Not So Random Thoughts 54

December 12, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

The enormity of the deception that has happened to the professing Church in our day is most likely way beyond human comprehension. It is God Himself who turns people over to a darkened heart and it is God who gives people over in their sinful hearts to more sin. A deluded heart grows more deluded and a deceived heart is given over to more deception. Those who deny God in their hearts with the things of religion are given over to more and more religion and as such are given over to more and more darkness and less of the truth of God even while they are perhaps more and more religious. Those with proud hearts are given over to more pride in the things of their religion. While open sin is punished by hardening of the heart, it may be that the things of religion are used to harden even more.

We also live in a day where Arminianism and Pelagian thinking is by far the majority. This is true even among those who profess to be Reformed. It is not just that Arminian thinking is openly espoused by people, but Arminianism can control the heart when the head holds to Reformed creeds. The sleep inducing fog of Arminianism has to do with the power of the will. The proud heart wants to love and trust in self. The proud heart wants some little island of power that leaves something up to it. The proud heart will not have God to be sovereign over it and will not have a God be fully sufficient. The proud heart will not give up all rights and all power to God; though it may be clouded in the things to religion to think it has done so.

If we think of lawlessness as man following his own will and strength of will, then we can see how the things of religion are used by men in such a way as to be utter lawlessness. At the heart of the Arminian system is utter lawlessness because man is not following God as the sovereign God depending upon Him in all things, but instead man is following self and depending on self to follow God. How utterly and completely deceptive this is. The intoxicating mist of Arminianism is so powerful that it takes the mind and heart of men away from God and they are turned to trust in self and the things of religion that men have come up with. The Arminian system is built on the free-will of man rather than the sovereign grace of God and as such is directly opposed to the Gospel of the free-grace of God.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

What we can see from this passage (Romans 9) is that it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs. Rather, it depends on God who has mercy. This is at the core of the Gospel and of all that pertains to Christianity. Does it depend on man or on God? Any system that puts the weight on the will of man or on the running (working) of man is directly opposed to the grace of God. It is not grace plus just a little of the will of man and it is not grace plus just a little of the efforts of man. It is grace alone. Indeed this is a narrow gate and a narrow path. Indeed the false prophets oppose this in many ways. Those at the end of the passage in Matthew 7 (as quoted at the top of the page) looked to themselves and their own religious works rather than grace alone. God’s grace is indeed to the humbled and the broken. As long as people trust in their own wills and that just a little, they will not rest in Christ alone and they will not look to grace alone. Trusting in our own will and our own effort, even if it is just a tiny bit, is at the heart of lawlessness.

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Not So Random Thoughts 53

December 10, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

It is sobering to think of how much of religious thinking and church services in modern America seem to be uninformed or at least not to take the passages of Scripture above seriously. It appears that people have forgotten that Jesus taught that there really is a narrow gate and a narrow path. It appears that people either don’t know or ignore that there are many on the broad way that leads to destruction but few on the way that leads to life. Do these passages have anything to do with reality or not? Are these passages real and weighty about the things of eternity or are they not?

The Scriptures above and many others teach us about false prophets, but we seem not to care or pay attention. It seems that we may know the facts of the matter, but we don’t seem disturbed by them and just don’t seem to care. It is almost as if we have been blinded to the spiritual realm and have no real sensibility at all in that regard. We are so taken with this life and the things of this life that we have put off the importance and vital nature of spiritual things. We can get so upset about things of this world that matter so little and yet have no sense of the things of eternity. A false prophet can cause enormous damage and yet be thought of as a nice man who is a good speaker. A false prophet can cause enormous damage in the spiritual realm and yet be quite orthodox in many ways and be thought of as a powerful preacher.

Jesus was quoted in Luke 6:46 saying “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” We normally think of that in terms of obedience in doing things, but He also warns us about the narrow gate and the narrow path. He warns us about false prophets. Evidently not many listen to Jesus and take care about the things He talked about. Does it do any good to say “Lord, Lord” and not listen to His words? Does it do any good to say He is “Lord” and not take warning about the things He warned about? Is it bowing to Him as Lord of all if we are not concerned about the things that He spoke of regarding eternity? When the Lord tells us that many (not just a few and not just a lot) will argue with Him on the judgment day about how they preached in His name, cast out demons in His name, and in His name performed miracles, those who are truly His should beware. When Jesus said those things His words as Lord should drive us to see how we live, preach, and do evangelism.

