There Can Be No Resistance

Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us. As the gospel comes to us, God speaks through it to summon us to himself (effective calling) and to give us new spiritual life (regeneration) so that we are enabled to respond in faith. Effective calling is thus God that Father speaking powerfully to us, and regeneration is God that Father and God the Holy Spirit working powerfully in us, to make us alive.

Sometimes the term irresistible grace is used in this connection. It refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. The term irresistible grace is subject to misunderstanding, however, since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary choice in responding to the gospel – a wrong idea, and a wrong understanding of the term irresistible grace. The term does preserve something valuable, however, because it indicates that God’s work reaches into our hearts to bring about a response that is absolutely certain – even tough we respond voluntarily.

Wayne Grudem from Systematic Theology (pg. 699)

Savoring His Glory

You can feel the hostility of the flesh whenever you approach God – it makes real love for Him into work: Digging around the Bible to find a juicy new insight to impress your small group is like sailing the Caribbean, but poring over the Scriptures to find the Lover of your soul is like skiing up Mount Everest.  Conjuring up a happy mood with some music you don’t even know the words to is like solving 2 + 2 with a calculator.  But savoring the glory of Christ and His tender love until your heart is softened toward Him is like using mental math to calculate pi to the thousandth place.  And giving a birthday present to your best friend is like forcing down some double-fudge brownies.  But giving up your extra bedroom to a homeless person in the name of Jesus is like eating the Rockies for breakfast.

 Kris Lundgaard (The Enemy Within)

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

God-Given Growth – Mark Dever

Everybody wants their church to grow. When a church doesn’t grow for a while, some begin looking for those to blame. Some might say “our sign is too old.” Others might say that the church is doing evangelism all wrong. Still others might blame themselves, and decide that they’re just not friendly enough. The preacher, the leaders, the surrounding community, all can come in for their share of blame. But are any of those people the cause of real church growth? Isn’t God the one really to blame? What should we Christians think of contemporary church-growth thinking?

First of all, it must be said that the Bible is a pro-growth book. From the garden of Genesis to the city of Revelation, God is a God who shows something of His life and energy through growth. Most growth is a good thing in this life. So I want to grow as a husband and father. I want to grow in my competence in my job. And as a Christian I want to grow in my Christian life. So what about our church — do we want our local church to grow? How does that happen? That’s what we want to consider in this article.

If we go back to the beginning of the Bible, there we find in the first chapter that God commands the creatures of the land and sea to multiply: “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Gen. 1:22). Similar commands are given to Adam and Eve, and then to Noah and his sons after the flood. From there on in the Bible we see that God our Creator has continued to give life, from calling Abram to follow Him, to calling the Jews back home from their Babylonian exile.

It’s important for us to remember this as we consider our local church. Some people today seem to think that a church grows because it has a popular program, or because the pastor is a good communicator, or because the leaders are wise. All of these may be present in a growing church. But behind all these factors is God Himself. It is God that grows the church through His Gospel by His grace.

The rain accomplishes God’s purpose to make things grow (Isa. 55:10–11), but it is still God who gives the growth. In the same way, it is God who gives new life by His Spirit (see John 3). He is both the Creator and the re-Creator.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7). Any true church growth is from God, whatever means He may choose to use. Just as Jesus’ first disciples followed Jesus because He called them (John 15:16), so today we follow Him only because He first calls us. God grows the church He planted.

He does so by giving us spiritual life by giving the gift of repentance (see Acts 11:18). It is God’s kindness to us that He ever puts in our rebellious souls a distaste for our revolt against Him. In His mercy, He makes us to feel the bitterness of our choices. In His love, he causes us to turn. This new life that God gives comes through belief in the Gospel — which belief we were appointed for (Acts 13:48). Our “appointment” to such belief again makes the point that spiritual life and growth are from God. He opened the door of Lydia’s heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:14). It is by God’s “grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

And God brings about such repentance and faith by His Spirit’s using the preaching of His Gospel. So when the message about Christ is preached in Antioch, Luke describes the results as “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Notice it is the Lord who is credited with this church growth. Faith comes through hearing the message (Rom. 10:17).

And the churches are strengthened by hearing the truth (Acts 16:5). So, whether we’re talking about growth through conversion, or growth in being built up and maturing, it is God’s work through the appointed means of preaching God’s truth, and most especially the Gospel, what Jesus called “the word of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19). Such church growth could even be called “the word of the Lord” spreading (as it was in Acts 19:20) so identified is such growth with the Gospel message.

So if the above is all true — if church growth is from God, then what difference should that make in our churches and in our lives? Here are seven suggestions based upon the Bible’s teaching about church growth. Pray for these in your own life and in the life of your pastor. And share them with others in your church, including the pastors, elders, and deacons.

