Monday, April 28, 2014

Dispatches from the Front:The Power of His Rising

I am working through the forthcoming book by Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front.  I thought I would share some clips from the wonderful video series by the same name.  These are amazing resources and are a blessing to all who see them.  I have a feeling the book is going to be the same.

Here is a clip.  The DVDs are available for purchase here individually and as a set.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Triune God

The Triune GodThe Triune God by Kohl Ronald L
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Triune God from P&R Publishing is a volume of essays based on talks given at conferences for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  It does not set out to give an exhaustive treatise on the Doctrine of the Trinity, or on Theology Proper, Christology or Pneumatology for that matter.  Rather, these are pastoral theological essays designed to encourage a greater understanding of our Triune God and elicit a greater faith and love for this One who is eternally 3-in-1.  “This is not a book that attempts to define or explain the Trinity, but it is a book that enriches the Christian’s love for our triune God.”

The list of contributors is pretty impressive.  Bryan Chappell, Kevin DeYoung, D.A. Carson, Joel Beeke, Michael Horton, Richard Phillips, Iain Duguid, Phillip Graham Ryken, Hywel Jones, and R.C. Sproul.  

Bryan Chappel opens the volume well with an essay that could go on forever and in a sense will go on forever in eternity.  His proclamation of the greatness of God was stirring time and again.
“We are not to waiver in the awful circumstances we face is not because of the promise of a son but because of the provision of a Son.”  When faced with terrible circumstances and how he could rely on God, Chappell’s reply was as poignant as pithy. “I trust him because he sent Jesus”.  We have faith in God’s ability but it is more than that.  We have faith in God’s character, in who he is.  “It’s not just faith in God’s power. Ultimately it’s faith in God’s provision.”

Richard Phillips has an excellent chapter on the holiness of God.  I take issue with his presentation of the Regulative Principle as normative based on the handling of the ark.  He labors the point of the ark being sacramental but then extends the handling of the ark to worship in general.  I felt this was an overreach, in general and in his own analogy.  I would have loved to see him develop this analogy more in regards to Baptism and Communion, but his attaching it to the RP was unconvincing.  Being said, this is an excellent essay of God’s complete otherness.

Kevin DeYoung argues that “We must combat the misconception that sincerity is the measure of truth,” and he makes a great case for this in his essay on the truth of God.  “It is sad in our day that humility is inconsistent with certainty. This is perhaps one of the reasons why so many of us, especially young people, have forgotten how to speak like, you know, whatever.  We have these little verbal hiccups because we’re afraid to say, like, something with, like, authority”

DeYoung continues that In our world, “(a)ny assurance of religious belief is seen to be arrogance; confidence is seen as cockiness.”  DeYoung quotes Chesterton in saying that we are “making a race of men too meager to believe in the multiplication tables: “Five times five is twenty-five if that works for you, but you may be different.”

But Christianity has assurance because it is a religion of history.

“Machen would say that the Gospel is historical fact plus theological interpretation—something happened, and here’s what it means.  You need to help your neighbors and your churches see that Christianity is irreducibly historical.  It isn’t just a way of dealing with life’s problems: we’re declaring something that actually happened in history.”

“Humility does not entail uncertainty.”  This leads DeYoung into an extended discussion on the doctrine of perspicuity.  It is particularly interesting how he ties it into the character of God.  The ability of the Scriptures to be understood stands as a testimony of a God who wants to be known, a God who lovingly condescends to the point of “baby-talk” so that His creatures can have relationship with Him.

Richard Phillips has a good overview of one of the doctrines that we humanist have such a difficult time with, the wrath of God and, specifically, the ceaseless enduring of hell.  This is an issue that pricks at the heart of natural man.  Even many, if not most, of the redeemed that I know still struggle with this doctrine.  It is a hard teaching and Phillips does well to present it faithfully, pastorally, and with all the sharp edges un-dulled.  In the midst of it he gives good perspective on the antinomianism-legalism struggle in the Western church at the moment even if, at times, his depiction is a bit of an absolutized(apparently not a word, but I am going with it) version of the opposing position.  In fairness, many have been guilty of this to a much greater extent. (See my review of Mark Jones’ Antinomianism…wait, you can’t because I took the post down and deleted it from my computer because it was terrible.)  Suffice it to say, it is exceedingly easy to only see the caricature of an opposing position and Phillips may succumb to that here, be it ever so slightly and in the midst of an excellent chapter.

