Heat and Light

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an online resource for Reformed Charismatics, Pentecostal Calvinists, & Empowered Evangelicals

Free Piper…

For a limited time Desiring God ministries is giving away a free copy of The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor, for all orders over $25 from their store. This book is an excellent collection of essays by some of today’s top thinkers like D. A. Carson, Timothy Keller, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells related to engaging a post-modern culture for Christ. Quite a deal for free, don’t you think?

But here’s the problem: you don’t have a lot of money, so what do you buy to add up to $25 to get the free-book deal? As an avid Piper reader, I feel for you who may not yet be familiar with his work, so I went to the site and put together my own combo-package of shorter, easy-to-read, and beneficial books available from Desiring God Ministries that have blessed and challenged me far beyond their size or complexity. Here’s my suggestions:

Dangerous DutyThe Dangerous Duty of Delight

In all honesty, this is Desiring God-lite, which for most people is a good thing. I don’t know how many folks I’ve talked to who were really challenged by Piper’s Desiring God, but simply couldn’t finish it. Dangerous Duty of Delight is the solution to that. A short, powerful little read that should pretty much blow your heart and mind wide open with a powerful picture of a God worthy of being worshiped and served with our whole heart, mind, soul, & strength. Great stuff here!

PiercedPierced by the Word: 21 meditations for your soul

By far one of the most powerful devotional books I’ve ever read. Each ‘chapter’ is short, yet Scripture drenched, packed with Biblical insight, and practical application. I’ve given this away as a gift more than once.

suffering sovereigntySuffering & the Sovereignty of God

It’s hard for me to know where to begin with this book, honestly. A theological book on suffering by people who have almost all suffered far more than I ever will: the authors/speakers who contribute essays here are paralyzed, battling cancer, have lost love ones under unbelievable circumstances, and all point towards an absolutely sovereign God as their hope and strength. I’m currently reading it for the 3rd time, and I just bought it this year. Challenging, and moving, to say the least.

And there you have it: 4 excellent, life-changing books for $25.85. You can thank me later. 😉

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , ,

5 points I’ll stand behind…

Though in many ways I consider myself a Calvinist, I often prefer the label “Reformed”.  You see, I find my grounding as a Reformed believer far more in line with Richard Mouw’s “Kuyperian Calvinism”, than folks like R.C. Sproul & John McAurther. That is to say, the center of my “Calvinism” isn’t so much the 5 points, but rather the Biblical concept that Abraham Kuyper summarized so perfectly: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Also, with John Piper, I affirm “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” That is to say, I am ‘reformed’ because I don’t believe the story is really about US: we were made by Him and for Him, and I think that Biblical concept is best brought to the forefront by a ‘reformed/calvinist’ reading of the Word.  That said, I’m very uncomfortable with most Calvinist’s emphasis on the 5 points, and even most interpretations of what each of those points actually MEANS.

Well, recently Jared Hanley, an e-friend I met some time back over myspace, re-worded the 5 points in a way that I could affirm 100%, and I can’t help but share these with you:

1. We’re so messed up that we need a miracle to restore our broken fellowship with God.
2. God chooses us, not based on what He knew that we would do, but simply out of love.
3. Christ gave Himself for the church.
4. When the light of the gospel fully shines in our hearts, we find God’s love to be irresistible.
5. Those who truly belong to Christ are able to stand strong only by the grace of God.

He’s stripped away, at least for me, all of the primary areas of debate, and left behind a simple, modern phrasing which succinctly summarizes some powerful Biblical truths.  Re-reading these, I was reminded of another, more famous author, who had also summarized the 5 points in a way that really made sense to me.

John Piper organized the 5 points below as we subjectively experience them, which seems to make a whole lot more sense than the traditional TULIP formation:

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

Gives one much to ponder, indeed.  God is the star in our story – we are the supporting actors.  So very glad to be in a movie with such a big name, aren’t you? 😉

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Christian Hedonism, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Gospel, Grace, John Piper, Reformed, Salvation, Theology, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

HEAT & LIGHT: Greatest Hits…

Whenever traffic picks up around here, I like to direct any newer readers to the more often read, and some of the simply more important (by my standards) posts here at Heat & Light.

As always, I suggest everyone begins with the ‘cornerstone’ of all I’ve written here: HOW TO EAT YOUR CAKE. If you read nothing else, read it, for the rest of what I’ve written here flows from it.

The 2nd tier: WHAT IS A REFORMED CHARISMATIC?; EARNESTLY DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS; GOD IS IN CONTROL, CHRISTIAN HEDONISM & PLEASURES EVERMORE, DISCUSSIONS ON SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and ETERNAL SECURITY: IS IT BIBLICAL?, all of which expand further what I began explaining in “How to eat your cake”.

