Friday, April 28, 2006

Humility Day One

Over the next few days I am planning to post on the subject of humility. My eventual focus will be man's humiliation in light of the Gospel. One of the reasons that I am doing this series of post is because pride is an issue that I deal with daily, and what better cure for pride than a study on humility in light of the Gospel. Today I would simply like to start by giving a working definition of humility.

Humility is practical, and it is useful. At times humility even attracts attention from the world. There is an even bigger reason to promote humility; humility gets God’s attention.

Isaiah 66:2
But this is the one to whom I will look to; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Not only does God “look to” the humble, but He goes so far as to help the humble.

James 4:6
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Jonathan Edwards, with reference to this subject, said “The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world.” But why is this so? Why does God look to, and give grace to the humble? For an answer to that I think it would be profitable to define humility.

A good starting point on the definition of humility can be found in C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness. In this book Mahaney uses this as his working definition of humility: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” To paraphrase Mahaney, humility is seeing things as they truly are. It is a self-evaluation judged by the highest of standards, God himself.

Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look at himself.”

In a real sense, our level of humility is proportional to our knowledge of God.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Destructive Tongue

In verse 6 James gives us an explicate description of what the tongue, which is set among our members, looks like when it is ungoverned by the by God’s grace. James says that “the tongue is a fire.” As we have already seen our speech, no matter how insignificant it may seem, can have a disastrous outcome. James goes on to say that the tongue is “the very world of iniquity.” Within this context “world” is not referring to the entire earth, but rather the realm of iniquity. It is a system of iniquity, lawlessness, evil, and all kinds of sin. This word, iniquity, literally means not-righteous. It is a disregard for what is right. To have iniquity is to have sin; it is to be a lawbreaker. This iniquity is not something to take lightly because God does not take it lightly. In Exodus 34:6-7 God described himself to Moses and here is what he said:

Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB95):
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

In His own self-description God revealed to Moses that He would not “leave the guilty unpunished.” Here we see that iniquity is so reviling to God and powerfully destructive, that the results of iniquity will be felt for generations to come. Here is something scary to think about; the decision that you are making right now will have an affect on your children (maybe even your grandchildren). It takes years for a forest to grow back after a wildfire, and the iniquity that you commit with your tongue can be just as devastating.

Thankfully in this same self-description of God we see that He “forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.” But this is no simple task since God leaves no guilt unpunished. He had to punish our sins. Isaiah picks up on this very theme in Isaiah 53:4-7.

Isaiah 53:3-7 (NASB95):
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

Isn’t it interesting that while he was taking on the burden of our sins, which we commit with our tongue more often than not, he did not open His mouth? If we would use our tongues, as Paul put it in Romans 10:9-10, to confess Jesus as Lord then through this substitutionary work of Christ we will be saved.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Destructive Tongue

James 3:5b


In the previous verses James highlighted the power that the tongue can have over your life. In verse 2 we see that the proper use of the tongue is essential for spiritual maturity. In verses 3 and 4 James gives two illustration of the power of the tongue compared to the size of the tongue. In verse 5a James reminds his readers that men are prone to use the power of the tongue improperly, “boasting of great things.”
Did you know that the average person uses approximately 25,000 words every day? This is why controlling the tongue is so important. The question that we, as disciples of Jesus, need to be asking ourselves is does our speech fulfill God’s intended purpose for our lives? Going back to verse 5a we could ask ourselves the question how much of our speech reflects pride, and how much of our speech reflects a gospel-motivated humility? In Ephesians 4:29 the apostle Paul makes it clear that our speech either builds up or it corrupts. There is no middle ground. C.J. Mahaney defines corrupting talk as “any and all communication that deters growth in godliness; any speech that hinders the cultivation of godly relationships; [and] any words that have a deadening or dulling effect on the soul of another.” How many of your 25,000 words per day are corruptive?
This is exactly what James is talking about in James 3:5b-12. Here in these verses James’ focus is on the malicious and destructive nature of the tongue. James continues to use illustrations that highlight the small size of the tongue and the great power that it yields, however now the stress is on the often disastrous results produced by the tongue. Since the tongue has the ability to talk about anything, it has the ability to corrupt anything.
It is important, when studying this passage, to understand that James is describing the tongue as it is by nature, not what it can become through God’s grace. Apart from the grace of God our speech burns with the fire of hell, rebelling against God, and is double-minded in what it says. I don’t think that James would have agreed with “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

The Burning Tongue.

