Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Posts tagged “Calvinism

Prayer and The Sovereign LORD:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD, he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1

I can’t tell you how many times it has bees suggested to me that because I believe in the sovereign LORD, Who controls all things down to the smallest detail, that I should cease prayer. Yet, some of those people who tell me that, are the ones who would use the very verse to encourage prayer for the President of America, or some other political issue which they are concerned about.

I believe it was J. I. Packer that said something to the effect of every Christian is a Calvinist on his/her knees. It is precisely the sovereignty of God that drives us to prayer and gives us the assurance that He can accomplish what we ask. If God did not have control of the the hearts of kings, then why ask God to change the direction a ruler is headed, to cause him to veto a bill, or alter his allocation of troops? If God doesn’t hold sovereign sway over the hearts of men then why ask God to save the lost? Why ask God to bring a straying child back? If words mean anything at all, at the heart of the one asking these things is the belief that it is really God who does these things. They may claim free-will as a God frustrating factor, but when they go to seek God’s face they leave their man made notions of freedom behind. If they are to pray biblically, then they must do so.

The believers in Acts prayed like this (chapter 4:24-30… note their appeal to God’s creatorship and control over all things, and their plea for the grace to be bold instead of trusting in their own determination to preach the gospel) “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

We serve the Almighty God, and it’s is precisely because He controls all things that we go to Him in assurance that He can do what we ask.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Failures of “the drowning man”

I know posting a link to another page isn’t really considered blogging, but I wish to direct those who read the blog to this article as something to ponder.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/drowningman2.html


Does it really matter?

I was recently in a discussion concerning Calvinism and one of the parties stated “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and the focus should be on pleasing Him, doing His will, and spreading the gospel to others (and I think that’s all that really matters vs. if I’m a Calvinist or not)” So I ask the question – “Does it really matter?” I contend that it does.

The young lady is mistaken in that she thinks one can divorce doctrine from practice. But this is impossible. Scripture is clear that one’s actions are the result of one’s belief (Jesus tells us the root of the tree determines the fruit of the tree.). So does it matter if one is a Calvinist or not? Lets look at what she said matters as a case study (however brief).

A follower of Jesus Christ:

What is it to follow Jesus? Is it just going around and doing good deeds for others? Isn’t that what Jesus did? Surely not every one who does a good deed for another is following Jesus – for we don’t believe Mormon’s are Christians, or doctors who refuse to abort unborn children are Christian by default. To follow Jesus is more than just loving people. It’s being His disciple. His teachings are studied and devoured; then lived out. For one to say they follow Jesus, and then deny the truths He taught is a contradiction.

Now I am not saying that only Calvinists are truly following Jesus. There are many who are “Arminian” just because we all are by nature. But one cannot honestly say he is following Jesus and then flat out deny, or refuse to understand, John 3:1-8, John 6, John 10, (to name a few). To only accept piece-meal the teachings of Jesus that we like and ignore the others or claim finite understanding to avoid being challenged, is not following Jesus, but rather a paper Jesus.

Pleasing Him:

What is pleasing Him? As a Calvinist would say total reliance upon God. Seeing that all things come from Him, He controls all things. Recognizing and worshiping Him as Who He is – the Only Wise Sovereign. Whether that be evangelism, suffering, or playing baseball with one’s son; all these things are results of the cross and we do them out of love. I am even made pleasing to God through the cross of Christ. It is His death and resurrection that justifies me and why I am no longer under the law, but keep it joyfully. Pleasing Him is not something I do for Him of my own libertarian free-will, but something He does through me by grace. It is living with God in His rightful place as Sovereign Lord and man in his as creature.

Spreading the gospel:

This is vital. For the non-Calvinist the gospel is a chair without legs. They offer the lost a cross that is not sufficient to save, a Savior that couldn’t complete the job, and a God Who is hoping to get them to heaven but can’t apart from the sinner’s letting God save them. It is not the biblical gospel, and the only thing it has in common with the true gospel is the same commonality that a cult has with truth – lingo. The non-Calvinist uses the same terminology but redefines it. Atonement doesn’t mean atonement, ransom doesn’t mean ransom, redeem doesn’t mean redeem, desperately wicked doesn’t mean such, grace alone really isn’t alone, etc. The main thing is for them to keep man understanding that his eternal destiny rests in his hands and that what he chooses to do will be the final determining factor in his salvation. The crown of salvation is laid at the feet of the sinner instead of the feet of the Savior. The very purpose of the gospel to the non-Calvinist is the betterment of man. It’s even used to convince man that they are extremely valuable, thus diminishing their heinous sin.

