Tuesday, May 23, 2017

If Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul were Arminian...

Today's essay explores the notion that if Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul had been Arminians, how would their testimonies sound? Using today's vernacular, let's see how it reads when these eminent Christians say they "chose God" of their own free will.

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Photo from Pixabay.com

The Sovereign call of Jeremiah to speak YHWH's words becomes:
Jeremiah asking Jesus into His heart and making a career decision,

"When I was a youth, one night I couldn't sleep. I walked around for a while outside, unfamiliar with this restless feeling. I felt young and inept at whatever I tried my hand. I remember clearly, it was the third of Tishrei, a cool September morning. I was at Sabbath at the synagogue. I was overcome with Avital's lyre playing of the ninth repetition of "Just As I Am." It all came together in my heart. I made a decision to walk the aisle toward the rabbi, and I knelt down and sincerely asked Messiah into my heart. Rabbi told me I was saved. Afer that, I decided I wanted to be a Prophet of God because I knew that God had a great plan for my life. When I came forward the priest had told me that. I became a prophet even though I was young and didn't know how to speak. It was a God thing for sure. I'm so happy that day I walked the aisle and decided for the Savior."

The powerful testimony of Christian Terrorist Paul on the road to Damascus becomes:
Paul meekly being led in praying the Sinner's Prayer and choosing to change his whole life around-

Paul explained, "I was exceeding my peers in Law, at that time I was breathing out threats and fire against the Christians. I was at the peak of my career. I had the esteem of my colleagues, and I was young enough to have the world in front of me. Yet something lacked. Then one day while I was walking along the road to Damascus on an official Pharisaical mission to jail and execute followers of The Way, I felt a restlessness. Is this all there is, I wondered? Just being the best at everything and killing blasphemers, nice as that was? I spoke about it with the men who were walking with me, but most of them didn't understand, except for one fellow traveler. He explained that I needed to decide to follow Jesus and that I should use my free will to choose Him. Of course! That was the answer. He led me in the sinner's prayer. I've been saved ever since. You should decide for Jesus too, everyone should. I don't know why they don't. That I did is what makes me a great example of Christian self-decisional regeneration. Not to boast, though. Grace and peace to you."

John the Baptist's call as the last Old Testament Prophet, foreordained and empowered since the womb, becomes a lifestyle choice-
John the Baptist shares his testimony about accepting Jesus

"I didn't get along with my parents, they were very aged and they just didn't understand me or my generation. I felt so lonely, like I didn't fit in with any of my friends. I went to live in the desert to try and find myself, and figure it all out. One day as I was roasting some locusts over the fire and sewing a new camel hair outfit, I realized suddenly that what I needed was Messiah. What I lacked was that I hadn't accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior! I decided to give my heart to Jesus. I also decided to stay in the desert. It's a relationship, not a religion, so who needs church? I have peace about that."

Don't those Arminian testimonies sound ridiculous? We do not decide for Jesus. He decided long before the world was ever made or we were ever born. Now here is how it really happened, with the addition of the verses about God's call to Jesus to become His Son.

The Call of Jeremiah-

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations
."
(Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Paul-

But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,
(Galatians 1:15-16)

John the Baptist-

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall never take wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb. (Luke 1:15).

Jesus-

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you". (Psalm 2:7)

And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), (Isaiah 49:5).

I am not familiar with this author but I thought his explanation of the biblical truth of God's sovereign choice of His elect was the clearest and most succinct I've read in a while.

Why is one’s understanding of election important? 
Why is it important to understand that election is unconditional and individual? If we believe, as Arminians propose, that election is the result of God looking ahead via His omniscient foreknowledge to see who will choose Him and persevere in Him, we make God’s choice of particular people contingent upon their choice/faith in Him. This makes election a reward or an obligation that is given in response to foreseen faith. This is not the gospel of grace. Election in this view is not God independently choosing us; rather, we are choosing Him and He is merely ratifying the choice by calling "elect" those who have chosen Him. Again, this makes man, not God, sovereign in election, and dishonors God by diminishing His sovereignty. 
Such a view also leaves a pocket for pride in the human heart. Since the choice to believe is supposedly made by the sinner independently, the one who chooses to believe and respond positively to the gospel offer has proven himself more "worthy" of salvation, with all its attendant blessings, than the one who rejects the gospel. Of course, such an exalted view of man is unjustified by Scripture.  