And the 3rd tier delves even deeper into some questions and critiques: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MIRACLES?; A FEW GOD-STIRRED THOUGHTS; HOW TO BE A CHARISMATIC IN A NON-CHARISMATIC CHURCH; HOLY LAUGHTER: BLESSING OR CURSE?; and the more recent posts; BE THE REVIVAL (DON’T GO TO ONE); BE THE MIRACLE, and SOUND DOCTRINE & CORRECT PRACTICE IN REVIVAL.

Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I think it’ll be worth your while. Dive in, and comment – join in the discussion. Maybe God will lead you to teach me something – maybe we can sharpen one another. Either way, be blessed!

So be it!

Filed under: Adrian Warnock, Apostles, Bible, Bob Kauflin, Books, C.H. Spurgeon, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, D.A. Carson, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Evangelical, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Flesh, Gospel, Grace, Grace Churches International, Grace Network, Greg Haslam, Ground Network, Hermeneutics, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Intellectualism, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Josh Harris, Jubilee Church, Lakeland Revival, Lloyd-Jones, London, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Michael Fletcher, Miracles, Mystery, Pentecostalism, Pete Greasley, Prayer, prophecy, R.T. Kendall, Reformed, Revival, Sam Storms, Signs of the Spirit, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Terry Virgo, Theology, Tongues, Wayne Grudem, Westminster Chapel, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sound Doctrine & Correct Practice in Revival

In the midst of all the discussion about the Lakeland Revival, the unusual over-emotional expressions of the first great awakening are often brought up. Having read Jonathan Edwards‘ biography, his collected sermons, and his ‘Religious Affections’, as well as being midway through Sam Storm’s “Signs of the Spirit”, and having long research the life and teaching of George Whitefield, I can honestly say that there is a very significant difference between the revivals of old, and the so-called revivals of today, and those differences are what give me pause.

The difference is that Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and most (if not all) of preachers involved in the First Great Awakening, were Orthodox Evangelical Christians – they taught sound doctrine, and modeled correct practice. Yes, the crowds, when some were touched by the Spirit of God, sometimes responded with a mix of Spirit and flesh, and there were – to be sure, by Edward’s own account – many among them who were merely caught up in the emotion of it all, who acted not in response to a move of God’s Spirit on their hearts, but merely to the buzz of emotion in the air. However, all the while they heard the Gospel proclaimed – the Scriptures taught with an attention to detail, and truthfulness. It was not the goal of Edwards or Whitefield to work the churches they stood before into an emotional frenzy, but to teach the truth of God, and see people respond appropriately.

I can look beyond unorthopraxy in those attending the Lakeland Revival, but what grieves my Spirit is that so many of those allowed to take the pulpit aren’t orthodox in what they teach or practice, both of which are important to genuine, full-orbed Christian faith.

A few years ago I taught on this passage from 1st John:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us–even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.1 John 2:18-27

Here is what I wrote about these important verses…

“Here John gives us couple of ways that we can identify saving faith. He asks, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” It appears as though individuals had left the congregation because they no longer believed the truth about Jesus.

Notice that by denying that Jesus is the Christ, we also deny God the Father. Since Jesus revealed the one true God who spoke through the prophets, by denying Jesus we show that we also do not truly believe in the one true God of the Old Testament, since one testified to the truth of the other.

Notice, also, the results of this false belief: they left the church. Remember this; it is SO IMPORTANT that we believe what is ultimately true because what we believe has an effect on what we DO — on how we live! Here the results of their misconceptions were divisions in the church, but every time we accept what Paul called deceptive philosophy over the truth of God it will have some sort of negative results. We were made to live out what we believe, whether it be true saving faith, or falsehood and lies. Either way we will live according to what we believe is ultimately true.

Later John expands on this thought by saying, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God “(from 1 John 4:1-6). We should strive to know the Biblical truth about God, and to live out the teachings of Scripture, in order that we might present ourselves as a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

There are ways of denying the Father & the Son that are not overt – in fact, as an Angel of Light, those are the means that Satan most often employs. When one is actively acknowledging Jesus – that He is of God, and came ‘in the flesh’ – that individual is by necessity being Cross-Centered, & Gospel-Driven. To focus attention primarily on the Holy Spirit, who’s central goal is the guide eyes to Christ, is to actually go against the Spirit, and to risk submitting to another spirit entirely – one that is not quite so Holy.

Sound doctrine and correct practice should accompany the Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided man of God, as the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the Scriptures, but even more-so, applies them to our hearts and lives. To claim to have come in the name of God, and to claim to be led by His Holy Spirit, yet to not teach Cross-Centered sound doctrine, and to not practice Biblical orthopraxy – well, of that person we should at least set our ‘discernment’ on ‘high’, and be very careful to ‘test the spirits’ in every thing we hear them say or see them do.

Please don’t leave your brain at the door in exchange for an experience. If you do so, there is no promise that the experience you have will be one from God, no matter how good it may make you feel at the time. Be blessed.

Filed under: Bible, Books, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Evangelical, Flesh, Gospel, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Jonathan Edwards, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Pastors, prophecy, Revival, Sam Storms, Sermon, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues, Uncategorized, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , ,

Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God (chapter 3)

The first 3 blogs in this series are available here, here, & here.

