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Archive for December, 2010

No Rash Vows

 

Daryl Wingerd, Pastor of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City, offers the following advice: 

Before making any resolution:

 

  1. Consider the Scriptures carefully. Some matters for the Christian are clearly commanded or forbidden in the Bible… Other matters are not so clearly or specifically commanded or forbidden… It is in these areas where it is often profitable to make a specific personal resolution.
  2. Consider your other necessary duties. As Christians, we have a number of pre-existing responsibilities that must take precedence over personal resolutions… Before making any personal resolution, ask yourself how it will affect other essential things (that God has commanded of you).
  3. Consider how your family, your church, and the reputation of Christ in a watching world will be affected, either by your faithfulness, or by your failure to follow through (Luke 14:28-30).
  4. Consider your motives 
  • Is it truly my goal in making this resolution to glorify God through obedience and self-discipline and to receive the praise that comes only from Him? Or am I trying to gain the approval and admiration of people? (cf. Luke 6:26; 1 Cor. 4:3-5).
  • Am I trying to appease my conscience by doing well in this one area in order to distract myself from conviction of another sinful behavior? (cf. Matthew 15:1-6).
  • Am I acting defensively, angrily, or in prideful response to criticism from another person? In other words, do I have a sort of “I’ll show them” motive for making this resolution? (cf. Phil. 2:3).
  1. Consider the cost. We don’t generally need to resolve to do the easy things. The difficulty, discomfort, self-denial, and even sometimes persecution involved in the Christian’s pursuit of holiness are the very aspects that make personal resolution necessary. Consider these carefully, weighing them opposite the rewards. Then determine that by God’s strength you will endure, understanding the price you must pay, and knowing that what you are doing is good and right.

 

Source: Let Us Resolve This…A Few Thoughts About Personal Resolutions, 2003, Christian Communicators Worldwide, taken from http://www.thegracetabernacle.org/quotes/gracequotes.html

 -Brainiac (www.wretchedradio.com)

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In a little place called Capernaum, some people asked Jesus,             

 

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  

 

This is a natural question, and common to man.  But the answer is surprising.             

 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (John 6:28-29). 

 

According to Jesus, we do not work for God, Jesus works for God, for us. The work that God has for us is to believe in Jesus. This simple truth is too straight for our crooked hearts. It is a stumbling block in our prideful paths. It is far too low for our haughty eyes.  But it is the truth nonetheless. We must adore it, rest in it, and look to it as the only work that God accepts. 

 

God chose for Himself a Servant, Jesus Christ.  

 

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles (Matthew 12:18) 

 

Jesus Christ works for God, for us. 

 

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 

 

We must believe in Jesus and rest in His work. 

 

And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:5) 

 

Through our faith, on the basis of Christ’s work, God counts us righteous. 

 

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19) 

 

In this way, God does all the work and God gets all the glory! 

 

Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:29-31)

 

 -Brainiac (www.wretchedradio.com)

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A good summary of the main three views regarding perseverance:

1. Classic Arminianism

• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith….
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
“The believer who loses his faith is damned.”

2. Antinomianism

• One need not persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith.
• Those who lose their faith are saved, since they once believed.
“The believer who loses his faith is saved.”

3. Classic Calvinism

• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers cannot lose their faith, since it’s God’s gift.
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
• Those who “lose” their faith never had it to begin with.
• God will preserve true believers and they will be saved.

Here’s a quote made today from Dan Fisher – “I’ve heard it said that the most arrogant person on earth is the person who believes that salvation can be lost, but still believes himself to be saved. If you ask an Arminian “who deserves the blame if he loses his salvation?”, he will say that he himself does. If you ask him “who should get the credit if he perseveres to the end?”, he is therefore required to answer the same. To say otherwise is logically inconsistent. If God truly deserves ALL the glory for our perseverance, we will never ultimately or finally fall away because God CANNOT fail. To be an Arminian, you either have to believe that God does not have the ability to hold onto us (at least not in every instance), or else that we must contribute in some sense to our own salvation (since we might lose it if we don’t). As I see it, a denial of the doctrine of perseverance requires one to reject at least 4 of the 5 Solas–salvation would NOT be by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ’s work alone, to the glory of God alone. This is serious doctrinal error indeed.”

