Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Musings 136

February 20, 2017

Galatians 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

I attended services this past Sunday (Feb 19) where the announced subject matter was Sola Fide and Martin Luther. What I heard, on the other hand, was really nothing more than a weak Arminianism at best. The sad part of this is that it was presented as what Luther taught. Martin Luther had justification by grace alone through faith alone revealed to him by God and God used that to light a fire in Germany and then Europe. It is the true Gospel which is the power of God for salvation. It is the true Gospel which is the righteousness of God revealed. However, what was spoken this past Sunday was not the pure Gospel but one which depended upon man. We were told that Luther discovered that all you had to do was believe and God would save you. Luther would have denounced that with all of his being.

We live in a light and easy day regarding the Gospel. For some reason so many other things are thought to be more important than the Gospel if one judges this by the actions and words of men. So many of the traditions of men are brought in and men are judged by them rather than by the Gospel of Christ. Paul did not say that it is the traditions of men that are the power of God for salvation, but instead it is the Gospel. How is it that we are saved by Christ alone and grace alone and yet we are judged in other ways by the traditions of men? How is it that so many other things have been brought in as ways to judge men and the Gospel is set aside?

Paul was so clear that there were some wanting to distort the Gospel of Christ which is being called by the grace of Christ. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Was the only way these false teachers were declaring this false Gospel was by preaching from a pulpit? I would argue that there are many ways to preach a false Gospel. One is to add to the Gospel and another way is to deduct from the Gospel. The only way a person can be saved is by Christ alone and grace alone. The only way a person can find assurance of salvation is by Christ alone and grace alone. Christ Himself is our sanctification and Christ Himself is the One we are to look for to see if He lives in us.

In our day we have men adding ways to the Gospel of grace alone and of ways to see if others are saved. This is simply another way that some are going beyond Scripture and can be a way of adding to the Gospel of Christ alone. While Luther taught very clearly that a person must deny his so-called free-will in order to be ready to be saved, in our day (this past Sunday) we are told that Luther rediscovered the fact that all a man had to do was make a choice and God would save him. This call for men to believe in order to be saved was far from what Luther taught and he would call that another Gospel.

To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of Law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue; whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort. (Johnson and Packer’s introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will)

I am told that I should be more loving and more gracious in these things. I simply ask if Paul should have been more loving and gracious in these things. Paul said very clearly that those who preach a different Gospel should be accursed. Should we be quiet and say nothing? Should we be quiet when those who preach and those who listen to them are on the road to hell despite all of their credentials? Is it loving to be quiet and just let these things pass? Is it loving just to yawn and go on with life when men are adding to the Gospel by telling people things they need to do other than have Christ? The Pharisees added a lot of things that sounded nice and sounded reasonable to them. Jesus simply blasted them with harsh words. We live in a world where people are adding things to and others taking away things regarding the Gospel and what it means to be a Christian. They should beware.

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Musings 135

February 1, 2017

John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with these extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like—trifles, rather than issues—in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. (Luther to Erasmus in Bondage of the Will)

The whole gospel of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it…The doctrine of the bondage of the will in particular was the corner-stone of the gospel and the very foundation of the faith…The denial of free-will was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the gospel and come to faith in God. The man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the gospel; for this is ‘the hinge on which all turns,’ the ground on which the gospel rests. (Quotes from Packer and Johnson from the introduction to The Bondage of the Will)

With but a short look at John 6:44, it should be easily seen that the word “can” is a word of ability. “Can” refers to ability while “may” refers to permission. Jesus is direct and to the point and He said that no one (not just a few people and not just from a certain group) CAN come to Him. This is a powerful way of saying that no person has the ability to come to Christ. While Sunday after Sunday people are invited to come to Christ and no one tells them that they cannot do it in their own strength and power, Jesus told them that they did not have the power or ability to come to Him in their own strength.

Lest we be somewhat confused on the matter, the Greek is even stronger than the English. The word for “can” has the idea of ability, capability, and power. No one has any ability or power to come to Christ in and of himself. One can argue and go on as to how far we are to take that, that is, whether this refers to salvation alone or sanctification, but in terms of preaching to the lost it most certainly includes that. Sinners have no ability and no capacity to come to Christ in their own strength. They cannot meet God part of the way and they cannot take the first step because they have no ability at all. To the modern ear this is a terrible thing to say, but we must hasten to point out that Jesus taught this to unconverted religious people. This is precisely what those unconverted Pharisees needed to hear and this is precisely what unconverted religious people in our day need to hear as well. Their religion and their righteousness is nothing but the power of self and that self has no power to come to Christ.