Bryan Chappell follows with a chapter of the love of God, union with Christ and our baptismal death certificate.  You have to read this chapter!! “Your calling is to know how  much you are loved, because when you remember how much you are loved, you will live for him who gives you the power to do so.”

DA Carson opens the section on the Son of God and includes a great section on how the Son is equal yet subordinate to the Father.  Joel Beeke has an essay on Christ as the incarnate Word of God in which he comments on Christ as the revelation of God.

“Christ is therefore the full and comprehensive revelation of his Father.  Every attribute we affirm of the Father is true of the Son.  That’s why Jesus could ay to Phillip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”(John 14:9). That’s why Isaiah could prophesy that Christ is the “mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”(Isa 9:6, cf. 10:20-21).  Truly we behold in Christ “glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14)

Beeke also has an extensive chapter on the work of Christ on the cross dealing specifically with how, amongst other issues, the Son was abandoned by the Father.  DA Carson’s essay on the resurrection stresses the objective nature of the risen Son and the need for it to be a historical fact if it is to provide any genuine hope to the believer.

Michael Horton offers an excellent essay on the Holy Spirit and seeing his work “in creation, in the calling of Moses, in the exodus of the people of God, in the exile, in the return, in the promises that are ultimately fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in this age of the Spirit, in which the church is able to take the gospel boldly to the ends of the earth”.

Horton argues that most of his work clusters “around three principle themes that can be categorized in a couple of different ways: temple, witness, and glory; or—it just happened to come out this way—earth, wind and fire.”  :-D  It is an essay well worth reading!!

Phillip Graham Ryken guides the reader away from an inappropriate understanding of our role in regeneration and a tacit denial of the monergistic activity of the Sprit in our new birth.

“There is a danger in the way that people sometimes talk about born-again Christianity.  The danger is in viewing conversion as something we have decided to do rather that something God does for us and in us by his grace, so that grace is the foundation of any response we make to God.”

R.C. Sproul takes the reader through the Upper Room Discourse with a focus on “The Paraclete” and “Another Paraclete” and the various translations of “paraclete”, settling with good reason for the term “advocate”.  Sproul then goes on to show us the beautiful truth that Christ and The Holy Spirit advocate for the children of God and how it is truly to our benefit that we live in this age rather than at the time of physical ministry of Jesus on earth.  Sproul closes his essay, and the book, with a comforting and encouraging truth that we would do well to remember as we journey through this far country.

“The Holy Spirit will not allow the world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment to prevail, because he’s the Spirit of truth, sent to the world by the Father and the Son.”

This is a great collection of essays.  At points it gets a bit deep and might be overwhelming at times, but it is worth the effort.  For the most part these essays are clear and straightforward and very helpful in seeing each person of the Trinity, how they relate to the world, and how they relate to each other.  I would love to see many people invest some time in this work and reap the benefit of a group of men gifted by God with the ability to think deeply and speak clearly.  One of the best parts about a collection like this is that you can pick and choose what to read and when to read it.  You are not bound, unless like me you suffer from a bit of a sequential chapter neurosis, to read the book from the first chapter to the last.  You can read the last essay first and in any order and benefit greatly from each individually.  This is well worth the read and I look forward to reading some of the other volumes that have been put together.

I received a review copy of this work from P&R Publishing.

View all my reviews

Another Letter from Embrace Brasil



We arrived in Lamarão as usual with kids waiting to open the gate for us. There were 16 kids already present when we arrived. We were excited to see them, but soon discouraged when we got out to greet them and hear that majority of them are arguing and yelling. Vitor and I both thought to ourselves, "Wow! This is going to be one of those days."

We decided to wait, stand back and observe to see what the "faithful few" were doing. We expect the kids that come only ever so often to continue their "normal" disrespectful ways...but we hope to see some change in the kids that come 3 times a week. It is with great joy that I share with you that 4 of them came to us and began explaining, not complaining, simply explaining (without yelling) what was going on. We were happy to see that they were not in the middle of the ruckus.

The day only got better and better! They played soccer for 45 minutes with minimal arguing (this is a miracle!!!) We then completed an activity where they had to get caked in mud half way up their arms. Only 1 boy began to sling the mud and the others stopped him, again without yelling at him!!
These may seem to be minor issues, but they show major improvement. We are thankful and excited about what God is doing! :)

Today, one of the ladies from the Lamarão congregation helped in the kitchen. It was the first time we have had help from their congregation. We thank God for continuously providing!

