31 March 2011

The Most Intense, Authentic Worship

How we suffer says much about us. As John Piper relates below, it "is the most intense, authentic worship."

How shall entertaining worship services - with the aim of feeling lighthearted and friendly - help a person prepare to suffer, let alone to die? If we know how to suffer well, and we feel that "to die is gain" because of Jesus, then we will know how to live well. ...Suffering in the path of Christian obedience, with joy - because the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life (Psalm 63:3) - is the clearest display of the worth of God in our lives. Therefore, faith-filled suffering is essential in this world for the most intense, authentic worship. - Taken from The Hidden Smile of God: the Fruit of Affliction in the lives of John Buyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd by John Piper.

30 March 2011

29 March 2011

Favor from Men

Now God  sometimes allows people to treat us unjustly. Sometimes He even allows their actions to seriously affect our careers or our futures viewed on a human plane. But God never allows people to make decisions about us that undermine His plan for us. God is for us, we are His children, He delights in us (see Zephaniah 3:17). And the Scripture says, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). We can put down this bedrock f truth: God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you. And His will is always directed to our good.

Why then do we suffer such disappointment when the hoped for favor that we needed from another person doesn't materialize? - Taken from Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

Whether it be a job, a friendship, romantic interest or family relationship, God is in the midst of it. We have nothing to fear and there is nothing anyone can do to us outside of His sovereign will for us. What a blessing to have this knowledge. We just all need to apply it, don't we?

23 March 2011

On Justification VIII

The justification of the believer is absolute, complete, final. “It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33), and “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it” (Eccl. 3:14). So absolute and inexorable is this blessed fact that, in Romans 8:30 we are told, “Whom He justified, them He also glorified”: notice it is not simply a promise that God “will glorify,” but so sure and certain is that blissful event, the past tense is used. “Them He also glorified” is speaking from the standpoint of the eternal and unalterable purpose of God, concerning which there is no conditionality or contingency whatsoever. To be “glorified” is to be perfectly conformed to the lovely image of Christ, when we shall see Him as He is and be made like Him (1 John 3:2). Because God has determined this, He speaks of it as already accomplished, for He “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).

So far as the believer is concerned, the penal side of the sin question has been settled once and for all. His case has been tried in the supreme court, and God has justified him: in consequence thereof the Divine decision is “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Once those very persons were under condemnation—“condemned already” (John 3:18); but now that their faith has united them to Christ there is no condemnation. The debt of their sin has been paid by their great Surety; the record thereof has been “blotted out” by His cleansing blood. “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth” (Rom. 8:33, 34). Who will reverse His decision! Where is that superior tribunal to which this cause can be carried? Eternal justice has pronounced her fiat; immutable judgment has recorded her sentence.

It is therefore the bounden duty of those who profess to have been justified by God to diligently and impartially examine themselves, to ascertain whether or not they have in them those spiritual graces which always accompany justification. It is by our sanctification, and that alone, that we may discover our justification. Would you know whether Christ fulfilled the law for you, that His obedience has been imputed to your account? Then search your heart and life and see whether a spirit of obedience to Him is daily working in you. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled only in those who “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). God never designed that the obedience of His Son should be imputed to those who live a life of worldliness, self-pleasing, and gratifying the lusts of the flesh. Far from it: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). -A.W. Pink

21 March 2011

On Justification VII

[It is] very evident that the “justification” of which Paul treats is entirely different from the “justification” with which James deals. The doctrine of the former is that nothing renders any sinner acceptable to God but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; the doctrine of the latter is that such a faith is not solitary, but accompanied with every good work, and that where good works are absent, justifying faith cannot exist. James is insistent that it is not enough to say I have justifying faith, I must give proof of the same by exhibiting those fruits which love toward God and love toward men necessarily produce. Paul writes of our justification before God, James of our justification before men. Paul treats of the justification of persons; James, of the justification of our profession. The one is by faith alone; the other is by a faith which worketh by love and produces obedience.

