Archive for May, 2009

Winslow was a Puritan reformer in England who appears to know the Holy Spirit well! Below is an excerpt from his work “The Holy Spirit: An Experimental and Practical View”. “Experimental theology” was quite important to the puritans of that day. In a nutshell, “experimental” is shorthand for practical experiences of grace that the believer can recognize and rejoice in. Experimental theology is somewhat of a lost discipline, and though it has almost universally fallen out of favor I find it an indispensable tool in pastoral care and discipleship. Perhaps more on that later! For now enjoy the reading!

The Spirit dwells in the believer as the ever-living Spirit of all grace and comfort. All that is really holy and gracious in a child of God is found in the work of the indwelling Spirit. All the holy breathings and desires of the soul, all the longings for God and for conformity to His will and image, all that is lovely and like Jesus in the saint, are the result of this gracious act of the eternal Spirit. The Lord Jesus Himself would direct us to this truth. John 4.14: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” That this well of water is the indwelling of the Spirit, seems clear from the loth verse: “Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God,” etc.; that “gift of God” was the Holy Spirit, alluded to again still more emphatically in ch. 7. 38, 39: “He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which those who believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”)

Here is a gracious truth. The Spirit in every believer is a deep and living well of all spiritual blessings. He dwells in the soul “not like a stagnant pool, but like an ever-living fountain that flows at all seasons of the year, in heat and cold, and in all external circumstances of weather, whether foul or fair, wet or dry.” Nature could not produce that which the indwelling Spirit accomplishes in the saints of God. The hungering and the thirsting for righteousness, the rising of the heart in filial love to God, the sweet submission to His sovereign will, the longing for more knowledge of Christ, the constant struggling with the law of sin, the mourning over the indwelling principle of sin; all this is above and far beyond nature. It is the fruit, the precious fruit, of the indwelling spirit.
It may be, reader, that your heart is often anxious to know in what way you may distinguish between nature and grace, how you may clearly discern between that which is legal and that which is spiritual, between that which is the work of man, and that which is the work of God. In this way you may trace the vast difference- that which at first came from God, returns to God again. It rises to the source where it descended. Divine grace in a sinner’s heart is a springing well- “a well of water springing up into eternal life.” Did nature ever teach a soul the plague of its own heart? Never! Did nature ever lay the soul in the dust before God, mourning and weeping over sin? Never! Did nature ever inspire the soul with pantings for God and thirstings for holiness? Never! And did it ever endear the throne of grace, and make precious to the soul the atoning blood, the justifying righteousness of Jesus? Never! never! All this as much transcends the power of nature as the creating of a world. Is this your real state, reader? O look up! “Flesh and blood” did not reveal it to you- but the eternal God has revealed it and that by the indwelling of His own blessed Spirit in your heart.

read it all here

I have often quoted Kuyper on this blog. He is an immense intellect and passionate lover of Jesus and the glory of God. In this excerpt, Kuyper the Dutch Reformed Calvinist gives a wonderfully complex and nuanced description of the work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of man

The origin and awakening of eternal life are from above; not from the creature, but from the Creator, and are rooted in His free and soverign choice. And it remains not merely a choice, but is followed by a divine act equally decisive that enforces and realizes that choice.

That is God’s spiritual omnipotence. He is not as a man who experiments, but He is God who, never forsaking the work of His hands, is persistant and irresistible in the doing of all His pleasure. Hence His counsel becomes history; and the Church, whose form is outlined 203 204 in that counsel, must in the course of ages be born, increase, and perfect itself according to that counsel; and since that counsel is indestructible the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. This is the ground of the security and consolation of the saints. They have no other ground of trust. From the fact that God is God, and that therefore His pleasure shall stand, they draw the sure conviction with which they prophesy against all that is visible and phenomenal.

In the work of grace, there is no trace of chance or fatalism; God has determined not only the final issue, leaving the way by which it is to be attained undecided, but in His counsel He has prepared every means to realize His choice. And in that counsel ways disclose themselves which human eye can not trace nor fathom. The divine omnipotence adapts itself to the nature of the creature. It causes the cedars of Lebanon to grow, and the bulls of Bashan to increase; but it feeds and strengthens each according to its nature The cedar eats no grass, and the ox does not burrow in the ground for food.

