Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book Review Explanation

This is the response from the publisher of Reformation Trust regarding Chapter 10 of "Believing God" by Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr.:

Dear Mr. Caldwell:

Thank you for your note regarding Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.’s book Believing God. In the first paragraph of Chapter 10, Dr. Sproul is speaking not of Christians but of human beings in their fallen condition. This is why he speaks of children of the Devil, which is a term that cannot be applied to Christians due to their adoption by God.

However, as the entire book labors to show, even Christians struggle to believe God.

I hope this clarifies his meaning.


Greg Bailey
Reformation Trust

I replied that this was partially satisfactory. Why?

Because of two things. First, the context of the paragraph, chapter, and entire book is written to Christians. Second, the content of the paragraph makes no sense if it were written to an unbeliever because they simply cannot believe God in their dead, condemned state. Their unbelief is not deepened by the fact that they are also sinners, children of the devil, and fools.

There has been no response yet to this.

However, in a separate snail-mail, I did receive a rejection notice from Mr. Bailey regarding my manuscript, "Christian Mythology". I do not believe that the two transactions are related.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Review - Believing God - Chapter 10: He Has Overcome the World - John 16:33

This may well be my last review post of this book. The first paragraph of this chapter brought tears of grief upon first reading. I hope that what I read and will share with you below is some kind of misunderstanding, some poor wording, perhaps semantics. I will contact the author directly for an explanation. Rather than withhold this review until then, I will post it for the book itself is already out there for all to see, purchase, and read. The damage is done. But for this, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr. should provide some amplification. I cannot believe that this is reformed theology:

"There are at least two important reasons why we have such a difficult time believing the promises of God. The first and most glaring is our sin. Since the fall of Adam, we have found ourselves in a position where sin comes naturally to us, where our default position is to not believe God. It all began when Adam and Eve failed to believe God. Like them, we, their children, believe our father, the Father of Lies. We are skeptical of what God says and prefer to be as God, constructing reality out of our internal fantasies. We are, in short, fools."

As I took exception many times before in this review, though Dr. Sproul calls us Christians "sinners", the Bible does not. Now he writes that we are children of the devil. Finally, he calls us fools. I will venture no further into this as the statements are clear. I take strong objection to each. Christians are not sinners, not children of the devil, and not fools. Not only are these my beliefs, they are convictions. They are Biblically sound. I trust that Dr. Sproul will respond to clarify or confirm his contrary positions.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review - Believing God: Chapter 9 - All Things Work Together: Romans 8:28

Ugh, this is the chapter where adherence to the number one rule of writing would have helped tremendously: show don't tell. Dr. Sproul spends better than half the chapter providing a prescription before he even tells us what the promise is. He must have assumed that his audience knows Romans 8:28 by heart and therefore he need not provide neither the verse nor any amplification. Why ignore a whole segment of Christianity who is unknowledgeable of this (for whatever reason)? The prescription is a turnoff and does not lead the reader to desire the necessary knowledge.

Finally the promise is given along with some excellent amplification which is immediately wasted. Dr. Sproul generalizes to much that the lesson is lost. Prescription plus generalization equals a dull read. Even the spiritually mature would have a hard time getting through this with the Spirit's guidance.

Nevertheless, there are points made that require discussion.

First, here's the verse. Romans 8:28 (and 29-30 since he uses it for context amplification, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."

He then makes his first good point. "We will better be able to believe this promise the better we are able to remember our goal, our end, our purpose." The question here which he poorly answers in a much too general sense is, "What is my purpose?" Sadly he defers to the Shorter Catechism instead of the Bible. Stay in Romans and move ahead a few chapters to a section I often use in my posts - Romans 11:36 - 12:2.

You want to know more than God's general purpose for you, to love Him and enjoy Him forever, thereby bringing Him all the glory. You want to know His specific purpose for you, thereby bringing Him all the glory. Here it is:

"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

First things first! God's specific purpose for you starts not with your purpose but with His glory (v. 11:36) Second, His purpose for you starts in heaven. That's where you find the answer. Spend some time there. Ask. Third, He will answer you so that you know for certain. (v. 12:2) What you do in between is the key that unlocks the answer. It is what this blog is all about. A message to a holy Bride alive unto God and ready for all things from Him in anticipation of His coming.

Once you know God's purpose for you generally and specifically, then this purpose of Romans 8:28 starts to become real and visible and up front in your thoughts, emotions, experience, and prayers. Dr. Sproul spends too much time concerned with the cultural impact upon these things, accusing it of blinding us and holding us back from believing the promise. He should know better than to fall into that pragmatic trap for he and his father speak against it all the time. In other words, don't let your circumstances dictate your faith.