If we are to truly bow to Him as Lord in all things we must know that our religious activities do not save us and may actually do more to deceive us than anything else. Jesus tells those who were quite religious in their time on earth to depart from Him “you who practice lawlessness.” Does this mean that their very religious actions were considered as lawless? Could the words of Jesus mean that their religious actions were lawless and perhaps more lawless than the open sin of open pagans? It could very well mean that. The religious actions of people that are not commanded for them and not done from His grace in them are lawless deeds. When we call Jesus “Lord” and yet our obedience is not truly from Him and not truly for Him, our religion itself is lawlessness. When our hearts are proud (though we may think we are humble) all of our religious actions are for self rather than Christ even if we use His name. That can be a proud act as well. Doing our religious actions for self is idolatry. When our religious actions are idolatrous, surely we can see that religion for self (whether we claim it or not) is lawlessness.

Not So Random Thoughts 52

December 7, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

The human heart is a terrible thing as it constantly wants to rest in self and the things of self. The human heart appears to be fast asleep in the bonds of self-sufficiency and self-love and is religious to some degree and thinks that is all that is needed. When the fallen heart, though perhaps quite religious heart, hears that it must do the will of God, it is not bothered by that at all. It simply sets out to be more religious and do more works. When the religious heart hears that it is not enough to simply say “Lord, Lord” it is not surprised, but it sets out to do religious things and more religious things.

The fallen heart that trusts in itself is hard to awaken to its own helplessness and the hopelessness of its own religious duties, and it takes the very words of God on judgment day to awaken it. It appears that this heart wants to argue with God on the basis of its own deeds on that day. “Many will say to Me on that day.” Note again that those who do this are not just a few here and there, but there are many who will say to Him on that day. There are many who will be shocked that their religious efforts were not enough. There are many who will shocked and horrified that all of their religion was not real obedience to God and had not a scent of doing the will of God in it.

How many are ever awakened to this sad fact? How much do we hear from the pulpits of our land to awaken people to this? People are fast asleep and in bondage to self in different ways, yet we hear so little if any at all about this. People are given things to do or perhaps one thing to do, but they are not told that there is nothing that they can do that pleases God. They are not told that their efforts should be in the realm of seeking a broken and humbled heart from God rather than seeking to do things from their old heart. Preachers trust in being preachers and their preaching. After all, didn’t they prophesy and preach in the name of Christ? Didn’t they spend their lives in the service of God? But could it be that they were really serving self while they used the name of Christ? It is so easy for men to seek self in their preaching and in their serving. As Jehu of old sought honor and wanted others to behold his zeal in serving God, so men do the same in our day. Self can be served while men use the name of Christ and preach in the name of Christ. That is to use Christ for the sake of self and it is a blasphemous idolatry, yet it appears quite common in our day.

We see people who are deceived by miraculous things or the appearance of them. Even false prophets can do miracles if aided by the unholy spirit or perhaps fake them. The miraculous can be done by the false prophets in Egypt. Apart from the new birth there will be no salvation regardless of how many religious things and miraculous things that are done. Apart from the heart being humbled and broken from self and pride there is no salvation in anything that the human heart can possibly do. Apart from the heart being humbled and broken to the point that the heart despairs of all hope of self no miracles and no amount of preaching and religious service will help. All of the religion of self is lawlessness before a thrice holy God. Despite all the arguments of religious man and the religious services of men, on that day they will be told to depart from Him all who practiced lawlessness.

May these things not be ignored. They are only ignored to the damnation of the soul. The wicked and proud self does not want to give up but instead wants to reign and rule in self and remain in control of self while it uses the word “Lord” on its lips. The religious self will remain in control while it works itself into heaven it thinks, but it will also want to be orthodox and use the works and language of orthodoxy to deceive itself even more. The religious self loves to hear of things that it can do like join churches and be committed to many works. The religious self is bound to so many things using the name “Lord” on its lips while in fact it remains in bondage to the lordship of self. How utterly deceitful.

Not So Random Thoughts 51

December 5, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

As we read through the passages of Scripture and the quote from Martin Luther above, we will either read it through the lenses of self-effort or through the lenses of the work of Christ and His grace. This does not mean that it is easy and requires no effort, but the direction that the effort is aimed at is vitally important. We will either aim at the narrow gate with all of our effort as something we can obtain at least partially in our own strength, or we will aim at the narrow gate and seek Christ to work in us what is needed to enter. If God has promised His grace to the humbled, then surely we can see that seeking to work our way into heaven through a gate of self-effort is simply and plainly an utter impossibility.