There are 2 boys who have come off and on since the beginning... not very faithful and barely involved when they are with us. About 1 month ago one of them began studying the verses that he had missed. He has learned 20 of them now and he encouraged the other boy to come back. A couple of weeks ago, he too, wanted to study the past verses. They are helping each other learn them and excited to learn the new ones each week.

A third boy has been coming somewhat faithfully for approx. 3 months, but he never wants to participate in much other than soccer. He is seldom rude, just not interested. He showed up today with such excitement and couldn't wait to tell us all the verses he had learned. He quoted 17 verses today that he has learned from Wednesday until today. We praise God that the kids came to us wanting to study, wanting to learn the verses. We praise God for giving them a desire to study and excitement when they achieve! These kids do not know how to study. Their school system is lacking so much that they are not use to being challenged and taught how to achieve. We are excited that they are recognizing that they are capable! We are excited that they are taking interest in God's Word!

The best part... he and one other boy were sharing with us that they were studying at home. One said he asked his mom to help him study and check if he was right. The other mentioned that his mom made a comment, "what are you so interested in? That is all you do lately is study that paper." God is taking His Word into these families' homes through these kids !!!!!!!!!!  That is a major praise! God is so good! His goodness is overwhelming! We have tried so many times and so many ways to reach out to the families, to get them to come meet us, or allow us into their homes, so far with minimal success. But God doesn't need us to reach their homes... His Word is going into these homes and we pray into the hearts of the kids and eventually their families !!

One other activity we did today was a "Verse Faceoff". One of the kids requested this review game they saw at church camp. So we set up all the rules for the contestants and the rules for those waiting their turn. It was such a blessing to see these kids quoting scripture. 16 kids in attendance and 7 of them quoted over 10 verses before being eliminated! It is great to see a kids learning God's Word! We praise God for giving them the desire and planting His Word in them. We claim His promise that His Word will achieve what He sends it to accomplish!!!

Oh, and by the way... the boy that quoted 17 today was in the championship round against a girl that quoted 32 today. We crowned them both champions because of a disadvantage due to a distraction from other kids.

One extra blessing is Lilia quoted 13 verses today... a few in English and a few in Portuguese. ;)  She is just a blessing !!!!!!!

Within the next week, we will add the new verse each week to our website so you can keep up with what verse they are learning and pray specifically for them.

 We are thankful for your support and prayers! We praise God for the chance to get to know these kids and be a part of their lives. They are so special to us and we pray that God's Word will be special to them!! These kids are worth all we can do !!

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 17

~His Resurrection

Lord’s Day 17

45. What benefit do we receive from the
“resurrection” of Christ?

First, by His resurrection He has overcome death,
that He might make us partakers of the righteousness
which He has obtained for us by His death.[1]
Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a
new life.[2] Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a
sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.[3]

[1] Rom 4:25; 1 Cor 15:15-20, 54-55; 1 Pt 1:3-5, 21; [2]
Rom 6:5-11; Eph 2:4-6; Col 3:1-4; [3] Rom 8:11; 1 Cor
15:12-23; Php 3:20-21

Friday, April 25, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 16


Question 40. Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even unto death?

Answer. Because with respect to the justice and truth of God, satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise than by the death of the Son of God.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Letter from Embrace Brasil

A Letter from Embrace Brasil

Read and consider supporting their work here.

What joy!! My heart was dancing to a different beat on Easter!! The thought of Jesus and his suffering for us weighs heavy, but oh the power of His resurrection!! It's too much to contain! I love Easter and the hope that springs forth... 

 This was my first Easter celebration in Brazil during the Fall season; not that it appeared to be Fall, still pretty much summer weather!  Lilia's school celebrated Easter! We attended a service offered in honor of Easter! Each grade presented a song or play celebrating Jesus' death and resurrection! It was a great message for all the parents and families of the students. We are grateful for the school she is attending!

We were with the kids in Lamarão Thursday morning through Sunday evening. We had a wonderful time!

Below is a summary of events throughout the weekend.

Thursday we watched the Passion of Christ (Mel Gibson) and discussed the truths of the crucifixion of Jesus and the superstitions and lies the world adds to the story.