Then he changes course to verses 29-30 which discuss our sanctification. This is just another in a chain of conclusions based on Romans 8:1 which is in itself a conclusion of the arguments started in chapter 5 all the way up to that point. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Take a look at the construction of this chapter and picture it as an outline of conclusive topics. It would look something like this (in the KJV):


You get the idea. These conclusive topics are all simply evidences of walking in the Spirit. They are great and profound promises given ONLYto those who do NOTwalk in the flesh (sin). Period.

Watch out here because Dr. Sproul's conclusion is quite different and it is misled. This happens quite often when one teaches on sanctification (or worse yet, progressive sanctification). He writes, "If, instead, we would delight in Him, if we would, by His grace, behold His glory more fully, if we would see through the veil more clearly, if we would draw near to Him in prayer and at His table, then we would know not where we are going but to whom. Then we would rejoice in every step of the journey. Then we would give thanks and would believe His promises."

This is very close to "works" theology. But I give him the benefit of the doubt given the strength of his reformed position. Instead, he is likely saying that if we "have just a little bit more of Jesus in us, become just a little bit more like Him" then we will believe. Where is the faith in all that? Where is the promise of the fullnessof the Holy Spirit in all that? We are either full of the Spirit with none of the flesh or we are not. There is no in between. I'll save the blog for a later day on this avenue called progressive sanctification. It is false teaching.

For now, think about the meaning of such things as he says in conclusion, "...bring us closer to being like Him...," and "brought us closer to Him." I will leave you with this one unalterable fact that I started this post with: Romans 11:36. You cannot get any closer to Him than He already is within you. That's pretty close I'd say. Now you realizing it, being aware of it, experiencing that closeness, well that's another subject. But Jesus answered that dilemma for you in John 17:21-22, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:" You cannot get any closer than "one" and there, you will glorify God. What's keeping you?

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I have been writing for a long time. While part of it is a gift (as some folks tell me), another part must be learned. Non-fiction religion is still my favorite genre (hence the blog) and I enjoy writing it a lot. But I must confess that there are a few fiction pieces sitting in my file, none published. I have one unfinished novel started some twenty years ago rotting in the file but brewing more and more in my mind.

In fact, it's coming to a boil after I attended the Writer's Digest Writer's Conference last month in New York City. I attended a workshop offered by Donald Maass titled, "The Fire in Fiction". He titled the workshop after his new book of the same name. It was my first ever conference and first ever workshop for fiction. I was sad that his book sold out while there. He was autographing. But I joined the line anyway just to meet him and thank him for the great first impression and workshop along with the assurance that I would immediately buy the book. Which I did.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through it and loving every page. Imagine me, a highly conservative Christian non-fiction writer (and reader) highlighting pages in this book. The more I read the more ideas I get and the more that old novel is starting to come back to life. I can't wait to write it all over again.

It all came to life this afternoon as I watched the new Disney/Pixar movie "Up". Here I am thoroughly enjoying this movie with laughter, tears, tension, and all the while picking out points from the "...Fire in Fiction" book, analyzing the film to death. Ahh, so that's how they do it! What a revelation! It would probably ruin the movie for anyone else but it gave me profound joy to see what I have been learning. It's also a blessing because my learning style is by far slanted towards visual. Auditory and reading fall far behind.

So here's to you Donald Maass. In a few years, my historical novel "Falkenstein" will be on its way to your door!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thought for the Day

Once we are down the path of James 1:14-15, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." we reach some inevitable point of no return. The good news is there is also a point where we can turn ("we" meaning Christians - sinners cannot). At the point of temptation, we can still turn and not sin. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." - I Corinthians 10:13

Note the conditions of temptation: lust AND enticement. These are powerful things. Lust comes from within ("his own lust"). Enticement may be internal or external. It is the hook. Temptation is a three-stage process from which escape is possible at any point without sin. But the further you progress in each stage, the more difficult it will be to take the escape that God provides.

But at the point of sin there is no return. Sin brings death. Inevitable. No turning back. No resistance, remedy, or remission can stop it. We cannot help it. Once past the point of enticement we cannot escape the hook, the old man does not struggle at all but naturally does what satisfies his lust. It is the panging of the lust and the sharp point of enticement that wakes him up. He sins. He cannot but speak of and do the thing which his lust demands.

There is a similar process for the Christian who is awake. God says of us in Acts 4:20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What process got Peter to the point that he could not help but speak to the glory of God?

The answer immediately preceeds this starting in verse 7, "And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."

There is a Name. There is power. That Name is our Lord Jesus Christ. That power is the fullness of His indwelling Holy Spirit. The result is boldness, an inevitible, point of no return confession before men the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Truth, and the demonstrated power of His resurrection.

