Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Martin Bucer And A Deformation In The Reformation

One of the books I got from an old friend was a copy of Martin Bucer's 'Concerning The True Care Of Souls'. Martin Bucer is a lesser known reformer who lived from 1491 to 1551. He become the pastoral leader in the city of Strasbourg which became a center for Reformed learning. Calvin and other Reformation leaders spent time in this city.
   As I flipped through the book, I came across a section or two dealing with how civil rulers are to help the church in shepherding the sheep. Bucer goes into some detail about how the civil authorities are to find and return lost sheep in the church. I had to look twice as this is not a subject you will find in today's books on pastoral care. Let me give you a few quotes so you understand Bucer's ideas.

"Rulers are to provide the church with faithful ministers, see to the education and discipline of the young, and allow no one to turn either himself or others from sound doctrine and fellowship of Christ."pg 81

"And those who embrace particular sects are encouraged to turn away from disaster by means of fines and other severe penalties." pg81

Bucer supports his view by explaining that since Augustine taught and encouraged this, we should do the same. Augustine believed that "God uses punishment and prevention by force also to restore people from false doctrine and sects and contempt of religion."pg83 Since it 'worked' with Augustine in the days of the Roman Empire, so it should also work for us is the logic that Bucer uses. He also supports his view by saying that Old Testament Israelite rulers used force to deal with the immoral and idolaters. This goes to show what errors can come when one doesn't see the difference between Israel and the Church. Bucer goes on say that while we can't force people to believe or to do good against their will, God uses the force and punishment administered by the rulers as a means of leading them to salvation. Such a view however has nothing in the scripture to support it.

Martin Bucer's view of the role of government in the church is not an abnormality in that time. This view was held by all the reformers, although that may come as a surprise to some. Philip Schaff in his book 'History of the Christian Church'  says "The Reformers founded a popular state church, including all citizens with their families." pg71 vol 8

Concerning Zwingli and the church in Zurich, Schaff writes, "The only dissenters in Zurich were a small number of Romanists and Anabaptists, who were treated with the same disregard of rights of conscience as the Protestants in Roman Catholic countries, only with a lesser degree of severity. The Reformers refused to others the right of protest which they claimed and exercised for themselves, and the civil magistracy visited the poor Anabaptists with capital punishment." pg67 vol 8 Later he writes about the Anabaptists "They were cruelly persecuted by imprisonment, exile, torture, fire and sword, and almost totally surpressed in Protestant as well as in Roman Catholic countries." pg 72

What happened in Zurich, happened to some degree where ever the Reformation spread. The Church and State were still closely connected. When a country and its rulers supported the Reformation, they made it the official church and religion of the country. Everyone in the state therefore now belonged to the state church and must attend that church. If you decided gather in a other church due to any difference as the Anabaptists did, then the government could go after you to bring you back to the church by force and with punishment. Bucer and other reformers supported this, encouraged it or at the least didn't speak out against it. This view found its way into the Belgic Confession. There it is said that "the task of the civil government is the protection of the church and its ministry in order that, all idolatry and false worship may be removed and prevented, the kingdom of Antichrist may be destroyed." Later in 1905 the last part of the sentence was thankfully deleted by the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church.

I want to point this out not because the Reformation is not important or the reformers were terrible men. The Reformation was an important turning point in the history of the church. God restored the truth of the gospel and blessed us greatly with many wise men. But some people talk and act as though the Reformation is the standard for the church. They say we need to go back to the time of the Reformation. A rosy picture is painted for us of this important time in the church while ignoring its defects.The Reformers were still sinners and falible men.

We don't need to go back to the Reformation as the standard, but like the reformers we need to go back to the scriptures. There is a constant need to always be reforming. As individual Christians we can let bad theology and practices slip into our thinking and living. Churches face the constant danger of wolves without and wolves within who would destroy the church by error and sin. Thus we need to continually go back to scripture, to immerse ourselves in its truth. Every error must be examined by the Bible. We don't need to constantly change the truth but we do need to constantly examine our life and doctrine by the scriptures.

There is also a danger we let other people form our theology. For those growing up in the church, they can accept the theological position of the church to be their position without examining the scriptures for the proof and support of those positions. New Christians are often in a similar danger. They can let their new church or some preacher set their theology, without taking the time, patience and hard work to see the truth in God's word for themselves. If we hold to sola scriptura, then let us be people of the Book. While we should not disregard the past of the church, we should not let it govern our theology but govern our lives and doctrine by God's holy book.

Let me wish you all a Blessed Reformation Day and a Happy Anabapist day! (The Anabaptists have for the most part unjustly been given a bad reputation. While there were some who deserved the reputation, many lived godly lives and were martyred because they didn't support the State church. They deserve the appreciation of the church as well. We enjoy the liberty that they died supporting. More could be said about this but that would form a book.)


Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Potter and His Clay Pots

Throughout chapters 43 -45 of Isaiah, the Lord declares that He is the Creator. There are about 10 times in these chapters that it is stated that God is the Creator. He has created Israel. He has created all things. This is especially important to show the foolishness of idolatry. Idols have to be made by people who are made by God. Idolatry is strange and a reversal of things as the creators worship the created. People worship something they have made. Idolatry is stupid; that goes for the one who worships one of the many gods of India or the one who worships politicians or cows or money. We can make a god out of anything. How vain these created idols will be in the day of judgement!

