money to be entertained with movies that slander His Name and espouse all of the things He hates?

4. If you say you love God, then how come you never tell anyone (evangelize) about Him?

Counterfeit love for God is a revolting practice that must be admonished. It is not uncommon to hear many professing Christians treat God like He exists in a prescriptive medicine bottle, because they believe all they have to do when they are feeling bad is take their eight hundred milligrams of God to feel better. It is not uncommon to hear many professing Christians twist Scripture when they share Jeremiah 29:11 on social media, and ask all their friends to share with everyone they know to receive a blessing. This type of garbled claptrap must be rejected by telling them: God is not your prescriptive medicine, He is not your genie in a bottle, and He is not your fairy godmother. He is your Lord!

It is also not uncommon for many professing Christians to believe in a liberal Jesus, whose only attribute is love, and looks just like Fabio or a member of an effeminate boy-band, from the many egregious paintings that portray Him. Sadly, there are many professing Christians that believe Christ will return on the Second Coming by coming out of the clouds, riding a pony, and wearing a red t-shirt that says free hugs. This false, liberal Jesus is not the savior, but Satan, because when Christ returns, He will be riding a white horse with His robe dipped in blood. He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, dash them to pieces like the potter’s vessel, and tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the almighty God to wage vengeance on those who do not obey the Gospel (Psalm 2; Revelation 19:11-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). Professing Christians must count all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8), and embrace the Lord for who He is. The Westminster Longer Catechism (question 7) provides a biblical teaching lesson on the attributes of God:

Question: What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, (
John 4:24) in and of himself infinite in being,(Exodus 3:14) glory,(Acts 7:2) blessedness,(1 Timothy 6:15), and perfection;(Matthew 5:48) all-sufficient,(Genesis 17:1) eternal,(Psalm 90:2) unchangeable,(Malachi 3:6) incomprehensible,(1 Kings 8:27) everywhere present,(Psalm 139:1-13) almighty,(Revelation 4:8) knowing all things,(Hebrews 4:13) most wise,(Romans 16:27) most holy,(Isaiah 6:3) most just,(Deuteronomy 32:4) most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.(Exodus 34:6)

2.) Are you passionate about church?

Church membership is a vital doctrine. Professing Christians must be subjugated under the headship of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), subservient to local church elders (Hebrews 13:17), able to provide offerings (1 Corinthians 16:2), never neglect meeting with the saints (Hebrews 10:25), devote themselves to teachings, prayer, fellowship (Acts 2:42), and faithfully observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). If professing Christians willfully neglect the aforementioned commands from Scripture, they must be reminded that Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). If professing Christians do not obey Christ, then His Word calls them liars (1John 2:4).

It is imperative that local churches teach on church membership. In the current culture, youth are being deceived into accepting a gospel-less, soft-peddling church slogans that are not the Gospel, but gimmicks such as: “come as you are,” “dress casual,” “contemporary music,” “love God love people,” “hate sin and love the sinner.” Instead of trying to woo the youth to attend church or stir their emotions, a message must be sent that can actually save: “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What happens when the youth are not taught about the importance of church membership? They will attend church because their friends attend, or because it pleases their mom and dad, grandpa or grandma, or because they want to meet friends. The youth must be taught: “you do not attend church because of your friends; you attend church because of God.” “You do not attend church because it pleases your parents or grandparents; you attend church because it pleases God.” “You do not attend church because you desire friends; you attend church because you need to desire God.” Sadly, it is quite possible that many youth are taught poor examples of church membership because of their parents. Here is an example: when parents become exhilarated over the “day after thanksgiving sale” where they have to wake up earlier than normal, but on the day of church, their bed becomes a mixed martial arts arena or boxing ring, because they literally have to fight with themselves just to get out of bed to make it to church on time. These types of parents do not attend church because they want to be godly and dignified, but rather a good deed. They do not care about being sound and Christ-centered, but rather to sooth their Christian conscience. This is why church membership is important.