The divine ordinance requires that by its roots the tree shall absorb the juices from the ground, and that by the mouth the ox shall take his food and convert it into blood. And He honors His own ordinance by providing food in the soil for the one, and grass in the field for the other.

The same principle prevails in the Kingdom of Grace. To man as a subject of that Kingdom, and of the moral world belonging to it, God has given another organism than to the ox, cedar, wind, or stream. The movements of the latter are purely mechanical; from the steep mountain the stream must fall. In a different way He acts upon ox and tree; and in still another way upon man. In the human body chemical forces work mechanically, and other forces like those in the ox and cedar. And besides these there are in man moral forces which God operates also according to their nature.

Upon this ground our fathers rejected as unworthy of God the fanatical view that in the work of grace man is a stock or block; not because it attributes something to man, but because it represents God as denying His own work and ordinance. Creating an ox or a tree or stone each different from the other, giving each a nature of its own, it follows that He can not violate this, but must adapt Himself to it. Hence all His spiritual operations are subject to the divinely ordained dispositions in man as a spiritual being; and this feature makes the work of grace exceedingly beautiful, glorious, and adorable.

For let us not deceive ourselves and speak any longer of a glorious work of grace if the omnipotent God treats man mechanically, as a stock or block. Then there is no mystery for angels to look into, but an immediate work of omnipotence breaking down and creating anew. To admire the work of grace we should take it as it is revealed, i.e., as a complicated, unsearchable work by which, violating nothing, God adapts Himself to the delicate and manifold needs of man’s spiritual being; and reveals His divine omnipotence in the victory over the endless and gigantic obstacles which human nature puts in His way. (more…)

Just as nothing can live biologically apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, so no man can come alive to God apart from the Spirit’s work In His discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) To be “born again” is to experience a second genesis. It is a new beginning, a fresh start in life. When something is started, we say that it is generated. If it is started again, it is regenerated. The Greek verb geniauo that is translated as “generate” means “to be,” “to become,” or “to happen.” Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a change. It is a radical change into a new kind of being. To be regenerated does not mean that we are changed from a human being into a divine being. It does mean that we are changed from spiritually dead human beings into spiritually alive human beings. Spiritually dead persons are incapable of seeing the kingdom of God. It is invisible to them, not because the kingdom itself is invisible, but because the spiritually dead are also spiritually blind.

read the rest here

Below is an excerpt from a recently published sermon series on John’s Gospel from the great preacher and theologian LLoyd-Jones. In it he identifies a failing of evangelical ministry which I have recently become aware of in my own ministry, that being the reduction of the Gospel to simply the forgiveness of sins. As Lloyd-Jones notes, the Gospel is so much bigger than that! It is not only the forgiveness of sins but new life, not just new life but eternal life! Not just a repaired relationship with God but a living relationship with God! May God continually convict us all of the “bigness” of the Gospel and my this be reflected more and more in my ministry.

Now I want to add a few words here as an aside. I am speaking to people who in name, I have no doubt, are evangelical people and evangelically minded. I think the greatest charge that can be brought against evangelicals in the last ninety years or so, since the 1870s, is that we have grievously failed at this point. We have tended to reduce this glorious gospel, and the life that it gives, to just a question of forgiveness, as if everything happens when a person makes a decision, as though that is the beginning and the end of the gospel. The glory, the bigness, the greatness, the complete intellectual satisfaction, has not been preached and expounded as it should have been. Indeed, evangelical people have often been charged, and I am afraid it has been a true charge, of being afraid of the intellect.

read more and about the recently published work on Al Mohler’s blog by clicking here

Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Calvin College. He is a thoughtful and sharp young guy who is also quite passionate about the broad implications of the Gospel. Take the time to click to the link and read the whole thing.

Unfortunately, this promise of abundant life is often taken up by those we identify with the “prosperity gospel,” a gospel of “health and wealth” associated with folks like Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts, or more recently, Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar. You know its scurrilous slogans, plucked from Scripture:

“You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
“Ask and you will receive” (John 16:24).
Jesus came “that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
This emphasis seems to resonate with creation’s economy of abundance. Wouldn’t an economy of abundance be one that generates prosperity?