In order for the idea to be complete, we should also look at what the word “draw” means since the Father must draw the unconverted person to Christ. The Greek word for “draw” can also be translated “drag” or “haul”, but it is not a weak word. It is a word that is the perfect contrast with “can” in the earlier part of the text. No one has the ability to come to Christ unless the Father drags the person or hauls the person to Christ. This gives us a rather complete picture (in this context) of the issue. There is no ability in man to come to Christ, but instead the Father has to assert all the power and ability and bring the person to Christ.

If this is the case, and assuredly it is, then this is a vital text for teaching men and women about coming to Christ. This is why Luther and the Reformers were so strong on this issue. The doctrine of the Bondage of the Will or the enslaved will is at the heart of the Gospel of grace alone or of justification by grace alone through faith alone. The Reformers were very clear that it is sovereign grace alone that brings sinners to Christ and not the actions of the sinner that does so. It is God who brings (drags and hauls) sinners to Himself in and through Christ and there is nothing that the sinner can do to help Him out. The evangelism that leaves this out is leaving out a vital part of the truth of how sinners come to Christ in reality and in doing so it is leaving the nature of true grace out of it as well. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is of grace alone and that does not leave any power in man to accomplish the slightest part of bringing himself to Christ. The Gospel as taught by the Reformers is rarely preached in our day.

Musings 134

January 31, 2017

John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with these extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like—trifles, rather than issues—in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. (Luther to Erasmus in Bondage of the Will)

The whole gospel of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it…The doctrine of the bondage of the will in particular was the corner-stone of the gospel and the very foundation of the faith…The denial of free-will was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the gospel and come to faith in God. The man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the gospel; for this is ‘the hinge on which all turns,’ the ground on which the gospel rests. (Quotes from Packer and Johnson from the introduction to The Bondage of the Will)

I am continually struck by how strong Luther and Calvin were on the depravity of man and the inability of man, but that is in direct contrast to today where it is rarely mentioned. Why is it rarely mentioned much less explained and taught as a vital truth in the Gospel? It is because men are ashamed of those things that will bring them troubles in the churches. It is because men are not clear on the Gospel themselves. It is because men understand doctrine to some degree as set out in a creed, but they have never felt the weight of it upon their own hearts. It is because men love to tickle their intellects with historical teachings but they don’t want the throne of self to be disturbed. The throne of self can be quite undisturbed as long as the teaching is only in the intellect.

If only Luther and Calvin taught this, then it would not be such a bit issue. But since Jesus was quite clear on it, then it should be a huge issue with us as well. Jesus said that no one “can come” to Himself unless the Father draws that person. It should seem clear from that point that no person can just believe, say a prayer, or do some act of faith and be saved as a result of that. No person has the power to bring him or herself to Christ and no person has the power to give him or herself faith. We live in a day where the professing “Reformed” sound just like the Arminians do and seem afraid (if they are aware) to tell people that they cannot give themselves faith, but it is God alone who must give them faith.

Luther, in the quote at the top of the page, was so very clear that this was a vital part or an essential issue. If we are to preach the same Gospel that Luther did, then we must preach that which he considered to be a vital part or an essential issue. The Gospel that Luther preached was not to hide the vital issues behind an intellectual doctrine, but it was to set it out as essential indeed. Until men and women feel their inability they will not see the truth of the sufficiency of Christ alone. Until men know from the depths of their soul that they have no good in them and have no ability for faith, they will not look to grace alone to give them new and believing hearts.