"A small fire can ignite an entire forest."

Again James illustrates how something small can have a great impact. Here it is a small fire igniting a large forest. This illustration should be particularly pertinent to us here in Hillsborough county. It has not rained here in months days. This kind of weather is wonderful for recreation; however the danger of wildfires increases every day that there is no rain. In weather that is this dry it literally takes just one spark to set an entire forest ablaze. In the United States an average of 106,400 wildfires break out each year. 4,083,347 acres are consumed. Most of these fires are started unintentionally by people trying to enjoy the outdoors. 1995 there were 9,974 wildfires caused by lightning and 120,045 wildfires caused by human error. Most of these were started by careless mistakes. I know that I sound like “Smokey the Bear,” but I want to illustrate how an incidental small spark can have a destructive outcome. So to your speech may seem like a small thing, but it can have an amazingly destructive outcome.
Another thing that is interesting about James’ illustration of the forest fire is how easily the fire spreads. Fire is truly an amazing thing. Fire has the ability to continually reproduce itself as long as it has fuel to burn. Unfortunately for firefighters that water that is needed to extinguish the fire does not have this ability. When the planes drop water on top of a wildfire it never becomes a flood even though it is thousands of gallons of water. But, the wildfire that the firefighters are battling was ignited by a small spark. The fire only needs to be fed by oxygen and fuel to continue burning.

In Proverbs we see similar language with reference to our speech in 26:20-21.

Proverbs 26:20-21 (NASB95):
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer,
contention quiets down.
Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
is a contentious man to kindle strife.

Here we see that our whispers (or gossip) fuel the evil fire that can come from our speech. The subject matter of our speech is like the dry underbrush that continues to fuel the wildfire. If we take away the fuel we will take away the fire.

*Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Blogger would not upload my posts.*

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Definitely the last post on the definite atonement

This will be the final post I plan on doing in this current series on definite atonement. I would like to conclude my thoughts on this subject with a discussion of the practical imports of the doctrine of definite atonement. These are just a few of the things that have resonated in my mind as I have thought over this issue.

“It Is Finished”

The most significant implication of the doctrine of definite atonement is the reality of the completed work of Christ. To view Christ’s death as an actual atonement, rather than making atonement available, is to make Christ’s work on the cross completed. Or to use the word’s of the Messiah Himself:

John 19:30
“It Is Finished”

The work of Christ is in the state of completion. With respect to man’s salvation there is nothing left to do that has not been done by the Godhead. The Father has set apart for Himself a people through election (John 6:37-38); the Son has made an atonement for the sins of these people through His earthly ministry (2 Corinthians 5:21); and the Spirit has called (or will call) those people through the second birth (John 3:1-8). The work of Christ is complete and it is not waiting on the approval or cooperation of man to be so.

“Not Me, But God”

The second area that the doctrine of definite atonement resonates within me is evangelism. Ironically it is because of the inferred implications of this doctrine with respect to evangelism that so many reject this doctrine. I would submit that a proper view of definite atonement will make the work of evangelism easier and more effective. Within this theological perspective Christ has completed the work and desires to use you to implement it (He is using you as a “conduit to do it.”). Do you realize how liberating this is for someone sharing their faith with an unbeliever? This means that no matter how much you fumble and stumble over your words God will use the faithful proclamation of His word to change peoples lives (Romans 10:14-17).

