Four ‘Antinomians’ Tried and Vindicated

A book review by Stuart Brogden

Antinomian! It’s a charge levied at grace preachers in every generation – beginning with the Lord Jesus, who was accosted by the law-keepers of His day for not being as “diligent” as they were in keeping the law. Paul addressed this in Romans 5 & 6, wherein he was explaining the believer’s relationship to law:

Romans 5:20-6:2 (HCSB) The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Law does not provide nor guide life. Grace does not endorse nor permit lawlessness. These are ditches on either side of the path. On one side there are legalists, who think all who do not live according to the law (however they define that) are lawless (which is what antinomian means – without law). On the other side are those who are truly lawless, claiming all who endorse godly living are legalists! In the middle is the narrow way of God’s gospel truth. The believer’s response to temptation to sin is NOT to hide behind the law; it’s to flee to Christ!

And this is the theme brother David H.J. Gay brings out in his most excellent book, Four ‘Antinomians’ Tried and Vindicated. David examines the work of four men who were written off as antinomians in the 17th century by those who embraced the Westminster/Puritan view of “the Moral Law.” Tobias Crisp, William Dell, John Eaton, and John Saltmarsh were all what we would call Calvinists, yet they did not align with John Calvin’s view on the role of law in the life of the saint. Hence they were all called antinomians. Sigh,

In examining Dell’s perspective on the law and the believer, David tells us that Dell said “‘When a believer has in him the law of the Spirit, the law of the letter has no more power over him; that is, so far as he is taken up into that other law of the Spirit, but no further.’ This sort of talk, as Dell well knew, is a red rag to the Reformed. While they argue vehemently that the believer is still under the law of Moses (having, without biblical warrant, reduced this to the ten commandments, which they call ‘the moral law’), here we have Dell claiming that ‘the law of the letter has no more power over him’ since he is dead to the law, and that he is governed by the law of Christ. A more direct clash you could not wish to see! Dell knew how the Reformed would react.”

“More important, of the utmost importance, Dell was making a point of major significance. He was arguing that it is only by the law of Christ that the believer can fulfil the law of Moses – and that, by meeting the goal of the commandment, which is love. In the new covenant, the child of God is not merely free from the old law, he is under the law to Christ. And there is no danger in making such an assertion. In fact, it has to be preached, taught and believed, so that saints can fully appreciate the glorious liberty they have in Christ. The believer is under the law to Christ, not the law of Moses, and it is only because he has this new relationship that he can possibly be sanctified (Rom. 7:1-6). As I say, Dell was making a point of huge significance, showing, moreover, that he was no antinomian.

“But, of course, he was flying in the face of Reformed teaching. But not only Reformed! Dell knew he faced two opponents to what he was saying. First, he knew he would offend real antinomians. He did not shirk the battle!

“The presence of Christ, that is the living word of God, within us, is the killing and crucifying of the body to all sin… by the presence of the Spirit… by the baptism of the Spirit… So it is plain that the destruction of sin in our bodies, by the living word and Spirit of God, is our crucifying with Christ… The apostle would have those who are crucified with Christ to reckon themselves dead to sin… As far as the same word and Spirit of Christ prevail in us, they will make us dead to sin for the time past and present, and for the future will preserve us from sin.”

From Dell: “This, then, is the sum of this matter… A man, in union with Christ, has his own life destroyed out of him, and Christ’s own life communicated to him, so that, in the true believer, the soul and body of man live in the life of the Son of God… And thus the flesh lives a life that is not of the flesh; indeed, thus the creature lives in itself the life of God. For as that eternal life, that was with the Father, was manifested in the Son – that is, in his flesh or humanity – and all believers have seen and known it, so also that very life of the Father and the Son, is both communicated to the saints, and also manifest in them, as faith very well knows. And this is the great mystery of the gospel. Let them receive it that can receive it.”

