A Perfect Encapsulation

If you read last week’s long post, you know I’ve been debating revelation and knowledge with a Roman Catholic named Tony Fernandez.

He has been mulling over how best to work through that volume I produced, and I have been mulling over my next essay.

Meanwhile, he retweeted this just now:

Isn’t that a perfect encapsulation of the issue? So let’s think about that for a second. If tradition is prior to Scripture, then it is a more authoritative form of revelation. If our knowledge and comprehension of God is more dependent on tradition than it is Scripture, what is the justification for that claim?

It’s funny how when we ask this of Roman Catholics, they appeal to Matthew 18.

It’s also revealing in that Tony had stated to me that he doesn’t believe there is anywhere we can hear Jesus’ voice today, without doubt or hindrance. Of course he is forced into that position, even while his Bible sits on the table beside his keyboard, seeing that the Roman Church has declared that the true and most immediate revelation from God is not Scripture mediated by the Holy Spirit, but rather Scripture mediated by the Church.

My first question, always, is How do I know I am hearing and interpreting the Church rightly, adequately, and without error such that I may be saved?

If only there were somewhere that God is speaking clearly and directly to His people, like a Shepherd who knows His sheep, calls them by name, leads them out, and gives them eternal life such that no one may snatch them out of His omnipotent hand.

But alas, we must hope that we are reading the right parts of tradition (there is no canon of tradition), and that our minds and hearts are sufficiently free of concupiscence so as to interpret that tradition rightly.

Good. Luck.

Romans 8 if we could Really Lose our Salvation

Will God allow His children, born from His own Spirit, adopted into His family in Christ, and indwelt by His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)… to apostatize and lose their justified, beloved place in His sight?

Understand what is at stake: Many who love Christ, His Word, His promises, and His gospel nonetheless teach that the regeneration unto eternal life is revocable upon crossing certain boundary markers. Put another way, they teach us that Christ has no sure hold on His people – any one of us could apostatize, lose our justified standing before the Father, who disowns us, the Holy Spirit leaves us, and we are once again headed for hell.

This is detrimental to the Christian understanding of salvation.

What would Romans 8 (Paul’s magnum opus on Christian security in Christ) look like if God actually let His children lose their faith and die under His wrath? It would be ugly – check it out:

Continue reading

A Brief Reflection on the Goodness of the Law and the Betterness of the Christ

The law(s) of the Lord is(are) pure, perfect, and holy, and we are not. Therefore the law is at enmity with us when we are dead in sins and trespasses, but in Christ by grace through faith, we are counted as being lawkeepers… AND… we have the law written in our new, circumcised hearts where the Holy Spirit produces new obedience! (Ezekiel nails it in 36:25-27).

So for the Christian, the law is kept by faith (and faith alone) in Christ, and the ethic of our life is now found in Christlikeness – by the outline of His nature and what love looks like as expressed throughout the New Testament imperatives. We don’t have to keep the commandments of God – but in Christ, we get to. We have the privilege of obeying Him to make Him known. Anyone who practices unrepentant sin does not know Him (1 John 3), for to know Jesus and to face Him in faith is to turn our backs on sin, selfishness, and Satan.

Jesus is our new Master, and the law is only seen correctly through His perfect life given to us by grace alone, through faith alone… to the glory of the beautiful God alone (Gal. 3:24-25).

Thank the Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Crucifixion was Invented After it was Foreseen in the Hebrew Scriptures

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Peppers

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God.

The earliest uses of crucifixion date to around the 6th century B.C., but was not in wide use until centuries later.

Think with me now. The Bible is plainly a supernatural work, and the predictive prophecy aspect of it is one of its strongest proofs for this. If someone in the Bible wrote predictive prophecy about someone being crucified long before it was invented, then it is logical to conclude that whoever wrote the prediction had a vision of a future reality.

Check these three Scriptures:

1) Psalm 22, circa 1000 B.C., which is over 1,000 years before Jesus was crucified.

It begins with the words Jesus shouted from the cross of His crucifixion:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

The lament goes on detailing the forsakenness of the crucified one, and then He describes a bodily suffering which is particular to crucifixion:

14 I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.

He is suffering terrible pains of death – but then He says something that cannot be anything but a prophecy of God’s Son, nailed to the accursed tree, suffering the wrath of God in our place:

16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.

They pierced My hands and My feet;

17 I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.

There was no such method of execution at the time this Psalm was written. But in case someone is still confused as to whom this Psalm refers, He goes on to observe as

18 They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots. (NKJV)

Just like the Roman soldiers did for Jesus’ clothing. Perfect, pure, prophecy.

2) Isaiah 53, circa 730 B.C, over 750 years before Jesus was crucified.

He was bearing our punishment on that cross. Look at what Isaiah said:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and Yahweh has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (ESV)

Life-giving prophecy. Not the screwy, Harold Camping-type junk that fills the internet and “Christian” T.V. – just the pure Scripture of the Holy Spirit, telling us about our glorious Savior centuries before His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

3) Zechariah 12, circa 430 B.C., almost 500 years before Jesus’ crucifixion.

God speaks in the first person here. Think about that, and look:

10 And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. (NKJV)

Jesus, speaking in the first person as Yahweh, God of Israel. The only way they could look on God whom they pierced would be if He became a man, became “piercible.”