The quotes from Packer and Johnson show this so powerfully. Without quoting them directly, but interspersing words for effect, let me give you some things to think of. The fullness of the Gospel of the grace of God (not this is the truth of justification) stands or falls on how one views and treats the doctrine of the will. The bondage of the will is the very cornerstone of the Gospel and is the foundation of the faith. If one denies this, then one is denies the cornerstone of the Gospel as well as the foundation of faith. The person who has not inwardly and in reality learned by experience the bondage of his or her own will has not comprehended any part of the Gospel of grace alone or the Gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

When will the professing “church” wake up and realize that it is closer to the Pharisees than it is to Jesus? When will the professing “church” wake up and realize that it is far closer to the essentials of Rome than it is to the teachings of Luther and Calvin? When will the academics and the intellectuals in the halls of learning realize that they are giving information to brains and the hearts of those who hear them are undisturbed and unchanged? When will the professing “preachers” of our day be awakened to realize that moral lectures, doctrinal lectures, and biblical expositions apart from showing men and seeking to have them feel and know in the inward man their inability before God and then the sovereign grace of God are doing nothing but harden men in their sin? As long as men are not changed from the love of self to the love of God they are dead in their sin and will only know things about the Gospel without knowing Christ as set forth in the Gospel who is the only hope of men by grace alone.

Musings 133

December 11, 2016

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The work of regeneration being of absolute necessity unto salvation, it greatly concerns ministers especially, in all ways possible, to promote the same; and in particular that they guide souls aright who are under a work of preparation. There are some who deny any necessity of the preparatory work of the Spirit of God in order to a closing with Christ. This is a very dark cloud, both as it is an evidence that men do not have the experience of that work in their own souls, and as it is a sign that such men are utterly unskillful in guiding others who are under this work. If this opinion should prevail in the land, it would give a deadly wound to religion. It would expose men to think of themselves as converted when they are not… For men must see the plague of their own hearts, their helplessness, and that they are like clay in the hand of the potter before they come to Christ, and so will be afraid and be searching themselves. (Solomon Stoddard, Guide to Christ)

Thomas Adam tells us that if we make a mistake here, all is lost. Pink tells us it is those things that we continue to trust in that thrust away all Divine help. Stoddard tells us that the work of regeneration is of an absolute necessity and that souls must have a work of the Spirit of God with His work of preparation in them in order that they might close with Christ. Stoddard says that men must see three things before men can come to Christ: One, they must see the plague of their own hearts. Two, they must see their helplessness. Three, they must see that they are like clay in the hand of the potter. The quotes from the three men come to us from the 1700’s and then the 1900’s. The early writers represented what was the standard practice at the time and Pink represents the older writers in face of what the overwhelming majority practiced in his time.

While we can put the blame on Finney as such, it was clearly a backing away from the practice based on the sovereign God that brought the modern practices to pass. We had a solid Reformed practice that was eroded during the time of Finney, but in the 1800’s and early to mid-1900’s liberalism and rationalism took over as well. There was a battle against liberalism and rationalism, but there has not been a real battle against the teaching of Finney (Pelagianism). The teaching of the older writers (Luther, Calvin, Adam, Stoddard) have not been recovered and are even looked down upon by modern writers who are Reformed in name. The terrible danger that the older writers spoke of are now the common teaching among the Reformed in name as well.

What is known as Reformed in our day is really Arminianism at the heart of it as people are just told to believe. What is known as Arminianism in our day is really (for the most part) nothing but ancient Pelagianism. This can be seen in how sinners are instructed. In the past they were told that they must see the plague of their own hearts, that they were helpless, and that they were like clay in the hand of the Potter. We see nothing like that today.

We can think of it as practical Arminianism or practical Pelagianism or whatever other name one wants to use, but the heart of the matter is that terribly dangerous practices are being taught. Sinners are not taught the truth about themselves and they are not being instructed to seek the Lord who alone can take what is in them that fights true faith away. It is like having a blockage in your vein and the doctor telling you that your blood must flow but not doing anything to take the blockage away. The difference between the spiritual truth and the doctor is that one may lead to death in this life, but the other leads to eternity in hell. Preachers who do not warn the congregation of these things and only tell them to believe are guilty of spiritual malpractice. They are like the prophets who cried out “peace, peace” and yet there was no peace. Truth has been sold for a bowl of stew.