And yet I’m guessing most of us would squirm (or scream) if we had to watch the TBN network for any extended amount of time. Many of us would cringe to see Creflo Dollar positioning the Cadillac Escalade beside his pulpit as “evidence” of the anointing. And I suspect most of us would be uncomfortable with the picture of Joel Osteen asking for donations on a remote broadcast from his yacht. Indeed, it’s easy to detest name-it-and-claim-it as sanctified greed. We are rightly suspicious that this is just the wolf of consumerism in sheep’s clothing.

But how many of us are still quite comfortable with more “low grade” (or “soft sell”) versions of a prosperity gospel? For instance, how many of us buy into a logic that assumes if a Christian is wealthy, he or she has been “blessed” by God — as if material prosperity was a kind of magic, rather than the product of often unjust systems? While many of us might be quick to loudly denounce the “heresy” of the prosperity gospel, we’re quite comfortable with affirming the good of affluence. But isn’t that just a prosperity gospel without the glam?

What’s right with prosperity?

So maybe it’s fair for us to ask: What’s right with the prosperity gospel? One of the reasons this question is important is the explosion of world Christianity. As you know, world Christianity is basically charismatic Christianity, and the prosperity gospel often attends pentecostal and charismatic spirituality.

But here’s my question: Does the prosperity gospel mean something different in rural Nigeria than suburban Dallas? Is the promise of material and economic abundance received differently by those who live on less than $2 a day? The prosperity gospel (for all its failures) might be an unwitting testimony to the holism of pentecostal spirituality. In a curious way, the prosperity gospel is a testament to the very “worldliness” of pentecostal theology. It is one of the most un-Gnostic moments of pentecostalism, refusing to spiritualize the promise that the Gospel is “good news for the poor.” In this sense, we might suggest that the implicit theological intuition that informs pentecostal renditions of the prosperity gospel are not very far from Catholic social teaching or liberation theology. They are evidence of a core affirmation that God cares about our bellies and bodies. Granted, this means something very different in the comfort of an air-conditioned megachurch in suburban Atlanta (where “prosperity” signals an idolatrous, consumerist accumulation of luxury) as opposed to what “prosperity” promises in famished refugee camps in Rwanda. The former deserves our criticism; the latter, I think, requires careful listening.

read the rest here

Piper talks about his new book Spectacular Sins, which you can read for free online (click here) or buy at your local bookstore. 

Burroughs was a Puritan pastor living in England in the 1600’s (1599-1646). Below is an excerpt from his most famous work “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.” Burroughs is insightful in his examination of keeping up with the Jones, something which he calls “the fancies of men.” You can read the rest of Burroughs’ work here, or simply pick it up as a nice paperback online for around $7.

We think poverty to be such a great evil-Why? because it is so esteemed by others, rather then that people feel it so themselves, unless they are in an extremity of poverty. I will give you a clear demonstration that almost all the discontent in the world is rather from the fancies of others than from the evil that is on themselves. You may think your wealth to be small and you are thereupon discontented, and it is a grievous affliction to you; but if all men in the world were poorer than you, then you would not be discontented, then you would rejoice in your estates though you had not a penny more than you have. Take a man who can get but his twelve pence a day, and you will say, This is but a poor thing to maintain a family. But suppose there were no man in the world that had more than this, yea, that all other men but yourselves had somewhat less wages than you, then you would think your condition pretty good. You would have no more then than you have now; therefore it appears by this that it is rather from the fancies of other men than what you feel that makes you think your condition to be so grievous, for if all the men in the world looked upon you as happy, more happy than themselves, then you would be contented. Oh, do not let your happiness depend upon the fancies of other men. There is a saying of Chrysostom I remember in this very case: ‘Let us not make the people in this case to be our lords; as we must not make men to be the lords of our faith, so not the lords of our comforts.’ That is, our comfort should not depend more upon their imaginations, than upon what we feel in ourselves.