As he turned to John Eaton’s work, brother David is swept up with the glories of the grace in Christ given to wretched sinners. “If I may answer that right at the beginning, by giving my own experience of Eaton’s work, I can only say that in reading it, and then preparing it for this publication, I have discovered that for over fifty years I have had too low a view of justification by faith, altogether too dry a view of it. Of course, I knew the doctrine. Yes, I could argue the texts. But the depth, the fullness, the sheer wonder of free justification simply had not penetrated my heart as it ought to have done. I had not realised how God sees me in Christ. Oh! I had sung about it, I had preached it, and I had written about it. But until I read John Eaton’s work – a true honeycomb indeed – I had far too academic a view of this most wonderful truth of free justification; namely, that the weakest believer, trusting Christ, is absolutely sinless in the sight of God, and sinless for ever. Far too often, I had taken marvellous New Testament statements about justification, and the effects and benefits of it, and shuffled them off to eternity to come. But those statements are true of me, NOW! That is what I have come to feel, and to feel in a way I have never felt before.”

From Eaton: “Before we are justified, and while we are in the state of nature, we are the children of the devil and of wrath (Eph. 2:3), but when we are justified with this internal and secret justification, and made thereby the children of God, then…

“None are made… perfectly holy and righteous, but such of the elect as are actually called, because although all the elect shall be justified in their time, and none but the elect shall be justified (for whom he justifies, these he glorifies – but he glorifies none but the elect), yet the very elect are not actually and really justified, but are darkness, and live in sin and darkness, until they are effectually called… (Rom. 8:30).”

The four men examined in this book were no antinomians, but men who saw the gospel clearly: justification is by grace through faith in Christ. The Spirit gives life – what need has He for law to prepare a sinner for salvation? The law condemns, incites sin – how can it work to make a man savable? These men denied antinomianism, exhorting the saints to walk as children of the light – as if the Scriptures told us such things!

David sums up, “As I will show, Eaton worked it out in detail: the glorious nature of justification; the two parts to justification – before God and before men; justification is received by faith, contrary to reason, sense and feeling; justification and sanctification are inseparably linked; justification always leads to sanctification, being its spur and motive; the law is not the motive of sanctification – in fact, preaching the law actually hinders sanctification; the nature of saving faith; the joy of the justified; and the way of assurance.

“Read Eaton himself, read him for yourself. Indeed, why worry about Eaton? Read the New Testament! What does the New Testament set out as the believer’s rule and way of sanctification? Whatever you find there, hold on to, and seek to put into practice. For my part, I have no doubt that Eaton got it right: the New Testament sets Christ before me, and sets him before me for all – for justification, for sanctification and for glorification.”

I will point out one repeated idea in this book where I disagree with David. He repeatedly talks about the offer of the gospel and the offering of Christ to sinners. I strongly disagree! The gospel is not an offer but a proclamation and command! You can find a short article on this topic written by me on the Pristine Grace web site.

As David did not write off these four men over some disagreements he had with them (such as Saltmarsh’s view that the elect are eternally justified, rather than being as Paul described us Ephesians 2), nor do I write David off because I disagree with him on this “gospel offer” idea.

This is an excellent book that will help every child of God grasp the free grace that Christ has bestowed upon us and God Himself might use this book to work in us a new awe of the work of our Savior on our behalf – but primarily for His glory

Justice Served in the Wrong Way

Due to what we are seeing in America today, I am republishing (with some edits) a post I wrote over 11 years ago. Almost 70 million babies have been murdered since 1973. These are just the numbers reported. This is equivalent to the population of Thailand or France or the United Kingdom!

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A little over eleven years ago, George Tiller was murdered in cold blood. Here are a few thoughts from a biblical perspective and a reflection on the devastation that I have seen stemming from abortion on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

George Tiller was the abortionist who bragged about being willing and having practiced even late-term (3rd trimester) abortions more than 60,000 times in his blood-filled career. 

Who is wrong and who is right in the current battle?

Is it the pro-choice or the pro-life camp? Each claim to have God on their side (especially the liberal religious pro-choice groups) even as evidenced by Tiller’s hypocritical service on Sundays as an usher in a Lutheran Church. On the other hand, even evangelicals in the pro-life camp do not always see the big picture and get sucked into the philosophy of the world in attempt to justify certain actions.

However, what does God say in His Holy Word? The principle in no uncertain terms is this - two wrongs never make a right! 