The 3rd Chapter in Suffering & the Sovereignty of God is John Piper’s own, THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. In it he lays out his Biblical case that suffering – at least some aspects of it, particularly the suffering of Jesus – was in the plan of God from the beginning. Though I agree with him, overall, I do disagree with him on a few minor issues of interpretation along the way, which will surely come as a surprise to some of my friends who may sometimes suspect that I hold Piper’s writings in higher esteem than the Bible itself – not at all true!

Please forgive me if I lose you: some of the issue I will be discussing here even confuse me, but that doesn’t relieve us from thinking about them – God deserves our WHOLE mind, so if there is one place we should not let our mind become lazy it’s when thinking about God.  I hope you will try to follow me as I do my best to ‘think Christianly’ about this.

“[God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” – 2 Timothy 1:9

Piper says, as a result of this verse in particular, “…we have suffering – the slaughter of the Son of God – in the mind and plan of God before the foundation of the world. The Lamb of God will suffer. He will be slaughtered. That’s the plan.” (Piper)

Personally, I’ve always found this explanation – depending on how it’s understood – a bit unsatisfying, though my debate is – to a large degree – theological hair-splitting, and I will readily admit it. The problem is, it’s more an a philosophical or logical debate than one grounded in Scripture. That doesn’t mean that the Scriptures don’t speak to the issue, but by no means are they definitive. That’s just to say, I’m not a ‘double-predestination’ guy, and consider myself a pseudo-Amyraldist (like Richard Baxter), or a mild infralapsarian (like Calvin himself), not a supralapsairian like Piper and many of the more radical reformed folk. Honestly, if I play all of my cards, it may just be that I don’t find it emotionally satisfying to think that God ‘decreed’ the fall, which may even remove me from all camps. Is for God to have fore-seen the fall, and still chosen to create as He did, the very same as decreeing that it happen? I don’t choose to use that language, at least. I’m sure some proper Calvinists will choose to pounce on me for that one!

Either way, from the verse one thing is clear: God at least fore-knew the fall, because the sacrifice of Jesus of was part of God’s plan from the beginning – not merely as part of his ‘permissive will’ as I prefer to view the fall of man, but as part of his explicit will – his ‘purpose’.

Another verse that seems to drive this home is Ephesians 1:4-6: “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Again, I do have serious questions about Piper’s – and most ‘reformed’ folk’s – interpretation of this passage, but either way I think the application is likely the same. I’ll explain…

Reread the whole book of Ephesians sometime. Did you notice that that “us/we” vs. “you” distinction is played out rather extensively? There seems to be a table-tennis game of sorts taking place. First God has blessed, chosen, predestined, redeemed, lavished on, and made known to “us”, who were the first to hope in Christ. Then “you were also included when you heard…the gospel of your salvation…you were marked with the promised Holy Spirit.” Later, “you were dead in your transgression and sin, in which you used to live…”, “All of us also lived among them…we were by nature objects of wrath…made us alive in Christ…”, “…it is by grace you have been saved.“God raised us up…that he might show his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” , “..It is by grace you have been saved…”, “for we are God’s workmanship…”, and then the winning serve; “…you who are Gentiles by birth.”! Ephesus was a gentile community, and this letter seems specifically aimed towards a gentile audience, hence “you” is a very specific group of individuals; gentile converts to Christianity. If that is the case, remembering that those that Paul would be representing, i.e. the majority of the church of his day, including the apostles, were all Jewish converts to Christianity – the TRUE chosen people; chosen both in the original sense of them being born Jewish, AND according the Abrahamic covenant which is actually by Faith. Paul and those he represents are the remnant, the true chosen who have only recently recognized that God is also working in those who are not Jewish by birth. Who were the “first to hope in Christ”? The Jews, of course—they had been reading and interpreting prophecy concerning their coming messiah for centuries. In fact, one can translate “first to hope in Christ” as “those who believed before hand.” Why is it significant to point out that the Jews were also by nature objects of wrath? Because by covenant they were the people of God. In fact, the whole of Ephesians 1-3 should be read as an explanation of “the mystery of His will”, by which these verses are bracketed. “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” And in chapter three, Paul expands on this mystery; “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generation as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.” Reading “we/us” primarily as a referent to Jewish believers, and “you” as a referent to Gentile believers, in fact, simplifies many of the clumsy passages in Ephesians and yet is also consistent within the context of the whole book. Therefore, in 1:3-23 Paul argues that in spite of the fact that God chose to reveal Himself and His plan of salvation particularly through the Jewish people, that Gentiles might also be included through the Gospel, and like his remnant people, the Jewish believers in Christ, they might also have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and both people co-exist under one “head”, which is Christ.