Preached by Rob Sturdy on May 24th, 2009.  Click here for full audio/video

Rapper Shai Linne raps on the merits of the Calvinistic doctrine of “limited atonement” or now popularly called “positive atonement.”  This doctrine puts the emphasis on salvtion upon the blood of Christ rather than any contribution made by the individual.  In a nutshell Christ pays the dowry (his shed blood) for his bride (the church).  It is important to note that Christ’s shed blood doesn’t make possible the salvation of the church as much as it guarantees the salvation of the church.  The inner city rapper Shai Linne spells out the implications and intricacies of this doctrine far better than most clergy could.  Make sure to listen to it all and read the lyrics as he goes.  Enjoy!

Verse 1

Here’s a controversial subject that tends to divide
For years it’s had Christians lining up on both sides
By God’s grace, I’ll address this without pride
The question concerns those for whom Christ died
Was He trying to save everybody worldwide?
Was He trying to make the entire world His Bride?
Does man’s unbelief keep the Savior’s hands tied?
Biblically, each of these must be denied
It’s true, Jesus gave up His life for His Bride
But His Bride is the elect, to whom His death is applied
If on judgment day, you see that you can’t hide
And because of your sin, God’s wrath on you abides
And hell is the place you eternally reside
That means your wrath from God hasn’t been satisfied
But we believe His mission was accomplished when He died
But how the cross relates to those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

Verse 2

Father, Son and Spirit: three and yet one
Working as a unit to get things done
Our salvation began in eternity past
God certainly has to bring all His purpose to pass
A triune, eternal bond no one could ever sever
When it comes to the church, peep how they work together
The Father foreknew first, the Son came to earth
To die- the Holy Spirit gives the new birth
The Father elects them, the Son pays their debt and protects them
The Spirit is the One who resurrects them
The Father chooses them, the Son gets bruised for them
The Spirit renews them and produces fruit in them
Everybody’s not elect, the Father decides
And it’s only the elect in whom the Spirit resides
The Father and the Spirit- completely unified
But when it comes to Christ and those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

Verse 3

My third and final verse- here’s the situation
Just a couple more things for your consideration
If saving everybody was why Christ came in history
With so many in hell, we’d have to say He failed miserably
So many think He only came to make it possible
Let’s follow this solution to a conclusion that’s logical
What about those who were already in the grave?
The Old Testament wicked- condemned as depraved
Did He die for them? C’mon, behave
But worst of all, you’re saying the cross by itself doesn’t save
That we must do something to give the cross its power
That means, at the end of the day, the glory’s ours
That man-centered thinking is not recommended
The cross will save all for whom it was intended
Because for the elect, God’s wrath was satisfied
But still, when it comes to those in hell
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)

“The crucified Christ has irresistible attractions. When He stoops into the utmost suffering and scorn, even the brutal must relent. A living Savior men may love, but a crucified Savior they must love. If they perceive that He loved them and gave Himself for them, their hearts are stolen away. The city of Mansoul is captured before the siege begins, when the Prince Emmanuel uncovers the beauties of His dying love before the eyes of rebellious ones.”

– Charles Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ (Lynwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1995), 15.

Below is an excerpt from Watson’s The Great Gain of Godliness pgs 12-16. Incidentally, the book was lost for some time and thus was on Spurgeon’s “wish list”. Unlike Spurgeon, who longed to read this lost text, you can find it easily on amazon for around $7 or simply read it online by clicking here

Having done with the frontispiece of the text, I begin, in the first place, with the character in general of the godly: they are fearers of God, “Those who feared the Lord”. What fear is meant here? Considered negatively:

1. It is not meant of a natural fear, which is a tremor or palpitation of heart, occasioned by the approach of some imminent danger. “They are afraid of dangers on the road” (Eccles. 12:5).

2. It is not meant of a sinful fear, which is twofold:

A superstitious fear. A black cat crossing the path, is by some more dreaded than a harlot lying in the bed.

A carnal fear. This is the fever of the soul which sets it a shaking. He who is timorous, will be treacherous; he will decoy his friend, and deny his God. Three times in one chapter Christ cautions us against the fear of men, (Matthew 10:26-31). Aristotle says that the reason why the chameleon turns into so many colors, is through excessive fear. Fear makes men change their religion as the chameleon does her colors!