What and who was wrong? Let’s look at a few points to consider.

1. The Old Testament law made it clear that those who shed blood by man would their blood be shed. Yes, we recognize that this was given under a theocracy and referred to the matter of capital punishment.

2. This law was not given to individuals to take justice into their own hands. Vengeance belongs to God alone.

3. God instituted human government so that the sword might not be carried in vain. However, human government is often corrupted and does not seek to gain their wisdom from the Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth.

4. True believers are commanded to give honor to the government but only as far as it does not supercede the law of God for we ought to obey God rather than man.

5. To kill another and take their life in premeditated murder is contrary to the moral law of God which proclaims, “Thou shalt not kill.” Thus taking the life of Tiller belonged to nobody but God.

6. The government must take part of the blame for the murder of this doctor for it was they who allowed him to practice the murder of innocent babies including those who would have been viable had he delivered them alive at the moment he was murdering them.

7. The government is to blame in that they have openly and willfully defied the commands of God in regards to God being the giver of life and that life begins at conception. They have stated that in the depths of their human wisdom they are nothing but fools when compared to the wisdom of the Most High. Our justices and judges are to blame as they flaunt their foolishness over and over despite the will of the people and more importantly despite the law of God.

8. The church and leadership of where Tiller was a member must take their part of the blame for they allowed a mass murderer in their midst each Sunday while proclaiming that what they were doing was worship to God. Yet, all they were doing was thumbing their noses at God and daring Him to bring judgment.

9. The church was to blame for allowing one to call himself a “Christian” when what he did was diametrically opposed to the Word of God and for not bringing church discipline into the equation many years ago. Instead, they catered to many other factors probably to include the financial benefits that a rich man like Tiller brought into their coffers thus showing their the god they worshipped was the mammon of the world.

10. The man who pulled the trigger was to blame because it was a premeditated murder calculated to take the life of the man who had killed so many thousands. He probably justified in his head that he was to be the instrument of death.

11. America at large must take their part of the blame as well for her citizens have forgotten the principles upon which this great country was founded. They have forgotten that government is to be by the people and for the people. They have failed to use their votes to remove those who thumb their noses at God and flaunt His holy commands.

12. America is to blame for allowing the murder of millions to take place for the sake of a small vocal group of feminists who have been allowed to push their agenda on a gullible public.

13. America is to blame for the gross immorality and lack of morals which allow for men and women to have intimate relationships being driven by nothing but lust and hatred for the thought of commitment.

14. Many evangelicals are to blame because they think they have had the right to introduce situational ethics into the clear express teaching of Scripture. Many have decided that it is ok to punish the infant because of the sins of the father; therefore, abortion is murder UNLESS it is for the sake of rape or incest!

15. Evangelicals are to blame because they have not had a united front because many of them years ago decided that catering to man instead of preaching the infallible Word of God through faithful exposition of the Word is more favorable to large offerings. They took the passages they liked and left the ones they didn’t thus producing large congregations who have theology miles wide but 1/2 inch deep!!

16. Evangelicals are to blame because we have been a much larger moral voice than any other fringe group in America and yet we have not used our voices to take a stand for what is right. We have not expressed our disgust and rage at the senseless murder of millions! We have not followed in the footsteps of Nehemiah and fallen to our knees crying to God for forgiveness for our own sin, the sins of our families and the sins of our nation!

17. Many pastors are to blame because many fear man instead of God. They have become babysitters not shepherds. They fail to study the Scriptures and proclaim loudly, “THUS SAYS THE LORD.” Instead they choose to proclaim, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. This is your best life now. You can live anyway you wish to do so with no discipline from the church. You can do what you want to with your body and disregard the Scripture that says if you are a believer then your body belongs to God NOT TO YOU!”

Many are to blame for the events that led up to the killing of Tiller. Even though only one pulled the trigger, many more were just as wrong before God for their complacency or complicity in the occupation which Tiller chose to engage. God is and always will be the Sovereign of the universe. He will not be mocked and whatsoever a man sows that will he reap. While God is not the author of sin, He does control what He allows to happen and He obviously has allowed the life of this murderer to be taken. Judgment for Tiller will now commence for all of eternity at the hands of the Giver of Life.

