Not So Random Thoughts 57

December 18, 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 stark difference between a God-centered view of the Gospel, the whole of Christianity, and the whole of life with a man-centered view is enormous. Our hearts tend toward the man-centered view and in fact will be taken with that view apart from the work of Divine grace in the heart. It is hard and perhaps impossible to accept from the depths of the soul the fact that God must humble the soul so that He may give it grace. We much prefer to think that we have the ability to humble ourselves so that we can receive grace. However, the nature of the human heart is such that it prefers to think that it can receive grace simply by an act of the human will. When people teach that, Biblical Christianity has disappeared. When it is the majority view of those in the pulpit and the pew (even a vast majority), we can know that we are under the judgment of God.

The paragraph just above would be described as uncharitable and perhaps as divisive and judgmental. On the other hand, if it is true then those who say those things about the previous paragraph would be opposing the Gospel of the grace of God. I would prefer to be branded uncharitable and judgmental than to be a person opposing the Gospel of the grace of God. The Gospel is not just some message that opens the hearts of people to the messengers of it, but instead the preaching of Christ crucified brings derision and mockery. The preaching of Christ brings persecution in some form. This is not something we should ignore and breezily dismiss it as divisive and something less than winsome. There are many winsome people who are utter heretics and yet we are able to be around them easier than some who preach the harsh truths of the character and nature of God. This should awaken us to something going on in our society and professing churches. We want to be popular at all costs and will not preach the truth if it is going to bring us some level of discomfort. That is far different than the life of Christ.

The gate is narrow and the path is narrow. That does not correlate with preaching smooth things and being winsome all the time. Jesus was hard and some would say harsh with the religious people of His day. Luther was hard and harsh on the acceptable religion in his day. Luther was encouraged by Erasmus to tone his message down and not be so divisive and troublesome to the Church. It took a Luther to stand up to the professing Church in his day and strike at the heart of it. In doing so he followed His Lord who struck at the heart of the professing Church in His own day with strength and strong words. Jesus Christ set out the truth of who God was and the truth of who man was. The truths of these things and their necessary applications are not something that men who are afraid of their own reputations will risk.

We live in a day were we need to hear strong words and we need men who are less concerned with winsomeness than they are with speaking the truth. Yes, the truth needs to be spoken in love and yet a biblical love rather than the sappy niceness which passes for love in our day. Did Luther speak with more love than the Pope and Erasmus? I will argue that he did. Did he go too far at times? Most likely he did. But for the Reformation to occur it needed a man like Luther who was strengthened by God and was indeed abrasive to those in the professing Church. The preaching of Christ cuts to the core of false religion even if it is masquerading as orthodox and historical Christianity. The preaching of Christ requires men who are willing to be thought of as uncouth, divisive, and as less than winsome. A new and real Reformation will require the true Christ to be preached and this will require something other than winsomeness and sticky sweet niceness. It will require a deep brokenness in the hearts of some men who have to be broken from self-love, ease, and reputation within their denomination. Men must learn to speak the truth of God and that without watering it down or smoothing off the rough points (as they see it).

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Not So Random Thoughts 56

December 16, 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)

One of the battles that has occurred throughout the history of the professing Church has been the battle between free-will and free-grace. One of the real issues between free-will and free-grace is that free-will focuses on the ability of man and free-grace focuses on the ability and power of God. It is not a simple issue and it is not a minor issue. At the very core of the issue is whether God saves man by Himself alone or whether man contributes something to his own salvation. Romans 11:6 teaches us that if we add something to grace then grace is no longer grace. A pure grace cannot have anything added to it or it will no longer be grace. Galatians 1 teaches us that there is only one Gospel and if anyone teaches a different Gospel that person is to be eternally cursed. But again, this is as important issue as one can deal with.

The Gospel is the Gospel of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the Gospel of man. It is not about how man can manifest his power and goodness in saving himself, but instead it is about the power and glory of God in saving sinners for His own glory. The Gospel puts the character of God on display through Christ, but the only character we see in man is the sin of man. The Gospel is indeed all about God, though indeed man does benefit. The benefits of the Gospel, however, display the freedom of the grace of God in saving sinners from beginning to end. This is not something that should be something to argue about. The Gospel should be declared and it is all about the glory and grace of God in Christ Jesus. The Gospel drips of the grace and beauty of Christ Jesus in His work in His life on earth and in His sacrificial death which propitiated the wrath of God. The grace and beauty of Christ Jesus is in His giving a perfect righteousness to His people. There is nothing left for man to contribute and as such man has nothing to boast about but the cross of Christ.