Just as we cannot help but sin when the old man is alive, so we cannot help but speak boldly the Truth when God is alive. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 6:11

Share with our readers today some comment about how you just could not help but do or say something that brings glory to Jesus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review - Believing God - Chapter 8: Mountains Cast Into the Sea - Mark 11:22-24

This was by far the best chapter of the book so far and left me feeling a sense of great anticipation to turn the page. Jesus says in the subject verse, Mark 11:22-24, "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

Dr. Sproul recalls a trip to Israel when this saying was brought to a visual reality. I won't spoil the story here. But I never heard it before. Somehow I knew that God would use that picture in my mind later in the week. So I had great anticipation going to Sunday School where our lessons are focused on Jesus. What a wonderful, worthwhile "topic". I was not disappointed. But I was perplexed for about a week as I tried to put together the building blocks that God had put before me.

Just as Jesus described the moving of some pretty big blocks of turf in Mark 11, so God had to move some pretty big blocks of mental dullness in my mind. He wants to do the same in all of us so that we may do one simple thing: believe.

In case you still have any doubts about the composition of the Church, let the following verses and teaching put all aside. God will move a mountain in order to build the "stones" of His Body. But we have to first get out of the way with our belief in our beliefs, and into His Way of faith, believing exactly what He says.

First, some history lesson.

God commands that His place of worship appear thus:

Exodus 20:24-25, "An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it."

Deuteronomy 27:5-6, "And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God:"

This is quite plain and clear. Make the altar of earth. If stone is used, no tool shall touch it. Why? I'll explain later. It's the key. But remember this little hint: what else was formed of the earth besides this altar?

Later on, Solomon builds his temple for God. Look at the subtle change that takes place in I Kings 6:7, "And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building."

This time, tools were used on the stone, just not locally. All the finishing work was done right at the quarry. God didn't mention that back in the Law. Why did Solomon do it then? God was building on something far greater.

God foreshadowed this in Isaiah 28:16, "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." This verse is quoted a few times in the New Testament, notably in I Peter 2:6-8, "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." Stumbling over stones is the key here. Perhaps the very stones, the visual appointment we create on our own, stones we call churches, are those we stumble over.

We must therefore examine more closely what God meant by "cornerstone". Look at Hebrews 9:11, 24, "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;...For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:"

Ah, now we see the perfect. But do we? Jesus says in Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, and Luke 21:6, "...See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

And that is exactly what happened to Solomon's temple just 70 years later. But why "not one stone upon another"? As I was putting this post together and sharing it with some friends, one told me this story.

The Jews, knowing the imminent destruction was near, took all the gold and silver of the temple. Rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the enemy, they melted it down and poured it between the cracks in the stones. Later, the enemy, to retrieve the precious metals, removed every stone from upon another to get that gold.

Let the world have its riches. God's purpose is far higher and more glorious. Are you willing to ask Him to move the mountain in your way and allow Him to make you what He promises in I Peter 2:4-5, "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."?

There we are back at the altar. But that altar, that Church, that sacrifice, is us. From the earth we come and to the earth we go. But our immortal spirit is forever God's place of worship. And so I say again, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 11:36-12:2)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Yo Adrian!

Most mornings driving to work I listen to Adrian Rogers on the radio. This morning his topic was a compare and contrast of faith and works from Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." and James 2. Pastor Rogers wanted to assure us that these two passages are not contradictory. He is correct. His basis for this was pointing out a key to understanding. This key, he claimed, was that Ephesians 2:8-9 speaks of our justification before God (faith) while James 2 speaks of our justification before men (works). To support this claim, we must ask two questions. Why and why?

Why must I be justified before God? That's easy. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Justification cost His blood. That is God's eternal explanation found in Romans 5:9, "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."

Pastor Rogers went on to claim rightly that our faith, our justification, our salvation is indeed based alone on the grace of God - NOT OF WORKS. For how could any man account of his works and declare them sufficient such that he knows he is saved? And what man would accept not knowing, but merely hoping his works were enough, only to find out after death (too late!) that his works were insufficient? What rational man would take on such a religion?

The second question is where we get into trouble. Why must I be justified before men? Pastor Rogers went right to the Scriptures for this one. He pinged Romans 4:2-3, "Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." and James 2:23-24, "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Somehow at this point Pastor Rogers drew the conclusion that Abraham's works justified him before man. Let's examine that claim.

Genesis 15 offers God's Word about Romans 4:2-3. Genesis 22 (30 years later) offers God's Word about James 2:23-24. Two things jump out immediately as we go back to those two passages in Genesis. First, who was there? If Abraham's works justified his faith before men, then who was there to account for it? Nobody. Nobody was there but Abraham, Isaac, and God. Second, what was God's response?

