Posted in discernment, galatians, grace, jesus, law, paul

Why did Paul spank the Galatians so hard?

Last week I wrote Should We Love False Teachers? in which I took a look at the aforementioned question and put forth an answer. (Answer: no).

O you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you!?

I’m reading the book of Galatians this month, and the associated commentaries. The book I finished before this was 1 Corinthians, all about that rowdy crowd of raucous Christians Paul had to tame by reminding them that Christian liberty is not license to sin. The book of Galatians is a book about defending salvation by grace and not of works. In it, Paul refutes the Judaizers, a gang of false teachers who upset the Galatians into thinking they had to be circumcised and do other Mosaic law keeping in order to be saved. Paul had to remind the Galatians of their freedom in Christ is given by grace and not of works.

When you start reading the book of Galatians, one thing immediately strands out. Paul cut to the chase. Paul is usually blunt, but in no other book, however, did Paul fail at first to give a loving greeting full of thanks toward the recipients. He always found something to commend, even in the rowdy Corinthians.

Not so with the Galatians.

He says, “Hi, it’s me, Paul, and WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!” to paraphrase.

Wait, weren’t the Corinthians worse? Why was Paul being so tough on the Galatians? The answer is, because sinful doctrine is worse than sinful behavior. Here is John MacArthur on the Galatian situation from his commentary.

After exposing the dangers of the false doctrines that threatened the Galatians, Paul exposes the wicked character of the men who espoused the doctrines. Like his Lord, Paul had great patience with those who were caught in even the deepest moral sin. As much as they condemned the sin itself and warned against its consequences, their love for the sinner was always evident. For the oft-divorced woman at Jacob’s well and the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus’ rebukes were gentle, and His offers of help were kind and encouraging (John 4:7 26; 8:3-11). And even before the hated and larcenous Zaccheus repented and came to saving faith, Jesus was not ashamed to eat with him (Luke 19:1-10).

But for the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees—whose outward lives were ceremonially impeccable, but who refused to recognize their spiritual need and Who continually corrupted the people’s minds with their legalistic perversion of true Judaism—Jesus had only condemnation. The scribes and Pharisees were the primary teachers and interpreters of Scripture. When a man was initiated into the scribal office, he was given a key that symbolized his qualification to teach. Yet Jesus called them hypocrites, deceivers, extortioners, misguided proselytizes, blind guides, fools, inwardly corrupt and foul, partners with those who killed the prophets and murderers themselves, serpents and vipers, and future persecutors of His church (Matt. 23:13-36). Their worst evil, however, was one that Isaiah had prophesied of them more than six hundred years earlier: “In vain do they worship Me, leaching as doctrines the precepts Of men” (Matt. 15:9; cf. Isa. 29:13).

Paul, too, was longsuffering with those who were caught in sin, as his letters to the immature, factious, and immoral believers at Corinth attest. But also like the Lord, the apostle’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for those who pervert God’s truth and lead others into falsehood.

EPrata photo

Paul extols the Law for its place to remind us of mercy. However, misuse of the Law condemns! THAT is the horror of false teachers! Wrong behavior is external and can be corrected, a poisoned heart full of false notions about Jesus is condemning!

Charles Spurgeon said, in his sermon on Galatians 3:13, “The Curse Removed“,

O ye who trust in the law for your salvation! ye have erred from the faith; ye do not understand God’s designs; ye are ignorant of every one of God’s truths. The law was given by Moses to make men feel themselves condemned, but never to save them; its very intention was to “conclude us all in unbelief, and to condemn us all, that he might have mercy upon all.” It was intended by its thunders to crush every hope of self-righteousness, by its lightnings to scathe and demolish every tower of our own works, that we might be brought humbly and simply to accept a finished salvation through the one mighty Mediator

Anyone who believes – or teaches – differently is ignorant:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

Posted in demons, discernment, exorcism, forea, grace, Mexico, ritual

Catholic priests attempt to exorcise all demons from Mexico

EPrata photo

I read, shaking my head the whole time, a news article from today, June 16, 2015, noting that some Catholic archbishops and other religious muckey-mucks got together to exorcise the demons from Mexico. All of them. Nationwide.

Hmmm.

What happens when an entire country becomes infested with demons?

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2015 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Can a country with deep Christian roots like Mexico find itself at the mercy of demons? Some in the Church fear so. And as a result, they called for a nation-wide exorcism of Mexico, carried out quietly last month in the cathedral of San Luis Potosí. High levels of violence, as well as drug cartels and abortion in the country, were the motivation behind the special rite of exorcism, known as “Exorcismo Magno.”

