Archive for June, 2009
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 26th, 2009
What in the world is an ordo salutis? If you had one would you know it? Why do theologians have to use Latin phrases anyway? Well, I’m no theologian but I do read works on theology and this term simply means, “order of salvation.” In the discussion about original sin and free will the question arises: what is the relationship between regeneration (the new birth) and faith? Is the new birth a monergistic or synergistic work? In other words is the new birth a work of God’s grace upon the sinner or does the sinner work with God to produce his regeneration? Does a person have to believe on Jesus Christ in order to be born again or does a person have to be born again in order to believe? These are important questions and what you believe about original sin and free will determines how you answer them. If man is born innocent and is not a sinner until he chooses to commit sin, as Pelagius taught, then without the assistance of grace he can choose to obey God. Theoretically, in this system of thought he could be sinless as Jesus was, since everything is dependent on his choices and not God’s grace. If man is free to believe (as Arminius taught) and is capable of receiving the gift of salvation from God by his own will then he is born again after he believes. But if man is dead in his sins (Eph 2:1) and incapable of seeking God (Rom 3:11) because he is by nature a child of wrath, then he will not and cannot believe unless God enables him to do so by sovereign grace. In our experience regeneration and faith happen instantaneously but regeneration is a logical necessity to faith. How can dead men believe? How can those who are spiritually unresponsive respond? In John chapter 3 Jesus met a ruler of the Jews, a man who was deeply religious and told him that unless he was “…born again” (or from above) he could not see the kingdom of God. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” In the original language it means “no one is able to come to me.” This implies that no human being in the world, on his own, has the moral and spiritual ability to come to Jesus unless the Father gives him the desire and the inclination. It is clear that a sinner must believe the gospel to be saved but I think the Bible clearly teaches that God must graciously enable the sinner to believe. That makes salvation completely monergistic and totally a work of grace. It also means that all the glory for our conversion goes to God alone.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 25th, 2009
In Ephesians 2:1 the Apostle Paul says this about the believers in Ephesus: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins…” Some years ago a movie circulated in American theaters entitled The Way We Were. It was a nostalgic look at the past, which is the way most people want to remember earlier years. In the first verses of Ephesians 2 Paul, too, looks at the past. Only his view is not nostalgic. On the contrary, it is filled with the utmost realism. Many have pointed out that these first three verses of Ephesians 2 are a short summary statement of what is found in the first three chapters of Romans. This caused Paul to paint one of the most pessimistic pictures of human nature found anywhere. Paul first plumbs the depths of pessimism about man. However, after he has done this he also “rises to the heights of optimism about God” and of how his grace saves sinners. How are we to assess human nature? In the whole history of the human race there have only been three basic answers to that question. The first is that man is healthy, man is sick and the Biblical answer: man is dead. Like a spiritual corpse, a sinner is unable to make a single move toward God, think a single thought about God, or even correctly respond to God-unless God is first present to bring the spiritually dead person to life, which is what Paul says God does. There is a phrase in verse 3 that shows the seriousness of deadness. At the end it says, “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” In other words the things we have done to bring the wrath of God upon us we have done by nature. We need a Savior not just because we have sinned, but because we are by nature sinners. At the end of verse two it says that we are “sons of disobedience.” Which is another way of saying that disobedience is in our spiritual genes. Rebellion runs in the human family. It is part of our sinful nature. Now what does that have to do with being dead? It sounds like we were very much alive and active in our rebellion and disobedience. Indeed we were. But in being alive to disobedience we were dead to obedience. In being alive to rebellion we were dead to submission. In being alive to unbelief we were dead to faith. We had no living spiritual nature to incline us to do anything for the glory of God and in reliance on his power. And lacking that spiritual nature we were dead: dead to righteousness, dead to holiness, dead to obedience, and dead to faith. Spiritually speaking I was dead. Without a Savior I had no spiritual inclinations at all, for there was no spiritual life at all. And therefore I needed a Savior not only to forgive me for my sins, but also to give me spiritual life so that my heart would incline to trust him and obey him. In these verses, as in the first three chapters of Romans, we see clearly outlined the nature of man without God. So when Christians discuss the “free will of man” here is where they must begin. Man will always act according to his nature. What is his nature? He is “…dead in trespasses and sins…and by nature children of wrath…”
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 23rd, 2009
