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Archive for January, 2011

Romans 8:29

“For Those Whom He Foreknew”

Verse 29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” What does “foreknew” mean? Some have taken it to mean that God simply foresees who will believe on him and these are the ones he predestines to be like Jesus. But this assumes two things that are not true. One is that the faith God foresees is ultimately and decisively our work, not his work. In other words, the point of this interpretation is that God does not cause our faith, he only foresees the faith which we cause.

Now this is not what the Bible teaches, not elsewhere (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Matthew 16:17), nor here in the context. When Paul says in Romans 8:30, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified,” he means all the called are justified. But to be justified we must believe (Romans 5:1). So he is saying all those who are called believe and are justified. But how can he say ALL who are called believe? The reason, as I tried to show in the exposition of “called” in verse 28, is that the call is the powerful work of God to bring about what he demands. It’s an effective call. It’s a call that creates what it commands. It’s a call like “Lazarus, come forth!” and the dead man lives. So the point is, believing for justification is not some thing I do on my own. God enables me. God empowers me. I must do it. Believing is something I do. But my doing is a gift of God. I do not take ultimate credit for it. I thank God for it. I am saved by sovereign grace from first to last.

So it is wrong to assume that when Romans 8:29 says, “God foreknew” some, it means he simply foresaw that they would believe by their own power. He gave that power, and so some something more is going on here than the mere foreseeing of what we do.

Here’s the other mistaken assumption of this view. It assumes that the meaning of “foreknowing” is not the meaning it has in many Old and New Testament texts that would give a more coherent meaning to this passage. Listen to these uses of “know” and ask yourself what each means. In Genesis 18:19 God says of Abraham, “I have known him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.” Virtually all the English versions translate this, “I have chosen him.” In Amos 3:2 God says to the people of Israel, “You only have I known among all the families of the earth.” He knew about all the families, but only chose Israel. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus said to the hypocrites at the judgment day, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Psalm 1:6 says, “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.” He knows about the way of the wicked too. But he knows the way of the righteous in the sense of approving and recognizing and loving. In Hosea 13:5 God says to Israel, “I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of drought,” meaning he took note of your plight and cared for you. And Genesis 4:1 says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” That is, he made her his, and knew her intimately and loved her.

Because of all those texts I think John Stott and John Murray are exactly right when both of them say, “”Know’ . . . is used in a sense practically synonymous with “love’ . . . “Whom he foreknow’ . . . is therefore virtually equivalent to “whom he foreloved.'” Foreknowledge, is “sovereign , distinguishing love” (John Stott, quoting Murray, Romans, p. 249). It’s virtually the same as set your affection on and choose for your own.

So the meaning of the first act of God in Romans 8:29 is that God foreknows his own people in the sense that he chooses them and loves them and cares for them. Paul will speak of this later in the language of “choosing” or “election” (Romans 8:33; 9:11; 11:5,7).

All things will work together for your good if you are called, and love God, because, as verse 29 says, God has known you, and chosen you, and loved you, from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4f; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8)

“He Also Predestined”

The second act of God done long ago to put certainty under the promise that all things will work for your God is “he predestined.” “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” This simply means that, having chosen you for his own and set his love on you and cared for you before you ever existed, he decided what would become of you, namely, you would be conformed to the image of his Son.

“Predestine” means decide or ordain ahead of time what destiny you will have. And the reason this verse puts such a massive foundation under the promise of Romans 8:28 is that that those who love God and are called according to his promise are destined to be like Jesus — destined to be conformed to the image Christ. All things work together for your good because you were chosen and loved before you existed, and the way his choice and love expresses itself is in ordaining for you an unspeakably great future, namely, to be like Christ. All things work for your good because all things work to make you like Jesus. For this you were loved, and for this your predestined.

This is the million-dollar clause in the will of your friend’s father. Just like that legally unbreakable clause guarantees your wealth on earth, so God’s unbreakable foreknowing and predestining guarantees your glory and your everlasting joy.

“To Conform Us to the Image of His Son”

Which brings us to the objection raised earlier. Maybe it won’t be joy to be like Jesus. Maybe becoming like Jesus doesn’t make all the suffering of this present time not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed. So we must turn to the last act of God mentioned in verse 29: God is working to “conform us to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

And for that we are going to wait until next week for two reasons: one, is there is not enough time today; and two, conformity to Christ in verse 29 and glorification at the end of verse 30 are so closely linked, they will make a beginning and end to next week’s message.