I want to state at the outset, that Catholicism is NOT CHRISTIAN. This is critical to understand. Catholicism is no more Christian than Wicca or Hinduism. It is a false religion. More on that in a moment.

Curious, I googled “Exorcismo Magno” and found this article, translated from the Spanish from September 2014.

José Antonio Fortea Cucurull is a Spanish writer,
and a Roman Catholic priest and exorcist
of the diocese of Alcalá de Henares. Wikipedia

“El Exorcismo Magno”: Nueva obra del P. José Antonio Fortea
“The Great Exorcism”: New work of Father José Antonio Fortea

Father Fortea presented this new work indicating that “every year in several countries, not many, there are meetings of exorcists. These national meetings usually gather no less than fifty exorcists, usually more than hundred. Between national and international conferences, usually take a year, worldwide, about seven of these annual meetings.” “When nearly a year ago, I attended as a speaker at one of these conferences, I explained to exorcists that exorcístico power can be applied not only to relieve a person of demonic possession, or release a home infestation. But you can also exorcise the infernal forces to move away from a parish, of a city, of a diocese or of the universal Church.”

What?!?! The Catholic Church has had the ritual ability and power to drive all demons from the entire Church this whole time…and hasn’t? Of course they do not have this power, but I make a remark similar to the Charismatics like Benny Hinn who claim power to heal, yet never go to a hospital to do so.

EPrata art

But wait, it seems that this Grand Exorcism, or El Exorcismo Magno, is a new idea from the Father Fortea. Last year at the meeting, he proposed it, and this Mexican Grand Exorcism has just been tried out for the first time.

At the meeting last year when Fr. Fortea proposed a grand exorcism, he wrote,

Canon law prohibits perform exorcisms on people harassed by the devil. But does not prohibit, alone, exorcise the demons of the world.

After over 1000 years, the Catholic Church gets a clue they they have the power to rid the world of demons? By the way, this clearly demonstrates their hubris, pride, and misapplied energies. The Bible says satan is god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4). If the RCC believes it has the power to rid the world of satan, they are then saying they are the god of this world, and disbelieve what God has said through His inspired word that satan is.

Back to the original article I posted, “What happens when an entire country becomes infested with demons?

Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, the archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara, presided at the closed doors ceremony, the first ever in the history of Mexico. Also participating were Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero of San Luis Potosí, Spanish demonologist and exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea, and a smaller group of priests and lay people. The event was not made known to the general public beforehand. According to Archbishop Cabrero, the reserved character of the May 20 ceremony was intended to avoid any misguided interpretations of the ritual. But how can an entire country become infested by demons to the point that it’s necessary to resort to an Exorcismo Magno? “To the extent sin increases more and more in a country, to that extent it becomes easier for the demons to tempt (people),” Fr. Fortea told CNA.

Did Jesus ever drive out a demon in secret? Or do anything in secret?

Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. (John 18:20) 

The 3 reasons the Father said they must do it in secret are these:

EPrata photo & artwork

1. Otherwise, the news of this exorcism can cause the cathedral is so crowded that literally impossible to perform the smallest movement therein
2. Moreover, a small number of participants (30, 40 and 50 lay people) It can concentrate much more on the ceremony. Intimacy, undoubtedly benefits this ceremonial.
3. The presence of a crowd disperse the concentration of the celebrants.

DUJARDIN, Karel, 1663,
Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra

Peter healed in full view of the throngs in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:1-9). Peter healed in the midst of crowds. (Acts 5). Paul healed Eutychus who had fallen out the window and fell on his head. Paul ran to the boy and raised him from the dead, irrespective of crowds standing nearby. Paul also healed in the midst of crowds, (Acts 14:9-10)

Maybe this internet age has wrought a lesser ability to concentrate on healing and exorcising. Yeah, that must be it.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that “if with the power we’ve received from Christ we expel the demons from a country, this will certainly have positive repercussions, because we’ll make a great number of the tempters flee, even if this exorcism is partial.”

And, partial? As if Jesus didn’t make the demons shudder just by showing up? He always had complete command over demons, and fully and totally healed, which is what an exorcism is.