Realizing that God is our Creator and we are His creatures should teach us of the right way to relate to God. Let's look at verse 9 of Isaiah 45. "Woe to the one who argues with his Maker- one clay pot among many. Does the clay say to the one forming it, 'What are you making?'  Because He is the Creator, He can do as He wishes. He has the right as creator to do as He wants with the creatures He has made. And woe to the creature that dares to quarrel with God. The use of woe indicates that there is a curse on the one who argues with the Lord. We are simply clay pots. God used dust to make the first man and when we die our bodies will return to dust. We may be made in God's image but we are still only dust.

What if the clay pots started to get angry with the potter for how He was making them? The potter can do what he wants with the pots. Or lets use a more modern example. There are computer games where you can create people, like a hockey game where you can create a player. I can make them good or bad. Maybe they will be ugly and I can decide where they shall play. I make them and can do with them as I choose. They may not like how I make things, but there is nothing they can do. So it is with God.

People may complain and argue with God for all the troubles in their lives, but woe to them. God is the one who is in control of all things, even bad things. Verse 7 of Isaiah 45 says, "I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster, I, Yahweh, do all these things."  Disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes God has created. In Exodus 4:11 the Lord states that He makes people blind or mute. But arguing with God about what He does is futile. Even if God was sometimes unwise or cruel, what could you do? You are a clay pot. You and I are completely dependent on our Creator.We have no right to complain.

Thankfully God is not cruel, unwise or unmerciful. He is full of compassion and wisdom. There is no one equal to God in love and righteousness.So you can shake your fist at God for what He does or you can submit to Him and trust a God who is sovereign and wise. The providence of God may make no sense to you, but you can either scream at God till you are blue in the face or you can humbly trust the wise doings of gracious God. The one response brings only anger and bitterness and the other brings peace and thankfulness.

 Paul uses this same imagery of the potter and the clay in Romans 9:18-23 to silence objections to God choosing some for salvation and leaving others to wrath and judgement. Since God is Creator, He has give mercy to whomever He wants to and He has hardened others unto judgement. You may say He is not fair or that God is unjust to those who can't resist His will. But Paul doesn't explain these objections. He simply says, "But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?" Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?" Rom 9:20-21. We may not understand election and reprobation, but we can't complain or argue with God. We are clay and we need to realize that and trust that God is good and wise beyond our understanding.

"Woe to one who argues with his Maker." These are convicting words. How often have we complained about what God sends us in this life. Too many times we argue and quarrel with God when we don't like the situation we are in. We don't like how we look or where we live or our personality. Anytime we complain and grumble, we are quarreling with God who is supreme and sovereign. Arminianism is really a theological position coming from people arguing against the Lord. And the truth is, sometimes we have been  practical arminianists. All this shows us the greatness of our sin. We have all argued and complained against God even through we have no right to. But God is merciful. He has provided forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ. We all need to come to Him confessing our sins and asking for a more humble, thankful and submissive attitude.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tracing The Finger Of God

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to listen to some talks on the lives of godly men of the past. I have heard of men like David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, John Paton and William Carey. It has been an enriching time for my soul. Looking into God's past dealing with His children has strengthened my faith. I have marveled at the wisdom, faithfulness and sovereignty of God and I hope this post will help you do that as well.

David Brainerd was missionary to the Indians in the American Colonies. His life was short due to sickness. He died in Jonathan Edwards' house and Edwards was so moved by this man's godliness that he published David's journal and diary. God used this book to move many other people to leave all to bring the gospel to other lands. Men like William Carey and Henry Martyn and other well known men were inspired by this weak man. David Brainerd's impact on missions is hard to overemphasis.

  John Paton was a missionary to the South Sea Islands. For four years he lived and worked on the island of Tanna. He had little success and much danger and heart ache. He lost his wife and son on this island and he was sick often. Eventually he was driven off the island. A few years later a book was written about his trials and adventures in the mission field. It was used greatly by God to stir up his own denomination and the worldwide church to bring the gospel to the lost peoples of this world. Later John Paton went to another island where most of the island was eventually converted. He also traveled around the world to awaken the church to missions. Yet this could not have happen without his losses and trials on the island of Tanna.

 John Newton was known for being a wise counselor and a hymn writer. His letters are filled with wisdom and grace. He gave counsel to William Carey who became a missionary to India and the father of Modern Missions. John Newton mentored William Wilberforce, who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in Britain. Newton also befriended William Cowper who was a very depressed man. This friendship was a great blessing to Cowper. Together they wrote hymns together which have been sung all over the world by generations of Christians. Newton's Amazing Grace is one of the most well known hymns ever sung. God did all this and more through a man who once was a slave trader and a blasphemer.

 Over the last few weeks I have been looking back on our trips to Cuba for the purpose of writing a short book. It has been wonderful to look back on how God has taught us and provided for us. How patiently did God teach us so that His work would be done more effectively. I see the times He answered our prayers and the prayers of the Cubans. God brought the right people into our lives so that His goals would be accomplished. How often did He protect us from harm! Opportunities to go to Cuba were provided in way that only can be traced to the providence of God. Writing this account has led me to worship such a great and good God.

