Watch This!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And God said, "Let there be [LIFE]!"

Well, this is a fateful day for Scott and Elisabeth as they welcome the newborn baby Bryce (I hope I spelled that correctly) into this cruel world. I was smiling from ear to ear when I listened to the voicemail from Scott announcing this joyous occasion. I am truly ecstatic for the young couple, and I can't wait for our childrento all be running around together (unless they leave for the mission field sooner, that is).

I won't ask how many times Scott passed out during the ordeal, but I'm sure it's safe to say that they are both relieved to have it over and done with. I've been there. Come this time next year, you might even be doing it again. HAHA!


Thanks to God for answered prayer in the form of health for the baby and survival for the parents! We'll keep praying that Bryce will follow the Lord along with all of my kids...

And since I didn't have a picture of the boy to post on my blog I pasted a picture/link to Scott's website. We'll work on adding a picture of the newbie soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Apologetics and Evangelism: JW's part 1

The thing that has been most on my mind lately is the health of the church today. This has been overwhelming me to the point that I have made that passion supersede the practical outworkings that I’ve been so disappointed not to see in the Church today. Since I’ve been made aware of this problem, I’ve decided to attempt to share some of the things that I think necessary for us in the Church to be aware of in order for us to have a more effective witness with those around us. So I’ll be sharing some of the things that I’ve gleaned from my studies and the experiences that I’ve had with members of false religions in my future posts along with the issues that I believe are important in the Church today.

When I got saved, I was pretty anxious to tell people about Jesus, and I’m sure that this was the case with most upon their conversion as well. I, however, had the urge not only to tell others whom I knew didn’t know Christ, but I was also very interested in telling others from false religions. I began arguing with Roman Catholics and their priests before I got saved, but after I came to know the Lord I began to notice the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) leaving for their Saturday morning rounds as I was delivering newspapers. This introduced me to a unique evangelistic opportunity.

The first few encounters I had with JW’s were slightly confusing. I once had the opportunity to meet with two JW’s at the local Kingdom Hall to discuss their beliefs. I was hoping that it would be a good witnessing opportunity, but one of the two guys was overzealous and my head was spinning dizzily by the time we were through. Since this time, I’ve had encounters with JW’s in discussion forums (an incredible place to learn) and on my front door step. I have been blessed to listen to and read informative resources on JW’s and put that learning into practice. Now I feel quite comfortable speaking to them and find myself hoping to get a knock on my door on Saturday mornings but they have decided not to grace me with their presence anymore.

I’d like to encourage all born again believers to never avoid an opportunity to speak with a JW who shows up on your doorstep. This is a straight to your doorstep delivery of a potential convert. We should be anxious for these opportunities, right? And if a JW or two shows up at your door, consider these tips:

  1. Whichever text he attempts to persuade you with, take the time to read through the immediate context with him. This is something that he will most likely not appreciate because the context generally will cause his argument to crumble.
  2. Do not allow him to move to another verse to attempt to back up his claims. Make sure that he concedes to the fact that the passage he is hoping to use to prove his position does not in fact teach what he’d like you to think it means.
  3. Inform him of the fact that Jesus is God and that he is commanded to repent of his sinful denial of Jesus’ position and his attempts to achieve and maintain a right standing before God by knocking on peoples’ doors to tell them about his religion. Inform him that God has commanded that he trust in Christ alone for his salvation. He will inform you that he believes that Christ is the savior, but he must also conced to the fact that he is hoping to maintain his “salvation” by his works.

I just wanted to add some initial encouragements and pointers, but I plan to add more as time goes on. One text I would encourage you to take your JW friend to is Philippians 2:1-11 focusing mainly on verses 5-7:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Php 2:5-7 ESV)

Point out to your friend the fact that Paul is encouraging the Philippian church to have a humble attitude in the first 4 verses, and then he uses Christ as an example. The example that Christ gave them (and us) was in humbling Himself by not grasping the position that He had “in the form of God.” Then ask your friend if an angel (which is who they think Christ to be) would be considered humble by not attempting to usurp the position of equality with God. It doesn’t seem as if that would be considered as humble; it would rather be something to be expected, right? The only way for this passage to make sense is if Christ was actually humbling Himself by stepping down from a position of “equality with God” that He had the right to have in the first place

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Contribution by D.A. Carson Highlighted on Andy Naselli's Blog

I cannot endorse everyone who contributed to this volume, but I recommend reading the outline of D.A. Carson's contribution at the following link:

I think he's on to something. I've done some meditating on God's wrath and righteousness and my relationship to that aspect of Who He is, and it is humbling and glorious.

I especially agree with one of Dr. Carson's headings:

“Rightly integrated into Christian theology, the wrath of God enhances our grasp of God’s love.”

