Sunday, August 31, 2008

An Odd Look at Saving Faith

Faith is a term we use daily. We talk about it constantly. We base just about everything in our Christian lives on it. Christian faith is the second most essential thing we can possess (for the most important, see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

The New Testament (KJV) uses the word ‘faith’ a total of 229 times. By contrast, the Old Testament uses the word a mere two times, one of which, Deuteronomy 32:20, is a negative usage.

Let's look at four outrageous statements about faith:

Our faith is our (second) greatest treasure.
It is our faith that keeps us from day to day.
Our faith will bring us salvation and eternal life.
Our faith is the center of our entire life, as a Christian, and everything else in our life is centered around our faith.

Why outrageous? Because every one of those statements is WRONG. They all refer to OUR faith, or we could just as easily substitute MY faith.

The fact is, that faith is not ours. It is not mine. Ephesians 2:8 tells us plainly that the faith that saves us has nothing to do with us. It is the gift of God alone. I thank God that it is His, and not mine. My weaknesses are too great to be entrusted with using my own. That verse demands to be carefully read and fully understood. We are saved by grace – God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor. We are saved by that grace through faith – saving faith, trust, confidence, sure and certain belief. That faith does not originate with us, nor can we attain it by any effort on our part; it is the free gift of God. Verse 9 goes on to say: “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Faith is substance.
Substance is assurance.
Assurance is a guarantee or pledge.
A guarantee is a promise, beyond simple assurance.
A guarantee is not given by one to oneself.
It is given by a second party; otherwise it is not a guarantee or promise.

Therefore, faith does not originate with man, but is instead given to him by someone else; and the measure of a man’s faith is totally dependent on the generosity of the giver. The one to whom it is given can request more, but he has no control over the quantity given. Consider what Paul says in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

If I were gifted with a mind superior to all the world’s greatest thinkers and scientists (I am not), if I had the wealth of all the knowledge of the ages at my fingertips, I would still be possessed of a fallible, limited, incomplete, human mind. My faith, conversely, is not my own. It is God’s, and therefore infallible. I no longer have to take shelter in what I can see and experience with my limited human senses.

In the old hymn, we sing, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” The power of God is the victory, and faith is only the instrument through which that power works. It is God, through His Son, who saves us, then sanctifies us. It is God who gives us the faith that makes that possible. It is God who then overcomes the world on our behalf, because He is pleased with us, because of that faith. God is the source, God is the middle, God is the end. God does it all, and we have no greater duty than to accept His saving grace, and no greater calling than to praise Him and thank Him for his sovereignty, majesty, glory, power, love, and holiness.

Larry Teal

Teaching Elder, Pigeon River Baptist Church

Vanderbilt, MI

Saturday, August 23, 2008

God Works All Things After the Counsel of His Will

Doing some work in the Old Testament book of Esther recently has reminded me of the important--and practical--truth of God providentially working all things according to His ordained will.

Regardless of this compromise with human reasoning that some have come up with in recent years that says that God not only hasn't ordained what will come to pass, He really doesn't know what people will do (how can He, they say, if man is a free creature?) God just works things out based on what we do or don't do. If we don't cooperate with His "Plan A", well then He'll come up with "Plan B" and so on. This is called "open theism" and it's blatantly unbiblical! It's purely based on man, in his natural/fleshly thinking, trying to make sense out of man's freedom to do as he pleases and God doing as He pleases.

But the mind of God can only be discerned by the SPIRIT of God, causing us to understand and accept by faith the revealed truth of the WORD of God. And according to the truths and principles of Scripture, God has no "Plan B" and needs no "Plan B." We can know without a doubt that God and His ordained will are at the center of all the events of the book of Esther, as well as all the events of our world today (including all the free choices of man).

Esther records one of the clearest testimonies of God's sovereignty and providence in the Bible. It's one long illustration from Biblical history of the truth of verses like Proverbs 19:21, "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand" (NIV, "it is the Lord's purpose that prevails") and Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" and Ephesians 1:11, "In Him (Christ) also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." (See also Genesis 50:20.)

C.H. Spurgeon once said, "Every child of God is where God has placed him for some good purpose." And knowing that God has us where we are in His wise and good providence and knowing His promises to deliver His people (as in Esther), we can wait on Him with confidence, trusting Him to order our circumstances and deliver us in His perfect timing.

Pastor Jeff Ryan
Calvary Bible Church
Rogers City, MI

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eve and Choice

"The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of very tree of the garden?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen 2:8 -9, 3:1-6).

Notice, after God planted the garden He made every tree to grow for beauty and food. The Tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also there.

Now comes Satan asking Eve, "Has God really said you cannot eat of the tree of good and evil."

Of Course, Eve said, "Or, we will die."

"You won’t die," advised Satan. "You will become wise, and you will be like God. Your eyes will be opened."