The accusation has been made that the doctrine of definite atonement will discourage evangelism. Unfortunately, this accusation has been made because there are people who have ignored their biblical responsibility of evangelism because of a supposed knowledge of this doctrine. This is sin. If we are to understand the doctrine of definite atonement properly, and as it has been historically understood, then we must say that Christ’s work is sufficient to save all, but effective to save only the elect. From a human perspective we cannot know who the elect are. To paraphrase C.H. Spurgeon, if the elect had yellow stripes down their backs I would give up preaching and go about lifting up the back of peoples shirts looking for the elect. The bible teaches that from a human perspective whosoever will believe will be saved (I say from a human perspective because we see elsewhere in Scripture that God has chosen a group of people throughout history to be designated as His people.). Our responsibility is to 1) present the Gospel to everyone we can knowing that whosoever will believe will be saved; 2) be encouraged that no matter who we are talking to Christ’s death is sufficient to save them; 3) and do not be discouraged when we are rejected because ultimately it is the power of God not the eloquence of human speech that saves people (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:1ff).

“No Fear of Spiritual Terrorist”

In Jude’s short epistle we find some very interesting material. Jude desired to write a soteriological treatise, however through divinely inspired pragmatism Jude instead appealed to his readers to contend for the faith (vs. 3). In verse 4 we see exactly what the danger was.

Jude 4
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this
condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality
and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(I will let you deal with the questions of reprobation brought up in this passage)

The danger was, as John MacArthur has put it, spiritual terrorists. They had crept in and now posed a threat to the church. Conventional logic would be to avoid these terrorists at all costs, but this was not Jude’s advice.

Jude 23

…save others by snatching them out of the fire; to
others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by their flesh.

Jude exhorted his readers to engage the spiritual terrorists! Look at the reason for Jude’s exhortation:

Jude 24-25

Now to him who is able to keep you from
stumbling and to present you
blameless before the presence of his glory with
great joy; to the only God,
our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, e glory,
majesty, dominion, and
authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Christ is the one who is able! It is “through Jesus our Lord” that we can engage in spiritual battles and fear not because “It Is Finished.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Two Thoughts on Definite Atonement

At the onset of this post I would like to admit that the two arguments that I plan to put forward in this post are more philosophical than exegetical. However, I would strongly contend that these arguments for definite atonement are rooted in Scripture. I have much that I would like to say concerning these two arguments, but brevity and introductory material have seemed to be more profitable (at least from the feedback that I am getting).

These two arguments/reasons/observations/thoughts are of a particular interest to me because they are two thoughts that I had to wrestle with as I worked through this topic.

First, the extent of the atonement had to be defined to the elect because the Godhead cannot be divided. The force of this argument is based on the presupposition that it is the Father who elects men unto salvation. This is a presupposition that I heartily accept, and without beginning a new series of posts here are a few reasons why:

Romans 8:29a
For those whom he foreknew he also

Romans 9:16
So then it depends not on
human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Ephesians 1:4
…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…

These are just to name a few.

The basic force behind this argument is that if the Father works to elect, and it is the Father who sent His son to atone for sins through the death of the son on the cross, then the Father has chosen for whom the death of Christ will atone for (At this point I will be brief with the hope of allowing you to think through this argument.). Within this doctrine we see the wonderful unity within the Godhead. It is the Father who has chosen us, the Son who has atoned for us, and the Spirit who calls us through the second-birth.

Second, the intent of the cross must be synonymous with the extent of the cross. In other words what God accomplished what He intended to accomplish. If we were to say that God intended (it is the intention of God that is at the very heart of this argument) for all to be saved through the death of Christ then, necessarily, we must also say that God was unable to accomplish what He had intended to accomplish. This must be true because it is clear both from Scripture and our experience that not all men are saved. Think about the implications of God not being able to accomplish what he intended to accomplish. If God intended to save all through the crucifixion and was unable to do so what assurance can anyone have that God will accomplish any other of His intentions. This argument is rooted in the character of God. The question that you have to ask, as you think through this argument, is how sovereign is God?