This is such a worthwhile topic for meditation. Consider what you as a degenerate sinner were headed for before God touched your life and brought you up out the pit. You who hated him in all of your self gratifying actions previous to Him graciously bringing you to spiritual life and allowing you to serve Him. Consider how His love was demonstrated by His wrath being transferred to Christ on your behalf. The wrath that you deserved every bit of was poured out on Christ. May this come to mind as you neglect to consider Him in all of your thoughts and actions. Consider this demonstration of His love toward you each day, and give Him praise for sending Christ to absorb the wrath that should have your name on it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Response to a Defense of 4 Point "Calvinism"

This is an article I found by Kevin Bauder defending the "4 point" position. I had a few comments that I had written down as I was reading, and I wanted to know what anybody else thought. I have nothing against Dr. Bauder; as a matter of fact, I hear nothing but good things about him from everyone I know. I hear that he is interested in moving the fundamentalist movement in a more positive direct, and I greatly appreciate that. I would love to assist him in that effort if I can, but in the case of the article that I’m linking to we disagree. Please take the time to follow this link and read the short article that Dr. Bauder has written before reading my response.

Thanks. Here’s the link:

The question is not whether Dr. Bauder has arrived at logical conclusions. The question is whether he has started with logical premises, and I would argue that he hasn’t.
For example, Dr. Bauder begins with the premise that Christ died to provide salvation not merely for the elect of the Father, but for each and every person without exception. This, I believe is a definitely faulty premise.

First of all, let’s consider how a man is saved: Paul, speaking to believers in the book of Ephesians, says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” Now, the question is whether someone can be saved without having been given grace and faith. Considering the passage before us, we have to ask the question, “What does the word ‘this’ refer to in the phrase ‘And this is not your own doing’?” Without getting into the Greek behind it, I think that we can safely say that it is referring to all three things mentioned previously. Grace is definitely not something that we can conjure up on our own; we are definitely not saved by our own doing; and (I assume Dr. Bauder would agree with me on this one) we, in our depraved, separated, spiritually dead condition, certainly did not spontaneously generate the necessary faith towards God. For the moment, I will consider this last point something that we agree on; but if anyone would like to investigate further, go check out Philippians 1:29 and II Tim. 2:24-26.

Next, we must ask ourselves whether it is legitimate to assert that Christ has actually provided salvation for all those who have, do, and will end up in hell. Can we truly affirm this if they never have saving faith? If in order to be saved, a man must exercise faith in Christ as his all sufficient Savior, and the unbelieving multitudes who are suffering in hell because they never expressed this gift of faith, has Christ truly provided for their salvation? If He didn’t provide for this required faith, did He really provide for their salvation? Was it Christ’s intention to provide faith for the non-elect? I won’t even consider that to be true or that anyone would agree to that because of the potentially blasphemous conclusions that we would have to arrive at if it were. So, if we agree that Christ didn’t intend to provide faith for the non-elect then we must conclude that Christ never actually intended to purchase them fully; He never intended to provide salvation for them because a full provision would include the gift of saving faith that cannot be separated from the gift of salvation.

I will consider one more thing. I’m assuming that the other option would be that Christ never intended to die in the place of anyone in particular (which denies Penal Substitution), and that the purpose of His death was merely to provide a way for God to justify sinners by providing a general sacrifice which is meritorious enough for God to apply it to particular sinners’ accounts whenever He decides to do so. Well, I don’t think this works either because that would negate the teachings of Christ in passages such as John 6, 10 and 17.

In John 6, Jesus, when explaining why the unbelieving Jews are not believing explains that they do not and CANNOT believe unless drawn by the Father, and that all that the Father draws (based on His predetermination) WILL COME. So, if the Father has sent the true Bread down from heaven in order to give life to the world (vv. 32-33) and this life that He gives is eternal life (vv. 50-51, 54, 58), was Christ sent to provide this eternal life for each and every individual in the world without exception? No. We can all agree on that, so we must conclude that the eternal life which He intended to provide was specifically intended for the ones whom the Father had chosen to draw.

In John 10, Jesus is illustrating His relationship to His sheep as the Good Shepherd. He demonstrates the closeness of the Shepherd for His sheep, which is something that His audience would have understood clearly. I’m , quite honestly, not all that studied in the historical relationships between shepherd and their sheep; but the illustrations Jesus gave concerning the way that shepherds must’ve felt for their sheep gives me the idea that they were very close to them and were not willing to neglect them in any way. I doubt the same could be said for the other shepherd’s sheep that they knew, let alone the relationship Jesus would have had with the Devil’s sheep. The bottom line in this passage is that Jesus lays down His life for His sheep (vv. 11, 14, 17-18) and He gives them eternal life (v. 28). He also says that the Jews don’t believe because they’re not His sheep (vv.25-26), which reminds me of the things I mentioned earlier about the gift of faith.

