>Conversion Day

>Today marks the twentieth anniversary of my public profession in the Lord Jesus Christ. To commemorate this event in my life, I like to each year read the full hymn of “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, which Charles Wesley wrote on one of the anniversaries of his conversion. The hymn actually has many more stanzas than we normally sing. Please read the full hymn below. Thanks be to God and the Lord Jesus Christ for such a gift of grace!

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

In Christ your Head, you then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone
And filled it with repose.

Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life
I then began to live.

Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine,
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Savior mine.

I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!

I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I knew
When written on my heart.

Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Æthiop white.

Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.

Murderers and all ye hellish crew
In holy triumph join!
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.

With me, your chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

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>James vs. Paul? The dynamic between Faith and Works

>For those who were not at the service on Sunday, I preached on James 2:14-17. James 2:14-17 states this:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Is James contradicting Paul here? James goes on to say specifically Abraham and Rahab were justified by works in verses 21-26. Paul states in Romans 3:23-27 that we are justified freely by grace and the propitiation of Christ Jesus our Lord (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.“) Many in scholarship today and in the past saw no way to reconcile James and Paul. What about James and Jesus? James was a half-brother of our Lord, but some could say that James and Jesus both teach a justification by works and Paul teaches a justification by faith. Look at Matthew 5:17-20:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

How do we reconcile this? The words justify, righteous, and righteousness all come from the same root Greek word – dikaios. Justify in Greek is simply the verbal form of the word righteous. To justify is to make righteous. So when Jesus says that unless our righteousness / justification exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven and James says that Abraham and Rahab were justified by works and faith without works are dead, how do we reconcile that with Romans 3-6?

First, we need to realize that the way Jesus and James define and use the word justification is different than the way Paul uses it. James uses the term to refer to an expression of the faith that is in you. The justification is an evidence or a proof of saving faith. And thus, what Abraham did in his agreeing to sacrifice Isaac or Rahab in assisting the spies was to evidence the saving faith that they already possessed. Genesis 15:6 records that when Abram believed in the covenant that God made to him, Abraham believed the Lord, and God counted it to Abram as righteousness. The event referenced in James about the almost sacrifice of Isaac did not occur until Genesis 22. Therefore, Abraham was already justified by faith in Genesis 15, 7 chapters before he was “justified by works”. You see how James is using this term differently – as an evidence or a proof. Regarding the Matthew 5 passage in the Sermon on the Mount, my ESV study bible notes (written Michael J. Wilkins) state this (this is not gospel but I agree with him):

“Jesus calls his disciples to a different kind and quality of righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees. They took pride in outward conformity to many extrabiblical regulations but still had impure hearts. But KINGDOM righteousness works from the inside out because it first produces changed hearts and new motivations (see Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 8:10), so that the actual conduct of Jesus’ followers does in fact ‘exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.'”

This is deep stuff – BUT IT IS CRITICAL. The idea of justification by grace through faith because of the propitiatory work of Christ on the Cross (Propitiation is another word for ATONEMENT) is so mind boggling that we many times cannot grasp the concept even after salvation. Last night during class as we were going through Romans, my professor Dr. Steven Carlson mentioned this (in paraphrase):

Works righteousness and the idea that you can earn salvation or favor from God through works is the default religious view of fallen humanity. After the fall, there was within us a desire to still commune with God and to get back to that relationship. The problem is that in our fallen state, we by default assume that it is through “being good” or “good works” that this comes about. Thus, every religion in the world assumes works righteousness leads to salvation except Christianity (and I suppose Hinduism / Buddhism, which simply denies that sin exists, which is why it is so popular today).

Many of us who have lived within an evangelical context read the previous statements and say, “Sure, we get that you are saved by grace through faith and not by works, what else is new?”

But the following is what I think the hidden danger of legalism in the church:

Are you a closet legalist? A closet legalist is one that believes in salvation by grace through faith and not by works but once saved does good works to either reap the blessings of God or stave off the chastisement of God. We may think this is a proper reading of Scripture, but it robs us of the God of Scripture. It makes our God out to be some cosmic ogre demanding repayment of a stifling debt or a divine Santa Claus “making a list and checking it twice to see who’s been naughty or nice!”

