Posts tagged ‘Christ’

May 14, 2015

Eschatology Between the Extremes

Background

Bible students (as all reformed Christians are) must be careful to distinguish among New Testament prophetic references to ”coming” (Greek: parousia) –– whether applicable to the end of the age in which they were written, or applicable to the end of the world at the end of time.1 That is, whether the correct interpretation of each prophecy is in the past or in the future, with respect to us in the present. Prophecies, by definition, of course apply to what was then the future at the time they were prophesied; the question is: whether they were fulfilled in our past (already), or are still in our future (not yet).

The destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 70 AD was clearly the fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy rendered in the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24 during the time of His humiliation. The desolation of the temple capped off the end of the old covenant age. Those were “…the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22) 2. After having ascended to the right hand of God the Father almighty, the Lord’s “coming” of which He foretold was not in Person but via the Roman armies, in judgment against apostate Judaism including those who called so vehemently for His crucifixion (Luke 23:21). It was the sign of His exaltation; the vindication of His identity as Christ, just as He had foretold before being condemned to death (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62).

There can hardly be any doubt that the book of Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, as from our historical perspective, the events which happened then manifestly align with the things signified to John in the Apocalypse shortly before they were to take place (Revelation 1:1; 22:6). The questionable “evidence” of a quote attributed to church father Irenaeus simply does not sustain a later date of its writing, which has been propounded as the majority report.3

Even so, the 1st coming of Christ and His finished work on the Cross in 30 AD is the pivotal focus of all of Scripture. Our glorified Lord’s reign has continued since His Ascension, well beyond 70 AD to the present day, unless the “millennium”4 (the time of Messianic reign) was only 40 years. The Lamb of God rose from the dead 3 days after His crucifixion; 40 days after that the Son of Man ascended (“…came up to the Ancient of Days…” per Daniel 7:13 [NASB]) and has been reigning ever since. This selfsame divine Person (“…and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” –Isaiah 9:6), the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, is reigning now! He will continue to reign in heaven and by His Spirit in His people until “…the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. -1 Corinthians 15:24-25. The 2nd coming of the Lord which will happen then (the end of time) is still in our future.

The invisible “coming” of the Son of Man in wrathful judgment upon that wicked generation in 70 AD is certainly a frequent prophetic reference in Scripture as an outworking of the signal events of 30 AD; nevertheless “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” -1 John 3:2. A few verses earlier John exhorted believers to abide in the Lord with perseverance, so as not to be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28). This is a clear reference to the yet to be fulfilled final judgment at the 2nd coming, when everyone must give account personally (cf Romans 14:10-12).

The Extremes

Rather than studying to arrive at an interpretive understanding of Bible passages according to context in light of the full counsel of Scripture, one extreme school of thought automatically relegates all “coming” passages to a preterist (fulfilled in our past) interpretation. At the other extreme, another school of thought presupposes “coming” passages to have a futurist (still in our future) interpretation. The all-preterist system can be called pantelism5; the hyper-futurist hermeneutic is adhered to in the system commonly known as dispensationalism.

Dispensationalism, considered to be “losing steam” more and more in recent decades, was propagated with the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible at the beginning of the 20th century. It refuses to accept at face value the text of Matthew 24:34: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” The events including the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) and the coming of the Son of Man in judgment to destroy the temple (Matthew 24:30), which happened leading up to and in AD 70, are among “all these things” spoken of by our Lord in the text. Furthermore, dispensational futurism does not allow for the many time texts such as “soon”, “at hand”, “near”, “coming quickly”, etc., employed throughout the New Testament, to apply according to the standard usage of those terms. Rather, almost 2,000 years (so far) are arbitrarily added to the interpretations in order to keep the occurrence of the predicted events in our near future. This provides for a continuingly impending end times perspective that may be sensational, but it just doesn’t make good sense. Besides, any interpretation that makes the text to have been meaningless or misinforming to the original audience must be rejected.

