Desire God’s Approval

“Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'” Job 1:8; 2:3 NKJV

God said there was none like Job in all the earth because of his godliness. The world does not esteem what God esteems. The world passes away with its lusts, but he who does the will of God abides forever. Better to receive the approval of the Creator than that of the creature.


From Woe and Suffering to Joy and Gladness: An Overview of Romans 6-8

I preached this message Sunday, May 15, 2016 at Orwell Bible Church. You can download a copy here.

How does one go from hearing the just declaration of God’s universal wrath (1:18) to exulting in God’s gracious love (8:38-39)? Paul established that every man without distinction is condemned in sin and under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-3:20), and that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone (3:21-5:21).

1. The Christian’s Responsibility with Regard to Sin, 6

→Each section teaches a fact with corresponding command

1) Christians are dead to sin and alive to Christ, and so must live that way, 6:1-14.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches believers’ every sin is covered by grace, this promotes the idea that they will sin with gusto so there’s more grace!”
• FACT: Believers are united with Christ so that sin’s power is broken and they will live for righteousness, 6:1-10.
• COMMAND: Therefore, Christians must live out this truth! Don’t be controlled by sin, serve God and righteousness, 6:11-14.

2) Christians are freed from sin and enslaved to Christ, and so must serve righteousness, 6:15-23.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches that believers aren’t under the Law (v. 14) this promotes the idea that they can sin all they want.”
• FACT: Being in Christ doesn’t give believers the freedom to sin, it frees them from sin and enslaves them to righteousness! 6:15-18
• COMMAND: Believers must zealously serve the Lord, their new master, 6:19-23

→The Christian’s responsibility with regard to sin is to stop sinning and serve the Lord.

2. The Christian’s Relationship to the Law, 7

→This section is about the Mosaic Law. Paul said that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (6:14). How is this? What does that mean? Does this mean the Law is sinful?

1) One must die to the Law to be joined to Christ to bear fruit for God, 7:1-6.

• This is illustrated by marriage: A woman who’s married can’t marry another man unless her husband dies, 7:1-3.
• One must die to the law to be joined to Christ, 7:4-6.
• Unbelievers’ life in the Law bears the fruit of death; believers’ life in the Spirit bears fruit for God.

2) Though the Law declares God’s holiness, justice, and goodness, it is the unwitting tool of sin, 7:7-12.

• The Law declares what is right and therefore identifies and condemns transgression.
• Sinners must be delivered from the Law, not because it is evil, but because it can’t justify or sanctify them.
• The only thing the Law can do for sinners is point out their sin and condemn

3) The Law is not to blame for sin, sinners are to blame for sin, 7:13-25.

• The struggle and failure to do good isn’t the fault of the Law but the sin nature. The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.
• Sinners who depend on the Law for deliverance will always be frustrated and fail.
• Whoever relies on himself is without hope; whoever relies on Christ has victory.→

→ Despite the Law’s perfections it is powerless to justify and sanctify sinners. It always successfully discovers and prosecutes sin. The more one sins, the more the Law “works.” The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.

→ Jesus, however, died on the cross for your sin, fully satisfying the Law’s judgment against it. The Law’s righteous demands have been fully satisfied by Jesus, not you. Because you died with Christ and rose with him and your sin has been forgiven, you are “dead” to the Law—it has no power or jurisdiction over you, you are free from the Law (Acts 13:39; Rom 7:3; 8:2; cf. also “under the Law,” Rom 2:12; 3:19; 6:14; Gal 3:10; 3:23; 4:21; 5:18).

→ The Christian’s relationship to the Law is therefore “dead” because his sin is forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is imputed. He is not justified or sanctified by the Law but by Christ.

