Posts tagged ‘God’

April 3, 2013

Dead or Alive

The proverbial “Wanted…” poster from the American “wild west” aptly describes the spiritual state of each and every human being created by God. That is, you are either dead to the Triune God and therefore self-centered; or you have been made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus to the glory of the Father. Let me explain. We don’t start out with a “clean slate”. Since Adam & Eve, humanity is fallen. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Borrowing a term from information technology, it can be said that spiritual death is our “default” state of being. The standard theological terminology for this includes unregenerate; unconverted; dead in trespasses and sins. Conversely when one is made alive by the grace of God (cf Ephesians 2:1), that person is given new Spiritual life, and then said to be regenerate; converted; born again. This is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5). Everyone will be raised from physical death on the last day, but only those who have had a part in the first resurrection will enter into the heavenly rest of eternal life. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Almighty God, our Creator Who is blessed forever, has decreed these and all things according to the pleasure of His will and for His glory; He has revealed them to us in His word, the Holy Bible. Do you believe this? Well that depends on whether you are dead or alive. In fact, that is how you can know your spiritual state, if you embrace God’s word or not. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). True Christians are those who have been made alive to the living God, those who bear the name of Jesus Christ… as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13). Indeed, the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).

All of God’s creation and creatures, made for His glory, are under His sovereign control since before the foundation of the world. Those who would be quickened from the fallen state of spiritual death to new life in Christ Jesus was divinely predetermined in eternity past. This is a great act of mercy because no one deserves to be so saved. Without God acting first, salvation cannot be simply chosen by us, nor can it even be earned. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8). It should be obvious that no one who is spiritually dead is able to make a decision to be spiritually alive, just as that is confirmed by the obvious fact that not everybody is saved. This is known as the doctrine of election. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:16). Throughout history and continuing to the end of time God calls to Himself His people to pass from death into life.

The bounty hunters of the American pioneer towns were the agents for bringing in those wanted by the law. Analogously, God uses the preaching of His word by His people to lost (dead) souls as the means ordained to be instrumental in the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing many to be saved (alive). This miraculously transformational work which the LORD brings to pass in His own good time according to the purpose of His will is irresistible and undeniable to those so called. All people everywhere are in fact commanded to repent and believe this gospel, and everyone is likewise responsible to throw themselves upon God’s mercy and be saved, but some remain in proud rebellion against God’s word. These whom are passed over for salvation are vessels of God’s wrath, and most importantly, only salvation wrought by the Spirit of God delivers souls from an eternity of misery in Hell which is called the second death, when — after we die physically — it is too late to be saved. Therefore behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)!

Our God and our Father, we pray that You will continue to let Your glory unfold mightily in the advancement of Your kingdom here on earth, by the individual conversion of many lost souls whom are dead in trespasses and sins, to be made alive by Your grace through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Your word, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let Your word go forth in power as Your people are made zealous for sharing these truths with the lost, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27), that they would search the Scriptures to see if these things are so, that they may be spared from Your just wrath and given the gift of faith that they may inherit eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). Amen.


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

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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.