unnamed2unnamed

With the recent passing of the Religious Liberties Bill here in Mississippi and all that has been written and talked about by the liberal main stream media since I figured I would chime in with my two cents.

First it needs to be stated I am very conservative, I belong to the Constitutional Party, (yes you can look it up) I am also a Reformed Baptist who believes in the infallibility of scripture. The end of the Bible in the book of Revelation Chapter (KJV) 22  18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. That means what God wrote I accept as truth and cannot and will not change.   

          That being said the liberal media paints a picture of hate and discrimination about believers like me surrounding issues like this. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, that is true born again believers are commanded, not asked, to love our neighbors; Matthew 22:36-40 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” and this of course includes those of the LGBT community.  No one let me repeat no one claiming to be a Christian can truly be a Christian and HATE someone from the LGBT community.

The word of God not the word of man says that the LGBT lifestyle is wrong. That those apart of the community are caught up in the bondage of sin and in need of being set free. As a Christian I (we) have two duties. First is to share the Good News Psalms 96:3 NKJV “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” that Christ is the way to true freedom.  Note as the Apostle Paul stated we are to always do this with gentleness 2 Timothy 2:25 ESV Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, that God may be at work and not us.

Secondly we are called to never compromise the Word of God. Psalm 119: 1-4 (AMP) How blessed and favored by God are those whose way is blameless [those with personal integrity, the upright, the guileless], who walk in the law [and who are guided by the precepts and revealed will] of the Lord. 2 Blessed and favored by God are those who keep His testimonies, and who [consistently] seek Him and long for Him with all their heart. 3 They do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways. 4 You have ordained your precepts, that we should follow them with [careful] diligence. Yet this is exactly what we are being called to do. The liberal minority has deemed this truth, Freedom of Speech (which this falls under) is this; you are free to agree with their liberal viewpoint or our speech is free to be censored and or outlawed or we are free to be imprisoned. It begs the question; who is being discriminated against here?

My Pastor last night made an interesting observation. If this was about anything more than wanting full acceptance for the LGBT community, they would look at this as a great opportunity. Start a business that caters to just that clientele, if as they claim their number are so strong they should do great and leave those with strongly held religious convictions alone.

         By His Grace Alone

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Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 

- - - Acts 20:26-27 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

 

            There is a plague that has invaded our country and it started in the “Christian” churches. It is a plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency. What is this plague I am speaking of? It is none other than the proper preaching of God’s word.

               

            This plague started with men and unfortunately in more recent time’s women preaching only portions of God’s word. These men (we will not mention the women again as the bible calls only men to preach) as well intended as they may have been; failed in their duty to do as Paul declared in our text today, ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’

               

            So what is the whole counsel of God? It is the “good, the bad and the ugly” to quote a spaghetti western movie title. It is man’s sin and total in ability to do good apart from God. It is God’s hatred of sin and the sinner while at the same time being fully capable of expressing love to us while we were yet in our sinful state. It is the whole Word of God not just the parts we like or understand and certainly not our pet theological topics. It is one reason I am so guarded against those who insistent on topical preaching each week. That type of preaching usually leads to a lack of declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

 

D. A. Carson[i] :  

 Explains what Paul meant this way: “When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

 

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

 

It embraced God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped), an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope), the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).”

 

            Before we go further it is critical, that if we are calling ourselves Christians we agree that there is only one AUTHORITY and one STANDARD for which we must adhere. That is the Word of God. Are you a child of God calling yourself a Christian today?

 

            How do we know we are a child of God?  We obey His laws first and foremost. 1 John 5:2–3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

 

            But Jesus in His earthly ministry also made is perfectly clear we are to pay tribute to those God has appointed over us.  Matthew 22:20-22 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

 

            Of course some modernist have tried to twist scripture and say the above was for taxes only but Paul in his Epistle to Titus clears that up. Titus 3:1 (KJV) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

 

            We are however, as Christians, are to question tasking’s by those appointed over us to insure that they are in compliance with the Word of God. Acts 5:29 (KJV) Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men. The Word of God always trumps the law of man. If this is your AUTHOIRY and STANDRAD you can proudly wear the name badge Christian.

 

            So now let us look at a few examples that maybe we do not have the whole counsel of God on.  Let us start with the one that has been most recently been in the headlines as the U.S. Supreme Court made it’s in my opinion unconstitutional decision.

 

            Homosexuality and Same Sex Unions have become the rage. The liberal media has waged an all-out persecution crusade against anyone who exercises their constitutional right to freedom of religion by refusing to support these schemas.  We have been fed a steady stream of lies and innuendo in order to get the minority agenda passed. Sadly even the pulpits of evangelical churches have been wrongfully preaching half-truths and or just as bad messages of hate.

 

            Let us look at the Whole Counsel of God:

 

            a. It is a sin Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. There are no mincing words here. Others words for abomination include: outrage, disgrace, horror, hatred, atrocity. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 defines it as: “Extreme hatred; detestation”

 

            b. Those engaged in it cannot go to heaven 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality. God’s word is clear. Those who actively engage in this sin are condemning themselves to hell.

           

            c. The cause of Homosexuality, transgenderism etc. is the evil in our hearts our own sinfulness: Romans 1:24-27 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. The homosexual agenda would have you believe people are genetically wired to be that way. That is a bold face LIE. God’s word again is clear it is our selfish sin.  

 

            d. What should be the Christian's Response to the Homosexual?

 In his article Christianity and Homosexuality Matt slick explains[ii]

“Just because someone is a homosexual does not mean that we cannot love him (or her) or pray for him (or her).  Homosexuality is a sin, and like any other sin it needs to be dealt with in the only way possible.  It needs to be laid at the cross and repented of.

 

Christians should pray for the salvation of the homosexual the same way they would any other person in sin.  They should treat homosexuals with the same dignity as they would anyone else because, like it or not, they are made in the image of God.  However, this does not mean that Christians should approve of their sin.  Not at all; Christians should never compromise their witness for a politically correct opinion that is shaped by guilt and fear.

 

In fact, the following verses should be kept in mind when dealing with homosexuals. "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.   6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person," (Col. 4:5-6). "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," (1 Tim. 1:5).

 

You do not win people to the Lord by condemning them and calling them names.  This is why God says to speak with wisdom, grace, and love.  Let the love of Christ flow through you so that the homosexuals can see true love and turn to Christ instead of away from Him.”

 

            So how do you love your homosexual neighbor without committing the other BIG controversy of our times Judging others. Have you noticed the one verse that both Christians and non-Christians (especially those in jail and prison) can quote is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

 

            The problem arises when we try and apply modern understandings to ancient Greek text. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 (all verses KJV) gives me one of the best understandings of the word:

 

a. JUDGE, n. [L. judex, supposed to be compounded of jus, law or right, and dico, to pronounce.] This refers to the man, the one sitting on the bench or in the case of the scripture; God.

 

b. JUDGE, v.i. [L. judico.]  This verb for the most part, is what bible is referring to and primarily to sub definitions #1 and #4.

 

1. To compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood.

            Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment John 7:24

 

2. To form an opinion; to bring to issue the reasoning or deliberations of the mind.

            If I did not know the originals, I should not be able to judge, by the copies, which was Virgil and which Ovid.

 

3. To hear and determine, as in causes on trial; to pass sentence. He was present on the bench, but could not judge in the case.

            The Lord judge between thee and me. Gen.16:5

 

4. To discern; to distinguish; to consider accurately for the purpose of forming an opinion or conclusion.

                        "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment." Psa. 37:30

            Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

            Read 1 Corinthians 6-1-5 we are called to judge others for someday we will judge the angels.  Unless you are willing to Judge others how else can you/we fulfill the mandate in Romans 16:17-18 Amplified Bible (AMP)17 I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them.18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people]. You must be able to identify, then avoid and or weed out those who are set on causing trouble in the fellowship of God. It is your duty. You cannot do that if you are unwilling to judge others.

 

JUDGE, v.t. To hear and determine a case; to examine and decide. To preside over a legal case, this rules us out. Yet that is what many have a tendency to want to do.

 

JUDG'ER, n. One who judges or passes sentence. Again only God and those whom he appoints to the bench have this authority. The rest of us only have authority to Judge as it pertains to discernment. Yet this is the one that everyone jumps on fast. We will condemn someone sure enough quick and easy without the least bit of biblical backing; just give us half a chance. This is what Christ spoke of in Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

 

            I recommend always judging using the following guidelines:

 

1) Judge using scripture alone. This is RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT!!!

2) If scripture is silent so should we be. Let the Elders of the church deal with the                                                                                                                              B I G issues.

3) Pray for discernment from God

4) Never be disrespectful or degrading

5) Always be truthful and merciful

6) Always judge yourself FIRST

 

            Back to our main text I hope you can see the importance of seeking out the “whole counsel of God.” By picking and choosing what we want to hear, preach, study or teach we are in danger of the very sinful acts that we may be trying to avoid.

