Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints Doubting and Questioning –Part 4

Satan’s Devices to keep saints in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition. –Part 4

7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against:

For remedies, consider that

A. Many scriptures show that such relapses have troubled saints
B. God nowhere promises that such relapses will not happen
C. The most renowned of glorified saints have, on earth, experienced such relapses
D. Relapses into enormities must be distinguished from relapses into infirmities
E. Involuntary and voluntary relapses must be distinguished
F. No experience of the soul, however deep or high, can in itself secure the soul against relapses

8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound :

For remedies, consider that

A. The best of Christians have been most tempted by Satan
B. All the saints temptations are sanctified to them by a hand of love
C. Temptations cannot harm the saints as long as they are resisted by them

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.

A Debtor to Mercy Alone

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with thy righteousness on,
My person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make him his purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from his love.

My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heav’n.

-Augustus Toplady

Fountain of Never Ceasing Grace

Fountain of never ceasing grace,
Thy saints’ exhaustless theme,
Great object of immortal praise,
Essentially supreme;
We bless Thee for the glorious fruits
Thine incarnation gives;
The righteousness which grace imputes,
And faith alone receives.

Whom heaven’s angelic host adores,
Was slaughtered for our sin;
The guilt, O Lord was wholly ours,
The punishment was Thine:
Our God in the flesh, to set us free,
Was manifested here;
And meekly bare our sins, that we
His righteousness might wear.

Imputatively guilty then
Our substitute was made,
That we the blessings might obtain
For which His blood was shed:
Himself He offered on the cross,
Our sorrows to remove;
And all He suffered was for us,
And all He did was love.

In Him we have a righteousness,
By God Himself approved;
Our rock, our sure foundation this,
Which never can be moved.
Our ransom by His death He paid,
For all His people giv’n,
The law He perfectly obeyed,
That they might enter Heav’n.

As all, when Adam sinned alone,
In his transgression died,
So by the righteousness of One,
Are sinners justified,
We to Thy merit, gracious Lord,
With humblest joy submit,
Again to Paradise restored,
In Thee alone complete.

Our souls His watchful love retrieves,
Nor lets them go astray,
His righteousness to us He gives,
And takes our sins away:
We claim salvation in His right,
Adopted and forgiv’n,
His merit is our robe of light,
His death the gate of Heav’n.

-Augustus Toplady, 1774

1 Timothy 2:4 and Free Will

 by John Piper

“…Some people read into 1 Timothy 2:4 (God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”) the necessity of free will as an explanation for why all are not saved.

…This is not owing to anything in the text, but to a philosophical presupposition brought to the text. The presupposition is that, if God will in one sense for all to be saved, then he cannot will in another sense that only some will be saved.

In fact, the wider context of the Pastoral Epistles points away from free will as a solution.

Paul uses the very language of 1 Timothy 2:4 again in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

“…Paul here is explaining why some do not “come to the knowledge of the truth.” The ultimate or decisive answer is that God himself may or may not “grant … repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 40-41.

What Keeps God from Saving All People?

If God desires all to be saved, what keeps Him from saving whom He desires to save? If God genuinely desires for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), why doesn’t God save all people?

John Piper gives an answer:

“[The answer] can be illustrated … by reflecting … on 1 Timothy 2:4, where Paul says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” What are we to say of the fact that God desires something that in fact does not happen?

There are two possibilities, as far as I can see.

1. One possibility is that there is a power in the universe greater that God’s, which is frustrating him by overruling what he desires.

Neither the Reformed nor the Arminians affirms this.

2. The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he “desires” that all be saved, because there is something else that he wills or desires more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all.

This is the solution that I, as Reformed, affirm along with Arminians. In other words, both the Reformed and the Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy 2:4…. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. And when queried why all are not saved, both the Reformed and the Arminians answer the same: because God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all.

The difference between the Reformed and the Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is.

What does God will more than saving all?

1. The answer the Arminians give is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace.

2. The answer the Reformed give is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of god’s glory in wrath and mercy (Rom. 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Cor. 1:29).”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 38-39.

What is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?

By Sinclair Ferguson

“Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.

How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?

Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”

A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace is not free and sovereign, then something always needs to be done, to be “added” for final justification to be ours. That is exactly the problem. If final justification is dependent on something we have to complete it is not possible to enjoy assurance of salvation. For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith’s empty hands — then assurance, even “full assurance” is possible for every believer.

No wonder Bellarmine thought full, free, unfettered grace was dangerous! No wonder the Reformers loved the letter to the Hebrews!