I think that one final post is in order. I would like to talk about the practicality of this doctrine, and the impact that it can have in your walk with the Lord.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another short expositional look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement

In case you were not all that pleased with the way that I handled the “all” and “world” passages in my previous post I would like to take another short expositional look at a passage. I would like to reiterate that my goal is not to extensively exegete this passage, but rather to put the passage before you and let you work through it yourselves.

Romans 8:32 (ESV)
He did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all…

The reason that I have chosen this passage is because I have recently heard is used to oppose definite atonement. On the surface it may seem to be a good text to debunk all that I have been writing on over the past few days. However, as we take a closer look at this passage it seems to be doing quite the opposite.
The first question that pertains to our discussion is, who are they that God did not spare his son for? This is an easy question to answer because it is right here in the text, “for us all…” The next question is, who is “us all?” In order to find the answer to this question we have to go all the way back to verse 28.

Romans 8:28a (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…

As we look at the first part of verse 28 we might say that this still fits a “universal atonement” (remember all views of the atonement limit it in some way) view. But look at the rest of the verse,

Romans 8:28b (ESV)
…for those who are called according to His purpose.

Paul goes to great lengths to specify who God is working for, and he says very clearly that God is working for those who are called according to His purpose. This means that the referent of verse 32 is the called. That would mean that “He did not spare His own Son but gave him up for” all of us the elect (notice the end of this sentence are my words not Scripture).

I hope to conclude some of my thoughts on this subject tomorrow. With two final thoughts.

1) The GodHead cannot be divided.
2) The intent of the cross is the extent of the cross.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A short expositional look and the doctrine of limited atonement

I would like to continue to look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement, and lest you accuse me of accepting a system rather than Scripture let me lead a short expositional look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement from John chapter 10. At the outset I want to admit that my goal is not to “wax eloquent” on this passage. My intent is simply to put the Scripture before you, and let it speak for itself.

John 10:11 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

This is an obvious reference to the crucifixion. Here Christ foreshadows the sacrifice that would be paid on the cross. Notice who Christ says the shepherd will lay down his for, it is the sheep. So the obvious question that pertains to our subject is who are the sheep?

John 10:27 (ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Here Christ answers are questions for us. The sheep are the ones who hear the voice of the shepherd, the shepherd knows the sheep, and the sheep follow the shepherd. These are the ones that the shepherd lays down his life for.

The obvious question that may be left in your mind is “what about the ‘all’ and ‘world’ passages in Scripture that seem to teach that Christ died for the sins of the world. This is a good question, because it comes from a desire to understand God’s word. I think that we can gain some insight into these passages with several thoughts. First is the use of hyperbolic language in Scripture. We should not have a hard time understanding hyperbole because we use it all the time (get it). Second, I think that we can be true to God’s word and interpret “world” and “all” to mean that the gospel is available to all people groups regardless of race. In other words, the gospel is available to the entire world not just the Jews. Again, lest you think that I am bowing to a system rather than Scripture look at John 10.

John 10:16 (ESV)
I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

I know that this has not been the most in-depth look at this doctrine, but that was never my goal. My prayer is that no matter what view you take on this doctrine you do so because your conviction of Scripture forces you to do so.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Taboo topic: Limited Atonement

The topic of limited atonement is one that has enticed many Christians into prolonged debate. In many cases it is a topic that has dragged many a Church through difficult times. The easiest thing to do would be to let the doctrine go; just don’t talk about it! The problem is that one way or the other the Bible addresses the issue, and that makes it our duty to understand it. This means that we are faced with the difficult task of tackling the doctrine of limited atonement. In doing this I know that I am opening up a can of worms, and so I would like to be transparent about a few things from the outset.