I know it is brief, but I’m on lunch and wanted to jot a few thoughts down. So in review…. If I must jettison, or twist, some of the teachings of Jesus in order to deny Calvinism then I can’t be a follower of Jesus. If I think that my pleasing God is done in my strength instead of depending on God’s sustaining and empowering grace to live my life for Him – even realizing this desire to do so is a gift from God – if I’m not believing that He is really God as He presents Himself in Scripture, then I’m not pleasing Him. If I must distort the gospel in order to give it in a way that, although massively misaligned to the biblical gospel, does fit nicely with how I think God should operate -if I offer people good news that teaches Jesus almost saved you, but you’ve got to meet Him partway – then I’m not really giving the gospel.

So does it really matter?


Why is Calvinism hated and said to be a distortion of “plain biblical truth”?

I have been told countless times that the doctrines of Grace are not biblical, and that those who hold them are “Scripture twisters” at best and “heretics” at worst. Those who level these charges against persons who hold to these truths, when told of all the men of God in church history who also taught these precious Scriptural doctrines, just seem to somehow glibly ignore it or blame it as the “pop-theology” of the man’s era.

So let me ask you, why are the doctrines of Grace so despised? Are they not scriptural? What follows is not exhaustive by any means, but lets take a look at what Scripture teaches and who affirms or denies each biblical doctrine.

1. The Scripture plainly teaches that God is Sovereign in all things, that nothing happens but according to His purpose and will. He controls all things from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy and all that are contained therein – including man. It is not just that He has the right to control, but He exercises that right.
(Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11; Ps 135:6-7; Mt 5:45; 6:25-30; Ps 47:7-9; Dan 2:20-21; 4:34-35; Ex 3:21; 12:25-36; Ez 7:27; 1 Sam 2:6-7; Gal 1:15-16; 2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chr 21:1; Gen 45:5; 50:20; Rom 9:19, Matt 28:18)

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian denies.

2. The Scripture plainly teaches that man is fallen completely. That he is born God-hating, bound in sin, doing the pleasures of Satan as they are his own, giving no thought to God and incapable of coming to Christ unless given new life to do so.
(Psalm 51:5, 58:3; Isaiah 53:6, 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3, 8:44; Romans 3:10-12, 5:12; Ephesians 2:2-3; I Corinthians 2:14)

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian denies.

3. The Scripture plainly teaches that some of these fallen men are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, and this election is not based on anything found or foreseen in themselves, but solely according to the good pleasure and secret counsel of God.

(Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Isaiah 55:11; John 6:44, 15:16; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28; 9:11-13; II Timothy 1:9; Rev. 17:8)

This the Calvinist affirms
This the Arminian denies.

4. The Scripture plainly teaches that the death of Christ has propitiated the wrath of God for the sins He bore. That He came to save His people from their sins and actually accomplished the work He came to do. His blood purchased them out of the world, satisfying the wrath of God. According to Scripture, Christ died for the church, and his death actually justified those for whom He died.

(Matthew 1:21, 20:28; John 10:14-18, 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 5:8-9; Titus 2:14; Revelation 5:9; Is 53:5, 11)

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian denies.

5. The Scripture plainly teaches that those chosen by God and purchased by Christ are given by God to Christ; that Christ will have the prize for which He died. That His bride for whom He died will be complete and spotless. These elect are irresistibly drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit of God working in them a new heart, tearing down their walls of resistance and granting them repentance and faith.
(Ezekiel 11:19-20; John 6:37; Romans 8:30; Colossians 2:13; James 1:18; Titus 3:5; Is 53:10; Eph 5:25-27)

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian denies.

6. The Scripture plainly teaches that all those who are given to Christ will be saved. There is no possibility of them being lost. A true child of God, although he will sin, will not continue in it. The believer will persevere in faith, as God will not permit him to do otherwise. The blood bought child holds on to what holds him.
( I Peter 1:5; Isaiah 43:1-3; Jeremiah 32:40; Romans 8:35-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; I Thessalonians 5:23-24; Jude 24-25)
This the Calvinist affirms.
Some Arminians affirm a slightly modified version of this doctrine. (The strand of Arminianism who does hold to some form of eternal security (the one I was raised under), does so in the unbiblical sense of “once saved always saved”. This means that once one has made his decision for Christ, then no matter how he lives he is always saved. The possibility that he may have never been saved to begin with doesn’t enter their equation.)