There is a problem with oversimplifying this reading of Ephesians, though – the use of “us/we” will not be entirely sufficient, since at the end of each of these sections there seems to be what I’d call a ‘summery verse’, including both the Jews and Gentile believers, making clear how they are indeed one. Several examples of this would be “us who believe” in 1:19, summarizing Paul’s argument that both Jews and Gentiles can be saved in Christ. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”, verse 2:10, is Paul’s summery of 2:1-10, showing that both are saved by God’s work of free grace. And lastly, 2:14-18 sum up the section from 2:11-22; “For he himself is OUR peace. . . for through him we BOTH have access tot he Father by one Spirit.”

So, I’m left with a question. Chapter 1:3-8 – do they refer to the church universal or only the remnant of God’s chosen people? Does my “remnant/gentile” reading of “us/we/you” begin as early on as verses 3-8? Honestly, I don’t know, but even in being honest about my doubts about these verses as they are commonly used by Calvinists, I think either way Piper’s point may stand. Whether Paul is saying that the true Jews (those who would trust in Christ) were chosen to be God’s people before creation, or if it’s specific to individual Christians, or Christians as a group, being chosen to salvation prior to creation – either way it paints a picture of a God who makes choices without having committee with us first – a sovereign God who CHOOSES, and part of that choice that was made prior to creation is that a people would be “adopted as sons through Jesus Christ”, which happens through Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf. Therefore, somehow the death of Christ – and the suffering of Christ – has been in God’s mind as part of the plan from the very beginning.

One thing I found particularly interesting in this chapter is Piper’s reading of Lamentations 3…

“…though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” – Lamentations 3:32-33

Piper writes: “Literally: ‘He does not from his heart (millibo) afflict or grieve the children of men‘. He ordains that suffering come – ‘though he cause grief’ – but his delight is not in the suffering, but in the great purpose of creation: the display of the glory of the grace of God in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of sinners.” (Piper)

This brings a comforting balance to the thought that God may ‘ordain’ our suffering – God’s delight is not in the suffering, but in its’ purpose – that we display the glory of God as a result.

Piper adds,“The goal of the entire history of redemption” – which includes the suffering of Christ – “is to bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.”

Which takes us back to Ephesians 1. What is the purpose of it ALL – including the Suffering of Christ – and as a result, our Suffering? “To bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.“!

I wrote about this at length in my older blog, GOD IS IN CONTROL:

Isaiah states in verse 14 of chapter 63 that God delivered Moses and his people “to make for himself a name,” or rather, for his own renown and glory. Likewise, Psalm 106:8 says “…yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” John Piper says in THE PLEASURES OF GOD, and rightly I believe, that “God’s first love is rooted in the value of his Holy name, not the value of a sinful people. And because it is, there is hope for the sinful people, since they are not the grounds of their salvation, God’s NAME is.” This idea is carried over into the New Testament as well; Jesus life and work are aimed at revealing and honoring the Father’s name, which leads to His further glory. Jesus prayed in the garden, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then the Father responded, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Again, I believe Piper speaks wisely concerning this; “…we should think of the death of Jesus as the way the Father vindicated his name – his reputation – from all accusations of unrighteousness in the forgiveness of sinners. On this side of the cross we should pray just as David did in Psalm 25:11; ‘for your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.’

We must be careful in thinking that suffering is accidental, as the most significant case of suffering we can imagine – the suffering of Christ – was clearly ordained before the very creation of the world, and for the primary purpose of giving God glory. If the greatest suffering ever undertaken was ordained by God for His glory, I can not only hope – but trust – that my own suffering has significance in the overall plan of our great God as well.

What do you think?

Up next: WHY GOD APPOINTS SUFFERING FOR HIS SERVANTS.

Filed under: Books, Calvinism, Contraversy, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Theology

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 2 – part 2)

For the first two parts in this blog read here & here.

Here is the question I posed last: is God involved, and if so, how, in creating, sending, & permitting evil?

I suppose THAT should be simple enough to answer? 😉

Mark Talbot’s chapter, “ALL THE GOOD THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST” brings to bear many troubling and – if seen in the correct light – comforting verses, many of which we tend to skim over in our Bible reading without thinking deeply about what they are really saying.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'” – Isaiah 46:9b-10a

Talbot clarifies this passage: “They (the Jewish readers) would know that the One who said (Isaiah 46) is the One who ensures this by bringing everything about, including, in the immediate context of Isaiah’s words, ‘calling a bird of prey from the east, …from a far country’ (Isa. 46:10f.) – that is, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia from 559-530 B.C., who would conquer Babylon in 539 B.C. and then allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem so that they could rebuild the temple… God here calls the pagan, unbelieving Cyrus ‘a man to fulfill my purpose.’

God can use evil men – by creating them, sustaining them, and even by not deterring their actions (which He could easily do – look at the boundaries He set around Satan regarding what the devil could and could not do to Job) – to accomplish His own purposes, which He intended and foreknew from the beginning.

Matthew 10:20 says “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Sparrows – in man’s eyes, worth very little. Yet, God’s sovereign hold on things is so all-encompassing – far greater than the so-called ‘sovereignty’ of earthly kings – that even the seemingly insignificant events on earth, like the death of a single half-penny sparrow, only happen because of the Father – only happens because it is the Father’s will to allow it, and bring it to pass.

