Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison
Who is God?
What is it about God that fuels the application that we have just made? Many of the people we counsel live inside a black hole of self will, misery, and confusion. They need God to break in on their shadow land from which sin has erased the light of the personal and living God. Often without realizing it, people live as partial atheists, working themselves, their own will and opinions. The see God for within the black hole and he appears remote, irrelevant, and distorted.
When people think about God by instinct, not by revelation, they ask many of the wrong questions. Will he meet my felts needs? Will he be co-pilot in my life? Can I get him to make my day, my spouse, my kids, my health, and my finances work out? Is he like a rabbit’s foot? If I do my bit for God, will he do his bit for me? Is God capricious? Is it tough to figure out what he’s up to, or what he wants? Is it possible he might disappoint me? Might he even betray my trust? Is he “the man upstairs” to whom I pay my respects and dues? Is he sour tempered and displeased, a hard-edged taskmaster? Is he my true inner self? My higher power? Is he the theoretical uncaused cause and prime mover? Is God a happy feeling or an intense emotion? Is he an inhabitant of religiously toned activities?
A Testimony from the Bat Cave
Eric Keel from Bat Cave wrote this to me today. Yes, Bat Cave, North Carolina is a real place, with a real zip code of 28710. It is about 20 minutes from Asheville, NC and 2 hours west of Charlotte, NC.
Eric writes: I heard you on The Dividing Line recently and your 5 shows on the doctrines of Grace were life-changing for my wife and myself. I would like to personally thank you for your obedience to speak on these topics and give so much Scripture that I can no longer consider myself an Arminian...lol.
John Samson: Hi Eric, Thank you for your most encouraging words. May I ask what exactly was "life changing" for you and your wife?
Eric writes: I've been saved since I was 12. (30 now) I've always enjoyed teaching God's Word and leading God's people in worship (I'm the worship pastor at Bat Cave Baptist Church in the mountains of NC). I have believed and taught since I began teaching that Jesus died for the WHOLE WORLD and therefore salvation was placed in our hands. All the while I would say that salvation is 100% of God, and yet would continue to teach that He has done everything that He CAN do... now it's up to us.
It's funny, I started working for UPS in November of '13 and have about 5 hours a day that I can listen to sermons/podcasts, etc. So I started listening to the Reformed Pubcast just for the entertainment value but couldn't run from or argue against the theology that was presented. James White was mentioned multiple times in each podcast so I decided to head over to the Dividing Line and started listening to that as well. This was probably around Feb of this year. I went all the way back to November and binge listened....lol. I got to February (I think) where Dr. White was gone to the Ukraine and you filled in for him for 5 sessions. The first (I believe) was on the Law and the Gospel and how witnessing cannot be just what Christ has done for me nor can it be SOLELY, "Here is your Savior." I remember the point very clearly that the Law is needed in conjunction with the Gospel, first to show sin and separation, and then the Gospel and Christ enter the picture to fix the problem presented to us in the Old Testament.
My memory fails me at the moment to the 2nd sermon, but I do remember that sermons 3-5 were on the the Doctrines of Grace. 1-Total Depravity (TD), 2-Unconditional Election, 3-Limited Atonement. I listened to the TD sermon probably 3 times before I took it to my wife and said, "You have to listen to this." In the same way that 'it doesn't matter how bright a flashlight you have, if a man is blind, he can't see it', God had miraculously open my (and my wife's) eyes to His Amazing Grace. I was saved before by His grace, but it's so much more obvious and glorious now just how He did it.
I have to admit that I was quite disappointed that there were still 2 sermons left to go and no way to hear you teach through them. Then, in God's sovereignty and perfect timing, you come back, months later, and continued what you started.
Blame it on the Brain? By Ed Welch
The questions now become a little more difficult. Having briefly reviewed the assumption that we are unity of two substances, and having determined that the church is on solid ground with this doctrine, the next questions is to define, describe, and name our immaterial substance.
A popular name for the immaterial stuff of the person is the spirit, but that is certainly not the only biblical name. Since the Bible has so much to say about our spiritual nature, it provides a rich and diverse vocabulary for it. In the Bible, “spirit” (pneuma) shares its field of meaning with a number of words. Included are terms such as “heart” (kardia), “mind” (dianoia, phrenes, and nous), “soul” (Greek: psuche. Hebrew:nephes), “conscience” (sunedesis), “inner self” (1Peter 3:4), and “inner man” (2 Cor 4:16). Even though these words have different emphases, they can be used almost interchangeably—and I will use them that way. The basic idea behind all these terms is that every human being lives a morally responsible creature before the face of God. We have a pervasive Godward orientation. Everything we do is related to the living God.
The heart in the Scripture is variously used; sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principal of moral operations, as they occur in our doing good or evil… the seat and subject of the law of sin is the heart of man. –John Owen
The Lordship of Christ, the Christian and the Local Church
The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, subject to church discipline, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God's glory and their joy.
August 16, 2014 Apologia Radio Interview:
I joined the fine folks at Apologia Radio to discuss the importance of the local church, being under the authority of elders, as well as the marks of a true church (at this link). - JS
All who were ordained for eternal life believed
Pastor John, what would you say to an Arminian who says for Acts 13:48 that the Greek word "tasso" for "ordained" or "appointed" does not have the meaning that we Calvinists give? By going to Matthew 28:16, Luke 7:8, Romans 13:1, Acts 15:2, Acts 22:10, Acts 28:23 and 1 Corinthians 16:15 where the word "tasso" is translated "devoted", he says, "why not translate the Greek word 'tasso' in Acts 13:48 also as 'devoted'"?