Pantelism may be seen as an overreaction to dispensationalism. Pantelism presupposes that all prophetic passages must have a preterist interpretation, inclusive of references to the resurrection of the body and the final judgment. With pantelism, the end of the old covenant age was the consummation of all things, and we are in the eternal state now. According to this thinking, the Lord’s still future descent from heaven (when the dead rise and the living are caught up together with them in the clouds) written of in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which corresponds to His Ascension depicted in Acts 1:11, somehow already happened and was not a physical event. There is a variety of explanatory particulars amongst the system’s adherents as to how that is reconciled with the Lord’s clearly physical Ascension, when the angels testified that He will come “in just the same way” (Greek hos tropos) as he was seen taken up.

Even recognizing the eschatology of the New Testament as predominantly preterist, elevating the events of 70 AD over and above the events of 30 AD in their redemptive-historical significance is problematical to say the least. Denial of the future, bodily 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to physically resurrect the dead and eternally judge all who ever lived puts pantelism outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

While the outright erroneousness of both of these extremes may be apparent to seasoned students of Scripture, many of today’s Christians have grown up under dispensationalist teaching, which has been popularized in the modern culture by best-selling books and movies such as the “Left Behind” series. Others, who have become disenchanted with dispensationalism, may have been swayed by pantelism as a seemingly logical alternative; but while pantelism eviscerates the interpretive errors of dispensationalism, the arbitrary misconceptions inherent in pantelism are just as bad to the other extreme, and even worse.

Context Not “Consistent”

The interpretation of any particular passage of Scripture is informed by the context, over and apart from the understanding gleaned from the usage of similarly framed wording in a different context. To presume otherwise leads unswervingly to a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible, which is certainly not so simplistic as to apply the same meaning for a word or phrase every time it is used. The same word(s) or phrase(s) may have differing meaning, usage and interpretation in different instances, dependent upon the context. This simple hermeneutical principle may seem to be very basic and easy to understand, yet the failure to grasp it, or to override it with a presupposition of forced “consistency” has become a stumbling block to deriving sound, balanced counsel from God’s word, which unavoidably leads to one erroneous extreme or another.

As noted above, in the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24, the Lord foretold in verse 34 that “all these things” would take place before the passing away of the generation then living. So contextually “all these things” must apply to those stated in the preceding verses of that discourse. This does not mean, however, that whenever the Lord spoke, sentences preceding must necessarily be interpreted according to a subsequent statement. There is no such viable application of “consistency”, yet it is claimed to hold by some interpreters of the passage in Matthew 16 beginning with verse 24 where the Lord’s “take up your cross and follow Me” teaching is recorded. In this passage, Jesus encourages His disciples to self-denial through sufferings, by comparing worldly afflictions with eternal life (cf Romans 8:18), and associating material gain with loss of immortal soul. In that context, v. 27 sets forth the weighty consideration of His (2nd) coming to judge all men at the consummation of the kingdom: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Then, in v. 28 which follows, he assures them that His coming into His kingdom will be manifest before some of them die: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

He does not give His disciples any time frame for the final judgment at His 2nd coming, which we know from other passages of Scripture is at the end of time, but He foretells that some of them standing there would see the outworking of the Son of Man’s (1st) coming in His kingdom in the fullness of time and history, the kingdom announced by John the Baptist in the spirit of Elijah. The reference of v.28 to the Lord’s near term “coming” (as a sign of the ascended Son of Man in heaven per Matthew 24:30) does not automatically mean that His coming referred to in v. 27 was also near! The Lord was teaching His disciples that at the end of time (cf 1 Cor. 15:24), He shall come with final reckoning, in His Father’s glory with His angels; and that while some of them were still alive, He was to come in the power of the kingdom of His mediatorial reign with the destruction of Jerusalem which was fulfilled in 70 AD.