3.) Is authentic worship important to you?

What is authentic worship? Christians are called to bow down to Him (Psalm 95:6), worship at His footstool (Psalm 99:5), proclaim His Name (Psalm 105:1), ascribe to Him the glory due His Name, worship in the Splendor of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:28, 29) with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29), and fear God and give Him the glory (Revelation 14:7). The 1689 London Baptist Confession provides a summarization of the faith, an affirmation of worship, a teaching outline, and a guard against apostasy that will amplify a professing Christian’s comprehension on worship:

The light of nature shows that there is a God who has dominion and sovereignty over all.  He is just and good, and He does good to all.  He is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, invoked, trusted and served by men with all their heart and soul and strength.  But the only acceptable way of worshipping the true God is appointed by Himself, in accordance with His own will.  Consequently He may not be worshipped in ways of mere human contrivance, or proceeding from Satan’s suggestions. Visible symbols of God, and all other forms of worship not prescribed in the Holy Scripture, are expressly forbidden (Exod. 20:4-6; Deut. 12:32; Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33).[2]

There are myriads of professing Christians that are culpable of worshipping God in a manner which He has not commanded or prescribed. Many will worship Him based on personal experiences, tradition, musical preferences, modern consensus, or by other means devised by human ingenuity that is undoubtedly carnal fiction. God will condemn fabricated worship that is defiled with imagination or devices of men. When Nadab and Abihu offered an unauthorized worship before God which He had not commanded: fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:2). According to John Calvin: “Those who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits.”[3] This is why it is imperative to remind professing Christians: it does not matter what you like in worship, it matters what God commands.

It is condemned in Scripture as gross idolatry when God is not the object of worship, or when God is worshiped in a manner that is cultivated by human invention. When carnal people feel that children need to find a church where they can meet friends their age, music, and programs they like, or a cool youth pastor who can relate to them just because they wear dingy pants, plaid shirts, nerd glasses, have spiked hair, show off tattoos, or use juvenile vernacular, they need to be reminded: none of those things can strengthen a child’s faith, because they are fiction. They can never save because they are sinful. God does not command any of those trifling and obstinate practices.

Objections: Here are some additional objections that professing Christians commonly make when it comes to worshipping God as He commands (i.e., Regulative Principles), and also cogent responses:

  • Objection:“I was not raised in a church that worshiped this way. I did not worship like this in my last church.”

Response: He is not the God of your idle traditions. He is the absolute sovereign God of Scripture. The Pharisees loved their tradition that nullified Scripture, but Jesus did not (Matthew 15:1-20).

  • Objection: “I need a worship pastor who can stir my emotions and put me in the mood to worship.”

Response: is the incomprehensible grandeur & supremacy of God not good enough for you (Psalm 72:24-28)?

  • Objection: “We need to change our worship so we can attract the youth.”

Response: you will not find such a commandment in Scripture which corroborates the fact that it is you who needs changing because the youth do not direct worship, God almighty does (Exodus 20:1-6).

  • Objection: “I want to sing a song that reminds me of: grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, someone I love, or a time in my life that is most memorable.”

Response: it is called nostalgia when you embrace a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past; it is called idolatry when you sing these songs in church because your emotions have replaced the incommunicable attributes of God as the object of worship (Exodus 20:1-6).

  • Objection: “I want to hear a worship pastor who is talented in singing, or else I will not attend your church.”

Response: you must not have read the sign outside that said church, not a talent show.

  • Objection: “If we do not get our worship pastor that we like, we are leaving.”

Response: it is better to lose people than lose God, and it is better to offend you than offend God (Proverbs 1:25-29).