Musings 132

December 10, 2016

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The work of regeneration being of absolute necessity unto salvation, it greatly concerns ministers especially, in all ways possible, to promote the same; and in particular that they guide souls aright who are under a work of preparation. There are some who deny any necessity of the preparatory work of the Spirit of God in order to a closing with Christ. This is a very dark cloud, both as it is an evidence that men do not have the experience of that work in their own souls, and as it is a sign that such men are utterly unskillful in guiding others who are under this work. If this opinion should prevail in the land, it would give a deadly wound to religion. It would expose men to think of themselves as converted when they are not… For men must see the plague of their own hearts, their helplessness, and that they are like clay in the hand of the potter before them come to Christ, and so will be afraid and be searching themselves. (Solomon Stoddard, Guide to Christ)

Again, because of the vital importance of this issue it is needful that we go over and over it both for the sake of others and ourselves. The quotes from Pink and Stoddard show how vital this is and how their beliefs were in union with those of Adam. Men must see themselves as lost and utterly helpless in the hands of God to do with as He pleases. Where does one hear anything like that in these days? Where can one hear what in the past was considered a vital teaching in our day? We must see in ourselves and other sinners that there is utterly no hope in ourselves and yet there is a full hope in Christ when Christ is rested in totally and only. There is nothing in ourselves that we can trust in and that includes trusting in ourselves to trust in Christ.

As Pink so wisely points out, it is when we think that we have some remaining ability (however small) that repels the help of the Spirit. The mercy of God (by definition) is His helping those who cannot help themselves. When we can help ourselves, then we repel the very mercy of God who comes to us by the Spirit. Any idea that we have of having goodness is simply something we have and trust in that thrusts away our trusting in Christ alone to take away our sins. When we have not arrived at the point of seeing, understanding, and feeling that we are beyond all hope and ability in ourselves that makes us unable to believe. We must seek this from the hand of Christ who alone can break us and open our eyes to see our great need of being saved by Him apart from anything we can contribute.

Stoddard points out the utter necessity of this work in the heart. He says that when that opinion has prevailed in the land, it gives a deadly wound to religion. That opinion has not only prevailed in the land today, it is virtually the only opinion out there. The idea that the soul needs to be prepared by God to be saved is thought to be a system of works or adding to faith. Oh no, it is how God works to bring the soul to where it will be enabled to believe. It is not that the soul just lacks something to be able to believe, it is that the soul has insurmountable problems and walls to believe. The soul cannot believe in Christ alone until the wall of pride has been broken down. The soul cannot believe in Christ alone until the walls of self-love and pride are broken down. The soul cannot believe in Christ alone until the wall of enmity is taken away. There is nothing meritorious about this breaking of the heart; it is more like the walls that prevent true faith being removed. When those walls are not removed, there is no possibility of true faith. It is horribly dangerous for preachers not to set themselves against those walls, and if they do not then the faith people think they have is not a true faith.

The Gospel of Christ alone by grace alone cannot be preached unless the things above are preached. Eternal souls are bound in death behind the walls that they cannot break out from and preachers are not telling them that Christ alone can do that work for them and that Christ alone can give them repentance and faith. How can preachers even think that they are preaching the Gospel of Christ alone by grace alone when all they are doing is stating a few truths about Christ and telling people to believe those things? How can the deception be so strong when it is so clear that the proud heart is opposed to God and God opposes that heart and He only gives grace to the humble? Indeed the Gospel (true religion) has received a deep wound in our day. Will Christ find true faith on the earth when He returns?

Musings 131

December 9, 2016

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

This point is so important and yet so unknown and ignored in our day that it is necessary to go over and over it. For some reason the Puritan approach to this was set aside and the teaching of Finney took over and in our day the basic teaching of Finney is rampant. Not only did Finney think that man had the power to choose and be saved as he pleased, but Finney thought he had the power to convince men to believe. In this we see a denial of the doctrine of man as dead in sin and the doctrines of total depravity and inability. In this we see that man is given the power to apply salvation to himself and thus man was able to overcome his own sinful heart and do what was needed to finish saving himself. Underneath the modern teaching and evangelism of conversion and of spiritual growth, we see the teaching of Charles Finney and his Pelagianism. The teaching of sovereign grace (grace alone, free-grace) have been changed and adapted so that Pelagianism lurks and even controls the thinking and practice at this point.

“This false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences” (Luther).

“So these truths are published for the sake of the elect, that they may be humbled and brought down to nothing, and so saved. The rest of men resist this humiliation; indeed, they condemn the teaching of self-despair; they want a little something left that they can do for themselves. Secretly they continue proud, and enemies of the grace of God” (Luther).