What awesome encouragement! Not only that all things will be set right by the Lord in the end, but that the process of putting all enemies under His feet (cf 1 Cor. 15:25) was at hand, and some standing there would live to see the powerful manifestation of it. Presumptuously absorbing v. 27 in with the interpretation of v.28, causes a drastic missing of the mark. There is no sound reason why both verses, even though adjacent to each other, must together be preterist, or futurist for that matter. Indeed hyper-futurists have an insurmountable problem with the clearly indicated time frame of verse 28. On the other extreme, to preterize v. 27 further exacerbates error when it is then assumed that nearly identical wording in Matthew 25 (v. 31) must also have a preterist interpretation. Thus error spreads like gangrene, and the only thing that is consistent is the predetermined interpretations of those who refuse to let Scripture speak for itself.

Notes

1 What was the “age to come” for the New Testament writers is the age we are living in now, the gospel age, the new covenant age which began as the old covenant age passed away. The New Testament was written in the “last days” of the old covenant. We won’t be in the eternal state until the end of the present age which will be the end of time & history.

2 The Lord here references Old Testament prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, most notably Daniel 9:26 .

3 For a thorough, scholarly exposition in support of a pre-70AD date for the composition of the book of Revelation see Kenneth L. Gentry’s Before Jerusalem Fell.

4 The millennium is a reference to “a thousand years”, mentioned in Revelation 20 as the period of Christ’s interadvental reign. Postmillennialism (that the Lord’s 2nd Coming must be after His Messianic reign) is assumed here. Amillennialism is technically postmillennialism as far as timing; differing in the expected nature of the millennium. Premillennialism (that the Lord’s 2nd Coming must be before the millennium to set up His reign on earth) is the view routinely adopted by dispensationalists.

5 The term pantelism (from the Greek words for “all” and “fulfilled”) was coined by C. Jonathan Seraiah, who has written an excellent refutation of the viewpoint (see The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future). The label pantelism (instead of hyper- or consistent preterism) is a neutral term that does not use the pejorative “hyper” prefix nor define non-pantelist preterism as somehow “inconsistent”.

Here is an excerpt from a review of Pastor Seraiah’s book which is highly recommended: This book is a rich source of solid, confessional, biblical theology on important issues such as Christ’s resurrection and the believers’ resurrection, the Second Coming, final judgment, and the renewal of heaven and earth. Readers will be enlightened by his chapters on end-time views in historic Christianity, the development of the creeds, and the importance of God’s final triumph over sin and its consequences.

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December 20, 2014

The End of the Last Days of the Former Ages

NounEnd [​end]
-the point in time at which something ends;
-the concluding parts of an event or occurrence​;
​-the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve and that (when achieved) terminates
 behavior intended to achieve it​
 
In Acts 2:17ff the apostle Peter declares the fulfilment of what was uttered by the prophet Joel​: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares…”. The events foretold happened in those “last days.” The spectacular fire baptism by the Holy Spirit, daughters prophesying, etc. along with all the cosmic judgment language depicting the then at hand destruction of old covenant Israel all happened then, and is now over and done with. Your daughters are not prophesying any more, for example. As those last days ended and are in our past, I believe that we are not now still living in the last days.
 
Amillennialists such as James White maintain a concept of “this age, and the age to come”, that this age we are living in now is a continuation of the “last days” spoken of by the apostles, and the age to come is the hereafter, i.e. final glory. Surprisingly, postmillennialist Ken Gentry agrees that the last days, which began in the first century, continue through now and on into the future, which understanding requires that the “last days” have now lasted for approximately 2 millennia, so far. One wonders if Dr. Gentry, who anticipates a long period of Christian prosperity before the second coming, assumes that the “last days” will be in effect all that time until then. That there will be a triumph of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ manifesting in time and history should be the Christian’s faithful hope, according to His word; but it is a result of His first coming which ended the last days of the old covenant. “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).  
 
The patriarchal age was from Adam to Moses, the old covenant age was until Christ. Christ brought in the new creation, such that Dr. White’s “this age” was actually the old covenant age, which was passing away when the New Testament was written; and his “age to come” is actually the here & now of the new covenant, the Messianic reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, the millennium of Revelation 20, the new Jerusalem, the new heaven & earth (in an already/not yet sense). Final glory is not an age in time & history, rather it comes after the end of the ages for us. The end of the ages for the New Testament writers was then.