To conclude, I did not mourn for the killing of a murderer. However, I did and still rejoice that the lives of thousands of infants were spared his weapons of mass destruction. 
However, I must have a sense of compassion though for his family who must grieve although they enjoyed the fruits of not allowing others to grieve and enjoyed the fruits of blatant murder on a weekly basis. 

As a true believer, I must grieve that America has come to the dismal state she has and that millions like Tiller are dying every day with no hope of eternal life, and no hope of anything but eternal judgment and condemnation from the righteous Lord of glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Mark Escalera

The Revelation of Christ Jesus

John’s Apocalypse contains many graphic word pictures that are interpreted in many ways, often leadingpeople to see this books as a puzzle which must be put together by finite analysis. I believe John’s Apocalypse is a picture book that reveals the glory and majesty and power and authority of the Christ that our study of this book ought to be aimed at seeing Him more clearly.
 
To that end, I draw your attention to the seven letters in chapters 2 & 3, focusing on how Jesus describes Himself and the rewards He will give to His people. Read these passages carefully, and be at awe of the revelation of Jesus Christ presented in this small portion of John’s Apocalypse.
 
Revelation 2:1 (HCSB) “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands”
Revelation 2:7 (HCSB) “I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.”
 
Revelation 2:8 (HCSB) “The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life”
Revelation 2:11 (HCSB) “The victor will never be harmed by the second death.”
 
Revelation 2:12 (HCSB) “The One who has the sharp, double-edged sword”
Revelation 2:17 (HCSB) “I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
 
Revelation 2:18 (HCSB) “The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze”
Revelation 2:26 (HCSB) “The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations”
 
Revelation 3:1 (HCSB) “The One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says”
Revelation 3:5 (HCSB) “the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels.”
 
Revelation 3:7 (HCSB) “The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens”
Revelation 3:12 (HCSB) “The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God—the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God—and My new name. “
 
Revelation 3:14 (HCSB) “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation”
Revelation 3:21 (HCSB) “The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
 
Saints – who is the victor mentioned here these seven times? Is it the man who pulls himself by his own bootstraps? Is it the man who sees Jesus and himself rightly and throws himself at the mercy of the Lamb? What do we read?
 
In describing the end of the age, when final victory over death is ours, Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57). God gives us victory through Christ. Same as our salvation – by grace through faith in Christ, which is a gift from God (Eph 2:7).
 
John agrees with Paul and I will end with this. “whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). We have victory by faith in Christ.
 
When Jesus says, “to the victor …” He refers to those believers who continue to believe in the face of tribulation, sorrow, riches, and poverty; kept by the Spirit until the day of judgment. Jesus is the almighty creator, sustainer, savior, and judge.
 
If you are in Christ – you have victory! If you are not, while is it yet today, repent and believe on Him.

Danger Signs

Danger Signs

A book review by Stuart Brogden

One area in the life of the saints that gets too little attention in most fellowships is that of dating or courting; keeping the focus on finding a suitable mate, not merely entertaining ourselves. In his book Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship, Lou Priolo examines signs of unhealthy dating relationships. All in all, this book is well written and sure to provoke the reader to think about some needful things that have been overlooked or swept aside.

Danger Signs is not divided into chapters, but is made up of about 20 sections describing cautions and indicators that may reveal a sinful heart; including a contentious spirit, increased physical intimacy, anger, impatience, and selfishness. Of pride, the author observes there “are many manifestations of pride that break the communication circuit and thereby hinder the resolution of conflict. They include: defensiveness, blame-shifting, and justifying one’s behavior.” (page 39) This is an important function Priolo serves, putting “flesh” on these danger signs so the reader cannot blithely read “pride” and assume he is free from it.