Genesis 22:12, "And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." God then goes on to declare His blessings to Abraham. But the point here is that Abraham's work of offering Isaac elicited a response from God, not man.

Our faithful works before God are for that very purpose - to obtain His response. What response is that? Justification.

Other Bible teachers have explained the difference between the two key texts of this post this way: Ephesians 2:8-9 speaks of our saving faith while James 2 speaks of our living faith. That's the way I have always heard it until this morning.

But before you start to see Pastor Rogers' point and argue, think about these last two facts from his broadcast. He went on to say that there are many people in his congregation and listening to his broadcast who are not saved. They think they are. But they don't know it. He said (and you've heard this illustration hundreds of times) they have missed salvation by eighteen inches. They know the truth in their heads but they have never asked Jesus into their hearts.

Stop right there. That's works! No one can claim salvation by grace alone and then also say that we must "ask Jesus into our heart". By implication that means if we do not ask Him, then we are not saved. That is works.

Second, at the end of the broadcast, his assistant Chris announces a typical benediction, "If you've never prayed to receive Jesus as your Savior...."

Stop right there. That's works too! No one can claim salvation by grace alone and then also say that we must "pray to receive Jesus". By implication that means if we do not pray, then we are not saved. That is works.

These are unBiblical myths propagated by the church today. They leave sinners in hell and many saints confused and out of their daily right in heaven.

Faith without works is dead. Does that mean we lose our salvation? God forbid! It simply means we are asleep. "Awake unto righteousness and sin not," saith the Lord in I Corinthians 15:34. Our works are for the good pleasure of God as we demonstrate our faith. We believe His revealed Word and will and we do it. There is no greater joy on earth or heaven than this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review - "Believing God" Chapter 7: Open Windows of Heaven: Malachi 3:10

This chapter was much better than the last in that it was coherent and flowed in the context of the subject matter. This would have been a good spot to insert the idea of the devil's "simultaneous translation" strategy that he discusses elsewhere. He describes this as the difference between what our eyes see on the pages of the Bible, even familiar, perhaps memorized passages, and its meaning that we tell ourselves in our minds. He says that by such "translation", we reduce the Word and strip it of its power. Is this the devil at work? Perhaps.

Oswald Chambers calls it "belief in our beliefs". Call it what you will, correct attribution is rather difficult and at best a guess. Is it the devil actively at work, sitting aside the Christian, or is it the Christian's deceitful heart of flesh? It really does not matter. Sufficient to realize is the fact that both are at work and both must be guarded against at all costs.

This chapter is a good example of that necessity for it more than any other so far in the book is at the forefront of the tele-Christian and radio-Christian kingdoms. For here Dr. Sproul introduces another group of people who can be most visciously assaulted by the wiles of the devil and the profit-seekers of the flesh. He says, "It may well be that the greatest effect of the propagation of this foolishness isn’t found among those who fall for it but among those who don’t fall for it. In other words, the heresy is most effective among those who don’t believe the heresy." He sums this effect as, "Because we don’t believe in the health-and-wealth gospel, we may find it all too easy to not believe the promises of God."

Who is this latter group of Christians? They are those who have not decided such matters at all. They are waiting for someone to tell them what to believe. Or perhaps they are waiting to gather sufficient evidence (Biblical or otherwise) to the side they prefer, thus tipping the scales sufficiently to their side to cause them to believe the "overwhelming" evidence. The great danger in all this is that this group in reality fails to believe and exercise themselves in the sufficient teaching of Holy Spirit.

Do you trust the teaching of the Holy Spirit within you to such a degree that the word of any other man is inconsequential? Do you believe I John 2:27 above all else? "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."

To answer that question, examine these two others:

To whom do you go first for answers to your Bible questions?

To who do you go most often for these answers?

If you leave it to just Sunday with your pastors and teachers you are most in danger of the devil's "simultaneous translation" and believing your beliefs rather than the truth of the Word of God. Here Dr. Sproul inserts another gem of conviction. He writes, "Once more, through the diabolical ministrations of the Serpent, we come to texts like these and see them not as occasions for repentance but as an occasions for theological debate." Perhaps we get ourselves into this behavior because we read things like this about Paul:

Acts 19:8 - "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God."

Acts 28:23 - "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening."