The Bible commands believers to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). In public and private worship of God, there must be exaltation, not entertainment. Professing Christians must embrace Christ-centeredness, not childish conceits, and they must focus on the fear of God, not fun and gimmicks. Even when there is contention in the church over worship methodologies, professing Christians must worship as God commands, and not because goats complain! The 1689 London Baptist Confession provides a biblical example:

The reading of the Scripture, the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, the instructing and admonishing of one another by means of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with heartfelt thankfulness to the Lord, the observance of baptism and the Lord’s supper-these are all parts of divine worship to be performed obediently, intelligently, faithfully, reverently, and with godly fear.  Moreover, on special occasions, solemn humiliation, fastings, and thanksgivings ought to be observed in a holy and reverential manner (Exod. 15:1-19; Esther 4:16; Ps. 107; Joel 2:12; Matt. 28:19, 20; Luke 8:18; 1 Cor. 11:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2).[4]

4.) What is the standard of truth in your life to measure conduct?

The Holy Scripture is unequivocally the only source and substance of truth. His Word alone is perfect and pure (Psalm 19:7-8), proven true (Proverbs 30:5-6), stands forever (Isaiah 40:7-8), never returns void (Isaiah 55:11), never passes away (Matthew 24:34-35), is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:26); believers cannot live without (Mathew. 4:4), and never wrong (Titus 1:2). When a person casts doubt on God’s Word, they are partaking of the same execrable act performed by the Devil in the garden when he said: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). If a person professes to be a Christian, they must embrace purity and not pollution. Charles Spurgeon provides an analogy of a pig to explain:

If you put on one side of a room a slap up a meal from the best chef in England, and on the other side, a pig trough filled with pig slop and you release a pig in that room, every single time he would go to the pig trough.

Why? Because he’s a pig. It’s what pigs do.

Now, if the pig was supernaturally transformed into a human being, he would not want to eat from the pig trough anymore, he can’t even take pig food without vomiting, and so he’d go to the slap up meal.

Why? Because he’s a human now. He’s not a pig anymore.

There is a disparity between true Christianity and counterfeit Christianity. True Christianity is where a believer yields and submits to Scripture as the sole source of truth that constitutes salvation. Counterfeit Christianity devalues the Bible as a verbose book that has good stories that are emblematic with virtue, but not inerrant. If a person is not subjugated to the Bible, and without a reasonable doubt believes that the Holy Scripture is the infallible Word of God, then here is an important message: you are not a Christian because you have nothing to measure your Christianity upon! This is why no one can deny the truth of Scripture. If someone dares to contend with God’s Word, it is not because the Word of God contradicts itself; it is because the Word of God contradicts them.

What are some common excuses in the church that professing Christians will make to neglect obeying the Scripture? Here are a few examples:

  • “I think we should do it this way.”
  • “At my last church, we have always done it this way.”
  • “When I was a child, we did it this way.”

Responding to unbiblical excuses is important. When someone says: “I think” we should do it this way, remind them that their first problem is that “they think,” and they do not read. When someone lays the axiom about truth based upon an unbiblical tradition and they say: “at my last church” or “when I was a child we always did it this way so this is how it should be done,” it is imperative that they are reminded: that is called an unbiblical tradition, and not unprecedented truth. Taking Scripture out of context, romancing Bible verses, twisting Scripture, and laying the axiom about truth based upon personal experiences or traditions are examples of nullifying God’s Word. This is why the Holy Scripture must be the standard to measure Christian conduct:

All religious controversies are to be settled by Scripture, and by Scripture alone. All decrees of Councils, opinions of ancient writers, and doctrines of men collectively or individually are similarly to be accepted or rejected according to the verdict of the Scripture given to us by the Holy Spirit. In that verdict faith finds its final rest (Mat 22:29,31-32; Acts 28:23; Eph 2:20).[5]

5.) How is holiness evident in your life?

The Holy Scripture patently declares God as holy (1 Samuel 2:2). In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw a blazing manifestation or theophany of God, and the angels crying out with a loud penetrating voice: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). It is impossible to know what holiness is if people rely on their own folklore, melancholy, or other credulous sentiments that are radically inconsequential. Why? They are nothing more than vain repetitions and dreams of human diatribe against the authority of Scripture, and that is the malady to be found which separates false Christianity from the marks of biblical Christian Orthodoxy.