...“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Here is the summing up: a breathless carcass and a worthless faith are alike useless as unto all the ends of natural and spiritual life. Thus the Apostle has conclusively shown the worthlessness of the garb of orthodoxy when worn by lifeless professors. He has fully exposed the error of those who rest in a bare profession of the Gospel—as if that could save them, when the temper of their minds and the tenor of their lives was diametrically opposed to the holy religion they professed. A holy heart and an obedient walk are the scriptural evidence of our having been justified by God.- A.W. Pink

18 March 2011

On Justification VI

“The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22); “A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28); “even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). What is the precise place and influence which faith has in the important affairs of justification? What is the exact nature or character of justifying faith? In what particular sense are we to understand this proposition that we are “justified by faith”? and what is the connection between that proposition and the postulates that we are “justified by grace” and “justified by His blood”? These are matters which call for the utmost care. The nature of justifying faith requires to be closely defined so that its particular agency is correctly viewed, for it is easy to make a mistake here to the prejudice of Christ's honour and glory, which must not be given to another—no, not to faith itself.

...We are justified by faith, and not for faith; not because of what faith is, but because of what it receives. “It hath no efficacy of itself, but as it is the band of our union with Christ. The whole virtue of cleansing proceeds from Christ the object. We receive the water with our hands, but the cleansing virtue is not in our hands, but in the water, yet the water cannot cleanse us without our receiving it; our receiving it unites the water to us, and is a means whereby we are cleansed. And therefore is it observed that our justification by faith is always expressed in the passive, not in the active: we are justified by faith, not that faith justifies us. The efficacy is in Christ's blood; the reception of it is in our faith” (S. Charnock).

Scripture knows no such thing as a justified unbeliever. There is nothing meritorious about believing, yet it is necessary in order to justification. It is not only the righteousness of Christ as imputed which justifies, but also as received (Rom. 5:11, 17). The righteousness of Christ is not mine until I accept it as the Father's gift. “The believing sinner is ‘justified by faith’ only instrumentally, as he ‘lives by eating’ only instrumentally. Eating is the particular act by which he receives and appropriates food. Strictly speaking, he lives by bread alone, not by eating, or the act of masticating. And, strictly speaking, the sinner is justified by Christ's sacrifice alone, not by his act of believing in it” (W. Shedd). In the application of justification faith is not a builder, but a beholder; not an agent, but an instrument; it has nothing to do, but all to believe; nothing to give, but all to receive. -A.W. Pink

17 March 2011

A Present Help in Trouble 1 Samuel 23

On Justification V

Grace is the very essence of the Gospel—the only hope for fallen men, the sole comfort of saints passing through much tribulation on their way to the kingdom of God. The Gospel is the announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty rebels on the ground of free favour, of pure benignity; that God will blot out sin, cover the believing sinner with a robe of spotless righteousness, and receive him as an accepted son: not on account of anything he has done or ever will do, but of sovereign mercy, acting independently of the sinner's own character and deservings of eternal punishment. Justification is perfectly gratuitous so far as we are concerned, nothing being required of us in order to it, either in the way of price and satisfaction or preparation and meetness. We have not the slightest degree of merit to offer as the ground of our acceptance, and therefore if God ever does accept us it must be out of unmingled grace.

...“Being justified without a cause by His Grace.” How this tells out the very heart of God! While there was no motive to move Him, outside of Himself, there was one inside Himself; while there was nothing in us to impel God to justify us, His own grace moved Him, so that He devised a way whereby His wondrous love could have vent and flow forth to the chief of sinners, the vilest of rebels. As it is written, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25). Wondrous, matchless grace! We cannot for a moment look outside the grace of God for any motive or reason why He should ever have noticed us, still less had respect unto such ungodly wretches.

...The first moving cause, then, that inclined God to show mercy to His people in their undone and lost condition, was His own wondrous grace—unsought, uninfluenced, unmerited by us. He might justly have left us all obnoxious to the curse of His Law, without providing any Surety for us, as He did the fallen angels; but such was His grace toward us that “He spared not His own Son.” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7). It was His own sovereign favour and good will which actuated God to form this wondrous scheme and method of justification.