Jesus healed totally. Peter’s mother-in-law was cured of all her symptoms and went at once from being bedridden to serving a meal. When Jesus healed a man “covered with leprosy” (Luke 5:12), “the leprosy left him” (v. 13). It was the same with all of Jesus’ healings; “the blind receive[d] sight and the lame walk[ed], the lepers [were] cleansed and the deaf hear[d]” (Matt. 11:5). (source)

When the legion of demons were in the Gadarene demoniac, Jesus didn’t exorcise 5,998 of them. Once Jesus exorcised, ALL of them were gone and the man was sitting next to Jesus clothed and in his right mind. (Mark 5:1-15)

The Catholic exorcists are not known to Jesus by faith. When impostor exorcists attempt to drive out demons, this is what happens:

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16)

Matthew Henry says of the Sons of Sceva incident:

It was common, especially among the Jews, for persons to profess or to try to cast out evil spirits. If we resist the devil by faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the using of Christ’s name, or his works, as a spell or charm, Satan will prevail against us.

Faithlife Study Bible says

19:15 I know The demon claims to have knowledge of Jesus. He understands the person and position of the Lord. The demons tremble before Him (Jas 2:19).

I am acquainted with The demon expresses his knowledge of Paul even though he may not have dealt with him directly.

who are you The demon does not have any information about the sons of Sceva. Because they were not servants of the true God, the demon recognizes that they are illegitimate.

19:16 subdued The actions of leaping and subduing express supernaturally enhanced movements. The demon-possessed man completely overpowers the sons of Sceva.

all of them Luke emphasizes that one man overwhelmed seven others. This further illustrates the demon’s extreme might and the exorcists’ lack of any true power.

naked and wounded The fraudulent claims of the son of Sceva leave them in embarrassment.

19:17 fear See 5:5, 11. When the Church or the world sees the true nature of God’s authority, they fear Him.

Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Faithlife Study Bible (Ac 19:15–17).

Father Forea in his proposal paper/thesis then spends dozens of pages outlining the particular details for how the ceremony of exorcism should take place. It should be in a cathedral, after dark, near compline, with priests dressed in certain ways, proceeding in certain directions, praying certain prayers, like this excerpt-

Holy Mother of God, pray for us Holy Mary, Queen of Angels … I declare anathema, Satan, enemy of salvation human; recognizes the justice and goodness of God the Father, which, fair trial, condemned your pride and your envy: Depart from this Temple, of this city, of this diocese and the universal Church. I conjure thee, Satan, Prince of this world recognizes the power and strength of Jesus Christ who beat you in the desert, exceeded your snares in the Garden, emptied on the Cross, and risen from the tomb your trophies transferred to the kingdom of light: Church retire. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It should be said “in a commanding tone”. There are a great many prayers and litanies, here is another excerpt

Exorcise all evil spirit that tries to attack the Church. Exorcise all satanic power that attacks the Church. In the name and power of Jesus Christ, I order you to go out and run away from the Church of God, souls created image of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Cordero. Henceforth not you dare, perfidísima snake deceive human race, persecute the Church of God and sift the elected. Almighty God commands you, who in your insolent asemejarte even pretend pride. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Remember, this is google translated from Spanish. Then there is a looooong prayer to Mary. it is called the Litany of the Virgin.

Holy Mary, pray for us
pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of Virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church,
Mother of divine grace,
Pure Mother,
Mother most chaste,
Mother always virgin,
Immaculate Mother,
Gentle mother,
Admirable mother,
Mother of Good Counsel,
Mother of the Creator,
Mother of the Savior,
Mother of Mercy,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin worthy of veneration,
Virgin worthy of praise,
Virgin most powerful,
Clement Virgin,
Faithful Virgin,
Mirror of justice,
Throne of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Ivory tower,
House of gold,
Ark of the Covenant
Heaven’s Gate,
Morning Star,
Health of the Sick,
Refuge of Sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of the Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of All Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into Heaven,
Queen of the Holy Rosary,
Queen of the family,
Queen of Peace.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world,
Forgive us, Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world,
hear us, Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world,
Have mercy on us.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of
God.
That we may be worthy of the promises
Christ.

Did you know that the Catholic philosophy of the Immaculate Conception does NOT refer to the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit? Catholic Dogma believes that Mary was conceived without original sin, that’s why you see that reference in the prayer for national exorcism which Father Forea has developed. Where it says ‘Queen assumed into heaven’ it is a reference to Catholic philosophy of the Assumption of Mary, where she was lifted alive and bodily into heaven. Mary has as many names and titles and appellations as Jesus, doesn’t she.

The Catholics certainly worship venerate Mary very highly, don’t they.

In reading Father Forea’s thesis, his emphasis on ritual, formality, and symbolism is explained throughout. There is a lot of it. A whole lot. In his 50 page book the word symbol or symbolism is written 29 times. Ritual occurs 69 times.

