Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

The Importance of Thoughts, Part 2

December 5, 2008

Last time we focused on the intent of thoughts as seen in Genesis 6:5 and how men can have wicked intents of their thoughts while they have what they think of as good thoughts. If we move for the most part past the intent of the thoughts, in dealing with thoughts at all we are still in a place where the vast majority of Americans are unwilling to go. Surely, it is thought, our thoughts don’t matter and it is simply how we live. That in itself is a wicked thought. It is saying that a holy God does not care about the holiness of thoughts. Scripture is also devastating to the attitude that thoughts are not that important. We are commanded not to have any other gods in the presence of God and we do that primarily in our thoughts. We are commanded not to have idols and yet if we have wrong thoughts of God those wrong thoughts would be idols. We are commanded not to use His name in vain and certainly we use His name in our thoughts. We are guilty of murder if we hate (includes the thoughts). We are guilty of adultery if we lust and think after other people. We are guilty of stealing if we covet other people’s property. We are guilty of lying if our thoughts do not line up with our words. Thoughts are not just thoughtless or thoughtful; they are utterly wicked if they are not moved by the life of Christ in the soul in love for God.

Matthew 9:4 tells us that that at least some of our thoughts are evil and that Jesus knew them: “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?'” Matthew 15:19 tells us the source of our thought and again that at least some of our thoughts are evil: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Isaiah 59:7 speaks of the sins of certain people that the thoughts are included: “Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity.”
Isaiah 65:2 goes even further and shows that one definition of rebellion is when people follow their own thoughts rather than listening to God: “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts.”

If we look at the verses in the above paragraph, a chilling realization should come upon us. Our thoughts are in the presence of God and are known by Him. Our thoughts can be evil and evil thoughts are judged by the God we are in the presence of. The heart is the source of evil thoughts and so when we have evil thoughts it shows that our hearts are evil as well. Regardless of our outwardly good acts and deeds, we may be rebelling against God by following our own thoughts. We may be living for an idol that we have conjured up by the idol of self in suppressing the truth of God. We may have hearts that are evil and from that very evil we may be living a religious life that appears good to those who see our outward person. But God know our hearts thoroughly.

Jeremiah 4:14 is a hard verse to deal with if we view it as the mirror that we are to hold up before our hearts. “Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, That you may be saved. How long will your wicked thoughts Lodge within you?” The heart needs to be washed from evil because there are wicked thoughts lodging in them. It is not just that wicked thoughts pass though our minds as fleeting thoughts or as unwelcome guests, but they actually lodge within our hearts. The wicked thoughts are like those who lodge at certain areas for long periods. Could it be that we have so many wicked thoughts because they lodge within us? Could it be though we see some of our thoughts as sinful we simply turn our attention to other thoughts and let the wicked thoughts continue their lodging within us? If our heart is not washed from evil, the wicked thoughts continue to lodge there and be at home. Instead of looking at the source of those thoughts as our hearts, we look to other things or try to ignore them and push them away as much as possible. If we ignore sinful thoughts rather than evict them from lodging in our hearts by repentance and a cleansing of the heart, we are toying with sin as if it is nothing but a trifle.

There is no pursuit of holiness if there is no pursuit of holiness of heart and holiness of the thoughts of the heart. People are utterly deceiving themselves if they think they are holy and do not pursue holiness of thought. It is only if the heart is washed from evil will the wicked thoughts be case out from their lodgings within us. We must learn to deal with our wicked thoughts by going to the root of them which is the wicked heart. If we try to deal with our thoughts by doing mental gymnastics and suppressing thoughts, we will be dealing with the symptoms and not the disease. When we deal with the symptoms we might feel better for a while, but meanwhile the disease continues to grow and spread. Regardless of our profession, wicked thoughts are proud thoughts. God deals with those firmly and even fiercely: “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51). God opposes the proud and that would include those who are proud in the thoughts of their hearts. These are things that we must take to heart and seek the Lord to cleanse our hearts from them.

The Importance of Thoughts

December 2, 2008

We have looked briefly at the importance of time and words. Now we will look at the importance of thoughts. We are told that nothing matters but what a person does, but this is not a thought found in Scripture. While it is true that what we do is important, yet what we do springs from and is driven from our thoughts and desires. If we had no other verse but Genesis 6:5 we would know that the thoughts of a human being are very important: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is a verse to be meditated on again and again. It tells us the very depths of our sin and of our enmity to God. It tells us of how wicked the very best of our actions can be if it is driven by evil thoughts and evil intents of those evil thoughts but also evil intents of outwardly good thoughts.