“Again, ‘tis a disposition of soul natural to all men to have a high thought of their own righteousness. And hence, they are pone to reject those doctrines that teach man’s absolute dependence on the free and sovereign grace of God and salvation by the righteousness of Christ” (J. Edwards).

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

Luther said so clearly in the first quote of his above that this false idea of free-will “is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences.” Why should people read on this and think on this so much? It is because this is a real threat to salvation. It is because this is a delusion that is fraught with the most perilous of consequences. It is not just that the thought of free-will is such a threat to salvation and such a delusion that it is fraught with the most perilous consequences, but even the teachings that deny free-will in this and yet depend on it in the way evangelism is done and the way sanctification is to be sought. If this is so dangerous then we must flee from it and all forms of it and all the things that it touches.

People want to leave something for themselves to do which is really resisting that broken heart and deep humiliation of the soul that God must work in the heart for it to trust in Christ alone. How can one trust in Christ alone while one still trusts in self? How easy it is for Reformed preachers not to stress these things and so they reject the doctrines of grace in practice while they speak highly of them in words. This is not just a teaching that must reach the mind, this is a teaching that must sink into the heart and God must work them in the heart.

Musings 130

December 8, 2016

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

Adam points out something that we should take care to focus on. “If we mistake here,” all is lost. This is seemingly a forgotten point in the modern day. The historians focus on historical things and preachers focus on getting money for bigger buildings and plan and preach to fill those bigger buildings. The huge problem, however, is that those buildings are filled with people who are being deceived. Even if preachers are orthodox and have orthodox creeds, the issue of numbers will be there as long as preachers are paid salaries. It is easy to be orthodox and it is easy to preach basic orthodoxy, but it is difficult to preach in a way that strips people of their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. It is difficult to preach in a way that drives people to see their utter and absolute need of Christ. It is difficult to preach in a way that sets forth Christ and Christ alone as what is necessary for all things in salvation and sanctification, and that includes faith and repentance.

Adam understands that the doctrine of depravity, that is, of man’s total inability in spiritual things as a vital issue. Adam understands that the soul that looks to itself for faith is looking in the wrong direction and is mislead, even greatly deceived. Adam understands that the soul without Christ can do absolutely and utterly nothing in terms of what is spiritual and truly good. Adam understands that even believing souls must have Christ to do anything spiritual or truly good as well. The question, however, is that is biblical. If Adam is right about these things, and he does stand in the Puritan tradition as well as Luther and Calvin, then our present generation has missed the mark. What was understood as standard practice from Luther until the time of Finney has been rejected and Finney (his type of teaching that was based on Pelagian doctrine) has won the day.

But again, “if we mistake here, we lost all.” This is not just an intellectual discussion with people who can calmly discuss things that matter little, this is truly a vital point at a vital area. Following the thought of Adam on this, those who disagree with him have people looking for spiritual strength from those who have no spiritual strength at all. Those who disagree with him have people looking for health and salvation where there is nothing but open graves and death. Those who disagree with him look to people to be self-sufficient and to help out in their own salvation, but instead they will perish by the work of their own hands.

We must not pass by this vital issue with a simple sneer as if it is Hyper-Calvinism or something. The older writers thought that the heart of man must be emptied of self and pride (broken) in order for that heart to be able not to trust in self. It is as sinful to trust in self to trust in Christ as to trust in idols. When we trust in self that is our idol. When we trust in self to trust in Christ we have no idea of what it means to trust in Christ alone. The Lord Jesus not only purchased salvation, He procured it and He must apply it by the Spirit. The Gospel was not purchased for sinners and left up to them to apply it to themselves, but instead the Gospel is so fully procured that nothing is left for the sinner to do (in this sense) but look to Christ for a new heart, faith, repentance, and all things necessary. There is a reason that the Reformers spoke of Christ alone. It is because Christ saves from beginning to end and leaves nothing to chance and nothing left to do. Christ alone means Christ alone. May God open the eyes of people to see that they cannot trust in Christ until they have been turned by His grace from trusting in themselves.

Musings 129

December 7, 2016

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

Salvation is set out to men (today) as if they could give themselves a new heart and change themselves from being an enemy of God in their natures, affections, desires, and thoughts to one that loved God with all of those things. How can one read the Scriptures without seeing just how Scripture is dead set against that idea. Men must be born from above by the power of the Spirit rather than made new by the work of their own hands. This is as far from the biblical teaching as the east is from the west.