God’s eyes are too pure to approve evil, and He cannot look upon wickedness with favor (Habakkuk 1:13). This means that God cannot have fellowship with anyone who is not regenerate, and the boastful will not stand in His sight because of His hatred against workers of iniquity (Isaiah 5:4-8). How can this be explained? If God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), sanctifies His people with truth (John 17:17), speaks life into existence (Genesis 1:1-31), denounces self-righteousness (Isaiah 5:21), lies (Exodus 20:16), and division (Romans 16:17-18), then God must hate anything that is antithetical to His Word, as the wisdom literature will explain:

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Christians are commanded to be holy (Leviticus 20:26), and not be conformed to the passions of their former ignorance (1 Peter 3:13-17). It would be incumbent upon all professing believers to inculcate an understanding of what perfecting holiness in fear of God means (2 Corinthians 7:1), so they can put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save their souls (James 1:21). Why are these principles important? Charles Spurgeon provides an invaluable response:

Christ will be master of the heart and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not in their sins, but from their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.[6]

It is imperative that professing believers practice holiness. If a professing believer is truly holy, their heart will ache when it devises schemes that are not commensurate with the Law of God, they will have a foul taste in your mouth and their eyes burn with enmity when they see the rampage of sin is prevalent in their life. There are always going to be people laden with iniquity that will provoke the Lord to anger, and they will not practice holiness. They will not petition the outstretched power of God to grant clemency from showering them with hell by the way they conduct themselves. Examples of this would be when professing believers pay money to be entertained with movies that God hates, and by spending all their time watching sports, and not reading any Scripture. How should a Christian hold another professing Christian accountable for such conduct? Here are two ways they can be warned:

  • Self-professing Christians and sports: woe to you when your love for sports supersedes your love for Scripture. Do you not realize that when you abandon Scripture to spend countless hours watching the big game, you will elevate your understanding of players and statistics, but you will never become wise in salvation because you will be nothing more than an illiterate babe that exalts a few hours of entertainment above the commandments of God?
  • Self-professing Christians & movies: when your life exemplifies a person who would rather indulge in a cinematic experience (movies) that entertains and encroaches your carnality, with sensuality, sexual immorality, obscenities, blasphemies, crude joking, and all the things that are detestable to God, rather than amplify your mind and feed your soul with the purity of Scripture that can make you wise in salvation. God knows what Lord you serve. It is not the God who established the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth. It is the false god that is only 30-55 inches that you call a flat screen TV, but God calls a golden calf.

Conclusion

It would be dreadful for any man or woman to be deceived into believing they are saved, and then be condemned to hell as an object of God’s wrath. If a person is truly regenerate, they have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and their life will come to fruition that Christ abides in them (John 15:5). Without evidence of God’s effectual power and steadfast love in drawing a sinner to Himself, and granting the inseparable graces of faith and repentance, then all a person will ever receive is the perpetuity of His wrathful rebukes with a flame of fire and everlasting torment (Isaiah 66:15-16; 24), where Christ will say to them: “I never knew you, depart from me you who practice unrighteousness” (Matthew 7:23). This is why you must:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test (2 Corinthians 13:5)!

1. “Charles Spurgeon.” AZQuotes.com. Wind and Fly LTD, 2016. 03 May 2016. http://www.azquotes.com/quote/565664

2. See 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 22): Religious Worship, and the Lord’s Day (1)

3. John Calvin and Translated by Henry Beveridge. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, 13.

4. See 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 22): Religious Worship, and the Lord’s Day (5)

5. See 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 1): The Holy Scripture (10)

6. “Charles Spurgeon.” AZQuotes.com. Wind and Fly LTD, 2016. 14 May 2016. http://www.azquotes.com/quote/565712

[Contributed by Sonny Hernandez]

Why I’m Not Overly Excited About the New Christian Movie ‘Overcomer’

I remember when I started seeing advertisements here and there about the Kendrick brothers’ new movie ‘The Overcomer’. I didn’t have the obligatory “I’ve GOT to see it!” feeling then and I don’t now, for reasons that might become clear in this article.

