Month: February 2009

Shaking Like a Leaf and Being Firm in Faith

King Ahaz was a wimp, and he lead a wimpy kingdom. Judah was going to be attacked by its sister to the north, Israel, and Syria, and yet Ahaz had no plan, no courage, no faith.  He and his kingdom were so scared they were going to wet their pants.  Isaiah 7:1-2 tells the story:

In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and n Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

God says that despite these human threats of invasion, Judah will remain unharmed because of his promises to the house of David. In verse 9, after God said that Israel would fall and Syria would not invade, he declares to King Ahaz, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” God just commanded Ahaz, the king who shakes like a leaf when a gentle breeze blows through the forest, to have faith and be firm. In other words, God just commanded Ahaz to do something he cannot do. This doesn’t get Ahaz off the hook. It doesn’t take away his guilt simply because he’s unable. Instead, it adds to it. It shows that Ahaz, along with you and me, are so bad that we are incapable of having faith in God on our own.

The only answer to how Ahaz, and we, can have faith in God is that God gives it freely.  Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” Other translations say that Jesus is the “author…of our faith.” He writes the story of faith in our lives. Acts 14:27 says that God “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” They didn’t create faith on their own, God made it possible.  It takes faith to come to God and please him (Heb. 11:6), and Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65; cf. 1:12-13; 8:47; 10:26; 18:37).  This shows that faith must be granted by God to people in order for them to come to Jesus.

Furthermore, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man can boast.” What is not the result of our own doing? Paul cannot mean grace in this context. He has to mean faith, for no one would ever say that grace is of his own doing. Everyone knows that God alone gives grace.  On the other hand, people might think that they can muster up enough faith to claim it as their own: “I was in the right place at the right time around the right people and I just decided that I needed to follow Jesus” or something of that nature. This would be a cause for boasting. But that can’t be the case because at our core we are people who shake like trees in a forest when a trial comes.  We are people who aren’t righteous, do not understand or seek God, and are not good (see Rom. 3:10-12).

The opposite of good is bad. And bad people cannot have faith in a perfect God, unless that perfect God graciously gives faith to our hearts so that we might move from being a flimsy leaf in a summer breeze to a firm branch attached to the great Vine even during the most gale-force winds.

Why God Says He is Angry and Sorry

John Calvin:

Why is it that God says he is angry, that he is sorry? Is it not because we cannot comprehend him in his incomprehensible majesty? So then, it is no absurd matter, that holy writ should speak unto us of the will of God after two sorts: not because his will is double, but to apply himself to our weakness, because our understanding is gross and as heavy as lead.

More reading:

The Ready-to-Preach Sermon

Ligon Duncan on the greatest advice he’s received to improve his preaching:

Mark Dever’s counsel has been helpful and instructive to me: “if your wife wakes you up at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning to ask you what your sermon is about, and you cannot tell her in one crisp sentence, then that sermon is not ready to preach.” Basically, we must be really clear on what the main thrust, thesis, argument, point, and main application of our sermon is.

The 50/50 Gospel and Grace

Jonathan Dodson:

In his newest book, Christless Christianity, Michael Horton argues that a semi-pelagian understanding of the gospel plagues the American church. Is it fair, however, to lay our rampant nominalism at the feet of Pelagius? After all, most so-called “semi-pelagian” churches are neither aware of nor lay claim to Pelagian doctrine (heresy). Perhaps it is overreaching to frame the Christless Christianity of America with a 6th-century theology? Regardless, Horton has placed his finger on the near lifeless pulse of the American gospel.

He points out that American Protestantism has come to view grace as “divine assistance for the process of moral transformation rather than as a one-sided divine rescue.” That gospel operates on what we’ll call a 50/50 principle. This 50/50 gospel offers salvation via a blend of fifty percent grace and fifty percent good behavior. The cross is no longer expiation of sin but an example of how to live sacrificially. People are good enough to choose Christ but they simply need to be reminded of how good a choice he is. Broken marriages, patterns of sexual sin, deep-seated anger, and rampant debt are primarily the product of our failure to behave like Jesus.

Read the whole thing.