If not even a sparrow dies apart from the Father’s will, cannot God sovereignly move, direct, and restrain the hearts of evil men? As he adds in Isaiah 46:11b regarding his use of the pagan King Cyrus, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Some, when hearing this, will most assuredly run aground trying to understand how this understanding of God’s sovereignty squares with human ‘free will’ but we must always keep in mind that ‘free will’ as a word or phrase is found no where in the Scriptures, and though that is not proof that it does not true (the word “Trinity” is also nowhere found in the Scriptures, but the concept is centrally Biblical), it does seem that we should be incredibly careful to glean the concept of a ‘will’ from God’s Word, and not simply from the Western political ideas that have shaped our thinking far more greatly than we would often be comfortable admitting.

Again, I will revert to an excerpt from a later post, GOD IS IN CONTROL:

“The second foundation of Biblical Faith flows from the first; free will. I do not speak of the free will of man, but rather, the ultimately free and sovereign (all powerful – in control) will of God. It is frequently and clearly stated in Scripture that God does as he pleases. Psalm 135:6 states, “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and in their depths.” Likewise, Isaiah 46:9-10; “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: my purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Lastly, whether or not this passage supports traditionally understood views of salvation (I question that it does), Romans 9:15 indeed makes is clear that God’s will in regard to whom he will be merciful to will not be thwarted; “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.””

That is all just to say, God’s is the only will that is truly free, in the sense that He can do whatever He wills – man’s will must be subject to God’s to some degree, otherwise it may be possible for man, or even angels – like the devil himself – to thwart the will of God (however hard that is to imagine under any circumstances). However, the Bible is clear – God is truly free – He does whatever He pleases, and his purposes will stand. Therefore, it must be true that our will can only be as free as it keeps us from hindering God’s.

Think about it: say there is a man who is riding his bike along a beautiful bike path, when suddenly he hears a car coming up quickly from behind him. Glancing behind him, he sees the car swerving erratically, and knows he has only a moment to act. He dives from his bike to the left of the road, rolling down the sidewalk, and avoiding the speeding, drunk driver, getting nothing worse that some bloody road-rash from the concrete, and some rough marks on his clothes. Now, he chose to dive to the left onto the sidewalk, but was his decision ‘free’ in the sense that a person who emphasizes ‘free will’ would understand it?

Let’s just say that the opposite side of the road from the sidewalk was a stream, which any other bike rider may have opted to dive into to avoid the swerving car – but our bike rider never learned to swim, because his mother lost one of her best friends to drowning and wouldn’t let her children near water except for the bathtub. Let’s say that there was a railroad crossing exactly at the location, so tracks crossed not only the sidewalk to the left, but also created a bridge over the water to his right, which he could have dove towards and clung to – but he lost his own younger brother when he was in his teens because he got his feet stuck between the ties and was hit by a train, causing such a deep seated fear of trains and railroad tracks that he intended on turning around at this point in his bike trip so he wouldn’t have to cross the tracks on his bike. Another option would be to simply stop the bike in the middle of the road and take on the car head on – essentially suicide, but he had a very happy marriage, a good job, great kids, and people he loved who loved him, and killing himself wasn’t really a live option – he simply had too much to live for. If he were me, what he would have most wanted to do upon hearing that speeding car coming from behind is simply fly off his bike (do I have ANY dreams where-in I cannot fly?) like an eagle, out of the impending danger – unfortunately, his basic biology was of a human, and not a bird, so that wasn’t a live option either.

So, our ‘friend’ made his choice – he dove to the left onto the sidewalk – and he was responsible for that decision: the scratches he took were truly his, as was his life which was just saved. But, if you rewinded those events a million times, and played through them over and over again, could he have even considered doing anything else? The events of that day were entirely pre-determined by his genetics, biology, psychology, sociology – everything about who he was, by his birth, upbringing, and the events from his past DROVE him to do the only thing he could: the only option he could will was the one he chose!

I argue that such is our lot, especially when we look at the picture of human freedom painted in the Scriptures – we are absolutely responsible and pay the consequences and/or receive the rewards from our own actions – but to call them ‘free’ in the sense which most of us understand ‘freedom’, especially here in the West – the USA particularly – that seems to be a serious stretch and far outside the Biblical portrait of human freedom. Ask yourselves, is a human ‘will’ which is – in the flesh, before Christ frees it – a ‘slave to sin’ (John 8:34, Romans 6:20) in any sense ‘free’? Can we consider our wills ‘free’ if it is true, as Jesus says, that “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65b) and on the flip-side that “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37a)?

Though I admit that Biblically we seem to be given some degree of autonomy regarding our decision making, to call our wills “free” seems to me to be a stretch.