But let me close with a brief word about conformity to Christ and today’s text. It is very relevant for this reason. Until your mind is conformed to the mind of Christ, the teaching of this text will probably produce conflict, not comfort. This text is meant to comfort you and strengthen you and give you confidence that the best and worst things in your life will work for your good, because you love Christ and are chosen and predestined for glory. But it will only have this effect when God grants you a measure of the mind and spirit of Christ.

I don’t say this to scold you or condemn you if you struggle. Just the opposite. I say it to encourage you that just like behavioral conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong deeds, and emotional conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong feelings, so intellectual conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong thinking. So I am never surprised when some folks stumble over the harder teachings of Scripture. Conformity to Christ does not come all at once, neither, behavioral, nor emotional, nor intellectual.

So let’s pray for each other, that in every way Christ might be exalted through our conformity to him, and we might enjoy the massive assurance that because of our election and predestination everything will work together for our good. And if you sit there wondering: am I among the chosen, the predestined, the called, here’s how you can know: Do you see Jesus as more to be desired than anything else, and sufficient to save you from your sin, and satisfy your heart forever? That is the mark of God’s child. He who has the Son has life (1 John 5:12). To has many as received him, to them God gave the right to be become the children of God (John 1:12). Receive him!

-John Piper (www.desiringgod.com)

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A Prayer for My Pastor

Our Father, let me be a pillar of strength to help hold him up and not a thorn in his back to pull him down. Let me support him without striving to possess him. Let me lift his hands without placing shackles around them. Let me give him help that he may devote more time in working for the salvation of others and less time in gratifying my vanity. Let me work for him as the pastor of all the members and not compel him to spend precious time in bragging on me. Let me be unselfish in what I do for him and not selfish in demanding that he do more for me. Let me strive to serve him and the church much and be happy as he serves me less and the church and others more.

-Senator Robert S. Kerr

Quoted by Robert G. Lee, Who Said That? George Sweeting, Moody Press, 1995, p. 347.

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It all started when he clothed himself with humanity ;

That had a ripple effect of catastrophic proportions for sin.

 

The effect of Love, which is mercy from wrath

 

…A sinless man being punished for sin

A virgin conceiving a child

A King being humbled

A slave being freed

The blind seeing

The hungry being fed

The lame walking

The poor finding real riches

Mercy for those who have no mercy

The unseen future being real now

The reconciliation of hell bound souls

Finally the destruction of physical death

 

“What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

-By David Sommars

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Because of horrible evangelism, religious lies, and itching ears, a majority of people have been led to believe that becoming a Christian is as easy as praying a simple prayer and requires very little cost or no cost at all. However, the Lord Jesus Christ has declared very clearly in the Bible that it will indeed cost you—it will cost you everything…

You will have to turn away from all your sins
Being a Christian will cost you your sins; you cannot be a Christian if you’re unwilling to forsake them. This is called repentance, and Jesus declared that unless you repent, you will perish in Hell. We are called by God to repent of our sins and turn to Him because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world. You don’t have to clean up your life before you come to Christ; no, my dear friend, come to Him now as you are. You just have to make up your mind about giving up your sins. You must stop, turn around from following after sinful lusts, and begin following after Christ, calling upon Him to help and He will remove sin from your life as you follow His lead and obey His word.
James 2:19-20Mark 1:15Acts 2:383:1917:30-3126:20Luke 13:3;Psalm 7:12Revelation 2:16

You will have to forsake your desires & affections
Being a Christian will cost you all desires and affections which oppose the will and word of God. You will have to continually be on guard to rid your life of all the things that God hates and declares to be wicked. If you are unwilling to give up these unrighteous desires, you cannot be a Christian. God commands His people to hate evil and love good; to abstain from every form or appearance of evil; to flee from immorality, lust, idolatry, and greed. We are commanded to pursue righteousness, justice, and godliness. And this means all the things we fill our lives with will be determined by God’s word—the movies or television we watch, music we listen to, clothes we wear, and everything else on which we may set our affections.
Psalm 97:10Amos 5:151 Thessalonians 5:22Ephesians 5:111 Corinthians 6:1810:141 Timothy 6:10-112 Timothy 2:22Philippians 1:10;4:8Psalm 119:97128