...Toward the sinner justification is an act of free unmerited favour; but toward Christ, as a sinner's Surety, it is an act of justice that eternal life should be bestowed upon those for whom His meritorious satisfaction was made. First, it was pure grace that God was willing to accept satisfaction from the hands of a surety. He might have exacted the debt from us in our own persons, and then our condition had been equally miserable as that of the fallen angels, for whom no mediator was provided. Second, it was wondrous grace that God Himself provided a Surety for us, which we could not have done. The only creatures who are capable of performing perfect obedience are the holy angels, yet none of them could have assumed and met our obligations, for they are not akin to us, possessing not human nature, and therefore incapable of dying. Even had an angel became incarnate, his obedience to the law could not have availed for the whole of God's elect, for it would not have possessed infinite value.

None but a Divine person taking human nature into union with Himself could present unto God a satisfaction adequate for the redemption of His people. And it was impossible for men to have found out that Mediator and Surety: it must have its first rise in God, and not from us: it was He that “found” a ransom (Job 33:24) and laid help upon One that is “mighty” (Ps. 89:19). In the last place, it was amazing grace that the Son was willing to perform such a work for us, without whose consent the justice of God could not have exacted the debt from Him. And His grace is the most eminent in that He knew beforehand all the unspeakable humiliation and unparalleled suffering which He would encounter in the discharge of this work, yet that did not deter Him; nor was He unapprised of the character of those for whom He did it—the guilty, the ungodly, the hell-deserving; yet He shrank not back.“O to grace how great a debtor,Daily I'm constrained to be!Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,Bind my wandering heart to Thee.” -A.W. Pink

15 March 2011

Encounters (3) Joshua

On Justification IV

This grand doctrine of Justification was proclaimed in its purity and clarity by the Reformers—Luther, Calvin, Zanchius, Peter Martyr, etc.; but it began to be corrupted in the seventeenth century by men who had only a very superficial knowledge of it, who taught that justification consisted merely in the removal of guilt or forgiveness of sins, excluding the positive admittance of man into God's judicial favour: in other words, they restricted justification unto deliverance from Hell, failing to declare that it also conveys a title unto Heaven. This error was perpetuated by John Wesley, and then by the Plymouth Brethren, who, denying that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer, seek to find their title to eternal life in a union with Christ in His resurrection. Few today are clear upon the twofold content of Justification, because few today understand the nature of that righteousness which is imputed to all who believe.

...The “righteousness of Christ” which is imputed to the believer consists of that perfect obedience which He rendered unto the precepts of God's Law and that death which He died under the penalty of the law. It has been rightly said that, “There is the very same need of Christ's obeying the law in our stead, in order to the reward, as of His suffering the penalty of the law in our stead in order to our escaping the penalty; and the same reason why one should be accepted on our account as the other…To suppose that all Christ does in order to make atonement for us by suffering is to make Him our Saviour but in part. It is to rob Him of half His glory as a Saviour. For if so, all that He does is to deliver us from Hell; He does not purchase Heaven for us” (Jonathan Edwards). Should any one object to the idea of Christ “purchasing” Heaven for His people, he may at once be referred to Ephesians 1:14, where Heaven is expressly designated “the purchased possession.”

...It is not that God treats as righteous one who is not actually so (that would be a fiction), but that He actually constitutes the believer so, not by infusing a holy nature in his heart, but by reckoning the obedience of Christ to his account. Christ's obedience is legally transferred to him so that he is now rightly and justly regarded as righteous by the Divine Law. It is very far more than a naked pronouncement of righteousness upon one who is without any sufficient foundation for the judgment of God to declare him righteous. No, it is a positive and judicial act of God “whereby, on the consideration of the mediation of Christ, He makes an effectual grant and donation of a true, real, perfect righteousness, even that of Christ Himself unto all that do believe, and accounting it as theirs, on His own gracious act, both absolves them from sin, and granteth them right and title unto eternal life” (John Owen).

It now remains for us to point out the ground on which God acts in this counter-imputation of sin to Christ and righteousness to His people. That ground was the everlasting covenant. The objection that it is unjust the innocent should suffer in order that the guilty may escape loses all its force once the covenant-headship and responsibility of Christ is seen, and the covenant-oneness with Him of those whose sins He bore. There could have been no such thing as a vicarious sacrifice unless there had been some union between Christ and those for whom He died, and that relation of union must have subsisted before He died, yea, before our sins were imputed to Him. Christ undertook to make full satisfaction to the law for His people because He sustained to them the relation of a surety. But what justified His acting as their surety? He stood as their Surety because He was their substitute: He acted on their behalf, because He stood in their room. But what justified the substitution?