​The Greek word aion is commonly translated as world, as in Hebrews 11:3 which the NKJV renders: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” The Greek word there translated as worlds is aionas (plural of aion). This passage describes our faith in the providence of God in the works of creation. However aion can also mean “age”, and application of the wrong connotation can be the cause of considerable misunderstanding.

The apostle Paul, in referring to the old covenant, wrote “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). While Jesus’ first advent marked the beginning of the new covenant age, the old covenant age was finally swept away in AD 70. There was a transitional period of about 40 years (a generation) from AD 30 to AD 70 in which the two ages co-existed. Those were the “last days”. It was towards the end of this period when the apostle Peter wrote “The end of all things is at hand…” (1 Peter 4:7).
 
The writer of Hebrews confirmed this in contrasting the types & shadows of the old covenant with redemption through the blood of Christ: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:24-26).
 
​Jesus Himself mentioned the ages when he said “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Surely the age He distinguished as “this age” had to be the age of the law, under which He was born and was ministering; while the “age to come” was a reference to the gospel age which He came to bring in. The “age to come” as a reference to the final state makes no sense because at that point everyone’s state is fixed and it is too late for repentance and forgiveness for any sin.
 
Here’s Matthew Henry’s commentary on the unpardonable sin passage: What the sentence is that is passed upon it; It shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. As in the then present state of the Jewish church, there was no sacrifice of expiation for the soul that sinned presumptuously; so neither under the dispensation of gospel grace, which is often in scripture called the world to come, shall there be any pardon to such as tread underfoot the blood of the covenant, and do despite to the Spirit of grace: there is no cure for a sin so directly against the remedy. 

Even so, in Luke 20:34-36 Jesus says “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” The KJV properly renders aion as “world” in each instance where it appears in this passage, which is obviously preferred over “age” as in modern translations (see NKJV).

We must let context determine the correct connotation of words for sound interpretation of God’s infallible word. The sooner Christians embrace by faith that we are living under the better blessings of the new covenant age as distinct from the last days of the old covenant, which have ended, the sooner we will put off the expectation of defeat; and, walking by faith and not by sight, will trust, obey, pray, think and act accordingly towards advancing the kingdom of our reigning King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, towards that end. Amen.

[See Overview and Pilgrimage tabs above for graphical representations of the two-age model, with commentary beneath each]
September 23, 2012

Wayward Worldviews & Political Persuasions

world·view  (wûrld vyoo)
noun  1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.

          2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
[thefreedictionary.com]

To begin with, the only worldview that can account for morality is the Christian biblical worldview. God almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, in Whom all truth and logic inheres, has revealed Himself through the Incarnation of the Son, and by the Spirit inspired Scriptures. Also, in creating mankind in His image, God embedded our ability to reason according to and by the standard of His immutable nature. So there is special revelation which brings Christians near to God, as well as general revelation which leaves all without excuse for not acknowledging Him. There is no explanation for rational thought itself, let alone morality, outside of the Triune God of Scripture.

Therefore the atheist cannot logically make a claim as to whether or not anything is “right” or “wrong”, because he has no standard to appeal to. If we are just masses of protoplasm that randomly evolved from slime, what difference does anything make? In that worldview, we are only instigated to do whatever we do by “survival of the fittest”. What’s right for you may be wrong for me; what’s offensive to you may be my cup of tea. Why can’t someone just take another life if they find it convenient and choose to?  Ridiculous?  Absolutely!  In the absence of the fear of God, there is nothing to constrain one’s disposition to man. There are other such wayward worldviews as are common to fallen mankind, which contrast starkly with the Christian worldview of creation under God’s law. Along with the atheist, adherents to these worldviews willfully reject God by replacing Him with something else that they look to for their identity and values.