1. We all need to address this issue with humility seeking to honor our Savior in what we say and believe.
2. We need to seek to build up the church by understanding what the Bible teaches about the extent of the atonement.
3. We need to look beyond the buzz words and seek to understand if these doctrines match up with scripture.
4. I accept the doctrine historically known as limited atonement, but think that the term limited atonement has caused confusion as to the meaning of the doctrine (I would prefer definite atonement or even specific atonement.).
5. This is only a cursory look at the doctrine. Due to the nature of blogging, and my time constraints it is impossible to cover this issue as extensively as is possible.

Let’s Begin…

Upon some honest assessment we would have to agree that all views of the atonement are limited in some way. The Calvinistic (or traditional reformed) view of the atonement limits the atonement in scope. That is to say, Christ died for the elect guaranteeing their salvation. An Arminian (Or even in part those “Four point Calvinist”) view of the atonement limits the atonement in efficacy. That is to say, Christ died for everybody, but since everybody is not saved His death does not guarantee salvation for anybody. In the Calvinistic view Christ’s death saves the elect. In the Arminian view Christ’s death does not actually save anyone; rather Christ’s death makes it possible for God to save all those who freely believe.

Both of these views of the atonement are limited, or to put it a different way, defined to a specific group. There really is no way to accept an unlimited view of the atonement unless you are willing to accept universal salvation. If there are human beings who are not atoned for by the blood of Christ then the atonement is limited. At this point you may be “saying well I am still not willing to go all the way and accept limited atonement; all that I am willing to say is that Christ death is sufficient for all and effective only for the elect.” I am sorry to tell you this, but that is exactly what limited (or as I prefer definite) atonement is. Look back at how this view defines the atonement. Christ died for the elect, and guaranteed their salvation! Christ death was effective in the lives of the elect because God has called them. This doctrine does not teach that Christ death is not sufficient. As I covered in the last post, Christ is the infinitely good substitute that atones for our sin against an infinitely good God.

Romans 5:10
For if while we were enemies we wre reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

I think that is enough for today. I hope to continue this conversation in the days to come. Your input is welcome as I formulate my thoughts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why Infinite punishment for finite sin?

Yesterday I presented two statements about Hell that I have been wrestling with over the past couple of day.

“Is Hell punishment that lasts forever because the guilt lasts forever? Or, Is Hell infinite punishment because God is a being of infinite worth, to whom we owe infinite obligation, and sin against Him requires infinite punishment?”

Let me look at each one of these separately.

Punishment lasts forever because guilt lasts forever.

This is a view that is proposed, most efficiently, by Shedd. Shedd illustrates his point by saying, “when a crime is condemned it is absurd to ask, how long is it condemned?” The thrust behind Shedd’s view is that once you have broken the law you are a criminal, and there is nothing that will ever change that. This seems logical enough, and seems to gain traction when viewed in light of James 2:10-11:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

Here we see that no matter how serious the law is that you break you are still a law breaker. To quote Shedd, “What, therefore, guilt legitimates this instant, it legitimates every instant, and forever.”

As appealing as this view seems it does have some problems with it. The greatest problem with this view is that in this view punishment has no capacity to expiate sin. If punishment cannot expiate sin one has to wonder how God is able to remit the sins of man on the basis of His outpouring of punishment on His Son at the cross.

Matthew 27:46
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

How could Christ’s one time sacrifice atone for our eternal guilt?

2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The implication of the view that guilt is inherently eternal would appear to be that even the death of the guiltless Messiah is not sufficient to take our guilt away from us. As appealing as this view seemed to me on the surface, the implications of this view do not adequately explain what Scripture teaches.

Hell is infinite punishment because God is a being of infinite worth, to whom we owe infinite obligation, and sin against Him requires infinite punishment.

This second view is most notable held by Anslem, and Edwards. The thrust of this view is that the true cause of sin is not so much the nature of the sin, but rather the nature of the one sinned against. In this case the one sinned against the infinite God. This explains how we, being punished according to what we have done, can be infinitely punished for a finite sin.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death…

Because we are punished according to what we have done we cannot be punished with infinite intensity; so it must be the case the Hell is infinite in duration. It seems reasonable to say that because God is infinitely holy no finite punishment could ever compensate for the evil of sinning against Him. I am more comfortable with this view for several reasons.