 

John Piper [iii]    

has an excellent article on the subject: in it he says: I see three unmistakable implications from this verse:

 

“1. Knowing the Whole Counsel of God Knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Look carefully at this and you'll see why I say it like that. You cannot say from verse 27 that a person has to know the whole counsel of God in order to be saved. A person doesn't have to know it! What you can say is that if an elder doesn't teach the whole counsel of God, he may be an accomplice in someone's destruction. And if a person MAY fall short of heaven because of an elder's neglect in teaching the whole counsel of God, then knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven….

 

Why did God elect his bride the church before the foundation of the world? Why did he create the universe and mankind in his image? Why did he permit the fall into sin? Why did he choose the nation of Israel? Why did he give them the law? Why did he have animal sacrifices and a tabernacle? Why did Jesus come into the world? Why did he preach the kingdom of God? Why did he die and rise again. Why did the Holy Spirit come? How is God fulfilling his purpose and counsel today by calling and regenerating and justifying and sanctifying a church from every people and tribe and tongue and nation? How will he bring this age to a close? How should we then live? What is the unified, whole counsel of God that holds all this together and gives it meaning?

 

That is what we ought to be teaching our children—faithfully, systematically, and with so much life and power that the beauty of it shines for them.

 

The first thing to say from verse 27, then, is that knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Otherwise Paul would not have said that he is innocent of their blood because he taught them this whole counsel.

 

2. Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God The second thing to say from verse 27 is that people should want to learn the whole counsel of God. Biblical Christians hunger to know the whole counsel of God.

 

This text clearly teaches that elders are deficient and may be guilty of someone's destruction to the degree that they do not declare the whole counsel of God. It must follow that the people of the church are also guilty to the degree that they are not interested in the whole counsel of God. If not teaching it is a sin, then not wanting to be taught it is a sin.

 

So the text clearly implies that Christians should long for the whole counsel of God the way a baby longs for milk. Once you understand this verse, disinterest in the whole counsel of God implies disinterest in the means of salvation. Because the text says that Paul will be innocent if someone fails to be saved, because he gave the fullest means of salvation—the whole counsel of God.

 

3. Courageously Teaching the Whole Counsel of God Finally, the last thing to say about verse 27 is that elders should be courageous in teaching the whole counsel of God.

 

This idea of courage is implied in the phrase, "I did not shrink from declaring to you . . . " This means that there are parts of the whole, unified counsel of God that might make an elder want to shrink back from teaching them. They might be hard to understand. Or they might be uncomplimentary to human pride. Or they might demand radical obedience. And so the elders might be tempted to declare only part of God's counsel—the part that is easy and that they know people especially like. But that would be a shrinking back from declaring the whole counsel of God. It would be cowardice not courage.

 

And that brings us back to the point made at the beginning—obedient life—courageous life in this case—is just as important as accurate doctrine. For Paul the two were inseparable: I did not shrink back—that is, I am a certain kind of person. I declared the WHOLE counsel of God—that is, I taught a certain kind of doctrine. That's what we must aim at together: a courageously obedient kind of person, and a unified, whole counsel of God.”

 

            Piper is so right. It is what the pulpits across America today need, men of courage and conviction to ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’ He is also quite correct in his assessment of what is needed in the pews across America. It is men and women not just “Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God” I dare say DEMANDING to learn the whole counsel of God.

 

            My friends we hear so much about being “fed by the spirit” when folks go looking for a church. As if it is some emotional sensation they must experience each time they are at church building. That is hog wash. There may be a spirit moving upon these churches but it might be the Holy Spirit.

 

            The duty of the Church first and fore most is plainly stated in the Bible. It is to PREACH the Gospel. Romans 10:14 (AMP) But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed [in Whom they have no faith, on Whom they have no reliance]? And how are they to believe in Him [adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him] of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?

 

            As we have just learned those standing in the pulpit must be preaching the whole counsel of God if the plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency is to be reversed. Is your church “declaring to you the whole counsel of God?” If it is not you need to find another church.

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike  

_______________________

[i] —D. A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson [Crossway, 2007], pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added

[ii] Christianity and Homosexuality by Matt Slick http://www.carm.org/

[iii] John Piper The Guilt of Giving Part of God's Counsel, April 16, 1989 ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

    Two articles by two very accomplished writers that I think will open your eyes to some hard facts about the state of churches in America today.

When the Good News Isn't Proclaimed Evangelization on the Wane?

By: John Stonestreet| March 10, 2015 8:00 AM[1]

And

Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today

By: Thom Rainer | February 24, 2015[2]

First John StoneStreet

Here’s an uncomfortable question for all of us: When was the last time we shared the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ with anyone? The last time we told someone that Jesus died so that God could forgive their sins, and that we must receive that gift in trusting faith?

According to the Barna Group, although 100 percent of “evangelicals” believe they have a personal responsibility to evangelize, a full 31 percent admit to not having done so in the past 12 months.

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, notes that his church—the Southern Baptist Convention—is reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as it did 50 years ago. Rainer calls the trend “disturbing.” And indeed it is. “By almost any metric,” he says, “the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past.”daily_commentary_03_10_15

Southern Baptists say that reported baptisms have fallen in seven of the last nine years. “I am grieved we are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” Rainer told Baptist Press. “May God renew all of us, including me, with a greater heart for the lost.”

To find out why this is happening, Rainer conducted an unscientific Twitter poll, with the question, “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?” I’ll give you the top five, and you can come to BreakPoint.org for a link to the rest. It’s painful to read. #1, “Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.” #2, “Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.” #3, “Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.” #4, “We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.” And #5, the churches too often are using ineffective evangelistic strategies. Ouch!

It’s not just Southern Baptists, of course. Barna found that the practice of evangelism is falling among self-identified “born-again” “Baby Boomers” and “Baby Busters.” However, evangelism is actually growing among a group you might not expect—“born again” Millennials. Some 65 percent of Millennials shared the Gospel in 2013, compared to 56 percent in 2010. That’s a good trend!

So what do we do? Well, Ed Stetzer of Lifeway says in Christianity Today that while the message of evangelism should never change, our methods—in response to a changing culture—must change. Stetzer points out that in past decades, radio ministries, bus ministries, and evangelistic crusades reached many—and of course still do. But one thing that’s always been constant, and is more important today than ever, is relational approaches.

As Stetzer says, “I lead a small group in my neighborhood every Sunday night . . . I might not be able to take them to a Billy Graham crusade, but I can invite them to my home because they already know me and trust me.”

Also, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports very encouraging results using online evangelism. According to CT, “Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they prayed ‘to accept Jesus Christ as [their] Savior’ in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse.”

Of course, evangelism is not the ultimate goal—discipleship is, seeing hearts and minds changed by the increasing realization of the Lordship and sufficiency of Christ which leads to a life of obedience—that’s the summary of the Great Commission. But there’s a first step, isn’t there? So let’s all recommit ourselves to sharing the Gospel with friends and neighbors—in whatever way the Lord leads and however He has equipped us.

Further Reading and Information

When the Good News Isn’t Proclaimed: Evangelization on the Wane?

As John pointed out, our first step is sharing Christ's love and forgiveness, and encouraging others to be His followers. After all, Jesus' command to us is pretty clear, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) And Paul urged us to proclaim the good news of Christ, professing "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believe" (Romans 1:16).

Now Thom Rainer

I conducted an unscientific Twitter poll recently to see what church leaders and church members thought of this trend, My specific question was: “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?” The responses arrived quickly and in great numbers, both in public tweets and in direct messages to me. Indeed, I was still receiving responses four days after I sent my Twitter question.

By almost any metric, the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past. In my own denomination, we are reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as we were 50 years ago (we measure membership to annual baptisms). The trend is disturbing.

We certainly see the pattern in the early church where “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In too many of our churches today, the congregations are reaching no one for Christ in the course of an entire year.

The Poll

I conducted an unscientific Twitter poll recently to see what church leaders and church members thought of this trend, My specific question was: “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?”

The responses arrived quickly and in great numbers, both in public tweets and in direct messages to me. Indeed, I was still receiving responses four days after I sent my Twitter question.

The Results

The response was highly informative for me. Here are the top fifteen responses listed in order of frequency:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

So What Is the Solution?

I received hundreds of responses to this poll. There is obviously widespread concern about the lack of evangelism in our churches and among Christians.

First, let me hear what you think of these responses. Second and more importantly, offer some solutions to the challenges. Make certain those solutions include what you can do as much as what they should do. I look forward to hearing from you.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on 24 Feb 2015 Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

  It is my hope that the readers will print this, email this share this, and forward this do whatever they can to get the word out that the state of the evangelical main stream church in America today is in decline. While praise God pockets of devoted believers proudly waive the banner of Romans 1:16. Sadly far too, too many will need to look it up.

 In HIS Service

 Mike

 

Response to Brokenness Continued

 

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PRAYER PART II

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:4

 

            Since we have so many new faces with us tonight I thought it appropriate to recap our exploration of the book of Nehemiah so far. I have attempted to show the similarities of Nehemiah’s quest to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem with the need for many of us to rebuild our own lives.