This all goes full circle back to our original topic: though God doesn’t DO evil, his sovereign control over it is far beyond what we are often comfortable with, but also brings us our greatest hope – the gospel itself:

“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” – Acts 2:23

“…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” – Acts 4:27-28

The ‘lawless men’ – Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews – who killed God the Son, Jesus Christ, were entirely responsible for the evil done on that great day, however God had carried them along in the strongest sense of the word – He had actually predestined it (i.e. – it could not have happened any differently!) – he called them ‘annointed’ for this purposed – he had not only allowed, but had somehow ‘planned’ according to ‘foreknowledge’ to use the greatest evil the world has ever known for the greatest good possible: the death of the God-man, was the salvation of all who would believe.

This is why I see God’s sovereignty over evil as a comfort, and not something to despair over – if neither the death of a sparrow, nor the death of God’s son were meaningless evil, then neither is the pain and suffering I undergo as I live this life being conformed more and more into the image of Jesus for God’s glory.

Stay tuned next week for my reflections on chapter 3, one of John Piper’s chapters, “THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD”.

discuss…

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Mystery, Philosophy, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 2 – part 1)

For the first part of this blog, please see “Reflections on the Suffering and Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)”.

Diving right into the deep end, Chapter 2 of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, entitled “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others do to Us”, is one of the most profound, and hard to grasp, of the whole book – and, after multiple re-reads, it is quite possibly my favorite.

In it, professor Mark Talbot addresses some of – given the nature of my friend’s comments the earlier blog – the most natural questions to ask when discussing this issue. Mark says; “Scripture declares that the Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (see Genesis 18:25). God is, as Moses sings, ‘the rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.’ He is a ‘faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.’ (Deut. 32:4, NIV). God never does evil.”

The Scripture is clear on this – God does what is right, perfect, & just – he is faithful, does no wrong, and never does evil. Then I think back to my upbringing, and my own fatherhood so far with my sons: as our children are young, we protect them from all sorts of dangers – we are direct and forthright about telling them what to do and what not to do, but we do expect them to eventually grow out of that, and in order to do that, sometimes we – knowingly – let them make their own mistakes. Sometimes even now I’ll see him trying something that I’m pretty sure will NOT turn out as he hoped, but since there seems to be little long-term danger in it, I’ll sit back and watch, so he can learn for himself – so he can mature. In those situations, I am not actively doing anything wrong – I am not forcing my son’s hand, or coercing his will, but I am still overseeing and even – as much as a finite human can be of another human’s actions – mostly in control of the situation as it unfolds. I will indeed maintain the situation so no ultimate harm befalls my son, yet it is my decision to allow what takes place, and in such a case, I even see the long-term good in it, even though I could never bring myself to DO the thing to him, myself. Though any human analogy has it’s faults, there is much truth in this. Regarding this, Talbot adds, “…this is not to say that God does not create, send, permit, or even move others to do evil, for Scripture is clear that nothing arises, exists or endures independently of God’s will.”

The first verse he uses to support his case is Hebrews 1:3: “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The word here we translate as “upholds” means ‘to bring or bear or produce or carry’. Wayne Grudems states that this word is commonly used “…for carrying something from one place to another, such as bringing a paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus… bringing wine to the steward of the feast… or bringing a cloak and books to Paul.” “Upholds” doesn’t mean to merely ‘sustain’, as Talbot makes clear “God the Son holds each and every aspect of creation, including all of its evil aspect, in his ‘hands’…and carries it…to where it accomplishes exactly what he wants it to do.”

So, though it is absolutely true that God never does evil, the level of control, involvement in, and power over evil that the Bible seems to give to God goes much further than most Christians are comfortable allowing. Our God is far bigger than we know.

So, is God involved, and if so, how, in creating, sending, permitting evil? That’ll be Chapter 2 – part 2, coming soon.

Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)

An online discussion among some of my friends a couple of months ago brought to mind the importance of grappling with God’s sovereignty and the issue of suffering. Given that the most powerful book I’ve ever read that Biblically addresses this issue is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, (which is also available as a conference DVD set) edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor, I’m going to take time out over the next few weeks to reflect on this book chapter-by-chapter.

For starters, it would probably benefit everyone to read my older post GOD IS IN CONTROL, as it relates directly to this topic, but for those who can’t find the time, here is the most relevant excerpt:

…the human authors of Scripture had so high a view of God’s sovereignty as to even recognize evil as being ultimately from the hand of God. For instance, in spite of that fact that Satan was the one immediately bringing violence upon Job, Job himself stated, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Job spoke truthfully, as well, for immediately afterward the author adds, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Also look at Isaiah 45:7; “I form light and create darkness, I make comfort and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Or Lamentations 3:38; “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” Though at first this may sound unnerving, there is also comfort to be found here, for since God is ultimately sovereign over all and even the devil is “the God’s devil”, there is no meaningless or purposeless evil, for God ultimately has allowed it and will use it for the good of His children.

That is what I find most comforting in Piper’s (dare I say God’s?) view of God’s sovereignty and suffering: there is absolutely NO meaningless suffering or evil, even if we – in this lifetime – never fully understand the purpose of it now.