First, it explains why the finite sins of a human lifetime deserve an eternity of suffering. Second, the power of the atonement rests in the infinite nature of Christ. Edwards put it this way, “By reason of the infinite dignity of his person, his sufferings were looked upon as of infinite value, and equivalent to eternal sufferings of a finite creature.” (Works, vol. I, 640) Christ, an infinitely good being, removed our sin, which is infinitely evil, through His substitutionary work.

2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

I think that the words of John Piper best concluded these scattered thoughts, “The infinite horrors of hell are intended by God to be a vivid demonstration of the infinite value of the glory of God.” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, 22).

Romans 9:20-24
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Infinite Punishment

posted by paul

Hell is not a very popular topic today, but it is a topic that has to be addressed. I know that in my own experience I have done little to understand God’s eternal wrath, or Hell. I know that in some ways God will withdraw His presence from those in Hell, but I also know that God will be present there through his outpouring of divine punishment. I know that apart from Christ we are all destined for Hell and that many will reject Christ and eternally be punished. Besides these rudimentary facts (along with a few others) I have not devoted much thought to Hell.

Over the last week, or so, I have spent so time looking at this often discarded subject. At this point I must confess that I do not have a lot to write about, but I have found myself faced with this question. Is Hell punishment that lasts forever because the guilt lasts forever? Or, Is Hell infinite punishment because God is a being of infinite worth, to whom we owe infinite obligation, and sin against Him requires infinite punishment?

Is there even a difference between the two? I think that I have an answer to this question, and maybe I will give it to you tomorrow. For now think about it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

You Reap What You Sow

posted by Paul

Galatians 6:7-10

I. The principle: a man reaps what he sows.

a. Do not be fooled. Here is the principle behind Paul’s encouragement to share in the good and in the Bad with one another. Do not fool yourself by sowing little and expecting much. This is a principle that has always been true. We can go all the way back to Deuteronomy 28 to see this principle. Dt 28 lays out for us a list of blessings and curses which are dependent upon our actions. But this list should not be seen as God zapping everyone who makes a mistake. The list should show us that there are consequences to what we do. If we disobey God’s Word then we are doing things in a way that God would not do it. And frankly that can only lead to bad consequences. There is a direct correlation between sowing and reaping that has been established by God. We cannot just ignore the cause-and-effect relationships of this world. Studentds, do you realize that what you are sowing in your lives now as students you will reap your entire lives as adults? Do not think that you will grow up and then take things seriously. If you do not start now, you may never start. Guys if you have a problem with lust now you better nip it in the bud because it will not go away when you get older. And do not think that you can be a Christian and you can sin without any consequences. As I see it there are two problems with that. First, even as believers there are bad consequences for sin. There may not be eternal punishment for them, but there will be consequences for them. Second, remember what Jude says in verse four of his epistle. Things being what they are, the consequences will be what they will be.

b. God is not mocked. Why are there bad consequences for bad actions? Because God is the perfect and just judge of all the World. As we will see in the following verses one cannot expect to sow to the flesh and then reap eternal life, and so mock the justice of God, for God is not mocked. This phrase here literally means to turn your nose up at God. Those who claim to be Christians with their mouth, but deny him with their life cannot expect to sneak past God in the final judgment of the World. True conversion to Christ is not a mere human act of giving lip-service to Christ. Genuine conversion is a divine act by which the Spirit of Christ is made to dwell in our hearts giving us the ability to struggle with the flesh. There are attitudes that cannot coexist with true saving faith in Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus said that “many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord... but I will say depart from me. I never knew you (Matt 7:22-23).” In this passage Christ is not saying that they needed to be saved by what they did, instead he is saying that what they did (or did not do) proved that they did not believe. Some will look at this passage as a salvation by works passage; however that just does not “work.” Look at what their basis for Christ acceptance was: “did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” It never occurred to these men that their only basis for merit before the perfect and just judge of the world was Christ Jesus.