 

            We have spent 7 weeks in the first 4 verses of Chapter 1 which we should conclude this week. We saw the following themes so far:

·         Living as an Outcast

o   An overview of the book of Nehemiah with emphasis on his situation and how it pertains to those in bondage.

·         Trials or Tribulations

o   We looked at how Nehemiah may have experienced trails but not tribulation which we defined as suffering for Christ.

·         Recognition of Brokenness

o   Using verse III we discussed how one must recognize that they are broken before any repairs to their life can be made.

·         Response to Brokenness Part I

o   Nehemiah’s first response to learning his fellow Jews in Jerusalem are broken is to weep and mourn

·         Response to Brokenness Part II

o   Next Nehemiah responds by fasting

·         Response to Brokenness Part III

o   Nehemiah’s final response is prayer. Last time we discovered what prayer is (and is not), why we pray, why we should pray, to whom we should pray and the reason(s) we should pray.

 

            Tonight we will conclude with the final two points how we should pray and our expectations in prayer.  Let us look at our main text Nehemiah Chapter 1 verse 4 one more time:

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,          Nehemiah 1:4

            The question that I think crosses all new believers minds is how are we to pray?  I mean I want to pray right so my prayers are effective.

                       

            Because we are children of God we can approach the throne of Grace with bold confidence Ephesians 3:11-13  According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. “Bold confidence’ however should never be mistake for arrogance.  Again using the WCF let us dig in to the word.

 

Q. 185. How are we to pray?

A. We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God,[1183] and deep sense of our own unworthiness,[1184] necessities,[1185] and sins;[1186] with penitent,[1187]thankful,[1188] and enlarged hearts;[1189] with understanding,[1190] faith,[1191] sincerity,[1192] fervency,[1193] love,[1194]

 

            I love the beginning of this pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God. What sounds bad is actually so magnificent. Baker’s Bible dictionary notes: When confronted with God's awesome presence the inevitable human response is to quiver and cower. In fact, the Bible never records a direct personal encounter with God in which the individual was not visibly shaken by God's awesomeness. Awful apprehension is not the same as disgusting it is a sense of Awe, Wonderment, and our Smallness as compared to the Almighty God of the Universe whenever we enter His presence. 

           

            When we pray we are to acknowledge our unworthiness; let me pause there. It is impossible for us to appreciate the love of God and therefore to have fellowship with God until we FULLY understand our own unworthiness.  Next we need comprehend the very real need to pray to God, confess our sins, while being thankful that we have a God who listens and open our hearts to His understanding. All that we MUST do BEFORE we begin our petitions.

 

            Our prayers must be done:

 

                        a)  in faith Mark 11:24. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. James 1:6. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

 

                        b) in sincerity Psalm 145:18. The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. Psalm 17:1. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips.

 

                        c) with frequency  I have heard it said prayers should be one and done. God hears us the first time no need to repeat. Well while technically true, God hears all righteous prayers, repetition demonstrates our resolve in the matter.

                        d) in Love 1 Timothy 2:8. I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

 

            In the jail a while back I was counseling a guy that was really angry. He spurted out “I hate these people; I pray God kills them all”.  Do you really think God will honor that I asked. He replied I do not care I hate them. Therein lies the rub, He really did not care what God wanted he only cared about what he wanted. God cannot and will not honor prayers of malice.

           

            I would venture to say from the text that it was Nehemiah’s love for his fellow Jews and their plight that drove him to prayer. Are there people or circumstances in your life that you love in need of prayer?

 

            Another issue in our prayer life can be our expectations of prayer. Prayer can be a mystery at times. Not because it truly is but because we miss use it so often. Our expectations are so high that anything less than immediate fulfillment of what we want leaves us lacking.

            R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier Ministries site has this to say about Eliminating Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes we all feel as if our prayers lack the power to penetrate our ceilings. It seems as though our petitions fall on deaf ears and God remains unmoved or unconcerned about our passionate pleading. Why do these feelings haunt us?

 

There are several reasons why we are sometimes frustrated in prayer. One is that our expectations are unrealistic. This, perhaps more than any other factor, leads to a frustration in prayer. We make the common mistake of taking statements of Jesus in isolation from other biblical aspects of teaching in prayer, and we blow these few statements out of proportion.

 

We hear Jesus say that if two Christians agree on anything and ask, it shall be given to them. Jesus made that statement to men who had been deeply trained in the art of prayer, men who already knew the qualifications of this generalization. Yet in a simplistic way we interpret the statement absolutely. We assume the promise covers every conceivable petition without reservation or qualification. Think of it. Would it be difficult to find two Christians who would agree that to end all wars and human conflict would be a good idea? Obviously not. Yet if two Christians agreed to pray for the cessation of war and conflict, would God grant their petition? Not unless He planned to revise the New Testament and its teaching about the future of human conflict.

 

Prayer is not magic. God is not a celestial bellhop at our beck and call to satisfy our every whim. In some cases, our prayers must involve the travail of the soul and agony of heart, such as Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sometimes young Christians have been bitterly disappointed in “unanswered” prayers, not because God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that God never authorized.

 

            The WLC in continuing question 185 says: and perseverance,[1195] waiting upon him,[1196]with humble submission to his will.[1197]

[1195] Ephesians 6:18. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. We are to persevere or endure how with supplications or prayer.

 

[1196] Micah 7:7. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. In our on demand society waiting patiently is not always easy. God however does not work on your time clock. When we ask for something, lift something or someone up in prayer we must wait on the Lord.

 

[1197] Matthew 26:39. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. I firmly believe Nehemiah has a real expectation that God would hear, honor and grant his petition. I think when we take a closer look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer next time you will really get a better understanding of this.

 

            Like Nehemiah when we find that there is an issue in life’s journey we must turn to God for answers and help. Godly man and women understand that they apart from God do not have the strength on their own to surmount many of today’s challenges.

 

            In closing I wish to quote Charles Spurgeon who said "Even as the moon influences the tides of the sea, so does prayer influence the tides of godliness." 

If you wish to live a God honoring life you need to be in prayer.

 

 Next time we will begin to look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer in verses 5-11.

 

In HIS Service

                                                                                                                         

 

The following was preached at Bayside Baptist Church, Bay St Louis MS Sunday 28 Dec 2014

1 Peter 3:10-15

 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

 

            I have entitled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? I will be focusing in on verse 15 but let us take a running start at it by looking at verses 10-14 briefly.

 

            Peter begins this portion of his epistle by pleading with the brethren to do no evil. To avoid it (v11) to not speak it (v10) in fact we are to seek peace and to do good (v11) always.

 

            I believe the scripture points out two reasons for this directive. The first can be found in verse 12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:…  Now I am a simple man of simple means but this is pretty clear to me. God is watching my every move. If I live a righteous, that is God honoring life, He will also hear my prayers. BUT, in this case the word is more than just a connection between two sentences, it is a clear warning, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Now I do not know about y’all but getting the all-knowing ever present, all powerful God of the universe mad at me is not high in my priority list.

 

            Peter next goes on to say something a little confusing at first. Do you see it?  Let’s look at verses 13 and 14 again:

 

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye:

 

            Maybe it is just me but when I read that I am both encouraged and intimidated. Verse 13 implies that no one can harm the true chosen children of God. Then verse 14 says But and if ye suffer the Greek text suggests a better rendering to be nevertheless when you suffer. Now wait a minute I thought no harm can come to me.

 

            The problem here is my trying to interpret scripture of my own understanding. I read no harm and think physical pain while the text refers to spiritual security. Look at Romans Chapter 8 with me:

 

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

            I hope you can see what both Paul and Peter are speaking of here. Nothing of this earth can separate a child of God from him. Christ said of His sheep (followers, chosen children of God) no one could remove them from His hand.

 

            I want to add a caution here for I believe there is one thing that can come between us and God. That thing would be ourselves. Maybe you have never experienced this, but I have. Gotten to a place where all is going so smooooth, that you think hey I got this and soon forget about God. We alone but barriers between us and God.

 

            Look back at main text in Peter. God is so merciful though that He does not leave it at that. No He tells us in the remainder of verse 14; be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Knowing that we would have times of trouble, trails and suffering God adds words of comfort.  I think the reason for that comfort and the second reason for the directive in verse 10 and 11 lies in verse 15; one of my favorite verses of scripture:

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

            Remember I have titled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? As the New Year fast approaches many of our friends and relatives will be preparing to make a New Year’s resolution in the hopes of changing something about their lives. Folks make these resolutions each year in the hope they can change for the better or find peace and comfort they are sorely lacking.    Ask a group of everyday folks outside Wally World or Lowes where their hope lies and you would get countless different answers. For some it is family, a job, or their “church”. Still others find it in bottles of booze or pills and sadly many would simply answer “hope what Hope”? As Sanctified Born Again believers we do not find any assurance in our own determination, our own will power to make changes in our lives. No we rest on the power of God to both change us. It is the comfort we have in that Hope, that Anticipation that indwells all true believers; a hope, those of the world are blind too. 