Why is it that the vast majority (seemingly all) of preachers never come to the point of showing men how dead they are and their utter insufficiency in these things? How can a man look to Christ alone unless he has been turned from trusting in himself in all ways? How can a man change his own heart and give himself a new nature? Again, it is utterly preposterous to even think that and yet that thinking has seemingly overwhelmed the professing churches in our day. How can the Gospel of Jesus Christ be truly preached if man does not see something of the way Christ is saving sinners? How can men look to the power of Christ if they do not see their own utter impotence? How can men know that their affections must be changed if they never hear from the pulpit that their present affections are wicked, evil, and opposite to all true good?

Could it be that the professing churches (many or most) have their pulpits filled with people ignorant of the basic issues of the Gospel? How can it even be considered that the Gospel has been preached until men have been shown the depths of their need of Christ? How can men think that they are faithful to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ until they have opened the Scriptures and have shown men that they are utterly powerless and need Christ to save them? How can men even imagine that they have preached the Gospel if they have not shown men how their own wisdom is foolishness to God so that they will see that Christ is the wisdom of God?

It is not acceptable to just show men the positive things of Christ and of Christianity, but instead there is a whole message to set forth in order that the positive would be seen in its true light. How criminal it is when preachers will not set forth the true nature of the depravity of man in such a way that men can see that they have no power and no ability to save themselves in the slightest. Jesus Christ is not the Savior of men who have some power to save themselves, but He is the Savior of those who are dead in sins and trespasses. He is Savior of those who have no power to save themselves. He is the Savior of those who are utterly helpless and completely impotent and they are so helpless that they can do nothing in the slightest way to contribute to their own salvation.

As Adam says above, if we are mistaken here, we are lost. This is a point that would be hard to emphasize beyond its level of importance. Until men see and feel the depths of their lostness, they will not understand what it is to hunger and thirst for Christ. Jesus called those who were weary and heavy-laden to Himself. Until men are indeed weary of themselves and of their sin they will not know the burden of it. If they are not weary and heavy-laden, then they are not called to Christ. The Gospel is not for those who trust in their religion or in their morality, it is for lost sinners who are burdened with their sin.

Musings 128

December 6, 2016

Exodus 33:13 “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” 17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

What Moses had in leading the people was a heart for God and His honor and glory. What Moses wanted in order to lead the people was God and His glory. He did not have a plan to grow the number of the people and he did not have a plan to build a large and elaborate church in order to draw the people in. He did, however, receive plans (not in this text) from God on how to build the Tabernacle. The difference between the Tabernacle and a church building is enormous. The church building is meant to house people and to many today it is meant to attract people. The Tabernacle was a place for the slaughter of animals and to be a dwelling place for God. It was also where the High Priest offered the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of the people.

The Tabernacle was a place for God and a place to show forth the Gospel and the glories of God. Perhaps we should learn something from the Old Testament pictures. The Tabernacle was centered upon God, His glory, and how His people would be acceptable to Him. In our day it seems as if we try to make God acceptable to people. This is not only backwards, it is idolatrous. But we can see quite clearly that Moses wanted the presence of God with him and the people. Moses longed to see the glory of God, and this was what he cried out for. He hungered and desired to behold the glory of God. He sounded like the Psalmist who longed for God more than his daily food. He also sounded like the Psalmist in thirsting after God like a hunted deer in the desert.

It is not until the professing Church gives up all of its business ideas on how to numerically grow and gives up on the plans of the experts on all of what it does and begins to seek the Lord that it will then become the true Church. A true church must preach the true Gospel, but in order to preach the true Gospel the preachers and the people must long for and seek the presence and the true glory of God. If the true Gospel is all about the glory of God shining forth and being seen in Christ, then there is no true preaching of the Gospel unless the preachers begin to preach that way. Preachers cannot preach that way unless their hearts have been broken from self and pride and they give up on being good preachers and they long for God themselves.