On to SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Full Book), chapter one, most of which is summarized in this post on Piper’s website. I was struck by one quote in particular here.

Piper wrote, in response to a quote by David Wells on the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, that by them, “our vision of God in relation to evil and suffering was shown to be frivolous”. He later expounded:

“Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, much of the church is choosing, at this very moment, to become more light and shallow and entertainment-oriented, and therefore successful in its irrelevance to massive suffering and evil. The popular God of fun-church is simply too small and too affable to hold a hurricane in His hand. The biblical categories of God’s sovereignty lie like land mines in the pages of the Bible waiting for someone to seriously open the book. They don’t kill, but they do explode trivial notions of the Almighty.”

Reading this, however, my first thought is that it is not enough to simply address the issue of evil and suffering Biblically – in fact, that is not the issue whatsoever. It is not necessary to teach someone how to deal with evil and suffering if they have a big enough (Biblical) picture of God to recognize His hand in it. I heard once of a church that addressed the issue of suffering from the pulpit, telling their congregation that “God didn’t know” and that “He couldn’t stop it anymore than you could.” That’s just one example of where addressing the issue, but from a less than Scriptural viewpoint, can do more harm than good. Yes, at the moment it may feel better, but in the long-run, how is such a weak, impotent God worth worshiping?

So, how do we keep from painting ‘trivial notion(s) of the Almighty’? I say, by emphasizing two truths: God’s goodness (shown in His love, grace, mercy, etc.) AND his sovereignty (shown in his power, judgment, and authority). Biblical truth is a collection of ‘tensions’ – it is when settle for only one part of the big picture that we begin sliding towards heresy and cultism. God’s sovereignty without His goodness leaves us with a brutal dictator – unloving and unlovable, not unlike some Muslim’s view of Allah, who we must slave to please, always aware that pleasing Him is impossible. However, God’s goodness without his sovereignty leaves us with a cuddly bunny-rabbit deity – ‘Buddy Christ’, if you will – who is a pushover, and too ‘nice’ to make any long-term impact on our lives, let alone the world around us. Both ‘gods’ are deities of our imagination, however, not the God of revelation.

More to come as I move on to Mark Talbot‘s chapter, “ALL THE GOOD THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST”…

(Let me encourage you all to personally read this book and not only my commentary, because what might strike me as important in it may not be what catches you, and there is far too much in here for me to cover it all!)

Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Belated Blog Love, and much of it…

Just cleaning house on some goodies…

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF SPIRIT BAPTISM? by Adrian Warnock

Also Adrian directed everyone to the online lectures from New Frontiers’ conference in the USA.  I assure you that you will find much to challenge & encourage you there: NEW FRONTIERS CHURCH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE.

2 excellent PDF’s of essays by Jesse Phillips: SUBSEQUENCE, & ARE THE SIGN GIFTS NECESSARY: A DEBATE.

An interesting essay by J.I. Packer on JOHN OWEN ON THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS.  I may not agree with it all, but it’s an interesting study, none-the-less.

In other New Frontiers news, Terry Virgo posted an excellent blog on KNOWING HIM AND KNOWING ABOUT HIM.

Lastly, C.J. Mahaney shares his favorite BOOKS ON THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

I think that catches me up…whew.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Books, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Conference, Continualist, Contraversy, D.A. Carson, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Reformed, Terry Virgo, Theology

Reformed Charismatic Blog-Love

The master-blogger, Adrian Warnock, has been reviewing his year thus-far.  In particular, I found his REVIEW OF THE YEAR – MY LIFE IN JUBILEE CHURCH, LONDON to be especially of interest, as it collects ALL of his excellent sermons together in one place.  It’s a great resource.

My online blog-friend, Jesse Phillips, over at Resurgence has written a multi-part, in-depth review of Sam Storm’s new book, SIGNS OF THE SPIRIT.  Though I haven’t read it yet, I own all but Sam’s two newest books, and even in part named my son after him.  That’s just to say, I’m hoping to get it for Christmas. 😉  If you’re interested in the book, you can find out more at Sam Storm’s own site.

ENJOY!

Filed under: Adrian Warnock, Books, Calvinism, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Doctrine, Emotionalism, ESSENTIAL SERMON AUDIO, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Holy Spirit, Jonathan Edwards, Jubilee Church, London, Reformed, Resurgence, Revival, Sam Storms, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues

Convergence

CONVERGENCE (iTunes podcast)- a sermon by Sam Storms on “Reformed Charismatic” theology. There is also QUESTION AND ANSWERS session available.

Many of you know that Sam is such an influence that I’ve partially named my very-soon-to-be-here 2nd son after him (Samuel Tucker Haddon Lewis – he’ll answer to “Tucker”, though). If you don’t have the time to read his many excellent books, at least listen to this teaching, and the question and answer session. Very solid.

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Doctrine, Emotionalism, ESSENTIAL SERMON AUDIO, Holy Spirit, Miracles, Reformed, Sam Storms, Sermon, Theology, Tongues

Essential Posts: where do I begin?