 

            I want to break verse 15 down into three tasks that I have labeled Acknowledge, Answer and Attitude.

 

            The first task noted in verse 15 is to Acknowledge or Sanctify God in our hearts. Now this is more than just admitting God exists for even the devil does this. No the Greek word translated Sanctify in the KJV entails so much more. I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this as: But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord

 

            We must confess God as sovereign ruler of the whole universe. Surrendering our all to Him and declaring His son Christ Jesus as Lord and Master of our lives. To do less and call ourselves “Christian” is to live a lie.

 

            This sanctification must not just be verbal; it must be in our hearts. Romans 10:10 tells us that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. It must be a true deep rooted belief that is evident in both our talk and our walk. We cannot have one without the other.

 

            The next charge in verse 15 is Answer. We are to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you(us). This is the defining task, the crux of the matter if you will. We, who are true believer’s, must be ready always. Not just when we feel good and are having a really blessed day. No in the midst of trials and turmoil, on top of the mountain and in the depths of the valley we must be ready to give an answer or as the ESV translates it always being prepared to make a defense.

 

            The answer is not some theological gem, no, it is simply a reason of the {or for the} hope that is in you (us). If you will allow me to reminisce for a moment, when I first started down the path of Christianity I was attending a church that was always talking about witnessing. My first thought was these people are in court a lot. I mean my only association with witnesses was from Perry Mason TV series. Ok so I soon got over my ignorance and then came the in nervousness. How was I to witness to anyone? I barely knew the bible so surely God would not want me to talk about it our Him?

            Well somewhere along the way I came across this verse and I realized what witnessing (for most of us who are not called as evangelists) really is and what God expects. It is really quite simple. If you love God and He has changed your life. Taken you from HOPELESSNESS to FILLED WITH HOPE that is what you need to share. Being able to quote scripture left and right is all well in good. But people want to hear your story. What has God done for you? Using scripture in a personal manner has a far greater impact on those we share it with.

 

I like how John Calvin put it in his commentary on the verse: But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

           

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown’s Commentary says of a reasonable account. This verse does not impose an obligation to bring forward a learned proof and logical defense of revelation. But as believers deny themselves, crucify the world, and brave persecution, they must be buoyed up by some strong "hope"; men of the world, having no such hope themselves, are moved by curiosity to ask the secret of this hope; the believer must be ready to give an experimental account "how this hope arose in him, what it contains, and on what it rests"

 

Webster’s 1828 dictionary has two definitions of Hope that I find helpful:

 

1. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises; a scriptural sense.

A well founded scriptural hope is, in our religion, the source of ineffable {overwhelming} happiness.

 

2. To place confidence in; to trust in with confident expectation of good. Ps.43:5 remind us: Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God.

 

            What is it we can bear witness to? It is our hope, the resolve that God is greater than all our problems that His grace and mercy abound. It is in that alone we have indescribable joy and happiness.

 

            The final tasking is Attitude. We must approach life with a proper attitude. For some of us that is really, really hard.  Maybe you can’t relate to this but when my kids were young they would sometimes misbehave. Now I sure none of your children are like that but I remember saying more often that I can count “if you don’t change your attitude I am gonna change your altitude”.

 

            Now God does not threaten us to have the proper attitude (although I know He disciplines us). Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote our testimony must be done with meekness and fear.  This does not mean we are a push over, a door mat for all who wish to stomp on our parade. Nor does it mean we are to force feed our beliefs down others’ throats. The ESV translates it with gentleness and respect. Our attitudes can affect all aspects of our lives; none more so than our witness for Christ. Peter earlier in verse 4 of chapter 3 said this gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight.

 

            Remember the words of Paul :  Philippians 2:15 - That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; We must be that shining light in an otherwise dark world. Why is this so important? Christ tells us in:  Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  If our testimony is damaged by our attitude how is God glorified in that.

 

            In summary why is it that true brethren; love life, refrain from evil, and do good? Because God has given us hope. Not just any hope but a hope like no other. A hope that one cannot find among those of the world for it is only given through Christ Jesus. It is a hope so strong and powerful than believer’s cannot but help share the Good News of what Christ has done for them.

 

            Where is your hope today? Do you have that hope? The Hope that only God can give? Are you a child of God today? It really is a simple matter. There is no special prayer no magic words. You only have to ACCEPT you are a sinner; CONFESS your sinfulness and BELIEVE Christ died for your sins.  The bible says that is all that is needed to inherit the kingdom of God and the glorious hope of eternal life.

 

            In closing I wish to express my desire that the coming year will be full of hope for you and yours.  Christian artists Bill and Gloria Gather summed up and shared their hope in Christ when their son was born in this song:

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

 

In HIS Service

Conversion

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

    In 1980 I went forward to an alter call after listening to the pleas of a preacher telling me of the horrors of Hell. I was smart enough to understand that Hell was a place I wanted no part of. If, my going forward and saying some small prayer was all it took to avoid it I was all for that.

    Sound familiar to anyone? It should, in the intervening years I have met hundreds of if not thousands who say, “Yeah that’s how I got saved”. Really because I am here to tell you I was not saved that day. The only thing I accomplished was appeasing my conscience for the next 16 years while I ran amuck in direct defiance of God.

    I am not saying this is true for everyone. No I am just pointing out that going forward at an alter call and praying a prayer is not what converts you. It is God and His Grace working through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brings about a true conversion. My experience in 1980 was all about me, “I” made the decision because “I” did not like the sounds of hell. Hear anything missing from that process? How about God?

    So far we have spoken about the first three steps in the Order of Salvation. They are: 1) Election, we are chosen of God 2) Effectual Calling; God’s call is always effective 3) Regeneration or Rebirth, where God changes our heart from that of desiring evil to desiring Him. Today we will look at Conversion.

    In its simplest terms Conversion means turning from one thing to another. In context of the scripture above the Apostle Paul says Biblical Conversion is turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Biblical conversion demands a change. That change is brought about by a two-step process, repentance and faith. It is only after we have been given a new heart (regenerated) that we are capable of and desire to respond by acknowledging our sins, confessing them before God and trusting in Christ and Lord and Savior.

Tim Challies, whose Visual Theology we have been using as our outline says of Conversion: We willingly respond to the Gospel call, repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ for Salvation.

    As noted this part of the Ordo Salutis involves two key components; repentance and faith. While two completely separate ideas repentance and faith are inseparably linked in the process of Salvation. Both must be preached so much so in fact John Calvin stated one could not call men to Christ by separating them.

Repentance

John Murray said: The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance...It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 113).

The Westminster Confession emphasizes the importance of preaching repentance as well as faith: Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. By it a sinner, out of sight and sense, not only of danger, but also of filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XV, Sections I and II. Cited in A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 210).

Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Repentance in this manner:

There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.

(1.) The verb _metamelomai_ is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3).

(2.) Metanoeo, meaning to change one's mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun _metanoia_, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.

Evangelical repentance consists of

(1) a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness;

(2) an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ;

(3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and

(4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.

The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4).

    I like the definition by William Webster I found online: Repentance means turning from sin. It does not mean a mere acknowledgment of sin or remorse, but a turning from it with a purpose to forsake it altogether.

    In closing out this section I would like to quote from William S. Plumer D.D. (Theology for the People or Biblical Doctrine Plainly Stated, Chap XX Section III):

True Repentance is not a transient (or short-lived) act of the mind nor a temporary emotion. (as my alter call experience was) It is a glorious habit of the soul. It implies a fixed principle in the renewed mind. It is the hypocrite and self-deceiver who repent and sin, sin and repent. Genuine repentance produces a permanent change in men’s characters.

In Section IV Plumer states: Two kinds of repentance are often spoken of, legal and evangelical. In legal repentance the motives are chiefly drawn from the law and the consequences of sin (again my alter call experience). In evangelical repentance they are drawn from the gospel and the nature if sin. The latter would turn from sin, if there were no hell; the former would sin on, if there was no fear of wrath. The goodness of God leads the latter to repentance; but the former despises the riches of His goodness and forbearance (or mercy) and long-suffering. Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

    No evidence of change equals no genuine repentance. Salvation demands genuine repentance. When it is genuine it is always the work of the Holy Spirit not of man and always results in true saving faith.

    So what is “Faith”? I think Martian Luther’s excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 gives us excellent insight:

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

    If I ask you where the bible defines faith most every believer will quote Hebrews 11:1. But I believe the definition begins back Chapter 10 verse 38:

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

    Can you see the connection? The first word in Hebrews 11 is “Now” it is a conjunction, same as But, Moreover, Furthermore, etc. It requires us to connect the preceding verse(s) to what we are reading now. So what is saving faith? It is the foundation (substance) of our belief (hope) the proof (evidence) that God is real. It is so sure a foundation that those who have it can never lose (fall back) into eternal damnation (perdition).