On Friday Vitor taught them how to make wooden crosses. We discussed how the world uses the cross as a beautiful symbol, jewelry and so forth, but that it is a symbol of death and suffering. We discussed several verses we have studied that apply to the truths of the cross of Jesus and that it is to remind us of the suffering he bore on our behalf. We encouraged the kids to put the cross in a place they would see and that it remind them each day to choose to leave their sins at the cross and STAND FIRM and live for Jesus. They enjoyed their crosses, turning them into swords and guns... boys will be boys ;) 

 We enacted a small part of the Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples. We studied the intense love and forgiveness of Jesus as he washed the feet

I am the resurrection and the life

John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [1] John 11:25-26 (John 11:1-44 for context)

The “her” in this passage is Mary.  That is Mary of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  If you are unfamiliar with this story you might think we are speaking of a 1960’s acoustic folk trio, but actually these were dear friends of Jesus as he walked the earth during his ministry.  Lazarus had fallen ill and, while waiting on Christ who purposely delayed his return, he had died. 

Undoubtedly Mary was dealing with a few things here.  First, she was dealing with tragedy and all the emotions and thoughts that run alongside of this all too common human experience.  Doubt, fear, grief, confusion, angst, anger, she was feeling all this. And more.  All at once.  Been there?

But it wasn’t just these emotions with which she was dealing.  She was also experiencing the added sting of failed expectations.  She knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus.  She knew that Lazarus was Jesus’ friend and that Jesus, being their friend and being a good man, did not find pleasure or joy in Lazarus’ succumbing to death.  “So why did my brother die,” we can hear Martha saying in her heart.  “Why did Jesus, our friend and teacher, delay his return and allow my brother to suffer death and for us and so many others to endure days of anguish and grief?”  The accusation in Martha’s greeting in this passage is as clear as it is natural.  

And before we are too quick to chastise Martha for her lack of faith or her audacity to come to Christ in this manner we should note,  

the Lord did not reprove Martha for her words! It is not sinful to tell God how you feel. That may sound like heresy in the light of some things we have been taught, and I want to qualify it by saying that we should always be reverent toward God. He is God! We are his creatures and must ever bow to him. But that does not mean we are not allowed to express to him how we feel. Some of us have feelings that ought to be shared with God. The feelings are not necessarily right, but they are feelings that need to be brought honestly before God. But we do not, for fear of losing something. God is more patient and accepting than we realize.[2]

God is not surprised by our struggles and he is merciful.  More merciful than we could ever know.  And he is good.  And his goodness is beyond what we would even dare dreaming it could be. Martha knew that Lazarus, and her, would ultimately be cared for in the resurrection of the last day, but Jesus wanted to show here that those last days were upon her and the kingdom was at hand. He wanted her to know that the care of the Father for her brother, and her for that matter, was not highly probable but absolutely certain.  It was not a partial care but absolute.  And the love and care of the Father was not future tense but was standing right before her eyes—and it was more than she could have imagined.

How could Jesus speak so boldly and assuredly about the Father’s provision of love and grace?  Simply put, because he is the Father’s provision of love and grace.

Jesus does not say simply that he will give resurrection and life. So much are resurrection and life associated with him that he says that he is the resurrection and the life. The linking of resurrection and life perhaps points to the truth that the life he brings is the life of the age to come. It is the “eternal life” of which he speaks elsewhere (see John 1:4; 3:15). Those who believe on Jesus will live even though they die. The paradox brings out the great truth that physical death is not the important thing. For the heathen or the unbeliever death may be thought of [in their mind] as the end. Not so for those who believe in Christ. They may die in the sense that they pass through the door we call physical death, but they will not die in the fuller sense. Death for them is but the gateway to further life and fellowship with God…. It means that the moment we put our trust in Jesus we begin to experience that life of the age to come which cannot be touched by death. Jesus is bringing Martha a present gift, not simply the promise of a future good.[3]
Jesus looked at Martha and spoke to her heart.
I am your hope.
I am your assurance.
I am your comfort.
I am your peace.
I am your resurrection and I am your life.

And then he asked her a question that cut straight to the core of the matter, a question that not only Martha but all of us must answer.  He asked, “Do you believe this?”

It is not just enough to know that Jesus offers hope if he is not your hope.  It is not enough to know that comfort is found in Christ if he is not your comfort.  It is not enough to know that Jesus is the peace of God if, by your unbelief and rebellion, you remain at enmity with the Lord.  You can affirm that Jesus died for sins, but do you believe he died for your sins?  You can be assured that he was raised for the justification of sinners, but was he raised for your justification.  Christ was saying to Martha that, regardless of her emotions or her doubts or her fears, he is the resurrection and the life.  That is a fact. But apart from her faith, this is of no benefit to her and she remains as spiritually dead in her sin as her brother is physically dead in the tomb.  It offers her no hope.  It offers her no peace.  It offers her no comfort.  So he called her to believe.  And he calls us today to do the same.

