David Sings the Preservation of the Saints

J-O-Y

I will be writing on the doctrines of grace as much as possible in coming days and months. This post will deal with the Perseverance of the Saints, as it is known in Reformed theology. This post is simply one facet of this glorious doctrine, I am not trying here to speak comprehensively of all the Bible says about it.

Salvation is of Yahweh (Jonah 2:9)

If salvation is something you can attain or earn, then it is definitely something you can lose and fall away from.

But if it is not your salvation in the first place, then it is an entirely different situation. Consider the Christian doctrine of the Preservation of the saints, seen through the eyes of an Old Testament sinner.

Sung to the Key of Grace

King David raped Uriah’s wife and then had him murdered to cover it up when she was pregnant. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken for his terrible sins, and sought repentance. Among other wonderful lines in Psalm 51, he prayed like this:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (NKJV)

Whose salvation did David have? The salvation of the God of Israel. Elsewhere, David praises God like this:

Psalm 65

Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.

Here we see a prophecy of the cross-work of Jesus (v. 3), a vocalization given to divine election (v. 4a), and the resultant preservation of the saints in fellowship with God (v. 4b).

And in another place, David rejoices in the nature of God’s forgiveness when he sings

Psalm 32

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity

Notice the “Blessed”s like in Psalm 65 above? Connect the dots of grace here. Blessed people are chosen, atoned for, transgressions forgiven, sin covered, and their iniquity is not counted (imputed) to them! God removes all of the enmity between Him and us in order to bring us to Himself.

Do you really think He would then leave the perseverance up to us after all He has done to make us His children?

He Keeps us SO THAT We Remain in Him

God’s work in saving people from the penalty of their sins is God’s work. The worker in salvation gets the glory, and the preserver in salvation gets the glory. It’s all of Him!

Often the question from Christians is “can I lose my salvation,” or, “can those who are truly born again fall away and end up in hell?” I’ve asked the question, and so have you if you are a believer.

My Lutheran brothers and sisters maintain that a truly regenerated believer in Christ can lose his salvation if he stops believing in Christ.

Similarly (but not the same doctrine as the Lutherans), many Arminians of all denominations teach that a Christian can lose their salvation, but with the added pressure of having to make the decision to be born again in the first place.

Not So, Friends

For the sake of brevity, I just want to say this: the eternal covenant of God to save His elect, the atoning work of Christ to purchase those the Father had given Him, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption are bonds of love and power that only one Being is strong enough to break, and you ain’t Him.

I’ll leave off today with the reassuring words of Jesus concerning us, His people.

John 6

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

I praise You, Jesus my Lord.

Christ and sheep

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Guest Blogger: Jesus Christ

I’d like to step aside today and allow the Son of God to dictate the wording of this blog post. His Name is Jesus, He is the Christ – He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life without sin, died as a substitute for the sin guilt of His redeemed people, and rose from the dead to live forever as God and Man in one Person.

I trust His credentials for writing on my blog.

When He dictated this short letter word for word, it was written to a church in a different place and time, but it is absolutely relevant for me, and so probably for many of us who will see this. Think of it as written to you, as it is.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands [that would be Jesus], says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first loveTherefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Rev. 2:1-7 NASB

We here in the Western, conservative, gospel-believing, Christ-exalting, Christian churches are the Ephesians. We hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (legalists who pervert the gospel and steal sheep from the flock of Christ), but what of our first love?

Has materialism stolen your heart like it does mine all too often? Let’s repent in joy, together.

Grace from Christ Jesus to you all,

-Justin

Spurgeon Quotation on Sanctification in Psalm 119

SpurgeonFrom Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Treasury of David (his commentaries on the Psalms). Here we meditate upon the relationship between the Christian and his sinful flesh.

Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to obey the Lord even though you have a new mind, a new heart filled with the Holy Spirit? We need to pray for the very thing we might think is automatically going to happen for us when we are born again. Let’s see what Spurgeon wrote on Psalm 119:36:

Incline my heart unto thy testimonies…”

Does not this prayer appear to be superfluous, since it is evident that the Psalmist’s heart was set upon obedience? We are sure that there is never a word to spare in Scripture. After asking for active virtue it was meet that the man of God should beg that his heart might be in all that he did. What would his goings be if his heart did not go? It may be that David felt a wandering desire, an inordinate leaning of his soul to worldly gain, — possibly it even intruded into his most devout meditations, and at once he cried out for more grace.

The only way to cure a wrong leaning is to have the soul bent in the opposite direction. Holiness of heart is the cure for covetousness. What a blessing it is that we may ask the Lord even for an inclination. Our wills are free, and yet without violating their liberty, grace can incline us in the right direction. This can be done by enlightening the understanding as to the excellence of obedience, by strengthening our habits of virtue, by giving us an experience of the sweetness of piety, and by many other ways.

If any one duty is irksome to us it behooves us to offer this player with special reference thereto: we are to love all the Lord’s testimonies, and if we fail in any one point we must pay double attention to it. The learning of the heart is the way in which the life will lean: hence the force of the petition, “Incline my heart.” Happy shall we be when we feel habitually inclined to all that is good. This is not the way in which a carnal heart ever leans; all its inclinations are in opposition to the divine testimonies.

And not to covetousness.”

This is the inclination of nature, and grace must put a negative upon it.

This vice is as injurious as it is common; it is as mean as it is miserable.

It is idolatry, and so it dethrones God;

it is selfishness, and so it is cruel to all in its power;

it is sordid greed, and so it would sell the Lord himself for pieces of silver.

It is a degrading, grovelling, hardening, deadening sin, which withers everything around it that is lovely and Christlike.

He who is covetous is of the race of Judas, and will in all probability turn out to be himself a son of perdition. The crime of covetousness is common, but very few will confess it; for when a man heaps up gold in his heart, the dust of it blows into his eyes, and he cannot see his own fault.

Our hearts must have some object of desire, and the only way to keep out worldly gain is to put in its place the testimonies of the Lord. If we are inclined or bent one way, we shall be turned from the other: the negative virtue is most surely attained by making sure of the positive grace which inevitably produces it.

Maybe something here will help you be motivated in prayer and holiness. I need these meditations far more often than I make them.

Grace in Christ,

-Justin

How to Kill Your Christian Joy and Assurance

Want to kill your Christian joy and assurance of salvation? Believe your Christian adverbs. (Adverbs modify verbs, e.g. “slowly running.”) Become a pietist.

When we use and believe our own adverbs to describe our response to the gospel, we are in for a terrible ride. Adverbs are the lazy man’s crutch in literature – like puffs of smoke blown in the eyes to obscure the embarrassing white bones of skeletal essays.

Think of it – instead of “Napolean won victories across Europe, stretching all the way around the Mediterranean into Africa,” now the student needs a bigger word count and writes “Napolean brutally won victories across Europe, vigorously stretching his armies all the way around…” you see the point. Adverbs embellish and spruce things up. They can also beguile us when we use them to strengthen the appearance of our actions before a holy God. 

In Christian piety, when we use (and believe in our use of) adverbs to describe things like repentance, worship, confession, obedience, and others, we set ourselves up for either a staggering heart of pride, or a desolate heart of doubt.

Danger! Keep Right of Yellow Line!

On Christian adverbs, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of Concordia University in Irvine, California, in borrowing from fellow Lutheran Norman Nagel, described them as the great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Indeed.

Look at the issue: when was the last time, Christian, that you repented of your sins? Hopefully today – even just now. But what if I asked you when the last time was you repented “sincerely” of your sins?

We’ve just split into two camps: some of you immediately began answering back that you repent “sincerely” as much as possible, that you are a heartfelt Christian, and that you are very serious about repentance from sin. At this the rest of us look on with jealousy and awe. We applaud your sincerity and piety. You’re steering into oncoming traffic.Head on collision

Danger! Keep Left of White Line!