    The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was composed in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the province of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576. The new catechism was intended as a tool for teaching young people, a guide for preaching in the provincial churches, and a form of confessional unity among the several Protestant factions in the Palatinate. It is still appropriate today for those same purposes.

Q & A 21

What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; 1it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

1 John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19

2 Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16

3 Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14

4 Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21

5 Gal. 2:20

6 Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10

7 Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10

Q & A 22

What then must a Christian believe? A. All that is promised us in the gospel, 1a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1 Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31

Probably the most often quoted New Testament verse referring to repentance is 2 Cor 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

    But the most prolific references are found in the book of Acts. I have listed a few below.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted , that your sins may be blotted out , when the times ofrefreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me

Going back to our initial text we read:

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

I would like to close with this thought. Verse 9 as we saw defines conversion but I would be remiss if I failed to point out what Paul notes in verse 8. Just as conversion demands repentance and faith to be complete. The completed act of conversion demands action on the part of those converted. Paul says you sounded out the word of the Lord that is you shared the Gospel of Christ. Not just in a few places but in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, that is, everywhere you go.

Next week we will look at part V Justification. Until then may God greatly bless you and yours.

In HIS Service

Effectual Calling

… to them who are the called according to HIS purpose. Romans 8:28b

     How many of you can tell me the first half of Romans 8:28? If I was a wagering man I’d recon most of you could. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. This is an often quoted verse in Christianity today. The problem is most folks leave off the second (key) part.

     Last week we began a series on Ordo Salutis or the Order of Salvation with the Doctrine of Election. Today we will look at the second step in the process known as Effectual Calling.

     Faith or Regeneration (made alive spiritually), which happens first in the process of salvation? Far too many evangelical Christians today would claim faith comes first. It is only then after God sees how good and gracious we are by having faith in Him, He gives us a new birth. Really have you see mankind act this way regular like? This is emphatically unbiblical. The bible teaches God through HIS GRACE regenerates us and we in turn express our joy by crying out to Him in faith.

     Tim Challises in his Visual Theology, Ordo Salutis from which the inspiration for this series comes says: Calling God summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel so they respond in saving faith.

     From Trinity Baptist Church Burlington Ontario, Canada comes the following:

The historical definition of effectual calling is given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism as follows: "Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ and renewing our wills, He persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel."

Effectual Calling, the Rev. Thomas White, LL.B. writes: What is this calling?  It is the real separation of the soul unto God; and a clothing it with such gracious abilities, whereby it may be enabled to repent of its sins, and to believe in his Son. It is our translation from the state of nature—which is a state of sin, wrath, death, and damnation—to a state of grace, which is a state of holiness, life, peace, and eternal salvation.

     The great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon’s fine illustration of this subject uses Luke 19:5 as its key verse:

when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house."—

     Spurgeon goes on to say there are eight significant facts in this one verse. They are:

1. effectual calling is a very gracious truth. You may guess this from the fact that Zaccheus was a character whom we should suppose the last to be saved. He belonged to a bad city—Jericho—a city which had been cursed, and no one would suspect that anyone would come out of Jericho to be saved.

     God’s effectual calling is agreeable to all whom He calls. There is nothing robotic or distasteful about it. Through the power of the Holy Spirit those called see this great and gracious truth and desire it.

2. it was a personal call. There were boys in the tree as well as Zaccheus but there was no mistake about the person who was called. It was, "Zaccheus, make haste and come down." There are other calls mentioned in Scripture. It is said, especially, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Now that is not the effectual call which is intended by the apostle, when he said, "Whom he called, them he also justified." That is a general call which many men, yea, all men reject, unless there come after it the personal, particular call, which makes us Christians.

     God’s calls individuals to repentance. This is not some mass media broadcast it is deeply personal to each one. Acts 2:37 is a great example of this: When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: "Brothers, what must we do?"" (HCSB) Listen you do not come under deep conviction unless your own deep dark (evil sinful) secrets are exposed to the light.

3. it is a hastening call. "Zaccheus, make haste." The sinner, when he is called by the ordinary ministry, replies, "To-morrow." He hears a telling sermon, and he said, "I will turn to God by-and-bye." The tears roll down his cheek, but they are wiped away. Some goodness appears, but like the cloud of the morning it is dissipated by the sun of temptation. He says, "I solemnly vow from this time to be a reformed man. After I have once more indulged in my darling sin, I will renounce my lusts, and decide for God." Ah! That is only a minister's call, and is good for nothing.

     When you hear the call do not delay. In fact a true effectual call will always result in an immediate response.

4. it is a humbling call. "Zaccheus, make haste and come down." Many a time hath a minister called men to repentance with a call which has made them proud, exalted them in their own esteem, and led them to say, "I can turn to God when I like; I can do so without the influence of the Holy Ghost." They have been called to go up and not to come down. God always humbles a sinner. Can I not remember when Gold told me to come down? One of the first steps I had to take was to go right down from my good works; and oh! what a fall was that! I have pulled you down from your good works, and now I will pull you down from your self-sufficiency." Well, I had another fall, and I felt sure I had gained the bottom, but Christ said "Come down!" and he made me come down till I fell on some point at which I felt I was yet salvable. "Down, sir! come down, yet." And down I came until I had to let go every bough of the tree of my hopes in despair: and then I said, "I can do nothing; I am ruined." The waters were wrapped round my head, and I was shut out from the light of day, and thought myself a stranger from the commonwealth of Israel. "Come down lower yet, sir! thou hast too much pride to be saved. Then I was brought down to see my corruption, my wickedness, my filthiness. "Come down," says God, when he means to save. Now, proud sinners, it is of no use for to stick yourselves up in the trees; Christ will have you down. Oh, thou that dwellest with the eagle on the craggy rock, thou shalt come down from thy elevation; thou shalt fall by grace, or thou shalt fall with a vengeance one day.

5. it is an affectionate call. "To-day I must abide in thy house." You can easily conceive how the faces of the multitude change! They thought Christ to be the holiest and best of men, and were ready to make him a king. But he says, "To-day I must abide in thy house." There was one poor Jew who had been inside Zaccheus's house; he had "been on the carpet," as they say in country villages when they are taken before the justice, and he recollected what sort of house it was; he remembered how he was taken in there, and his conceptions of it were something like what a fly would have of a spider's den after he had once escaped. There was another who had been distrained of nearly all his property; and the idea he had of walking in there was like walking into the den of lions. "What!" said they, "Is this holy man going into such a den as that, where we poor wretches have been robbed and ill-treated. It was bad enough for Christ to speak to him up in the tree, but the idea of going into his house!" They all murmured at his going to be "a guest with a man who was a sinner." Well, I know what some of his disciples thought: they thought it very imprudent; it might injure his character, and he might offend the people. They thought he might have gone to see this man night, like Nicodemus, and give him an audience when nobody saw him; but publicly to acknowledge such a man was the most imprudent act he could commit. But why did Christ do as he did? Because he would give Zaccheus anaffectionate call. "I will not come and stand at thy threshold, or look in at thy window, but I will come into thine house—the same house where the cries of widows have come into thine ears, and thou hast disregarded them; I will come into thy parlour, where the weeping of the orphan have never moved thy compassion; I will come there, where thou, like a ravenous lion hast devoured thy prey; I will come there, where thou hast blackened thine house, and made it infamous; I will come into the place where cries have risen to high heaven, wrung from the lips of those whom thou hast oppressed; I will come into thy house and give thee a blessing." Oh! what affection there was in that!

     Hear this; God’s effectual call is a loving call. Only a loving God would; chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Cor 1:27)

     Do you see it? It has to be an affectionate call why else would God chose a sinner such as I?

6. it was {and is} an abiding call. "To-day I must abide at thy house." A common call is like this: "To-day I shall walk in at thy house at one door, and out at the other." The common call which is given by the gospel to all men is a call which operates upon them for a time, and then it is all over; but the saving call is an abiding call. When Christ speaks, he does not say, "Make haste, Zaccheus, and come down, for I am just coming to look in;" but "I must abide in thy house; I am coming to sit down to eat and drink with thee; I am coming to have a meal with thee; to-day I must abide in thy house." "Ah!" says one, "you cannot tell how many times I have been impressed, sir, I have often had a series of solemn convictions, and I thought I really was saved, but it all died away; like a dream, when one awaketh, all hath vanished that he dreamed, so was it with me." Ah! but poor soul, do not despair. Dost thou feel the strivings of Almighty grace within thine heart bidding thee repent to-day? If thou dost, it will be an abiding call. If it is Jesus at work in thy soul, he will come and tarry in thine heart, and consecrate thee for his own forever. He says, "I will come and dwell with thee, and that forever.

7. There is one thing, however, I cannot forget, and that is that it was {and is} a necessary call. Just read it over again. "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." It was not a thing that he might do, or might not do; but it was a necessary call. The salvation of a sinner is as much a matter of necessity with God as the fulfilment of his covenant that the rain shall no more drown the world. The salvation of every blood-bought child of God is a necessary thing for three reasons; it is necessary because it is God's purpose; it is necessary because it is Christ's purchase; it is necessary because it is God's promise. It is necessary that the child of God should be saved.