Look upon Him, and live.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Binding the Christian with Law does not Produce Freedom

From part 4 of my friend Ed Trefzger’s series “Completed by the Spirit“, this is for the Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian brethren out there. Speaking about the use of the Law in the life of the Christian, Trefzger notes

Despite Paul’s warnings that the law arouses sin, many will point to the law as a prime mover in sanctification,  essen­tial to con­vict­ing us about our remain­ing sin and mea­sur­ing our growth in holi­ness. In doing so, they will attempt to draw a dis­tinc­tion between being “under the law” and fol­low­ing the law…

Yet for the Christian,

It is the Spirit that sanc­ti­fies, not the law in a fleshly exer­cise of behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Des­per­a­tion and more sin­ful­ness are the results of a focus on law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion instead of avail­ing one’s self of the Holy Spirit and behold­ing with awe the per­son and work of Jesus Christ.

And commenting on Joel Beeke’s focus on law-based sanctification, Trefzger (before the Lance Armstrong scandal ruined him), puts it starkly:

Beeke [argues] that bind­ing users under the law actu­ally pro­duces free­dom. Per­haps an anal­ogy would be that keep­ing train­ing wheels on bicy­cles actu­ally pro­duces Lance Armstrong.

Ed Trefzger

Ed Trefzger is an elder at the Evangelical Church of Fairport, NY

Can you tell he has a passionate stance on this issue? I do too. Sanctification is summarized by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 when he declares triumphantly

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Christian, you are free to be sanctified in freedom from legalism, for you are not under law, but under grace. Look to, gaze upon, and feast on the glorious Christ for all that is needed in this life…

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

God’s Sovereign Grace Just Rocks

In late 2002 the Lord Jesus opened my heart to receive Him, and I was born again. In early 2007 the Lord Jesus opened my eyes to see that salvation is all God, and nothing of me.

Of course, I would have mouthed the credit to Him before that point, as grateful as I was, and as wretched as I was before I was saved, but I didn’t know what kind of salvation had really happened to me.

Monergism

From monergism.com –

The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:

“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

I could not cooperate in my regeneration, I had no part in the choice to be saved, I take no credit for even not resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is one thing I take credit for in having become a true Christian: the wretched sinfulness and rebellion in my nature and actions that made my rescue necessary. That’s all I contributed.

The Holy Spirit Himself is the single, active agent in the moment of initial salvation for all who are redeemed. Our response to being born again is repentance of sin (imperfect as it is), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done).

That’s monergism – and that’s pure, beautiful, joyous Christian truth.

Some Technical Definitions

I look forward to expressing on this site a strong love of God’s sovereign grace. To be precise, I am not a Calvinist, and I am not Reformed. To be one or both of those, one has to subscribe to the Reformed and Calvinistic confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

As expressed in those dynamite confessions, Calvinism includes covenant theology and the baptism of infants. Without those elements and the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, one is not truly Reformed.

I myself am still working through the points of covenant theology (of which I am oh so close to agreement), and the resultant wet infants of the Reformed churches. With that said, this citizen of New Jerusalem is a hearty, happy Protestant, and this site will feature much more clear delineation of the doctrines of sovereign grace as the days go on.

I believe the doctrine Christ’s Church needs to be preaching in this hour of history is that solid old monergism that broke the stranglehold of Rome over the Church 500 years ago.

Be sure to subscribe to receive an e-mail when the Citizen posts, and help me develop my thinking as I grow with you in the grace and truth of our wonderful Savior Jesus the Messiah.

I’ll leave you with some gold for your pockets.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

“If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God’s giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished.”
C.H. Spurgeon

” …the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will.”
Jonathan Edwards

“For non-reformed theologies…”at the end of the day, the security of the believer finally rests with the believer. For those in the opposite camp [Reformed], the security of the believer finally rests with God — and that, I suggest, rightly taught, draws the believer back to God himself, to trust in God, to a renewed faith that is of a piece with trusting him in the first place.”
D.A. Carson

The Bible “locates unbelief in the total inability of sinners to effect their own liberation from the bondage of the will, and … locate faith in the unconditional election, redemption, and effectual calling of the triune God alone. God gives not only sufficient grace (that is, enough grace to enable sinners to respond positively to God if they choose to do so), but efficient grace (that is, regeneration as well as faith and repentance as gifts).”
– Michael Horton The Christian Faith, pg. 562

 

The Deeps: Valley of Vision Prayer

Sometimes I have trouble praying as I ought – but often I turn to the Valley of Vision for help in getting my engine started. One of Christianity’s greatest books from the past 2,000 years, VoV would be my second book choice if stranded on a desert island, right after the Bible, and right before The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock. Oh, those Puritans.

Down In The Valley

This might be a good prayer for you if you find yourself weak in zeal for Christ, weak in prayer, weak in devotion. It might be a good idea to buy Valley of Vision and keep it close to you for the times you don’t know how to pray. Yes, the Psalms are better, but right after them comes VoV. Just beautiful help for the Christian, here.

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as Saviour, Master, Lord, and King. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Valley of Vision

Thanks for praying with me,

-Justin