One of the debates that has raged in the church since its early days has been over the matter of free will. In the 5th century a British monk by the name of Pelagius took exception to a prayer of Augustine that said: “Grant what thou commandest, and command what thou dost desire.” Pelagius had no quarrel with the last phrase in the prayer but the first one greatly angered him. He deduced, correctly, that Augustine was saying that divine grace was necessary for a human being to obey God’s commands. For Pelagius the command to obey implies the ability to obey. He postulated that if God commands people to believe in Christ, then they have the power to believe in Christ without the assistance of grace. Pelagius believed that man had autonomous free will and if that free will were properly exercised then man could achieve whatever was required by God in matters of morality and religion. Augustine argued correctly that if God is sovereign then man cannot be autonomous and if man is autonomous then God cannot be sovereign. The two are mutually exclusive ideas. The church in several councils agreed with Augustine and Pelagius was condemned as a heretic. At the time of the Reformation this debate raged again between Martin Luther and Erasmus and prompted Luther to write what he considered his most important work, The Bondage of the Will. This issue is important and continues to be debated (though many believers are unaware of the issue) because it goes to the heart of the Christian faith. It affects ones “order of salvation” and largely determines how we do evangelism. To answer the question posed by the title: Does Man Have Free Will? I would answer that man is free to act according to his nature. In the next article I will write more on fallen man’s nature and more about this doctrine.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 20th, 2009
The prevailing view of fathers in our society is heavily influenced by Hollywood and the television “fathers” we watch. For the most part they are a sad, pitiful group of ignorant buffoons that can barely get through the day without help from their wives. Dr Albert Mohler suggests in an article here that this is due to the radical feminism that pervades the entertainment culture and the academic world. His assessment to me is right on target. We need men to step up and fill the role of a father in the way that the New Testament demands. The older that I get the more I am grateful for my father. My Dad was a member of the “Greatest Generation” he fought his way across Europe, serving in the United States Army in World War II and then came home to build a better world for his children. He had very little formal education and worked in a factory his whole life but I cannot imagine having a better role model. He loved God, my Mom, his children and his church. For a long time it was difficult for him to tell us that he loved us, he just went out and proved it every day by the way he lived. The concept of a loving heavenly Father was never difficult for me to grasp because of his love. I remember seeing an interview of a well known movie star some years ago and in it he said: “Down south they say you are not a man until your Daddy says you are.” Implicit in that statement is the idea that deep down all men want their fathers to be proud of them. It has been my great privilege in life not only to have a Godly father but also to have been blessed with two sons who are also good fathers. They are striving to bring up their children in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.” In our culture today that is not an easy task and I admire their efforts. If your father is still living take time today to tell him you appreciate him and love him. If, like me, your father has already gone to heaven, be thankful for his influence in your life. And if you have sons pray for them and tell them you are proud of their efforts to be men of God and good fathers. So to David Robert and John Felix: Happy Father’s Day boys, you are good men and your Daddy is proud of you.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 19th, 2009
Today was a day for doing unpleasant tasks and one of them was spraying weed killer around the house. Our yard is not particularly good for growing grass, as a matter of fact, I have probably spread approximately a million pounds of grass seed on it over the last 18 years and about three blades of grass have come up! However, the weeds come up everywhere. A gravel drive on one side of the house is covered in them and they are constantly coming up through the landscaping gravel in the flower beds. The other day I told my wife that the way to get really good ground cover over the yard would be to gravel it. Why is it that weeds are so prevalent? Well, because we live in a fallen world and the sin of Adam not only affected him and his posterity but the physical creation as well. Concerning the earth, God told Adam after the fall: “…cursed is the ground because of you…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…” (Gen 3:17-18). As the creation has been affected so has man. The doctrine of Total Depravity means that man, like the earth, is radically corrupt. That does not mean that man is as wicked as he can possibly be; even Hitler loved his dog. It does mean that corruption pervades our lives and that our lives deteriorate as time progresses. It also means that apart from the life changing power of Jesus Christ there is nothing that fallen man can do that pleases God. We may please other men and do things that are applauded by them as being noble, virtuous and beautiful but they do not merit us any favor from God. In order to please God our sin must first be dealt with, not just our “sins” but our sin nature.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 18th, 2009
