Sunday, June 29, 2008

The greatest thing about heaven

I have been thinking much on hell lately because of the recent Resolved conference. But it’s not only the Resolved conference that has sparked my thinking on the all too true reality of hell. I have been thinking on hell and God’s judgment much in recent months because of a startling realization of the lack of teaching on hell and God’s judgment that has swept across churches around the globe. I am almost done with two books and then I’m eager to get to my next book (which I literally am excited [can I use that word with this kind of topic] about reading the book by Jonathan Edwards, The Torments of Hell: Jonathan Edwards on Eternal Damnation). I pray that this will spark many conversations on my bus rides to and from seminary.

At any rate, this morning after singing our last song in our worship service I prayed a prayer that focused on another place where people will spend eternity, namely, heaven. We finished our music set by singing Shout to the Lord. The last line of the chorus is: “nothing compares with the promise I have in you.” We repeated that last line a few times and then I closed with prayer. As I prayed I found myself saying this:

The greatest thing about heaven will not be the fact that we are absent from this sinful, pain-stricken, prone-to-do-evil body, as glorious as that will be. Nor will the greatest thing about heaven be the reality of serving God night and day in a perfect new city for all eternity, as glorious as that will be. Yes, it is encouraging that I will see Elizabeth and others whom I love in heaven and be able to worship the Lamb with them, but that’s still not the greatest thing about heaven. In fact, these things will all pale in comparison with the greatest thing in heaven. The greatest thing in heaven will be the reality that we will be eternally and perfectly happy because we will be with our Savior.

I would venture to say that this must be (yes I use that word “must” deliberately) the true passion of every genuine believer. I dare say that many want to go to heaven to be delivered from the toils and pains of this life; to see parents or a spouse who is already there; to have a nice “mansion,” or to be delivered from some kind of malady – though these will become reality for true born-again believers, yet for the person who wants to go to heaven and who has the unhindered, unrivaled, and awesome presence of Jesus as the backburner of the joyful bliss that they expect to partake of, I fear that they will never enter into heaven. Not because the want or desire isn’t there; it is. Not because they didn’t prophecy (or preach) in God’s name; they did. But there are many religious people who do religious things (in the name of God) who will be fiercefully cast into eternal hell. It’s not enough to want heaven. It’s not enough to want eternal happiness, bliss, and joy. But what Jesus Christ did on the cross almost 2,000 years ago is enough. The person who repents of his sin, recognizes his violation of the perfect holiness of God thereby incurring the anger, wrath, and fury of the Almighty, and he who believes in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross followed by a lifelong commitment to love, serve, honor, and magnify the Savior will be saved. This is the person who lives life to savor the Savior. He lives life with a heavenward focus. This is the man who lives to bring honor to Jesus Christ longing for that day when he will be in the presence of the Savior for all eternity.

With that said, what is the greatest thing about heaven to you? Will you be there?
Here is why the Scripture ascribes justification to faith alone:
Namely, because in faith it is more manifested that man is justified not by his
own virtue, but by the merit of Christ. For as in beholding the serpent God
placed healing in the desert, because the looking indicated more than the men
were healed by the virtue of the serpent, not of any personal work or medicine;
so faith shows that sinners are justified by the virtue and merit of Christ, in
whom believing they are saved, not by any virtue and merit of their own. And it
is the reason why justification is ascribed to faith especially by Paul, who
strives to exclude from justification the works of the law, and human merit or
efficacy, and to place it in the virtue and merit of Christ alone. Therefore he
makes mention of faith in Christ. This neither repentance, nor love, nor hope
have, for faith is carried more immediately and distinctly to it, by whose
virtue we are justified.

--Toletus in Turretin, Francis. Justification. Ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. Trans. George Musgrave Giger. Phillipsburg, N. J.: P & R Publishing, 1994.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sobering (and accurate) thoughts from one of my mentors and heroes in ministry...