This is why, as the author of Hebrews pauses for breath at the climax of his exposition of Christ’s work (Heb. 10:18), he continues his argument with a Paul-like “therefore” (Heb. 10:19). He then urges us to “draw near … in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). We do not need to re-read the whole letter to see the logical power of his “therefore.” Christ is our High Priest; our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience just as our bodies have been washed with pure water (v.22).

Christ has once-for-all become the sacrifice for our sins, and has been raised and vindicated in the power of an indestructible life as our representative priest. By faith in Him, we are as righteous before the throne of God as He is righteous. For we are justified in His righteousness, His justification alone is ours! And we can no more lose this justification than He can fall from heaven. Thus our justification does not need to be completed any more than does Christ’s!

With this in view, the author says, “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who come to God by him” (Heb. 10:14). The reason we can stand before God in full assurance is because we now experience our “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and … bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

“Ah,” retorted Cardinal Bellarmine’s Rome, “teach this and those who believe it will live in license and antinomianism.” But listen instead to the logic of Hebrews. Enjoying this assurance leads to four things: First, an unwavering faithfulness to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone as our hope (v.23); second, a careful consideration of how we can encourage each other to “love and good works” (v.24); third, an ongoing communion with other Christians in worship and every aspect of our fellowship (v.25a); fourth, a life in which we exhort one another to keep looking to Christ and to be faithful to him, as the time of his return draws ever nearer (25b).

It is the good tree that produces good fruit, not the other way round. We are not saved by works; we are saved for works. In fact we are God’s workmanship at work (Eph. 2:9–10)! Thus, rather than lead to a life of moral and spiritual indifference, the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ and the full-assurance faith it produces, provides believers with the most powerful impetus to live for God’s glory and pleasure. Furthermore, this full assurance is rooted in the fact that God Himself has done all this for us. He has revealed His heart to us in Christ. The Father does not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us (John 3:16). He does not lurk behind His Son with sinister intent wishing He could do us ill — were it not for the sacrifice his Son had made! No, a thousand times no! — the Father Himself loves us in the love of the Son and the love of the Spirit.

Those who enjoy such assurance do not go to the saints or to Mary. Those who look only to Jesus need look nowhere else. In Him we enjoy full assurance of salvation. The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of “heresies”! For it is God’s own truth and grace!

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.”

-Sinclair Ferguson, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-greatest-all-protestant-heresies/

Why Zombies Matter

By Russell Moore

“Zombies are everywhere. Ever since the classic “Night of the Living Dead,” the undead have shown up in movies. Zombies now are featured in top-rated cable TV shows, and in apocalyptic novels and survival guides. An entire genre has ignited around the concept of adding zombies to classic literature (”Pride and Prejudice with Zombies,” etc.). But why are we drawn to these gruesome figures?

In the New York Times, columnist Amy Wilentz reminds us why zombies scare us, and why we can’t help but watch through our clenched hands covering our eyes.  The zombie myth is rooted in something quite real, and quite terrifying. The zombie stories emerged in a Caribbean context of brutal slavery. The zombie’s horror is that he is, she writes, a slave forever. After all, if even death cannot free you, you can never be free.

That’s exactly the point, and here’s why it should matter to Christians.

Zombies are horrifying not simply because they’re mean and aggressive. They are horrifying because they represent what ought to repulse us: the rotting decay of death. But they still walk. And, beyond that, they still crave. In their search for human brains, they are driven along by their appetites, though always under the sway of a slavemaster’s will.

That’s our story.

The biblical story of the Fall of humanity is one of a humanity that comes under the sway of death by obeying the appetite. God places a fiery sword around the Garden of Eden, Genesis tells us, so that the primeval humans wouldn’t eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. Why? It’s because God didn’t want to consign humanity to a never-ending existence of this kind of walking death. He sentences us to the curse of death so that, ultimately, we can be redeemed.

The gospel tells us that, apart from Christ, we were walking in the flesh, that is slavishly obeying our biological impulses and appetites without the direction of the Spirit. As such, we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). But we weren’t inert. We instead, though dead, “walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). We were walking dead slaves.

And, in our death, our appetites weren’t silenced but instead drove us along. This walking death, the Apostle Paul writes, was driven along as we “carried out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3).

Caribbean people could resonate with the horror of zombies because they knew what it was like to be enslaved by evil people, with no hope of escape. And maybe our culture pays attention to zombies because we know what it is like to be dead inside, but unable to find peace, unable to stop walking.