7. The Scripture plainly teaches that regeneration, or the new birth, is a Sovereign act of God alone in His elect.  That faith and repentance are products of regeneration not the cause of it.

(II Tim. 2:25; Acts 11:18; Eph 2:4, 8-9; II Thess 3:2; John 10:25-26; I John 5:1; John 3:5-8 )

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian denies.

8. The Scripture plainly teaches that the invitation and command to obey the gospel is to be proclaimed indiscriminately.

(Matt 28:19-20; Romans 1:14; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15-16)

This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian affirms.

9. Scripture plainly teaches that everyone who comes to Christ will find forgiveness and never be turned away, that every one who desires to come is most certainly welcomed.

(Mark 16:16; Jn 6:37, 40, Matt 11:28)
This the Calvinist affirms.
This the Arminian affirms.

Again, this is no where near an exhaustive list of Scripture upon which each point is founded. I was not intending for it to be such. Rather I hope God uses this to cause you to search the Scripture more; and may you find as George Muller did,

Before this period [when I came to prize the Bible alone as my standard of judgment] I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption (i.e. limited atonement), and final persevering grace. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said, I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths.

To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state for God’s glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might be, and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period. My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before .(Autobiography, pp. 33-34)


Evangelism: What exactly is it anyway?

I read an article today that was published in a past issue of Christianity Today entitled “What Evangelism Isn’t” .It was published in 2007, but is a must read!

Mark Dever hit the nail on the head when he addressed this topic. It is amazing how when the doctrines of grace are forsaken (whether ignorantly, or intentionally) that other vital areas slip as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either been told that I will not evangelize, or that I am inconsitent if I do evangelize. Those who make this statement show that they have been missinformed concerning the doctrines of grace and what true evangelism is.

As Ernest Reisinger said in addressing the question “Will Calvinism Kill Evangelism“:

“The answer to the question is yes and no. Yes, it will kill unbiblical man-centered evangelism and some of the carnal unbiblical methods employed in man-centered evangelism.

No, it will not kill God-centered evangelism where biblical methods are employed in the great work of carrying out our Lord’s clearest command.”

May God bring His people back to Scripture, and true evangelism!


The Biblical Road (or a Tale of Two Ditches):

I was raised in a church were Calvinism was said to be a ditch on the one hand, and Arminiansm was said to be a ditch on the other, and the road in the middle was biblicism. I even attended a Bible college where I was taught the same thing. But as I began to study Scripture something became evident. Those who were saying this, and calling themselves biblicist, were actually just 4 point Arminians at best. I am sure they meant well, but just because you call yourself a biblicist doesn’t make you one, nor keep you from error.

Another thing noticed was that the road wasn’t [Calvinism (ditch)]|Biblicism(road)|[Arminianism (ditch)]. They had left something out – Hyper-Calvinism. The illustration is, in reality,

[Hyper-Calvinism (ditch)]|Calvinism/Biblicism(road)|[Arminianism (ditch)]car in ditch

Now, this will probably make those who walk in the ditches angry, for two reasons. 1. I just said you are not on the theologically biblical path. 2. I just said my held theology was biblical.

I do not say these things to incite anger, but to stir the heart and mind, and encourage you to read this article I read on the subject. I think it is extremely helpful in laying the matter out plainly, and biblicaly.

Here’s the article by John Hendryx.


Bible Driven Theology

It has been said that those who hold to the doctrines of grace are driven by logic or some esoterically intellectual scheme. I have friends who ask me questions, and they do so in the right spirit. As I read this I thought of some who it may help. there is no use re-inventing the wheel, so I will just post a link to the 2 part article. It is lengthy, but well worth the time.

I would urge all who read it, even those who know they will probably agree with what is said, to do so preceeded by prayer, and continue to pray through the article.

For those who do not agree to the doctrines of grace, may The LORD be pleased to use this to open your heart and mind to the verity of them.

For those who do hold to this biblical doctrine, may The LORD be pleased to teach us more of humility and cause us to worship Him the more by His grace.

