Through Many Tribulations We Must Enter The Kingdom of God

Some believers are very surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God, but all God permits them to do is to suffer. Just suppose you could speak with those who have gone to be with the Lord; everyone has a different story, yet everyone has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted by family and friends…another was inflicted with pain and disease, neglected by the world…another was bereaved of children…another had all these afflictions. But you will notice that though the water was deep, they all have reached the other side. Not one of them blames God for the road He led them; ‘Salvation’ is their only cry. Are there any of you, dear children, murmuring at your lot? Do not sin against God. This is the way God leads all His redeemed ones.

 Robert McCheyne



Christians, do you have a sad regret of other things—and not of sin? Worldly tears fall to the earth—but godly tears of repentance are kept in a bottle. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8). Do not judge holy weeping to be wasted. Tertullian thought he was born for no other end—but to repent. Either sin must drown in the tears of repentance—or the soul must burn in hell.

Let it not be said that repentance is difficult. Things that are excellent deserve labor. Will not a man dig for gold—though it makes him sweat? It is better to go with difficulty to heaven—than with ease to hell! What would the damned give, that they might have a herald sent to them from God, to proclaim forgiveness upon their repentance? What volleys of sighs and groans of repentance, would they send up to heaven? What floods of tears would their eyes pour forth? But it is now too late! They may keep their tears to lament their folly—sooner than to procure God’s pity. O that we would therefore, while we are on this side of the grave, make our peace with God! Tomorrow may be our dying day; let this be our repenting day. How we should imitate the saints of old, who embittered their souls and sacrificed their lusts, and put on sackcloth in the hope of white robes. Peter baptized himself with tears; and that devout lady Paula, like a bird of paradise, bemoaned herself and humbled herself to the dust for sin.

Thomas Watson, 1668 (The Doctrine of Repentance)


God must open the eyes of our understanding before we can truly know and rightly interpret His truth. His truth is available only to those with a regenerate spirit and in whom His Spirit dwells, for only the Spirit can illumine Scripture. Just as the physically blind cannot see the sun, the spiritually blind cannot see the Son. Both lack proper illumination.

John MacArthur

Justice and Mercy at The Cross

Only the Christian gospel presents….a way in which justice and mercy kiss each other… First, Christianity confirms the fact that justice must be satisfied. Sin must be condemned according to its demerit. This means eternal doom. The sinner must be damned because God must be inexorably holy and just. His all-powerful Being must vindicate His all-holy Being. Christianity never compromises the ever-blessed purity and excellency of the divine nature. Second, Christianity alone finds a way to satisfy infinite justice and provide infinite mercy at the same time. What no other religion has dreamed of, Jesus Christ has accomplished. He underwent the infinite wrath of God against sin and lived to bestow His mercy on the damned sinners for whom He died. The infinite Son of God took upon Himself a human nature in which He underwent the full fury of the divine wrath. The omnipotent God satisfied His violated holiness by punishing sin completely in His blessed Son, who “became sin” for His people. The justice of God was vindicated in full in the substitute, His own Son, our Saviour dear. He survived that awful vengeance and rose victor over the grave by the power of His own divinity. Now He offers to every sin-sick and “pleasure” – burdened soul an everlasting mercy. Perfect mercy and perfect justice in the gospel of the crucified.

John Gerstner
The Problem of Pleasure, Soli Deo Gloria

Theology Drives Methodology

I had the opportunity to meet and attended one of Jonathan (Jono)  Sims service in Tennessee. I appreciate him for preaching God’s word with passion and grace. May God continue to raise up preachers like Jono who stands for the truth with boldness and with a tender heart to shepherd God’s people.


“A true Christian is not a sheep who has gone looking for the Good Shepherd and found a man who seems to fit the bill, but someone who has been looked for and found by God.”