When people read this verse for the first time, they are shocked. When God set out how wicked men were on the earth, He said “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Here we go past the thoughts to the intent of the thoughts. People have intents of the heart for the thoughts they think. Even if a person has what would be called good thoughts, that person has good or evil intents for those thoughts. Not only do people have evil intents of the heart, but the Scripture above says every intent of the thoughts of the heart was evil. The unbeliever must know that not only will his or her actions by judged, but his or her thoughts will be judged. But even more than that, the very intent of the thoughts will be judged. When the numbers of sins are counted on the last day, it will be seen that the unbeliever’s thoughts were evil and the intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually. The numbers of sins will most likely be beyond what the human mind can conceive. Indeed the heart is desperately sick and who but God alone can know it.

Hebrews 4:12 speaks of how the word of God judges the inner person: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We don’t like to think of the degree of judgment that we will face, but this text should make us face up to it as well. Genesis 6:5 tells us that every intent of the thoughts of the heart is evil and only evil continually. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that the thoughts are judged by the word of God now. This surely tells us that they will also be judged later on as well.

But we have even more verses that show us how important the thoughts are: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9). What will it take to seek the Lord? We are told today that if we are nice and do religious things these will please the Lord. We are told today to seek the Lord by doing certain things, but this text tells us that the LORD searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts. That is in the context of serving and seeking the Lord. He knows our intent in what we think and in what we do. Our thoughts flow from hearts that either love God or hate Him. We can try to deceive ourselves and flee from this thought itself with other thoughts, but know that God knows the intent of that thought as well. He knows why we want to have certain thoughts and why we want to keep some thoughts out. He knows why we are really seeking Him and if we have love for Him or just want Him to do something for us.

How are we who have such wicked thoughts supposed to return to the Lord? “Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Why must we forsake our thoughts to return to Him? “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). Until we forsake our unrighteous thoughts and the wicked intents of those thoughts, we will not think the thoughts of God. If we are going to be holy as He is holy, we must have to some degree a likeness in us of the thoughts and the intents of the thoughts of God. Until our thoughts are patterned after His thoughts, our ways will not be patterned after His ways. How vital are the thoughts of a person and how vital it is to have a Savior who died for the sin of our thoughts and yet is now the life of the soul giving us the mind of Christ. How delightful it is to have the Spirit who can open our minds to understand to some degree the thoughts of God. The Gospel is to be preached to the thoughts and is to pierce our intents and thoughts. The Gospel is so thoughtful.

The Importance of Words, Part 3

November 28, 2008

The importance of words is something that the human mind cannot truly comprehend. It is beyond human conception how words that we speak that are apparently in the natural realm can be used by God in the spiritual realm. There are a few clues, however, to some of the issues at hand. We know several things from Scripture and yet we too often don’t think about them very much. James 1:18 is simply a marvelous verse that we can quote and preach on and simply miss what is going on. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” In this verse we see that the ultimate cause of the new birth is the will of God and yet we see a secondary cause or a means by which He works through. It is the word of truth. God uses His words to bring forth life into the souls of humans. But it is His words.

This is food for the soul and if God gives us sight we can see His glory shining here. What is it about the preached word that God uses to bring life to souls? Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 gives us more teaching on this: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” This tells us that it is the word of God which performs its work in those who believe which as we know it is God working through His own words. Then we have 1 Peter 1:23 stating the case against that the word of God is used to bring life to eternal souls: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” How important it is to speak the words of God.

Now how are we to put this together? The Bible is the words of God breathed forth by the Holy Spirit. When a man of God stands up and preaches the words of God, it is God alone who can make those words alive and bring them into the souls of human beings. But as the words of the living God who is life itself, He can bring life through His words. The God who spoke and a universe came into being by an act of His will can use a human being to speak His words and by an act of the same will that brought the universe into being bring life to that soul. Isaiah 55:11 lets us in on this to some degree: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” God has sent forth His word and He sees to it that the purpose for which it is sent out will be accomplished.