One particularly vehement and deeply ingrained example of a sociopolitical persuasion is the “racial” (more properly termed ethnic) worldview, held by segments of society separating themselves, for example as Blacks, or Italians, or Jews, or Latinos, etc., etc. or even “White supremacists” — which indicates that such distinctions need not only be applicable to “minority groups”.  Hitler’s Third Reich was based on a worldview of Germans as the “master race”.  In this country, where a war was fought 150 years ago to abolish slavery, the Black worldview today most powerfully epitomizes a “racial” state of mind, not just manifested by Black TV, Black History Month, Congressional Black Caucus, etc., but even to the point of distinguishing a “Black Liberation Theology”. While many U.S. citizens no longer define themselves primarily by ethnic heritage, there are many that remain first and foremost not Christian, nor American, nor even  just a man or a woman; but rather identify  themselves above all else as Black.  Accordingly, a common set of values within this group (not from the external standard of any “higher authority”) is propagated — all-too-typically to include a perpetual victimhood mentality and unwavering allegiance to the Democrat party so that there is a non-negotiable commitment to blindly support the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Soetoro, no matter how questionable his eligibility, qualifications, competency or character; or even how unmitigated of a disaster for the nation as a whole he has proven to be. Ridiculous? Absolutely!

The effect of this racial worldview is to lead us away from being one nation under God, towards dependency on an increasingly tyrannical federal government. The most aberrant aspect of it is that it flies in the face of the fact that there is only one “race”, the human race!  We are all descendent from Adam, and from Noah. What we have is different people groups and combinations of physical characteristics, genetically distinguished by the amount of melanin in the skin and other physical traits. The concept of separate “races” as in different species or “kinds” among people is the pernicious thinking of the evolution worldview, which is where the idea of “racism” comes from. The institution of slavery in the new world was a scourge justified by that mindset. Jim Crow in the American south reinforced it with the “little dab ‘ll do ya” theory to perpetuate segregation. Thus developed a mixed “class” of people who went from being called “mulattoes” to “quadroons” to “octaroons”; to “colored”, to “negro” to “black” to “African-American” — a hyphenated term which doesn’t seem to have stuck any better than any of the others, bringing the preferred nomenclature back to “Black”, no matter the broad range of actual skin shades of persons so culturally distinguished. Ridiculous? Absolutely!

Some had hoped for a “post-racial” era to be ushered in by Obama’s election, but instead his presidency has been an extremely divisive influence on this nation. Rather than providing leadership towards unity, seeking common ground to achieve bipartisan objectives, this president’s m.o. has been to ramrod his extreme leftist policies down everyone’s throat, if not by partisan power then by executive order. The net effect has been polarized political discourse, worsened congressional gridlock, heightened ideological animosity, and greater enmity between people groups. On top of that the democrat controlled senate even rejected the president’s own budget, such that this administration has not even gotten a budget passed in over 3 years. Still, in spite of the worst economic record conceivable by a president in a single term — the highlights of which are a $6 TRILLION increase in national debt and sustained unemployment above 8% (conservatively estimated) — the “race”-based block of voters continues to support Obama. Ridiculous? Absolutely!  We might hopefully assume that there will be at least some attrition by citizens within this group who wake up from a parasitical dependency on government, and from the false hope that government can provide societal utopia for them or anyone else. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