One of the least expected (for me) danger signs is Fear of Terminating the Relationship. The author’s observations have application for current events, as he rightly contrasts biblical love with the Roman-Greco “love” that permeates the culture. “Love is giving others what they need, not necessarily what they want. It is doing what is right rather than what you feel like doing. It is doing what is best for the other person, in light of eternity, according to the Bible and doing it whether or not the person being loved understands what you are doing. (Of course, many people today wouldn’t understand or even recognize biblical love if it {were} staring them in the face!)” (page 24)

Intolerance is contrasted with the biblical warrant to “””put up with” certain things – namely, those things (like foibles, quirks, and idiosyncrasies) in the lives of others that the Scriptures do not identify as being sinful. To be forbearing is “to have patience in regard to the errors or weaknesses of anyone.” … The tendency to uncharitably judge the actions and motives of others is a sure sign of intolerance. Another element of 1 Corinthian 13 love is that it “believes all things.’ This means that it looks for and places the best interpretation on what others do, say, and might be thinking unless there is real reason to believe otherwise. … God has not given us the ability to know what is on the heart of another person apart from what he choose to disclose to us.” (pages 51-52)  Within a marriage, being biblically tolerant of one another is critical for long term success as husband and wife. Thinking the best of one another unless CLEARLY shown otherwise – is the way of humility, in recognition that we are creatures, not Creator.

I wanted to provide a fairly detailed look into a couple of these danger signs to give you an idea of how the author writes. Priolo is engaging and tends to be biblical. I also want to mention that is seems to me that Priolo has the reader put more focus on identifying his partner’s faults than examining himself as the first priority. This is a sure plan to derail a relationship without regard to whether it ought to be a relationship. I do not think this was the author’s intent; it is my impression.

The opening section of the book, titled Persistent Doubts About the Relationship, includes a lengthy discussion of what Jay Adams calls “the holding principle.” Priolo refers to Romans 14, where we find, the last part of verse 5: “Each one must be convinced in his own mind.” And he appears to make a universal statement: “The Bible teaches that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you should not move forward until you are confident that what you are about to do is not sin.” (page 5) I agree that we ought to be diligent and proactive to avoid sin. I do not see Romans 14:5b as a universal doctrine – as if we must ponder and seek out biblical guidance on every decision. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the Spirit will illuminate our understanding more and more; and we will know what honorable and what is not more and more. There will nothing we “feel” approval on that the Bible calls sin; but there are many things – like the topic of days and food in Romans 14 – that we need to carefully consider. Because it’s not sin to consider all days the same and it is not sin to eat pork. Yet some still want to observe days and some still want to try to eat according to the Mosaic Code. If they are in Christ, we should be very careful and not cause them to stumble because of our freedom. THIS is the context of the sentence Pirolo quoted. The larger point is good – work at being honorable in the sight of God in all your do! Especially in making plans to join with another person in marriage.

The book ends with very short section entitled, Now What? (pages 113-114) After 100 pages of danger signs, we get a page and half of encouraging, hopeful counsel to take a sober look at both sides of the relationship and consider whether or not you each have faith in Christ to make it work. I would have loved for this to be the longest section in the book.

Danger Signs is a needful book because so many professing Christians are asleep as they walk through life. It is engaging and, as long as you don’t forget the main focus is yourself – not the other person – you can benefit greatly from reading and applying it.

Do We Disobey?

We live in turbulent times. To say that life is “no longer normal” would probably be a gross understatement. This would be especially true for the overwhelming majority of those of us who live in the west.

Yet, for those who are true believers, we find ourselves in a quandary. Government officials give mandates but many wonder if we are called to obey God first or follow ALL the dictates of human government.

Romans 13 is often used as a blanket statement to make the decree that any and all opposition to government is ultimately a sin against God. If we stand for what is right, then some would seek to condemn such behavior as being ungodly. I have heard from more than one individual that “no matter what the government decrees, we are to obey with the exception of sharing the gospel.”

Recently, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio broadcasted a video in which he made his position very clear and that he believed there were no exceptions.

For the record, “Truth in Grace” does NOT agree with Friel. I do not agree with Friel. More importantly, the Bible does not line up with Friel’s interpretation.

Yes, this is about much more than the wearing of a facemask.

But, what is right? At what point do we take a stand against forms of tyranny?

Down through the centuries of church history, persecution for the sake of Jesus Christ has always been a part of the church. During times of intense persecution, the Church has always grown stronger.