Part I

Part II


Continuing along the lines of Humility:

The flesh will take anything and revel in it. Oh, how wicked we are that we would take such a self humiliating truth ad God’s sovereign grace, and exhalt self in it! May God keep us humble as He manfest His grace to our hearts.


Marks of a true Calvinist:

This article was e-ailed ot me by a good friend. I ralize that the term “Calvinism” sparks negative connotations in the minds of many in the Western religious realm; mostly due to a poinsoning of the well. I would side with Spurgeon when he said that the doctrines of grace are nicknamed “Calvinism”. These truths are not man made, nor man centered. They are clearly taught in the Word of God.

Never the less, as huan nature is, when a man is shown these truths by The Spirit of God; we get prideful. This article is very encouraging….may God use it for His glory.

Marks of a True Calvinist
By Pastor Jeff Johnson – Grace Bible Church of Conway

There seems to me to be two types of Calvinists. The Calvinist who has learned his Calvinism only by studying books and creeds, and the Calvinist who, although he has studied these same books and creeds, has come to understand it by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In other words, there is the Calvinist who has the TULIP acronym in his head, and the Calvinist who has it in his heart. The major difference between them is pride and humility. The former has become a little arrogant if not all together harsh because of his personal intellectual accomplishment, while the latter has been deeply humbled by a fuller understanding of the doctrine. Regardless, only those Calvinists who are gentle and humble should be considered as genuine Calvinists. Why? Because, they are the only ones who really understand it and have been affected by it in their own personal lives. Therefore, as we shall see, humility is the distinguishing mark of a true Calvinist.

1. To begin with, humility is the mark of a true Calvinist because when the doctrines of grace are supernaturally revealed to a person, they are accompanied with an infusion of meekness and humility. James in his epistle makes this very clear: “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy” (James 3:17). In the school of Christ, we learn more than just theology, we study practical godliness as well. Our Teacher will not instruct us in one without the other. In fact, to seek to be versed in doctrine without seeking godliness (the end of doctrine) is an act of ungodliness in itself. Christ our heavenly Instructor will not have that. When He teaches, it results in the pupil obtaining true wisdom. First of all, it is true wisdom because, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure,” that is, it is biblically sound. Secondly, it is true wisdom because it is not just knowledge alone, but the discernment of how to implement that knowledge into one’s daily life. In other words, it is a wisdom that makes one “peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated.” Rather than making us arrogant, true wisdom makes us humble. On the flip side, James warns, “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3: 14-15).

It is Sad to say that many Calvinists today are mean-spirited, arrogant, and downright divisive. They are willing to divide God’s people and separate themselves from those who happen to not hold to the same Calvinistic creed as they do. Furthermore, they look down on Arminians of varying nuances as being less intellectual and intelligent than they are. This manifestation of Pride is not of the Lord nor is it the result of a real spiritual understanding of his word. You see, Satan has his school of theology as well, and he does not mind you becoming highly educated in the things of God as long as they do not get rooted in your heart and bring forth the fruit of righteousness. Pride, bitter envying, and strife is the result of learning doctrine outside of the school of Christ. Oh, with this concern in mind, may we who hold to the precious doctrines of grace; be sure we are humble, as well as gracious and friendly towards all those who are yet blind to these truths.

2. Lastly, humility is the mark of a true Calvinist because one cannot truly understand Calvinism without being humbled by what it teaches. An arrogant Calvinist is a contradiction. Prideful Calvinists are inconsistent with their head knowledge of Calvinism because they negate what they teach by how they live. It is further inconsistent because Calvinism teaches us to live humbly both before God and man, which is the very essence of Calvinism. True Calvinism teaches that we were blind to all spiritual truth. Not only were we unable to see the beauty of election, we were unable to see even the beauty of Jesus Christ. Is this not what total depravity teaches? Furthermore, Calvinism stresses grace, and not human accomplishment. Therefore, why do some Calvinists make their boast in themselves? Why do they glory in their own mental powers, when it is God’s free grace that is to be accredited? You see, humility, is the outcome of a real understanding of Calvinism, for not only the T, but also the U (unconditional election) emphasizes this. When a person fully grasps the concept of electing grace (within his heart and not just his head) he cannot help but realize that he is no better than any one else. Being laid low by this understanding leads him to a sense of pity, and to be kind and gracious to those who are still untaught to the doctrines of grace.

