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Life

I Want to Love Jesus, Not Just Know Stuff About Him

I just finished reading Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis again, making it only the second book, along with Don’t Waste Your Life, that I have read twice.

At the end of the book, the authors made the point that what they are really after is not a church method that will sell books or put butts in pews, but to spread a passion for God.  They write:

Have you noticed how possible it is to speak about doctrine and yet remain reluctant to speak of the Savior in intimate terms? I find it easy to speak with other Christians about mission or church. I can talk all day about the exegetical complexities of Romans 7. I enjoy nothing more than a lengthy discussion of some point of doctrine. But I find myself stumbling when conversation drifts toward Jesus! I suspect I am not alone. I have been attending conferences for more than twenty-five years; yet rarely have conversations in those meetings turned toward the loveliness of the Savior. What a tragic irony! One of the great glories of the new covenant is that it consists of personal possessive pronouns: Jesus is my Savior and my Lord; to me he is the all-together lovely one and the fairest of ten-thousand! Consider Paul’s great boast: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

It is so easy for me to slip into this trap. Theology and doctrine are good things. But they are only good so long as we see Jesus first and foremost. If doctrine leads to anything else other than love for God, it is, as Paul would say, worth nothing (see 1 Cor. 13).

Lately, I have been praying more and more that the aroma of Christ would ooze from my being, and that God would rescue me from the stench of puffed-up knowledge about Jesus. Having Christ’s aroma only comes from being near him — close enough that his scent rubs off on me. Oh how I long to intimately and intensely love Jesus, rather than simply know pithy trivia about him.

Lord, help my theology and knowledge to lead to love for you.

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Life

If the Bible Says it Once, It’s True

Some Christians believe in annihilationism, that is, that those who do not receive Jesus will not suffer in  hell, but will actually cease to exist.

But Matthew 25:46, plain as day, says that people will be punished forever if they are not saved.  It would be hard to reconcile annihilationism with these words of Jesus.  In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem wrote, “The Bible only needs to say something once for it to be true.”

Eternal punishment in hell is a terrible doctrine, indeed.  But if the Bible teaches it, then we must believe it, and hard as this seems, learn to love it in a God-honoring, Christ-exalting, non-vengeful way.

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Theology

Conversation Between a Calvinist and an Arminian

This is from John Piper’s post earlier this week about how Charles Simeon, a Calvinist, tried to reason with John Wesley, an Arminian, about the supremacy of God in the salvation and perseverance of Christians.  I have adapted it to contemporary language.

So you call yourself an Arminian. People call me a Calvinist; and therefore we are supposed to argue about finer points of theology. But before we start fighting, may I ask you a few questions? Do you think that you are a depraved person, so depraved, in fact, that you would have never turned to God if God had not put it in your heart first?

Yes, I do indeed

And do you reject your coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And since you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you will be able enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is. This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance. This is really all there is to it and nothing else. Therefore, instead of searching for differences in language and definitions and having that be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?

Obviously, there is a lot more in Reformed theology than just this, but I think Simeon’s point is to show that “Arminians” and “Calvinists” have more in common than they think.  Furthermore, I think that Simeon may have tried to show the inconsistencies in Arminian thought.

How do you think the conversation would have gone if Wesley had asked the questions?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And supposing you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you can enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is to me.  This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance.  This is really all there is to it and nothing else.  Therefore, if you please, instead of fighting about language and having it be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?

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Theology

Christ’s Imputed Righteousness

Part 5 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

In the last post, we discussed the imputation of our sin to Christ as he died on the cross.  As our sin has been imputed to Christ, God takes Christ’s righteousness and imputes it to us (or “exchanges” it for our sin, as Martin Luther puts it).   In reality, in God’s eyes, this probably happens simultaneously, but for our purposes we can consider that sin must be imputed to Christ before righteousness is imputed to us.

Because we are totally depraved, there needs to be a righteousness that comes from outside in order to make us right with God.  In Romans 4, Paul tells us:

For what does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (v. 3).

David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works (v. 6).

We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness…his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.  It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (vv. 9, 22-25).

And in Galatians 3:5-6, Paul writes,

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Paul talks about this in Philippians 3 as well, regarding his own life.  He says,

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

There was nothing that Abraham, David, or Paul did to get Christ’s righteousness as their own.  They didn’t obtain righteousness by keeping the law.  It was imputed righteousness “from God” that “depends on faith.”

When something is “counted” to you, it is not something you have done for yourself.  Think of having someone credit a bank account of yours with money that you did not work for.  All that was required on your part was to believe that the money was deposited.  In the same way, Christ’s righteousness is credited to your “spiritual account” in the bank of God when you have faith that his promise is true.  We have done nothing to earn our standing before God — indeed, we have done everything possible to try and avoid it!  Nevertheless, when we believe or have faith in God that he will hold fast to his promise, God will count Christ’s righteousness to us as if it were our very own.

To be continued.

Categories
Life

Teaching the Bible at Beam

One of the great (new) joys I have here in South Africa is to teach the Bible along with my friend Rylan Reed to four guys who work at Beam Africa, a local development center for township children, here in Pretoria.  Last week we talked about new birth and what God has done to make us dead sinners alive in Christ.  This week, we discussed grace, faith, and good works from Ephesians 2, James 2, and Abraham’s life.

Here are some pictures from our time together today:

Question of the day: “How do we know if someone has true faith?”

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From the left: Ludwig, Brian, and Ronney.

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I promise you I’m talking, not sneezing.

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Rylan talking about the relationship between faith and works in James 2 (the guy on the right is Blessing).

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