However, the Church (even in the New Testament) never simply stood at the door of their houses and waiting for the soldiers of Caesar to take them to the Coliseum. Husbands NEVER just stood by while their wives and daughters were ravaged. They had a higher command from Christ to protect their families.

Believers around the world are constantly in violation of government mandates when they 1) refuse to accept an abortion under a one-child mandate, 2) continue to teach children of the Bible when the government says those under 18 are not permitted in worship services, 3) when they seek to protect the lives of others (think Christians protecting Jews under the Nazi regime), and 4) when they still meet for worship although the government mandates they cannot meet.

These are but a very small collection of times when we ought to obey God rather than man. Yes, we recognize that this world is not our home, but even the Lord Jesus Christ is recorded saying, in at least three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), that persecution is coming and that those who understand are to FLEE!

Some may have you believe that if the government becomes tyrannical and orders all Christians to show up for extermination in an interment camp that we are to willing, obediently, and without reservation simply turn ourselves in for the grand event.

This is NOT Biblical!! And absolutely no part of true church history shows such a thing taking place. Yes, Peter gives advice for when we go through suffering, but there is NOT one single mandate in Scripture that commands true believers to simply give up for the government to kill us.

All our brothers and sisters who have suffered persecution are suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ. They are living their lives in such a way as to bring honor and glory to the Lamb who was slain. If they live, they live as to the Lord. If they die, they die as to the Lord.

As an example, the wearing of a mask is not the real issue. The real issue is how far the government goes in taking away freedoms to worship and obey God.

What do we obey and what do we disobey?

The simple answer is found in Dr. John MacArthur’s message shared below.

“We disobey the government when the government tells you to do what God forbids you to do, or mandates that you stop doing what God commands you to do.”

If believers are commanded not to sing, praise, and worship – we disobey!

If pastors are told what they can and cannot preach – we disobey!

If believers are told that we cannot meet – we disobey!

If we are to undergo persecution, let it be for the sake of Jesus Christ and not for mere issues that do not matter in the light of eternity.

Firm Foundations – Lessons 6 & 7

The Lord has been gracious to allow me the privilege of teaching at Yellowstone Baptist Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. While I have taught through Firm Foundations before, my intent of going through it this time is to do so in conjunction with the truth of the New Testament. Each time I teach, I have been encouraged to see how people respond to things that they maybe have never heard before in their Christian walk.

These two lessons cover God creating woman as well as touching on the institution of marriage which was created by God.

Final Justice – Part 1

Many within evangelicalism have gone after the Baals of the world. The church has been seduced by the world. — These are some of the thoughts from Dr. John MacArthur’s first message on the subject of “Final Justice – The Return of Christ.”

Trusting in God or Commanding Him To Act?

psalm-91-1-2-protection-lg

I was asked the other day if I claimed Psalm 91 for protection over my family. You see, God has seen fit to put my family through the wringer more than once and it seems the pressure over us is increasing. I suppose one could say I have had many opportunities to trust in God and have faith that He will provide.

I do not believe in quoting scripture to force an effect or to force God to do something on my behalf. I believe this is occultic and disrespectful in His eyes.

I told the person that I proclaim the sovereignty of God over my family and trust He knows what He’s doing.

I think this sort of mentality comes from the thought process that anything bad comes from the devil and anything good comes from God. This is so not scriptural. God rains on the just and the unjust. God brings sickness and disease upon His saints and has never promised we would have an easy ride with life. Quite the contrary.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Acts 14. 22

It is our destiny to endure tribulation in order to be conformed into the image of our Savior. We are also told that we are to count it all joy when we experience trials and tests (James 1.2). Why because in enduring trials, we learn to act and respond and to live like Christ. We all lack patience. We all need more patience. How does one develop patience? Through being patient. That comes through enduring trials and tests. A sailor will not become better at his trade unless he gets his boat out on the sea and endures some rough sailing. An athlete won’t develop himself unless he continually tests his ability and trains his muscles. A Christian will not become more like Christ unless he is put to the test, hammered on the anvil of life, and purified of his sinful nature.