However, if we think of God’s grace to the humbled as something we should seek from His hand, then assuredly we will seek Him much differently. The aim in seeking God is not that we should do things (works and good deeds) to move Him to save us, but that for the sake of His own name that He would change our hearts by humbling us and breaking us from our pride. If we read the Matthew 7:13-23 passage in one way, it can do nothing but build up our pride which is what we need to be saved from. However, if we read it through the lenses of what Luther wrote (quoted above), then we see the real need. It is that our hearts would be broken from all of our efforts of saving ourselves and seek to be humbled from all hope in saving ourselves.

There are few who will seek to enter at the true narrow gate, but not because people are not willing to work hard to enter heaven, but because there are few who will quit working to enter heaven and seek the Lord to break their hard hearts from pride, self-sufficiency, and self-effort. The false prophets are numerous in that there are so many who are leaving people just a little something to do (at least) and are not willing to instruct people to seek the Lord to be broken from their proud and self-sufficient hearts. The false prophets are unwilling to set out the need for man to be changed by the grace of God rather than God needing to be moved by something man does so He will save man. It appears to be such a contradiction to people when they heart that it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. However, while it does not depend on man, it should be clear that man must be humbled and broken and that man should seek those things from the hand of God. Much effort may be needed by man, but it is not an effort to earn something from God, it is an effort aimed at using the things God has provided to seek humility and a broken heart from God.

As Luther points out, “As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself.” It may be possible (though hard) to convince men in their heads that they can do nothing to save themselves, but it is impossible for a man to drive that self-reliance for the smallest contribution to salvation for salvation from the heart. This is like the demon which Jesus told His disciples that could only be driven out with much prayer. The heart clings to self with the grip of death and will not give up that last bit of self-reliance until the grip of death is released by the hand of God.

How hard it is for the death grip of legalism (self-sufficiency and self-control) on the heart to be relinquished. Oh how the selfish heart longs to be able to do one thing or more in order to move God to save it. Oh how the heart that loves its sin longs to be able just to say “Lord, Lord” as if that is enough, yet the legalistic heart longs to do the will of God and by that be saved. The legalistic heart completely misreads the passage in Matthew 7 and thinks that it can do the will of the Father. That proud thought must be driven out of the heart so that it will be helpless before God seeking a humbled and broken heart from God.

Not So Random Thoughts 50

December 3, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

If you will take a few moments to read and think though the passages of Scripture and the quotes above, you can see that all of them drive a person to the end of self and the power and love of self. They also drive a person who has his or her eyes opened to see that to Christ and Christ alone. It is not the power of self, but it is the power of Christ. It is not the love of self; it is the love of Christ. It is not what self can do for self; it is what Christ can do in working the death of self in us and then granting us true life by His grace alone. The hard passages of Scripture are not meant to show us a hard way, but an impossible way but for Christ and sheer and pure grace alone.

The chief end of Scripture is not simply to show a hard way to life, but to manifest the glory of God in Christ. This should make it so clear that the point of the hard passages is not just to show us a hard way, but to point sinners to Christ where God alone is truly manifested in His glory. Fallen sinners interpret things in light of self, but when this happens they are not looking at Scripture from the God-centered view that Scripture should always be looked at. When hard passages are looked at in the light of self, they will be seen as hard things for self to do. However, when the hard passages are looked at in the light of a God-centered view, they will be seen as impossible for man but as ways which set out the glorious grace of God in the face of Christ Jesus.

The impossibility of salvation for sinners should be embraced rather than just things that are hard and even extremely hard. So it is not just that we are to see that it is those who do the will of God who are saved, because it is impossible to please God apart from faith. It is also impossible to please God in our own strength and we must have Christ in us and living in us by grace in order to please God. It is Christ who pleases God and not us doing things regardless of how hard those things are. So we should look at the passage in Matthew 7 as impossible to do apart from Christ, for after all there is no fruit that pleases God unless it comes from Christ first.