NO – WE DO GOOD WORKS, WE ARE CHARITABLE, WE ARE LOVING, WE ARE OBEDIENT BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN, WE ARE A NEW CREATION, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS FOR GOOD WORKS AND OUR GOOD WORKS IS OUR HIGHEST FORM OF WORSHIP THAT WE CAN GIVE TO A GOD WHO SAVES!!!!!! Any other faith, any other work/deed that is not rooted in CHRIST and for his glory is DEAD.

In the Heidelberg Catechism question 86 says this: “Since we are redeemed from our sin and its consequences by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why must we do good works?” In other words, if salvation is by grace, why be good? The answer that the catechism gives is very instructive: “So that with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and that he may be glorified through us.” We offer service to the kingdom of God not to gain his affection but in loving thankfulness for his affection. (Question 86, pulled from Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, p. 314)

It is my prayer that Christian evangelicalism will have a revival during the coming decades that will reclaim the true Gospel teaching of faith-righteousness in Christ Jesus. We truly are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. All this is from GOD WHO THROUGH CHRIST RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF AND GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION (II Cor. 5:17-18).

Amen, Christ Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father from everlasting to everlasting!

>No Other Name – Acts 4:12

>A couple of weeks ago, we at Dresden First Baptist Church had a scripture memory verse, Acts 4:12. Here is the verse with verse 11 to provide a small amount of context:

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ESV.

This is another scripture on conversion that highlights the exclusivity of Christ. Evangelical Christians do not make up the belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation. There are ample passages of scripture that point to this doctrine, this being one (John 14:6 being another). There is no other way under the sun to receive salvation except through the blood of Christ Jesus. This has massive implications – with one I would like to highlight today:

Major Implication: If Christ is the only way, and he is, then Christians must evangelize the world for Christ and be not ashamed of the gospel! There are over 5 Billion lost people in the world today, and this statistic simply blows me away. We must work in our local churches to get connected and mobilized for Great Commission tasks. In other words, our main goal is to be about making disciples.

There is no other name, but the name of Jesus that brings peace and salvation. Let’s bring that name to the nations.

Amen, let it be so.

>God Hates the Sin, but Loves the Sinner?

>In the continued effort to bring the posts from my old blog (moore4christ) over to this blog, below is a post I published in April of this year and was a submission that I made in a collaboration for Old Testament II. The question as posed by the professor is in red and then my response is in black:

The obvious theme of Psalm 2 is Yahweh’s use of “his anointed” (v. 2) to control rebellious nations. However, not all mentioned in this Psalm are pictured as rebellious and thus as objects of divine wrath. The Psalm closes on a positive note: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Clearly, the Psalmist believes that the wicked will experience God’s wrath, not his grace. On the other hand, those who bow before him will experience blessing. In light of the Psalmist’s presentation, evaluate the statement: “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”

I believe that we talked about this somewhat in an earlier collaboration for Old Testament II, but I am glad to see singular treatment using the 2nd Psalm as the context. I think the previous collaboration discussion was on the equality of God’s love – the thought that God loves the entirety of humanity in the same way, equally. There is a sense that in an individualistic and largely democratic society that we live in today, that the thought of equality is certainly a major factor in our idea of freedom. The Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal. This has been the clarion call for all disenfranchised persons in the American tradition and it has also had somewhat of an impact on our view of God’s approach to the sinner and sin. We run to John 3:16 and read, “For God so loved the world…” or I John 2:2, “He is the propitiation of our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”, and then say that God LOVES the world and LOVES the sinner. God LOVES you and me. When HE was on the cross YOU were on his mind (and in our minds, there is no qualification to that thought – no limitation). Therefore, God even LOVES the unregenerate sinner. But I cannot go that far. Ephesians 2:3 states that we are by nature children of wrath – all humanity. By nature, all humanity is subject to the wrath of God. This is a holy stance against the sinner! Yes, there is an effacacious condescendence by God through Christ to the world because of God’s love for the world so that he might save the elect, but God still must stand in holiness against sin and thus the sinner. God hates sin – with wrath and judgment – and the nature of the sinner is SIN. Therefore, God hates the very nature of the sinner. But this is not an EMOTIONAL hatred that we usually attach to the word in human terms. WRATH is not an emotional response from God – it is a response of holiness and according to the sake and glory of HIS NAME. This HATRED is wrought out of the perfection of God’s holiness. The only people that the phrase, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” would apply to is the regenerate believer – not the unbeliever.