Jeremiah 1:12 tells us that the Lord is “watching over My word to perform it.” We have the words of God in the Scripture, but the Lord alone can perform them. No one can carry out the words of God in his or her own power as that activity resides in the will of God to do with His words as He pleases. “For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it,” declares the Lord GOD'” (Ezekiel 12:25). “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “None of My words will be delayed any longer. Whatever word I speak will be performed,”‘” declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 12:28). What happens when human beings go out and preach to some degree the words of God and yet expect men to perform His word? It is certainly arrogance and a species of idolatry. God alone can perform and carry out His words. We must learn to speak His words while looking to Him to perform them rather than men.

God is to be worshipped as He has commanded human beings to worship Him because He alone can perform His words. Human beings cannot worship God in their own strength and power. God must share His love in the soul of humans and bring them into the worship of Himself. The worship of God can only be by joining in and sharing in the joy and delight God has Himself. God alone knows how He enjoys and worships Himself and He alone knows how a human being can share in that praise in a way where God’s holiness and glory are not compromised. When a human being tries to worship in his or her own way or invents a way to worship God, what that human being is doing is informing the triune God how He should function and operate toward Himself. God alone can perform His words and it is His words alone that He will perform. Preaching must be the words of God and not the words of men because God will only perform His words according to His will. Worship must be according to the words and will of God because God alone can perform His words in the human soul and share worship with the human being. What is it to preach our own words and worship according to our own inventions? It is asking God to change how He is in His triune being in order to fit with our words and will. It is to want God not to function through Christ and by the Spirit. It is to ask God to manifest Himself apart from Christ and to love apart from the Spirit. That must be repugnant to God beyond our highest imaginations.

The Importance of Words, Part 2

November 25, 2008

Words are funny things that mean differing things to differing people. Words take on connotations that do not seem to have any real connection to the original meaning. Words have implications and even numerous implications. Words have different implications depending on a person’s worldview and even depending on a person’s theological view. Words are infuriating in that when they are spoken you cannot delete them as you can when writing a paper before it is published. Words are infuriating because the people who hear them hear you saying things you don’t mean or hearing implications of things you don’t mean. Yet, God speaks to His people in words and actually revealed and reveals Himself in the Bible through words. God has revealed Himself in some manner through words and yet people twist His words to their own purposes and to their own destruction.

Despite the problems with words and languages, God has also commanded that His Word be preached and taught.

II Timothy3:16- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

The Scripture is the very words of God because it is breathed by God. It is the words of God that men are to preach to others and train others as well as have preached to them and be taught to them. It is the words of God alone that will make human beings adequate for every good work. Paul charged Timothy in the text above to “preach the word” which is to really say that he was to preach the very words of God. Why must Timothy preach the words of God? It is because men do not want the sound words of God that sound doctrine consists of. Men want to hear words that tickle their ears in accordance to the words that fit their own desires. Men will follow their own desires and turn away those ears that love to be tickled and get for themselves teachers who will teach doctrines in words that they like. These people will not listen to the words of truth and instead listen to words about myths. Why is that? Because their hearts do not want the words of God and will only settle for words that tickle their ears.

The words of men convey the thoughts of the minds and desires of men. The Word of God (Christ) conveys the thoughts and desires of God. As men express themselves in words, so Jesus Christ (the Word) is the very expression of the mind and desires of God. When men hear true words about the true Word, their hearts don’t want to hear the truth of the mind of God and so they search for men who love idols instead of God so that those men will preach and teach words that convey thoughts about gods that do not have the Word Himself. Human beings are born dead in sins and trespasses and they love words that build them up as they are. The Word Himself is the very Word of God and His words are focused on manifesting the truth of God in words of truth because He is the Truth of God Himself. When Jesus said that He was “the way, the truth, and the life,” He was not just uttering words to make people feel good about themselves. He was stating that He is the truth of God incarnate.

Whenever men stand up to preach or speak for God, what they must realize is that words are vitally important. The words that men speak must be words that come from the words of truth (Scripture) and are expressions of the shining forth of God’s truth (Christ) who is the Truth of Truth Himself (God). If every careless word will be brought into judgment (Mat 12:36), then how awful must the judgment be for preachers and anyone else who use language that God created to express thoughts about God that are false. We must be students of the words of God to know the Word who alone is the way to God. Could it be said that the words we speak are either expressions of truth and Truth or they are expressions of error that opposes Truth? Our worldview must be growing to be like God’s or our worldview will not be God’s. Our thoughts must be growing to be more like Him or our thoughts will be more like the devil. God created language as a means so that human beings could speak forth true words that manifest His true glory. After all, the glory of God that shone in Christ was the glory of grace and truth. Words are frustrating at times, but we must remember that God has given them for His own sake. Christ has died to save us from the sins of our words and make a people who will speak forth words of truth for the glory of Truth.