II. The application of the principle.

a. If you sow unto the flesh you will reap corruption. Having stated the general principle Paul now divides it into parts. Here we see the application of: “whatever a man sows he will also reap.” If you sow unto the flesh you will reap corruption. What is sowing unto the flesh? I think that sowing unto the flesh carries with it the idea of looking forward to the wants of this present life, without any regard to a future life. It is to be so entirely devoted to the flesh, as to direct all our thoughts to its interests or convenience. And when you sow unto the convenience of your own flesh you will reap corruption. Here Paul is alluding back to the end of chapter 5 and the works of the flesh. When we sow unto the flesh, it is clear that we will reap corruption outside of the kingdom of God.

b. If you sow unto the Spirit you will reap life. From two different fields one reaps a harvest that corresponds to the nature of the fields themselves: either corruption from the flesh, or eternal life from the Spirit. If you sow to the Spirit you will reap eternal life. To sow to the Spirit is have one’s views directed more to heaven than to earth, and to have one’s life regulated by the desire to reach the kingdom of God. From these spiritual seeds come incorruptible fruit. Here is a question that John Piper asks: “Do you get up in the morning and feel a need for the power of the Spirit in your life and so you seek his filling in the word (Bible) and prayer? Or when you get up do you feel like there is no time o seek his fullness and besides, this is a pretty normal day and I don’t need much help. A prayer on the stairs will do!” Every day I struggle to be the first one. Where are you? Do not forget, if you sow to the Spirit you will reap eternal life. Romans 6:20-23.

III. Do not grow weary in doing good.

a. We will reap in due time. Remember we are not to be fooled, God is not mocked and He will prevail. In due time we will reap the fruit of true labor. There are numerous biblical examples that we can look at and see how in due time they reaped the reward of Godly service. Think of Abraham. Look at the life of David. Even we do not see the fruit of our labors in this lifetime, as Paul said in the previous verse, we will have eternity to see the fruit. Missionary.

b. We will reap if we do not grow weary. We will reap in due time, and we will reap if we do not grow weary in reaping. Probably the worst enemy of enthusiasm is time. Human beings have a remarkable and sad capacity for getting tired of wonderful things. Vacation. Toys. Christians get tired of doing good. At first the excitement of teaching a Sunday school class was strong, but now you have grown weary of well-doing. The inner power and joy that comes from this well-doing slips away and it becomes a chore. You have lost heart. It is tiring to, and expensive to make an investment into the kingdom of God, but oh what a pay off.

IV. Work hard as doing good.

a. Now that you have opportunity. All that being said, now that we have the opportunity let us work hard at well-doing. When you get your paycheck (or just some money) look to see how to turn that money into the best advantage for God’s kingdom. Invest your time into where the Spirit aims to produce fruit for the glory of God. Just as there is a season for farming we have a season for well-doing. It is our whole life. God has set apart the whole of the present life for plowing and sowing. He has left us here to be salt and light. He has left us here so that we might bring Him glory in this earth. No that we have the time, in other words while we are alive, let us sow to the Spirit working hard to do good to all men.

b. To all, especially members of the divine household. We must work to do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the same house as we are. To those who are our brothers and sisters through Christ Jesus. There are duties which we owe to all men, but he tie of a more sacred relationship established by God himself, binds us to believers. What Paul is saying is that if you have limited resources then they should first go to the believers. If we as a church give all our money to the homeless people who come to the door how would we be able to do the things we need to do as a church?

originally posted on June 9th, 2005

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Word from Calvin on James 3:6

"The fire sent by Satan is most easily caught by the tongue."