The eternal Son of God took on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died in the place of any who would believe, rose victoriously from the dead and ascended into heaven from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.  He is the resurrection.  He is the life.  Today, do you believe this?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 11:25–26). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe (p. 284). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
[3] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 488–489). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Galatians for You

Galatians for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading (God's Word for You)Galatians for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading by Timothy Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really good little book.
Just a few notes--

There are a lot of John Stott references.  I have nothing of substance to add to that, I was just surprised by the number of references!

There is a good, brief interaction with the New Perspectives at the end of the book.  Not an exhaustive defense of the traditional Protestant position by any means, but quite good for what it is.

My main/only qualm with the book is his imprecise, and thus misleading, language at times throughout.  There is quite a bit of the Jesus vs. Religion rhetoric in this. Lots!  Beyond that specific false dichotomy that is pervasive in Keller's teaching as a whole(it seems I have a bit of a pet peeve, bear with me), there is also language like "use the Gospel" in the sense of how we grow in Christlikeness.  I forgot who it was but the point has been made that we can at times in our effort to be Gospel-centered, or whatever "Gospel-" you want to utilize,we can often minimize the work of the Spirit.  This is not Keller's intent and it is not even really the result, but his imprecise language in certain places definitely opens the door for this to creep in.

This is a great overview of Galatians filled with deep, yet accessible, theology and clear, grace-driven(Gospel-centered? :-D ) application.

Great book. Read and enjoy.

View all my reviews

Dispatches from the Front: Souls of the Brave

I am working through the forthcoming book by Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front.  I thought I would share some clips from the wonderful video series by the same name.  These are amazing resources and are a blessing to all who see them.  I have a feeling the book is going to be the same.

Here is a clip.  The DVDs are available for purchase here individually and as a set.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dispatches from the Front: Horn of Africa

I am working through the forthcoming book by Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front.  I thought I would share some clips from the wonderful video series by the same name.  These are amazing resources and are a blessing to all who see them.  I have a feeling the book is going to be the same.

Here is a clip.  The DVDs are available for purchase here individually and as a set.

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 16

Lord’s Day 16
40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death?”
Because the justice and truth [1] of God required that
satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other
way than by the death of the Son of God.[2]
[1] Gen 2:17; [2] Rom 6:23, 8:3; Php 2:8; Heb 2:9, 14-15

41. Why was He “buried?”

To show thereby that He was really dead.[1]

[1] Isa 53:9; Mt 27:59-60; Jn 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor

42. Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also

Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a
dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.[1]

Christ is Risen

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dispatches from the Front: I Once Was Blind

I am working through the forthcoming book by Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front.  I thought I would share some clips from the wonderful video series by the same name.  These are amazing resources and are a blessing to all who see them.  I have a feeling the book is going to be the same.

Here is a clip.  The DVDs are available for purchase here individually and as a set.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 15


Question 37. What dost thou understand by the words, “he suffered?”

Answer. That he, all the time he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation; and obtain for us the favor of God, righteousness, and eternal life.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Great Sale on Kevin DeYoung Audiobooks

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Download a copy of Kevin DeYoung's brand new audiobook Taking God at His Word. Why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough, and what that means for you and me. This audiobook is narrated by his father Lee DeYoung

We are offering the audiobook Taking God at His Word for a limited time at $4.98. In addition, Kevin DeYoung's other titles are also on sale for $4.98.

Hurry though... the sale ends on April 30th.
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Truth at the Cup

#TruthAtTheCup: Help Spread the Truth of God’s Word at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

This summer, the global outreach of Ligonier Ministries turns its focus to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where we plan to distribute more than 100,000 booklets. Half a million visitors are expected in Brazil for this event.
Copies of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s Can I Have Joy in My Life? and a new abridged version of his The Holiness of God titled God Is Holy and We’re Not will be distributed in Brazil with the help of Editora Fiel and its church partners. The majority of these booklets will be printed in Portuguese, and the rest in English.
Through the generosity of one of Ligonier’s supporters who shared this vision, the Lord has supplied the resources to meet our initial goal of 100,000 booklets. We desire to distribute as many copies as possible. With your help we can reach even more people with the truth of God’s Word.
For every gift of $60 you enable us to distribute 100 booklets. Our new goal is to raise an additional $25,000 so we can print and deliver more than 140,000 copies.
We are excited for this opportunity to help provide gospel outreach and trustworthy teaching to people around the world. With your support, we can increase our impact. Will you join the #TruthAtTheCup campaign and give a gift of any amount today?