  Isn't this remembering the past deeds of God what the Psalmist often did. Just consider Psalm 105 verse 5, "Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced."  In a time of  crisis, Asaph said in Psalm 77, "I will remember the LORD's works; yes I will remember your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions." verses 11-12  When he did this, his faith grew strong. Instead of doubt and despair, there was hope and worship.

The past can teach us how God uses the blacks and grays on his painting of our lives. We may not see all the picture, but looking back on what is done will help us appreciate the wisdom of the Divine painter in choosing the colors that He did. One day when we look back from heaven, God's work of art will be seen to be a masterpiece.

 Remembering the past to see the providence of God is medicine for the soul. Do you do this? Do you see how God has led you, taught you, cared for you or protected you? When you see in the past your unfaithfulness and unworthiness, how gracious is our God! Do you study history, especially the history of the church? You should. What lessons would you learn! Consider the past, not to glory in you, but to glory in a glorious Lord.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sheep Who Don't Make A Peep

As our culture rejects God and His law, they will also reject God's authority that He has placed in this world. All the recent riots are evidence of this. God has ordained positions of authority in this world. The government is called to rule over countries, cities and towns. Husbands are to be leaders in their marriages. Parents are to have authority over their children. Masters or employers are in authority over those who work for them. God calls us to respect these positions of authority and submit to them so long as they don't ask us to do anything contrary to God's word. But as people reject God and dishonor Him, they will dishonor and disobey those God has put in positions of authority. Thus people don't listen to or obey the police. Wives mock their husbands and demand they share the authority God has given to their husbands. This lack of respect of authority is seen in schools, in the workplace and in how people treat those in government. As this becomes more of the norm in our culture, the church needs to be on guard for this attitude in her midst. These truths about God's authority need to be taught often. But there is one other position of authority that God has given us that is in  great danger if we do not combat this sin of the world. This is the position of the pastor/elder in the church. People will take this disrespect for authority and undermine the elders of the church. The results of this lack of submission is disastrous.

The Bible gives us a clear command about respecting those who govern the church. In Hebrews 13:17 we read this: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will have to give account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable to you." 
  We know that this passage is talking about leaders in the church because of the phrase "they keep watch over your souls." The government doesn't keep watch over our soul. Also in this chapter the word leader is referred to and each time it refers to church leaders.
The church is not a democracy. God has given authority to a group of men to take care of His sheep. They shepherd Jesus Christ's sheep on His behalf. The elders are men in high position because God has given that position. Therefore we are called to obey the elders and submit to them. To disobey them is to disobey God. If we love and obey Christ, then we should submit to those He has put in place in this position of authority in the church.

Let me give an example of what this submission looks like. There are churches that require their members to abstain from drinking alcohol. Now I would disagree with this requirement, but maybe this is the only good church in town. The church has good preaching and the elders are caring and godly. In order to join this church I would have to promise not to drink alcohol. Also I should not try to convince others to reject this requirement. The right way to try change this requirement would be to go the elders and present my case against this requirement and ask them to change it. If they don't however, then I need to submit to their judgement.

We should respect their authority both in our words and in our hearts. We should do this without grumbling and complaining. This doesn't mean we can't give helpful criticism or advice or share with them our concerns about how they do things. But if they disagree with our concerns, then we need to submit to them. We should not complain about the elders to others. We shouldn't cut them down before others. Gathering people to your cause to bring down the elders or to force them to listen is forbidden by this command.  Even disrespect, unsubmissiveness and grumbling in our hearts is contrary to God's will for His people. This is a hard command, but it is important as we shall see.

Do we have to submit and obey our elders in every instance? So long as they don't ask us to do anything unBiblical, we need to obey them. If this is God's plan for His sheep, then it is important for us to find good shepherds. Are they qualified to be in this position? Are they godly men who can teach the Word? We should give careful thought to who the elders of a local church are before we become members. No group of elders will be perfect. They will make mistakes. If you are looking for perfection you will never be a member of a church. No, we are looking for a pattern of godly character that is progressing. We are looking for men who are skilled in teaching the Bible. I believe there are few good reasons for leaving a church. Before we leave a church because we don't think the elders are qualified, we should pray much about this decision and check our hearts for sin. We should make sure there is a church that is doctrinally sound and that has qualified leaders in our area before we leave. It is a serious thing to submit to and obey our elders, and therefore we should give great attention and care before we are members of a church.

The task of shepherding the church of Jesus Christ is one of the hardest jobs on earth. The elder is a sinner dealing with his own sins while having to call other sinners to leave their sins, which we know is at times like pulling teeth from a lion. The work of an elder is mentally exhausting as one deals with serious and difficult issues. But this hard work can get much harder when the sheep refuse to submit to their leadership. This situation is bad for the elders and bad for the sheep.