Gerald Bray
God is Love (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2012), 20

“The Order of Salvation”

1. Election (God’s choice of the people to be saved)
2. The Gospel call (Proclaiming the message of the gospel)
3. Regeneration (Being born again)
4. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
5. Justification (Right legal standing)
6. Adoption (Membership in the God’s family)
7. Sanctification (Right conduct of life)
8. Perseverance (Remaining a Christian)
9. Death (Going to be with the Lord)
10. Glorification (Receiving a ressurrection body)

Taken from: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

The Parable of the Drowning Man

Dear Friends:

Perhaps you have run into an earnest Christian, that when opposing the biblical teaching of the “bondage of the will”, “salvation by grace alone” and “election” will use the common salvation analogy which likens the unsaved to a helpless drowning man. That a loving God gives us free choice while drowning whether we will reach out and take His hand to be saved or not. That only an ‘evil’ God, they say, would leave or not attempt to save people who are drowning in a lake. “How could a loving God be so cruel just to leave them there drowning,” they argue.

There are quite a number of things that might be said in response to this. First of all we must clarify that what distinguishes our tradition from freewillism is not that one God loves people and the other conception of God does not. No… the distinction is between an intensive and an extensive love, between an intensive love where God actually expresses His love by laying down His life to redeem His loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in a generic sense but actually delivers no one in particular. Consider the parable of the drowning man again in light of these two perspectives:

(1) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. You call out to your child to use his willpower to swim back to the boat to save himself, yet he is entirely too weak to do so. You reach out your hand but it depends on whether your child is a good enough swimmer to get to you and has the strength in himself to reach out his arm. But you do nothing more than call for him to come and will only go as far as reaching out your hand since you wouldn’t want to violate his free will to let him decide if he will swim back and reach for your help.

(2) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. But your love for your child outweighs all other considerations and without hesitation you leap into the water at the risk of your own life, due to the weather, and actually save your child from drowning. You drown in the process but your child is saved. In other words, you don’t just wait to see if he is willing or has the strength. He doesn’t. So you go in and save your child regardless of the cost to yourself.

Which of the two fathers is more loving I ask?

The first one, if you haven’t yet guessed, is the Arminian “father”. He sees his child in trouble and will only save him on condition that he has the capacity to swim through the waves and reach out and take hold of the father. The father will not, however, risk his life to actually MAKE SURE that the son does not drown. His love does not act so this love is ineffectual. It all depends on how the son responds. It is a love which is conditional. The Arminian gospel is just like this because if God violates the human will in any way it makes Him evil in their mind. [Note: I will tell you what. If I am stubborn and will not obey the gospel, afterwards I would be grateful if he “violated” my will to save me from drowning. What I want does not matter since I am only a child with reference to God. It is what God wants that matters. What I want will conform to what God wants when He opens the eyes of my understanding. This is not something I can produce naturally. The Holy Spirit must act or I die. If your child is to be hit by a car, do you wait to see what he will do or do you run out to save him? I don’t care if the child did not want it at the time. I do it anyway if I love him. The fact is what kind of love just sits there and does nothing but woo and hope you will save yourself? Is that the kind of love we expect of a parent, let alone our Heavenly Father?]

The second analogy is the Augustinian father. His love is not weak-willed or ineffectual but he loves his children with a resolute will that accomplishes what His love dictates by actually saving his child, even by forfeiting his own life in the process. God is love, and God’s love is like His Word … He says of it, “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” This is beautiful and what love is all about because it means we can take God at His word and promises.

Again, which father in the story is more loving?

Of course the analogy is flawed since the son, in real life is already dead to the things of the father and due to his autonomy and pride, would never take his father’s help to do what he knows (or thinks) he can do for himself.

Naturally the next question is why does God not save everyone then? That is a deep mystery but we know God conspires with His own goodness and wisdom and always does what is right whether we fully understand His reasons or not. The same mystery equally extends to the question of why He bothers to save anyone at all. Given our hostility toward Him it is even more amazing that He chooses anyone. Why not give us what we all deserve, which is justice? So while it is true we may not know why He chooses only some for redemption, the Scriptures do teach the “what” and the “how” …that He, in fact, does save a partuclar people for Himself. But it is not for us to pry into the mystery of why (since He has not revealed it) except that it was His good pleasure … And it is not for us to presume, as some do, that election means He must have bad motives in doing so. We know, from revelation, that the character of God is always good and trustworthy so we can know with certainty that He does His choosing for good reasons that are in Himself even though we may not fully understand God’s purpose. But to conclude, therefore, that God must be evil if He chooses some and not others is presumptious at best. The very fact that He does it is the highest reason in the universe. That He has covenantally set His affection on certain persons but not others is His prerogative. There cannot be a better reason than “God wills it”. Can you think of a better reason?