A few days ago, a group of local pastors were asked to review some material that dealt with the doctrine of original sin. The material in question stated that “the dogma of original sin is difficult to find in the Scripture.” Since this is my blog, let me say that I think that statement to be absurd and that original sin is definitely, clearly and pervasively taught in the Scriptures! When we speak of original sin we do not refer to the sin that Adam and Eve committed. We are, however, talking about the result of that first sin. Original sin refers to our sinful condition, from which actual sins flow. We sin because we are sinners; we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because, since the fall, it is the nature of human beings to be drawn to sin and away from righteousness. David says that he was born in sin, and in sin he was conceived (Ps. 51:5). The Bible teaches that not only are we persons from the moment of conception, but we are sinful persons. Read the first three chapters of Romans and concentrate on 3:10-18 and it becomes evident that Paul’s assessment of humanity is far different than most starry-eyed optimist preachers of our day. Romans 5:12 makes it clear that “all sinned” in Adam and that all who believe are made alive in Christ. Original sin and the total depravity of mankind is a Biblical truth. In the next post I will talk a little about total depravity and what it means.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 16th, 2009
People sometimes ask me, “If you were not a Baptist, what would you be?” My answer is usually, “Ashamed!” But seriously, if I were not a Baptist I would probably be a Presbyterian. The reason for that would be because I believe that the orthodox among the Presbyterians honestly seek to honor and obey God’s Word. One of my best friends in the world is a Presbyterian pastor in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. I first met Dr Arthur Adams on a mission trip to the Fiji Islands where he served as the Dean of Theology at the Fiji College of Theology. Now he is the Pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Epping, New South Wales. Australia is a beautiful country but is sorely lacking in solid, evangelical churches that proclaim the Bible as God’s inerrant, infallible word. The PRC of Epping is one of those that do. Like the Psalmist I can say that “I am a companion of all those who fear You, who keep your precepts.” (Ps 119:63). Pray for Arthur Adams and the work of the PRC in Epping and stop by their website here and say: ”G’Day!”
Dr John Piper on the necessity of the gospel, good stuff!
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 13th, 2009
The prevailing theological model of our day is pragmatism. Simply put, theological pragmatism means “if it works it must be right.” Or even more dangerous “if it works it must be of God.” More than thirty years ago, as a young man in Bible College, I remember how scandalized I and some of my friends were by things that happened at a church in Nashville, where some of them interned for the summer in the bus ministry. They came back and told everyone they had witnessed a bus captain who promised “to eat a live goldfish” if he got nine decisions off the bus that morning! That kind of behavior is justified by the decisions that are produced. Some years ago a prominent Baptist pastor had one of the first “Super Bowl” parties at his mega church. He preached a sermon during half time and his deacons acted as ushers passing out popcorn and peanuts to the crowd. When some were critical of his actions his reply was simply, “I had 15 decisions that night; how many did you have? In other words, the end justifies the means and these examples pale in comparison to what is being done in many churches today. In my opinion the driving force behind these kinds of methods is weak theology. If you believe that it is up to you to convince people to come to Christ then by all means you must do whatever you can to manipulate them into “making a decision.” It should be noted however, that over the course of time it has been clearly demonstrated in the Southern Baptist Convention that the overwhelming majority of these “decisions” are totally worthless at best and exceedingly dangerous at worst. We have 16 million members on our church rolls and less than 25% of that number that could be found by the FBI, much less the pastor! If on the other hand, you believe that “…salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9); and that the words of Jesus in John 6:37and 44 are true then you can trust in the power of the gospel to convert sinners without resorting to questionable methods. Please don’t misunderstand me I believe with all my heart that we have a part in God’s plan of bringing sinners to Himself. Our part is to proclaim the gospel and pray for sinners. But God’s part is to “…convince them of sin and righteousness and judgment to come.” In Numbers 20 there is an interesting story that illustrates my point. Moses is told by God to speak to a rock at a place called Meribah and God promises to bring water from the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock in anger. The Bible records that “…water came out abundantly…” and so to everyone watching God honored this method. It worked therefore it must be right and it must be of God. But we read in verse 12 that this incident cost Moses and Aaron entrance into the Promised Land. They had failed to obey the word of God and forfeited the blessing. God not only ordains the end He also ordains the means. Let us strive to honor our sovereign God in all that we do, so that all the glory may go to Him.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on June 11th, 2009
Toward the end of Luke’s version of Jesus’ famous sermon he records these words of Christ: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I tell you” (ESV). We fail to understand the meaning here if we do not understand that repeating a person’s name is a Hebrew expression of intimacy. We note this several times in the Scriptures (Genesis 22; Exodus 3; 1 Samuel 3). Also, in the New Testament when Jesus comforted Martha, when he warned Peter; and when He wept over Jerusalem-in each case the word is repeated for intimacy’s sake (Matthew 23; Luke 10; 22:31). Some pretend to have a deep relationship with Christ, but this claim is denied by their failure to obey His commandments. Jesus said plainly in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” God does not accept those who merely hear. He requires obedience. It is not just a decision for Christ that admits one to eternal glory. God also demands a commitment to submit to the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His demands.