The Importance of Words

November 22, 2008

Matthew 12:31-36 – “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”

Any person that takes the Word of God seriously should tremble at this text of Scripture. The unforgivable sin is to speak against the Holy Spirit. There are differing views of what this means, and it would most likely be more than just a slip of the tongue, but this bring us to notice the power of words. Clearly the text points to the heart because in verse 33 it goes to the issue of whether the tree is good or bad and then in verse 34 it tells us that an evil person cannot speak what is good because the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man speaks from his treasure and the evil man speaks from his treasure and so the heart is expressed in what one speaks. Therefore, every careless word that people speak they will give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

If this text is looked at from a logical point of view, we are given premises in verses 31-35 and then the conclusion in verse 36. The Holy Spirit through the pen of Matthew is driving us to see the power of words, yet the words are to be seen as an expression of the heart. We cannot imagine how it can be true, but for every careless word that a person speaks they will give an account to God. But if the careless words will be brought into judgment, what about our cruel words? What about our heretical words? What about our blasphemous words? What about our words that take the name of the Lord in vain? Proverbs is a book that speaks a fair amount about the power of words. They can be looked at as a standard for being nice and speaking nice words or they can be looked at as the way the heart expresses itself and is seen for what it is. Proverbs teaches us that the unregenerate heart, whether religious or not, is a heart that expresses itself in ways that can do terrible harm to souls.

Proverbs 10:19 – “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Proverbs 16:24 – “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Proverbs 16:27 – “A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are like scorching fire.”

Proverbs 18:8 – “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

Proverbs 26:28 – “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

The heart is not pure so if it is expressed very much, transgression will be expressed. On the one hand pleasant words are sweet to the soul, yet the words of a whisperer or a gossip go to the innermost parts. Pleasant words are sweet to the soul, yet the worthless man’s words are like a scorching fire. A lying tongue crushes and a flattering tongue (which is a nice lie) works ruin. Those are easy verses to memorize and try to stop the outward actions, but the real issue is the heart. In the modern professing church we are told to be careful not to harm a person’s self-esteem, don’t hurt their feelings, always be nice and speak positive things. What we must realize is that in always being positive and nice we can be speaking with a lying tongue and a flattering mouth. If something is not true, though it may be nice and positive, it is a lie and it is flattery. The self-centered, self-focused, and humanistic psychologies that have infiltrated the church do not teach true love, but instead they teach us to lie to people and flatter them in order to be nice and outwardly loving. The reality, however, is that when we have replaced true love with humanistic psychology, we actually hate people, crush them, and work ruin. Only a heart that Christ lives in can speak words of true love, which is not the same thing as being nice. True love speaks truth and desires the true good of human souls. Any other kind of words work ruin to souls and will bring judgment to the speaker.

The Importance of Time

November 19, 2008

Scripture tells us to redeem or make the most of our time, but we rarely think of applying that to anything beyond attending church or church activities or carrying out Christian duties. Each person lives for 525, 600 minutes a year. If we spend approximately eight hours of sleep a day, that cuts 175, 200 minutes from our time that we are conscious. That leaves us with 350, 400 minutes of time that we are awake each year. Each two hour movie a person watches, that takes 120 minutes from that total awakening time. If a person drives to rent a movie or to the movie theatre that cuts even deeper. If a person watches a basketball or football game, that takes out even more time. If we watch one basketball game, one football game, and then one movie a week for a year that will costs us (in round figures) about 600 minutes a week or 31, 200 minutes a year. What if a person has a favorite television program to go along with that? How many minutes would be spent a year on that or on those? What if a person spends a lot of time golfing or whatever? The minutes continue to mount up.

How long does it take to read a trashy novel or something that does no real good? How many minutes of our year are spent in mindless activities and recreational things? This is not to deny that some forms of recreation are necessary, but how much time do we really spend on those? What is our motive in spending time doing recreational activities? How much time do we spend each year traveling to and spending time with extended family and so on? How much spare time do we really have? How much of our time belongs to us and not to God? Instead the whole of our minutes belong to God since He has purchased sinners as His property. Can we say we belong to Christ if we spend more time on the things of the world rather than in pursuit of His glory?

