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Justification

by John Murray

The basic religious question is that of our relation to God. How can man be just with God? How can he be right with the Holy One? In our situation, however, the question is much more aggravated. It is not simply, how can man be just with God, but how can sinful man be just with God? In the last analysis sin is always against God, and the essence of sin is to be against God. The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God then God is against us. It could not be otherwise. God cannot be indifferent to or complacent towards that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God's wrath. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18). This is our situation and it is our relation to God; how can we be right with him? The answer, of course, is that we cannot be right with him; we are all wrong with him. And we all are all wrong with him because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of this fact. Hence the reality of our sin and the reality of the wrath of God upon us for our sin do not come into our reckoning. This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. And this is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the twentieth century. We are not imbued with the profound sense of the reality of God, of his majesty and holiness. And sin, if reckoned with at all, is little more than a misfortune or maladjustment.

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 13:59 -- john_hendryx

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations

by John Calvin

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations. This verse contains nothing more than the explanation of the former verse. The language is metaphorical, and admits of two meanings; either that, by giving an ensign, he will terrify adversaries, so that they will not dare to prevent his people from returning, or that he will give an ensign to the wretched exiles not to hesitate to make preparations for their return. But even at the present day this doctrine is highly useful among us; for as an ensign is lifted up in the army, that the soldiers may assemble, and that every one may follow and may keep his proper place, so a banner is here held out to us, that we may assemble to it, namely, the gospel, which the Lord has lifted up among the Gentiles, by which Christ is preached to us.

And will gather together the dispersions of Judah. Hence we ought to conclude, that we cannot be gathered by the Lord unless we assemble to this ensign, and be joined to him by faith; for there is no other way in which he acknowledges us to be his sheep, than when, after having been scattered, we are gathered together, and meet in the same assembly under this ensign; as he says,

My sheep hear my voice and follow me. (John 10:27.)

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 13:31 -- john_hendryx

'Tis the Season: Advent Sermons by Sinclair Ferguson

Guest Post by Nick Batzig

Sinclair Ferguson has recently released his second advent themed book, Love Came Down. Together with his previously published Child in the Manger, this has quickly become one of my favorite sources for advent meditations. That is not at all surprising, as I have found Sinclair's advent sermons to be among the most thought provoking and spiritually enriching. There are gold nuggets in all of them. For instance, in one of his sermons on the virgin birth, Sinclair explained, 

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 16:55 -- john_hendryx

The Effectual Operation of the Blessed Spirit in the Regeneration or Conversion of Sinners

Excerpt from The Holy Spirit

by John Owen

“To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.”
- John Owen

All men can be divided into two groups. They are either regenerate or unregenerate. All men are born unregenerate (John 3:3-8).

...Spiritual darkness is in all men and lies on all men until God, by an almighty work of the Spirit, shines into men’s hearts, or creates light in them (Matt 4:16; John 1:5; Act 26:18; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9). ...The nature of this spiritual darkness must be understood. When men have no light to see by, then they are in darkness (Exod. 10:23). Blind men are in darkness, either by birth or by illness or accident (Psa. 69:23; Gen 19:11; Acts 13:11). A spiritually blind man is in spiritual darkness and is ignorant of spiritual things. 

There is an outward darkness on men and an inward darkness in men. 

Outward darkness is when men do not have that light by which they are enabled to see. So outward spiritual darkness is upon men when there is nothing to enlighten them about God and spiritual things (Matt 4:16; Psa 119:105; Psa. 19:1-4,8; 2 Pet 1:19; Rom 10:15, 18). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to remove this darkness by sending the light of the gospel (Acts 13:2, 4; 16:6-10; Psa. 147:19,20). 

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 11:29 -- john_hendryx

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: A Response to the Influence of Bart Ehrman

A Guest Post by Peter Kozushko

Since 2005, Bart Ehrman, a distinguished critical New Testament scholar, has authored four New York Times best sellers challenging the historical accuracy of the Bible. That is a significant readership for a Biblical scholar. Ehrman has succeeded in popularizing the efforts of The Jesus Seminar which sought to undermine confidence in the Gospels a decade before. Ehrman may have also won a significant number of converts. A 2016 report by the American Bible Society revealed that the percentage of American Bible skeptics rose over the previous six years from 12 percent to 22 percent. Whether a correlation exist between Ehrman’s popularity and this sudden increase in Bible skepticism in America, Ehrman has certainly had an impact. It is common place in our day to hear skeptics credit Ehrman for their personal doubts and questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible. In recent years this has been my experience conversing with skeptics and my latest doctoral work on the historical reliability of the Gospels has introduced me to many more. How should Bible believing Christians respond to Ehrman’s influence?