But to perhaps gain some understanding from what God has revealed to us, consider the following:

The Arminian calls a God who leaves a rebel behind as evil. To expose the fallacy of this argument we should respond biblically by asserting that God would only be “evil” in leaving them if people were undeserving of just punishment. By using “drowning in a lake” as an analogy, they are making it sound like our condition before salvation is innocuous. This logical fallacy is called an “appeal to pity” (ad misercordiam). “Look at the helpless person drowning and the Calvinist God does nothing. This God must be an ogre”.

Perhaps if our problem were only of a physical disability or of an innocent man drowning then, of course, we might be more tempted to make God out to be an ogre. But this is not how the Scripture describes the disposition of a sinner’s heart. The Scripture says the unregenerate are rebels, hostile to God by nature. Realizing that analogies are imperfect, this drowning analogy still depends on pity for it to work at all, but is actually imposing an alien presupposition on the Scripture that we were just helplessly, innocently in need and God is, therefore, obligated to reach out to save us, lest we drown. So according to this analogy the one condition for us to meet if God is to love us is to reach out our hand and take hold of His, which He is obligated to extend lest otherwise He must be evil, they reason. Not only is this kind of love conditional but this love does nothing to help the helpless except call to him from afar. I hope you are beginning to see the clear problem with this line of reasoning.

Lets get the facts straight: nowhere does Scripture even hint that man is just innocently drowning. Rather it describes us as willfully and purposefully hostile toward God like an opposing army, suppressing the truth and replacing God with our own idols, having a debt we cannot and will not repay. The Text says that we love darkness and hate the light – which means our affections are bent on fleeing from God. Michael Horton once described it like this: “We cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.” It is not as though we just had a physical inability, but our condition is described as a moral inability with darkened affections (John 3:19) in need of a new birth (John 3:3-6), i.e. a completely new nature that we might desire and understand the things of God (1 Cor 2: 5-14). One thing to remember is that we are all debtors for willfully breaking God’s holy Law. We owe a debt we cannot repay – the price is too high, and further, we are unwilling. This means that we justly deserve God’s wrath – all of us. Unless we can say that we justly deserve God’s displeasure, save in the mercy of Jesus Christ, then we have yet to truly understand the gospel. If God were to completely wipe out the entire human race in one fell swoop, it would be entirely just for that is what we rightly deserve. If we were all thrown into an eternal hell, we would merely be getting our just deserts.

But since we are using analogies here is another: if nine people owed me money, and I canceled the debt of seven, the other two would have no grounds for complaint. In the same way if God canceled no one’s debt it would be entirely proper, but if He cancels the debt of some of them, the others have no ground for complaint. They are responsible to repay but do not have the ability to repay (see Rom 3:20). God is in no way obligated to to cancel anyone’s debt, but because He is loving and merciful He paid the debt for those He came to save according to His sovereign good pleasure (Eph 1:4, 5).

We must remember also that God has more than just one attribute … and we must also remember that God is infinitely holy, just and wrathful. When we say we are saved what do we mean? What are we saved from? We are saved from God. Yes, saved from God. If God is truly a just God, His wrath must be poured out on the guilty. God is holy and no sin can stand in His presence – His justice requires just payment, a payment we cannot repay.

So God gives one of two things to humans in this life: justice or mercy. Those in Christ have received mercy. It wasn’t because God saw anything in us that recommended us to Him, or because of our great resume or skill but because of his mercy alone that he saved us.