These dynamics are clear indications of the abhorrent nature of sin in a fallen world. A people group enslaved, brutalized and hanging from trees like “strange fruit” is the imagery of the horrific history which this nation carries as baggage to this day, even after the election of a person with brown skin to the highest office in the land. I remember my dad, who had dark brown skin, telling me the story of how (some time in the 1940s I presume) he stepped into a facility where there was a job opportunity fair of sorts, and immediately over the loudspeaker, the facilitator broadcast the words “I can’t do nothin’ for you”. No one can deny the horrible wickedness of colonial slavery and its enduring effects that no man nor war could simply “abolish”.  Indeed the emotional scars of institutionalized persecution are deep and long lasting, and such wounds can never be healed but by the grace of God. Martin Luther King had the dream that one day people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He never dreamed that the content of their character would be based on the color of their skin. While the civil rights movement in the USA made profoundly positive strides, politically; now nanny-statism threatens to reverse the progress of liberty, as government oppression and citizen dependency is just a different form of slavery.  Here’s the bottom line: notwithstanding all human causes and effects, the changing of hearts and minds, spiritually, is in the purview of the sovereign Spirit of God alone. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The evil one, satan (name intentionally not capitalized), our adversary from the beginning, who is the devil, fosters the locking in of the racial worldview and hatred for those who dare to think outside of that box. It is a bitter irony that those who to this day self consciously subscribe to the black democrat dependency group-think may believe that they are “keepin’ it real”, when in fact they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness by perpetuating the great deception of “racial” pigeonholing. There are those of us who have both African and European ancestry who are 50 cents away from having a quarter, and just want the economy to improve and opportunities to increase, for freedom and liberty to prevail as the gospel spreads; not for citizens to be controlled and provided for by big government. So its not just “white people” or “the rich” who are against Obama and the historically demonstrated ills of socialism, which pit the people against each other by “class” and by “race”. We as a nation desperately need to get past all that, and it is only possible when eyes are opened to see that there is no pain, no hate, no envy, no fear, no heartache, no wickedness, no nothing beyond the healing grace of Jesus… that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4). What all of mankind and creation desperately need and groan for is reconciliation with God, to enable living according to His purpose; with forgiveness, respect and love for one another as all likewise bearers of His image. All people of all persuasions are called to repent and believe the gospel. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.


But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

 

July 3, 2012

Government, Gospel and God’s Glory

A famous quip made by the 40th President of these United States which hit home and rings true today is “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” [listen] Previously having served as the 33rd Governor of California, it was Ronald Reagan who also astutely observed that “As government expands, liberty contracts.”

Indeed an out of control government, having undergone unprecedented expansion, now presents a practically insurmountable fiscal problem for this once prosperous nation, while personal freedom gives way to statist control. The highlight of the Obama economic record is a 43% increase in the Federal Debt which stands at an unspeakable $15.2 TRILLION, and all the so-called “stimulus” government spending has completely failed. Regardless as to whether this is a case of good intentions combined with pathetic incompetence; misguided ideology mixed with power-hungry narcissism; all Bush’s fault; or worst case – deliberate “Cloward-Piven Strategy”, it is undeniable that individual rights, which come from God, have correspondingly suffered and necessarily erode under bigger and more intrusive government.

So what is the solution? Even the limited government model established for our nation by its founders was and is dependent on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything is dependent upon, contingent to, defined by, and judged according to the gospel. The word gospel literally means “good news”. The gospel is really good news because it is the solution to a much bigger problem that all of mankind faces: the problem of sin. Why is sin such a big problem? Because it cannot be tolerated by our creator God, Who is infinitely holy and the sovereign judge of all. So why did God permit sin to come into the world? I’ll tell you exactly why: for His glory. Life is not about the ordinances of men. No matter what political philosophy is en vogue, all is meaningless outside of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its just so, you must know.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)
By this gospel you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…(1 Corinthians 15:2-6).

Glory, glory and hallelujah for the Holy Bible which is the word of God. It affirms that Jesus Christ is God. The Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures are to be believed, as His word carries both instruction and authority for every area of our lives. We stand uncompromisingly on the authority of the Word of God! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Pontius Pilate, when staring right into the face of Truth personified, pondered, “What is truth?”. We know Who the Truth is and we stand for Him even unto death. Jesus prayed to the Father for His disciples (and us), “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17), which confirms that the Word of God – both the eternal Word Himself as well as the canon of Scripture (the Holy Bible) – is Truth. Amen!

If you don’t have the Bible, GET IT.

If you have the Bible, READ IT.

If you read the Bible, BELIEVE IT.

If you believe the Bible, LIVE IT.