As long as there is a strong emphasis on church membership rather than on Christian witness and sacrifice…
As long as the book of Acts is ignored in favor of books on church growth and mission strategy…
As long as worship is something we attend rather than something we do…
As long as the focus is on “missionaries” rather than on the whole people of God…
As long as the gathered church refuses to be the scattered church…
As long as Christians believe that church is a place of solace rather than a place of work…
As long as planning and decision-making is entrusted solely to the leadership…
As long as interest in humanity and the world is replaced by self-interest…
As long as we identify “minister” with clergy status…
As long as the pastor remains “the answer man”…
As long as we refuse to acknowledge that the Old Testament distinction between priest and people has come to an end…
As long as we love our churches and our organizations more than we love Jesus…
As long as we go to church in the mood of a spectator and not a participant…

...the church will never be a freed and freeing Body, equipping all believers to be agents of the kingdom of God.

From David Alan Black's article, "As Long As."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the Daily Spurgeon archive:
Any theology which offers the pardon of sin without a punishment, ignores
the major part of the character of God. God is love, but God is also just — as
severely just as if he had no love, and yet as intensely loving as if he had no
justice. To gain a just view of the character of God you must perceive all his
attributes as infinitely developed; justice must have its infinity acknowledged
as much as mercy. Sin must be punished. This is the voice which thunders from
the midst of the smoke and the fire of Sinai — “The soul that sinneth it shall
die;” “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written
in the book of the law to do them.” “Sin must be punished” is written on the
base of the eternal throne in letters of fire; and, as the damned in hell behold
it, their hopes are burned to ashes. Sin must be punished, or God must cease to
be.The testimony of the Gospel is not that the punishment has been mitigated or
foregone, or that justice has had a sop given it to close its mouth. The
consolation is far more sure and effectual; say ye unto the daughter of Zion
that “the punishment of her iniquity is accomplished.” Christ hath for his
people borne all the punishment which they deserved; and now every soul for whom
Christ died may read with exultation — “The punishment of thine iniquity is
accomplished.” God is satisfied, and asks no more. Sin deserved God’s wrath;
that wrath has spent itself on Christ. The black and gathering clouds had all
been summoned to the tempest, and manhood stood beneath the dark canopy waiting
till the clouds of vengeance should empty out their floods. “Stand thou aside!”
said Jesus — “Stand thou aside, my spouse, my Church, and I will suffer in thy

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, it's true folks, CJ Mahaney is not onlya great preacher, but he's also a very talented drummer ...

Sit back with your coffee and enjoy Romans 8 this morning...

HT: Warnock
I decided to blog on a simple topic this morning (haha). Listen to a nice quote from A.W. Tozer:
The matter of man's free will versus God's sovereignty can be explained in
this way: God's sovereignty means that He is in control of everything,
that He planned everything from the beginning. Man's free will means that he
can, anytime he wants, make most any choice he pleases (within his human
limitations, of course). Man's free will can apparently defy the purposes of God
and will against the will of God. But how do we resolve this seeming
God's sovereignty means absolute freedom, doesn't it? God is absolutely
free to do anything He wants or wills to do -- anywhere, anytime, forever. And
man's free will means that man can make any choice he wants to make, even if he
makes a choice against the will of God.
But here is what we see in Scripture: God Almighty is absolutely sovereign,
free to do as He pleases (Psa 115:3). Among the things He is pleased to do is
give me freedom to do what I please. And when I do what I please, I am
fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has
sovereignly given me freedom to make a "free" choice.
Even if the choice I make is NOT the one God would have made for me, His
sovereignty is fulfilled in my making the choice.
The sovereign God has put the decision in your lap and said, "This is
yours; you must make that choice." And when I make a choice, I'm fulfilling His
sovereignty, in that He sovereignly wills that I should be free to make a
choice. If I choose to go to hell, it's not what His love would have chosen, but
it does not controvert nor cancel out His sovereignty.
Yes, I believe in the sovereignty of God and in the freedom of man. So,
anytime I make a choice, I'm fulfilling the freedom God gave me and therefore
I'm fulfilling God's sovereignty and carrying it out.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Did Christ's death accomplish the actuality of salvation or the potentiality of salvation. I argue for the former, as does my friend, Mr. Spurgeon...