8. And now, lastly, this call was {and is} an effectual one, for we see the fruits it brought forth. Open was Zaccheus's door; spread was his table; generous was his heart; washed were his hands; unburdened was his conscience; joyful was his soul. "Here, Lord," says he, "the half of my goods I give to the poor; I dare say I have robbed them of half my property—and now I restore it." "And if I have taken anything from any one by false accusation, I will restore it to him fourfold."—away goes another portion of his property. Ah! Zaccheus, you will go to be to-night a great deal poorer than when you got up this morning—but infinitely richer, too—poor, very poor, in this world's goods, compared with what thou wert when thou first didst climb that sycamore tree; but richer-infinitely richer—in heavenly treasure.

Sinner, we shall know whether God calls you by this: if he calls, it will be an effectual call—not a call which you hear and then forget but one which produces good works. If God hath called thee this morning, down will go that drunken cup, up will go thy prayers; if God hath called thee this morning, there will not be one shutter up to-day in your shop, but all, and you will have a notice stuck up, "This house is closed on the Sabbath day, and will not again on that day, be opened." …. We do not believe a man to be converted unless he doth renounce the error of his ways; unless, practically, he is brought to know that Christ himself is master of his conscience, and his law is his delight. "Zaccheus, make haste and come down, I must abide at thy house." And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. "And Zaccheus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Rev. Thomas White, LL.B writes: There is a call of the gospel that is not effectual: of this our Saviour speaketh, when he saith, "Many are called, but few chosen." (Matt. 20:16.) How many of the poor ministers of the gospel may complain of multitudes in this generation, saying, with the children that sat in the market-place "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not lamented!"(Luke 7:32.) "Neither the delightful airs of mercy, nor the doleful ditties of judgment, have moved you." But the election will certainly obtain; and the call that is "according to God's purpose," reacheth not ears only, but hearts also: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God." (John 5:25.)

     The general call and the effectual call Scripture distinguishes between what has been termed the "general" or "universal" call of the gospel and the "effectual" (or individual) call.

The general call of the gospel can be rejected and indeed is rejected by men and women because of their sinful state. This call is seen in verses such as Isaiah 45:22; Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 55:1. This call is genuine and real and is to be issued by God's servants to all mankind. However, the response to this call is illustrated in the parable of Matthew 22:1-6.

But there is in Scripture an effectual call: that is a call which not only invites and summons but which also carries with it the power to ensure the desired response. The effectual call not only invites sinners to salvation but actually brings them to it. In this call the Holy Spirit makes the general call effectual; it comes through the gospel message to the elect of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:4,5.

It is the effectual call to which the Bible refers most often when it speaks of "call", "called", and "calling". Compare Romans 8:28-30 (our main text); 1 Corinthians 1:23-27; Hebrews 9:15.

     The need for God’s effectual calling should be apparent to call. If you will allow me I will try to not beat a dead horse here as it were. We have expounded many times on just how corrupt the un-regenerated heart of man is. It is totally incapable of real faith in God. Verse Eph 2:5 should provide adequate proof tonight: When did God save us (quicken us); when we were dead in sins. Why, because of your grace? No because of His grace through Christ; together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

     Natural or un-regenerated man has no desire to even attempt a journey on Salvation’s road. All “Christians”, whether they acknowledge the truth or not must be called or summoned to repentance and salvation. We cannot and will not do it on our own.

     Next time we will look at regeneration or being made alive spiritually.

Election

Ask 100 “Christians” what Salvation means to them and the vast majority today will reply “my sins are forgiven and I believe in Christ as my savior. Ask them how this process of Salvation comes about (order of) and again the vast majority will give you a funny look, as if to say don’t you know; by faith of course. The result is a very narrow theological view of what salvation is and worse an unbiblical view of how it comes about.

I found this while surfing the web and it applies here:

      Religious people talk about "getting saved." Yet even most religious people understand no more of what the Bible teaches about salvation—the real meaning of the word "salvation"—than a certain young man did about another religious expression.

      He said to me, "I gave my heart to the Lord at the revival meeting last night."

     "Well," I said, "Just what do you mean—you gave your heart to the Lord? Just how did you do that? Did you reach in your hand, take your heart out, and actually hand it to the Lord—and was He really right there, in Person?"

     "Well, uh—uh—" he stammered, confused, "uh—well, no, I didn't do that."

     "Then just what did you do? How did you give your heart to the Lord?" He stammered some more, then guessed he didn't know.

     That's the way it is with a lot of people who say "I got saved." They don't really know what they mean by "getting saved."

     Do you know what the Bible teaches about salvation? Millions of sincere people have supposed they knew—yet have been deceived into accepting a false salvation.

The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines salvation as: Deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ

I like this definition for its use of the words brought about in the definition. This explicitly implies it is a process. One I prayerfully hope to unfold for you.

Let me give credit to Tim Challies for his article entitled, Visual Theology - The Order of Salvation, {hereafter noted as VT} from which I drew the outline for this sermon. I will further acknowledge that in an effort to write an introduction the one at the top of his visual was in fact better, so here it is:

“Ordo salutis” is Latin for “the order of salvation”, which refers to the sequence of conceptual steps involved in the salvation of the Christian. The sequence is meant to be logical instead of chronological; some steps occur sequentially while others occur instantaneously. What follows is a classically Reformed understanding of the way in which God saves his people.

The order is:

Election

Calling

Regeneration

Conversion

Justification

Adoption

Sanctification

Perseverance

Glorification

Since we could spend a year or more digging deeply into these topics I will attempt to provide an overview of each over the next several weeks starting with the election tonight.

The Doctrine of Election is nearly a curse word in some circles. Yet few Doctrines are so clearly defined in scripture.

Dr. William Crews of Spartanburg SC noted in his manuscript of this topic: "The doctrine of election perhaps encounters stronger opposition than does any other Bible doctrine . . . . I have seen people become violent under the preaching of the doctrine of election.

I was preaching a special meeting years ago when on the next to final night of the meeting a young man rose at the end of the service, after I finished preaching on God's sovereignty in election, furiously enraged. He made his way to the front of the church expressing before the congregation his disagreement and detestation of what had been preached. His appearance indicated that in his fit of rage he might become sufficiently violent to physically attack me. It was obvious that he was so mad that he was beyond the point of self-control. The man was not an infidel, agnostic, or atheist. He was not an irreligious person. He was a professing Christian" (The Bible Doctrine of Election, 4-5).

My hope is not to stir such anger but to stir the very hearts of the listener and reader to do as the Berean’s and search the scripture as to the truth of the matter.

     Election “before creation because of his sovereign good pleasure, God chooses some people to be saved”{VT}

     R.C. Sproul puts it this way: The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.

     John MacArthur says: In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He best sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence.

     The Baptist Faith and Message, p. 12 says “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners”.

First when discussing any biblical doctrine we must affirm that God is God and therefore sovereign over all things. If your belief is otherwise you cannot have a right understanding of biblical Doctrines, for all doctrines hinge upon this principle. He is ruler and in control of all. He rules justly and righteously over all things and requires no assistance from us in this process.

Ex 15:18 The Lord shall reign for ever and ever

Ps 22:28 For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations.

God is in control and it pleased him to choose some to be saved. Why some and not others or all I have no idea. I do know this, it pleased Him and therefore it was right and just.

It is not over only a select few that God’s election is seem; God makes righteous and just choices all the time. I have heard some say that His choice to allow Job to be tempted and tried by Satan was unfair, unjust, I even heard someone call it cruel. Really, that is what you take away from that book, a sense of God’s abandonment? Hate to tell you but ya missed the whole message of hope, promise, and comfort. Job’s belief on God never wavered, he got it, “but with God all things are possible” Matt 19:26.

God’s elects or chooses:

     1.  His angels 1Tim 5:21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

     2. His peculiar people, Israel Exo 6:7; Deu 7:6-8; Deu 10:14-15; Psa 33:12;

     Isa 43:20-21 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

     3. Individuals to salvation

This is obviously the sticking point for so many. Yet before we look at some verses let us consider what it would be like with man in control or with man’s assistance in this matter.

Many years ago while I was incarcerated there was a volunteer who used to come and preach once a month. He was a very “nice” man; he attended a main stream church and seemed to truly love God. Yet he would end his sermon/study each time with an invitation to accept Christ as Savior offering the incentive what have you got to lose? Well I searched and search the bible trying to find a biblical case for “what have you got to lose?

I hope you can see this. His theology was so flawed. In an attempt to “save souls” he had minimized the work of Christ on Calvary to a flip of the coin, 50/50 shot at heaven or hell. He had put the emphasis on your decision not on the sovereignty of god. Those who would deny the biblical doctrine of election would seem to so the same.

     - Ps 65:4tells us God chooses individuals

     - Mt 24:31 His angels (whom He chose) will gather His elect (choosen)

     - John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God

Our salvation is not of man but of God.