3. The Christian’s Rest in Jesus Christ, 8

→ Every transgression the Law identified and condemned is “paid in full” by Jesus Christ, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

1) Through the Spirit believers enjoy justification, 8:1-11

• Believers in Christ through the Spirit are freed from the Law’s condemnation of sin, being justified on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, 8:1-4
• Unbelievers cannot please God because the sin nature controls them and they are enemies of God, 8:5-8.
• Through the Spirit Christians are alive in Christ because of His righteousness, 8:9-11

2) Believers must participate in the Spirit’s sanctifying work, as He confirms they are God’s children, 8:12-17

3) The Spirit guarantees believers’ glorification in fulfillment of God’s gracious purpose, 8:18-30

• No matter what trouble believers experience now, through the Spirit their hope/yearning expectation is not for this world/life/now, but for eternity, 8:28-27
• Believers’ confidence in eternal glory despite present troubles lies with God’s sovereign, gracious purpose to save them, 8:28-30

4) Believers have absolute confidence in God through Jesus Christ, 8:31-39

• No charge can be made to “stick” against believers, 8:31-34
• Nothing can separate believers from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, 8:35-39

Ezekiel 9

In Ezekiel 9 the prophet saw a vision where Jerusalem was slaughtered because of their great wickedness.

God commissioned an angel to mark any in Jerusalem who had remorse and regret over the sins taking place in the city (vv. 4-6). Those bearing this mark would be delivered from judgment. Only one man, Ezekiel, was spared; all the rest were slaughtered (vv. 7-9).

In response to Ezekiel’s mourning over this great destruction, the Lord showed him how the people were totally given over to sin and fully committed to it (v. 9).

As I meditated on this chapter, I considered my response to sin–not only my sin, but others’ sin. Do I “sigh and groan”? Am I saddened by it? Do I mourn? Or am I indifferent or worse yet, laugh at and with it, essentially approving it?

One of sin’s great dangers and effects is how it hardens and callouses the heart. Sins once avoided are embraced and championed. God is nowhere in people’s thoughts (cf. Pss 10:4, 11, 13; 94:7 [note this entire psalm]).

How could this happen in your life?

One area where I applied this is in what I entertain and amuse myself with (for example, various media such as books, radio, internet, videos, etc.). I must ask myself, “will this callous my heart toward sin by being entertained by it, or will this encourage me to have a greater consciousness of God?”

What–who–is controlling my life, my sin nature or the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16-24)? Am I growing more like Christ and less like the world through the Spirit’s help and personal discipline?

There is but a step from Lent to Carnival

J. C. Ryle’s remarks on John 18:28–

It is no uncommon thing to find people excessively particular about the observance of trifling forms and outward ceremonies, while they are the slaves of degrading sins and detestable immoralities. Robbers and murderers in some countries are extremely strict about confession, and absolution, and prayers to saints. Fastings and self-imposed austerities in Lent, are often followed by excess of worldliness when Lent is over. There is but a step from Lent to Carnival. The attendants at daily services in the morning are not unfrequently the patrons of balls and theaters at night. All these are symptoms of spiritual disease, and a heart secretly dissatisfied…

A religion that makes a man neglect the weighter matters of daily holiness and separation from the world, and concentrate his whole attention on forms, sacraments, ceremonies, and public services, is to say the least, very suspicious.

The Praise of Others

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2

It is easier for me to be proud than humble, and my pride is stroked by other’s praise. I have the tendency, when praised by others, to “share” that. “So and so said this about me! Look at what this person said about me!” I can even put a pious spin on it: “Praise the Lord for what he said about me!”

This is especially easy with social media of which, ironically, I post and share these thoughts!

While reading and meditating on Ruth 2 today, Matthew Henry provided a helpful reminder and instruction from Ruth’s example–

Ruth told her mother what kindness Boaz had shown her, that she might take some occasion or another to acknowledge it and return him thanks; but she did not tell her how Boaz had commended her. Humility teaches us, not only not to praise ourselves, but not to be forward to publish others’ praises of us.

