December 26, 2006

Biblical Success Manual

We all want to be successful—it's built deep into our inner workings. Everyone wants to succeed. But sin has corrupted our view of success and our ability to achieve it. Scripture deals with both aspects of this corruption. Personally, I have recently focused mainly on bringing my own view of success into line with biblical representations of success. But as I read the bible this morning, I came across an interesting treatment of what we should do to achieve success. It comes from the life of King Hezekiah as found in 2 Chronicles 31:

2 Chron. 31:20-21
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.

December 06, 2006

Particular Redemption - Wednesday

Why election isn't the big deal

Although most antiCalvinists are hung up on the whole election issue, election really isn't the foundation stone that nonCalvinists make it out to be. Election itself saved no one; it only marked out particular sinners for salvation. Those chosen by the Father and given to the Son had to be redeemed if they were to be saved. In order to make their redemption sure, Jesus Christ came into the world, taking on a human nature so that He might identify himself with his people and act as their legal subsitute. Action on behalf of his people, Christ kept God's law and worked out a perfect righteousness that is credited to them the moment they are brought to faith in him. Because of what Christ did on the cross, they are reckoned righteous before God. They are freed from all guilt and condemnation as the result of what Christ suffered for them. Through his substitutionary sacrifice, he endured the penalty of their sins and thus removed their guilt forever. So when his people are joined to him by faith, they are credited with perfect righteousness and are freed from all guilt and condemnation. They are saved, not because of what they themselves have done or will do, but solely because of Christ's redeeming work.

So then, the verses that speak of this say that Jesus came to save his people. It is clear that the intention is not that Christ in his death is making a potential atonement for people—one that will be applied when they "accept him as their personal Lord and Savior," but one that has been purchased and accomplished. When Jesus on the cross said, "It is finished," it was finished. The salvation has been bought, the penalty had been paid, and the sins of those for whom he was making atonement had been atoned for.

Particular Redemption from the text of scripture:

Luke 19:10
For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
italics added for emphasis

December 05, 2006

Tuesday - Unconditional Election

Chosen before time

The Bible declares that God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of the human race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These (and only these) He chose to save. God could have chosen to save all men—He had the authority and power to do so, or He could have chosen to save none of us—He was not obliged to show mercy to any of us. But He did neither of those things. He chose to save some and to exclude others from this salvation. His eternal choice of particular sinners for salvation was not based on any foreseen act or response on the part of those selected, but was based solely on His own good pleasure (it made Him happy to do it) and sovereign will. So then, election was not determined by, or conditioned upon, anything that we might have done, but resulted intirely from God's self-determined purpose.

Those who were not chosen for salvation were passed by and left to their own devices and evil ways.

Unconditional Election from the text of Scripture

Deuteronomy 10:14–15
Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
italics added for emphasis

December 04, 2006

I Can't Do It Monday

Total Inability

As the result of Adam's sin, we are all born in sin and by nature are spiritually dead. So if we are to become children of God and enter His kingdom, we must first be born again by the Spirit of God.

It's not as if we (or our original forefather) weren't warned:

Genesis 2:16–17
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
italics added for emphasis

Actions speak louder than words

1 John 3:4-10
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Ouch! We must continually check ourselves and make sure that we are following God's precepts and commands. It is so easy to begin to simply coast along. God is merciful and does not always spank us the instant we do something wrong, but we must not allow that mercy to become for us a reason to sin. God hates sin and sin will be punished.

But this passage also tells us that Christians can perceive whether or not someone else is a Christian somewhat accurately. "By this it is evident who are the children of God." Our actions are so very important.

In the context of this passage of scripture, we demonstrate our bond with Christ by our deeds of love toward the brethren. This is something we all must commit ourselves to daily.

May God grant all of us the love shown in deeds to each other.

December 01, 2006

Preservation of the Saints - Friday

Christians are kept in the faith by the power of God. This makes believers eternally secure in him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. Those who believe in Christ have been predestined to eternal glory and are therefore assured of heaven.

Not "once saved, always saved"

The typical evangelical church of today proclaims a doctrine that seems similar to this. It is called "eternal security," but it is not based upon the believer's perseverance in the faith nor upon God's preserving work in the life of that believer. It is closer to the concept of "been there, done that."

The typical view of eternal security says that if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you will go to heaven. No matter what you do for the rest of your life. Preachers will even stress the point by saying such things as, "you don't even have to come to church—going to church doesn't save you." And while that is certainly true, it is misleading and entirely misses the point of the "Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints."

According to the Westminster Confession of the Faith (one of the great creeds of Christendom):

They, whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nore finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

One of the great Reformed theologians of recent days referred to this doctrine in this way:

This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology. The doctrines of Election and Efficacious Grace logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings. If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if His Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved.

—Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 182.

God gives his people eternal life the moment they believe

Believers are kept by God's power through faith and nothing can separate them from His love. They have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, who was given as the guarantee of their salvation, and they are thus assured of eternal inheritance.

Perseverance of the Saints from the text of Scripture:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you sahll not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Isaiah 43:1–3