God Almighty Strong Secure

God Almighty, strong, secure
Who will hold with sovereign hand
There’s no reason death to fear
Satan, hell or devil band
I do not ask strength of my own
But in my weakness Thy strength shown

God All-wise, eternal
Source of knowledge for the darkened mind
Lighter of the heart’s true course
Sight for those in sin born blind
I do not ask to know for pride
But in Thy perfect will reside

Lord, who faced death unafraid
Won forgiveness, sought no fee
By whose love the price was paid
And the grace gift offered me
I do not ask no pain to bear
But only, always Thine to share

Loving Father, kind and caring
Giver of my needs and more
Heavenly glory now preparing
‘Til I receive my treasure store
I do not ask this world to flee
But serve ‘til Thou dost send for me

-Words: John MacArthur Jr. Music: C.T. Lambert.

The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification

by John MacArthur

How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life?  Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience? Is it all God’s doing, all the believer’s doing, or a combination of both? Those questions are as old as the church, and the varied answers have spawned movements and denominations.

This is not an unusual issue when dealing with spiritual truth. Many doctrines involve seeming paradoxes. For example, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man; and while Scripture was written by human authors, God wrote every word. The gospel is offered to the whole world, yet applied only to the elect. God eternally secures believers’ salvation, yet they are commanded to persevere.

Christians who try to reconcile every doctrine in a humanly rational way are inevitably drawn to extremes. Seeking to remove all mystery and paradox, they emphasize one truth or aspect of God’s Word at the expense of another which seems to contradict it. This is precisely how many Christians have handled the doctrine of sanctification. One view of sanctification emphasizes God’s role to the virtual exclusion of the believer’s effort. This is often referred to as quietism. The opposite extreme is called pietism.

The quietist sees believers as passive in sanctification. A common maxim is, “Let go and let God.” Another is, “I can’t; God can.” Quietism tends to be mystical and subjective, focusing on personal feelings and experiences. A person who is utterly submitted to and dependent on God, they say, will be divinely protected from sin and led into faithful living. Trying to strive against sin or discipline oneself to produce good works is considered not only futile but unspiritual and counterproductive.

One champion of this view was the devout Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life has been read by millions. In it she writes,

What can be said about man’s part in this great work but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust? But when we come to God’s side of the question, what is there that may not be said as to the manifold ways, in which He accomplishes the work entrusted to Him? It is here that the growing comes in. The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay pit for thousands of years; but when it is put into the hands of a skilful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use. (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1952, 32. Italics in original.)

How a Christian can fall into sin is a difficult question for the quietist to answer. They are forced to argue that such a person obviously misunderstands the matter of complete surrender, and has taken himself out of the hands of the heavenly Potter. But that flawed answer brings God’s sovereignty into question—if the Lord is completely in control, how can a believer take himself out of God’s hands?

Pietists, on the other hand, are typically aggressive in their pursuit of doctrinal and moral purity. Historically, this movement originated in seventeenth-century Germany as a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of many Protestant churches. To their credit, most pietists place strong emphasis on Bible study, holy living, self-discipline, and practical Christianity. They emphasize such passages as “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1) and “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).

Unfortunately, this unbalanced view often leads to an overemphasis on self-effort to the virtual exclusion of dependence on divine power. As you might expect, pietism frequently leads to legalism, moralism, self-righteousness, a judgmental spirit, pride, and hypocrisy.

The quietist says, “Do nothing.”

The pietist says, “Do everything.”

In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul presents the appropriate resolution between the two. He makes no effort to rationally harmonize the believer’s part and God’s part in sanctification. He is content with the paradox and simply states both truths, saying on the one hand, sanctification is of believers (Philippians 2:12), and on the other hand, it is of God (Philippians 2:13).

The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.

Today there is an intense debate within the church about this vital issue. The stakes are high—your view of sanctification informs and directs how you understand your new nature in Christ, how you evangelize others, pursue godliness, govern your heart and mind, how you raise and discipline your children, and how you understand and follow God’s commands in Scripture. For pastors and church leaders, your position on this issue will determine how you preach and teach, how you give counsel to troubled hearts, and how you engage in church discipline.

Neither quietism nor pietism represents the biblical path of sanctification. Both are spiritual ditches to steer clear of—they will impede your spiritual progress, and potentially obstruct it altogether.

-John MacArthur, http://www.gty.org/blog/B140702

Wrong Judgment: An Erroneous View of Ourselves

 by John MacArthur

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,”and behold, the log is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye. – Matthew 7:3–5

“When we judge critically we also manifest an erroneous view of ourselves. The “speck” Jesus refers to is not something insignificant—it was likely a twig or splinter. Though small in comparison to a log, it was not a good thing to have in your eye. Jesus’ comparison is not between a very small sin or fault and one that is large, but between one that is large and one that is gigantic. His primary point is that the sin of the critic is much greater than the sin of the person he is criticizing.

The wretched and gross sin that is always blind to its own sinfulness is self-righteousness. It looks directly at its own sin and still imagines it sees only righteousness.

The very nature of self-righteousness is to justify self and condemn others. Self-righteousness is the worst of all sins because it trusts in self rather than God. It trusts in self to determine what is right and wrong and to determine who does what is right or wrong.

Too, the term “notice” conveys serious, continual meditation. Until you have thought long and hard about your own sin, how can you confront another with his shortcomings?