Let me illustrate from my life as a farmer. Taking care of dairy cows is a lot of work. I need to keep them fed, clean their stalls, milk them twice a day and treat them when they are sick. When the cows are healthy and calm, it is not too bad. But when you have cows that try to knock out your teeth in the parlour or smash you with their head, farming becomes a burden. Cows that refuse to listen and go where they are supposed to make simple tasks a frustration. When this happens I can become gruff with the cows and my rod and staff need to be used. The more a cow fights me when I have to give her medicine, the worse it will hurt. It doesn't pay to fight with the farmer. Sometimes the cow goes to market.

Well, the same is true in regard to elders/pastors and the members of the church. When the members don't submit to the elders, it makes shepherding difficult. The elders spend time trying to sort out the conflict rather than studying, praying or counseling. This conflict can make the elder depressed. It can make him frustrated and angry. This will hurt his preaching and teaching, which will in turn hurt the sheep. Such conflict can lead to divisions in churches and at times it will lead to church splits or pastors leaving. When the sheep don't make a peep by being submissive and obedient, the work of shepherding is a joy. When the sheep revolt, the work is a deary business, and the spiritual health of the shepherds and the sheep will suffer. Sheep who rebel only bite the hand that feeds them. This is truly unprofitable for them.

There is a downward spiral into misery in the church when the members do not obey this command to submit and obey their elders. First, some members do not listen to the elders, slandering and complaining openly about them. Then the work of the pastors becomes more difficult and burdensome. So their work of shepherding starts to suffer due to the conflict. Next these members and, maybe more, start to complain even more because the elder's work is not done as it should be. This fresh wave of hostility further burdens the elders which makes their work suffer even more. And so it goes on until people repent or the church implodes or ceases to be effective.

For a healthy church, we need faithful pastors and submissive members. If either of these two are missing, the church will be in great trouble. So I ask you to be a good sheep or a good shepherd if you are one. Pray for your leaders. Love them. Support them. And submit to and obey them as if you are obeying and loving Jesus Christ. If you don't, you will only bring spiritual illness on yourself and dishonor to the fair name of Jesus.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Worship and Music

Music in the church; it is one of those topics that generate brisk and heated discussions. Some say we should only sing Psalms from the Bible. Some says we should not have any instruments. Some churches put on a rock concert every service. Should we sing only old hymns or new hymns and songs too? What instruments can we use?  Endless questions that can be confusing to sort through. These differences about music in church services can cause church splits. Part of the challenge is that God has given us some freedom on this issue and so differences are not necessarily wrong. I believe that God has given us principles about cooperate worship that we need to apply. Let try to look at some of them. Now I have to admit that I can't sing well or play any instrument with any level of skill. But I don't think that hinders me in understanding Biblical principles.

Worship is not just something we do in a Sunday church service. Worship is all of life. Worship can be cleaning your house or fixing a car. But on the first day of the week we gather to worship God together as a body of believers.This is not an option as we learn from Hebrews 10:25 where we are warned not to forsake meeting together, which usually happened on the first day of the week.

What is to happen when we meet together for worship?
 1) Prayer 1 Tim 2:8
2) Reading the Scriptures and preaching 1 Tim 4:13
3) Giving 1 Cor 16:2
 4) Regular celebration of Lord Supper  1 Cor 11:17-34
 5) Baptisms  Matt 28:19
6) Singing and Music Eph. 5:19

These are the elements that are to make up our worship service. All these elements are to be guided by scripture. We need Biblical preaching and singing. Baptism and Lord Supper are to be done as the Bible has instructed us. Prayer is shaped by the truth of God's word.

These different parts of a worship service are to be done together. That doesn't mean that everyone should be preaching or praying. The worship service is not a spectator sport. We are all involved even in the preaching for then our minds need to be engaged in listening. When there is praying, we ought to listen along and affirm what is being prayed in our own hearts. Even in baptism, those who are watching can be instructed and edified as they think of the beautiful picture of baptism and remember the saving grace of God in their lives. Singing praises to the Lord is to be done together as well. This is important for it helps us develop a Biblical guide to music.

The main principle for music in the church is that congregational singing guides the tune and the instruments. The instruments used and kind of music chosen must support and help the congregation sing. Any instrument can be used in a worship service so long as it helps rather than hinders the congregation to sing. If the instruments drown out the voices of the congregation, then it hinders the congregation's worship in song. Some instruments are more conducive to congregational singing. This will guide us when we consider what instruments should be used.

If this is a worship service and we are to worship together then the tune must be simple enough so that everyone can sing it. Most music written today is not easy for everyone to sing.Neither are they written for congregational singing. Some people can sing well, others only sing in one tone or croak like a frog. The tune must be simple enough that most if not all people can sing along without too much trouble.

The next principle for music in the church can be found in John 4;24. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The last word of this text is important. We must worship God with the truth. The truth fuels worship. Look at Col 3:16. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." The truth of Scripture should permeate every part of our lives, especially our singing as you can see in the later part of the verse.
So then our songs must be theologically rich and accurate. We need to sing our theology. Too many of the songs used in churches today are like a thin watery soup instead of a rich meal of meat and potatoes. Some of these songs use a lot of words to say very little that is meaningful or they use endless repetition. We can't worship God well when our music has little truth in it. These theological bare bones lyrics reflects our current age's lack of interest in doctrine and expository preaching. While I believe it would be well for the church to sing the Psalms so long as we recognize the different context, the Psalms also provide for a pattern or template with which to write our hymns.