The gospel doesn’t just extend our lives forever into eternity. That’s what we, left to ourselves, think we want. The rich young ruler asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life, but Jesus points out that he wants to eternalize his present state rather than to be hidden in the life of Jesus himself. That’s a zombie walk, and Jesus loves us too much for that.

Jesus offers instead life, and that abundantly, as we eat of his flesh, drink of his blood, share in his triumph over the accusing slavemaster.

So let’s have some sympathy for the zombies. And next time you see the trailer for a zombie film, or see the picture of a walking corpse on the cover of a novel, remember that that was your story once too.”

-Russell Moore, http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/10/31/why-zombies-matter/

Chosen to Salvation

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”
2 Thessalonians 2:13

“There are three things here which deserve special attention. First, the fact that we are expressly told that God’s elect are “chosen to salvation”: Language could not be more explicit. How summarily do these words dispose of the sophistries and equivocations of all who would make election refer to nothing but external privileges or rank in service! It is to “salvation” itself that God has chosen us. Second, we are warned here that election unto salvation does not disregard the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” It is not true that because God has chosen a certain one to salvation that he will be saved willy-nilly, whether he believes or not: nowhere do the Scriptures so represent it. The same God who “chose unto salvation”, decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the spirit and belief of the truth. Third, that God has chosen us unto salvation is a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the apostle express this – “we are bound to give thanks always to God for you. brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation”, etc. Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords, save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.”

-A. W. Pink, Chosen to Salvation, http://calvinismisthegospel.com/chosen-to-salvation-by-a-w-pink-3/

Assurance: Every Believer’s Birthright

By Phil Johnson

“I was listening to a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones not long ago in which he pointed out thatassurance is one of the most prominent subjects in the New Testament. Virtually every New Testament epistle was written to address some doubt, answer some question, settle some uncertainty—all of them aimed at stimulating or reinforcing the assurance of believers. Scripture encourages us to have assurance. It is not inherently brash or presumptuous to be confident in your faith.

Shortly after reading that comment by Lloyd-Jones, while doing some research on a totally different theme, I had occasion to review The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. Trent was the Roman Catholic Council that was convened in the mid-1500s in order to hammer out an official response from the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation.

And let’s be candid: the Protestant Reformation had embarrassed the whole Roman Catholic hierarchy in a major way, because in addition to the many doctrinal errors and patently unbiblical and extrabiblical teachings the Reformers challenged, they also shone the bright light of biblical truth on centuries of exploitation of Papal power, gross corruption of the priesthood, spiritual abuse for material profit (including the sale of indulgences and the sale of church offices and political favors for money). Underneath all of this was the most shocking kind of moral rot that went right to the top in the Papal hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church was totally corrupt.

The council of Trent cleaned up or papered over some of the more obvious exhibitions of rank clerical debauchery. At the very least we could say that Trent somewhat subdued the unbridled corruption of the medieval priesthood, after generations of abuse and corruption that were the hallmark of the priesthood right across Europe.

One other thing that the Council of Trent accomplished was this: They gave clear definition to certain Catholic doctrines that had always been rather hazy and abstruse—such as the doctrine of justification.

But fundamentally, the Council of Trent was a backlash against Protestant teaching.

The popes and bishops of the 16th century were not at all eager to convene a council to discuss the areas of church life and doctrine that needed Reform. It took years to get the council going. Meetings stretched out over about thirty years’ time. The bishops convened in fits and starts, working more or less halfheartedly for the first couple of decades. Only in the council’s final stages did they show any enthusiasm for the work. By then, they were so eager to antagonize the Protestants and their doctrines that they cranked out document after document pronouncing anathemas on the Reformers.

And in the process (mainly, I think, because they were more interested in countering the Protestants than they were in clarifying biblical truth on the issues they dealt with), they got major points of doctrine wrong in every set of decrees they issued.

For example, in their decree on the doctrine of justification (Council of Trent, Sixth session, chapter 9), they said this:“It is not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins.” In other words, while we can know with certainty that God doesforgive sins, no individual can say with any settled certainty—based on faith alone—”My sins are forgiven.” Even the priest’s declaration of absolution is only good until the next time you sin.

The Council of Trent went on to draw this conclusion: “No one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”

That’s why no faithful Roman Catholic can ever really be sure of his or her salvation, even though they have thousands of priests in thousands of confessionals every day telling people that the sins they confess to the priests are forgiven. Those priests are giving people a deadly false assurance, and even Rome’s official doctrine acknowledges that.