May the Lord help me to walk humbly before Him, praising Him for His provisions and magnifying Him, not myself. If I boast, may my boast be of the Lord (2 Cor 10:17).

Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 127:3-5

I don’t like the way Spurgeon often spiritualizes the OT (probably the result of his reading the OT in light of the NT). However, I’ve never read anything unorthodox from him; I just don’t care for his exegetical method all the time. That said, Spurgeon says some great thing about this passage in  his Treasury of David–

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward”

[God] gives children, not as a penalty nor as a burden, but as a favor. They are a token for good if men know how to receive them, and educate them. They are ‘doubtful blessings’ only because we are doubtful persons. Where society is rightly ordered children are regarded, not as an incumbrance, but as an inheritance; and they are received, not with regret, but as a reward.

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

To this end we must have our children in hand while they are yet children, or they are never likely to be so when they are grown up; and we must try to point them and straighten them, so as to make arrows of them in their youth, lest they should prove crooked and unserviceable in after life. Let the Lord favor us with loyal, obedient, affectionate offspring, and we shall find in them our best helpers. We shall see them shot forth into life to our comfort and delight, if we take care from the very beginning that they are directed to the right point.

When sons and daughters are arrows, it is well to have a quiver full of them; but if they are only sticks, knotty and useless, the fewer of them the better.

Moreover, a quiver may be small and yet full; and then the blessing is obtained. In any case we may be sure that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of children that he possesseth.

“How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate”

Those who have many gracious children are upon the whole the happiest. Of course a large number of children means a large number of trials; but when these are met by faith in the Lord it also means a mass of love, and a multitude of joys.

The Truthfulness of Christianity

“Christianity, if it be not the true religion, is certainly the greatest cheat that ever was put upon the world; and, if so, it must be of the devil, who is the father of all lies: but it is certain that the doctrine of Christ is no doctrine of devils, for it is levelled directly against the devil’s kingdom, and Satan is too subtle to be divided against himself.”

–Matthew Henry, 5:1035 on John 10:19-21

Defend the Faith Biblical Challenge

I received an email today from one of many news services about religious items. Wow, talk about invective!

The low-down: An author asks folks to supply evidence that he has used the Bible incorrectly in his latest book, The Case Against Evangelical Christianity, specifically these points:

The book makes several controversial claims: among them I argue the Virgin Birth story is a fictional account, and that there is little credible evidence within the New Testament to support the physical resurrection of Jesus. With respect to the Rapture, I conclude belief in it reflects profound biblical illiteracy. Finally, I present important biblical evidence to shed doubt on the idea that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

He offers anyone $100 if they can demonstrate that he has improperly used the Bible “as supporting evidence.” Perhaps that’s where the rub lies–the Bible isn’t viewed as the only source, just supporting evidence.

The author has some “rules” that you have to abide by to successfully mount a challenge, the most interesting of which is the first:

I will only pay for scriptural evidence I use incorrectly. I will not pay for evidence that supports another viewpoint.

So you’ve got to change his mind about what he thinks about the Bible. Given the blinding effects of sin and Satan upon the unbelieving mind, the only One who will successfully accomplish that is the Holy Spirit. And I doubt he’ll pony up the $100 then.

Matt 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.'”

Matt 28:6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Deut 5:4-5 “The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I [Moses] was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord”

A Good Reminder About Government

The context of this quote is a discussion about Israel’s desire for a king…

It is easy to forget that “we the people” in the long run must always pay for whatever the government does for us. Only fools suppose that by committing a matter to the government, they can get it done for nothing. Still worse, human government not only makes the people pay for everything done for them, but it always makes them pay more than it should cost. For only a part of the wealth taken by the government ever comes back to the people in services.

–Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 108.

God’s Transforming Grace

Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison (Acts 8:3)

…serving the Lord with all humility and tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21)

What a great illustration of God’s grace in transforming Paul’s heart and actions, from going house to house as a persecutor of Christ to going house to house as a proclaimer of Christ!