Or do we claim protection and success over our lives by taking scripture out of context and demanding God do something to fix our circumstances?

One respects God and gives Him the glory He deserves the other reduces Him to a cosmic bellhop placed in our lives to do our bidding.

When Christ Our Life Appears

Another beautiful hymn put out by Sovereign Grace Music and Bob Kauflin. In a day when the world is falling down around us, look up dear brothers and sisters to He who will one day appear and establish righteousness, justice, and His eternal kingdom.

Through Broken Vessels

“It has been well-said that before God uses a man greatly He must first break him breakly. God works best through broken vessels who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the devil. The more we desire to be used by God the greater must be our willingness to suffer for Him. There are no easy paths in ministry. Every assignment is a killing place.

This quote and brief sermon jam comes from Dr. Steve Lawson’s ministry during the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference in California at Dr. John MacArthur’s church.

During this time of trial and troubles, I would be remiss if I did not admit that I struggle with fears of my own. I fear for family, for friends, and for churches. Yet, down through the ages of church history, persecution has always given the church wings to grow and be refined as the Bride of Christ.

If you also have fears, look to Jesus and be a broken vessel fit for the Master’s use.

Christ Exalted is Our Song

The news today will not exalt Christ. It will not promote the kingdom of heaven. The news is only intent on reporting on the vile depravity that oozes out of the hearts of men and women around this world.

Today, I encourage you to turn off the news and focus on Jesus Christ. Do not keep your eyes on that which will not edify your soul and make you more like the Savior.

Missionary in Need

One of our contributors, Sony Elise, knows this missionary family (Mike and Pam Richardson) down in Mexico. Please click the picture below to go to a funding page that has been set up for them by their daughter, Misty Marr.

Pray for these folks, and if you are able to help with their financial need — I am sure that they would be very grateful.

If you would like to read more about their ministry, down in Mexico, you can CLICK HERE.

Seeing Jesus Only

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. — Matthew 17:1-8

We live in troubled times – very troubled times. As Christians, we should heed the words of the Messiah to His disciples in John 14:1. He told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

As the disciples walked the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee, I wonder how much time they wasted pondering the times of trouble. They lived in a difficult time and were even under the heavy-handed rule of Rome. The disciples lived under a time of occupation by enemy forces.

Yet, at no time, did Jesus act the part of a revolutionary as some fraudulently claim. Not only did He submit to the will of His Father, but He also obeyed the laws that were in force both from the perspective of Jewish and Roman law.

In many ways, the Jewish people served as slaves to Rome, yet not one single verse ever encouraged true believers to revolt, start a revolution, or to try and overthrow the government. Instead, the Scriptures commanded slaves to be obedient to their masters as unto the Lord, and masters were to be honorable in their dealings with those who served them again as unto the Lord.

While walking those roads, I am sure there must have been many times that hushed voices from men like Simon the Zealot pondered aloud what needed to be done to get rid of Rome. But, not once did Christ encourage this. On the contrary, He reminded them and others who listened that this world is not where His kingdom was to be found. It was not a physical kingdom and He never had any plans to become a new and improved rebel leader who would do finally accomplish what the Maccabees could not.

Despite all the talks and parables used, the disciples held a skewed perspective about how they saw Jesus. Even in the event known as “The Transfiguration”, we can see that the wrong focus brought the inner-most circle of disciples to a point where they spoke from their emotions instead of being led by the renewing of their mind.

The reality is that they were not focused on Jesus only.

It is an intimate setting as Jesus and only three disciples go for a walk. Away from the other disciples and the crowds that always clamored for the Messiah’s attention, He leads them up to the top of a mountain. It has been just six days since the conversation where Peter gives his startling admission that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God.

The Lord Jesus Christ shares that He would build His Church and that He would soon have to suffer. Peter then rebukes the Rabbi, but in turn is called to account as Jesus tells the impetuous disciple that he is only savoring the things of man, and not the things of God.

Jesus then gives a short discourse on the importance of dying to self, and that to fulfill the will of God that each person who is a true believer must take up their own cross and deny themselves.