Yet we learn when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, he abhorred empty symbolism and pointless ritual.

what surfaces, starting in verse 38, is the nature of false religion. Point one, they loved the symbolic; they loved the symbolic. … and this is how it is, my friend, with false religion. They love the symbols. When we were in Moscow a few months ago, slipped into a Greek Orthodox church–literally repulsed by extravagant symbolism. You stand in one spot and this parade goes on of people with all these elaborate dressings and head dresses and waving censors, and icons all over everywhere. It literally blasts your senses; it’s so garish, bizarre, and people walking in endless circles and mumbling incomprehensible drivel and waving things in the air–and these poor, sad souls trying somehow to connect with the external. But religion that has nothing inside proliferates the symbolic. Look at the Roman Catholic Church, just full of it…full of it. False religion loves symbols. (How to Evangelize Religious People, Luke 11:37-44)

Our precious Savior, Jesus, loves His sheep with a grace and a force and a purity that is wondrous to behold. Our relationship with him is direct and personal, no ceremonies or rituals or symbols need apply. The Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, giving witness to the power of our Redeemer to create in us a new heart. He is the deposit of the guarantee of future inheritance. No one can snatch us out of His hand, our salvation and eternality with Him is ever secure. His Gospel of grace is magnificent- and sufficient.

For the Catholic, they lack this assurance. That’s why they worry about demons and rituals and symbols. They don’t know about grace. They are told they must work to attain heaven, completing the work that Jesus started- yet are never quite sure when they have gotten there.

Jesus said: …Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.(Matthew 11:29-30)

The Catholic lacks this rest. His burden is heavy and the yoke is hard. For the priests walking around mumbling incantations to expel demons form an entire nation, they are no different than the whitewashed Pharisees who walked around the market stalls mumbling long prayers. When the demonic exorcism fails, and it will and it did, the priests can go back to their national meeting and adjust the ceremony by tweaking the color of the ceremonial garb, reverse the prayer walk around the cathedral,  perform it at matins and not compline…they will endlessly look for just the right recipe that will work, but they don’t know that the work was done by Jesus.

Exorcism occurs when the given Gospel message seed planted in the heart is grown by Christ and hearts are changed. That is the only way on this side of heaven to drive out demons in a nation. (Acts 17:6). Even Jesus didn’t raise His hands and command all demons to depart from Judea. (He could have, of course He has the power)

Catholic people, Rest in His grace, appeal to His mercy. Repent of your sins to Him the Judge. We need to present the Gospel to Mexico- it is the Gospel that changes hearts. And to America as well. Because this tweet, right after the original tweet containing the news link, is so true-

Posted in death, election, encouragement, grace, infant

What happens to babies who die?

Sinclair Ferguson on a difficult doctrine: Total Depravity in Children

Elisha Raises the Shunammite woman’s Son: Frederic Leighton

Little Innocents?

The total depravity of our children is a faith-doctrine, a biblical insight. Our natural instinct is to think of new-born children as moral and spiritual tabulae rasae, clean sheets on which to write a successful life. Admittedly the page may soon be a little blotted (the occasional temper tantrum!), but the background is still basically white, surely? Not so, according to the Scriptures: the wicked go astray from the womb and speak lies from birth, insists the psalmist.

Here is a chart comparing Arminianism and Calvinism. I’ll excerpt the part about our sin-nature.

Arminianism Free Will or Human Ability says:

Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.

Calvinism: Total Inability or Total Depravity says:

Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation— it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.

Jan Sluijters (1881-1957), Elisha and the son of the
Shunammite woman, 1904

Total depravity does not mean that all humans are all as bad as they could be. Not everyone is a Hitler, is he? There are people who are nice and compassionate and do kind things. Then there’s the Hitlers and Stalins and Pol Pots of the world. No, total depravity means that sin has touched every part of our being, totally, and we are totally unable to do anything good for God. We are all criminals in God’s eyes and in His capacity as Judge He would be righteous if He sent all humans to hell upon their death. Even children.

So what happens to children who die, if they are completely depraved but are unable to consciously and maturely respond to the Gospel?

One of the complaints I receive about the Doctrines of Grace is that God would be horribly mean to send babies to hell when they do not have the mind to even be able to contemplate the Gospel and formulate a response to it, the basis of faith and the key to entry into the Kingdom. I agree, that would be hard to swallow. But God does not send babies or children to hell. He is just, and He is sovereign, and He has a plan.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, John MacArthur was invited to the Larry King talk/interview show to try and help people make sense of the spiritual questions the event raised. In a subsequent sermon titled What Happens to Babies Who Die?, Dr MacArthur said this:

Some of you who tuned in to the Larry King Show a week ago Saturday will remember that Larry fired a question to me on the air that came out of nowhere. The question that reveals a nagging, troubling issue in the human heart. He asked me, “What about a two-year-old baby crushed at the bottom of the World Trade Center?”
I answered, “Instant heaven.”
He replied with another question. “Wasn’t a sinner?”
I again answered, “Instant heaven.”
That’s a compelling question, what about a baby crushed at the bottom of the Trade Center? What about any baby that dies? It’s an agonizing question. It’s a question that plagues Christians and non-Christians alike…what happens to babies that die?