We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say
that Christ hasnot made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved.
Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it; we
do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by
it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say,
"No, certainly not." We ask them the next question - Did Christ die so as to
secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, "No." They
are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, "No, Christ has
died that any man may be saved if" -- and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of
Christ? Why you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the
salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death;
we say, "No, my dear sir, it is you that do it." We say that Christ so died that
he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can
number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved
and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but
saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never
renounce ours for the sake of it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The foundation on which the salvation of every believer rests: God's free and gracious choice of us.

Calvin writes:
God having chosen us before the world had its course, we must attribute the
cause of our salvation to His free goodness; we must confess that He did not
take us to be His children, for any deserts of our own; for we had nothing to
recommend ourselves into His favor. Therefore, we must put the cause and
fountain of our salvation in Him only, and ground ourselves upon it.

Election must also promote humility, not pride in the heart of the believer. Listen to AW Pink along these lines:
The truth of God's sovereignty ... removes every ground for human boasting and
instills the spirit of humility in its stead. It declares that salvation is of
the Lord - of the Lord in its origination, in its operation, and in its
consummation ... It tells us we are "born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of
the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1:13). And all this is most humbling to the heart
of man, who wants to contribute something to the price of his redemption and do
that which will afford ground for boasting and self-satisfaction.

Finally, our good friend, Mr. Spurgeon, will help us understand more about this glorious doctrine:
When you yourself are low, it is well to sing of the Fountainhead of mercy; of
that blessed decree that ordained you to eternal life ... I tell you, believer, if you can go back to the years of eternity; if you can in your mind run back to that period
before the everlasting hills were fashioned, or the fountains of the great deep
were scooped out; and if you can see your God inscribing your name in His
eternal book - if you can see in His loving heart eternal thoughts of love to
you, you will find this a charming means of giving you songs in the night. No
songs [compare with] those which come from electing love ... In our darker hours
it is our joy to sing: "Sons we are through God's election, who in Jesus Christ
believe; By eternal destination, sovereign grace we now receive."

And one concluding quote:
"God has so arranged salvation as to bring us the
highest possible blessing and Himself the highest
possible praise, both of which result only through the glory of His

Bibliography: Phillips, Richard D. Chosen in Christ: The Glory of Grace in Ephesians 1. Phillipsburg, NJ: P& R, 2004.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here is a clip by John Piper on the horrific nature of the prosperity gospel -- which is so prevalent in today's pulpits -- both in America and abroad. Listen to Piper's words...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm currently going through the book of Revelation at church on Tuesday nights and am really -- I mean, really -- enjoying my time there! I was just talking yesterday to someone about how Christians (including me before this study) have this idea that Revelation is the last book of the Bible and it's about prophecy, future-events, and such and, consequently, because there are so many differing interpretations that it must be totally incomprehensible for the unscholarly (like myself), so why study it?

Yet during our study of this book, I have come to the exact opposite conclusion. I am convinced that it is a book that must be not only read, but studied, by believers. Yes there are hard points to understand, but the whole point of the book is that Jesus wins!
At any rate, I'm teaching on Revelation 11 tonight and part of the chapter is on the two witnessess that God will choose to bear His witness during this horrific period of the last three and a half years (yes, I know that's debated, but that's what I think) of the Tribulation period.

Revelation 11:3-5 3 "And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed.

But the amazing thing that I've realized is how many commentators who take the book of Revelation in its plain, normal, futuristic sense until they get to these two witnesses and then they propose this is referring to the whole church age, or to Christians during the Tribulation period. I just can't find that in the context. Maybe I'm missing something, but to me numbers are numbers. They are there for a reason. I think the point here is that God will sovereignly call two individuals (whoever they are -- Moses and Elijah or Elijah and Enoch, I think we have NO way of being certain) to be His stalwart witnesses during this time of destruction upon the earth during the future Tribulation.

I think my argument that these two witnesses being two literal humans (and not figurative for a large body of people regardless of the era) is because of verse 8:

Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

These are clearly those who are redeemed, saved, and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, it could be referring to "believers at large," but why specifically note two witnesses earlier in the text?