It is hard to imagine what God could do through a person that had all of his or her minutes committed to God. It is hard to imagine what God could do through a church that had most of the people that committed all of their minutes to God. If we took one person and said that a person could stop watching television shows, movies, sports, and would be sure that extended family time was limited to necessary things, what would that look like? If all of that time that was wasted on other things could be spent in specific service to the Lord, each person could perhaps easily save 1500 minutes a week which adds up to something like 78000 minutes a year. If a church had 20 people that would do that, that would be 1,560,000 minutes a year more dedicated to the Lord.

What would happen in one church if the people dedicated 1,500,000 minutes a year more to the Lord? It must be admitted that this is not just a mathematical procedure, but it has to do primarily with the heart. But with all of that being true, what would happen if that many more minutes were committed to spending time with God and carrying out the Great Commission? Jesus told us that if we were not with Him we were against Him (Luke 11:23). Could that be applied to the minutes of our lives? What if He told us that if our minutes were not for Him they would be against Him? It is true that all humanity is divided into those that hate God and those that love God. Do the minutes of these lives show that Christ has redeemed us for His purposes and therefore we are to redeem the time? Can it be true that we as individuals waste so much of our time and it is not devoted to the Lord? Does that show us why churches are so weak in our day? If we are not redeeming the time, have we really denied self and taken up our crosses to follow Christ? Is there one moment in the day that we are not accountable to God for and is there one moment of the day that is not to be given in love for Him?

The people and the church must repent of how it spends its time. Jesus Christ is to be submitted to in how we spend our time and not just in how we hold intellectual views and how we spend Sunday’s and a few minutes each day. With each activity and each choice of how to spend minutes we are choosing and spending for self or for Christ. If we belong to Christ, then our time belongs to Him and we are to use His time wisely and for His glory. We are not called to easy lives, but to seek Him with all of our hearts and loves. We wonder how those older preachers and writers could write so much when they had to use quills and ink. It was because they used all of their time doing the necessary things and seeking the Lord.

Being God-Centered in a Man-Centered Way

November 12, 2007

In the last BLOG we looked at how the doctrine of depravity is understood a lot differently when it is seen from a God-centered perspective than from a man-centered one. But can we think of God Himself in these terms? Can we look at God from a man-centered perspective rather than a God-centered one as well? Here is the crux of the real issue at hand. God never looks at anything from a man-centered point of view. God is God-centered and to have the mind of Christ and to think His thoughts after Him requires human beings to look at all things from a God-centered perspective. After all, that is the perspective that gives truth and real insight into all other issues.

As we reflect a little more on this, surely it can be seen what a profound difference this will make in the way Scripture is interpreted and the way all things are looked at. How are we to look at the fact that God is centered upon Himself instead of man? Even that can be looked at in a man-centered way. Man can try to think that God is centered upon Himself in a way that is better for man. This is simply wresting the nature of God and trying to make Him like man or at least in the service of man. To assert that God is centered upon Himself is to assert that God is focused upon Himself within His triune being and man can do nothing for God at all. The Creator of the universe had no needs before He created and still has none. He did not create man because He had something for man to do apart from Him or something to do that He could not do Himself. But instead God created man as empty of any good or of true power in order to manifest His glory through. Let us look at some Scriptures.

Acts 17: 24 – “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;”

Isaiah 40:15 – “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. 16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless…22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”

It should take our breath to even begin to think of a God like this. It should move us to literally gasp at His greatness and His majesty. This is not a God who created man to do something for Him. This is not a God who created man in order to serve Him. God is not served by human hands and He has no needs. It is God that each human is dependent on for life and breath and all things. God cannot be served because He has no need at all as He is serene in His perfect love for Himself within His triune being and is fully self-sufficient. Everything depends on God for each and every thing each moment.

If the entire world and all it contains is simply nothing before Him, and in fact all the nations are less than nothing and meaningless, then we have the view of God on humanity. Those who hold the greatest offices in the world are simply meaningless before God. He is the one that puts them in their positions and He is the One who can and will bring them down. Whatever else our theology does, it must take into account the view of God on a matter. Theology, to live up to its definition (study of God), must always begin with God. If we hold Scripture in high regard, we know that it has been breathed forth by God (II Tim 3:16) and is primarily a revelation of God. Surely we will never study theology properly or interpret Scripture correctly apart from a God-centered view.