Lastly, even if we have theologically rich songs with good congregational singing and a balanced use of instruments, we still might fail to worship God in our music. The second part of John 4:24 says we are to worship Him in spirit. That is we are to worship Him from the heart. Our singing must flow from a thankful and reverent heart that loves God. We need heart worship; not just singing the words but really meaning what we are singing. God cares much more about what goes on inside us than outside. Both are important, but if our hearts are far from God, we aren't worshiping Him. I think we can all see how we have failed in this. Let us pray that God will make us passionate worshipers of our Great Lord and Savior.

"Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly." 
Psalm 149:1


Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Everlasting Arms

It has been some time since I wrote on this blog. I certainly have not been idle during that time. Much has happened these past weeks. Many big things have come up. Important and even life-changing issues are being considered. Troubles and sorrows are thrown in the mix as well. I have been crushed but held up. I have been perplexed and in despair. Fear and courage compete in my heart. There have been frustrations, disappointments, and joys. But in all this the Lord has been my strength.  He has heard my cry and answered me. 

I came across this line from a tombstone recently that summarizes my experiences and hopefully
  "A wretched, poor and helpless worm
    On Thy kind arms I fall" 

 These two lines originally come from an Isaac Watt's hymn. Later William Carey asked that they be inscribed on his tombstone. These simple words give us the whole of what the Christian life is. In the beginning we recognize that we are weak and vile sinners. We can do nothing to save ourselves. God's word tells us to trust in the work of Christ for salvation and forgiveness. So with a divinely given faith, we helplessly fall on God's arms for mercy. But this trust does not end here. The Christian continues to see that he is weak and helpless. There is more sin in his soul than was first thought. Trials and troubles come to show us how weak we are. In all these times of pain, trouble, sorrow and distress, we fall on the strong arms of our God. No Christian who has even trusted their Heavenly Father to catch them was ever let down. Those arms can hold the whole universe, how much more His child who was bought with the blood of Christ. This picture of the arms of God is not just found in this hymn. It is found in God's word as well. Deut 33:27 says, "The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."  God is our home when we are pilgrims in this strange world. God's arms will hold us up though out our pilgrimage. He is always the same and His help is everlasting. Saints of today can be encouraged by the faithfulness of God to the saints of yesterday.

If you learn anything from this post, then learn this. God is reliable and faithful. I have found it so. It is when we see our weakness and fall on the kind arms of the Lord, that we will find that He will catch us and hold us close to His heart. 

"But He said to me,"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may reside in me." 
2 Cor 12:9


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Praising the Wrath of God

We sing of God's love and grace. Songs are written about His mercy. People praise His holiness. But how often have you praised God for His wrath against sin? As I worked through Isaiah in my morning devotions, I came across these verses:
 "Look Yahweh comes from far away, His anger burning and heavy with smoke. His lips are full of fury, and His tongue is like a consuming fire. His breath is like an overflowing torrent that rises to the neck. He comes to sift the nations in a sieve of destruction and to put a bridle on the jaws of the peoples to lead them astray." 
Isaiah 30:27-28 
( I am quoting from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which I just received as a gift.)  

 Isaiah uses some very vivid language here to describe the wrath of God against Assyria. But this wrath of God is toward all who are sinners as well. Maybe that is why we don't praise God for His wrath or talk about it much. I have yet to see Psalm 5:5 on a frame in someone house. "The boastful cannot stand in your presence; you hate all evildoers." Psalm 7:11 has yet to be written on a Christian greeting card. "God is a righteous judge and a God who shows wrath every day." Now this is understandable, but still we need to think more of the wrath of God. For if we praise God for His holiness then we should praise him for His wrath. His wrath is only an expression of His holiness. His black wrath against sin brings out the glorious light of the good news in Jesus Christ.

Last week I was listening to the radio where it was reported that a violent and perverse man was allowed to go free even through he was likely to commit the same offence. On this radio program, people called in to express their outrage and frustration at this injustice. No one called to defend the criminal. If anyone did, I am sure there would be much anger directed to them. It is right and noble to  be angry at this crime and the injustice. If sinful unsaved people are rightly allowed to be angry over injustice, then why not God? I think this anger over injustice in people is a small reflection of the anger of God over sin. Every sin is an infinite act of injustice. Every sin is a horrible outrageous act against a good God. If God was not angered by sin, He would not be holy or good. We should be thankful that God is angry at sin and will punish it. Praise the Lord for His wrath on sinners.

 The problem for us, Christians, is that we are still sinners living in a sinful world. For us to praise the wrath of God against sin, would mean we need to praise God for His wrath toward our sin. We kind of like our sin and our commitment to holiness is not so firm. We get used to sin. We have very dim perceptions of the holiness of God. Thus we have a hard time seeing how black and evil sin is. We are so accustomed to sin that we trivialize it. We are slow to put to death our sin. So we have a hard time with the infinite wrath of God against sin. But it is good for us to understand and praise the wrath of God. For it will help keep us from a low view of sin. It will help us to desire to be rid of sin. How could I sin, when that sin makes an infinitely holy God angry? Thus we need to spend more time in God's word to teach us who this holy God is.