Some have argued that the conclusion that I come to concerning Jesus not laying down His life for the Jews because He says that He laid down His life for His sheep is merely a logical conclusion based on ambiguous premises. My intention here, however, is simply to provide evidence for a substitutionary atonement. On the other hand, since the people who have argued from the perspective that Jesus may have meant that He lays down His life for everyone else and that His sheep were the only ones He was mentioning in this particular instance, I would have to ask if He also gives everyone else eternal life since He also mentions this as something that He does in behalf of His sheep. I think that my conclusion is valid, but I’m open to critique.

I won’t say much about John 17 right now because I need to get to my homework and study, but Jesus was pretty clear about His relationship to His people again by saying things like, “…you [the Father] have given him [Christ] authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him,” and “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world BUT for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (all emphases mine)Finally, he prays for the Church in this present time: "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…” Notice that He is very specific in His prayer, making it very clear that He is considering all that the Father had previously chosen, not the “whole world.”

I have one last objection. Dr. Bauder says:

“Prior to their conversion, even the elect are dead in trespasses and sins. Until they believe they remain children of wrath.”

This issue was raised to me not too long ago. I would affirm the first sentence; but it seems as though the second sentence is taken from Ephesians 2:3, and I would have to disagree with its usage in Dr. Bauder’s article.

I think that from the perspective of the elect sinner, we were dead in sin and had no desire for God whatsoever. We, according to this passage in Ephesians 2, were totally depraved in our nature. Paul’s goal in this passage (vv. 1-3) is to remind us of who we were, and how our minds and desires operated “…like the rest of mankind.” He points this out in order to point our attention back to the fact that God “raised us up” in order that we may see the things which God has done for us. And by pointing this out, he is pointing to the fact that God did this for us as an undeserving bunch of degenerate sinners. In short, the context indicates that Paul is speaking of our condition from our perspective, not God’s. This passage, therefore, is not a good support for the idea that the atonement wasn’t actually applied at the cross.

In summary, I believe that Limited Atonement is not only true, but it is a magnificent way in which God in Christ has decided to glorify Himself. And, as Shai Linne has put it: this is not controversy for the sake of controversy or theological nitpicking. Salvation is of the Lord, and Christ’s particular role in the bringing about of the salvation of the select persons that the Father has chosen and that the Spirit brings to spiritual life is every bit as important and meaningful and purposeful as the other two persons of the Godhead. This means that it is worth defending.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, May 2, 2008

At Long Last...

It has been quite some time since my last blog post, I know. The semester has been very trying, and I've been doing all that I could to keep my head above water without going out of my mind. The time for me to post is now, though.

I didn't have to write many papers this semester, but I did just finish with one. It's my eschatology position paper for my systematic theology class. I am unsure in a couple of areas; but as you read this, please lend me some advice as to where I may look to increase my understanding of what God's Word teaches concerning this subject. Well, without further ado, here's the goods:

I. Second Coming of Christ

I affirm that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Head of the Church, will one day return to this earth in order to judge the unbelievers of the past, now present and then future. This will happen at a time unknown to anyone but God Himself. At the time when Christ returns, He will gather His people (living and dead) to Himself before He unleashes His fury on the world.

a. Signs

Jesus, when asked by His disciples what the time was that He would return (Matt. 24 and Mk. 13), says that there will be numerous signs to look for before He actually returns.

i. Wars/rumors of wars (Matt. 24:6; Mk. 13:7)

ii. Famines (Matt. 24:7; Mk. 13:8)

iii. Earthquakes (Matt. 24:7; Mk. 13:8)

iv. Tribulation (Matt.24:9-29; Mk.13: 9-25

v. The Gospel will be preached to all nations (Matt. 24:14;13:10)

We can see the signs, and have been able to see them throughout the history of the Church. We cannot deny the fact that many wars have been fought between many nations, and famines and earthquakes have been common occurrences as well. Tribulations in areas where Jesus’ followers have been in the minority have been frequent, and in areas where they are considered to be the largest religious group they are receiving increasing levels of persecution. This has been accompanied by an increased desire by many people in the world to be able to do whatever they want to do without having consequences from the government, and part of that includes being given benefits exclusive to married couples without getting married. These two things display a desire for and pursuit of lawlessness and a loss of love for one another in that they don’t want to commit to a monogamous relationship. The last sign that we have to look for is the Gospel having been preached to all nations/people groups. It seems, at this point in history, that we are very near to this goal; therefore, we must be very near to the time which Christ will return.