Imagine, then, a theology that is trying to assert itself and that from a man-centered viewpoint. To God it would be absolutely blasphemous. It is a form of idolatry and perhaps the worst kind of idolatry to take a being (human beings) made to glorify God and try to look at them from a man-centered way. Flowing from that view is the kind of so-called Christianity that tries to use Christian teaching in the service of man-centeredness. Perhaps that is why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees. It is possible for Calvinists and Arminians to do the same thing though they might hide it better than the Pharisees did. Man-centeredness is rampant in theological circles today and it turns orthodox theology into idolatry. Without God-centeredness even orthodoxy is turned to the service of man for the benefit of man which is an effort to make God man-centered. Now that is truly horrid.

Why God-Centeredness is so Important

November 10, 2007

What is the main issue with Calvinism as it is termed? It is supposed to be centered upon God. However, when the teachings of Calvinism are twisted or turned to where they are taken from the core of God-centeredness, then historical Calvinism which was based on God-centeredness becomes much like Arminian thinking and the differences are not seen as that great. Historical Calvinism rested completely on Soli Deo Gloria which means to God alone be the glory. The doctrine of depravity will never be truly understood apart from that teaching. The doctrine of unconditional election and all other doctrines will never be understood apart from that basic biblical teaching. God exists in triune love and He does all out of love for Himself and His glory.

Surely it can be seen that the doctrine of depravity will be totally different if it is man-centered than if it is God-centered. All other doctrines are the same way. For example, if we look at depravity from a man-centered way, we think of sin as what one human being does to another. We will think that if we are outwardly kind and nice or simply refrain from doing evil to other human beings and doing some good we are good people. However, a thorough centeredness on God changes all of the above. We will begin to see that we cannot do good works for people apart from the love that God works in human beings for Himself and we cannot love a human being apart from love for God. We begin to see that even our outward acts we normally think of as good are not good at all apart from a concern for other people’s souls and the glory of God in them.

An important text that will help us to understand this is from I John 4: “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Verse 7 tells us that believers are to love each other for love is from God. All those who truly love are born of God and know God. Verse 8 tells us that those who do not love do not know God. Here we see the line drawn. The reason that the believer is able to love is because the believer is born of God and knows God. The reason the unbeliever does not love is because the unbeliever does not know God. The word “know” here denotes more than just a bare knowledge gained by the intellect, but an intimate love. It comes from being one with Christ and in that sense knowing God through Christ. No matter what the unbeliever does in the way of doing good acts will not be from love because the unbeliever has no source of true love because the only true source of love is God. In other words, I Corinthians 13:1-3 is set out for us. Nothing that an unbeliever does will ever be considered good because it is without true love. That is what looking at things from a God-centered perspective will do. It gives one a more biblical view of things.

Another way this helps us to see the depravity issue is it helps us to see what it means to be dead in sins and trespasses. The unbeliever is dead in sins and trespasses and has no spiritual light or life. That unbeliever has no love for God or any other human being because s/he has no love for God. Whatever the unbeliever does is an act of spiritual death because there is no eternal life or love in the person. What can the act of the will of a dead person do? Does a person that is spiritually dead have a free will in spiritual things? Can a person that is apart from the love of God in Christ and the power of the Spirit act with love which is found in Christ by the Spirit alone? True faith works by love according to Galatians 5:6. As long as there is no love, there will never be true faith. The doctrine of total depravity from a God-centered perspective teaches us that faith and love cannot come from a human being by an act of the will but can only come from God Himself. Evangelism from a God-centered perspective, therefore, must always take this into account. A human being that is dead in sins and trespasses can never move him or herself to love God apart from God working that in a human being. It can never come from the human being as an act of his or her will since true love can only come from God and His work.

As we look at the real differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, we can see that a bridge that is built between the two apart from a God-centeredness is not a bridge that will take one into the truth for either side. We live in a day where God and theology is thought of and looked at through the lenses of academia and man-centeredness. We live in a day where both Calvinists and Arminians have been swept up into forms of man-centeredness. While there may be peace between theological Arminians and theological Calvinists, there can never be a true peace between man-centeredness and God-centeredness. There is no bridge that will bridge the gap between man-centeredness and God-centeredness. The only bridge between the two is Christ and that is the Gospel which is God-centered and takes man-centered humans and converts them to God-centered ones.