So, that's my morning thought. I must go to my Hebrew class but I wanted to write and say that I believe the two witnesses are two believers who will be divinely empowered to do God's bidding on the earth during the horrific times of the Tribulation. I'll tell ya -- I'm glad I won't be here for the Tribulation, but if there would ever be something cool to see on earth, it'd be these two guys during this future time period!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not too shabby eh?
How sweet it is to spend time with other believers. I just got back to my office here at church refreshed and rejuvenated for more ministry. Sometimes the Lord uses just an hour of good fellowship to give us some of the encouragement and drive that we need to press on.

One of the highlights of my day thus far has been spending time this afternoon with one of our elders. We went to Jamba Juice (of course!) and had some wonderful fruit smoothies and chatted about Israel, Mark 4 and Jesus' parable on the sower, our upcoming study in 1 Samuel, and on the need for preachers today to preach on eternal judgment.

I was greatly encouraged in these last few hours of fellowship with my dear friend. I praise God for fellowship, encouragement, and brothers who can spur me on toward Christlikeness. Indeed I'm reminded of
Hebrews 10:23-24 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. I must be going, one of the youth just came to my office ...

Psalm 133:1-3 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron's beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing-- life forever.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This is not only for preachers, but it served as a needed reminder for me...
“First, strive for practical, earnest, glad-hearted holiness in every area
of your life. One of the reasons is that you can’t be something in the pulpit
that you aren’t during the week - at least not for long. You can’t be blood
earnest in the pulpit and habitually flippant at the deacon’s meeting and the
church dinner. Nor can you display the glory of God in the gladness of your
preaching if you are surly and dismal and unfriendly during the week. Don’t
strive to be a kind of preacher. Strive to be a kind of person!”
HT: Colin Adams/Unashamed Workman
One thing I learned in Israel was how God truly leads His own. As David writes, Psalm 31:3 3 For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me. Indeed we experienced this truth; that God leads His people and guides His people.

The past few weeks in Israel have made this verse ever clearer to me as I trusted in the Lord for many aspects regarding our recent trip to Israel. It is true that God is my Rock and my Fortress. Because God is my Rock and my Fortress, I can be confident that He will lead and guide me. This is a pattern in the psalms:

Psalm 27:11 11 Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes.

Psalm 43:3 3 O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places.

Psalm 61:2 2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 139:9-10 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 143:10 10 Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

I found that in trusting God, He had already worked everything out for us -- according to His sovereign plan. He truly paved the way for us. From the important matters even down to the mundane God was our guide. If there is one thing I have reflected on today regarding the character of God, it is the ever-present reality that God is my Shepherd and Guide:

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I am writing from the Mt. of Olives as I sit in the apartment of a good college friend of mine! Elizabeth and I have officially ended our "formal touring" of Israel. Today was our 13th day of traveling and touring. We were in the Dead Sea region today: hiked up Masada, went to En Gedi (cf. 1 Sam 24; Psa 63; 121); floated in the Dead Sea (Elizabeth loved it!), and toured around Qumran.

Tomorrow is our last day in the country before coming home on Tuesday. Praise God for His goodness and wonderful faithfulness to us:

"Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting!" (Psalm 136:1).

Friday, June 6, 2008

I am writing from the sharp, rocky cliffs of Mactesh Ramon. Including tomorrow, we only have two more touring days. We have been on a whirlwind tour -- literally. Elizabeth and I have enjoyed our time together driving through the land, seeing the sites, reading lots (and lots!) of Scripture, singing together, riding public busses, going through open doors with Hebrew writing that I can't understand and on and on and on I could go.

Things are great. Thank you for praying. Tomorrow is our day we head down to Eilat -- the southernmost tip of Modern Israel. I hope to climb the top of a hill with Elizabeth to see four countries -- Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia! Then we're going snorkeling in the Red Sea!

Then on Sunday we are hiking up Masada, going to En Gedi, Qumran, and then back to Jerusalem to take one of my great Hebrew buddies out for dinner in Jerusalem.

Blessings to you. Please keep us in prayer...
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