Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
What kind of things do and do not prove the genuineness of saving faith?
Churches today are filled with people who hold to a faith that does not save. James referred to this as a "dead faith"-meaning a mere empty profession (James 2:17, 20, 26). Paul wrote to the people in the church at Corinth to test or examine themselves to see if they were truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). As important as it was in Paul's day, how much more important it is for people in our churches today to put their faith to the test and to make sure they have not been deceived.
But where do we start? By what criteria do we determine true from empty faith? What are the distinguishing marks of genuine saving faith? Surprisingly, there are a number of popular standards or tests that really don't prove the genuineness of one's faith one way or the other. So before we look at the tests that prove genuine faith, let's take a look at some popular tests that neither prove nor disprove the genuineness of one's faith.
Here is a list of seven conditions that do not prove or disprove the genuineness of saving faith. One can be a Christian and possess these things or one may not be a Christian at all and still possess them. While they don't prove or disprove one's faith, they're important to know and understand so you will not be deceived.
Seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith.
1. Visible Morality - Many who possess visible morality know nothing of sincere love for God. Whatever good works they appear to possess, they know nothing of serving the true God and living for His glory. Whatever the person does or leaves undone does not involve God.
2. Intellectual Knowledge - Another condition that can be misleading is intellectual knowledge. People can possess an intellectual understanding and knowledge of the truth and yet not be saved.
3. Religious Involvement - Religious involvement is not necessarily a proof of true faith. According to Paul there are people who possess an outward form (a mere external appearance) of godliness but who have denied the power of it.
4. Active Ministry - It is possible to have an active and even a public ministry, and yet not possess genuine saving faith.
5. Conviction of Sin - By itself, even conviction of sin is not a proof of salvation. Our world is filled with guilt-ridden people.
6. The Feeling of Assurance - Feeling like you are saved is no guarantee you are indeed saved.
7. A Time of Decision - Many people have prayed prayers, gone forward in church services, signed cards, gone into prayer rooms, been baptized, and joined churches without ever experiencing genuine saving faith.
Nine conditions that prove genuine saving faith.
1. Love for God - First of all a deep and abiding love for God is one of the supreme evidences of genuine saving faith.
2. Repentance from Sin - A proper love for God necessarily involves a hatred for sin that leads to repentance. The man who loves God will be grieved over his sin and will want to confess it to God and forsake it.
3. Genuine Humility - True saving faith comes as a little child-humble and dependent. It is not the man who is full of himself who is saved, but the man who denies himself, takes up his cross daily and follows Christ (Matthew 16:24).
4. Devotion to God's Glory - True saving faith is manifested by a devotion to God's glory. Whatever believers do, whether they eat or drink, their desire is to see God glorified.
5. Continual Prayer - Humble, submissive, believing prayer is mark of true faith. True believers have a personal and private prayer life with God. They regularly seek communion with God through prayer.
6. Selfless Love - An important characteristic of genuine saving faith is selfless love. If you love God you will not only hate what offends Him, but you will love those whom He loves.
7. Separation from the World - Positively, believers are marked by a love for God and for fellow believers. Negatively, the Christian is characterized by the absence of love for the world. True believers are not those who are ruled by worldly affections, but their affection and devotion is toward God and His kingdom.
8. Spiritual Growth - If you are a true Christian, you are going to be growing-and that means you are going to be more and more like Christ. Life produces itself. So examine your life. Do you see spiritual growth? Do you see the decreasing frequency of sin? Is there an increasing pattern of righteousness and devotion to God?
9. Obedience - All true believers are called to a life of obedience. Jesus taught that every branch that abides in Him bears fruit (John 15:1-8).
How can we know our faith is genuine? Examine your life in the light of God's Word. Do you see these characteristics in your life? Do you have a love for God, hatred for sin, humility, devotion to God's glory, a pattern of personal and private prayer, selfless love, separation from the world, the evidence of spiritual growth and obedience. These are the real evidences of genuine saving faith.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
- What is the basis upon which God accepts us into His heavenly kingdom? Is it our faith? Absolutely not.
o Our faith is only the instrument by which we receive the justification whereby we stand before a holy and just God.