Spread the Word on Social Media
Please use the #TruthAtTheCup hashtag on social media. You can easily spread the word on Twitter by clicking here or paste and share the below text on your preferred social media platform:
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Dispatches from the Front: A Bold Advance

I am working through the forthcoming book by Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front.  I thought I would share some clips from the wonderful video series by the same name.  These are amazing resources and are a blessing to all who see them.  I have a feeling the book is going to be the same.

Here is a clip.  The DVDs are available for purchase here individually and as a set.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What is the Reformed understanding of election?

This is from Kim Riddlebarger's free e-book, Basics of the Reformed Faith, is available here. Enjoy this excerpt and then grab the free book.



As Americans raised in a democratic republic, we cling tenaciously to the principle “one person, one vote.” It is very easy (and almost natural) to carry over this principle to our understanding of the doctrine of salvation. It is easy to simply assume that God should give everyone a chance to go to heaven, and if people refuse God’s gracious offer, then people, in effect, send themselves to hell by refusing God’s gracious gift. This makes perfect sense on democratic presuppositions because in the political sphere each individual is assumed to be entitled and empowered to determine their own course in life. And if this is true in American political life, then it should be true when it comes to the salvation of sinner. Right? Well, no. The Bible does not allow us to understand humanity’s redemption from sin in such rosy terms.

Because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinners by nature and by choice, and we are born guilty for Adam’s act of rebellion in Eden. The Bible speaks of this as being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), meaning we are unwilling and unable to do anything to save ourselves. Because we are dead in sin, we cannot even take those first steps toward God that some Christians mistakenly think we should be able to make (John 6:44). It is common to hear Christians describe God’s grace in generic, non-specific and medicinal terms such as, “grace is like a medicine which, if we are willing to take it, enables us to come to Christ,” or that “grace is a life-ring which we must grab and cling, or we will drown in our sins.”

Our problem is not that we are spiritually sick, somewhat impaired by our sin, or that we are morally weak. It is much worse than that. The Bible says we are dead in sin. Dead people do not, and indeed cannot, come to God. God must come to us while we are dead in sin, and then make us alive with Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10). This is where we find the very heart of God’s saving grace. God does everything necessary to save us from our sins, when we are so unworthy of such salvation, and completely unable to do anything about our predicament. Democratic presuppositions simply don’t apply to matters of sin and grace. Humanity’s plight and God’s sovereign grace are the proper categories here. From beginning to end God must save us because we are unable to do anything to save ourselves.

The only reason why any one of us presently trusts in Jesus to save us from our sins is because God chose to save us in Jesus Christ from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God did so, Scripture says, based upon his own sovereign good pleasure and purpose - in other words, for reasons known only to himself, but fully consistent with God’s holiness and justice. When addressing this very subject, Paul spells this out in no uncertain terms. “In love, [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:3-7). God chooses us in Jesus Christ, and he does so for reasons known only to himself. But he chooses us nonetheless.

The critical point here is that unless God chose to save us in Jesus Christ, not one of us would be saved! God did not look down the corridors of time and see who would and who would not trust in Christ as is commonly argued. If that were the case, then God’s election would be a response to a human action (a decision to accept Christ) which people who are dead in sin cannot perform. Those not chosen are left in their original condition in Adam, under God’s curse and just condemnation. It is not as though those not chosen are treated unfairly. Rather, they will be dealt with according to divine justice, not God’s saving mercy in Christ. Those not chosen will get what they truly deserve. They we get what we truly deserve, had God not chosen us in Christ.

The Bible is very clear that God’s election is based upon the good pleasure and purpose of God, that election is “in Christ” (which means that all those who trust in Christ were chosen in Christ), and that God provides the merits of Jesus Christ (through his suffering and obedience) to save those whom God has chosen, from both the guilt and power of sin. Those whom God chooses to save will be saved by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which is applied to us in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is where we find the meaning of sola gratia (grace alone).

In love, God predestined us in Jesus Christ to be redeemed from the guilt and power of our sin.

Riddlebarger, K.-Basics of the Reformed Faith.

Gospel Assurance and Warnings

Gospel Assurance and WarningsGospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paul Washer loves the Lord and he is one intense, passionate, encouraging, and challenging teacher.  His newest work in the Recovering the Gospel series bears the stamp of his personality and style in all of these ways and, like his ministry, is a blessing to be explored and studied and enjoyed.