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

As Good As It Gets

2006 National Champions

We Are The Boys From Old Florida

We are the boys from old Florida
F - L - O - R - I - D - A
Where the girls are the fairest,
the boys are the squarest
of any old state down our way. (hey)

We are all strong for old Florida,
down where the old Gators play.
In all kinds of weather,
we'll all stick together. for
F - L - O - R - I - D - A

Monday, April 03, 2006

Scattered thoughts on James 3:2-5a

The Power of the Tongue
James 3:2-5a

-In verse 2 James continues to write about the importance of controlling the tongue.
-Here we see just how important it is for us to guard our speech.
Matthew 12:33-37:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the
tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I. The proper use of the power of the tongue (vs. 2).

a. We all stumble in many ways.

-By saying this James’ exhorts us to meekness. It is so much easier to forgive other’s sin when we remember our own sin.
-Both in various ways, and very often.
-We are also less likely to put ourselves in a place of temptation when we understand our propensity towards sin. If we understand our problem with lust then we will not put ourselves in a situation where we will be alone with a girl. Or, if we understand our problem with using careless word we will not fill our minds with music, movies, or TV that is full of careless words.
-There is nothing that will help inhibit pride like a biblical anthropology.
-When James says that we all stumble he includes even himself; this problem of spiritual failure is common to all without exception.
-2:10. We are all guilty of the entire law.
-We are all sinners and to think differently is to deceive ourselves (I Jn 1:8; 10).
-Man’s problem is not a lack of self-esteem, but rather a view too high of himself.

b. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man… Able to bridle to the whole body as well.

-James is either speaking hyperbole when he says the perfect man, or he is speaking of the same result that he spoke of in 1:4.
-uses of teleios in James: 1:4a; 1:4b; 1:17; 1:25; 2:8; 2:22; 5:11. It is completeness and maturity, not the absence of sin.
-This is the goal of all Christians. We should all be working toward this end.
-“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” –Abraham Lincoln
-We must overcome the tendency of the mouth to stay closed when it would be more profitable for it to be closed.
-We must follow the example that Christ set for us when he controlled his tongue at the most crucial of moments: 1 Peter 2:21-23.
-If we can just control the tongue, which is prone to sin, then everything else will follow. If the Holy Spirit has control of the most volatile part of our being, how much more susceptible will the rest of our lives be to His control?
-This ability to restrain the tongue, and consequently the body, comes through the Spirit (who works through the word of God).
-Instead of sinning with our tongues we must, with James, admit our sins. It is when we can do this that we will find forgiveness through Christ (I John 1:9).

II. Illustrations of power of the tongue (vs. 3&4).

a. Horse.

-A horse can be controlled through the use of the bit. This comparatively small instrument, when placed in the mouth, enables the master to control its movements.
-Controlling the horse’s mouth controls the head which in turn controls the body.
-The bit lies on top of the horse’s tongue.
-Even the most gentle of horses, that have been rode for many years, are virtually uncontrollable without bits in their mouths

b. Ship.

-The largest ships in James’ day would have paled in comparison with the mega-ships that we have today. The ship that Paul sailed on when he was transported to Rome held 276 people on it.
-The point is not the size of the ship; the point is the size of the ship in comparison with the rudder.
- “Loose lips sink ships.”

IV. The danger of the power of the tongue (vs. 5a).

a. The tongue is a small part of the body… Yet it boasts of great things.

-Like the illustrations of the horse and the ship the tongue is small in comparison to the body, but it has great control over it.
-Like the WWII slogan looses lips can sink lives.
-Proverbs 18:6-7; 26:19
-Man’s natural tendency is to boast and to have too high a view of themselves. This is why James began these verses with an exhortation to humility.
-People will always talk about what is important to them. How many times do you use the word “I” in a conversation?

c. What our tongue should be saying: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

-In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we get a great picture of what we should be talking about.
-Two of the most important resources in an army during NT times would have been the cavalry, and the navy. A cavalry with not bits and a navy with no rudders would have been useless.
-We must not be like a horse with no bit, or a ship with no rudder. We must let God’s word be the bit on our tongue and the rudder that guides our lives. When we are doing this our lives will be useful to God, and we will be mature and able to control our bodies.