Depravity & the Judgment of God

November 8, 2007

We have continued to look at the issue of depravity and how it is so different when one looks at it from a God-centered perspective rather than from a man-centered perspective. Another way to look at the depravity of man from a God-centered perspective is to realize that sin itself is a punishment from God. It is true that when we sin more punishment comes as a result of that sin, but our present sin is the result of past sin as well. We are now sinning as punishment for past sin which means we will have even more sin as a punishment for our present sin. While this sounds backwards to people, that is only because they are locked into a sight of sin and of God from a man-centered perspective. Let us look at three texts of Holy Scripture.

Isaiah 63:17 – “Why, O LORD, do You cause us to stray from Your ways And harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. 18 Your holy people possessed Your sanctuary for a little while, Our adversaries have trodden it down. 19 We have become like those over whom You have never ruled, Like those who were not called by Your name.”

Isaiah 64:7 – “There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.”

Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them…26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural… 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

With just these few texts there should be enough light to show us what is going on. Isaiah 63 tells us that the Lord hardens hearts so that people do not fear Him. As a result of that the nation of Israel had become just like those over whom God had not ruled. But notice the causal relation that the text gives. The reason that the people had become like everybody else is because God had hardened their hearts. As we look upon the SBC today and notice that for the most part the SBC is just like the world, what do we attribute that to? Usually we will go back and tell people to attend church more, tithe more, pray more and evangelize more. But we almost always forget to look behind why people are not doing those things and have become like the world. It is because God has withdrawn and has hardened their hearts. We must wake up before we slide into even greater sin and judgment.

Why does spiritual lethargy reign in the United States and the SBC today? Is it because we don’t have enough programs or because we are not committed enough? Why did the liberals take over for so long and now why does the truth still languish? Could it be that God has hidden His face from us and has delivered us into the power of our iniquities? Could it be that we have identified sin as homosexuality and abortion instead of looking at the whole of sin from the Bible? While those things are sin, we must stand against them in a biblical way and we must understand that sin is of the heart. We must understand that we can be against those things and still hate God while we fight those things. Why are those things sin? The answer is because those things are against the Word and character of God. Why do people commit those sins? Because God has turned them over to hardened hearts and has left them to their sin. But there are many other things that are against the Word and character of God. There are many other sins that God turns people over to as well. He turns people over to coldness in worship and the desire for peace at the cost of truth and love for His glory. He turns people over to gossip and dissension. He turns people over to a love for sports where they spend more money, time and affection on those things than Him. Could it be that the United States is under the judgment of God? Could it be that the SBC is under the judgment of God too? How are we to return to God? First we must see that God is at the center of everything and understand that the reason we are going down is because God is turning us over to our sin. Liberalism in theology and practice is a terrible blight on any denomination, but moralism and legalism are not corrections but are different blights.

If we do not wake up the United States and the SBC will fall under the irrevocable judgment of God. It is to be hoped that we are not there yet, but surely at the rate we are going down it is not far away. We have been turned over to sin by God and we don’t even know it. That is a severe judgment. We are under judgment because of our lack of love for God and the truth. This is seen in our unwillingness to stand up for the real truth and preach it in true love for God and others. If we continue to focus on the outward sins and give lip service to the issues of the heart, then God will punish our man-centered ways of morality and lukewarmness and continue to hand us over to more and more sin. If we continue to waffle on our theology God will not stand with the theology we have.

We must begin to wake up and see how much depends on God granting us repentance. We must cry out to God to wake us up and begin to teach people the true nature of depravity. Those who love the truth must begin to see that moralism and legalism are as bad as liberalism. Roman Catholicism and Mormons have moralism and legalism, but neither have the truth of the Gospel of the glory of God in Christ. Both moralism and legalism, regardless of who holds it (Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Arminian, Fundamentalist), deny the truth of the Word of God and God has abandoned both of those in history and will continue to do so. We must wake up and realize that there will never be peace between those who hold to the doctrine of depravity in all of its horror from a God-centered view and those (regardless of creed) who see things from a man-centered way. Until people are truly broken from the sin of their selfishness, self-love, self-centeredness and pride, there is no real difference other than a few semantics between Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, Arminianism and even Pelagianism. The real difference between truth and error is God-centeredness versus man-centeredness. Without God-centeredness all we do is not out of love for God. With man-centeredness, regardless of our theology or practice, what we do is idolatry.