We do not choose Jesus. If we did, we could - and would - boast. No, He chooses us. All the glory rightly belongs to Him.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Why does America love death so much?

Do you ever wonder why American society is fascinated with death? From movies to entertainments to conversation to society in general, it's a culture of death.

I'm old enough to remember life, culture, and entertainment before our national fascination with death. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Movie posters used brighter colors. Blood and gore were normally absent. Discussion about death or dead people were done in reverent tones. It was a serious subject.

If a character on a highly rated television show died, it was a cause for "a very special episode." When the 1983 television film "The Day After", a film depicting a nuclear war on American soil, was broadcast, warnings about the devastating emotional effect accompanied it, along with telephone numbers for people to call counselors.

Back then, people were sensitive to death. It wasn't sought out. It wasn't treated lightly. It certainly wasn't light entertainment.

By now, in 2017, it is.

One of the top rated TV shows (on Netflix) is 13 Reasons Why,a graphic depiction of a teenager's life which includes bullying, rape and then suicide. Many viewers and critics say that the show, while striving to present the issue of teen suicide in a mature light, actually glamorizes it. Death occurs in action movies and even cartoons as a standard event. Promotion posters are usually dark, using black and gray colors, with graphic sprays of blood and other disturbing images.

Why has the nation taken such a turn for the worse in its entertainment choices and daily images?

Here is the answer.

For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the LORD,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.
(Proverbs 8:35-36)

Jim Osman of Kootenai Community Church (in Idaho) preached last week a sermon called, The House of Mourning, (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4). He made an observation I'd like to pass along to you.

I think we'd all agree as Pastor Osman stated that America is a Romans 1 nation, meaning that because we have rejected God, He has turned us over to our sins, nationally. He's abandoned us so to speak. John MacArthur talks about this kind of wrath as the "wrath of abandonment." You can read about the progression of national and individual rejection in Romans 1:18-32.

Becuase God is life, when we reject Him, we remain dead in our sins. The proverbs verse stated that very clearly. "All who hate Me love death." It can't be clearer that that.

Our national entrancement with death is a clear sign of our spiritual state. All who hate God love death. America loves death, from top to bottom, inside out.

There you have it.



Above collage is an excerpt from a larger piece called "Images of our human spirit before salvation," by EPrata.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Visual Exegesis: Jesus Upholding the Universe

Full of Eyes is a support-based ministry of exegetical art that creates still and moving images intended to point people to the beauty of God in the crucified and risen Son. All art and animations are done by Chris Powers. Powers’ goal is to help people see and savor the faith-strengthening, hope-instilling, love-kindling beauty of God in Christ. And he does this by creating free exegetical art in the form of pictures, animations, and discussion guides. His work is at http://patreon.com/, Youtube, and his website fullofeyes.com




Upholding the Universe, by Chris Powers

Hebrews 1:3, "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power."
I've been teaching a small Wednesday night study at our local church and for the last few months we've been walking through the ecumenical councils. Last night we were discussing the council of Chalcedon--which substantially solidified orthodox Christology for the Church. One passage of the creed of Chalcedon reads:

"...one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledge in two natures, incofusedly, unchangeably, indivisible, inseparably..."
There are many implications that could be drawn from just these few words, but at least one of them is that when the eternal Son took humanity to Himself, He did so "unchangeably" and "inseparably." In other words, since the incarnation, God the Son has never and will never cease to be fully man.

Again, beautiful implications abound, but the one I wanted to focus on in this image is that--even in His death--the "natures" of God and Man are not divided. Consider it, even while a "corpse" (Mark 15:45-46), Jesus was all that God is....meaning that all that God is (the "fullness of diety" Col. 1:19, 2:9) was once expressed in and true of the lifeless man, Jesus.

God the Son did not cease to uphold the universe with the word of His power according to His deity even as He Himself lay, according to His humanity, in the dust of death.

And an even more glorious reality flowing from these things is that, even while His body was veiled in the tomb, Jesus was still the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature." Becuase He is ever and always fully God, it is always true to point at the man Christ Jesus and say, "Here is the radiance of God's beauty and exact image of His identity"....and that did not cease to be true--indeed, it became definitively true--when Jesus gave Himself even unto death on the cross for our sins.