Here is another motivation to forsake our sins. Jesus Christ suffered the infinite wrath of God that we deserved so that we could be forgiven and counted as righteous. If God the Father unleashed His wrath on His beloved Son to redeem poor unworthy sinners who will never fully understand the depths of this sacrifice, shouldn't those sinners hate those sins that still cling to them? For us to hold on to sin is as gross as someone who keeps a rotten corpse in the house. Or it is as unthinkable as keeping the bloodied knife that killed your friend in a display case. If we love Jesus, we will hate sin and remove it from our lives. 
      What love the Savior has for such poor sinners that He would drink the full cup of the wrath of God on their behalf! 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Zombie Redemption

There he was locked in a cage that was in the corner of  the foulest room that I had ever seen. He sat in his cage glaring at me through the bars. "Stay back" said a voice behind me. I looked around to see a short, fat man with an evil grin. "The creature will bite if you get too close." I felt a cold shudder travel down my body as I seemed to be in the presence of very wicked creatures in a dark room. "What is that creature in the cage?" I asked the man beside me. "Oh he is a sort of zombie. He is dead and alive at the same time. But I would say he is more dead than alive."
  "How did he come like that?"
 "Ah he was warned of the consequences, but alas, stupid fool, he chose to disobey and then this happened. He turned into a zombie. Now I own him."
His laughter echoed through out the room as he said this. I looked again at the creature in the cage and saw in a glimmer of light the rotten features of his deformed face. So I turned away and asked the man, " What do you do with him?"
"Oh, I enjoy torturing him. Then at times I let him out to terrorize the people in the town. You wouldn't believe the crimes that this thing does.  Of course no one can do anything to overpower it. While he commits outrageous acts, I watch and take delight in his evil."
" Is it possible for him to be released from his cage? Could anything be done to relieve this creature from his misery"
"No, well, yes, but it is almost impossible. The creature has a long lists of crimes which must be punished by the judge of the land. If those crimes were paid for by someone who would suffer cruel torment in this creature's place, then he could go free. But who would want to rescue such a creature. And what would you do with him after he is released? He is too vicious to be kept out of his cage."

I saw then that there was no hope for this foul creature. Why would anyone want to pay such a high price to save a half dead creature that chose to put himself in this place to begin with? There is nothing that is good to be found in the disposition of this zombie. So I turned to leave this dreadful place, when a man stepped into the room. He walked past me to the torturer and showed him a piece of paper. As the torturer read it his mouth fell open and the color drained from his face. All the man said was, "It is paid in full." Then he walked to the cage and looked at the creature with the kindest and most compassionate expression. Then he went to the door of the cage and opened it. He took hold of the creature's arm and dragged him out since it did not want to go out to this man. But when the creature was out, a most incredible transformation occurred. The creature was changed. He looked more like the man and less like a zombie, although he didn't shed all of his deformed features. The man looked into his eyes and said "Follow me" and so the new creature did with joy.

In the book 'The Doctrines of Grace' by James Boice and Philip Ryken, there is this paragraph. "John Gerstner, who was a professor at Pittsburgh theological Seminary, compared Paul's description of our sinful state to what horror stories call a zombie. A zombie is a person who has died but who is still up on his feet walking around. it is a gruesome concept, which is why it appears in horror stories. but it gets worse. This upright, walking human corpse is putrefying. It is rotting away, which is probably the most disgusting thing most people can imagine. But this is a fair description of what Paul is saying about human nature in its lost condition. Apart from Jesus Christ, these sinning corpses are "the living dead".
The verse they are referring to is Ephesians 2:1-2 says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world."

 The world loves zombies. But the real zombies are the members of Adam's race. We are alive to sin but dead in it. We are spiritually dead, but alive to committing all manner of sin. We are hideous creatures before a Holy God. His wrath is against us. There is no reason that anyone would want to save us, especially considering the great cost it would be to redeem us. Yet the love and compassion of God is great and so He came to redeem ugly sinners by dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Our story can't fully illustrate this love of God to unworthy and vile sinners, but I hope it helped you to understand better the love of God in Christ. To God alone be the glory.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Henry Martyn: Bible Translator and Missionary

Some years ago I heard a sermon in which there was an illustration from the life of Henry Martyn. I had never heard of Henry Martyn and was naturally curious to know more about this man. So I bought two books about Henry Martyn to learn what I could of this missionary. A few days ago I finished reading one of those books again. The book is called "For the Love of India" and it is written by Jim Cromarty. I think it would be a blessing and an encouragement for every Christian to know something of the life of this godly man. So this post about his life will hopefully whet your appetite to learn more.