Now, six days later, they have climbed a mountain and Jesus is transfigured before their very eyes. The word used is where we get our word metamorphosis. He changes and they see His divine glory. His face becomes like the sun and His garments are white as the light.

As they watch, Moses and Elijah appear. Moses represents the law and the commandments, while Elijah represents the prophets. Peter, always the spokesman, announces that it is good to be in the presence of the law and the prophets and the Messiah. He then states that maybe they should honor these three men by building a tent or a tabernacle. This would have been a skin-covered dwelling place such as the Ark of God rested during the years when there was no Temple in Jerusalem.

A cloud comes down upon them and they hear a voice from heaven. The voice does not address the presence of the law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah were only forerunners to point to the One Who stood glowing in their midst. They were present for a time, but now a New Covenant was about to be brought into place.

This is my beloved Son, HEAR HIM!

The voice spoke out of the bright, glowing cloud and forced them to do what any person would do when they come into contact with the divine glory of Christ and are in the presence of a Holy God.

They fall to the ground with their faces in the lowest place they can find. They know they are in the very presence of God. The disciples know the accounts of what took place when God showed up and they are afraid. This is not a mere phobia. The two words indicate they were violently or vehemently afraid. These grown men are scared to death and shaking.

“But Jesus…”

The Master comes up to them, touches them, soothes their troubled thoughts, tells them not to fear, and raises them to their feet.

Their quaking subsides and as they stand to their feet again, their eyes see Jesus only. The law and the prophets held people captive until the Son of God came and took on human flesh. As they see Jesus, it will be a few days yet before He is delivered to death. But, after His death and resurrection, they will understand the words that He said to them. The disciples will know the significance of what occurred on top of that high mountain.

All the rules, words of the prophets, laws, statutes, and commandments could never restore full fellowship with God. These things were meant to show how wide the gap was between a holy, righteous God and depraved humanity.

The hearts of the disciples were troubled and instead of focusing just on the Lord Jesus Christ, they were concerned about building a tent or tabernacle in order to give continued honor to the law and the prophets. But Jesus Christ shares His glory with no other.

The Transfiguration would forever be engrained in the hearts and minds of these disciples. They had been given a privilege that the other disciples were not provided. Yet, years later, the same disciple who tried to rebuke Jesus and then denied Him three times would write the following:

2 Peter 1:16-18 — For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

When Jesus took the three men up to the top of the high mountain, He removed them from all of the distractions of the world. Once He was transfigured, He also removed from their hearts and minds the distraction of what He came to fulfill in its entirety. Christ did not discount the law or the prophets, but He wanted them to understand that ALL the glory belongs to Him. He was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father so that we might have eternal life.

Despite his miserable failings and his sins, Peter and his two fellow disciples never forgot that they had seen the majesty of Jesus Christ.

Friends, in today’s world, we live in a time of trouble and it will only get worse. Whatever your position may be in the area of eschatology (study of end times), there is no true believer who can look at the current state of the world and believe that it is getting better and better.

For all who are true believers by placing their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, it would be a blessing if we could catch such a glimpse of the majesty of God. However, after His resurrection, Christ told Thomas that those who believe and have not seen are blessed.

One day, these Shadowlands will disappear. We shall behold Him in all of His splendor, in all of His glory, in all of His power, and in all of His majesty.

Today, I beg you to put aside earthly affections and once again set your affections on things above. Focus on the Author and Finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him ENDURED the cross.

Are we better than our own Master? God forbid!

No matter what we may face, our God is greater. No matter the trials or tribulations, in the light of eternity, they will be but light afflictions.

True Patriotism!

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(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the ‘offence of the cross’!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their ‘liberty’—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God’s law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an ‘air of importance’, will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child’s dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! “Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton

Firm Foundations – Lesson 5

This particular lesson is one of my favorites to teach as it deals with the creation of man. Man is the crowning achievement and the pinnacle of all that God created.

Man is not an animal and is vastly different from the animals. The animals were created with body and spirit as they were spoken into existence by God. Man was personally formed out of the dust of the ground, his spirit was breathed into him personally by God, and then was given a soul that made him immortal for the soul never dies.