Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Real Assurance

In the book, Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God's Grace edited by Burk Parsons, Richard Phillips ask the question, "Can we find a securely established assurance of salvation?" He then begins quoting John Murray in his work, "The Assurance of Faith", found in Collected Writings of John Murray. Phillips writes, "John Murray shows this is a quest limited to those convinced of Reformed theology." Did you get that? Only those who are convinced of the doctrines of Reformed theology have any business discussing the idea of assurance of salvation. Phillips continues from Murray:

Roman Catholics do not pursue assurance of salvation and are strongly discouraged from doing so, since for Rome justification is a process that can be sure only when it is completed. The Roman Catholic is no more secure than his or her most recent visit to the priest. The only assurance is in continued good performance. The situation is little better among Arminians, who deny assurance on the grounds that salvation may be lost at any time. The Arminian insistence on a general salvation rather than a particular one - that is, a salvation that is open equally to all but effectually to none - effectively rules out assurance in this life. Murray writes, "Every brand of theology that is not grounded in the particularism which is exemplified in sovereign election and effective redemption is not hospitable to this doctrine of the assurance of faith." This is why assurance of salvation is a field of theology and Christian experience plowed only by the Reformed. Murray observes, "It is no wonder that the doctrine of assurance should have found its true expression in that theology which is conditioned by the thought of the divine atonement or effective redemption, the irreversibility of effectual calling, and the immutability of the gifts of grace."

Whether one wants to admit it or not, Murray is right. Outside of the doctrines of grace, there is no room for assurance of faith. If my assurance rests in me, then I am in big trouble. If my assurance rest in the faithful, immutable sovereign God, I can truly be assured that He will complete what he started in me. In Tom Nettles book, By His Grace and For His Glory, Nettles points out how Dale Moody who taught at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1941-1982 hated the doctrines of grace including the perseverance of the saints. In fact, he was finally let go for his attacking this doctrine. You have to admit, however, that he was at least consistent. I would also hope that all those, who like Moody hate these precious doctrines, would be equally honest and admit that they have to believe that any Christian can loose their salvation based on their understanding of how one gains salvation. You really can't have it both ways. If salvation depends on man to obtain it, he certainly can loose it. But, if salvation is all of God, what great rest, peace and assurance does the believer have knowing that nothing can pluck him from the Father's hand. My times, and indeed my assurance, are in God's hand.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Southern Baptists in Decline

Although I now attend a Reformed Baptist Church which is part of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, I have spent most of my life in Southern Baptist Churches. For that reason, I still try to keep up with what is happening in the convention mostly through the writings of Tom Ascol, Albert Mohler and others. Here is a great and convicting commentary on the recent report that the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are in numeric decline.

Does the SBC have a Future? by Nathan Finn

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Famine of the Word

Gladness was spread through Israel's host
When first they manna viewed;
They laboured who should gather most,
And thought it pleasant food.

But when they had it long enjoyed,
From day to day the same,
Their hearts were by the plenty cloyed,
Although from heaven it came.

Thus Gospel bread at first is prized,
And makes a people glad;
But afterwards too much despised,
When easy to be had:

But should the Lord, displeased, withhold
The bread his mercy sends;
To have our houses filled with gold
Would make but poor amends.

How tedious would the week appear,
How dull the Sabbath prove,
Could we no longer meet to hear
The precious truths we love?

How would believing parents bear,
To leave their heedless youth
Exposed to every fatal snare,
Without the light of truth?

The Gospel, and a praying few,
Our bulwark long have proved;
But Olney sure the day will rue
When these shall be removed.

Then sin in this once-favored town,
Will triumph unrestrained;
And wrath and vengeance hasten down,
No more by prayer detained:

Preserve us from this judgement, Lord,
For Jesus' sake we plead;
A famine of the Gospel word
Would be a stroke indeed!

----- John Newton

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Cross of Christ - John Stott

I have just completed reading the book, The Cross of Christ, by John Stott. It is a book that Ligon Duncan calls "essential reading" and "classic" with respect to historical significant books on the Atonement. The book was moderately difficult to read, one in which I could not read casually, but had to focus on most often reading without distractions such as music.