But Paul was not arguing theology. He was persuading, expounding, testifying, and disputing. The centrality of his words was the Word. He spoke of the kingdom of God and things concerning Jesus out of the law of Moses and the prophets. The one thing that we must stop doing if we are to engage in such work is this:

No more discussion of our beliefs about our beliefs. No more of our words. The only Word with any effect at all is the Word of God. Our words must be few and seasoned heavily if not exclusively with His Words. When folks come to me to dispute (and I love a good discussion) I will immediately demand they argue solely from Scripture when after a few minutes I find their words void of such but instead full of themselves. We simply must not tolerate the disputation of our beliefs and our words. They are fruitless. Only God's Word bears the fruit of salvation and life.

The end of this chapter is a great and worthwhile read for here Dr. Sproul explains in detail another failing of the flesh as it does another deceitful job of planting a false belief in our minds. Spend time here meditating before God exactly what He means by "blessing" in Malachi 3:10. The blessing is not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence with the tithe (or in this case a one to many). The blessing can take on many facets and will only be recognized when we are right and One with God. Otherwise, our beliefs creep in again and we set ourselves up with false expectations of the kinds of blessings that God "owes" us. This is particularly dangerous in this age of entitlement. We really don't believe that God is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9, II Corinthians 3:5, Luke 14:28-33)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sinless - Part 2

After the last post my friend came rushing to my office and we spent the next hour diagramming and writing on my whiteboard. What great fun to fellowship in the Lord as we seek to understand His Word at His throne.

It's important to realize the reality of what I just said here "at His throne". As Christians who are awake and in right-standing with the Lord, we know that we are with God right at that moment in the heavenlies. Ephesians 2:6 - "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" Indeed, we are there with Jesus (in Jesus) learning at His feet. What better place to be!

Anyway, we went on to discuss yesterday's post a bit more. My friend's next question (and he is great at thinking real deep and asking the toughies) was, "If your premise is true that we can be sinless for some moment in time, then do those moments accumulate in such a way that the frequency of sin while the frequency of sinlessness increases proportionally?"

Oh dear friend I wish it were so but it is not. God says through Paul in Philippians 3:8-12, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Surely in this life we will never attain perfect perfection.

When God says, "Be ye perfect," or "Be ye holy," what He means, in the original Greek is, "Be being perfect," or "Be being holy." In other words, we are to be about the business of being perfect and holy. That is the simplest way I know how to explain this latest train of posts. The state of sinlessness is but for a moment of being. It is effective only through the death, burial, and resurrection (blood atonement) of Jesus Christ.

God goes on to say in Philippians 3:13-4:1, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved."

We are to obey to apostolic command to follow the perfection that Paul has already learned, experienced, and taught to us. We are all to be of that same mind to "be being" holy. Those who do not walk so are the enemies of the cross. He reiterates again the reality of our position in heaven right now and in the future. Finally, he urges us to remain steadfast in the Lord in this way. In other words he means that in order to stand with the Lord presently, we must follow his example of perfection.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Can We Be Sinless?

My good friend e-mailed me a comment on yesterday's review/post. I demands a closure followup.

"...As we’ve discussed previously, I still do not believe we are capable of reaching a sanctified state of being “sinless” because of our depraved position this side of glory. I sensed you were leaning in that direction during your review but perhaps my view was biased because of our previous talks & my reading your work.

I would love to hear RC comment on your review & I may send him an email directly to encourage that...."

To which I replied, "That sinless state is only good as long as the old man stays down. It is a moment-by-moment discipline that is gracefully headed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit and conscience. Where folks get bogged down is this:

If the old man is still there, the potential for the flesh arising is still imminent, then can we therefore conclude that we are A) still sinners, or; B) unable to be truly in a sinless state?

One way to answer that is:

As we truly have the indwelling Holy Spirit, AND we know that the Lord Jesus Christ never sinned, nor was capable of sin (though He was tempted in all ways as we are), we can therefore conclude that when we are filled with the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, IN HIM we cannot and do not sin. But immediately the old man arises, we are no longer walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. Lust overtakes and ends in sin. All the while the Holy Spirit says, “Stop before it’s too late.” If we don’t heed, then His next words will be, “Confess and repent.”

Now with further insight, here's the end of the point:

One may argue that as long as we still have that sin nature, that old man, that flesh, AND even though we may be filled with the Spirit, AND even though we obey Romans 6:11 to be dead indeed to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, we still have the potential to sin. We all experience this reality. Seemingly out of nowhere comes a wicked thought. We apparently did nothing to retrieve it. There was no visible or audible temptation to respond to. It just popped up.

We know where it came from. Jesus says in Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:" The heart is the seat of that old man, flesh, sin nature. As long as we are physically alive and our hearts beat, that potential to sin is always there.