There is no God like YHWH.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Man in a Hurry, Sunday slowdown

"There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9).


My favorite Andy Griffith episode is called Man in a Hurry. It's from Season 3, episode 16. A businessman from the city is traveling through and his car breaks down at the edge of Mayberry. It's a Sunday, though, and nothing is stirring, even a mouse. Not until church lets out, and even then, the hard-working citizens of Mayberry are committed to and enjoy their Sabbath rest. The man's frustration with the towns' seeming unwillingness to help him fix his car grows until he eventually succumbs to the slow-down sweetness of friendship, rest, and communion.

When people reflect on the old TV show they usually mention their most enjoyable scenes are when one or more characters are sitting on the front porch, not doin' anything much. In the scene below, it's Sunday, it's after church and Sunday dinner, Andy and Barney simply sit, listen to the crickets, or softly sing hymns.

Here is Sinclair Ferguson on "Sabbath Rest". What IS Sabbath rest, anyway?
In creation, man was made as God’s image—intended "naturally" as God’s child to reflect his Father. Since his Father worked creatively for six days and rested on the seventh, Adam, like a son, was to copy Him. Together, on the seventh day, they were to walk in the garden. That day was a time to listen to all the Father had to show and tell about the wonders of His creating work.
Thus the Sabbath Day was meant to be "Father’s Day" every week. It was "made" for Adam. It also had a hint of the future in it. The Father had finished His work, but Adam had not.
Ferguson continues explaining the Sabbath rest and then turns to what the Sabbath should mean to us Christians now that Jesus has come. It's a good read.

Saturdays are a pile-up day. I picture Saturdays for most people as a day when the litter along the side of the road has blown up against a fence. All the chores, tasks, things you'd planned to do have blown up against Saturday and it's a busy day attending to them all. Children's birthday parties, sports games, visiting Mom and Dad, grocery shopping, laundry, school projects....the list is endless. With all the hurry-hurry on Saturdays, it's sometimes hard to stop that momentum on Sunday.

But we're supposed to.
But one may ask: "How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?" This view of the Sabbath should help us regulate our weeks. Sunday is "Father’s Day," and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks "How short can the meeting be?" has a dysfunctional relationship problem—not an intellectual, theological problem—something is amiss in his fellowship with God.
This view of the Sabbath helps us deal with the question "Is it ok to do … on Sunday?—because I don’t have any time to do it in the rest of the week?" If this is our question, the problem is not how we use Sunday, it is how we are misusing the rest of the week.

As you conclude your day today, if you are reading this on a Saturday (or any other day for that matter), are you in a hurry? Are you cramming in things to do in and around church services? Are you distracted, frazzled, hurried? Slow down. Reflect on how you're using the week, and how your rest on the Sabbath is to be used as a refreshment to your soul and a reflection of all that God has done and is doing.






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Further reading


12 ways your phone is changing you, Tony Reinke article

What does it mean that Jesus is our Sabbath rest?, Robin Schumacher at Compelling Truth

Friday, May 19, 2017

What is Living Water?

In our small group discussion on Thursday nights, people come with Bibles in hand and the pastor opens the floor to anyone with a question. We search the scriptures and engage in a discussion regarding the person's question. Last night someone asked about one of my favorite metaphors in the Bible. What is the Living Water?

It is from the scene from John 4, when in Samaria, a tired Jesus sat down in front of the well, and a woman from the village came out a noonday to draw water. An amazing conversation ensued. Here are verses 10-14:

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." 13Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

From this verse, we understand the Living Water is eternal life in Jesus. Nowhere else but in Jesus does a person have eternal life. He is the fountain. (Jeremiah 2:13). He is the spring. (Isaiah 12:3, Revelation 22:14, John 7:38).

What about after the moment of regeneration, after the person has received eternal life? The waters do not stop flowing. The living water is eternal life in Jesus, as mediated by the Spirit. It is the flow of the Spirit's guidance that transforms the newly forgiven creature into a person gradually conformed to Christ for all eternity.



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Further reading

Founders Ministries: The Model

GotQuestions: What did Jesus Mean when He said Living Water?



Thursday, May 18, 2017

God needs nothing...but...

God, as God, needs nothing. He is above all things. He is Creator of all things. He is self-sustaining, self-sufficient. He needs nothing.

Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:26)

Think of this. As man, Jesus needed everything. As a babe He needed protection when his life was threatened. (Matthew 2:13). He needed shelter, the milk from His mother, the fostering of His father. He was weak, He grew strong. (Luke 2:40). As an adult, He needed sleep, food, rest. (John 4:6, Mark 11:12, Mark 4:38).

I've read and enjoyed the Prince and the Pauperand other switcheroo type stories, where the privileged character (usually royalty) accepts reduced circumstances either willingly or unwillingly and learns much from the experience, while the elevated one learns lessons too.

In life we are "upwardly mobile." We're standing on the provision and achievements of our parents, who give us opportunities and life-lessons. We then strive to exceed theirs. When we grow to adulthood we turn around and give a helping hand up to our children. We almost never willingly thrust it all aside and reduce our circumstances, just because.

Jesus did.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus knows hunger, weariness, grief, joy, stress. He knows our need because He needed too.

What a great Savior we have.


Christ In The Wilderness by Briton Riviere




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Do you know how fast God can run?

I'm reading through Jeremiah. It's been about ten years since I read through and so it's time again. What a blessing God's word is! I am overfilled and overwhelmed with just the first 11 verses in chapter 1.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" And I said, “I see an almond branch." 12Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it."

I enjoy the natural history aspects of scripture. As I read verse 11, I stopped to learn more. The first chapter deals with Jeremiah's call to his fifty-year-plus long prophetic office, almost all of which was difficult, depressing, and discouraging.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, opening with the famous line-

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

This is an example of foreordination, where God does not merely react to events on earth, but ordains them from before He created the world. He not only knows the end from the beginning, He authored it, ordained, it and performs it.

I was curious about the linkage of the almond tree with God's word. What it is about an almond tree that I need to know so I can understand this verse better? How is an almond tree like God's word? Why is an almond branch being used as a promise from the LORD that He will perform His word?

Spurgeon helped here, preaching an entire sermon on just verse 11. (sermon #2678, THE LESSON OF THE ALMOND TREE)  His sermon is ripe with meaning, insight, and background. It was extremely illuminating.

The almond tree is the first tree to awaken in the winter, hastening to put out leaves and then ripe fruit before any other tree. Spurgeon said that the Hebrew word for almond is wakeful.
Observe, first, that THE ALMOND IS A WAKEFUL TREE. The Hebrew word which is rendered "almond” comes from a root signifying to be wakeful, so this passage might be read thus, "I see the wakeful rod."
Now, to my question about the linking of the almond tree with God's word. In the section of his sermon explaining the almond tree with God being quick in performing His promises, Spurgeon said in part,
"Oh, but!" says one, "There are often long delays before peace is enjoyed." Then it is because you make them, for God does not. "But sometimes we have to wait," says one. Yes, yes; I know all about that waiting. Do you remember, in the parable of the prodigal son, where he waited? Why, with the harlots and others with whom he wasted his substance in riotous living, or with the swine, when he was feeding them with the husks with which he would gladly have filled his own empty belly. That is where he waited; but when did he end his waiting? When he said, "I will arise and go to my father." He did not wait any longer, for we read, "And he arose, and came to his father;" and then it is written, "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,
and”—"and"—"and"—"and stood still, and waited for him to come"? No, no; I know that God waits to be gracious; but, according to the teaching of that parable, "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran." Do you know how fast God can run?
But again I ask, can you tell me how fast God can run? No, you do not know, you cannot tell; but you do know that He is all on fire with love to embrace a poor penitent sinner, and He speeds towards him at an amazing rate. ... Swift as the lightning’s flash is the glance of divine compassion that brings life to a penitent soul.
I've always been slain and humbled by this fact. In my own conversion, I was in a dire spiritual circumstance, at very rock bottom. My next stop was the pit to be lost forever. At the end of myself, the only place I had to look was up. I was 42 years old, having pursued sin all my life. Yet when I cried out to Him for "help", He helped me immediately. He didn't say, 'Wait, you decades-old sinner." He did not say "Let me think about it." I pled for my soul and He answered immediately. He ran!

He is a good God, a just God. I would have deserved my place alongside other sinners in hell. Yet he hastened to fulfill my appeal. Do I know how fast God can run? Yes, I do. I am eternally grateful.




If Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul were Arminian...

Today's essay explores the notion that if Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul had been Arminians, how would their testimonies sound? Us...