§ It is faith ALONE by which we receive justification.
- Scriptural proof:
o Galatians 2:16 - We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
o What are the “works of the law” that Paul is referring to?
§ See Galatians -11 – In vs 10, after speaking about the works of the law, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26.
· The clear implication is that works of the law equals obeying God’s commandments.
§ After telling us that the righteous shall life by faith and that no one is justified by the law before God in vs 11…
· In vs 12 he makes the point that the law is NOT of faith. (He quotes Leviticus 18:5).
o It is of obligation!
o See also: Romans 3:20-22 &
- What about James 2?
o As we have stated previously the word justified has a wide range of meanings.
§ Such is the case in the way James uses the word and the way Paul uses the word.
· Context dictates the precise meaning of the word.
o What is the context? – James – Someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
§ James is concerned with the nature of saving faith.
· Although we are justified by faith alone, faith is never alone and will produce fruit for everyone to see.
§ Look at James’s example of Abraham in James 2:21-23, it demonstrates this point.
o James – Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
§ When did Abraham offer up Isaac?
· In Genesis 22!
o James -23 – You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"
§ James is quoting Genesis 15:6, telling us this passage has been fulfilled. Why?
§ Because his works showed he was a righteous man. They justified, vindicated, proved he was righteous.
· This is the context of James - You see that a person is justified (vindicated) by works and not by faith alone.
- The word “justified” here clearly does not have to do with a legal declaration by God relating to our sins.
o People who bring this up are desperate to try to prove their false gospel instead of coming to Christ alone, by faith alone.
- Why did God choose faith as the instrument to receive justification instead of love, joy, peace, etc.?
o Dr. Grudem is right on when he says: “Faith is the one attitude of the heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves. When we come to Christ in faith, we essentially say, ‘I give up! I will not depend on myself or my own good works any longer. I know that I can never make myself righteous before God. Therefore, Jesus, I trust you and depend on you completely to give me a righteous standing before God.’ In this way, faith is the opposite of trusting in ourselves, and therefore is the attitude that perfectly fits salvation that depends not at all on our own merit but entirely on God’s free gift of grace.”
- The implications and applications are manifold and marvelous.
o We can be assured we have eternal life, peace with God, zero guilt, no condemnation, and a perfect standing with God based only on faith in Christ.
§ No matter our wretched past, the heinous sins we committed, or even our previous hatred of God.
o If we just place our faith in God he will gladly accept us.
§ That is good news to believe in!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Friday, January 08, 2010
Justification Part 2
- What is the basis for our justification?
o This is an important question
§ Proverbs - “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.”
§ In the Law, Exodus 23:7, our LORD says – Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. Also seen in Exodus 34:7, Nahum 1:3
o We should inquire about the basis for God declaring condemned sinners righteous in His sight.
- Romans 4:5 “To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
o Counted (logizomai) – Louw-Nida lexicon: to keep records of commercial accounts, involving both debits and credits—‘to put into one’s account, to charge one’s account, to regard as an account.’
§ God counts or imputes righteousness to our account so that we are considered by God perfectly and forever righteous.
· Therefore God justifies us based only on the righteousness of God in Christ.
o 2 Corinthians – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
§ Just as Christ did not become inherently sinful, neither do we become inherently righteous.
· Our sin is imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.
o Dr Grudem’s defines it as follows:
§ “God thinks of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, or regards it as belonging to us.”
o More scriptural proof:
§ Romans 10:3-4 – For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
§ Philippians 3:9 – (I may) be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.
- Grudem points out the twofold problem of the belief that an internal change leads to justification.
o Present sin would keep us from ever being declared perfectly righteous.