Thanks for your question. Acts 13:48 is very clear in speaking of God ordaining or appointing certain people to eternal life and these are the ones who come to faith. The ESV reads, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." The NIV reads, "all who were appointed for eternal life believed." Clearly, the phrase "as many" or the word "all" indicates that everyone who had this appointment, made the appointment. There are wide ranging theological implications to this statement, all of which greatly trouble Arminians who seek to make the belief of individuals the reason (or ground) for God ordaining people to eternal life. Arminians believe in conditional election (election is based on God foreseeing faith in certain individuals); Calvinists in unconditional (faith is not the product of an unregenerate heart but a Divine gift given to those He chooses to save). Acts 13:48 is very clear though: God ordains specific individuals to eternal life and these are the ones who believe.
I would respond to the Arminian who suggested "devoted" as a better translation of the text by saying firstly that one should ALWAYS be highly suspicious of any translation of a Greek word that flies in the face of all the major Bible translations. That is a very good general 'rule of thumb.' To say that a word has been mis-translated so badly by all the leading scholars who have served translation committees in the process of the Bible translations we have in our hands, defies all credibility.
Secondly, is there even one major translation that uses the word "devoted" in this context? Can the Arminian point to any that does so? I do not know of any. There are good reasons for that.
Note the wording of the major translations regarding the word in Acts 13:48:
NRSV "destined for"
NASB (Update) "appointed"
Thirdly, does the Arminian REALLY wish to be saying that those who believed were more devoted than others? Theologically, that would make faith a meritorious action, and therefore something in which to boast.
For more on the Greek in this passage, I recommend Dr. James White's book "The Potter's Freedom" pages 186-190, where it is discussed in detail.
The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
Part 2 pg. 84-85
Second, the gospel aids our pursuit of holiness by telling us the truth about who we are. Certain sins become more difficult when we understand our new position in Christ. If we are heirs to the whole world, why should we envy? If we are Gods treasured possession, why be jealous? If God is our Father, why be afraid? If we are dead to sin, why live in it? If we’ve been raised with Christ, why continue in our old sinful ways? If we are seated in the heavenly places, why act like the devil of hell? If we are loved with an everlasting love, why are we trying to prove our worth to the world? If Christ is all in all, why am I so preoccupied with myself?
The last paragraph is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones called talking to yourself instead of listening to yourself. It easy to become convinced that we can never change or that God is ready to kick us to the curb after we’ve screwed up in the same way for the millionth time. But don't listen to yourself; preach to yourself. Go back to the gospel. Remember that there is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus. Remember that he Sprit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. Remember that you are a child of God, and if a child then an heir. Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God gives more grace. Draw near to him, recognize who you are in him, and keep on working to cleanse your hands and purify your heats.
Pastor John, is the principle of tithing still in effect today?
I seek to provide what I believe to be a Biblical answer here. - JS
The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
It seems almost every Christian I talk with these days insists that personal holiness will flow form a true grasp of the gospel. That’s right, in so far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough. We need to be more specific. How exactly do good deeds spring from good news?
Let me suggest a couple of ways.
First, the gospel encourages godliness out of a sense of gratitude. This is the thought behind Romans 12:1-2. In view of God’s mercies on display in Romans 1-11 (Justification, adoption, predestination, atonement, reconciliation, preservation, glorifications), our grateful response should be obedience to the imperatives in chapters 12-16. As John Stott remarks, “It is not by accident that in Greek one and the same noun (charis) does duty for both “grace” and “gratitude.”
Of course, we must be careful not to think of gratitude as some kind of debtor’s ethic, as if God showed us mercy and now expects us to make up for it with a lifetime of quid pro quo obedience. We cannot repay God for anything (Romans 11:35). But if we understand all that God has done for us in Christ, we will be happy and eager to please him. I get a lot of things wrong as a husband, but i've managed to get my wife some pretty good gifts. They usually involve some combination of time away form the kids and flying her mom out to save our sanity. When my wife receives a thoughtful gift like this (as opposed to, say, a gym membership), I'm usually sitting pretty for the rest of the day.
That’s not why I give the gift (really, Honey, it’s not), but a season (or more) of joyful gratitude is my kind wife’s natural response. And besides, when we are grateful, we’re not only eager to please God, we’re less likely to get bogged down in ungodliness. The humility and happiness that come with thankfulness tend to crowd out what is coarse, ugly, or mean (Eph 5:4).
The Father's Giving Determines the Peoples' Coming
Dr. James White reviews comments by Cheryl Schatz regarding John 6:37, and her particular way of undercutting John 6′s clear testimony to monergism. The section begins around the 42 minute mark and continues to 1:18:50.
Text: John 6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
Some powerful words from Jerry Bridges:
But what about our conservative, evangelical churches? Has the idea of sin all but disappeared from us also? No, it has not disappeared, but it has, in many instances, been deflected to those outside our circles who commit flagrant sins such as abortion, homosexuality, and murder, or the notorious white –collar crimes of high-level corporate executives. Its easy for us to condemn those obvious sins while virtually ignoring our own sins of gossip, pride, envy bitterness, and lust, or even our lack of those gracious qualities that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
A Pastor invited the men in his church to join him in a prayer meeting. Rather than praying about the spiritual needs of the church as he expected, all of the men without exception prayed about the sins of the culture, primarily about abortion and homosexuality. Finally, the pastor, dismayed over the apparent self righteousness of the men, closed the prayer meeting with the well known prayer of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13)