He didn’t love us because of our faith but loved and redeemed us UNTO faith. We are justified through faith alone but we didn’t produce faith in our unregenerate, hostile fallen nature … God mercifully granted that we would repent and believe the gospel (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8). Apart from His grace, which He granted us in the new birth, we would never come to God on our own. Rather, God has set His affection on us from eternity. He came to find us and deliver us from death that we might worship and have fellowship with Him. So if men suffer in Hell it is not because God so determined that they would for no reason, but because of their sin, and if we are saved it is solely because of His grace.

In spite of ourselves God came in the person of Jesus Christ to bear the full brunt of God’s wrath for His people. The punishment we deserved fell on Him. He saves many but passes over the rest. He leaves the non-elect to do what they will. They choose to rebel because this is their natural inclination – God did not have to coerce them. So is God an ogre standing over some poor helpless drowning man? No, He is faced with people who are wilfully trying to establish themselves against Him and do not want His help. In fact they take up arms against the King. They will do anything they can to flee from Him, to declare autonomy and mutiny.

God sends His servants and His Son but we kill them instead. Does God have the obligation to save those who killed His Son? Or those who conspire against Him as we once did? No, He is righteous if he casts them in the lake of fire. But in spite of all we have done against Him, He comes in love bearing the punishment we justly deserve on His own person. Great love. But He will have mercy on whom He will (Rom 9:15, 16). Who are you man to tell God He is evil or unjust for saving some and leaving others? We should marvel that He saves any. If anyone would agree that He is just in punishing us all (which Arminians do), how then can they be consistent to make Him unjust for punishing some and saving the rest for His own good and wise reasons?

We must ask ourselves in light of all this, what is love? What is a holy love? … and which description most closely fits with true biblical love. Jesus said in John 10 that He not only “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3) but that “the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11,15) but he says of others that they “do not believe because [they] are not of My Sheep.” (John 10:26) . He lays down his life for the sheep but some are not his sheep, and that is the reason they do not believe, Jesus says.


In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; (Matt 13:14)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom 11:33)

– J.W. Hendryx

Pre-forgiveness is prerequisite before you can truly forgive someone

Article by Rick Thomas, Greenville, SC 

Have you ever granted forgiveness to someone who hurt you?

Did you mean it?

I mean, did you really, really mean it?

Here’s a test: after you forgave the person were you able to talk about the hurt in such a way that communicated you were no longer sinfully controlled by those hurts?

A sign of complete biblical forgiveness is when you can be hurt, grant forgiveness, and then talk about what happened to you without being sinfully controlled or bothered by what was done to you.

Too many times we grant forgiveness because it is the Christians thing to do. It is a better version of how our culture works through stuff.

I’m not saying that “forgiveness granting” is not genuine if it is not as I have described. I am saying that it is not truly biblical if we cannot genuinely let it go. But it must be more than just letting it go. We must not only grant forgiveness to those who have hurt us, but we must understand that what happened to us was part of God’s plan for our lives.

We must, by the grace of God, filter the events of our lives through the filter of God’s sovereignty. We then humbly accept those events as part of His good work in our lives. If we do this then we have a mature understanding and practice of biblical forgiveness.

Let me illustrate what real biblical forgiveness looks like:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I think most us know the context of this verse. The speaker in this verse is Joseph, the son of Jacob. He is talking to his brothers who initially tried to kill him only to end up selling him to slave traders.

Joseph spent 13 mostly horrible years away from his family, accused of a crime he did not commit, served time in jail, and was treated in many other cruel ways. Frankly, I cannot fully understand what Joseph’s life must have been like. Just being violently separated from the family he loved would be enough to whack me.

At this point in the story he is finally confronting his brothers after all the years of exile.

He really forgives them.

No…he really, really forgives them.

What is Pre-forgiveness?
Before Joseph could get to the place of genuinely forgiving his brothers he had to “do business with God.” He had to work out what happened to him with God. If you don’t succeed in this indispensable step, then you will have a hard time “going the distance” with someone who needs your forgiveness.

You can’t be truly released from what happened to you until you understand that God was behind what happened to you. Your view of God must be established and you must be convinced that He is working good in ways that you did not expect or perceive.