In the essay, MacArthur shows from scripture that they go to heaven. Though they are sinners from the womb and though they have not hard or responded to the Gospel, God made a provision.

The Doctrines of Grace make me love Jesus all the more. He made a provision for the children and adults otherwise unable to cognitively understand their sin or the Gospel. God is love and His provision is demonstrates no better than the very moment an apple cheeked youngster’s laugh is stilled by death, when He receives them instantly to His arms.

Of Children:
The seed of every known sin is planted in their hearts. Robert Murray McCheyne

Of Jesus:
Never forget that there is more grace in Christ than there is sin in your heart and your child’s heart combined. Sinclair Ferguson

————————

Further reading:

These essays show from scripture why their authors believe children who die go to heaven.

Charles Spurgeon: Infant Salvation

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin: The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

John Piper: What Happens to Infants Who Die?

Posted in grace, mighty, prophecy, resurrection, risen

He is risen!

The Righteous Reign of the Branch
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:1-2
Posted in grace, love, salvation, wrath

I was not saved by a loving Jesus wooing me

I wasn’t saved by love. The Gospel was not attractive to me. It was not made attractive to me by smiling Christians. I was saved by wrath.

This is NOT my Jesus

Glorious Jesus who was and is and is to come did not woo me to the cross. No one fulfilled my felt needs. No one befriended me and cajoled me into loving Jesus. He battered my head with a 2X4, dragging me kicking and screaming to the cross, where He made me face my sin. Once I saw my sin, I saw His coming wrath for it.

I repented.

THEN I loved Him. After He opened my eyes I saw all His loveliness and grace and mercy and long-suffering and patience and grief over sin and sinners. But I was not wooed, nor was I loved onto Mt Moriah. It is not true that “Jesus won’t come where He isn’t welcome”. It is not true that “Jesus won’t force Himself on anybody.” He is sovereign God! He goes where He pleases! (Psalm 24:1). He drop kicked Saul/Paul to the ground AND blinded him! He didn’t ASK Mary if she’d like to become pregnant and an object of ridicule and rumor the rest of her life. No, He sent an angel to TELL her how it was going to be. (Luke 1:30-37)

He isn’t wringing His hands in heaven hoping that Jane or Tom or Mary will believe in Him, and maybe they will, if he just sends the Spirit to soften the pew cushions … or energizes the preacher with a louder “WOO!” … or if the musician plays one more verse of “Just As I Am.” Maybe if He can make church “exciting” then Harry will repent and believe. No.

It was the sovereign wrath that convicted me and convinced me. It is why I love passages like this.

The Judgment at Christ’s Coming
The Great Day of His Wrath, John Martin ~1853

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

Let us begin the marveling now. Marvel at a Savior who saves by His sovereign election, will, purpose, and plan! Marvel at He who is wrath and judgment and holiness and fierce anger! Be afeared of His anger over your sin. Marvel that El Shaddai… El Elyon …sent His Son to take on all anger for sin. Marvel that He is also Jehovah Rapha, and Jehovah Jireh, the LORD that heals, the LORD will provide. Marvel at the wrath. It makes marveling at the grace all the more sweet.

Posted in encouragement, God, grace

So much grace and good gifts from the Father

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

For the Lord God is a sun and shield,…. Christ is “the sun of righteousness”, and it is in the house of God that he arises upon his people with healing in his wings, Malachi 4:2 he is like the sun, the great light, the fountain of light, the light of the world, that dispels darkness, makes day, and gives light to all the celestial bodies, moon and stars, church and ministers; he is a “sun” to enlighten his people with the light of grace, to warm them with the beams of his love, to cheer and refresh their souls with the light of his countenance, and to make them fruitful and flourishing and he is a “shield” to protect them from all their enemies; he is the shield of faith, or which faith makes use of, against the temptations of Satan; he is the shield of salvation, and his salvation is a shield which shelters from divine justice, and secures from wrath to come:

The graces of our Lord are manifold. He bestows grace upon grace to His children who believe in Him. What joy we have in worshiping and loving our Jesus.