§ Once we sin, we are again unjust needing justification.
o There would be no provision for forgiveness of past AND future sins.
§ Leaving us without confidence that we are right with God.
o This turns Romans 5:1 & 8:1 on their head, for we are not guaranteed peace with God nor can we say there is no condemnation.
- As we stated in Justification part 1, the view of the internal change of man leading to justification is held by Roman Catholicism.
o It is a perversion of the one true gospel and therefore damnable (Galatians 1:6-9).
§ We stand firm in the righteousness of Christ, and therefore can rejoice and rest in the God of our salvation.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers in your house or not, your relatives know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.
Reader, I beseech you in all affection to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers, and another to pray. Do not tell me that my question is unnecessary. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you good reasons for asking it."
I know that much may go on in a man's mind before he is brought to pray. He may have many convictions, desires, wishes, feelings, intentions, resolutions, hopes, and fears. But all these things are very uncertain evidences. They are to be found in ungodly people, and often come to nothing. In many a case they are not more lasting than the morning cloud, and the dew that passes away. A real hearty prayer, flowing from a broken and contrite spirit, is worth all these things put together."
"There are some of the Lord's people who seem never able to get on from the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain babes all their lives. They are learners in Christ's school, but they never seem to get beyond A B C, and the lowest form. They have got inside the fold, but there they lie down and get no further. Year after year you see in them the same old besetting sins. You hear from them the same old experience. You remark in them the same want of spiritual appetite,—the same squeamishness about anything but the milk of the Word, and the same dislike to strong meat,—the same childishness,—the same feebleness, —the same littleness of mind, the same narrowness of heart,—the same want of interest in anything beyond their own little circle, which you remarked ten years ago. They are pilgrims indeed, but pilgrims like the Gideonites of old,—their bread is always dry and mouldy, their shoes always old and clouted, and their garments always rent and torn. I say this with sorrow and grief. But I ask any real Christian, Is it not true?
There are others of the Lord's people who seem to be always getting on. They grow like the grass after rain. They increase like Israel in Egypt. They press on like Gideon,—though sometimes "faint, yet always pursuing" (Judges viii. 4). They are ever adding grace to grace, and faith to faith, and strength to strength. Every time you meet them their hearts seem larger, and their spiritual stature bigger, taller, and stronger. Every year they appear to see more, and know more, and believe more, and feel more in their religion. They not only have good works to prove the reality of their faith, but they are zealous of them. They not only do well, but they are unwearied in well-doing. They attempt great things, and they do great things. When they fail they try again, and when they fall they are soon up again. And all this time they think themselves poor, unprofitable servants, and fancy they do nothing at all. These are they who make religion lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all. They wrest praise even from the unconverted, and win golden opinions even from the selfish men of the world. These are they whom it does one good to see, to be with, and to hear. When you meet them, you could believe that, like Moses, they had just come out from the presence of God. When you part with them you feel warmed by their company, as if your soul had been near a fire. I know such people are rare. I only ask, Is it not so? Now, how can we account for the difference which I have just described? What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference in nineteen cases out of twenty arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much."
"The only way to be really happy in such a world as this, is to be ever casting all our cares on God. It is the trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad. If they will only tell their troubles to God, He will enable them to bear them as easily as Samson did the gates of Gaza. If they are resolved to keep them to themselves, they will find one day that the very grasshopper is a burden.
There is a friend ever waiting to help us if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow,—a friend who pitied the poor, and sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth, —a friend who knows the heart of man, for He lived thirty-three years as a man amongst us,—a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,—a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him. Oh, that we were all like that poor Christian Negro, who only answered, when threatened and punished, "I must tell the Lord."
Jesus can make those happy who trust Him and call on Him, whatever be their outward condition. He can give them peace of heart in a prison,—contentment in the midst of poverty,—comfort in the midst of bereavements,—joy on the brink of the grave. There is a mighty fulness in Him for all His believing members,—a fulness that is ready to be poured out on every one that will ask in prayer.. Oh, that men would understand that happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart..