You will have to surrender over your dreams & aspirations
Being a Christian will cost you all dreams and aspirations you may have that do not align with the will of God for your life. If you’re unwilling to completely shift the focus of your life away from yourself and your previous aspirations and toward Christ and doing His will, you cannot be a Christian. We are commanded to do absolutely everything—down to something as small as taking a drink of water—with the focus of bringing God glory. We are even called to take every thought captive and make them obedient to the will of Christ. That means if you’re worrying about becoming rich, well-off, famous, or whatever, you’re going to have to cast this behind you. Jesus declared that our primary and preeminent focus is to be on His kingdom above all else. We serve the Lord, not vice versa; and He calls His people to carry out His will, not theirs; we pray for His kingdom come, His will be done, not ours. He is Lord over our life, and His disciples must live their lives accordingly.
1 Corinthians 10:312 Corinthians 10:5Matthew 6:1033

You will have to give up all your finances & possessions
Being a Christian will cost you all your finances and possessions. If you’re not willing to transfer all ownership of your money and possessions over to Jesus Christ, you cannot be His disciple. He owns everything in your life—including your life—and as a Christian you must acknowledge and submit to this. All that you have, you no longer use it for yourself but for Him—for His sake, His glory, His kingdom. And the things which cannot be used for these things must go. The money you have, which itself comes from God, you no longer use to buy foolish things for yourself but for the things which He approves and is glorified in. Christ commands us not to store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasure in Heaven. Your treasure will reveal your heart. If you’re all about money or heaping up this world’s goods, then your heart is with this world which will pass away. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? If you seek to keep this world’s goods, you will lose both them and your soul. You cannot serve both God and wealth.
Luke 9:23-2514:33Matthew 6:19-2124

You will have to leave behind your family & friends
If you love your parents, siblings, spouse, children, family, friends, or even your own life more than Christ, you cannot be His disciple. Your love for Christ must be so extreme and preeminent that it makes your love for everyone else, in comparison, look like hatred. Jesus declared that He had not come to bring peace and tolerance amongst one another on the earth…He came, rather, to bring a sword of division, to set a person against the members of his own household for the sake of obedience and loyalty to Him. If your family criticizes you in regard to following Christ, or pressures you to go on a route that opposes the will of God, you will have oppose them for Christ’s sake. If you have friends who love to sin and could care less about Christ, you’re going to have to leave them behind…but if you are true to the Lord and serious about following Him, they’ll end up hating you eventually anyway. However, Jesus promises that whoever has left houses or parents or siblings or friends or spouses or children for His name’s sake will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Matthew 10:34-3719:27-29Luke 14:2618:28-301 Corinthians 5:1115:33

You will have to renounce your reputation & status
If you are unwilling to count as loss for Christ’s sake your reputation and status, and what people think of you, you cannot be a Christian. You must count all these things as rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. You must cast off any false notion that you are someone important, someone of worth, one with wisdom and strength, and realize you indeed are one who is broken, lowly, foolish, and weak. The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and in coming to Christ, believing His word, and obeying His commands, you will also be esteemed utterly foolish by them. But you must embrace the reproach of Christ that will come your way. If you hold faithfully to Christ, you will be ridiculed, despised, mocked, and slandered.
Philippians 3:7-81 Corinthians 1:182126-283:184:9-13Luke 6:22-23

You will have to abandon your comforts & easy living
If you are unwilling to take on the demanding lifestyle of a disciple of Christ, you cannot be a Christian. Jesus declared that the vast majority of mankind will end up in Hell, and that there are many who desire to enter into eternal life but will not be able to. He exhorted His disciples to strive to enter into the kingdom of God, because only those who violently press into it will enter. The Christian life is not one of luxury or complacency, but one of self-denial and discipline, vigilance, always being on the alert, always taking heed and being careful, always striving, pursuing Christ, fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life. The Bible says we must enter the kingdom of God through many trials and tribulations, and all who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. You will be hated, excluded, insulted, scorned, slandered, and abused on account of Christ—you may even be killed—but be of good cheer, for these things you are blessed, and your reward will be great in Heaven.
Luke 6:22-2313:23-24Matthew 7:13-1411:12John 15:191 John 3:13;Acts 13:4014:222 Timothy 3:121 Peter 5:81 Timothy 6:12Mark 13:331 Corinthians 9:2710:12

-Article by Dane Gardow (www.truthsource.net)

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Because of our position in Christ, we Christians have liberty. This liberty is a gospel blessing, purchased by Christ for His people. This liberty, including liberty of conscience is integral to the Christian faith.