Washer has a bone to pick with certain teachings that are pervasive in the western church.   The pernicious and debilitating extra-biblical category of “carnal christian” undergirds the monster of false assurance that is ravaging our churches and deceitfully leading many to destruction.  It is not just that this is something that is factually inaccurate, it is detrimental in ways that cannot even be fully expressed.

Because of an evangelical pulpit weakened by ignorance, pragmatism, and fear, the professing church is filled with individuals who have never really been confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ, have never heard any of the gospel’s warnings, and have little understanding of genuine biblical assurance. Furthermore, evangelicals explain away these individuals’ lack of sanctification and worldliness with one of the most dangerous terms that has ever come forth: the carnal Christian. It is the doctrine that a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, a person regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can actually live out his entire life in worldliness, indulging in fleshly desires and evidencing little concern for the things of God. This doctrine is a direct contradiction of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Furthermore, it opens the door for carnal and unregenerate people to find assurance of salvation by looking to the apparent sincerity of their past decision to accept Christ, even though their manner of living contradicts such a profession.

Washer seeks to combat this enemy of false assurance with Biblical assurance from 1 John.

“The Scriptures call upon us to test ourselves to determine whether we are truly Christian,” Washer says. “So that is what we are going to do.”

Washer adds that,

“Many people no longer obtain assurance of salvation by a careful consideration of their conversion and lifestyle in light of the Scriptures. Rather, it is granted by a well-meaning minister who is quick to pronounce the full benefits of salvation upon any who have prayed to receive Christ with any degree of apparent sincerity.”

Due to this it is necessary to reorient our assurance of our standing of God with the revelation of God, his holy Scripture.  Before testing ourselves Washer is determined that we not get the cart before the horse as it relates to our salvation.

“It is important for us to remember that John is not setting forth the means of conversion but rather the results of it. We can have a biblical assurance of salvation to the degree that the evidences set forth in John’s epistle are realities in our lives. If after testing ourselves we find little reality of these evidences, we should be greatly concerned.”

That concern should lead us to consider one of two possibilities, that we are believers in need of serious repentance or we are yet unconverted and should repent and believe unto salvation.
Washer takes a series of chapters to look at the tests that John puts forward in his 1st epistle.

Do you walk in the light?
Do you confess your sins?
Do you keep God’s commands and are not burdened by them?
Do you walk as He walked?
Do you love other believers?
Do you reject “the world”?
Are you remaining in fellowship with believers and persevering in your faith?
Do you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart what the Scriptures testify to about the Christ?
Are you growing in holiness?
Are you growing in your practice of righteousness?
Are you overcoming the world or is the world overcoming you?
Do you believe the Gospel?

After looking at proper assurances based on the 1st Epistle of John, Washer then turns to the warnings that are attached to the Gospel.
Washer criticizes the typical approach of modern evangelism.  The method of: “Are you a sinner?”, “Do you want to go to Heaven?”, “Okay, let’s pray a prayer?” creates right answers to wrong questions when there is not heart change towards sin, no desire for the heaven of Scripture, and no repentance to accompany a prayed profession.
Beyond that, Washer reiterates the warning of Christ that the call to follow him is the call to take the narrow path, a path that will be filled with resistance, turmoil, and struggle and to enter the narrow gate.  Basically, it ain’t easy!  Though there is an easy path that is available but its destination is less than desirable.

Washer is amazing at communicating the urgency and seriousness of the topic he is discussing, especially in this work.  There is no flippancy, banter, or stories for entertainment’s sake.  There is business to be taken care of and that is why he is writing and there is no time to waste.

The reason for that is found clearly in the last warning he conveys from Matthew 7

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”…Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.—Matthew 7:21–23, 24–27

What more chilling and fearful warning could be given?  What greater motivation to “make your calling and election sure”?  Washer gives four categories of false converts from Matthew 7 and challenges the reader to make sure they are not one of those who call “Lord, Lord” on the last day but will be rejected to an eternity in hell.

In Matthew 7, Jesus clearly identifies four groups of individuals who will spend an eternity in hell. We would do well to consider each group carefully and to examine our own lives in light of the characteristics that identify them. There is nothing on earth of greater importance. People may be wrong about many things without doing much harm to themselves. However, being wrong about this matter has eternal and irrevocable consequences.

The first group of those who are destined for hell consists of those who live out their lives on the broad way.96 Their thinking, conduct, and direction of their lives are not defined by Christ’s will. Instead, they are shaped by the opinions and lusts of this fallen age and walk according to them. Although they may wear a thin veneer of Christianity, their manner of thinking and living is contrary to the religion they profess. They love the world, look like the world, and share the same affections with the world. Our evangelical churches are filled with such individuals. They sincerely believe that they have passed through the small gate that is Christ and that their salvation is secure. However, they are unaware that their uninterrupted travel on the broad way demonstrates that they have believed in vain.