>Richard Baxter – How to know that you are Unconverted

>

I have started reading Richard Baxter’s masterpiece, The Christian Directory, and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I am reading it quite slowly trying to digest this mammoth volume. This book is about 800 quarto pages long. It will take a LONG time to read, but it is a gold mine!! Reading this last night, Baxter was discussing in his Christian Ethics on the conversion of the lost. On page 18 of Part I, Baxter describes the marks of the unconverted state. I want to share them with you. If you ever wanted to know if you are in the faith or not, this list is a great start to show you your true spiritual state – whether dead or alive.
Here are the words of Baxter:
Marks of an unconverted state:
1. If you are persecutors, or haters, or deriders of men, for being serious and diligent in the service of God, and fearful of sinning, and because they go not with the multitude to do evil, it is a certain sign that you are in a state of death: yea, if you love not such men, and desire not rather to be such yourselves, than to be the greatest of the ungodly.
2. If you love the world best, and set your affections most on things below, and mind most earthly things; nay, if you seek not first God’s kingdom and the righteousness thereof; and if your hearts be not in heaven, and your affections set on the things that are above; and you prefer not your hopes of life eternal before all the pleasures and prosperity of this world, it is a certain sign that you are but worldly and ugodly men.
3. If your estimation, belief, and hopes, of everlasting life through Christ, be not such, as will prevail with you to deny yourselves, and forsake father, and mother, and the nearest friends; and house, and land, and life, and all that you have, for Christ, and for these hopes of a happiness hereafter, you are no true Christians, nor in a state of saving grace.
4. If you have not been converted, regenerated, and sanctified by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, making you spiritual, and causing you to mind the things of the Spirit above the things of the flesh. If this Spriti be not in you, and you walk not after it, but after the flesh; making provision for the flesh, to satisfy its desires, and preferring the pleasing of the flesh before the pleasing of God, it is certain that you are in a state of death.
5. If you have any known sin which you do not hate, and had not rather leave it than keep it, and do not pray, and strive, and watch against it, as far as you know and observe it; but rather excuse it, plead for it, desire it, and are loth to part with it, so that your will is habitually more for it than against it, it is a sign of an impenitent, unrenewed heart.
6. If you love not the word, as it is a light discovering your sin and duty, but only as it is a general truth, or as it reproveth others: if you love not the most searching preaching, and would not know how bad you are, and come not to the light, that your deeds may be manifest, it is a sign that you are not children of the light, but of the darkness.
7. If the laws of your Creator and Redeemer be not of greatest power and authority with you, and the will and word of God cannot do more with you, than the word or will of any man; and the threatenings and promises of God be not more prevalent with you, than the threats or promises of any men, it is a sign that you take not God for your God, but in heart are atheists and ungodly men.
8. If you have not, in a deliberate covenant or resolution, devoted and given up yourselves to God as your Father and felicity, to Jesus Christ as your only Saviour, and your Lord and King, and to be the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, to be made holy by him, desiring that your heart and life should be perfectly conformed to the will of God, and that you might know him, and love him, and enjoy him more; you are void of godliness and true Christianity; for this is the very covenant which you make in baptism…”
I don’t know about you, but these signs or marks of the unconverted truly convicted me! Oh how I hate sin, but how I so often find myself not resting in the Spirit of God, but instead allowing myself to live as if I am unconverted! May these marks be blazened on my mind and in my heart that I may not sin against God and thus search out the Scriptures for the surpassing love that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord!

>John 3:36

>This week’s Scripture Memory Verse is John 3:36, which reads as follows:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

This verse is similar in tone to John 3:16 with the emphasis on “whoever believes in the Son –> has eternal life”. This phrase gives Christians three very important implications:

1. The word “whoever” as in John 3:16 gives the Christian the call, command, and conviction to spread the gospel. We all are to share the gospel with those we come in contact with. God has ordained Christians to be the means through which the most glorious good news is to be preached, taught, and spread. Sunday School teachers, never forget that you are to call people to repentance and faith everytime you teach from the word of God (this is not just for preachers). Christians, we are to be a confessing Christian to the world. We are not to keep our “Christianness” hidden from worldly view, but we are to confess Christ, and him crucified, before men. Matthew 5:16 states that we are to “let your shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This “light” includes a confessing spirit that can’t help but talk about Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This verse that we are memorizing this week is placed within the context of the Sending of the Son of God. This verse provides the purpose. Christ came to save sinners. Bottom line. That is our purpose as well – to bring the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world – for he is our only hope.

2. The word “has” in this verse gives us the bold assurance that the eternal life that we hope for is not just a future expectation but is already a present experience. This is the “already, not yet” language of Scripture. We are frail in our bodies and are so vulnerable to sin, death, and decay. Our life is but a vapor in the wind. Yet, through Christ, we have eternal life. This is a glorious hope that will not disappoint (see I Corinthians 15). Not only that, but this eternal life is a present reality, for we are no longer perishing, but are justified freely by the grace of God and are now set apart for sanctification – a life long pursuit of the holiness of God that only comes through the cross of salvation. Eternal life for the believer is a future hope that is assured along with a present reality that sustains and preserves the Christian through trial and tribulation. Rest in God’s sustaining grace!

3. “Wrath of God remains on him” – this part of the verse echos the seriousness of John 3:3, which states, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only way to eternal life. Believe in the Son – receive His free offer of salvation – and you have eternal life. Refuse to accept the Lordship, Kingship, absolute rule, and awesome and inconceivable grace of Christ, and you are perishing and the wrath of God remains upon you. The choice is stark and it is clear. Come to Jesus and live. Turn the other way and die.

>Sufficiency of the Atonement

>The following post is a forum contribution that I made in my Systematic Theology III course this semester on the sufficiency of the atonement. Enjoy and comment at your leisure!

From your notes, explain and evaluate James P. Boyce’s statement, “The atoning work of Christ was not sufficient for the salvation of man.” [James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, 367-68.]The Atoning Work of Christ is not sufficient for the Salvation of ManTaken at face value and out of context, this is a startling comment by J.P. Boyce, the founder of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.[1] The atoning work of Christ was effectual in that it, as Boyce puts it, “removed…all the obstacles in the way of God’s pardon of the sinner”. Without the atonement, salvation could not take place. In other words, the atonement was a work of Christ to God so that the righteous judgment of God could be atoned for at the cross instead of on the souls of humanity as a whole. The atonement declares the righteousness of God and the holiness of God. The atonement makes it possible for God to save the elect for the sake of His own glory and righteousness. As Boyce puts it, it is a “Godward” act. The atonement places humanity in a position to where they can now have a relationship with God. The atonement along with the resurrection of Christ is the Gospel’s power.Nonetheless, even if the atonement is essential for salvation, it is not completely sufficient for the salvation of the sinner. Individually and positionally speaking the sinner as a human being is still at enmity with God. If the atonement was all that was sufficient for the salvation of the unbeliever, then the atonement would have resulted in a universal salvation for all of humanity. Maybe this is what liberal theological thought would like to be the case, but it is simply not biblical. The atonement crashes down the barriers, tears the veil in two, grants access to God in a personal relationship, but it does not justify the sinner. The sinner is still a sinner. The sinner needs to hear the gospel, but because of the sinful nature in the unbeliever, that Gospel falls on deaf ears. This is the case, even though, as Boyce points out, the Gospel “has all the elements which should secure its acceptance.” This passage from Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology is focused on the effectual calling of the elect, whereby God gives to those who are to be saved “such influences of the Spirit as will lead to their acceptance of the call.” However, as Dr. Moore mentioned in the lecture on this topic, even the effectual calling itself also does not save anyone. It is by the grace of God, through faith, that one is saved. This faith involves a knowledge of the Gospel truth, an assent that the gospel is the truth, and a trust in the person of Christ for salvation. As George E. Ladd questions, “Is the Kingdom of heaven to be entered merely by taking the name of Jesus upon one’s lips and making a verbal confession?”[2] Ladd answers that question by saying, “In Christ, the Kingdom now confronts us. The life of the Age to Come now stands before us. The One who shall tomorrow be the Judge of all men has already come into history. He faces us with one demand: decision.”[3] The Kingdom of God makes a demand for a decision. Yes, the atonement was necessary for salvation, but it is not sufficient. This decision is to be resolute, urgent, radical, costly, and eternal.[4] The decision points to all the work of God in the salvation experience, including Christ’s atonement over two millennia ago, but it is a crucial ingredient. The salvation experience is a glorious and mysterious working of God in the life of the believer. One must not over emphasize the importance of one particular aspect. Each phase of salvation has its place and its effect. When one experiences this phenomenon, the believer can only say, “Amazing Grace!”

[1] All quotations of James P. Boyce come from Abstract of Systematic Theology, p. 367-68 as referenced in the class lecture outline notes.

[2] George E. Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 96.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, 98-106.