God-centeredness Essential in Understanding Depravity

November 6, 2007

We have been looking at the doctrine of depravity and how importance it is to teach it from a God-centered perspective and not a man-centered one. A man-centered perspective can have the appearance of orthodoxy and still have the poison of man-centeredness. We can teach that sin is bad and yet only because of the influence it has on human beings. We must show how heinous sin is because of the fact that it is against God and His glory. It is true that sin has clouded man’s reason, affections and choices. But to what extent has that occurred? We can teach that human beings are fallen and that they are tainted with sin, but the truth demands that we teach that man is dead in sins and trespasses and violates the Greatest Commandment with every single thing that s/he does. Not only is it the bad things and the so-called neutral things, but our very acts of righteousness are as very used menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Not only that, but our orthodox beliefs, practices and even our acts of mercy and outward love are as very used menstrual cloths to God without love. Our orthodox preaching is as menstrual cloths to God without true love which can only come from Him.

It is so hard to get people to see the true extent of their depravity. In fact, it is impossible for human beings to get others to see it. That is another aspect of depravity that we so often forget. The Holy Spirit alone can convict of sin and of righteousness though He uses the means of preaching and the Word to do so. There is nothing that a human being can do or not do that is something other than excrement and trash before a holy, holy, holy God unless it is moved from love for God and is intended as love for God. We even sin in refraining from sin because we refrain from selfish reasons and not out of love for God. The doctrine of depravity is not a clean and sterile teaching for a society that desires cleanness and sterility. It will make people upset and perhaps many will leave churches and our company if we teach it. But of course our books on how to “grow the church” will tell us to do otherwise. We are left with the choice of whether to honor God or human beings.

Isaiah 64:7 goes on, however. It tells us that “there is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You.” Here we see another great evil of depravity. Human beings get involved in efforts to bring relief to the poor. Human beings get involved in great efforts to do good works in many places. Human beings spend much effort to develop creeds and articulate things to believe. But how many arouse themselves to take hold of God? How many have such a love for God that they seek Him in truth with longings and cravings of soul? How many know God as the well of living water? How many long for Him as a deer longs for water in a dry land? It is much easier to do good works and set out creeds. But the doctrine of depravity teaches us that no one seeks for God and no one does any real good apart from love for God. This is hard for those who are proud of their own righteousness and perhaps proud of their works or religion, but God opposes the proud and especially when it is spiritual pride.

The doctrine of depravity teaches us about sin from a God-centered view. Sin separates from God. The greatest good is God and the greatest non-good is when God withdraws and leaves us to our own devices, selfishness and pride. Isaiah 59:2 says this: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Ezekiel 14:7 goes on to show another part of this: “For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the LORD will be brought to answer him in My own person.”

The two texts above might not scare the unbeliever or professing believer on the face of it, but when those things are drawn out the utter horror of sin will be sin. God is the only One that keeps each person out of hell each moment. God is the only one that keeps people from sin by His restraining grace. When God turns from a person or a people, that person or people are being turned over to a hardened heart and being opened up to all sorts of evil. This also means that they are now unprotected from the evil one. Who can turn God back to a person? Only God can. Once the sin has been committed, it makes a person subject to physical and eternal death. Each sin the unbeliever commits makes that person a partaker of darkness and death a little more. Professing believers must understand the nature of sin from a God-centered perspective or they will only see sin as that which is bad for them in an earthly way. But if we try to be gracious and winsome on these things, we will not have done what true love for God or man requires. Without the God-centered aspect of the depravity of man in our modern day we have degenerated into a low form of man-centeredness. Without this truth we don’t see the true need for the cross or the true need of grace, nor do we even understand grace hardly at all. Some will also try to make peace with those who deny the true teaching of depravity because they themselves only hold to it from a man-centered version. This is what happens when God turns a people over to their creeds without being centered upon Him. Without seeing the doctrine of depravity in light of the glory of God we only see it from a man-centered perspective. Regardless of the creed, if man is at the center most creeds will be pretty much the same. We must have God or we will perish.