No satisfactory answer can be given to the last question until the grand doctrine of everlasting covenant-oneness comes into view: that is the great underlying relation. The federal oneness between the Redeemer and the redeemed, the choosing of them in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), by which a legal union was established between Him and them, is that which alone accounts for and justifies all else. “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). As the Covenant-Head of His people, Christ was so related to them that their responsibilities necessarily became His, and we are so related to Him that His merits necessarily become ours. Thus, as we said in an earlier chapter, three words give us the key to and sum up the whole transaction: substitution, identification, imputation—all of which rest upon covenant-oneness. Christ was substituted for us, because He is one with us—identified with us, and we with Him. Thus God dealt with us as occupying Christ's place of worthiness and acceptance. May the Holy Spirit grant both writer and reader such an heart-apprehension of this wondrous and blessed truth, that overflowing gratitude may move us unto fuller devotedness unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. A.W. Pink

14 March 2011

On Justification III

It is through Christ and His atonement that the justice and mercy of God, His righteousness and grace, meet in the justifying of a believing sinner. In Christ is found the solution to every problem which sin has raised. In the Cross of Christ every attribute of God shines forth in its meridian splendor. In the satisfaction which the Redeemer offered unto God every claim of the law, whether preceptive or penal, has been fully met. God has been infinitely more honored by the obedience of the last Adam than He was dishonored by the disobedience of the first Adam. The justice of God was infinitely more magnified when its awful sword smote the beloved Son, than had every member of the human race burned for ever and ever in the lake of fire. There is infinitely more efficacy in the blood of Christ to cleanse, than there is in sin to befoul. There is infinitely more merit in Christ's one perfect righteousness than there is demerit in the combined unrighteousness of all the ungodly. Well may we exclaim, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14) –A.W. Pink

12 March 2011

On Justification II

The sinner is unquestionably guilty. It is not merely that he has infirmities or that he is not as good as he ought to be: he has set at nought God's authority, violated His commandments, trodden His Laws under foot. And this is true not only of a certain class of offenders, but “all the world” is “guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). “There is none righteous, no, not one: They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10, 12). It is impossible for any man to clear himself from this fearful charge. He can neither show that the crimes of which he is accused have not been committed, nor that having been committed, he had a right to do them. He can neither disprove the charges which the law preferred against him, nor justify himself in the perpetration of them.

Here then is how the case stands. The law demands personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity to its precepts, in heart and act, in motive and performance. God charges each one of us with having failed to meet those just demands, and declares we have violated His commandments in thought and word and deed. The law therefore pronounces upon us a sentence of condemnation, curses us, and demands the infliction of its penalty, which is death. The One before whose tribunal we stand is omniscient, and cannot be deceived or imposed upon; He is inflexibly just, and swayed by no sentimental considerations. We, the accused, are guilty, unable to refute the accusations of the law, unable to vindicate our sinful conduct, unable to offer any satisfaction or atonement for our crimes. Truly, our case is desperate to the last degree.

Here, then, is the problem. How can God justify the willful transgressor of His Law without justifying his sins? How can God deliver him from the penalty of His broken Law without compromising His holiness and going back upon His word that He will “by no means clear the guilty”? How can life be granted the guilty culprit without repealing the sentence “the soul that sinneth it shall die”? How can mercy be shown to the sinner without justice being flouted? It is a problem which must forever have baffled every finite intelligence. Yet, blessed be His name, God has, in His consummate wisdom, devised a way whereby the “chief of sinners” may be dealt with by Him as though he were perfectly innocent; nay more, He pronounces him righteous, up to the required standard of the law, and entitled to the reward of eternal life. - A.W. Pink

11 March 2011

Priestly Sacrifices

Redeemer Church (PCA) sermon series continues its exposition of 1 Samuel...

On Justification

“What is justification? Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which He pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in His sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone” (Westminster Catechism, 1643).

“We thus define the Gospel justification of a sinner: It is a judicial, but gracious act of God, whereby the elect and believing sinner is absolved from the guilt of his sins, and hath a right to eternal life adjudged to him, on account of the obedience of Christ, received by faith” (H. Witsius, 1693). “A person is said to be justified when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment; and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life” (Jonathan Edwards, 1750).