He gives us the sun and our shield, as Charles Spurgeon says,

“A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a shield to ward off its perils.”

His good gifts don’t stop there, He gives favor and honor, too. Grace upon grace. As T. Guthrie says of Psalm 84:11-12,

Mountains have been exhausted of their gold, mines of their diamonds, and the depths of ocean of their pearly gems. The demand has emptied the supply. Over once busy scenes silence and solitude now reign; the caverns ring no longer to the miner’s hammer, nor is the song of the pearl-fisher heard upon the deep. But the riches of grace are inexhaustible.

Turn to sweet Jesus today, pray for Him to comfort you, enliven your weary heart, to strengthen your legs and straighten your arms for the days ahead. Draw His grace around you as a blanket of eternal love from our wonderful God.

Posted in ben franklin, good, grace, morality

Can we be good without God?

It is an age-old question. If you ask someone, “Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?” Most often they will reply, “I think so. I’ve been a good person.”

The question arising after that is “What is good?” Even then, most people will answer with a list of attributes that include do’s and don’ts. They’ll say that they would be qualified for heaven because they don’t steal, they don’t murder, they don’t cheat. They’ll say that they are nice, kind, charitable, loving, and so on.

But let’s back up to a moment even just before the person’s answer about being good. Why is there a universal acknowledgement in the first place that one must be good to get to heaven? Why can’t we just go there after we die? Why is that even in the mix at all?

Because God put in us the desire to be good. Most people acknowledge that we need to be ‘good.’ But where false religions come in is their acknowledgement of their definitions of good, and from whence the qualifying benchmarks come. Christians know that the external source of all Good is God, (Matthew 19:17) and the benchmark for attaining heaven is written in the bible. Yet non-Christians still feel the pull of conscience, conviction of sin, and therefore they intrinsically understand there is a bad, or evil. They express the intuitive understanding that we cannot go to heaven as we are. We must be ‘good.’

For ages, people have tried to go their own way with being good, attaining a morality of their own making that would be pleasing (to whomever, to their own self, to society, or to a made-up false god, etc. Let’s take a case-study of this attitude in a famous American: Benjamin Franklin.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. (Romans 2:15)

Franklin is a good one to study because he was obsessed with self-improvement, he acknowledged a deity, he proclaimed a need for a moral code, and he was a prolific writer.

It should be said at the outset, that Benjamin Franklin was not saved. He was not a Christian. As a matter of fact, from the beginning of his life to the end, though he acknowledged the likelihood of the existence of ‘a deity’, he repudiated the personal need for one.

In fact, Franklin wrote in 1757 of his pity for-

“weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual…”

So we need that though Franklin knew that man needed to be good, he denied needing any help in attaining it. He would do it himself. To wit, exhibit A.

In his autobiography, a young Franklin wrote,

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other.

Pride is at the root of all sins, it is the first sin, it is the universal sin. Here we see the result of Franklin’s unsancitifed mind: he would conquer all his faults and become perfect.

Then he wrote,

But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined.

I’m shocked. Shocked.

While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping, and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.

Franklin was surprised by how often different “faults,” as he put them, popped up in his daily life. What he needed was to be organized. Then he’d be on his way to moral perfection.

What Franklin did was create a little booklet containing lines and columns, like a ledger. He’d mark one spot for his failures for each day of the week and one line for each of his virtues he was trying to perfect. Though there hundreds of virtues a person can display, selected 12 in particular Franklin thought he needed improvement on. He added the 13th, ‘Humility” because a Quaker friend said that Franklin was well-known to be difficult to converse with because of his tendency to dominate the conversation and telling everyone they were wrong. After the Quaker friend gave Franklin some examples, Franklin decided to add the 13th and work on humility.

Though in the list below, the Christian can see the roots of these virtues in certain portions of scripture, Franklin did not ascribe their source to the bible. How or why he self-selected these thirteen and not another thirteen, is also part of man’s delusion that he can become good. One needs perfection in ALL in order to be considered good on the same level that Jesus is Good. Franklin decided that he would ‘fix’ one at a time, turning an opposing vice into the stated virtue. Incredibly, he estimated that it would take one week to fix each one, and that he could conclude his project in 13 weeks.

Franklin’s list of virtues he planned to pursue to perfection,

Temperance
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Silence
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Order
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Resolution
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.