Noticing the tree was pleasant to the eye and would make one wise she (Eve) took and ate the fruit.

Now here are some obvious question?

1. Why did Eve consider anything Satan said? She knew God; she knew God’s command.

2. How could Eve have sinned before she became a sinner, i.e. was she born a sinner?

3. What nature did Eve possess i.e. a sinful nature or a righteous nature?

Now, I do not have the answers to these questions. I do know this however. People by the millions think they can make a decision for God any time they want. This thinking is very inconsistent given the record Eve piled up with Satan. Remember, Eve lost a son to murder, she perpetrated sin via. her husband who also violated God’s law. Does anyone really think they have the moral capacity to choose God, even Eve failed, Eve who was not born in sin.

No man makes a decision for God any more than Adam and Eve did. It even gets worse after Adam and Eve. We are born in sin, we are sinners at birth.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
(Rom. 3:23).

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him"
(Heb. 11:6).

God does rescue us from the snare of the cunning one, Satan. Yes, He does by His grace alone.

He saves us by His Grace : "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:4-5, 8).

He saves for His Glory alone: "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1Pet. 4:11).


Monday, August 11, 2008

September Reformation Society Meeting

Saturday, September 13 is the date for our next Reformation Society meeting. The meeting will be held at Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan at 10am.

Our guest speaker for this meeting will be Pastor Hal Polk of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Flint, Michigan.

Please, make plans to attend. Pastors, feel free to invite your deacons, elders, other church leaders, and interested lay persons.

Twining Baptist Church
410 W Main St
Twining, MI
Pastor Jeremy Lee

"God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:4-9 NKJV).

A Plea for Faithful Ministers

“The Nazis said there's a problem with the Jewish body, so let's find a solution. And, these groups are saying there's a problem with the Jewish soul. We have another solution. It's called conversion. You have to be like us or we can't love you. If you're not like us, you're going to go to the eternal barbecue. This is a nefarious, insipid message, which has led to inquisitions, auto-da-fe, pogroms, expulsions, and ultimately the Holocaust.”

What is this is this nefarious, insipid message that this person is condemning? Is it condemning the beliefs of jihadist Muslims? NO! Is it Neo-Nazis? NO! Is it the hate-filled speeches of Ku Klux Klansmen? NO! This is the response of a rabbi to the SBC’s emphasis on evangelizing Jews. He also said, “Racist beliefs lead to racist action, and Christian anti-Judaism leads to racial anti-Semitism. Every historian knows that to be true, and that's why these beliefs are dangerous. Who would have thought that in a new millennium ...we would once again see the prevalence of spiritual dictatorship and totalitarianism?” This rabbi equates Christian evangelism with the atrocities of the Holocaust, and his perception is that we are despots presiding over a new spiritual totalitarian regime.

We should not be surprised, after all, our former Vice-President, Al Gore, delivered a speech in which he called Christians “the extra chromosome right wing.” For years, the mass media has portrayed Christians as red-in-the-face, ignorant, Bible thumpers. Obviously, our culture is a hostile environment in which to minister.

In 2 Timothy, Paul seeks to encourage Timothy to be faithful in his ministry even in troubling times. Paul discloses that many have fallen away from the truth already (vs. 1:15, 2:17, & 4:14, 15). He cautions that more difficult days and evil men are coming, and he predicts a day when pupils will find teachers who “tickle their ears.”

Timothy ministered in culture hostile toward his beliefs. How can we be faithful in a culture whose highest virtues are tolerance and inclusivism when we preach absolutes? How can we be faithful in a culture that reveres secularism and despises Christianity, which teaches that faith must influence every area of life or its not real faith? In 2 Timothy 1:8-14, Paul gives us three keys for a faithful ministry.

The first key is that we must embrace the gospel - "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord" (2 Tim. 1:8 NKJV).

To be ashamed of the gospel means to be apprehensive over one with whom you are associated with.

At one church that I attended my wife had some concerns about the nursery. She addressed these concerns to the pastor, and I went with her to talk with him. While physically I was there to support her, I shied away when the pastor did not agree and let Shelley go on her own. I held back and did not want to be associated with her complaints. I was ashamed. I did not embrace her ideas or goals.

As pastors and leaders, we can never act this way towards the gospel. We should embrace it whole-heartily no matter the cost. This is true whether the cost is popularity, comfort, or the loss of one's position. After all, Paul endured prison for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of God's elect.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

PS - Other keys will be presented in the future.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Reformation Society Prayer Meeting

Join us for this time of fellowship, worship, seeking the Lord for reformation and revival.

August 9, 2008 Saturday 10:00 AM
Curtisville Baptist Church
3165 Curtisville Road
South Branch, Michigan48761
Pastor John BarnerHost pastor
Ph. 989-64-8339

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6)

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:20)