Now retreat with me for a moment to the time before you were saved. I believe that God created man perfect, in His image. When Adam sinned, the sin nature fell upon all mankind through his seed. At that moment, the perfect image of humankind (our spirit) died. Solely through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ were we saved from our sins and spiritually brought back to life. All further arguments hinge upon this reality.

We also know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that our salvation is solely of grace, not of self works.

Now we also know that to continue to live our lives in Christ, we cannot do it in the flesh. That's what the first three chapters of Galatians are all about. So I am not arguing that to achieve the sinless state that any such works of the flesh are required. Nor are any such works required of us while walking in the Spirit to maintain that state. That state is still, just as it was at salvation, so it is now at every moment, utterly dependent upon the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a fact that He died once and rose again from the dead once for all sins for all time for all mankind. He need not die and rise again. That's what Hebrews 10 is all about.

Again, what did we do at salvation to get saved? Nothing. All the things that people attribute to man's actions in salvation are all responses to the work of Jesus Christ and the election of God. We do not have to pray to get saved. Neither do we have to confess, repent, or do anything at all to get saved. All these things are responses to the act of salvation already done. Remember, before salvation we were dead in trespasses and sins. A dead man can do NOTHING. He cannot confess, repent, or pray. But immediately he is alive, he responds to the first prompting of the Holy Spirit within him to give glory to God. This response can be in many forms, though none are required or prescribed by Scripture.

So here's the point (almost): If we still have the potential to sin within us, are we still sinners? No. We are saints alive, new creatures in Christ. (II Corinthians 5:17) What are we then when we sin? Wicked. The point is now a different question however. It is no longer, "Who am I?" Now the question is, "Why?"

Why go through these gyrations of sin and repentance? If Jesus really indwells us with His Holy Spirit and we really can be sinless for some time, why doesn't He just make it forever right now? Why not make us perfect right now? No more sin!

Why did God save us in the first place? So that He and His Son would be glorified through the atonement which saves us from our sins. Why does He keep us saved? Same reason. Why does He make us do the hard work of this discipline to maintain a holy life?

It is not hard work. Neither is it works. It is still Jesus.

But it sure seems like work. Hard work. Why do I struggle so with sin?

Because now you are learning just how depraved you are, just how wicked and deceitful your heart really is, just how infinitely large was the magnitude of what Jesus did for you when He died for your sins on the cross and then rose again victorious over sin. For now, our victor is imperfect. "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (I Corinthians 15:51-58)

Wherein we were utterly unable to turn to God from our sins prior to salvation (for we were dead in sin) now we are able to turn to Him by His goodness (Romans 2:4) through the gift of repentance. Is this a stuggle? It may seem so for a time. But at that moment when you forsake all and die to sin, you find it the simplest, easiest thing because you realize that it is Christ in you that did it and enabled you. All the work and stuggle you perceive is just the flesh fighting to stay alive.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness for you have been set free indeed!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Believing God - Chapter 6: The Desires of Your Heart: Psalm 37:4

First, the book review bit. I realize that so far much of what I have written about this book has not been a review so much as a commentary. What can I say? This is my first review. I enjoy doing it both for the reading, the edification, and the opportunity to review/comment for my readers. I also trust that my review/comments are of value to the publisher and author. But I honestly have not heard feedback from them yet. Onward.

This chapter reads like one of my own. It suffers from what many editors call "first draft". There are a lot of great ideas in this chapter but they do not link well together. So following the author's lead is quite difficult. Along the way he leaves so many ripe tidbits that deserve further exploration. I wish the chapters were either longer, or more short chapters that split the many subtopics into readable chunks, overall, making the book much longer but quite worth the effort to read. As it is, too much is left out.

Try this on for size.

Once again the author calls Christians "sinners" in this chapter. And like last time, he seems to refute that position elsewhere in the chapter. He introduces a new type of person this time called the "wicked". And once again he is on the fence. He writes, "When we step back from looking at the world from the perspective of second by second, we can begin to see the judgment against the wicked. As we live above time, we witness the reality that it is not the children of God but the wicked who are like the grass; they come and they go."

First of all, the verse says nothing about the "children of God". It simply calls out the fate of evildoers and wrongdoers. Question: can Christians do evil and wrong in this context? Can Christians be categorized as "wicked"?

That's a tough one to face. But it must be considered. Why? Because the Bible offers no other options. Clearly God calls no Christian a sinner in the New Testament. This cannot be found by inference either. So what do you call a Christian who sins?

To answer that, we must examine a bit of our composition. Man, in God's image, was created a triune being of body, soul, and spirit. (Hebrews 4:12, I Thessalonians 5:23) We know the body as our physical being (not to be confused with the "flesh" term often used by Paul - we'll get to that later). The soul is our mind, will, and emotions. The spirit is spirit.