But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

 

June 24, 2012

Great Searchings of Heart

Great Searchings of Heart

James Smith, 1856

Being called upon to attend an association of churches during the past week, I was painfully affected by the fact, that out of more than twenty churches — only four could report an increase of numbers during the last twelve months, and that increase was small. Yet, in every church the gospel is preached, and in most, if not all, prayer-meetings are held. What is to become of the world, thought I, if things go on thus? What will become of our own beloved land?

The population is increasing, souls by millions are perishing, and the gospel seems to have lost its power! The churches decrease. What a solemn, what an alarming fact! About three thousand sermons had been preached, about three thousand children had been taught in the Sabbath-schools, a great number of Bibles, tracts, and religious periodicals had been circulated — and yet the majority of the churches had decreased! Surely this is enough to make one weep, lie low before God, and ask, “Show us why you contend with us.” Three questions arose in my mind, and have been exercising my thoughts since. Let me invite you, my fellow-Christian, to attend to them with me.

First, Is there not a cause? Surely we cannot ascribe our present languishing condition wholly to the sovereignty of God. In Old Testament times the Lord laid the blame on his people, and asked, “Have you not procured this unto my yourself?” And again, by another prophet, “Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are these the things He does?” Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?” Many similar portions may be remembered by the reader, if he is familiar with the Scriptures.

In the New Testament, the apostle James tells us, “You have not — because you ask not; or because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts.” Surely there is some worm at the root, that causes the plant of God’s right hand planting to wither. There is some wedge of gold and Babylonish garment hidden in some Achan’s tent, which causes Israel to turn their backs on their enemies. Yes! There must be a cause. We have the same gospel to preach which the apostles had. We have the same promises of success. We have the same kind of people to address. Yet they were successful; they turned the world upside down; they triumphed in Christ, and spread abroad the savor of his knowledge in every place.

But what are we doing? Where are our triumphs? We decrease; what is the cause? Let us then inquire,

Secondly, Can we ascertain the cause? Methinks we may, if we are hearty in our desire, and are willing to dig deep enough. It does not seem to lie on the surface; let us therefore plough up the fallow ground, and look deeper. God said that he would search Jerusalem, as with candles, and punish the men that were settled on their lees.

Let us who preach, look at our preaching, and ask: Do I preach Christ enough? Is Christ crucified, and Christ glorified — constantly kept before the people? Do I, in my ministry, exalt and extol him? Is it my delight to proclaim Him . . .
in the glory of His person,
in the merit of His blood,
in the riches of His grace?

Do I present Him to my people as the only Savior to be trusted, and the great example to be copied? Do I preach Christ plainly, with deep feeling, and with a hearty desire that my hearers may believe in Him and live? Do I aim at the immediate conversion of every soul that hears me, travailing in birth for souls until Christ is formed in them?

Do I honor the Holy Spirit in His Divine personality, office, character, and gracious work? Do I preach, impressed with the thought, that unless the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word with His power —
no dead sinner will be quickened,
no undecided hearer will yield to Jesus,
nor will the Lord’s people be revived or comforted?

Do I realize that it is personal, heartfelt, believing prayer, that brings down the power of the Spirit, which alone can render the Word effectual? And do I in private, among my people, in the pulpit, and even while preaching — endeavor to bring down the Spirit by such prayer? Do I strive to impress upon my people, the necessity of incessant prayer for this invaluable blessing, and set them an example by cultivating such a spirit of prayer? Am I an example to my people of . . .
deadness to the world,
zeal for the Lord’s glory,
devotedness to the Lord’s work, and
burning desire to bring souls to God?