     - Romans 8:28- 30And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Here it is in a nutshell. Those who are saved are called according to God’s purpose. Notice God’s choice in election is first, then He calls them that He knew before their birth. He predestined or predetermined them to salvation (become conformed to the image of His Son) Nothing on our part not even faith has entered into the process. It is by God’s grace alone.

     - Romans 9:11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,

How was it that Jacob had favor before God over Esau? Was it because of his faith or maybe his good deeds? NO!!! it was only because God chose him.

     - Romans 9:15-16 (the whole chapter) For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Again God’s sovereignty in election is explained.

     - Rom 11:2God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

Who are the saved ones? The ones God will not cast out? The ones He foreknew His elect.

     - Romans 11:5-7In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;

Who are the ones who receive God’s Grace? Those who were chosen obtain it.

     - 1 Cor 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

Foolish and weak apart from God describes me pretty well, what about you?

     - Ephesians 1:5,11He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

     - 1 Thes 1:4His choice of you;

     - 2 Thes 2:13God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

God has chosen from the very beginning those for salvation. I cannot emphasize enough that the process does not (and as we have discussed, man’s evil sinful state many times, and understand) and cannot be initiated by any action of man.

     - Titus 1:1 for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,

     - 1 Peter 1:2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,

     - 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

God choses, not based upon anything (including our faith) we do. He has need of sinful, depraved man’s input.

Dr. Wayne Grudem in his work Systematic Theology, says Scripture Never Speaks of Our Faith As the Reason God Chose Us: In addition, when we look beyond these specific passages that speak of foreknowledge and look at verses that talk about the reason God chose us, we find that Scripture never speaks of our faith or the fact that we would come to believe in Christ as the reason God chose us. In fact, Paul seems explicitly to exclude the consideration of what people would do in life from his understanding of God's choice of Jacob rather than Esau: he says, "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, 'The elder will serve the younger.' As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated'" (Rom. 9:11-13). Nothing that Jacob or Esau would do in life influenced God's decision; it was simply in order that his purpose of election might continue.

     4.  Individuals to condemnation

Ex 4:21; Rom 9:17-18; Pharaoh

Rom 9:13; Esau

Rom 9:21-22 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

1Pet 2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

5. Election (choice) in all things

- Numbers 22:28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

- Gen 1:3-25 and 2:7 God chose what and how to create all things

- Jonah 1:17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

- Matt. 5:45, “in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Let me close by recapping what we have heard. God chooses whom He will. The power to do so rests solely with God. Man has no say in the matter the choice was made before the foundations of the world.

In stating my case above I was careful and deliberate in choosing my words. The bible is explicit and specific in this fact. There is nothing, I say again, nothing implicit or implied about it. One need infer nothing unless it is their personal interpretation (2 Peter 1:20) which the bible clearly warns against.

Some say the doctrine of unconditional election is the most despised teaching of reformed theology, some would disagree. Many believe the most rejected doctrine is irresistible grace, better termed “effectual grace”, which is also oftentimes referred to as the internal call of God. We will look at “calling next time.

One of the questions and debates that have plague man for many years is that of Free Will. Do I not have a choice in becoming a believer? Do I not decide to follow Jesus? If not am I nothing more than a robot? Man by nature wants to be in charge in control (or at least feel he is).

Last week while preaching one of the men I minister to made a remark about Free Will. Of course I raised an eyebrow, not because he was theologically incorrect but because I realized he did not have a true understanding of Biblical Free Will. So today we will explore the topic of Free Will as described and defined in the Bible.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to free will. They are: The following paragraphs (taken from Romans: An Interpretive Outline, by David N. Steele and Curtis Thomas) give a particularly clear and concise summary of the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism.

Arminianism: or human ability. Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe but does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists in his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.

Calvinism: or Human inability. Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the Gospel. The sinner is dead, blind and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not—indeed he cannot—choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ—it takes regeneration, by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation; it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.

While I adhere to the reformed, covenant or Calvinist approach to this and most doctrines I am not here to bash any other. I am a Baptist first and foremost because Jesus was baptized; if it was good enough for my Saviour it is good enough for me. That is not to say I do not admire some who think Calvinism is a curse word.

To keep things simple I have chosen to utilize: A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 Rewritten in Modern English ©1975, Carey Publications, Ltd., 75 Woodhill Road, Leeds, U.K., LS16 7BZ as found on the Founders Ministries Web Site. (ESV)

Article 9 of the BCF 1689 reads: FREE WILL

Section 1. In the natural order God has endued man's will with liberty and the power to act upon choice, so that it is neither forced from without, nor by any necessity arising from within itself, compelled to do good or evil.

The confession uses three scripture references to support its claim. We will break them down individually.

Deut 30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;

This is an interesting and somewhat confusing scripture to quote. Moses and the tribe of Israel would have surely known the story of the Garden and how God had cursed the ground and all that was in it. How because of Adam and Eve’s sinful choice all mankind was condemned to death. Is the bible contradicting itself? No never! God cannot tolerate lies: Prov 12:22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

So what is it how can we have a choice in death or life. Read carefully it says God has this day put before you. This verse is not referencing the fall of mankind but a future gift offered by God to individuals. He is saying when offered this gift you must choose, wisely choose life.

This is not new to the Jews for a few Chapters earlier in Deut 11 we find:

26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;

27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day:

28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

What is the key to the curse (death) chasing false God’s in any form. The key to the blessing (life) is Faith in the only true God. Ok so we do have a choice? Read on my friends.

Mat 17:12 but I say into you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they would. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them.

Ok, flash forward a bunch of centuries form Moses to the time of Christ. Jesus himself says in Matt 17:12 that as in times past when great prophets like Elijah were ignored so too shall the Son of Man be ignored. Not just ignored but will suffer under the hand of men. Do you see it man chooses evil over good. He will do it every time.

Christ says the same thing in John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Ok full circle back to the dilemma, if our evil nature does not allow us to choose life what choice do we have?

Jas 1:14 but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.

We have a choice in our personal deeds. You have the Free Will to choose to cave in to the temptations of life or not. Johnathan Edwards in his work The Freedom of the Will defines “will” as “that by which the mind chooses”. We as human being make choices daily. You are choosing to be here tonight (or to read this online). You choose to eat, drink and much much more.

R. C. Sproul in Chapter 63 of his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith writes: even the most ardent Calvinist would not deny that the will is free to choose whatever it desires. Even the most ardent Arminian would agree that the will is not free to choose what it does not desire.

The question then arises what is it man desires? Ps 37:4b he will give you the desires of your heart.

Section 2. In his state of innocency man had freedom and power to will and to do what was good and acceptable to God. Yet, being unstable, it was possible for him to fall from his uprightness.

Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

ECCL 7:29 Behold, this only have I found: that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Or the Amplified version Behold, this is the only [reason for it that] I have found: God made man upright, but they [men and women] have sought out many devices [for evil].

Prior to the fall man was fully capable of free will. God did not in fact create robots. Yet seemingly always man desires what he does not have. Better put he covets those things he thinks will better his life. There may or may not be any measurable benefit to his desires but that will not deter man from trying to obtain his desires. Those who have ever battled any form of addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.) understand this all too well. We would do anything for that next high knowing full well the last was a disappointment but having high (pun intended) hopes the next will fully satisfy or desires.

It is this selfish desire that man will, on his own, ALWAYS revert too. We have shown in John 3:19 above and discussed at length previously (See sermon on John 3) that man has no innate ability to do that which is upright before God. Man is sinful and that sinfulness comes from the desires of his heart.

So I wish to spend the remainder of our time looking at the word and deeds surrounding the sin of COVETOUSNESS

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (KJV) defines it as:

kuv'-et-us-nes: Has a variety of shades of meaning determined largely by the nature of the particular word used, or the context, or both. Following are some of the uses:

(1) To gain dishonestly (batsa`)

Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

The way to gain favor with man and God is to deal honestly with them. Be a man of truth. We must as the bible says put off the old man (and all its worldly desires) while putting on the new man and focusing our desires on God.

Ezekiel 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

Always beware of smooth talking men. You know the type they promise the world and cannot deliver. They are in for themselves. We see them throughout the bible (Serpent?) and even from pulpits today.

(2) The wish to have more than one possesses, inordinately, of course (pleonexia),

Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

1 Thessalonians 2:5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

What will be the legacy of your life? Will it be the possession left behind or the exemplary life you led? It is never too late to leave a legacy as an example to all. There were two unknown thieves on the Calvary hill next to Christ. Both left indelible impressions on history one of damnation the other of life.

(3) An inordinate love of money philarguros,

Luke 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

Those who look to themselves above all will deny the truth in any form.

2 Timothy 3:2; philarguria, For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Corruptible man is incapable of walking upright in the Lord

1 Timothy 6:10; the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Note money in itself is not the root of all evil. It is the love of money over the love of God. Who or what is your IDOL. What or who is it you put before Christ? When my wife and I married our Pastor made a point to counsel us never to put one another before Christ. It is a word of wisdom I never fail to pass on.