    Henry Martyn was born on February 18, 1781 in the town of Truro, which is located in southern England. His father was converted during the revivals that came through the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield, which changed much of  England. His family was somewhat well to do, so that Henry was able to go to university. Henry was not an athletic boy, in fact he was often sick. But his mind was keen and brilliant. He was skilled in math and language. This produced a great pride in his heart so that all he wanted to do was to make a name for himself. But the Lord began to work on his heart through the death of his father, the counsel and prayers of friends, and the preaching of Rev. Charles Simeon, an evangelical minister. When he was about nineteen, he experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Henry Martyn was a new man in Christ. He had formerly wanted to study law, but now he desired to be ordained as a minister in the church of England so he could go to India as a missionary. In order to prepare himself he became a curate or assistant to Rev. Charles Simeon, so that he might gain experience in preaching and pastoral ministry. At this time he applied to become a chaplain to the East India Company which controlled most of India. Through some influential friends he was able to get a position. On August 10, 1805, Henry Martyn left for India.

     All missions work requires sacrifice and it was no different in Henry's case. He could have had a comfortable job teaching at university or pastoring some important church, but his heart was set on the lost people in the Far East. He also left behind a girl he loved. This girl whose name was Lydia considered Henry a friend, but did not share the same love as he had for her. Yet Henry thought when he left that when he arrived in India, she would join him and become his wife. In fact he did propose to her a few times, but she never said yes. They did continue to write letters till the end of his life.

 Henry Martyn was a Calvinist in a church that often had nominal attendees and clergy who only wanted to hear moralistic sermons. This difference was a source of much hostility from others in the church of England. While his theology was good, his preaching was not as good. He was an intelligent man, but his sermons were often too difficult for others to understand. He did work hard on improving both his delivery and his manner of preaching. Both his theology and his preaching style caused him much trouble, especially on his voyage to India. He was responsible for the spiritual health of the people aboard the ship. But through out this long voyage, he was met with indifference, contempt, and scorn from those on board. Yet in spite of this, he continue to warn, reprove, and teach those on board. Almost 10 month later with a number of stops, he arrived in India. William Carey was in India at this time as well and Henry spent some time with him and his friends. Soon Henry received his first post. He was to be a chaplain to some 400 British troops at Dinapore. While he did his duties to care for the spiritual welfare of these soldiers, he was also translating the Bible and other religious literature into Hindustani and starting a school for the local Indian people. While most Europeans disliked the Indians and cared little for them, Henry worked among them, teaching them to read and preaching the gospel to them. Like his time on the ship, Henry was disliked by the soldiers he worked among for his gospel preaching and tough stance on sin. He often was a lonely man, with few other Christians to fellowship with. Later on however while he was stationed in Cawnpore, there were a handful of Christians soldiers who spent time with him in worship and fellowship.

Translation work was the main focus of Henry. He loved languages and grammar like some people love their favorite sport's team. His great skill in translating produced  very clear and accurate translations. After learning the languages of the area, he set out to produce a Bible in the language of the people of India. Five years after he came to India,with the help of a few others, he had produced the New Testament, Genesis, and 'The Book of Common Prayer' in Hindustani. He also started to translate the New Testament into Arabic and Persian, since those two languages were spoken in that area. But Henry's health was not very good. His labors, the heat, and his weak body made him a sickly man. In 1810, he decided to go back to England for a rest and hopefully to marry Lydia. On his way home, he planned to travel through Persia and Arabia so that he could learn the languages better and thus produce more accurate translations of the Arabic and Persian New Testaments. He stayed in the city of Shiraz for about a year where he completed the translation of the Persian New Testament along with the Psalms. During his stay in Shiraz, Henry often debated with the Muslims. He wrote tracts explaining the errors of Islam and the truth of the gospel. As you might expect, he endured mush hostility here among the Muslims as he had before among the British.

Henry Martyn pushed himself in spite of his sickness to finish his translation work and to preach the gospel. Sometimes he made foolish decisions which harmed his health, like traveling in the hottest time of year. While at times his health improved, his condition grew worse and worse. On his long journey home to England, he traveled though extreme heat with dangers on every side. Accommodations were regularly poor. These conditions are bad for a healthy man, but for a sick man like Henry, they are fatal. On October 16 1812 in Tokat, Henry Martyn died at the age of 31.

Henry Martyn had a passion to see sinners worshiping the Lord Jesus. He never saw anyone converted through his preaching or teaching. But who knows how many were blessed through his translations? Henry kept a journal of his daily activities and his spiritual progress. This journal and the biographies that were written by his friends have been a blessing to many Christians as well. Many can thank the Lord God for the gifts He gave to Henry. He was a man who lived close to his Savior. His godliness was evident to all and left a great impression on them. He lived and breathed the gospel in all areas of his life. His love for his Redeemer compelled him to sacrifice much to bring the good news to a people living in darkness.

"We bear the torch that flaming
fell from the hands of those
who gave their lives proclaiming 
that Jesus died and rose
Our is the same commission
the same glad message ours
fired by the same ambition
to Thee we yield our power."

From the song 'Facing a Task Unfinished'
By Frank Houghton and Keith and Kristyn Getty


Saturday, July 2, 2016

David's Mighty Men

My children love the Asterix and Obelix books. The Gauls have a magic potion which gives them superhuman strength. This enables them to hold off the Roman legions and live in freedom. No matter the size or power of a Roman army, the Gauls can defeat them. One Gaul filled with magic potion can hold off thousands of soldiers. Well, I came across a portion of scripture that seems to come out of the Asterix books. And no, it was not Samson, although, he may be the best example of a man with superhuman strength.