b. Tribulation

When looking to the same passages as a guideline, we notice that Jesus told His disciples that there would be false Christs and wars and many of the other signs appearing which He calls “the beginning of the birth pains” (Matt. 24:8; Mk. 13:8 ESV). Directly following this statement in Matthew, He says “then.” This would indicate a chronological sequence directing us to find out what happens next by reading the next statement. So, the next thing He says is that there will be tribulation, and He gives many examples of how things will play out during this time including one very significant sign that I mentioned before: “The Gospel will be preached to all nations.” Then He seems to digress a bit in order to elaborate on the details of the tribulation period. He formerly mentioned that many will fall away, hate each other, and be led astray by false prophets. In elaborating on this, He mentions the abomination of desolation and the fact that the time will be a great tribulation in which many will be led astray. Finally, Jesus tells us that “Immediately after the tribulation” (Matt. 24:29 ESV; “after that tribulation” Mk. 13:24) they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds and sending out His angels with a loud trumpet call to gather in His elect.

At this point, I would say that Christ would most likely be wiping out those who are disobedient to the Gospel. The reason I would say this is because He uses the scenario with Noah as an illustration to describe what it will be like when He comes (Matt. 24:37-39).

c. Rapture

I believe that Christ will return to gather in His people “immediately after the tribulation” and before the final wrath which He will pour out upon the disobedient, unbelieving remainder of the human race. This doctrine, I believe, is taught in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 where Paul assures believers that the Lord will return for His people; and from this point we will forever be with Him.

I do not believe that this will happen until all of the previously mentioned signs are manifested, and the Antichrist (Man of Lawlessness) is revealed. It seems to me that Paul is correcting a mistaken view that the Thessalonian believers had by letting them know that this would be the order of things. In chapter 3 of II Thessalonians Paul corrects some who were under the impression that they didn’t need to be working. I’ve heard it said that those lazy ones seemed to be under the impression that they were going to be raptured out soon (imminently), and this seems to be plausible to me. If that is the case, Paul didn’t simply tell them to get to work until that happens; rather, he added a significant sign for them to look for before they would be gathered together to the Lord. He told them in II Thessalonians 2:1-4 that they would not be gathered together (raptured) to the Lord until the Man of Lawlessness came.

I understand that some people in the past history of the Church have believed that many political or religious leaders have been this Man of Lawlessness, but it seems more likely that he will be recognizable enough to all if Paul is pointing to him as the sign to look for to know that the Lord would be there soon.

d. Wrath

When the returns to inflict His wrath upon the earth and everyone left in it, He will destroy everything that’s left as the flood destroyed everything in Noah’s day. This time, though, He will destroy everything with fire (II Pet. 3:7).

II. Millennium

a. I honestly have not been able to determine my position on this one. I can say that I need to do much more study in the area of the last times, including the tribulation; but I believe that the Scriptural evidence is clear enough for me to point to the time which Christ will return in relation to the tribulation period. I cannot say the same thing for the millennium, though. I see passages like Revelation 20 that speak of a thousand year period, and I read passages that point to the New Covenant as being something very similar to what’s going on now with Jesus reigning in the world among His people. I have studied too little on this subject to this point to make any solid claims based on passages that seem to have so much symbolism surrounding them, but I assure you that I will keep studying.

III. The Eternal State

a. Hell

Without a doubt, those who deny the Son will end up in a literal place of separation from God and torment for eternity. “This is the second death” as the book of Revelation calls it (Rev. 20:14; 21:8). The passages in Revelation can be substantiated by the words of Jesus (Matt. 13:40-42; Lk. 16:19-31), so I think that there is something more to them than some vivid illustration of a time in the future when unbelievers will simply be annihilated or kept from the presence of God alone. No, this seems to me to be a literal place of torment inflicted upon those who spent their entire lives rebelling against their Creator and choosing themselves at every opportunity.

b. The New Heavens and New Earth

The renewing of God’s creation seems to be an inevitable event. When God created all things, He pronounced the good, and I believe that He is working all things together for the purpose of bringing it all back to a perfect existence again. I read passages like Romans 8:19-23 and Revelation 21:1-7 which seem to teach that the earth and the heavens (the whole creation) will be renewed upon the passing away of the corrupted creation. These two passages also indicate that the redeemed of the Lord will be the inhabitants of this renewed creation.

These final things, I believe are the culmination of the whole of history, and we will all see (believers and unbelievers alike) the magnificently intricate details that went into this timeline that we were a part of. These things will bring all things to an ultimate head wherein Christ will receive recognition as Lord before all, and God will get the most possible glory as He graciously escorts His people into an age of peace and joy while justly condemning those who rejected Him. These who He sends into condemnation will recognize the position that they have chosen as the one that they deserve, and God’s redeemed will glorify Him and humbly enjoy the gift that our Lord has bestowed upon us undeservedly for the rest of eternity.

Dramatized Exegesis