Justification, then, refers not to any subjective change wrought in a person's disposition, but is solely an objective change in his standing in relation to the law. That to justify cannot possibly signify to make a person inherently righteous or good is most clearly to be seen from the usage of the term itself in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs 17:15 we read, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD”: now obviously he who shall make a “wicked” person just is far from being an “abomination to the LORD,” but he who knowingly pronounces a wicked person to be righteous is obnoxious to Him. Again; in Luke 7:29 we read, “And all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God”: how impossible it is to make the words “justified God” signify any moral transformation in His character; but understand those words to mean that they declared Him to be righteous, and all ambiguity is removed. Once more, in 1 Timothy 3:16 we are told that the incarnate Son was “justified in (or “by”) the Spirit”: that is to say, He was publicly vindicated at His resurrection, exonerated from the blasphemous charges which the Jews had laid against Him.

...“[J]ustification” is not merely the remission of punishment but the judicial announcement that punishment cannot be justly inflicted—the accused being fully conformed to all the positive requirements of the law in consequence of Christ's perfect obedience being legally reckoned to his account. The justification of a believer is no other than his being admitted to participate in the reward merited by his Surety. Justification is nothing more or less than the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us: the negative blessing issuing therefrom is the remission of sins; the positive, a title to the heavenly inheritance. - A.W. Pink

What a blessed God we serve who justifies His undeserving people.

This is the first in a series as we walk through the distinctives of the doctrine of justification taken from Pink's "Doctrine of Justification."

10 March 2011

Searching for the Hidden Smile of God

I've just finished reading John Piper's "The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd." What a great work. It really opens up the lives of Brainerd, Bunyan and Cowper to it's readers. However, in Piper's summation he makes of few statements that although I was aware of their truth, nevertheless struck me deeply. Allow me to quote him:

"...But we modern, western Christians have come to see safety and ease as a right. We move away from bad neighborhoods. We leave hard relationships. We don't go to dangerous, unreached people groups. ...Jesus never called us to a life of safety, nor even a fair fight. ...We are soft and thin-skinned. We are worldly; we fit far too well into our God-ignoring culture. We are fearful and anxious and easily discouraged. We have taken our eyes of the Celestial City and the deep pleasures of knowing God and denying ourselves the lesser things that titillate for a moment but then shrink our capacities for great joy. Bunyan's Seasonable Counsel for us is: Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. 'For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it' (Matthew 16:25)."

Some of that describes me, does it describe you? It's time for a re-think on how we live our lives in light of the truth of the Gospel don't you think?

08 March 2011

Holiness and Happiness

The central thing which we wish to make clear and to impress upon the reader is that God has established an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness, between our pleasing of Him and our enjoyment of His richest blessing; that since we are always the losers by sinning, so we are always the gainers by walking in the paths of righteousness, and that there will be an exact ratio between the measure in which we walk therein and our enjoyment of “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” God has declared “them that honour Me, I will honour” (1 Sam. 2:30), and that expresses the general principle which we are here seeking to explain and illustrate, namely that God's governmental dealings with us are regulated by our attitude toward Him and our conduct before Him: for in proportion as we honour the Lord, so will He honour us. But suppose we fail to honour God, suppose we do not obtain from Him that grace which He is ever ready to give unto those who earnestly seek it in a right way—what then? Why, we shall not enter into His best for us; we shall miss it. For as the same verse goes on to tell us, “and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” - A.W. Pink.

Encounters (2): Moses

The second in our new sermon series...

02 March 2011

On Worry...

Surely one of our greatest issues is that of worry. It certainly is for me. But as believers in a sovereign, loving God it really has no place in our thoughts. Consider the words of John Flavel:

Believe firmly that the management of all the affairs of this world, whether public or personal, is in the hands of your all-wise God... Resign up yourselves to the wisdom of God, and lean not on your own understanding.... When Melancthon was oppressed with cares and doubts about the distracting affairs of the church in his time, Luther thus chides him out of his despondency ... do not presume to be the governor of the world, but leave the reins of government in the hands that made it, and best knows how to rule it. (John Flavel, The Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth, 4:336-337.)

So be encouraged. Our sovereign Lord reins and all is in his hands.