Pre-forgiveness is the work I am describing here.

When bad things happen to me, the only way I can process and accept them correctly is after I have gained “sovereign clarity” on my troubles. Joseph had sovereign clarity.

•Do you have sovereign clarity on the disappointments in your life?
•When you review the tape of your life, can you now see with sovereign clarity?
If you cannot, then you’re a candidate for harboring such things as bitterness, anger, anxiety, discouragement, worry, criticism, resentment, cynicism, and even hate. And more than likely the person who offended you will feel some of these things from you.

It is very easy to look at the person who hurt you and become bound by the pain, anguish, and frustration of it all. If this happens, then your heart is not anchored in God’s sovereignty.

You will be like a kite in the wind. Your response to the offender will depend on how you’re feeling, the type of sin sinned against you, the kind of relationship you have with the person, their attitude, your attitude, and the cravings of your heart.

There is a 99.9% chance you will not respond humbly to the person if this is how you’re processing the disappointments they caused.

Pre-forgiveness illustrated
Leone’s husband committed adultery. It was the most devastating news of her life. It took many months of biblical care, among many friends, in the context of her local church to help her walk through the smashing anguish of her heart. She called it her nightmare from hell.

When Stephen repented, he eventually came back to Leone to ask for her forgiveness. What he did not know was that Leone had already “done business with God.” She was ready to grant forgiveness.

It was more than her Christian duty. It was God-centered, grace-empowered, Gospel-motivated forgiveness.

She was just like Joseph. When the time came, the hard work (pre-forgiveness) was over and forgiveness could be granted. It was the amazing grace of God working in her heart.

Let’s back up to over a decade earlier.

Leone had been praying for just over 13 years that God would make their marriage right. They had sex while dating and though she was not totally convinced she wanted to marry Stephen, it seemed like a better option than staying single. She was lonely. After their marriage, she became even lonelier.

In addition, to Stephen’s ongoing bouts with anger, their three sons were accelerating in their rebellion too. Their finances were never great, though they did manage to scrape by. They professed to be Christians and were moderately committed to their local church.

In God’s autonomous and non-manipulatable time He answered Leone’s 13-year, long-standing prayer request to fix her marriage. What did He do? He blew it up. God dropped a bomb in the middle of their marriage and blew it to smithereens.

The initial devastation on Leone and the children was hard to describe. From all perspectives it made no sense. To find good OR God in their mess seemed to be a stretch.

As the numbness began to wear off Leone, she began to seek God’s mind on what was going on in her life, marriage, and family. That was when she came to the story of Joseph.

Whose story are you living in?
She learned that God not only worked in the present, but He planned for the future too. What Joseph and his family could not know was that there was going to be a famine in the land. Therefore, Sovereign God needed to get someone to Egypt in order to set things up so the nation of Israel could be preserved.

As you know, God was not just doing this for the nation of Israel or Joseph’s family. He was doing this because of His promise to Adam (Genesis 3:15). Humanity needed a Savior and that Savior was going to come through Jacob’s line.

Therefore, it was essential that Jacob’s clan was preserved.

When God dropped the bomb in Jacob’s family, it blew it apart and Joseph landed in Egypt…according to God’s plan. Do you think it is odd or wrong for God to write bad things into people’s lives? …into your life?

If you think it is odd or wrong, then you do not understand the Gospel. Minimally you need a Gospel adjustment.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief… – Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)

What God orchestrated in Joseph’s life and did to His one and only Son is what He was doing in Leone’s life too. Somehow, someway Joseph and Leone grasped enough of this to know that God was working out something very special in their families.

They both gave up trying to control their respective stories and humbly stepped into God’s story. Joseph and Leone had sovereign clarity.

Once they came to this place in their understanding of God, though they were legitimately hurting and most definitely living out the dysfunction in their families, they were ready to move forward with God’s new plans for their lives. The point became less about what was happening to them and more about what God was doing through them.