In order to see God’s church grow, we should use the means God has given to us. As we’ve seen, preaching the Gospel is the normal way God grows His church. Added to this, there is also prayer. Again and again in the book of Acts we find the early Christians at prayer. And as we beseech God for conversion and for maturity, we find God granting our prayers. The more we pray the more we acknowledge that God is the reason for any growth that comes. We acknowledge, in humility, that any growth that comes does not ultimately come from us.

The late great evangelical theologian Carl Henry once said that “numerical bigness has become an infectious epidemic.” When too many of us measure growth mainly in terms of numbers, we show that we forget how deceptive crowds can be. So, the crowds that cheered Jesus one day, called for His crucifixion the next. Even if our church is growing numerically, usually these days in America such numerical growth is more reflective of population redistribution than it is of new conversions.

We can’t control when someone is converted. Though some evangelists may try through well-intentioned manipulation, the human heart is beyond being manipulated to give up its revolt against God. Only a new set of loves — replacing love for self with love for God — can end our revolt, and only God’s Spirit can give that love. Therefore our job in evangelism is to pray for conversions, and work for them by regularly and faithfully sharing the Gospel as well as we can. Work on your own understanding of the Gospel. Think carefully about ways you may be able to improve in sharing it. Work to create opportunities. You can’t make sure someone becomes a Christian. But you can make sure they’ve heard the Gospel.

There is more to church growth than new converts. Those of us already converted can mature in our faith. We can learn to count trials joy, and grow in our love for one another. Remember that maturing is as much growth as seeing new people converted. Certainly in our own lives, we never finish growing in this life in terms of our spiritual maturity.

One way we are certain the church needs to grow is in we ourselves growing, and especially in our humility and self-conscious dependence on God. The Bible’s teaching that God gives growth is important for us to remember so that we won’t become prideful in our church when it does grow numerically. It is also important to encourage us in our humility. Knowing that growth is His gift should increase our time spent in prayer and remind us of our dependence upon Him.

Getting all this right calls us to trust God more and to thank Him for the growth that He does give. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth at the lack of growth in the church, God encouraged him in a vision by assuring him that many would be converted there (see Acts 18:9–10). Most of us, however, don’t have that kind of supernatural encouragement. We do know from God’s Word, however, that God promises His Word will not go out without accomplishing His purpose. But we may not be around to see the harvest from seeds that we plant. As Charles Bridges (a great nineteenth-century Anglican pastor) said, “The seed may lie under the clods till we lie there, and then spring up” (Christian Ministry, p. 75). Some sow, and others reap (John 4:36–38), but God deserves the praise for all the growth that happens.

Finally, realizing the truth about church growth should help us to keep going. It should encourage us to endure in the face of opposition, rejection or indifference. Ezekiel was called by God to preach to a people that wouldn’t listen — their refusal to listen took nothing away from Ezekiel’s faithfulness (see Ezek. (3:7–9; 33:32). How could evangelists go to unresponsive lands and keep preaching if they were constantly counting converts and gaining their main encouragement from that unsteady source? How could you and I be faithful in witnessing to friends and family over the years if we allowed ourselves to be discouraged by initial rejection, or even continuing disinterest? Our continuing to pray for someone is a testimony of our faith not in them or in ourselves, but in God. Jesus’ parable of the sower warned us that there would be a variety of responses to the Word (seeMatt. 13:1–23). And we can be confident that God will bring all His own to Christ, not one of them will be missing (see John 6:37). Present success is not always visible. We should be encouraged to realize that the calling all Christians and all congregations share is one to faithfulness, not immediately apparent success. God may in His providence even disperse our local congregation. But His plan for His universal church is certain victory. Of that we can be sure. The church’s final and ultimate growth is not in question.

The Grace of Sanctification (via The Essential Owen)

He makes us not only accepted, but also acceptable. He doth not only purchase love for his saints, but also makes them lovely. He came not by blood only, but by water and blood. He doth not only justify his saints from the guilt of sin, but also sanctify and wash them from the filth of sin. The first is from his life and death as a sacrifice of propitiation; this from his death as a purchase, and his life as an example. – John Owen – from Of Comm … Read More

via The Essential Owen

Merry Christmas 2011

The religion of Christ is the religion of joy. Christ came to take away our sins, to roll off our curse, to unbind our chains, to open our prison house, to cancel our debt; in a word, to give us the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Is not this joy? Where can we find a joy so real, so deep, so pure, so lasting? There is every element of joy – deep, ecstatic, satisfying, sanctifying joy – in the gospel of Christ. The believer in Jesus is essentially a happy man. The child of God is, from necessity, a joyful man. His sins are forgiven, his soul is justified, his person is adopted, his trials are blessings, his conflicts are victories, his death is immortality, his future is a heaven of inconceivable, unthought-of, untold, and endless blessedness. With such a God, such a Savior, and such a hope, is he not, ought he not, to be a joyful man? – Octavius Winslow