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 07:52 -- john_hendryx

Distinction between the visible and invisible church

Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was referred to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.

On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Spirit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus will then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements.

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:29 -- john_hendryx

What does it mean to "fall away"?

The visible church of Christ is mixed; having both wheat and tares. It is the characteristic of God's people to persevere to the end because God preserves them (John 6:38-40, John 10:28-29, Romans 8:28-39). Those who fall away demonstrate that they had spurious faith. (See 1 John 2:19) The Holy Spirit quickens His people and since His seed abides in them He keeps them from falling away because they have been born again (1 John 3:19). He also preserves His own by disciplining us when we fail to judge ourselves, so that we won't be condemned along with the world (1 Cor 11:31-32). God also uses his word as a means of preserving us by calling us to persevere and giving us warnings of what will occur if we don't.

The warnings in scripture given in the context of the visible church are directed at both the regenerate and unregenerate, both wheat and tares, both sheep and goats. These kind of warnings serve two purposes:

1) The elect (sheep) hear his voice in the word and take heed.

2) The non-elect (goats) do not hear his voice and fall away.

In other words, the warnings serve as a means of grace (or hardening). - when the elect hear warnings in scripture it causes them to persevere. When the non-elect hear it, their heart hardens over time and they fall away completely, revealing that they have been trusting in something other than Christ alone for salvation.

"He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever." - Psalm 37:28

-----

Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the Saints

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 10:16 -- john_hendryx

Jesus Christ, the Savior from Sin

John Calvin once said, "...this is everlasting life: to wit, to know God the Father, and to receive Christ as our only Savior."
 
Here John Calvin partially quotes John 17:3 and then tacks on the the suffix about receiving Christ as the only Savior. As you probably know, the fact that Jesus Christ is the Savior of sinners is emphasized heavily throughout the New Testament. That He comes into the world with the name or title of "Savior" ought to be a constant reminder to us that we cannot save ourselves.
 
"Isn't that obvious John", you may be thinking. Don't worry I am going somewhere with this.
Fri, 11/16/2018 - 19:41 -- john_hendryx

The Severity of God

The Gospel can never be preached without consequence of ultimatum! And the presentation of the Wrath of God is not optional but mandatory, not suggested but required. But know this that the Wrath of God is never intended to scare sinners into salvation (for fear is never a proper motive for salvation), but is always there to condemn those who will never come unto salvation.

For God has so prepared His message for both groups of hearers, seeing that the preaching is done before a mix of those that are to come and those who are to turn away. And it would appear that the Gospel preached in its entirety must have both ingredients within to be the one and only true Gospel.

Therefore it makes no difference whatsoever how well one presented the truth of God's Mercy, for if he did not present alongside of it God's Wrath, the Gospel complete was not preached.

What are the effects of only preaching a message where the Mercy of God is lone presented? The effects are tremendous, in that what we fail to see is something revealing about the Wrath of God. For where God's Mercy is presented as the only part of salvation, it is here where we will find both believer and unbeliever alike coming forth to receive what only the one could ever receive. And it's the Wrath of God that reveals in truth the true believer. Because it's something that's tied to the unbeliever that this Wrath of God brings out from within.

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 13:23 -- john_hendryx

For Unto Us a Child is Born - Isaiah 9: 1-7

I have been reading from Calvin's Commentariy on Isaiah and I had to included this portion because it is so sublime.  I would encourage you to open you Bible to read the first seven verses of Isaiah 9 and may the Lord use this expostion to richly bless you..

by John Calvin

1. Yet the darkness shall not be. He begins to comfort the wretched by the hope of alleviation, that they may not be swallowed up by the huge mass of distresses. Many take these words in quite an opposite meaning, that is, as a threatening which denounces against the Jews a heavier affliction than that with which Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29) and Shalmanezer (2 Kings 17:6) afflicted them. The former inflicted a heavy calamity, the latter inflicted one still heavier, for he carried the twelve tribes into captivity, and blotted out the name of the nation. Some think that he now foretells the heaviest calamity of all, for if it be compared with the former two, it exceeds both of them. Though I am not prepared to reject this view, for it does not want plausibility, yet I rather favor a different opinion. The other interpretation is indeed more plausible, that the Prophet intended to deprive hypocrites of every enjoyment, that they might not imagine that this calamity would quickly pass away like a storm as the others had done, for it would be utterly destructive; and so we shall take the particle ky (ki) in its literal meaning. [138]

Sat, 11/10/2018 - 23:00 -- john_hendryx

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