The others of you, like me, would have to be honest in answering, “I’m not sure the last time I repented… “sincerely.” For us in this second group, we know something of our own hearts. We know the sneaky, slithering sinfulness nested deep within our hearts – that sinfulness which corrupts our repentance. It corrupts our prayers. It corrupts our good works. It corrupts everything. And we know this – we mourn over this (Matt. 5:4).

And we are called to know this. Knowing the laxity of our repentance is freedom from pride, and dependence on Christ the Savior for His mercy. We are called to know the half-heartedness of our worship. I mean, who in their right mind actually means it when they sing to God

I will give You all my worship, I will give You all my praise, You alone, I long to worship, You alone, are worthy of my praise!

Riiiiight. You’re the first one in history to reach those heights, compadre.

We must test ourselves before God,

and when we do, we must find that we have not kept up our end of the bargain with God. He created us, gave us this earth, all its blessings, and our lives. He gives us food, air, water, and for many of us, luxuries beyond the imagination of most of the rest of humankind.

And He gave us His Son Jesus. Not just as a distant, abstract concept, but in the flesh. Jesus became a Man for YOU. He became a Man to redeem us from our sin and enmity with God. He died in our place, under the wrath of God the Father… for YOU. In YOUR place. Out of love. And He rose from the dead on that Sunday, conquering death for YOU, dear Christian – delivering the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life for ALL who merely trust in Him with repentant hearts.

And what have you done for HIM lately? (God help you if that’s a line you hear your pastor thunder out from the pulpit). Friends, the true answer is… not much. Or maybe, nothing. How does Jesus tell us to think of ourselves when we have obeyed Him?

…when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty. (Luke 17:10 HCSB)

It is pure fantasy to believe that our works of piety; our obedience to His commands, our “sincere” repentance, or any other act of response to God is anything like what it should be. God, in His infinite majesty and glory, is not actually bettered by the service of human hands!

The Smart Guys Fall for It!

The Westminster Confession of faith is a magnificent achievement of Protestant theology – forged in the academic heights of the Puritan glory days of the mid-seventeenth century. Yet look here at their language in describing the effects of election upon the saved person:

So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. [W.C.F. VII, 6.021]

Abundant consolation… to whom? “To all that sincerely obey the gospel.” So then, who gets consolation? Nobody. Nobody, that is, who knows their own heart.

And to be fair to the Reformed, the Lutherans are guilty too. I’ve visited a conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) the last couple of weekends, and sure enough, the confession and absolution in the liturgy has us reciting

I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them… [L.S.B. 184]

Really now? Am I even able to know all my sins, let alone confess them heartily, and sincerely repent? The introspective Christian will soon fall into a fearful doubting of their salvation, for these adverbs describe someone whose piety is nothing short of miraculous.

But But, Doesn’t the Bible Say…

Now some of you know your Bibles, and are thinking of certain passages that speak of our “sincere love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22), and even of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:35 that we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive our brother… “from the heart” – or as we say, “sincerely.”

I hear these passages too, and must wrestle them in my adverb-prone, wanna-be piety. Am I forgiving my brothers “from my heart?” Probably not, or at least not all the time, perfectly, without flaw. Yes, I forgive. Yes, I love the brethren – even sincerely – but the point of these and other passages is not to call our attention to our own degree of piety and perfection in our performance. These calls to inward sincerity and even perfection are there because God can command nothing less. His pure and perfect nature necessitates His commands to us be pure and perfect – even superfluously pure.

The Ultimate Standard

As Jesus was wrapping up section one of His Sermon on the Mount, He declares “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48 NKJV). How you doing on that? The reality for the Christian is that we live in tension, falling short of the Law of God and His holy perfection, and our full, complete acceptance by Him because of Christ. There is nothing of ourselves added into our plea before God. It is not “Jesus lived and died for me, and then I did everything I could to live for you” – can I say this? HELL NO. Pun intended.

Rather than that, it is “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

The Christian life is a massive struggle to rest. It’s a paradox, striving to rest… in the striving and works of Christ on our behalf. Striving to believe God’s Word about His Son and His gospel. The only way any of us will be counted as being perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect, is by having trusted in the gospel of Christ, and having therefore rested our adverb-prone piety at the foot of a bloody, splintered cross.