In light of this clarification, we who have been taught of God and who understand the doctrines of grace, ought to strive to practice what we peach. We should not consider ourselves higher than Arminians, the Wesleyans and so forth, many of whom are brothers in the Lord. I am not saying we are to be ashamed of the precious truth of God’s word and suppress it for the sake of “being peaceful,” nor am I saying that all Christians are gifted with the same intellectual abilities. What I am saying is simply that we know all that we know only by God’s sovereignty and by God’s grace, and therefore, we have no reason to boast in ourselves. Spiritual inability is the great equalizer. We who have this precious doctrine imbedded in our hearts ought to know that we are Calvinists not because we are geniuses, but because it has been freely revealed to us by God. So, if pride ever creeps in, we should ask ourselves this, “who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (ICor. 4:7).

To summarize, if we have been taught by Christ and have been given wisdom from above, let us be ever mindful to glory not in ourselves, but rather as James instructs us, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). May we not only proclaim the doctrines of grace, but may we go further and adorn ourselves with it by walking in humility, for humility, I believe, is the true mark of a Calvinist.


Truth

“What if you don’t want to be a Calvinist??? What if you don’t want to be a Christian??? Are you stuck with God anyway???”

As I was reading through a thread of some people arguing for and against the doctrines of grace (AKA Calvinism) I found the statement above. This is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever read, yet I used to believe this way as well. As I read, one thing became evident. Those who reject Calvinism reject it because they do not understand it; whether willfully or just plain blindness to it. As Charles Spurgeon said, “We are made Calvinist by the grace of God.” People who don’t like the thought that God chooses some before the foundation of the world, as is clearly taught in Scripture, do so because they have a man-centered theology. They do not see themselves as they truly are – wicked, sinful creatures who are absolutely worthless and deserve nothing but HELL at this very moment. We were all born God hating, and apart from the sovereign grace of Almighty God, none of us would be saved.
It is not about one’s believing a thing to be true. The believer’s faith doesn’t make the blood of Christ effective in his/her life, the blood of Christ purchased that faith and made it effective in their life.
If you are one of those who despise these biblical truths, listen to what you are saying! You exalt your unbiblical logic above the very words of Christ. Read John 6, 10, 17; the entire book; all four accounts of the gospel for that matter; Ephesians 1, 2, etc. The Sovereignty of God in all things is all through Scripture. The doctrine of election is taught by Jesus. He told the Jews in Matthew’s accounting of the gospel that there were many widows that were starving, yet He chose to only send His prophet to one. He said there were many lepers, yet He chose to heal Naaman. The Jews understood Christ to be saying that He chooses who to have mercy on. This angered them and they wanted to push Him off the cliff.
I am not upset at the attacks people make on Calvin, as he is a man who was imperfect. Although he loved The LORD and sought the glory of God above his own, he was just as human as any.
It grieves me that men are so adamant at holding on to the one thing that gives you “god-status”. Free will. This is the very lie Satan propounded to Eve. Men like this because they think this allows them to control their destiny. But all this false teaching does is make man the center and reason why God does all He does. It reduces God to a powerless pleader, like a little high school girl begging for Johnny to call her and ask her out, but unable to convince him to do so; all she can do is try to doll herself up and attempt to catch his eye and hope. They remove all power from the atonement in order to maintain their perceived concept of free will. What is being forgotten is that Christ did not pay man, He did not pay Satan. He bore the wrath of Almighty God for the sins of His people. When He cried, “It is finished!” He was right. He ransomed men from every tribe and tongue to God. When He said He came to seek and to save the lost, he was successful in His mission. God is not a failure. Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ shall have the prize for which He died – His church, those bought with His blood. This enrages some- The fact that Christ did not ransom all men. But those who it enrages are such because they have somehow fancied mankind as worth saving.

At the heart of all their disputing is their failure to see man as he is, and it is only by God’s grace that we will see ourselves as we truly are – dead in our trespasses and sins. We would always reject God, apart from His saving grace. “For by grace are ye saved…”
No man wants to be a Christian, it is by God’s grace that his heart is changed and he desires The LORD. “We love Him because He first loved us.” He loved me before the foundations of the world, I can not help but love Him back. By His grace He changed my stony heart to a heart of flesh and I willing love Him. “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (emphasis added)

May God, by His grace, open our eyes to the truth.