Upon conception, the state of our self is this: Our body is physically alive. Our soul is likewise fully active. But in relation to God, our spirit is dead. (Psalm 51:5, John 3:18) We have a sin nature.

Upon salvation, the state of our self is transformed to this: Our body is still physically alive. Our minds begin a process of renewal (Romans 12:1-2). Our spirit is now quickened alive and One with God. (John 17:11, Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 2:5) Our sin nature however, is still with us.

This sin nature is what Paul calls the "flesh". He spends a lot of time giving us understanding of this "old man" in Romans 7 where he also calls it in verse 24, "the body of this death."

You see, we now have a duality within us. It is the spirit and the flesh. (Galatians 5:17) The good news is that by the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His indwelling Spirit, we now have the power not to sin. There is no other reasonable basis for Jesus to tell us to "sin no more". (John 5:14, John 8:11) It is the context of the first two chapters of I John.

What happens to the state of self when a Christian sins? The body is still physically alive though in grave danger of God's judgment. The soul is still active though in grave danger of a seared conscience. (I Timothy 4:2) The spirit is still quickened and alive. But this old man, this flesh, this sin is now between us and God. That which He finds offensive He will not have in His sight. Positionally we do not lose our salvation. But experientially we endure the wrath of God. Why? Because we have no excuse any longer. He holds us responsible for maintaining a right relationship with Him.

This is not about to become a discussion on the doctrine of grace versus works. It is all of grace. Paul finishes his dissertation on the flesh in Romans 7 with the answer in verse 25- 8:1, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

He expounds on this completely inthe book of Galatians. The flesh has no role whatsoever in the keeping of the Christian life. (Galatians 3:3) You see, even though God is angry at us for our sin, He has not left us. In fact, His Spirit will constantly bombard you with promptings to repent and get right, to get back into the joy of the Lord. That's what He does according to John 16:7-11. That is Jesus' promise. God wants to keep you right with Him all the time but He will not do it for you. Positionally and eternally yes He will. But experientially, right now, no He won't. That is up to you. The Holy Spirit will prompt you. You must obey that prompting according to I John 1:9.

Now with all that said, back to our question. What do you call a Christian who sins? Wicked. Evil. There are no other terms found or inferred in God's Word. Although we are God's children, we do evil wicked things sometimes. That is the sin nature in us. When we allow that old man to wake up, that flesh to arise, immediately the life of Christ seems to vanish. It is not gone, but behind a veil of darkness of sin. It is not a process of increasing or decreasing. It is absolute. We are either right with God (holy, perfect) or we are not. We are either in sin or we are not. We are either wicked or we are righteous. There is no in-between, no gray area, no holding pen while judgment is decided.

Why did I spend so much time with this topic? Because the topic of the chapter is "The Desires of Your Heart: Psalm 37:4. To get to this joyful, blessed state, you have to be right with God. You have to know His heart. (Psalm 25:14) God won't give you your desires nor reveal His when you are in sin. The flesh has absolutely no desire to delight itself in the Lord.

I hope what I have shared with you today had no "weasel words" in it as Dr. Sproul humorously and seriously shared in this chapter. He states, "In short, we think our joy is circumstantial. And indeed it is." Why? Because of all we have discussed above. It all depends upon our experiential standing in the sight of God.

Please do not try to overshadow this by saying that your eternal positional standing before God is sufficient and brings the joy in spite of circumstance. When you have sinned do you rejoice? Is there joy in your heart? When you know there is something between you and God, do you go on your merry way singing about Jesus' blood paid it all? God indeed sees the blood. He sees it trampled underfoot. (Hebrews 10:29) We have to treat the sin in our lives the same way now as we did when we were saved. Prior to salvation we could do nothing about sin. Now we can. We reckon ourselves dead to it. (Romans 6:11) We confess it and forsake it. (Proverbs 28:13).

Now go to the throne and enjoy your time with the Father! Worship Him! Be One with Him and His glory. (John 17:22)

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Divine Appointment

Yesterday I changed Sunday School classes. I quickly tired of the pop psychology of Lehman and his "Have a Better Kid by Friday". If that were really possible, then truly there is no sin in this world and all we need to do is change our behavior for all to be well. I don't deny that some of his work is good and effective. But for what "ails" this world, that sort of babble has no effect by this Friday or ever. Only the blood of Jesus saves us from sin and only the powerful working of the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God brings us to repentance, a changing of the mind and behavior for righteousness. And only by personal responsibility to believe the truth and act upon it do we maintain a holy life.

This is crucial to understand as I describe the divine encounter in the other Sunday School class. It was divine both because I knew it was coming (I prayed for it) and because in the midst of it I knew God was there working in the mind of a man deeply asleep in unbelief.