We are only able to begin to obey the Lord out of a place of sincere self-knowledge. I’m totally unable to forgive people sincerely – I need the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable this act, only made possible by having eyes on Jesus; His forgiveness of me, His pure love, His absolute graciousness to His people…

As go our adverbs, so go our trust and faith

The only adverbs we can believe in concerning this Christian life describe the fullness of our sinfulness and neediness, and on the other side, the perfection of God’s work on our behalf. I fully need the forgiveness of God. He sincerely forgives me for Christ’s sake.

If we begin to describe ourselves with adverbs of positive fullness (which should be reserved for describing God alone), our trust and faith is inadvertently placed in ourselves, and our assurance and joy will die with our realization of how insincere and half-hearted our repentance and faith truly are. WATCH OUT!

Repent of your adverbs describing yourself in positive fullness, friends. Trust in Christ alone for your needed standing before God. He justifies fully. He is enough.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: Why is Repentance Not Enough to Save Us?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Is repentance all it takes to be turned back from our corruption in sin, or was something more necessary?

Well,

As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify Himself; what, then, was God to do? Was He to demand repentance from men for their transgression? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue further that, as through the Transgression they became subject to corruption, so through repentance they might return to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning.

Had it been a case of a trespass only, and not of a subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had begun men came under the power of the corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God. No, repentance could not meet the case.

What—or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required? Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.

My favorite uncle. Christologically delicious!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 2, sec. 7, http://www.ccel.org.

Terrifying Truth, God is Good: a Paul Washer Video

Has it ever terrified you that God is good? If not, or if so, please enjoy a short video from a man I consider my greatest spiritual mentor, Paul Washer. A well made clip here, I believe you will have a full tank of gospel joy at the end of this.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Repentance From Sin Includes Restoration of Joy

For each and every person who believes in Jesus the Christ; for every one that believes He is who the Bible says He is, and believes what the Bible says He has done (and is doing, and will do in the future), 1 John 5:1 says this:

Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. (ESV)

We are born from above, born of God’s Spirit, regenerated in the inner-man, made a new creature, justified in God’s court of law, adopted into God’s family and inner-circle, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, to name just a few of the identification markers of being a Christian.

But what about when we sin? The Lord’s Word speaks to His sinning, stumbling children:

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:8-14

He knows our sins, and He does not deal with us accordingly. He dealt with Jesus Christ according to our sins! Oh wondrous gospel of love and grace! God’s omnipotent forgiveness has reached the most wretched of us – and remember, weak  and fearful Christian, that He has removed your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. Indeed, before the world was formed Jesus had decided to die for your sins; past, present, and future (Romans 5:6-8; Rev. 13:8).

So then, my brothers and sisters, what happens when we sin? We do not lose the love of God – He loves us unconditionally. He favors us in all our frailty. He is ready to extend the word of forgiveness to us, the forgiveness already applied to us in Christ. What has happened to us in our sins? We lose our own sense of joy. We lose our sense of intimacy with Jesus our Lord. This is not His punishment, but rather, His discipline as a loving Father who ensures our perseverance in faith to the end.

My dear friends, wait no longer when you have sinned: confess it to your heavenly Father, and seek the Lord Jesus Christ. This is repentance. Turning to God, hoping in His grace – repentance from sin… away from sin.

As David prayed in his own hour of confession,

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Psalm 51:12 (NKJV)

Whose salvation is it? It is God’s salvation. Restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation, my beloved Lord, and rid me of the shame of my sins. Set me on a course to make sinners to know this love and mercy You have poured out on me and my family. I worship You, Lord Father God. Be magnified!

That right there, beloved Church universal, is our home base. We return to Him in our sins, and He restores the joy of His salvation. Hallelujah!

So, what are you waiting for? Seek the restoration of your joy… in Him!

Soli Deo Gloria

-Justin