Since the readership of this blog has increased significantly in the past few months, I wanted to direct the newer readers towards some of the most important posts here Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bloggers, Books, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, Denominations, Discussion Groups, Doctrine, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Reformed, Sam Storms, Theology, Wayne Grudem, WEBSITES/RESOURCES

How to read the Word: Evangelical Hermeneutics (or how to read & interpret the Bible)

A few years ago a person on Set on Edge‘s – my old band – mailing list emailed me a rather angry message. This individual was disappointed that we, as Christians, would listen to and support non-Christian artists, and quoted Scripture to support himself. It just so happens that the verses he had quoted, Ephesians 5:19-20, was one of my favorite passages, and at the time I was teaching on it in my Thursday night Bible study. How could we both so love and be so inspired by the same passage of Scripture, yet read and apply the passage so differently? Usually, when it comes down to this, the issue is hermeneutics. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bible, Books, D.A. Carson, Doctrine, Evangelical, Hermeneutics

Living the Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney: a short review

Cross Centered Life

Once in a great while a book is written that becomes an immediate classic. Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney is one such book. For a fairly recent release, I know an enormous number of people who have read it, and many have told me of the immense impact it has had on their lives. For me, personally, it was as important a read as John Piper’s Desiring God, which – as I’ve mentioned recently – entirely ‘reformatted’ my belief system. The first time I finished reading Mahaney’s book I turned almost immediately to page one of the foreword and began it again, reading it 5 times in all the first month after I had purchased it. In my list, it is as important a book as J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, Basic Christianity by John Stott, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and more recently, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, all of which were listed among the top 50 most influential Evangelical Christian books of the last century – exactly where I hope this book will find itself soon enough. That’s just to say: Living the Cross-Centered Life is a must read. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Books, C.J. Mahaney, Doctrine, Evangelical, Salvation, Theology

A tribute to John Piper…

Having been raised an Atheist, God used many individuals, circumstances, and authors (C.S. Lewis, Norm Geisler, etc.) to draw my aching heart to Himself, but for the first 7 years after God got His grip on me I was – in response to my small-town, conservative upbringing (I truly ‘repented’ of my past) – so attracted to the Social Gospel aspect of the faith that I found myself drinking almost entirely of the neo-orthodox and neo-evangelical streams, studying the theology of Jurgen Moltmann and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reading the existential philosophy of – as much as I understood it – of Soren Kierkegaard, enfleshing the spiritual and social practices of Ron Sider and Richard Foster, and reveling in the Democratic-Socialism of Cornell West. Now, I still find much good in those authors (though I also find enough to disagree with) and I have little doubt of their sincerity or relationships with Christ – that was just to say, I was a card-carrying ‘Christian Hippie Mystic” (I was ‘Emergent’ before there was ‘Emergent’), and because that was the only stream of the faith I was influenced by, my view of the Bible was weak, and I was still a fairly immature believer. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Books, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Emergent, Evangelical, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Missional, Reformed, Revival

A few recent God-stirred thoughts…

Is it possible to walk simultaneously in the FRUIT and GIFTS of the Holy Spirit, yet remember that the FRUIT are the sign of a vital relationship with God by His Holy Spirit, and not the Gifts? It seems to me, as one who has experienced and walks in a number of the gifts, that to elevate the gifts (tongues, prophecy, etc) of the Spirit above that of the fruit (peace, kindness, etc) of God’s Spirit is much like a husband bragging about the birthday card he received from his wife, whom everyone knows – including himself – is cheating on him. Yeah – pretty silly. Here’s an idea – next time we throw around the word “Spirit Filled”, let’s be sure the evidence is there – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control. The Bible – Corinthians in particular – is quite clear that the gifts are just that – GIFTS – and are no sign of one’s spiritual state or nearness to God, as the Corinthian church was a spiritual WRECK and yet very active in the practice of spiritual gifts. Thank God for His gifts, and walk in them, but don’t use them as a ruler to measure the depth of another’s faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bible, Books, Charismatic, Holy Spirit, Theology

What is a “Reformed Charismatic”?

This question has been popping up more regularly as of late – as I regularly search the web for the words “Reformed Charismatic”, a couple of years ago I would find only 5 or 6 mentions, where-in now I find pages and pages. It’s a regular subject of bloggers, and even several books. So far, I’ve even found a number of denominations/associations of churches/church planting organizations that try – to one degree or another – to combine the best of both the Reformed/Calvinist/Evangelical (old-school definition of the term: not it’s modern use) traditions and the Charismatic/Third Wave (C. Peter Wagner’s term for ‘charismatics’ that reject a 2nd Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the necessity of tongues-speaking, among other things) movement: Sovereign Grace Ministries; New Frontiers International; Grace Churches International; Grace Network, Association of Charismatic Reformed Churches; Word & Spirit Churches International; and individual churches within both the Vineyard Church movement and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Books, Calvinism, Charismatic, Holy Spirit, Pentecostalism, Reformed, Theology

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