Prayer can lighten crosses for us however heavy. It can bring down to our side One who will help us to bear them. Prayer can open a door for us when our way seems hedged up.. It can bring down One who will say, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all our earthly prospects seem darkened. It can bring down One who will say,— "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Prayer can obtain relief for us when those we love most are taken away, and the world feels empty. It can bring down One who can fill the gap in Our hearts with Himself, and say to the waves within, "Peace: be still!" Oh, that men were not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to the well of living waters close beside them! (Genesis xxi. 19).
Reader, I want you to be happy. I know I cannot ask you a more useful question than this,—DO YOU PRAY?"
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Justification Part 1
- Why is the doctrine of justification important?
o It answers the problem of how sinful man is made right before a holy and just God.
§ Man stands before God guilty and fully deserving of hell.
· See the blog entries here, here and here for a fuller treatment of man’s sinful state.
o It is central to the gospel and to deny the Biblical view is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.
§ Galatians 1:6-10 makes this abundantly clear.
§ Galatians chapters 2 & 3 expound upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
· Galatians 2:21 – I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law Christ died needlessly.
Grudem’s Definition of Justification: Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in His sight.
- Justify (dikaoo) – *IMPORTANT* this word has a range of meanings – its meaning is determined by context.
o Common usage is to declare righteous or just, or can mean to prove or show to be right, righteous or just.
- Scripture examples:
o Luke – Wisdom is justified by all her children.
o Luke – Lawyer justifying himself.
o Luke – Pharisees justify themselves.
o Luke –People justified God.
o Rom 3:4 – You (God) may be justified in your words.
§ None of these relate to sin but a form of the word justify (dikaoo) is used in each of these passages.
- Justification in salvation is in regards to sin.
o We must first understand that salvific justification occurs in God’s sight.
§ Scriptural proof:
· Romans – By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.
· Romans 4:2 – For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
· Galatians 3:11 – Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."
- The first aspect of Grudem’s definition is justification is a forensic (pertaining to legal matters) or legal act.
o Scriptural proof:
o Romans -34 – Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect, God is the one who justifies (vs 33).
§ Charge is a legal term and would have brought to mind the current legal system of the Roman readers.
§ In verse 34, Paul goes on to contrast the word justify with condemn.
· “It is God who justifies. Who can condemn?”
o What we see here is a legal declaration.
§ See also, Romans & 18, where judgment and condemnation is contrasted with justification.
o Grudem points out the distinction between justification and regeneration - John Murray quote.
- The second aspect is that God declares us just in His sight.
o Grudem lists two characteristics of this declaration.
- First – There is no more penalty for our sin – we are not guilty.
o Romans 8:1 – No condemnation for those in Christ.
§ See also Romans ,18 & -34 which we looked at earlier.
o We are not guilty, but is that it? Are we just neutral?
§ Are we neutral just like a criminal who has been acquitted of past crimes, but can still commit more crimes & become guilty again? No!
- Second – We are declared positively righteous.
o We are not merely forgiven, but are positively, eternally righteous before God.
o Scriptural Proof:
§ Romans – By the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
§ Romans 3:21-22 – Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
§ Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
- *IMPORTANT* This is not an internal change. We must not confuse justification with regeneration or sanctification.
o It is clear from the texts of scripture we have looked at that justification is a legal declaration that does not affect the inner man.
§ It is only an act of God.
- John Murray is absolutely right when he says in his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied:
o “Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does—he gives a verdict regarding over judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.”
o “The purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction. If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its center. Justification is still the article of the standing or the falling of the Church.”
§ This is an area where we have a BIG problem with Roman Catholic teaching.
o They perpetrate a false gospel that conflates justification with regeneration & sanctification.
§ Just read the Roman Catholic catechism on justification for further proof.
- For us who believe in the true gospel, let us pause, meditate and give thanks for the abundant gift of justification!