Industry
Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Sincerity.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

Tranquillity
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity
Rarely use venery (sexual intercourse) but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the
 injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Humility
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Did you ever read anything more proud? Anyway, for example, he chose to work on “Cleanliness” but did not include patience. Perhaps he thought he or his floor, could be better scrubbed, but had already achieved moral perfection in displaying patience? Or maybe there as a bit of the old craftiness in his selection, because cleanliness is a quantifiable virtue, an external virtue that others can see, and one that is easier to attain than, say, tranquility (especially when his wife would do most of the cleaning).

In his pride, Franklin surmised that all it would take would be thirteen weeks dedication to the project and then moral perfection would be attained. He did write in the future he planned to write a book on how to attain moral perfection using his method, and all people would be able to benefit from it. To that end, he purposely avoided mention of any one religion saying,

I had purposely avoided them [religious sects]; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable to people in all religions…” [emphasis mine]

It wasn’t long before Franklin understood that the project of attaining moral perfection would take longer than 13 weeks. As a matter of fact, he kept his book, with few intermissions, for 50 years. Of all the virtues, he found humility the hardest to overcome. After a while Franklin simply used less dogmatic and inflammatory language. He’d say, “I perceive” instead of “Undoubtedly,” and “I apprehend” instead of “Certainly.” The most he could do was fake humility. Side note: if all you’re doing is faking humility, doesn’t that also destroy ‘Sincerity’?

At the end of his life, Franklin wryly wrote that despite his best efforts to disguise his pride with cloaking language that he thought would be less dogmatical,

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Preacher Charles Spurgeon said in sermon #2591, “Pride the Destroyer”

This sin of pride is often forgotten and many persons do not even think it is a sin at all. Here is a man who says that he is absolutely perfect. Does he know what the sin of pride really is? What prouder being can there be than one who talks like that? “Oh, but,” he says, “I am humble.” Is there any soul living that is so proud as he is who says he is humble? Is not that the acme and climax of pride?

The older Franklin got, the more he acknowledged that perhaps the Deity was indeed involved in the affairs of men, and perhaps Jesus of Nazareth was a good man delivering the best “system of morals” the world ever saw, but refused to believe in Jesus’ divinity. Sorrowfully, at the end of his life, Franklin wrote,

“I have … some doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.”

Franklin couldn’t be troubled to discover his eternal destiny? It was Franklin’s eternal mistake.

As for our Lord, isn’t a relief we do not have to spend 50 years trying to perfect humility only to fail every time? Isn’t is a wonderful thing that we don’t have to look at an eternity of pride blotting our heart to the detriment of all our relationships? Because we cannot attain moral perfection. We can’t even go a day and not fail to display some grievous display of moral corruption.

Only Jesus is Good, and that (Luke 18:19). This is why only He could be the sacrificial Lamb, slain so He could shed His blood to cover our sins.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8)

We cannot be good without God. But by grace, we have God.

Posted in grace, imputation, resurrection

United with Christ

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)

The theme here is agricultural. We have been united, planted together, grown together, in the various translations. Jesus is the root and trunk. We, the branches, are united in Him.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

In the Romans verse where it speaks of united with Christ, it means ‘to grow together’. Though Christ is the first and the last, and we were grafted in, we are now growing together. I find this mind-staggering.

S. Lewis Johnson preached on this section of Romans, and he said in this sermon,

So he says that we should not “henceforth serve sin.” Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield who was one of the greatest of the theologians of the 20th Century has said with reference to Romans 6 in one of his writings, “He cures our sinning precisely by curing our sinful nature. He makes the tree good that the fruit may be good. He eradicates our sinfulness.”

Romans 6:7 KJV: For he that is dead is freed from sin.  In Charles Spurgeon’s verse expositions of the bible, Spurgeon explained:

The man is dead. The law cannot ask more of a criminal than to yield his life. If, therefore, he should live again after death, he would not be one who could suffer for his past offences. They were committed in another life, and “he that is dead is freed from sin.”

 Jesus Christ is the most magnificent person in the Universe.

Posted in grace, jesus, youth

Grace upon grace

Our church had ‘Homecoming’ today. Answers.com explains the tradition-

Church ‘Homecomings’ are special services usually set on the anniversary date of the founding of the church. Services are normally themed to acknowledge those saints who not only founded the church but over the years have contributed to the well being of the church and the body of believers. The services can also be a great aid in drawing the body of believers closer to God, one another and the church. 

Our pastor preached about the older generation and the next generation, from 2 Chronicles where David was handing the reins over to his son Solomon.

After services, we had a pot luck lunch in the Fellowship hall, and also outside under tents, for the overflow. The buffet line is long and the table is laden with green bean casseroles, pork, fried chicken, and jello salads of all kinds, as well as many plates of deviled eggs. In other words, lots of cuisine representative of the South and it’s all delicious.