Hebrews 13:5, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Our conversation (life) should be one of gratitude. There is nothing wrong with asking for improvements (better running car, home, job etc.) but we should not let that become the focus of our desires. Our focus should always remain on God.

If we are going to call ourselves a Christian we must align our actions with those honoring God. Our will, our ability to choose our deeds and actions must be based upon His precepts His laws not our covetous desires. Otherwise we are nothing more than false witnesses to the Cross.

Next week part II Free Will in Salvation.

 

John Chapter 3 Part III
Seeing with Your Heart
John 3: 8-12

            Previously we have looked at two sections of the third chapter of John. The first dealt with The Problem is with Man, the second Flesh and Spirit and today we begin looking at part three Seeing with Your Heart.

             If you remember in we left off last time with Jesus explaining to Nicodemus the need to be reborn and Nicodemus relying on his own eyes and knowledge is totally confused.

             Just as all unbelievers who rely upon self, Nicodemus is lost to the great promise of Jesus. He refuses to open his heart to the truth and will remain forever blind. Let’s pick up in scripture at verses 8 through 12.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

     Let us unfold the scripture and see what is happening here.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Jesus has just finished telling Nicodemus not to wonder about the things he said then launches into this verse that at first glance would remind some of us older folks of the 1960’s flower power folks and their “peace brother” anthems.

What Christ really says is that just as the causes and operation of the winds can not be clearly seen by man, so too the work of the Holy Spirit in man cannot be readily seen.

Ecclesiastes 11:4-5  He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all

 1 Corinthians 2:11  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

As we can see the effects of the wind so too can we see the effects of the works of the Holy Spirit in man. Once again God is trying to point out the futility of man to try and understand His (God’s) ways. We need not understand all about God to believe in Him. Just as the workings of the wind remain a mystery so too are the workings of God through the Holy Spirit. And just as we know and believe there is wind so too must we know and believe God exists.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

             Remember the title of this sermon? Nicodemus had failed completely to get the concept of the spiritual birth as essential to entrance into the Kingdom of God. He knew only Jews as members of that kingdom, the political kingdom of Pharisaic hope which was to make the entire world Jewish (Pharisaic) under the King Messiah.

             Sinful Stupidity or our carnal nature make Nicodemus refuse to believe what Jesus is pointing out. PRIDE; keeps Nicodemus from admitting his ignorance.

Until such time as God decides to lift the scales covering our eyes we cannot in our own human pride understand the things of God.

Note also this is the last time Nicodemus is heard from. I am not sure why this is, but if I may venture out a little, I believe it could be because Nicodemus has made up his mind that Jesus is talking nonsense and he, like so many today, closes his hearing to the truth.

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

              Is Jesus questioning Nicodemus’s ignorance? Again ya gotta love Jesus; he answers a question with a question. Sounds like a parent to me.

Master here means a teacher of the laws of Israel. Jesus basically calls him out. What he says you call yourself a teacher of the law and do not understand how stuck on stupid can you be? You are supposed to be a teacher of the Jews one who can show them the path of Salvation yet you have no clue.

Ok for the scoffers, those who would say “give the guy (Nicodemus” a break” all he had was the Old Testament and that talks nothing of regeneration and such as Jesus is saying. Oh ye of little reading.

Deuteronomy 10:16 - Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

Deuteronomy 30:6 - And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Ezekiel 36:26 - A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Psalms 51:10 - Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

First let’s look at Nicodemus he should have known the meaning of these verses, he should have understood that the only way to please God was via a new/renewed/regenerated heart. It was his job, his duty to know.

So true today so many fail to take the time to search the scriptures for the true meaning of things. It is far easier to have itchy ears and harken unto the things that make simple sense than spend the time needed in God’s word to know the truth.

Regeneration is not new it has been God’s plan since before time.

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

             Plural “we” speak, who is the “we” Jesus speaks of? Some will say Jesus is referieng to the Apostles and Disciples that He has sent out.  But I must asks, is not Jesus alone with Nicodemus? Is this not a two way private or personal conversation? I had read this many times but failed to notice the significance of this passage. Jesus here lays claim to the throne of God. He says WE SPEAK, he can only be using this terminology to explain the plurality of God.

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

So setting aside what Nicodemus and the other Pharisee should have known Jesus points out to him that his kind, the ruling class of Pharisees, have seen the acts of God on earth but believe not their own eyes and knowledge.

This attitude is prevalent today one need look no further than the debate on Creation vs. Evolution:

"There are only two possibilities as to how life arose; one is spontaneous generation arising to evolution, the other is a supernatural creative act of God, there is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation that life arose from non-living matter was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others. That leaves us with only one possible conclusion that life arose as a creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God, therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution."  (Dr. George Wald, evolutionist, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University at Harvard, Nobel Prize winner in Biology.)

It is no wonder that Jesus makes the next statement to Nicodemus.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

CALVIN:  Christ concludes that it ought to be laid to the charge of Nicodemus and others, if they do not make progress in the doctrine of the Gospel; for he shows that the blame does not lie with him, that all are not properly instructed, since he comes down even to the earth, that he may raise us to heaven. It is too common a fault that men desire to be taught in an ingenious and witty style.

GILL If I have told you earthly things,.... Not that the doctrines he delivered were earthly ones; for he was not of the earth, but from heaven, and above all, and so spake not of the earth, but of heaven, John 3:31; and this doctrine of regeneration was an heavenly doctrine; and the thing itself required supernatural power, and grace from above: but either they were the more easy doctrines of the Gospel; or were delivered in a plain and easy style, and illustrated by similes taken from earthly things, as from human birth, from the water, and from the wind:

and ye believe not; i.e. those things; ye do not receive them, nor give credit to them; or "me", as the Ethiopic Version adds, who relate them on the best evidence, having fully known, and clearly seen them:

how shall ye believe; give credit to me, or receive my testimony:

if I tell you of heavenly things? of the more sublime doctrines of the Gospel, such as the descent of the Messiah from heaven; the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him; his being the only begotten Son of God; his crucifixion and death, signified by the lifting up of the serpent on a pole in the wilderness; and the wonderful love of God to the Gentile world in giving Christ to, and for them; and the salvation, and eternal happiness of all that believe in him, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; and these delivered in language suitable to them, without figures, or natural similes, which help the understanding, and convey ideas of things more easily to it.

Defender’s Study Bible: If men will not believe the “earthly things” of the Bible (Creation, Flood, dispersion, etc.), which human records and research can verify, then why should they believe the “heavenly things” it speaks about (salvation, heaven, eternal life, etc.) which must be accepted strictly on faith. Many modern evangelicals have become involved in this inconsistency, rejecting the earthly things while still credulously accepting the heavenly things.

Here are some other famous “scientists” who have taken a stance on Evolution.

            "Evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible."  (Professor D.M.S. Watson, leading biologist and science writer of his day.)

            "For over 20 years I thought I was working on evolution....But there was not one thing I knew about it... So for the last few weeks I've tried putting a simple question to various people, the question is, "Can you tell me any one thing that is true?" I tried that question on the Geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, A very prestigious body of Evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, "Yes, I do know one thing, it ought not to be taught in High School"....over the past few years....you have experienced a shift from Evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith...Evolution not only conveys no knowledge, but seems somehow to convey anti-knowledge."  (Dr. Collin Patterson evolutionist, address at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, Nov. 1981)

             "My attempts to demonstrate evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed.....It is not even possible to make a caricature of an evolution out of paleobiological facts...The idea of an evolution rests on pure belief."

(Dr. Nils Heribert-Nilsson, noted Swedish botanist and geneticist, of Lund University)

Evolution is not a fact. Evolution doesn’t even qualify as a theory or as a hypothesis. It in a metaphysical research program, and it is not really testable science”Dr. Karl Popper—leading philosopher of science

            I suppose the reason why we leapt at the Origin of Species was that the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.”Sir Julian Huxley—Head of UNESCO—One of the world’s leading evolutions was asked in a televisions interview why did the scientific community jump at Darwin’s ideas?

            Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, as secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint—and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it—the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today” Ruse, M. (2000). National Post. http://www.omniology.com/HowEvolutionBecameReligion

            Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable” Sir Arthur Keith. (1959). Note: he wrote the forward to the 100th anniversary edition of Darwin’s book, Origin of Species

This brings me to my closing point. So many like Dr. Wald claim to be atheist, they deny the existence of God. They refuse to open their hearts to the truth of the bible, the unction of the Holy Spirit and instead deny that which they cannot understand. In fact going to great lengths to prop up the lie that evolution is a fact. Yet we must laugh at their stupidity, yes I said it, stupidity, for in claiming to deny God (or as Nicodemus change God to their own liking) they make themselves greater than God and become their own God. There are no atheist in the modern sense (one denies the existence of any god) for all have a god; either the God of the bible or one of their own making.

Next time we will explore God’s Answer for Man’s Problems. Until then may the God of all mercy and grace watch over and protect you.

Let us pray.