 However, we must beware of using this liberty as an occasion to sin. The authors of the Westminster Confession expressed it this way:

 They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XX: Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience)

 The “end” or goal of Christian liberty is to “serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life”. If we use our liberty to sin, then we undermine the end of our liberty. If we undermine the end of liberty, we also undermine liberty itself. Sin under the guise of liberty is bondage.

 Therefore, beware using your liberty as an excuse to sin. And remember the word of God, which says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). 

-Article by Braniac (Rick Appleton) www.wretchedradio.com

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Questions to ask a pro-choice legislator:

  1. Are you willing to explain why a baby’s right not to be killed is less important than a woman’s right not to be pregnant?
  2. Are you willing to explain why most cities have laws forbidding cruelty to animals, but you oppose laws forbidding cruelty to human fetuses? Are they not at least living animals?
  3. Are you willing to explain why government is unwilling to take away the so-called right to abortion on demand even though it harms the unborn child; yet government is increasingly willing to take away the right to smoke, precisely because it harms innocent non-smokers, killing 3,000 non-smokers a year from cancer and as many as 40,000 non-smokers a year from other diseases?
  4. And if you say that everything hangs on whether the fetus is a human child, are you willing to go before national television in the oval office and defend your support for the “Freedom of Choice Act” by holding in your hand a 21 week old fetus and explaining why this little one does not have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to life? Are you willing to say to parents in this church who lost a child at that age and held him in their hands, this being in your hands is not and was not a child with any rights of its own under God or under law? 

John Piper

Being Pro-Life Christians Under a Pro-Choice President, Sermon: January 17, 1993, www.DesiringGod.org.

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For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Paul’s proof that sin still indwelt him was in the reality that that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do.

Ginõskõ (understand) has the basic meaning of taking in knowledge in regard to something or someone, knowledge that goes beyond the merely factual. By extension, the term frequently was used of a special relationship between the person who knows and the object of the knowledge. It was often used of the intimate relationship between husband and wife and between God and His people. Paul uses the term in that way to represent the relationship between the saved and the Savior: “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” (Gal. 4:9). By further extension, the word was used in the sense of approving or accepting something or someone. “If anyone loves God,” Paul says, “he is known [accepted] by Him” (1 Cor. 8:3).

That seems to be the meaning here and is consistent with the last half of the sentence. Paul found himself doing things he did not approve of. It was not that he was unable to do a particular good thing but that when he saw the fullness and grandeur of God’s law, he was not able to measure up completely. It was not that he could never accomplish any good at all, nor that he could never faithfully obey God. The apostle was rather expressing an inner turmoil of the most profound kind, of sincerely desiring in his heart to fulfill the spirit as well as the letter of the law (see 7:6) but realizing that he was unable to live up to the Lord’s perfect standards and his own heart’s desire.

It was not Paul’s conscience that was bothering him because of some unforgiven sin or selfish reluctance to follow the Lord. It was his inner man, recreated in the likeness of Christ and indwelt by His Spirit, that now could see something of the true holiness, goodness, and glory of God’s law and was grieved at his least infraction or falling short of it. In glaring contrast to his preconversion self-satisfaction in thinking himself blameless before God’s law (Phil. 3:6), Paul now realized how wretchedly short of God’s perfect law he lived, even as a Spirit-indwelt believer and an apostle of Jesus Christ.

That spirit of humble contrition is a mark of every spiritual disciple of Christ, who cries out, “Lord, I can’t be all you want me to be, I am unable to fulfill your perfect, holy, and glorious law.” In great frustration and sorrow he painfully confesses with Paul, I am not practicing what I would like to do.

-John MacArthur

(www.macarthurcommentaries.com)

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