The second group of those who are destined for hell consists of everyone whose life is not marked by fruit-bearing and the Father’s pruning.97 They confess faith in Christ, but His character and deeds are not manifest in their lives, nor is there evidence of the Father’s sanctifying work through discipline. Those who do not bear fruit simply are not Christians. This truth cannot be minimized or explained away. In the earliest gospel warnings, John the Baptist declared, “The ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9). Jesus stood in agreement with John when He repeated the same warning almost word for word: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 7:19). We must realize that our evangelical churches are filled with such people. They bear no fruit and display no evidence of the Father’s pruning. They continue on year after year, holding to a form of godliness and denying the power of it by the barrenness of their lives.98

The third group of those who are destined for hell consists of everyone whose life is not marked by practical obedience to the Father’s will. Again, this is the clear teaching of Jesus, who warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Obedience does not result in salvation; however, it is the evidence of it. In the same way, a life of disobedience is evidence of reprobation. For this reason Jesus will declare to those who are lawless on the final day to depart. He is referring to those who confessed Him as Lord and yet lived as though He never gave them a law to obey. We must understand that there is simply no such thing as a Christian who lives in uninterrupted apathy or disregard for the will of God. To say otherwise is to deny the teachings of Jesus. Nevertheless, our evangelical churches are filled with people who profess Christ and yet live as practical atheists, doing what seems right in their own eyes and being destroyed for their lack of knowledge.99 If every piece of Scripture in the world were confiscated, it would have no effect on their lives. They are without law. They live under a self-imposed famine of the Word of God.100

The fourth group of those who are destined for hell consists of everyone who hears the words of Christ and does not act upon them.101 Again, conversion is evidenced or proven by practical obedience. Those who have been born again are marked by new and growing affections for the person of Christ. For this reason, they also long to know His will and please Him through obedience. They are awed by the blessing of Christ’s Word and humbled by the privilege that is theirs to study it and apply it to their lives. Consequently, they are also ashamed when they find themselves to be apathetic, nonchalant, and disobedient. In a word, the true convert has come to comprehend something of what Jesus meant when He told His disciples: “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matt. 13:16–17).

I felt this book was excellent but there were times I thought Washer pushed too much for introspection and self-examination.  I wish there was a more focused effort to follow the McCheyne maxim that “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”  This might be due to the popular level lack of any self-examination at all, but I think it is a bit reactionary at times.  And here is my main struggle with that issue as found in this text.  Early on and throughout this work it is said and implied that our assurance is based on the fruit we bear, if a believer perseveres, how someone responds to sin, etc…  I struggle with this.  I do not struggle with seeing all of these as evidences of our condition.  I do not even struggle with claiming that these are all necessary for salvation, but as a necessary consequence.  Without these evidences you or I will not see God.  But our assurance is based on a tomb that is empty.  My salvation is not simply subjectively true, my own salvation is objectively true because God raised Christ from the dead.  My assurance is not based, based I emphasize, on how I respond.  That is a fruit, that is evidence and it is necessary. My assurance is based on the resurrection of Christ… is based in the Gospel.  I wish that Washer would have labored this point much more or had chosen his words in places a little more carefully to maintain the clarity of meaning that exists throughout the rest of the text.

With that being said, this is a great work.  Washer’s passion and urgency is contagious.  He writes with fervor that leaves the reader with a weird mixture of conviction, excitement, energy, and exhaustion.  Reading his work is a visceral, emotional experience.  Beyond that, what he writes is immensely practical.  Multiple times he explicitly applies his points of the chapter to ministers, evangelists, pastors, believers, and unbelievers.  You are seldom, if ever, left wondering, “Yeah, but what am I supposed to do with this truth?”  This is a work worth reading.

Washer exudes enough characteristic passion and urgency that if you sincerely want to attack him with accusation of excesses of some sort, you will be able to glean enough evidence to bring a charge.  However, if you instead seek to listen to our brother with a grace-filled countenance and a sincere desire to hear what the Lord might teach through him, you will find a work that is convicting, challenging and encouraging.  Your toes will be stepped on.  You will experience some emotional turmoil.  And you will be all the better for it.  Don’t just pick up this work, pick up the entire trilogy and be blessed.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher.