Archive for April 2009

The “Nations” Have Come To Us

April 30, 2009

When many people think about the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ to “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20), they think about going to the geo-political entities that are represented by the colored regions on our wall maps.

But the word for “nations” in the Greek has nothing to do with the geo-political regions of the world. The word “nations” in the Commission, “panta ta ethne,” has reference to “people groups,” the thousands of ethno-linguistic groups that populate our planet.

We do need to “Go” to other countries to share Christ with the “nations”, but at the same time, the Lord of the Harvest has brought the “nations” to us.

Every year thousands of international students, representing not just their countries, but their “people groups”, come to the United States and other Western countries to pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many come as visiting scholars and researchers.

These men and women represent the best and brightest of their countries. They are the current and future academic, scientific, business, and political leaders of their homeland.

While these students and academicians come to the colleges and universities in our communities to pursue their academic careers, they also want to experience American life, meet and get to know families, learn about our culture, history, and lifestyles while they are here. They are also very interested in knowing more about our belief systems and Christianity, in particular.

This is an opportunity that we have to love on the people of the world and to share our faith and our God.

Through the teaching of the Word of God and the sharing of Christ many students come to faith in Christ as Savior. As these men and women, and their families in many cases, are discipled and equipped for ministry, they are being prepared by the LORD to return to their countries and professions where He will use them to minister as pastors, Bible teachers, evangelists, and church planters. The Lord will use them to penetrate their networks (“Oikos”) where they will share the love of God and the Goods News of the Risen Savior in their heart language and culture.

My family and I pray about going overseas some day but can’t at this time because of a family medical issue. Until the day that we can go, our discipling of the “nations” ministry is to the international students enrolled at our local university.

Let me encourage you to pray about ministry to the “nations” that the LORD has brought to your doorstep. Become involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission by loving and ministering to the international students in your community.

~ Blessings ~

Illumined and Comprehending

April 23, 2009

Institutes 2.2.18 – 2.2.23

The relationship of human reason to the Kingdom of God, specifically, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of God’s fatherly favor toward believers and the method by which we regulate our conduct in accordance to Divine Law, is Calvin’s subject in this reading.

With respect to the knowledge of God and His favors toward men, Calvin says that even the most ingenious thinkers are “blinder than moles” with respect to the things of God. Even though they may border on being thoughtful about these aspects of God’s nature, their remarks are “somewhat of a giddy imagination” at best.

It is said that man is “intoxicated with a false opinion of our own discernment” regarding spiritual matters. Calvin then proves from Scripture that man is spiritually blind and incapable of comprehending the true light of God. (John 1:4,5) For this reason,

… it is said that believers, in embracing Christ, are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:13); in other words, that the flesh has no capacity for such sublime wisdom as to apprehend God, and the things of God, unless illumined by His Spirit.” (2.2.19)

Several verses are used to show that man’s knowledge of God is the result of the initiative that the LORD takes toward us, verses such as Psalm 36:9, I Corinthians 12:3, John 3:27, Deuteronomy 29:2-4, Jeremiah 24:7, John 6:44. These verses intimate “that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only in so far as he enlightens it.” (2.2.20)

“It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 2:14,9: 1:20) (2.2.20)

In Section 21, Calvin addresses our inability to understand God’s paternal favor toward us because of the spiritual darkness in which we live and walk without the Holy Spirit. It is only by His grace that the eyes of our understanding are illumined and we are enabled to understand the mysteries of God.

The knowledge of the method of properly regulating man’s conduct is the subject of the last two sections of this reading. According to Calvin, it is in this area of knowledge that man seems to have more discernment than he does in the knowledge of God and His favors.

Romans 2:14 and 15 tell us that the Gentiles have the law of righteousness naturally engraven on their minds. Calvin defines natural law as the “judgement of conscience distinguishing sufficiently between just and unjust.” Because of this we cannot say that man is altogether blind to the rule of life. Much more so, the reality is that natural law renders man inexcusable and deprives him of all pretext of ignorance regarding sin.

The interesting thing is that while man condemns sin in “the general definition or essence of the matter,” that is, sin is wrong, when it “descends to particulars”, namely my sin, man “forgets the rule which he had laid down in the general case.”

******************************

In this reading, Calvin has used many of the well-known New Testament verses that speak about our spiritual deadness and the darkness and blindness that prevent us from truly understanding and knowing the truth of God, His salvation in Christ and His favors toward those who are His.

He has spoken about the Spirit of regeneration and the wondrous and special energy that He exercises within us to form “the ear to hear and the mind to understand” the things of God. (2.2.20)

We have been told, and with this we would agree, that “none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.”

I am eternally thankful that my LORD took the initiative with me, enlightened the eyes of my understanding, and brought me to faith for the forgiveness of my sins.

” … one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

(John 9:25b)

To Glorify and Enjoy

April 20, 2009

I am reading a sermon entitled, “Of Man’s Chief End and Happiness.” The sermon was preached by Thomas Boston, a Scottish pastor who lived from 1676-1732.

The sermon is based on the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The question is, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

I have not completed the reading of the sermon, but I have already found two quotes that have struck my attention.

The first quote is:

“The study of holiness says, God is holy; mourning for every slip says, God is spotless; walking holily in all manner of conversation, within and without, etc., says God is omniscient and omnipresent, etc.  As when men find a well-ordered family, that tells what a man the master of it is.”

The second is:

“As when the waters come from the sea unto the earth, and go back again unto it by brooks and rivers; so all we receive and enjoy comes from God, and ought to go back again to him, by being used for his glory.”

May we glorify Him in every area of our lives,  in all that we do, with all that we have. And, may we truly enjoy Him as our Lord, Savior, and Friend.

You can read the sermon here.

Grace In The Residue

April 18, 2009

Institutes 2.2.12 – 2.2.17

In this reading, Calvin discusses the effect of the fall on the natural and spiritual endowments that the LORD has bestowed on man.

He begins with a reference to a saying by Augustine that “man’s natural gifts were corrupted by sin, and his supernatural gifts withdrawn” as the result of sin. The “light of faith and righteousness, which would have been sufficient for the attainment of heavenly life and everlasting felicity,” have been withdrawn from man and he is now an “exile from the kingdom of God.”

This withdrawal of the supernatural gifts has necessarily had an effect on man’s natural gifts – they have been corrupted. Man still possesses the residue of reason, though it has been weakened. He has a will, but it has become “so enslaved by depraved lusts” that it is incapable having even one righteous desire.

Man also still possesses an intellect and has “a certain desire of investigating truth.” But, because of sin, his mind has become dull and he is therefore unable to “pursue the right path of investigation.” Not only does the intellect wander and stumble in its pursuit of truth, Calvin says that it “frequently fails to discern what the knowledge is which it should study to inquire.” This results in superfluous and useless discussions that are vain and frivolous.

This made me think of passages of Scripture in which the Apostle Paul speaks about empty words (Ephesians 5:6), philosophy and empty deception (Colossians 2:8), and worldly and empty chatter (I Timothy 6:20).

Man’s intelligence, though marred by sin, can still be effective in the study of inferior, earthly things such as policy and economy, all mechanical arts and liberal studies, including civil order. But, intellect is totally useless regarding heavenly things such as “the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom.”

Man has been left with an intelligence that enables him to devise new things and improve in areas that have been previously learned. As this occurs, and as we recognize it for the good of man, we should also recognize it as a “special gift from God.” These endowments and their benefits to man “ought to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each.”

We are reminded that,

” … the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising gifts, we insult the Giver.” (2.2.15)

So we, as Christ-followers, should neither deny nor fail to appreciate the work, advancements and benefits that are accomplished by researchers, scientists, and doctors in the fields of technology, science, engineering, and medicine. But, we should also be careful to acknowledge how these men have been able to accomplish what they have and to give God all of the glory for it. He has left many endowments in the possession of human nature though they have been “despoiled of the true good” which were theirs in the original giving.

“But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God?” (2.2.15)

While the Holy Spirit only indwells those who have been regenerated and know Christ as their personal Savior, the Spirit does fill and move and invigorate all things by His virtue and that for His particular purposes.

In the summary of this reading, Calvin uses terms and expressions such as “the general kindness of God”, “the Divine indulgence”, “in a common nature the grace of God”, and “particular influences according to his calling” to emphasize that though the natural endowment of reason has been corrupted by sin, man and his reason is still “entirely under the control” and rulership of God. A number of examples of this from the Book of Judges, I Samuel and Job are presented as testimony to the oversight and superintendence of the LORD over all things, people, and circumstances.

******************************

May I simply say that I am thankful the LORD has left with us a “residue” of the natural endowments with which man was originally blessed. Though the endowments have been corrupted by sin, the LORD, in His grace and mercy, has seen fit to use the endowments and the possessors of them for our common good.

May we recognize this fact and give Him the glory for it.

******************************

Please visit Monergism Books and WTS Books for your Reformed books and resource material.

Bonar On God’s Sovereignty

April 15, 2009

God’s Sovereignty

“You are perplexed by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and election. I wonder that any man believing in a God should be perplexed by these. For if there be a God, a King, eternal, immortal, and invisible, He cannot but be sovereign – and He cannot but do according to His own will and choose according to His own purpose. You may dislike these doctrines, but you can only quit of them by denying altogether the existence of an infinitely wise, glorious, and powerful Being. God would not be God were He not thus absolutely sovereign in His present doings and His eternal pre-arrangements.”

******************************

This quote from Horatius Bonar, a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, was taken from “God’s Way of Peace – A Book For The Anxious” (1862).

A Will Freed By Grace

April 15, 2009

Institutes 2.2.8 – 2.2.11

Calvin begins this reading with a very interesting section on Augustine and his doctrine of “free will.” It begins with a statement that Augustine does not hesitate to “call the will a slave.” Follow-up comments are made by Calvin that help the reader to better understand what Augustine meant. Comments such as:

… he elsewhere admits, that without the Spirit the will of man is not free, inasmuch as it is subject to lusts which chain and master it.”

… man, by making bad use of free will, lost both himself and his will.”

… no will is free which has not been made so by divine grace.”

… the righteousness of God is not fulfilled when the law orders, and man acts, as it were, by his own strength, but when the Spirit assists, and the will (not the free will of man, but the will freed by God) obeys.”

The question is asked, “If man is fallen and enslaved to sin, how can people speak of a ‘free will’?” The will is only “free” when it has been” liberated” by the grace of God. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (II Corinthians 3:17)

Calvin does say that because of the many misunderstandings that there are about free will and what exactly it does mean, he chooses to not even use the term.

The church fathers were spoken of in Sections 4 and 5 of this chapter and Calvin speaks of them again in Section 9. Here he says that while the fathers spoke ambiguously and with some uncertainty at times about free will, even going “too far in extolling free will,” their intentions were good. Their main object was to teach men to renounce their confidence in self and place their strength and confidence in God alone.

In Section 10, Calvin repeats a caution that he issued earlier in this chapter. The warning is for man to be very careful to not claim even one iota of worthiness for himself for anything he is or anything he has accomplished. To transfer “divine honour to himself” is to become guilty of the greatest impiety. This statement is then supported by a number of Scripture verses.

This reading is concluded with the reminder that man must remain humble before the Lord. The humility that Calvin is speaking of is a “true humility” that acknowledges our total sinfulness and brokenness before holy and righteous God. “The more infirm you are, the more the Lord will sustain you.”

In an extended quote, Calvin writes,

So, in expounding the seventieth Psalm, he forbids us to remember our own righteousness, in order that we may recognise the righteousness of God, and shows that God bestows his grace upon us, that we may know that we are nothing; that we stand only by the mercy of God, seeing that in ourselves we are altogether wicked. Let us not contend with God for our right, as if anything attributed to him were lost to our salvation. As our significance is his exaltation, so the confession of our insignificance has its remedy in his mercy.”

******************************

No one readily or easily gives up the high thoughts that we hold of ourselves. When we hold onto and promote ourselves, we rob the Lord of His glory.

Lord, may our prayer be that You would convict and heal us of the “disease of self-love and ambition” and deliver us from the blinding influences that cause us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. May our strength and confidence rest in You alone. By Your Spirit and Word may this be so.

An Easter Prayer

April 12, 2009

The Message of Easter

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  

(I Corinthians 15:1-4)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is the LORD’s declaration of victory over sin and death.

All who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin “have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)

  • Hope ( “confident expectation” ) for the forgiveness of sin
  • Hope ( “confident expectation” ) for eternal life
  • Hope ( “confident expectation” ) for abundant living today

Today we praise the LORD for the work that He has accomplished for His glory and our good through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son.

Our prayer and desire is that you will know the Son whose resurrection we celebrate.