Churches must give up on being big churches, rich churches, and this or that kind of church and actually become a church that seeks the face of God. They will have to become churches that have prayer meetings where God is actually sought rather than a meeting to pray about the physical, financial, and “emotional” issues of people. This is not to say that praying for those things is wrong, but it is to say that praying for the presence of God in order to behold His glory and manifest His glory is the chief end of the prayer meeting. Churches must not just pray as if using God to get things that it wants as such, but it should pray for God to change the hearts of the people where people pray for the presence of God because He is the chief desire of their hearts.

The modern professing Church is in utter shambles because it trusts in almost everything rather than God Himself. The professing Church wants to grow, it wants to get more money, and perhaps it wants a good creed. All of those things are virtually worthless unless God Himself shows His glory to the Church and unless God is present with His people. Each converted human soul is a temple of the living God and the converted souls together make up the dwelling place of God in a different sense. The only sacrifice we have is Christ and it is in His name and for His glory that we are to approach the throne of grace. Only the humble and the broken have a place at the throne of grace, so instead of building each other up (in one sense) we should seek broken hearts, self-abandonment, and humility in order to seek Him. But of course those things will only come by His grace. We must truly seek the true God or we are simply playing church.

Musings 127

December 5, 2016

Exodus 33:13 “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” 17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

In this passage we see many things. We see the heart of Moses which was a heart that sought God. We see what it means to have a heart for God. We see the longings and the desires of a man who seeks after God. We see what a true leader wants for Himself and for His people. We see in many ways what is to be the focus of the churches and the focus on each human heart. The cry of our hearts must be for God Himself. We should long to know His ways so that we may know Him. We should not want God to come down and give us our sinful desires or our desires that are apart from Him and for His glory, but our hearts are made for Him and they should long for and desire Him. Instead of being caught up with the world and the things of the world, we are to be caught up with God Himself and the things of God.

This is far different than being caught up with self as self does the rituals and morality of religion, but all that this heart does is seek after God. This heart longs for the presence of God and it longs for God to be glorified, but it longs for God to be glorified for His own sake and for the sake of His people. This is a heart that knows how futile it is to plan things and plan church things without God. Sure, people use the name of Jesus as they plan what they are going to do, but that is far from the same thing as seeking God for what the church should do if anything. It is better to be still before God than it is to go our and do many things without His leading or blessing.

The person or the local church that longs for God knows that it is His free-grace that makes any spiritual distinction between the local church or the person. That person or that church will seek the Lord for His presence and if He does not grant His presence then there is no sense in going out. When people get engaged with busy work and they are satisfied with that rather than God Himself, there is a great deception among the people. This business seems to the deceived as working for God but they are working for self-righteousness rather than for God Himself. They are also working in the strength of self rather than the strength of grace.

The churches of our day sure seem to have the idea that if they build new buildings and have enough programs then the people will come and fill the building. Even if the people do come and fill the buildings, that does not mean that God is blessing the work. The blessing of God on a church or a person is when God Himself gives the person Himself and dwells with them and communicates Himself to them. The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) is a very helpful principle, but just because people or churches follow it to the letter does not mean that the people or churches worship. Following the RPW is not a guarantee for worship. It is only when God by His free-grace grants people His presence and hearts to worship that they will then worship.

When will the churches wake up to see that going through the motions on Sunday morning is not the same thing as seeking the living God from hearts that desire Him? When will the churches wake up and understand that their meeting together is not doing God any favors? When will the churches wake up and understand that they are to seek the Lord from the heart out of love when the people come together? When will the churches wake up and understand that as the nation of Israel thought that their outward sacrifices and keeping of the Temple pleased God so the churches have fallen into that same trap and think that their external acts and rituals please God? When will the people get sick and tired of all the trappings and seek Christ Himself for the grace to repent of pride, self, and religiosity and seek Him in all that they do? They will not seek Him until they are awakened by grace to see that they are helpless sinners and need grace to seek God. Only then will they seek Him and His presence.

When will the preachers wake up and realize that just because they are giving an exposition of Scripture is not the same thing as seeking God in true worship? When will the preachers wake up and seek the Lord for understanding that they may learn to preach rather than just lecture? When will the preachers learn that they must die to self and pride (which only happens by grace) before they can truly preach Christ and the Gospel of Christ? When will the preachers learn that they are to be taught in the heart to taste of Christ so that they may preach Christ rather than talk about Him? Oh what a shallow day we live as we are so easily satisfied with the externals of religion.