I stood in the slow-moving buffet line next to a young man who is a member of our church. He teaches the college and career class and he is of college and career age himself. I like talking with him because he likes talking of Jesus. So do I. He said that he was reading John 1:16,

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

He said he was pondering that. All the examples of grace the Lord has given us. I started pondering that too, while he was saying it. It’s a good thing to ponder. Then he said he read a passage in Mark,

And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. (Mark 13:20)

He said, that’s grace. Jesus did not have to shorten the days. He didn’t have to give that grace, in order that some survive. He would be justified to slay all flesh on earth. Grace upon grace.

David with the head of Goliath. Caravaggio.

I thought about it on the drive home. I thought that definitely was a good example of the John verse. And I thought of another example of Jesus’ grace. Though we bemoan the liberal and often unfocused nature of the youth’s worship, and we know that many of that age are leaving the fold, and we also sadly know that many aren’t saved at all but are only looking for the next high (and it just happens to be Jesus for a moment), in His grace, He does send us the next generation of men. He raises up youths with a hunger for the word, with intent and focus and joy. He graces us with the knowledge that though today’s Christianity is being revealed to be false, the core is strong. The root is there bearing graceful fruit. Jesus is always going to raise up a generation for His holy name.

We know God raised up older men like Noah and Abraham and Moses, but he also raised up youths. He anointed David king as a youth, used Daniel for His name, gave us young Timothy, established young Jeremiah as His prophet. (Jeremiah 1:6-7). He is still raising up young men.

Find them, nurture them, encourage them. They’re there. The gates of hell will not prevail against His church, and so, there is always a strong generation coming up.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16).

Grace.

Source

Posted in Aaron, encouragement, grace, high priest, mercy

Aaron: thoughts and scriptures

I am studying Aaron. The first High Priest. Melchizedek. Jesus the last High Priest. Lots of questions come up in my mind.

Aaron was Moses’ brother, older by three years. Their sister was Miriam who was older than both. It was Aaron who spoke for Moses, (Exodus 4:15-16) and it was Aaron whom God used as the vehicle for several of the miracles before of Pharaoh.

It was Aaron who was the deputy in charge when Moses went up Mount Sinai to speak with God and receive the ten commandments. It was Aaron whose rod budded to signify once for all God had chosen Aaron and his tribe. (Numbers 17:8)

As I study, I wonder, when Moses went up the mountain and was gone so long, why did Aaron cave to the demands of the Israelites and build a Golden Calf? (Exodus 32:1-6). Why was he the one to actually collect the gold earrings and other items? Why was he proactive in inviting them to the feast? Most of all, though 3000 who participated in it were killed, why wasn’t Aaron punished?

And then I was thinking about the Miriam incident. Despite being chosen to support her brother, and revered as a poet and a prophetess for her people, (Exodus 15:20, 21), Miriam got jealous- and so did Aaron. She AND Aaron grumbled, saying,

Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2).

This happened after the Golden Calf incident so I’d have thought Aaron would be chastened for good, not having been killed with the other wrongdoers. But Miriam came to him complaining. Her name is listed first. And though Aaron’s words are not recorded, there is the “we” aspect of it. “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses” (Numbers 12:1).

So I’m thinking, was Aaron the kind of man that a person would feel comfortable complaining to? Why was Aaron so receptive? Yet again, God didn’t punish Aaron but punished Miriam. If the disobedience in the Garden against God was held against Adam because he was the head of the house & knew better, why wasn’t Aaron punished because he was high priest and presumably head of the house over Miriam as her brother? (I think Miriam is unmarried but I could be wrong on that). Yet Aaron escaped punishment, or even rebuke, for a second time.

He didn’t make it into the Promised Land, but God said that was because of Aaron’s and Moses’ sin at Meribah with the waters.

So I’m going, “huh”. Very interesting! My take-aways at this early stage are,

–God will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy
–Don’t grumble against God
–Don’t grumble against God-appointed leaders
–Don’t be the kind of person people feel comfortable approaching to grumble to

Epilogue:

Do you know why God spared Aaron’s life at the Golden Calf incident? Deuteronomy 9:20 has the reason. Moses said,

And the Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

PRAYER. The grace of God was delivered upon a rebellious man, whom a righteous man (Ez 14:14) prayed for. PRAYER! Do not neglect it! God’s grace is incredible. He has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, but the prayers of a righteous man DO avail much. (James 5:16). Pray!

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Further reading

All the men of the bible: Aaron

Miriam: Leading Lady of the Exodus