And let the brethren who are HEARERS examine themselves on this point also. Brethren, much depends on you. A praying, zealous, lively, working church, must be successful. We fear that many of you do not realize the value of the immortal souls around you as you should. You do not aim constantly at bringing souls to God, as if it was the first and grand object of your life. Souls are dropping into Hell around you — but where is your feeling? Souls are hardening in sin under the preaching of the gospel — but where is your concern? You know that though Paul preaches — yet without the power of the Spirit of God, no saving effect would be produced — and yet you hear sermon after sermon, without pleading with God for His Spirit to come down! You hear of the low state of the church, you talk of the low state of the church — but where are your tears? Where are your wrestlings with God? Where is your deep and heart-affecting concern? How few of you feel as if you could not live if the cause of God did not prosper? and yet this is how every one of us should feel. Ah, my brethren, I think a little examination will lead us to discover how we have grieved the Spirit, and why our churches are in the state they are! There is a cause — let us search it out, and then let us inquire,

Thirdly, Can we remove it? Are we willing to make the effort? Are we right heartily desirous to witness the change? If we are, let us ascertain what part we have had, in causing the Spirit to withdraw.

What sins do we indulge?

What duty do we omit?

What wrong feelings do we cherish?

What improper principles do we hold?

What unhallowed spirit or temper do we give way to?

There is some special cause in every one, though there may be a general cause spreading over the whole church.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life!” Psalm 139:23-24. Let then our pastors, elders, deacons, and private members, commence the work of self-examination at once, and let us be impartial in the work . . .
sparing no sin,
tampering with no lust,
listening to no temptation.

But let us make thorough work of it. Let every sin we detect be confessed over the blood of atonement; let us . . .
deplore
it,
grieve
over it,
seek the pardon of it, and
pray for grace at once to depart from it!

Let us humble ourselves before God. The guilty should confess, and the confession of guilt should lead to deep humiliation before God. Brethren, let us lie low. Let us abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes. O for humbling grace from God, for I fear most of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think!

Let us plead with God in earnest prayer for deeper sanctification, for greater spirituality, that, like Jesus, our Master, it may be our food and drink to do the will of God. How little we resemble him, who left us an example that we should follow His steps!

A worldly church can never be really a spiritually prosperous church. As our land, in a spiritual sense, is like what Israel’s land was once in a literal sense, when for three years and six months there had been no rain, so that dearth and death were the characteristics of the country — let us, like Elijah, go up to the top of Carmel, and like him, determine never to leave our post until the Lord sends down revitalizing rain upon the earth. He is saying to us, “Ask the Lord for rain in the spring, for he makes the storm clouds. And he will send showers of rain so every field becomes a lush pasture. For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit.” (Zechariah 10:1, Isaiah 44:3).

Remember, O remember, that the energetic prayer of the righteous man avails much! Who shall say how much? God is still love. We have his promise. He is on the throne of grace. He bids us to come to it boldly. He asks us to prove Him, by penitence, reformation, and prayer. (Mal. 3:10, 13.) He is true to His word. He will show himself faithful. He never did say to the seed of Jacob, “Seek me in vain,” and He never will. It is still true that every one who asks aright — receives; he who seeks in faith — finds; and to him that knocks with importunity — the door of Heaven’s storehouse is opened. Let us ask, seek, and knock, then, that our joy may be full.

O that I could write something that would touch the hearts of the Lord’s people, and stir them up! O that the Lord would use my pen to awaken concern, quicken desire, and lead to hearty wrestlings for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Nothing will do but this. Without it we are like Samson, who lost his locks on Delilah’s lap! We may go out and shake ourselves, we may make a stir — but we shall accomplish nothing! There can be no substitute found for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church.

He is the only giver and nourisher of spiritual life. He is the only efficient teacher of the ignorant. He is the only life of the church. O that God, even our own God, would at once give us anew this great blessing, that we may see a great and glorious revival of pure and undefiled religion! O to see thousands pierced in the heart, led to the Savior, and introduced into the church! O to hear the dear name of Jesus sounded forth by the tongues of millions of ransomed sinners, brought by the promised Comforter to know, love, and serve him! Lord Jesus, pour out the ever-blessed Spirit, to sanctify the church, to gather together into one your scattered people, and fulfill the largest promises of the everlasting covenant! Amen.

June 24, 2012

Church Victory

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…