“There is one grace of the Holy Spirit you cannot counterfeit…the grace of perseverance.” – Gardiner Spring

 

Article found at: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2010/05/think_this_through.php

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Consider your calling, brothers

1 Cor 1: 26: “For consider your calling, brothers.”

What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

So there are three groups in these verses: the Jews, the Gentiles, and “the called.” Or to be more precise: the non-called Jews, the non-called Gentiles, and the called Jews and Gentiles. And what’s the difference? The non-called Jews see Christ-crucified as a stumbling block (verse 23). The non-called Gentiles see Christ-crucified as folly (verse 23). But “the called” Jews and Gentiles see Christ-crucified as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (verse 24).

Which means that the call is the work of God that opens our eyes to see Christ as true and powerful and wise and beautiful and compelling so that we receive him for salvation. God’s call is his life-giving command: Come! If you are a believer today, that is how you got saved. God called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. This call was effective. It produced in you what it called for. It was like the effectiveness of a command that someone uses to wake you from a deep sleep. You lean over their ear while they are asleep, and you cry out: Wake up! And they bolt upright. They did not hear the command and ponder it and then decide to wake up. The command accomplished what it commanded: Wake up! That is the way God raises us from spiritual death. And only God can do it. And he did it for you. He loved you this way. Ephesians 2:4 says it was because of God’s “great love” that he made us alive when we were dead. You were about to sleep yourself into hell, and God woke you up to the ugliness of sin and the beauty of a great Savior. He loved you with a “great love.”

 – From the sermon, Consider your calling, John Piper, April 25, 2010

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“The Agony of the Nativity”

by Gary Chaffins

At Christmas, we as believers, always direct our focus on the birth of Christ. We decorate with beautiful nativity scenes, reflecting on the thoughts of a King being born in a lowly manger and on the miracle of His virgin birth.  This Christmas, I challenge you to direct your thoughts past the manger scene to the Garden of Gethsemane; to where the very reason that He was born was about to become a reality. Let’s step into the Garden with this King, who was born from a virgin, in a lowly manger the night before the He was crucified.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44)

Christ had absolutely no doubt about what He was about to face.  He knew that on this night before the Passover He was about to become the Passover lamb; yet in His humanity, He had much fear, calling out to the Father “If you are willing, remove this cup”.  However, like Christ, we know that the Father was not willing.  This was what Christ was predestined to do, the entire purpose of His birth was about to take place.(Acts 2:23, 4:27-28)

We see the submissiveness of Christ in His prayer “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”.  Despite all the fear and the dread this spotless lamb may have had, He wanted nothing more than to do the will of the Father. Yet, in the flesh, He was facing a real struggle on His knees in the garden. The scriptures say He was in agony which means that our Savior was facing an extreme conflict during this time.  This battle was so strong that the Father sent Him an angel to strengthen Him. Please notice with me what this strengthening or empowering caused Christ to do “He prayed more earnestly”. The picture you see here is that Christ is now praying much more intently, crying out to the Father with louder cries and with an abundance of tears (Hebrews 5:7) due to this excruciating agony  He was facing. This horrible event has now escalated, this terrifying agony has now caused “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” This innocent baby in the manger, is now sweating “great drops of blood”.  This is not simply a metaphor for “extreme sweating” but this has now become a medical condition.  John MacArthur said, “this suggests a dangerous medical condition known as hematidrosis, the effusion of blood in ones perspiration.  It can be caused by extreme anguish or physical strain”. Christ, himself, states that His distress had brought him to the threshold of death.

So with this picture in mind, we must ask ourselves, what was in this cup that He was asking the Father to remove from Him?  This cup that caused Him “to sweat great drops of blood”. It is often said that this cup represented the cruel Roman cross and the physical torture that awaited Him; perhaps, it was that Christ foresaw the cat of nine tails coming down across His back, the crown of thorns piercing His brow, and the primitive nails driven through His hands and feet. Although all of these options may contain an element of truth, we must understand that this cup contained nothing more or less than the fiery indignation of God’s wrath (Isa. 51:17, Jer. 25:15-17, Psa. 75:6-8, Rev. 14:9-10). Every ounce of His hatred for sin and those who work iniquity (Psalm 5:5) was in the dreaded cup that was about to be poured out down to the very last drop upon on our Lord.

Allow me to make this more personal, Jesus Christ was punished for every single sin that has ever been committed by anyone who believes upon Him.  He died in our place as a substitute.  We should have been the one in the garden crying out in agony, knowing that the wrath of God was about to be poured out on us.  Think of how worthy you are of the wrath of God.  How many lies have you told?  How many times you have failed to put Him first?  How many filthy thoughts have crossed the path of your mind?  You are guilty and deserve the wrath of God!