This is not an effort to get away from the hard teachings of Scripture, but we should not that the hard teachings are not just hard but impossible. When we say that they are just hard, we are already watering them down to a level where it may be possible for some to keep them. For example, when we urge people to believe on Christ or in Christ, what are we urging them to do? We are urging them to do what they cannot do. It is not just hard to believe on Christ, but it is impossible in the strength of the natural man to do so. It is not just an intellectual acceptance of something that means we believe it, but it is the whole man acting upon it from the depths of the soul. It is not just accepting something as factually true, but it is the whole soul living the truth of it because of the life of Christ in the soul.

Matthew 7:10-23 is Christ-centered and teaches the impossibility of salvation on the part of man no matter how hard man tries. Christ Himself is our narrow gate and Christ Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. It is Christ who is the true Prophet and instructs the inner man in the true way of life. It is Christ who is the good tree who produces good fruit and He alone can make us into trees that good fruit can come from. It is Christ alone who can work that good fruit in us and through us. In other words, it is not the words of man calling Christ “Lord” that can save man, but it is Christ as Lord who can actually save man and please the Father by saving sinners to the glory of God. It is not that we must work harder so we can do the will of the Father, but we must have Christ who can work in us what is pleasing to the Father.

Not So Random Thoughts 49

December 1, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

When Christ tells us that it is not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the kingdom, this should open our eyes to something very important. It is not what we say we believe and it is not what we are deceived into thinking we believe, but instead it has to do with the nature of our hearts. Belief is not just some action we do once and go on, but instead we need a believing heart or a heart that is in a state of belief. This is seen by the continuing action of the person who enters the kingdom. That person is one who is doing the will of the Father and thus shows that his or her true Father is the Father in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is really the kingdom of Christ. Where Christ dwells the kingdom is set up in that heart. Where there is a person truly doing the will of the Father, it is Christ in that heart dwelling and manifesting Himself in and through that heart. The works of the truly believing one is really one who is doing the will of the Father and yet it is Christ working that in the heart. It is part of the communion between the Father and the Son. Truly good works can only come from a true heart that has Christ dwelling in it. Truly good works are in reality a manifestation of the glory of God through Christ. These works have no merit in them, but in fact they are done out of love for God and not out of an effort to obtain merit. It is necessary to state these things because of those who try to set out this passage as one setting out a works for salvation scheme.

The point of passages like those in Matthew 7 is not to set out a system of hard works and effort for people to enter heaven, but to show people that their efforts are utterly impossible and drive them to the glorious Christ for all that they must have. It is impossible in reality for people to enter the true narrow gate and be on the true narrow road, but people set their own standards of what is narrow and what it is heard. People think that they can deny self by the power and love of self, but to have Christ and His free grace is not based on how much self can deny the things of self. Free-grace must take the soul and work the death to self itself so that self gives up the religion of self and the efforts of self. Self must not be denied in just a few things here and there, even if it appears to be a severe denial of self. No, one must deny self itself which is to deny self the right to exist. We must die to self.

It is not just those who say “Lord, Lord” and does not do the will of the Father who will not enter, but it includes those who have set up their own will and have deceived themselves into thinking that the Father wills what they will. But again, the Scriptures keep pointing us to the great need for us to be born from above and as such die to self and be given life because of Christ alone and grace alone rather than anything we can do. The narrow road and the narrow gate are to drive us to the sense of how impossible things are in the power of self and see our desperate need of Christ alone. The self is so deceptive that it thinks that it can save itself by referring to Christ as Lord (a theological orthodox statement). It thinks that by its own power it can bow to Christ and make Him Lord. No, this is a work of grace as well. The Gospel teaches us grace and grace alone. It teaches us Christ and Christ alone. That is a very narrow gate. Self and the false prophets continue to cry out for some little something that self can do.

Not So Random Thoughts 48

November 29, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

The Scriptures point to a huge change that must take place in man in order for man to be truly saved. Luther’s statement also points to a great change and points to some details regarding that change. This is to say that it is not enough for man to have orthodox words come from his lips, but there must be a great change worked in man. It is not enough to say the words as people believe in our day, nor is it enough to simply live a moral life. It is also not enough to live a religious life and even a very devoted and rigorous religious life. There must be a great change in the soul. This great change brings the sinner from self-righteousness to the righteousness of Christ. This great change brings the sinner from the lordship of self to the lordship of Christ. The difference between the lordship of self and the lordship of Christ is an infinite difference. There are many who want to make Christ as Lord, but in fact He already is Lord and we have no power to make Him Lord of ourselves or anyone else.