Each of the passages of Scripture listed above and the quote by Luther are in perfect harmony. There is not a hint of free-will as a power, but all drive men and women to Christ Jesus who alone has power to save. The doctrines that support and are supported by free-will fly in the face of the Gospel of the free-grace of God. They are supported by teaching of man-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. They put the weight of salvation on the shoulders of man rather than on the character of God. This is twisting the truth of the Gospel and of the method of grace that is used by the Holy Spirit. Man must be converted by the Holy Spirit rather than something man does. Man must be humbled by God and regenerated by the Spirit of God. The will is not free to change the heart of man as that is the work of God.

The gate that free-will enters is not narrow. The road that free-will enters is quite broad. The false prophets are quite adept at promoting free-will, but that which flows from the human will is not what flows from the Holy Spirit. Men will argue in the day of final judgment that they did certain things which is an argument from free-will. Men will strive to enter the kingdom, even trying to die to self and to humble self, but those things are the things that God works in man by His grace. Men will and men run, but in doing so they are not looking to the mercy and grace of God alone. Men will fight and do anything but look to God to work in them a despair of self and all that the will can do. The doctrine of grace alone is talked about in some circles, but oh how lacking our day is in the real teaching of men dying to self and all that the will can do in order to be saved by that grace alone. It is not just an intellectual understanding that men are saved by grace alone that is needed, but it is a real grace doing a real work in men that is needed. A free-will cannot do that and cannot bring that about in any way.

 

Not So Random Thoughts 55

December 14, 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 Jonathan Edwards was ministering in the 1700’s he taught people that they needed to seek the Lord for a new heart in order to believe. He taught the people that they had proud hearts as their nature and that those proud hearts needed to be humbled and broken in order to have a true faith. He taught them that God must humble their hearts and that God must humble them and that faith was a gift of God. When the people heard that Arminianism was spreading in neighboring communities, they were alarmed as they thought that was a sign that the day of salvation was leaving as God was turning the area over to false teaching. In past times Arminian theology was seen as dangerous and as opposed to the true working of God who worked all by His grace alone.

The Arminianism that the people were afraid of in the days of Edwards was perhaps stronger theology than the Pelagianism in our day that passes as Arminianism. In order to be clearer, I am using the term “Arminianism’ as standing for those who assert free-will as a theology or in a practical sense. The issue, then, is over the freeness of God in showing grace or the freeness of man in asserting his own will and choices. To put it another way, is grace in the freeness of God to show as He pleases or has God put grace in the hands of man’s will to dispense it to himself as man pleases? When people understand that God shows grace as He pleases and that anything that man can contribute is really opposed to true grace, then we can understand why the people in Edwards’ day were alarmed. Perhaps we should also understand why we should be alarmed.

The glorious Gospel of the free-grace of God in Christ Jesus is not consistent with the teaching of free-will. The previous sentence is actually quite weak. It is more accurate to say that the Gospel of the free-grace of God in Christ Jesus is directly contradictory to the teaching of free-will. Grace is either contingent upon the character and pleasure of God or it is contingent upon the free-will of man. What men must come to see (according to Luther in the quote at the top) is that until man is humbled and broken and despairs of any hope from himself that man will not look to Christ alone. Men will look to Christ for some help, and perhaps for a lot of help. But until men despair of all help from themselves they will not look to Christ alone. Men will either look to their own will to participate or they will look to Christ alone. Men will look to their own will for faith or they will look to Christ for faith. The teaching of free-will is not just a little error; it strikes at the very heart of the Gospel.

In our day it is extremely, extremely rare to find anyone who thinks that free-will is a dangerous teaching. This is a sign that God has turned us over in our day to our own imaginations. It is extremely rare for men to teach on the inability of men and to strive with them over their need to be humbled and broken before they will be able to believe. Faith in Christ cannot come from a proud and self-reliant heart. This is to say once again that the teaching of free-will is extremely dangerous. When we see Arminianism and practical Arminianism among the Reformed in creed what we are seeing is the judgment of God. False prophets seem to be on every corner and they are wreaking havoc with the truth of the Gospel. On judgment day there will be many who will trust in their own will and the works that came from that will. How they will cry out about the preaching they have done. How they will cry out of how they did it in the name of Christ. But the Lord Jesus will still say to them, “’I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

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.

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.