The portrait of Jesus in the gospels is altogether different from the picture contemporary evangelicals typically imagine. Rather than a would-be redeemer who merely stands outside anxiously awaiting an invitation to come into unregenerate lives, the Savior described in the New Testament is God in the flesh, invading the world of sinful men and challenging them to turn from their iniquity. Rather than waiting for an invitation, He issues His own – in the form of a command to repent and take on a yoke of submission. – John MacArthur

Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He Himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the Bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the Light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the Door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the Shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” – J. Sidlow Baxter

Those Who Speak for God

“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, I see a branch of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen well: for I am ready to perform My word.” –  Jeremiah 1:11, 12.

OBSERVE, first, dear Friends, that before Jeremiah becomes a speaker for God, he must be a seer. The name for a Prophet, in the olden time, was a “seer”—a man who could see—one who could see with his mind’s eye, one who could also see with spiritual insight, so as vividly to realize the Truth of God which he had to deliver in the name of the Lord.

Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers.The question with which God usually begins His conversation with each of His true servants is the one He addressed to Jeremiah, “What do you see?” I am afraid that there are some ministers, nowadays, who do not see much. Judging by what they preach, their vision must be all in cloudland, where all they see is smoke, mist and fog. I often meet with persons who have attended the same ministry for years—and when I have asked them even very simple questions about the things of God, I have found that they do not know anything. It was not because they were not able to comprehend quickly when the Truth was set forth plainly before them, but I fear that it was, in most cases, because there was nothing that they could learn from the minister to whom they had been accustomed to listen.

The preacher had seen nothing and, therefore, when he described what he saw, of course it all amounted to nothing. No, my Brother, before you can make an impression upon another person’s heart, you must have an impression made upon your own soul. You must be able to say, concerning the Truth of God, “I see it,” before you can speak it so that your hearers shall also see it. It must be clear to your own mind, by the spiritual perception which accompanies true faith, or else you will not be able to say with the Psalmist, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” Let me say again that sentence which I uttered a minute ago—the speaker for God must first be a seer in the Light of God.

DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 7, 1881.

Let This Sink In – John Piper

HT: Tolle Lege

“Does not our heart burn when we hear God say, ‘My name is, I AM WHO I AM?’ The absoluteness of God’s existence enthralls the mind: God’s never beginning, never-ending, never becoming, never improving, simply and absolutely there—to be dealt with on His terms or not at all.

Let this sink in: God—the God who holds you in being this very moment—never had a beginning. Ponder it. Do you remember the first time you thought about this as a child or young teenager? Let that speechless wonder rise.

God never had a beginning! ‘I AM’ has sent me to you. And one who never had a beginning, but always was and is and will be, defines all things. Whether we want Him to be there or not, He is there. We do not negotiate what we want for reality.

God defines reality. When we come into existence, we stand before a God who made us and owns us. We have absolutely no choice in this matter. We do not choose to be. And when we are, we do not choose that God be.

No ranting and raving, no sophisticated doubt or skepticism, has any effect on the existence of God. He simply and absolutely is. ‘Tell them I AM has sent you.’ If we don’t like it, we can change, to our joy, or we can resist, to our destruction.

But one thing remains absolutely unassailed: God is. He was there before we came. He will be there after we are gone. And therefore what matters in life above all things is this God. We cannot escape the simple and obvious truth that God must be the main thing in life.

Life has to do with God because all the universe has to do with God, and the universe has to do with God because every atom and every emotion and every soul of every angelic, demonic, and human being belongs to God, who absolutely is.

He created all that is, He sustains everything in being, He directs the course of all events, because ‘from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever’ (Rom. 11:36). May God inflame in you a passion for His centrality and supremacy in your life.

May it be so that when you are dead and gone the people you love and serve will say, ‘This one knew God. This one loved God and lived for the glory of God and showed us God day after day. This one, as the apostle said, was filled with all the fullness of God’ (Eph. 3:19).”

–John Piper, Calvin and His Passion For The Majesty of God, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 12-13.

 

You Must Never Walk Away From Him

O unite me thyself with inseparable bonds,
that nothing may ever draw me back from thee,
my Lord, my Saviour. – Valley of Vision

The Supremacy of Christ

We were created to know Him! He is supreme over the universe! 

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