Ask Yourself

Again, the thought conveyed here is not that we are forbidden from ever pointing out the sins of another, aiding him toward repentance and a desire for God’s forgiveness. But our hearts are so suspect, we must regularly keep our sins confessed and to the surface. How do you practice this discipline in your own life?

-John MacArthur, From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals/daily-readings

 

From John MacArthur’s Desk

From Tavis Bohlinger

Reading Isaiah in bed just a few nights ago a piece of folded paper fell out into my lap. It was a photocopy of the same text that has been sitting on Pastor John MacArthur’s desk for many years now. I received this while attending The Master’s Seminary, and it has stuck with me every since. It is a timely reminder for me at the end of what has turned out to be a very difficult and challenging, though at times rewarding, first year of PhD studies. John prefaces this quote from an anonymous author with the following words: ‘To regularly remind myself of … self-sacrificing love, I have on my desk the following words from an unknown source:’

“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, and irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it—that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self.

When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.”

http://tavisbohlinger.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/from-the-desk-of-john-macarthur/

Worship in Three Dimensions: Part 3

The Upward Dimension.

This third category, which marvelously suns up worship, is described in Hebrews 13:15-16. Verse 15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” As we look at worship in its Godward focus, we discover that its distilled essence is simply thanksgiving and praise. With verse 16, the passage brings together all three categories of worship: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Praising God, doing good, and sharing with others—all legitimate, scriptural acts of worship. That draws into the concept of worship every activity and relationship of human living. The implication is that just as the Scriptures are dedicated to the subject of worship from cover to cover, so the believer should be dedicated to the activity of worship, consumed with a desire to use every moment of his life to devote himself to doing good to all, sharing our blessings with our neighbors, and praising God, who is the source of all goodness and every blessing.

-John MacArthur, Worship: The Ultimate Priority, 46.

Worship in Three Dimensions: Part 2

The Inward Dimension.

A second category of worship involves our personal behavior. Ephesians 5:8-10 says, “Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” The word “pleasing” is from a Greek word that means “acceptable.” In this context, he is referring to goodness, righteousness, and truth, saying clearly that to do good is an acceptable act of worship toward God.

Paul begins 1 Timothy 2 by urging Christians to pray for those in authority in order that believers may live tranquil, quiet lives “in all godliness and dignity” (v.2). Note carefully those final three words: “godliness and dignity.” Verse 3 goes on to say, “This is good and acceptable in  the sight of God our Savior.”

So sharing is an act of worship, and that is the effect of worship on others. Doing good is also an act of worship, and that is its effect in our own lives. There is one other relationship that is affected by our worship—our relationship with God.

-John MacArthur, Worship: The Ultimate Priority, 45-46.

Worship in Three Dimensions: Part 1

The Outward Dimension.

“First, worship can be reflected in how we behave toward others. Romans 14:18 says, ” For he who in this way serves [latreuo] Christ is acceptable to God.” What is this acceptable offering given to God? The context reveals that it is being sensitive to a weaker brother. Verse 13 says, “Therefore do not let us judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother’s way.” In other words, when we treat fellow Christians with the proper kind of sensitivity, that is an acceptable act of worship. It honors God, who created and loves that person, and it reflects God’s compassion and care.

Romans 15:16 furthermore implies that evangelism is a form of acceptable worship. Paul writes that special grace was given to him “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable.” The Gentiles who were won to Jesus Christ by his ministry became an offering of worship to God. In addition, they who were won became worshippers themselves.

In Philippians 4:18, Paul thanks the Philippians for a gift of money to help him in his ministry: “I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” Here, acceptable worship is described as giving to those in need. That glorifies God by demonstrating His love.

So worship can be expressed by sharing love with fellow believers, sharing the gospel with unbelievers, and meeting the needs of people on a very physical level. We can sum it up in a single word: acceptable worship is giving. It is a love that shares.”

 

-John MacArthur, Worship: The Ultimate Priority, 45.

Biblically-Anemic Preaching

Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.

Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, “successful” living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. These messages are lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.

[What are} the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism[?]

1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul.

Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do!

2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church.

Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.

3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.

What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17).

4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission.

In the modern approach to “ministry,” the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and “worship” is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church.

5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture.

The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s Day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise.

6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship.

What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.

By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.

7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ.

Pastors are supposed to be under-shepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural “relevancy” is that they become worldly, not godly.

8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study.

Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons?

9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time.

When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say.

10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is.

When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.

11. It robs people of their only true source of help.

People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.

12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority.

The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.

13. It lies to people about what they really need.

[Preachers] lie to people about what they really need, promising them “fulfillment” and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.

14. It strips the pulpit of power.

“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.

15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness.

We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.

So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).

-John MacArthur, Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message; 2 Timothy 4:2
http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A118/BiblicallyAnemic-Preaching-The-Devastating-Consequences-of-a-WateredDown-Message

Church Abandonment

“Leaving a church is not something that should be done lightly. Too many people abandon churches for petty reasons. Disagreements over simple matters of preference are never a good reason to withdraw from a sound, Bible-believing church. Christians are commanded to respect, honor, and obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church (Heb. 13:7, 17). However, there are times when it becomes necessary to leave a church for the sake of one’s own conscience, or out of a duty to obey God rather than men. Such circumstances would include:

 

If heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7-9).

 

If the leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).

 

If the church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1-7).

 

If unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11).

 

If the church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).

 

If the church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5).

 

This is not to suggest that these are the only circumstances under which people are permitted to leave a church. There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one’s membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.”

 

More Questions, read here: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA121

 

-John MacArthur,

http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA120/when-should-people-leave-their-church