A friend and fellow-prophet teaches this class. His premise yesterday was Galatians 2:20. He expounded on this for my sake before the class started so, at my request, he could bring me up to speed on what he had been teaching the previous few weeks. I then shared with him Romans 6:11 to encourage him along the path he wanted to take with his lesson.

Also sitting in the room was another interested party, a man who has been in the church body for a long, long time. He started to ask many questions about the dialogue I and the teacher were having. Clearly he was struggling with something. Basically it boiled down to something like this:

"I know a lot of this stuff but...." Let me fill you in on three critical points of this blurb. First, the "stuff".

Galatians 2:20 - "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Romans 6:11 - "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

...and the topic of the day in Sunday School: the life of Jesus in you.

As we explained, there is a difference in the death described in these two verses. In Galatians, it is a one-time death. Jesus was only crucified once and therefore we can only experience this once with Him. (Hebrews 10:12 - "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;") On the other hand, the death described in Romans is one that we must reckon over and over. That's the way these verses are written in the original Greek.

In the first case, Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection are sufficient for all of our sin for all time. The Atonement is complete and we are redeemed by His blood. Positionally we are righteous before the Father solely upon this account.

However, we still have an old sin nature, a dead man, the flesh, to deal with. It is powerful and every so often he wakes up. When he wakes up, sin revives, and we die. See Romans 7. Although our positional state with God does not change, experientially we are separated in sin.

For the Christian saint, there can be no worse thing. When sin stands between us and freedom in Jesus, these are the consequences (not necessarily in any order):

1) we are asleep
2) we are in sin
3) we dishonor God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
4) we are in danger of further deception
5) we are completely overtaken by the flesh save for the intervention (praise God He never ceases) of His Holy Spirit to reconcile us and bring repentance

Okay, that's the "stuff". Now for the next point. The "but". When we do not believe the simple truth of God's Word, immediately we are in the flesh and all those consequences above apply. It is not a gradual thing. But it is ever so subtile because to most folks I fear it appears completely normal, so familiar that it is not recognized when it happens.

For the man in Sunday School class, his "but" was something like this. "The devil is keeping me from such and such. He is so deceptive." I told him that indeed the devil can and does impede the Christian's life if he can. But don't give him too much credit. For the flesh and the temptations of the world are just as powerful. He agreed. The flesh and this world fall under his kingdom. So then I said to him, "Don't spend another moment trying to figure out who or what is responsible. Did you know that whatever sin you are dealing with, it alone is what you have to deal with. Not the cause, not the source, not the devil, the flesh, or the world. Just the sin. No matter how big or small the sin is of no matter. God says in James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

That "all" is huge. Its magnitude is what Jesus suffered and died for on the cross.

He agreed and stated that we cannot even begin to imagine just how wicked we all are. Sounds good. And then we get to the third point that he brought out over and over. It is the main point of this posting today. Don't miss it. "I know...."

He said he struggled with knowing the Word but could not get it from his head to his heart.

Let's stop right there for a moment and crush that myth. There is no Biblical base for this kind of transaction that Christians so commonly teach and believe. We don't have to wait to get Biblical knowledge from our heads to our hearts before it becomes effective. There is no Biblical teaching to even show us how to do this. Nor is there any such teaching to show how it is done for us by God. It simply does not happen. It is a wicked, fleshly excuse for unbelief and disobedience.

Here's what God does say about it.

James 4:17 - "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Romans 7:25 - "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Knowledge of God's Word is sufficient. It is the will, the flesh that is still in the way that prevents belief and obedience.

That is what makes Romans 6:11 so wonderfully simple and yet so hideously difficult. For it points right to the reality of life and death. We are either dead in sin or alive in God. When we are dead in sin we are "alive" in the flesh and all seems well and normal. When we are dead to sin we are alive in God and we are free. That is the reality of John 8:32 and 36, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

When I transact on the truth of Romans 6:11, I die to sin. I die to the flesh, the world, the lust, and the desires of temptation. Here's the wonderful thing about death. It is complete. Dead men cannot sin, cannot lust, cannot give in to temptation.

But the old man of flesh, he indeed can sin, lust, and give in. He doesn't have to. That's the good news. Jesus told us the truth, gave us the power, and expects us to believe and obey as such. Therefore He is righteous and just when He commands us to be holy and perfect just as He is. The question therefore to this man and all of us is not, "Do you know this?" Rather, "Do you believe?"

God divinely brought us together yesterday because He wants His saints awake unto righteousness. He wants us holy and perfect. He wants no further shame and dishonor to His name from His own children. When He comes, how will you be found?