 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”(Rom. 5:8-9)

As a believer, Christmas should be so much more than stockings and gifts, so much more than a manger scene , even so much more than reflecting on the birth of Christ.  Our focus should be on what this birth has done for us, we that deserve nothing but the wrath of God. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (1 Co 5:21).

 And so it pleased God to pour out His wrath as the payment for us, so that we could respond and go, “God, thank You! (Isa. 53:10)  Save me so that the entire world, for all eternity, would go, ‘What an amazing God.’” Never has anybody done anything so kind. The King, stepping off His throne, entering into this world as a babe in a manger, to be with the rebellious servants, and dying to save them. What an amazing act of Humility!

“What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24)

Please make no mistake about it, we will all be glorifying God.  This entire plan of Christ being born into this world to be crushed for the punishment for sin, was all for Him.  So that He alone would be glorified. We are so self-centered to think it’s about us.  God says, No, it’s really all about me.  And you’ll glorify me in heaven because I’ve forgiven you or you’ll glorify me in hell because I hate sin and will not let it go unpunished-He’s going to get glory from you, no matter what!

So what gives? Who will bear the weight of your sin? I beg of you, He’s a good God.  He’s a kind God. What more needs to be done?  He commands you to repent-this is no choice.

“ The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed” (Acts 17:30-31)

He should have already crushed you but He is waiting on you to come to repentance and the knowledge of truth (2 Pet. 3:9). Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Do not harden your heart-come to Him, Repent (apologize and turn from your sins) He will save you, He will wipe your slate clean and grant you eternal life. Please, do not reject His marvelous offer of amazing kindness this Christmas

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Ten Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering

Many of us struggle to make conversation at Christmas gatherings, whether church events, work-related parties, neighborhood drop-ins, or annual family occasions. Sometimes our difficulty lies in having to chat with people we rarely see or have never met. At other times we simply don’t know what to say to those with whom we feel little in common. Moreover, as Christians we want to take advantage of the special opportunities provided by the Christmas season to share our faith, but are often unsure how to begin. Here’s a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.

  1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
  2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
  3. What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
  5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
  6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
  7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
  8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
  9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
  10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

Of course, remember to pray before your Christmas gatherings. Ask the Lord to grant you “divine appointments,” to guide your conversations, and to open doors for the gospel. May He use you to bring glory to Christ this Christmas.

-Article by Donald S. Whitney (www.biblicalspirituality.org)

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By John MacArthur

The Secret of Contentment

If you belong to Christ, like the apostle Paul you can and should learn the secret of a contented life. When Paul wrote “godliness with contentment is great gain” he wasn’t just speaking philosophically (1 Tim. 6:6). He had learned the secret to contentment in every circumstance of life (Phil 4:11-2). While that secret eludes most people, it need not elude any true believer. For those who are willing to learn, here are six steps to a contented life from the life and teaching of Paul.

First, learn to give thanks in all things. Paul had learned to give thanks in every circumstance and he exhorted all believers to do the same. Thankfulness is first of all a matter of obedience (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:18), but it is also a characteristic of a Spirit-filled believer (Eph. 5:18-20).

Second, learn to rest in God’s providence. If we truly know God, we know that He is unfolding His agenda and purpose in our lives. He has sovereignly determined each part of His plan for us so that we’ll be benefited and He’ll be glorified (cf. Rom. 8:28). We should not be surprised or ungrateful when we experience trials because we know that God sees perfectly the end result (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-13).

Third, learn to be satisfied with little. Paul had learned to make the choice to be satisfied with little, and he knew it was important for others to learn to make that same choice. In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul exhorted a young pastor with these words: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Paul understood that covetousness and contentment are mutually exclusive.

Fourth, learn to live above life’s circumstances. That’s how Paul lived. In 2 Cor. 12:9-10 he wrote, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul didn’t take pleasure in the pain itself, but in the power of Christ manifested through him in times of infirmity, reproach, persecution, and distress. We also should learn to take pleasure in the power of Christ in times of distress.

Fifth, learn to rely on God’s power and provision. The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; and Jesus said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Like Paul, we can learn to rely on Christ’s promise. He faithfully infuses every believer with His own strength and sustains them in their time of need until they receive provision from His hand (Eph. 3:16).

Finally, become preoccupied with the well-being of others. Paul summarized this mindset in Philippians 2:3-4, where he wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

A self-centered man is a discontented man. But the soul of the generous man, the man who lives for the interests and benefit of others, will find blessing upon blessing in his life (see Prov. 11:24-5; 19:17; Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6).

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