But Scripture says this (1 John 5:13): “You may know that you have eternal life.” “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15). “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar” (1 John 5:10). We’re supposed to “be . . . diligent to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Far from saying what the Roman Catholic Church says, that it’s sinful—even damnably evil—to be certain that our sins are forgiven and we have received the grace of God—Scripture says, “do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35).

Scripture everywhere commends and encourages assurance. Nowhere are we taught to live in a state of perpetual doubt about our personal standing before God. Never does the Bible suggest that we should rely on the false promises of a mere man in a confessional booth who can never offer anything more than a kind of temporary absolution; a spiritual bait-and-switch offer that can never usher anyone into the true rest that is the birthright of those whose faith is authentic.”

-Phil Johnson, http://www.teampyro.org/2012/05/assurance-every-believers-birthright.html

Jarrod Dyson, Rollie Fingers, and How We View the World

“That’s what speed do”.

Jarrod Dyson is one of the fastest players in MLB.  He was a 50th Round Pick.  That’s around the time when baseball teams start picking the guy with a wooden leg who lost his real one in a freak combine accident.  Guys that get picked this late do not make an influence in the game of baseball.  Or at least they aren’t supposed to.  But Jarrod Dyson is really fast.
As a Royals fan I absolutely love watching Dyson play.  It’s exciting to see him slap a ball to the shortstop and then watch the usually sure handed shortstop get a little jittery because he knows if he makes one little mistake Dyson is going to beat out his throw.

I read an article earlier today where a guy was looking at various statistics and wondering how much of an impact Dyson could really make in the league.  He cited Dyson’s typically low .OBP (on base percentage) and his somewhat sketchy outfield play.  He makes a valid point.  We don’t get to watch him run like a deer if doesn’t get on base.  And it really doesn’t matter how freaky fast the guy is if he runs towards right field on a ball hit to left field.  But still it’s annoying because I just love to watch Jarrod Dyson, because “that’s what speed do!”.

This made me realize there are two ways to watch baseball.  One way is to view Jarrod Dyson with numbers over top his head.  This is the kid that liked the back of the baseball card better than the front.  He could tell you that Rollie Fingers had 37 saves in 1978 but he never stopped to marvel at Rollie’s amazing handle-bar mustache.

The other way to watch baseball is to simply sit back and marvel.  Instead of numbers over Dyson’s head you simply say, “Dude, can haul”.  (That is if you talk like a frat boy, otherwise you’ll say something white and lame like “Homey sure is fast”).  This is the kid that memorized the front of the baseball card and rarely looked at the back.  He marveled at every curve of Rollie’s beautiful masterpiece—this of course referring to both his mustache and his pitching greatness.

Dropping the Gospel Bomb

As I think about how this relates to baseball it occurs to me that this way of viewing the world extends far beyond the diamond.  This applies especially to the gospel and theology.  There is a type of theologian that reads the Bible only in its original language, parses all the verbs correctly, masters systematic theology, debates unbelievers, places every thought within a deep knowledge of church history, and beats his wife and rages at his children.  Or it may not be that extreme.  He may have just lost his sense of wonder.  He knows the back of the card but has lost the wonder of the glossy front.

There is a way of dissecting the gospel and asking questions about the nature of the gospel ad infinitum that does much to spark debate but little to induce worship.  God and His gospel make angels marvel not necessarily dissect.  If your theology doesn’t stir up doxology it is wrong-hearted and probably more akin to the theology of devils than the Savior.

Of course we need the guy that notices Jarrod Dyson usually has a low .OBP.  It would make for a pretty bad team if the GM forced the coach to start a guy that batted .187 for 10 straight seasons just because he really liked to watch him swing.  We need the nerds that look at the back of cards as much as we need the kid that just marvels at Dyson running like a highly-caffeinated cheetah.

If you’re a look-at-the-back-of-the-card type of guy know that about yourself.  Plead with God to also open up your heart to the wonder of the sweaty tilt-a-whirl that is the mustache of Rollie Fingers.  More than anything plead with him to enliven your heart with not only the truthfulness of the gospel but also it’s beauty.

If you’re the marvel-at-the-front-of-the-card type of guy know that about yourself.  Plead with God to also drive you deeper into the back of the baseball card.  Knowing that Rollie Fingers also got 37 saves in 1978 can actually strengthen your admiration.  Plead with God to enrich your heart with not only the beauty of the gospel but also its absolute truthfulness.”

-Mike Leake, http://www.mikeleake.net/2012/05/jarrod-dyson-rollie-fingers-and-how-we.html