Stott places his chapters into four points of the cross: 1) Approaching the Cross, 2) The Heart of the Cross, 3) The Achievement of the Cross, and 4) Living Under the Cross. Stott is quick to interact with various and conflicting theological views throughout the book such as different views concerning the atonement. While not addressing the question of the extent of the atonement, I agree with Ligon Duncan that this work is "a robust and rousing defense of a real, penal, substitutionary atonement."

I especially enjoyed the Conclusion which consisted of an overview of the Book of Galatians with respect to the cross. He concludes with the following statement which I feel is a good summary of the book:

First, the cross is the ground of our justification. Christ has rescued us from the present evil age (Gal. 1:4) and redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). And the reason why he has delivered us from this double bondage is that we may stand boldly before God as his sons and daughters, declared righteous and indwelt by his Spirit.

Second, the cross is the means of our sanctification. . . . We have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). We have crucified our fallen nature (Gal. 5:24). And the world has been crucified to us, as we have been to the world (Gal 6:14). So the cross means more than the crucifixion of Jesus; it includes our crucifixion, the crucifixion of our flesh and of the world.

Third, the cross is the subject of our witness. We are to placard Christ crucified publicly before people's eyes, so that they may see and believe (Gal. 3:1). In doing so, we must not bowdlerize the gospel, extracting from it its offense to human pride. No, whatever the price may be, we preach the cross (the merit of Christ), not circumcision (the merit of man); it is the only way of salvation (Gal. 5:11; 6:12).

Fourth, the cross is the object of our boasting. God forbid that we should boast in anything else (Gal. 6:14). Paul's whole world was in orbit around the cross. It filled his vision, illuminated his life, warmed his spirit. He "gloried" in it. It meant more to him than anything else. Our perspective should be the same.

If the cross is not central in these four spheres for us, then we deserve to have applied to us that most terrible of all descriptions, "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18). . . . Self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification), self-indulgence (instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ), self-advertisement (instead of preaching Christ crucified) and self-glorification (instead of glorying in the cross) --- these are the distortions which make us "enemies" of Christ's cross.

Indeed a very serious warning. May we never be enemies of the cross.

Book Information

Title: The Cross of Christ - 20th Anniversary Edition
Author: John R. W. Stott
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 380
Dust jacket: Yes
Indexes: Name, Subject, and Scripture
Publisher: InterVarsity Press (IVP)
Year: 2006
ISBN: 10083083320X

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Better Gospel

C. H. Spurgeon is quoted as saying,

George Whitefield and John Wesley may have preached the gospel better than I, but they could not preach a better gospel.

What a statement! The gospel is sufficient as it is - it can't be improved on no matter how gifted the preacher. This should give all pastors confidence, but it should also give all Christians confidence when presenting the gospel to unbelievers. Paul said that the "gospel is the power of God unto salvation." It is not a man's ability, methods, or style -- it is the power of God in the gospel that saves! So we should never stray from the gospel for it is what God uses to save sinners. It is powerful. It is sufficient. Let us never be ashamed of it. What is the gospel?
Here is a good summary.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our Only Hope

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which CHRISTIAN was to go was fenced on either side with a wall; and that wall was called "Salvation".

Up this way, therefore, did burdened CHRISTIAN run; but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as CHRISTIAN came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was CHRISTIAN glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart,

He hath given me rest by his sorrow,
And life by his death.

Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.

Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three shining ones came to him, and saluted him with, "Peace be to thee!" so the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee";
the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment;
the third also set a mark in his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate: so they went their way. Then CHRISTIAN gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing:

Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss!
Must here the burden fall from off my back!
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack!
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Times Are In Thy Hand

My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends. my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

My times are in Thy hand,
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee

My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the Crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

My times are in Thy hand,
I'll always trust in thee;
And, after death, at Thy right hand
I shall forever be.

----William F. Floyd