A carnal fear is EXCRUCIATING, “fear has torment in it.” (1 John 4:18).The Greek word for torment is sometimes put for hell (Matt. 25:46). Fear has hell in it.

A carnal fear is PERNICIOUS. It indisposes for duty. The disciples, under the power of fear, were fitter to flee than to pray, (Matthew 26:56), and it puts men upon sinful means to save themselves: “The fear of man brings a snare!” (Proverbs 29:25). What made Peter deny Christ, and Origen sprinkle incense before the idol—but fear?

Considered positively, the fear meant in the text is a divine fear, which is the reverencing and adoring of God’s holiness, and the setting of ourselves always under his sacred inspection. The infinite distance between God and us causes this fear.

When God’s glory began to shine out upon the Mount, Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake!” (Heb. 12:21). Such as approach God’s presence with light feathery hearts, and worship him in a crude, careless manner—have none of this fear.

“Those who feared the Lord”. In the words are two parts.

1. The Act—fear.

2. The Object—the Lord.

“Those who feared the Lord”. The fear of God is the sum of all true true religion. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ). Fear is the leading grace, the first seed which God sows in the heart. When a Christian can say little of faith, and perhaps nothing of assurance, yet he dares not deny that he fears God (Neh. 1:11). God is so great—that the Christian is afraid of displeasing him; and so good—that he is afraid of losing him. (more…)

Preached by Iain Boyd on May 17th 2009.  Click here for full audio/ video

An interesting paper put out by Reform U.K. on the essential nature of Bishops for a legitimate ecclesiology

In seeking to understand the proper Anglican view of episcopacy we should note to begin with the focus we find in Article 19 of the 39 Articles. This is the article which is simply entitled ‘Of the Church’. It says ‘The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same’. It is striking in view of common assumptions today that no mention is made of the necessity or otherwise of episcopacy or indeed any other form of church order. This in itself is a very significant point.

The way the Anglican tradition addresses the question of order may be seen in the Preface to the Ordinal of the Church of England which famously states ‘It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient authors that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests and Deacons’. It is not often appreciated what this careful statement is and is not saying. It is not arguing or insisting that bishops are essential to the existence of the Christian community. It is simply acknowledging that ‘bishop’ is a scriptural word, and that a distinctive episcopal ministry arose in the time of the apostles (hence the reference to ‘ancient authors’). This is the characteristic position of the early generation of Reformers in the Church of England. It is also to be noted that the statement speaks of ‘these Orders of Ministers’ and not of ‘three Orders of Ministers’. The latter is often assumed, but in fact the Church of England Reformers viewed bishops and priests as being of the same order, which is why bishops are consecrated rather than ordained.

It is important to appreciate that the English Reformers, in line with the history outlined above, did not claim that a binding pattern of church order is to be found in Scripture. They would therefore take issue with those who insisted that presbyterianism was the church order to be followed, just as they would take issue with any who insisted that bishops were essential to the life of the Christian community. The point is that the Reformers understood very clearly that it is the gospel that creates and establishes the church, rather than a particular form of Church government. To think otherwise would be to align oneself with the error of the Roman Catholic Church. Apostolic succession comes from fidelity to the doctrine of the apostles rather than an unbroken episcopal succession. Thus John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury and celebrated author of ‘An Apology for the Church of England’, puts it like this: ‘Succession, you say, is the chief way, for any Christian man to avoid antichrist. I grant you, if you mean the succession of doctrine’ (Avis 1982 p130). (more…)

“Let us get to love Christ. Love is a holy transport. It fires the affections, steels the courage, and carries a Christian above the love of life, and the fear of death. Many waters cannot quench love (Song of Sol 8.7). Love made Christ suffer for us. If anyone ask what Christ died of, it may be answered, He died of love. If we love Christ, we will own him in the worst times, and be like that virgin of whom Basil speaks who, not accepting deliverance upon sinful terms, cried out, ‘Let life and money go, welcome Christ!”

Thomas Watson, Godliness Banner of Truth 2008, pg 10