•When you think through your disappointments are you more aware and affected by what God is doing or are you more aware and affected by how you have been hurt?
•Can you humbly let go of the script you have been holding on to and expecting to come to pass and then grasp the new script that God is writing for you?
Where does the accent mark go?
There were three things that Joseph shared with his brothers:

1.What God did was for good.
2.What they did was for evil.
3.God’s good trumps their evil.
Therefore, he was able to genuinely forgive his brothers for what they did to him.

•What controls your heart: what God allowed or what the offender did?
•Where do you put the accent: on the good of God or on the evil of man?
How you answer these questions will determine the depth and quality of your forgiveness. In fact, if you can’t get to where Joseph was, I don’t think you can make a biblical case for forgiveness.

One of the ways I check my heart regarding my forgiveness of others for what they did to me is how I think about what they did to me. Initially, what was done to me hurts. I am usually disappointed, probably angry, and typically struggling with letting it go.

I then begin to bring the Gospel in view. I like to put the cross of Christ beside the offense against me. That helps me, always. If I can see my offense against God and then their offense against me at the same time, then my attitude begins to take a Gospel shape.

The cross has a way of shrinking what was done to me. It puts my problems in their proper place.

From there, the pain and disappointment begins to be absorbed by the grace of God. The same Gospel grace that saved my wicked soul flows from the cross onto my current disappointment and onto the person who perpetrated my current disappointment. In short, God softens my hard and deceived heart.

This is all a part of the “pre-forgiveness process.”

I highly recommend this before you approach your offender. The longer you stand before the One you offended, the better it will go for you when you stand before the one who offended you.

If you have done this correctly, then you’re in the perfect place to forgive the person who hurt you. It will really be real.

Pre-forgiveness, forgiveness, and beyond
Pre-forgiveness will not come easy. Getting your thoughts straightened out and aligned with God is the hard part. Forgiveness should not be the hard part if we have wrestled through pre-forgiveness. Note how Joseph was ready to forgive his brothers.

Don’t miss the fact that he had at least 13 years to figure this out with his God. I’m not suggesting you need 13 years to figure it out. But I am strongly suggesting that you need to figure it out with your God.

If you do, then when the time for forgiveness does come, it won’t be that hard. However, if it is hard, then you can guarantee that more time before God is required because you’re still struggling with God. Typically that means there is some form of anger between you and God.

We’re all Sovereigntist. Whether we consciously think about it or not, we all know that there is a God and He is ultimately in control. If we cannot forgive others for what happened to us, then there is an underlying issue that needs to be resolved with God first.

Once you have sovereign clarity and you can now freely forgive the person who hurt you, you will be able to go beyond the hurt and genuinely be reconciled to the offender. This is the good part. But it goes further than just being reconciled.

When Lucia and I make up the way I have described here, we then begin talking about the sin. The sin that caused the division becomes our servant: it serves us.

It becomes a practical, working illustration that we can talk about in order to grow and mature to the point where we can reduce the amount of future sinning that we sling on each other.

It should not be difficult to talk about the sin if the sin has been killed-dead[1] by the power of the Gospel. I think it is important that we revisit our past sins, not as a punitive reminder. That is first grade stuff. We’re in college now. We can talk about our sin in order to mature in Christ and to relate more effectively to each other.

Here are the steps:
1.Pre-forgiveness: allowing God to adjust your heart so you can forgive.
2.Forgiveness: genuinely granting forgiveness to someone who hurt you.
3.Reconciling: the relationship is no longer separated by sin.
4.Maturing: the sin has been neutralized so you can discuss it from God’s perspective, your perspective, and the former offender’s perspective.
If you can’t get to Step #4, I suggest you go back to Step #1 and start over.
Just as Joseph could talk to his brothers about what they did in a non-punitive way, you should be able to do the same. If you can, then you will not miss out on what God was up to and what He has planned for you in the future.

God answered Leone’s prayer. She had enough Christian maturity about her to get it. It has been 7 years since the bomb went off. What happened during those dark days has almost been completely swallowed up by the incredible selfless and God-glorifying marriage that she and Stephen have today.

Related Article: Pre-forgiveness does not mean you will reconcile

He Has Sent Redemption

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