Please don’t hate me,

This morning I saw on Facebook a post from a friend and one of the Chaplains who serves at the chapel we attend here n Colorado. It was a link to an article from The Christian Post titled  ‘”Overcomer’ opens in top 3 at box office, grosses $8.2M”. I read it and clicked the link to a previous CP article about the movie called “’Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say”, which I had previously read. There a few bits from both articles I found interesting that I will share with you.

First of all, let me be really clear that I am not condemning the film,, it’s admirable production value., the churches taking busloads to see it, or any individual who  pays to see it on the big screen, especially non-Christians who watch it and become interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and saving grace as a result.

On to the subject of my  lack of excitement . Also bear in mind that I have not watched the film yet, a cardinal sin worthy of a certain level of condemnation from some of my Christian brethren. At the same time, the fact that a few remarks from these articles caught my attention just might mean that I have been paying attention while engaged in reading the Bible and studying its doctrine.

Since the article about box office results after the grand opening was the first article I read this morning, Keep in mind that I often read these sorts of articles about Christian film productions with the question “Did it/will it present a clear message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

The movie’s theme centers around a basketball coach in a manufacturing town who loses his tem when the plant sits down and a lot of people leave town. He ends up coaching a sport he doesn’t even enjoy  and  ends up realizing that his true identity is found in Christ, not in his own accomplishments. The ‘gospel’ moment in the article was this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.”

That the sinner’s prayer is spoken could be a good thing, if what precedes the praying is an accurate discussion of WHY it needs praying – that all of , until God saves us, ‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ , as we are told in the first few chapters of Paul’s  letter to the Ephesians, which seems to be the source of the film’s argument that our true identify is in Christ, not our accomplishments.

The article tells us this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.

“Satan loves to convince people that they’re the opposite of what Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 say they are,” Alex Kendrick told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview with CP earlier this month. “

While I agree with the above sentiment,  it is nowhere found in the referenced Ephesian text. The actual text focuses on our natural state without Christ , (‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ .  Then we wee in the text of Ephesians what are perhaps the most important words in all of scripture “But God……”, followed by a beautiful description of God’s complete sovereignty in the salvation of men, It is God who raises up dead men, makes them alive in Christ , and gives them a new identity.

This new identity in Christ is very real, and the result of God’s intent to save all of his people, through the shed blood of his only Son.. Does ‘Overcomer’ address the ‘dead n trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ pieces of the puzzle?

On to the second article, ‘Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say, which preceded It preceded report of the film’s opening by a few weeks.

While it provided a more detailed description of the movie’s theme and story line, it also said this:

““There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

Stephen Kendrick tells us that ‘there’s a temptation to water down the truth” (very true), and that ““This story doesn’t water down the Gospel”. (It doesn’t?)

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody’s going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy the movie, even if you don’t know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

We are told that we all have marriage difficulties and trials that come with losing our identities, which is also true,  Then comes the most troubling tidbit (at least for this guy):

“We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the unbeliever hates God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8),or even understand  spiritual things and considers them foolishness (which the gospel is) (1 Corinthians 2:14)?

Lastly, no unbeliever truly  comes to Christ to ‘rediscover their identity’. There is one, and only one reason to embrace Christ – for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died  to fix our sin problem, not our identity crisis. ‘Overcomer’ might be a good movie fort hose who are already believers (like the movie’s main character) and having identity issues, but if it doesn’t discuss the issues of sin and repentance from it for the forgiveness of sins, it’s weak in the proclamation of the gospel. The ‘gospel’ that says Jesus died to solve your identity crisis (or any other temporal problem) can’t save anyone, but it might point them in the right direction.