The last sentence in the previous paragraph might be rather startling to some, but we must realize that it is important and even vital to understand that. It is God who must take those who are dead in sin and make them alive. It is God alone who can take those who are spiritually dead and make them spiritually alive. It is God alone who can take sinners who are under the dominion and power of the devil and translate them into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col 1:13). In that text we can see that all unregenerate sinners are under the power and rule of the devil who rules over them by the power and love of self. A lover of self cannot lay self down and “make” Christ as Lord. In that case the self would be the superior and could make Christ as non-Lord when wanted. No, as long as sinners are under the dominion and power of the devil they are the children of the devil. The children of the devil are under the power and lordship of self (and the devil) and cannot break the power of self. They can become quite religious, but they will not and cannot bow to Christ as absolute Lord until He exerts His Lordship over them.

How many people are deceived into thinking that they are Christians because they profess in words and a moral life that Christ is Lord while they live for self? All that a professing Christian does who does not truly have Christ is sin. The religion of that person is sin. The prayer of that person is sin. The profession of Christ as Lord is sin. The whole time the person is doing religious things that person is bowing to the lordship of self and the devil. Oh how people can shed tears and go on and on in their religious life, but it is all about self.

Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

These people make a profession of knowing God (calling Christ Lord), but they deny Him by what they do and how they do it. Some may indeed make a profession and follow it with an outwardly profane life, but what is more profane than using the name of God and the things of God in the service of self and the devil? These people, even when and perhaps especially when they call Christ Lord, are detestable and disobedient and worthless for any (truly) good deed. A person that uses the name “Lord” in the service of self is indeed worthless for any good deed since all truly good news are done out of love for God and for His glory.

Not So Random Thoughts 47

November 27, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

From the text in Matthew 7:13-23 we can see that there are far fewer Christians than those who profess to be Christians. The gate is narrow and the path is narrow that leads to life, and there are but few who find it. On the other hand, out of those who profess to be on that path there is a wide gate and a broad path and there are many on it and it leads to destruction. Then we have the false prophets who deceive themselves and others. It would certainly appear from this passage that people should not be careless as to their eternal destinies. We can see in verses 21-23 that people are greatly deceived and will be deceived right until the moment of final judgment. They will even argue with God. However, their deception does not mean that they are not correctly seen and judged by God. There is no arguing with Him even if one is sincere and one is earnest.

Now, first of all we should keep the context in mind. There are many on the broad road who entered through a wide gate. They were deceived about this broad road and wide gate, and in fact they appear to be shocked at judgment day. When the text tells us that not everyone who calls Him Lord and perhaps calls upon Him by that name will enter the kingdom, this is a powerful truth that should shake people up. Many will argue against that and quote Romans 10:9-10 as proof.

Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation

If we look carefully at the text, we see what people are saying. One must confess Jesus as Lord. However, the text also says that one must believe from the heart. It is not a matter of simply saying the words, but the words must express a true belief of the heart. 2 Corinthians 4:13 teaches the same thing: “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe, therefore we also speak.” The words must come from a heart of belief or the words are a lie. One cannot just say that Jesus is Lord but Jesus must in fact and reality be Lord in that person’s heart. Oh, some will say, but that means that you are putting works in there and so salvation is not wholly of grace. No, that is simply far from the truth. It simply means that the person has a changed heart and nature by grace and Christ is the person’s Lord by grace as well.

What we must have driven into our hearts by the Spirit of God is that holiness and obedience come from Christ and are not in order to move Him to save us. We are saved for good works (Eph 2:8-10) and not saved by them. As Christians we are called to true holiness as a result of being justified by grace alone and called from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of the Beloved Son. We are not called to do works in order to obtain salvation. The true Christian will be holy and will do good works out of love for God and not as a way to obtain salvation. Therefore, this text is not teaching us how man may enter the kingdom, but instead the passage is telling us those who already have the kingdom in their hearts. The life of Christ in the soul (kingdom of Christ) moves a person to love God and true holiness, but it never leads them to earn salvation. This shows us that those who are not doing the will of the Father do not have Christ in truth. This is a solemn truth.

Not So Random Thoughts 46

November 25, 2017

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

False prophets may speak about God, but they are always about a God who helps man rather than one who is truly sovereign. False prophets will encourage men to do things in order to get help from God or to get God to help them, but they are hopelessly man-centered. False prophets make wide gates though some make narrow gates, but they will not make them as narrow as Christ makes them and they will not make them depend on grace alone. The fruit of the false prophet reveals a bad tree because the bad tree can bear religious fruit but not a true fruit which reflects God’s own God-centeredness. A man sent from God will preach and teach the message of the true God who is always God-centered.

Many false prophets (not all) are well disguised by their sheep’s clothing and they appear to be sheep. The better the disguise the more they look like sheep. The more orthodox they are, the more they appear to be sheep. The more moral they are, the more they look like sheep. The more religious they are the more they look like sheep. The more tied in with some aspect of historical Christianity the more they look like sheep. The more learned they are in the things of the church the more they look like sheep. The point is that it may take some hard looking and real discernment to determine who the false prophets among us are. They are said to be in sheep’s clothing because they appear to be sheep and say that they are sheep. They may even think that they are sheep. A person in darkness may not know that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A false prophet can be deceived about himself just like others can be deceived as well. But again, we are not to be gullible in these matters but instead we are to seek the Lord for wisdom and discernment.

While a false prophet cannot bear good fruit, it (the fruit) will have all the appearances of good fruit to those without spiritual discernment. In the words of Hebrews 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” People must be trained by grace to be able to discern good and evil. The thoughtless and those who have not been trained by grace to discern good and evil are easy prey for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. A false humility will be seen as true humility. A false spirituality will be seen as true spirituality. The outward husk of orthodoxy will be seen as true and biblical teaching. We must remember that the devil and his minions can quote Scripture and present the truth in a way which deceives. The devil can appear as an angel of light and those without discernment will think that he is an angel of light.

People must learn that the false prophet is not easy to discern and that it takes the Spirit of God to show these things. As it takes the work of the Spirit of God to show anything spiritual, and that includes our own hearts, so it takes the Spirit of God to grant us discernment to see what is behind the sheep’s clothing of the wolves. Some wolves are quite obvious, but some are wrapped tightly in sheep’s clothing and it is not easy to see who they really are. The fruits that distinguish a false prophet from a true one are spiritual fruits and not just external fruits. We must be trained by God in order to discern these things.

Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017

2 Samuel 22:50 “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, And I will sing praises to Your name.

1 Chronicles 16:7 Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the LORD. 8 Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

1 Chronicles 16:34 O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 35 Then say, “Save us, O God of our salvation, And gather us and deliver us from the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name, And glory in Your praise.” 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because His lovingkindness is everlasting.

2 Chronicles 20:21 When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 9:1 For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Your name.

Americans (a large number) travel many miles in some cases to be with families and friends for a time that is called Thanksgiving. Is it really a time of Thanksgiving or a time to be around people and eat a lot. There is also some statistics that show that there are more arrests for drunk driving during this long weekend than any other. The time of Thanksgiving is also thought of by many as a religious day, and there are many passages of Scripture that speak of giving thanks. However, Thanksgiving can also be thought of as a day when people get together and have an idolatrous time together. Instead of being a time when people give thanks to God in the biblical way, Thanksgiving is now a time thought of as being for families and eating and drinking.

It does not seem that there is anything inherently wrong for having a time of Thanksgiving, but we must keep the societal practice distinct from the religious concept. Just because families are together does not mean that they are giving thanks to God and it does not mean that they are thankful to God. Just because a person is thankful that s/he has a lot to eat does not mean that the person is thankful to God. Just because a person is thankful in some way that s/he has enough to eat does not mean that the person is anything less than idolatrous to the real and true God.

When one examines the biblical passages above, there is a clear and unmistakable theme of a thorough God-centeredness:

Thanksgiving involves singing praises from the heart to the true God.
Thanksgiving involves calling upon the name of the true God from the heart.
Thanksgiving involves calling upon the name of the true God.
Thanksgiving involves making known the deeds of the true God.
Thanksgiving involves praising the character of the true God.
Thanksgiving involves praying to be delivered from the nations that one can praise the true God.
Thanksgiving involves telling the wonders of the true God.
Thanksgiving involves giving thanks to the true God among the nations.
Thanksgiving is all about the true God and not just about how much we can eat and drink. Let us seek the Lord for grace that we may be truly thankful for who He is and His glory that shines in and through Christ. After all, the true God can only be praised for who He really is through Christ who reveals who He truly is.