If you would go to the second book of Samuel and the 23rd chapter starting at the 8th verse. There you will read an almost incredible record of some amazing warriors. There is a man who kills 800 men with a spear in one battle. Eleazer was another mighty warrior who stood fast against the Philistine army. He held them off, even as his hand grew weary and clung to his sword. Shammah did much the same feat at another battle. One of David's great warriors, Abishai, killed 300 men in a battle with a spear. Or consider that doer of great deeds, Benaiah. He killed two giant men of Moab as well as killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day. He also killed a great Egyptian by taking his spear and killing him with it. Lastly, three of David's mighty men broke through enemy lines into a Philistine held city to get David a cup of water, and then returned back to David's camp. Reading these military exploits is impressive, even hard to believe. But the question is what does God want us to learn from these heroes of David? Is this recorded to show us how great David and his army was or as an entertaining story? Or is there more?

 While these examples of courage are hard to believe, they shouldn't be. For God promised that Israel would do these kinds of feats of war if they were obedient to Him. One of the blessings that Israel would enjoy if she kept the Mosaic covenant was the defeat of her enemies. Leviticus 26:7-8 says, "You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword." God did not just promise victory for obedience, but a supernatural and overwhelming victory since Israel would be able to defeat her foes with only a handful of men. We see this promise kept when Jonathan and his armor bearer attack and defeat a Philistine garrison through their trust in the Lord. 1 Samuel 14. So this list of military exploits by David's men should not surprise us since David and his soldiers are walking in obedience.

It is also important to note that in two of the examples it is stated that the Lord provided the victory. See verse 10 and 12. These men were skilled in war, but their skill and victories came from God. Through His people, God was showing His power in these victories over His enemies. So this story is not so much about David's mighty men as is it about the God of David's mighty men's. He worked powerfully to protect Israel. He was showing His love and kindness to Israel by enabling these warriors to win incredible victories over her enemies. So we learn from this narrative about the loving and powerful God we serve. But there is more for us to learn.

 We too can do great deeds for God's kingdom and honor. Consider the saints who have gone before us. Martin Luther stood up for the gospel and defied the powerful Roman Catholic church and her allies. By his courage and zeal, the Lord brought about the Reformation. George Whitefield and John Wesley preached the gospel to thousands, in spite of great hostilities. God used these men and others to transform Great Britain and America in the Great Awakening. Adoniram Judson left America as one of its first missionaries to go to the land of Burma. There he lost two wives, a number of his children, almost died in prison and suffered bouts of depression. But he translated the Bible into Burmese and the first church in Burma was started. The list could go on. Some of the great deeds of God's people may not seem so glorious as these, but truthfully they are deeds no one could accomplish but by the power of God. How about those who subdue their sin, like some great addiction such as porn or drugs. What about the pastor who continues to preach faithfully even though the harvest is small and he is relatively unknown. Or the mother who trains her children in the wisdom of the Lord and prays constantly for them. There are many examples we could give.

The Christian life of putting to death sin, living holy lives, and walking faithfully with the Lord is impossible for anyone to do. But with the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit, we can be super conquerors. We can do great deeds, but only through the Almighty. We are weak, but He is strong. Our troubles are powerful but God is even greater. This then is the great secret to living out the Christian life with all of its mountains and valleys. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9.


Friday, June 24, 2016

The Great Demise Of The Monster Death

There is no event more solemn and weighty than a death. Yet it is a wonder that people regard death without much thought, even joking about it. Some people kill without much of a thought to what they are doing. Murder is just a statistic for some. But when you really know what comes after death, it becomes a very serious event.

  Death is not a native to this world. When Adam and Eve lived in Eden, there was no death. But after they sinned, death come into the world. People die because they are sinful. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." Rom 5:12. Now in this sinful world, death has become normal. We can't imagine a world without dying. While it is normal, it is still a shadow that haunts the lives of every person, even when they make jokes about it. In Hebrew 2:15, it says that Jesus died to destroy death and Satan "and to deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." People live all their lives in fear of death. Why? Well, God has put eternity in the hearts of all men. Eccles 3:11. That means that God has put into all people the sense that life doesn't end with death. We know that there is an afterlife. This is seen in all the different ideas of heaven or hell among all nations. Combine this with the God-given conscience which warns people that they are guilty, and you will understand why people are afraid of death. With death we seem to plunge into the unknown. Is there judgement to come for us?  We can try avoid death, but it will come to us. We can delay death but we can't escape it. It will hunt us down and we will all be caught in its net. But is there no hope? Is there real hope and not just fairy tales make up by people? In Isaiah 25:8, God gives us hope that death will die and with that all sorrow.

In the chapter that comes before Isaiah 25, we read of a worldwide judgement. There will come a day when God will pour out His wrath on a sin-defiled world. The earth will be almost emptied of people and shaken and broken. The evil spirits and unrepentant sinners will be cast into prison for a long time until judgement. The Lord will reign over all the world from Mount Zion. In chapter 25, Isaiah sings a song of praise on behalf of those who will be saved from that judgement. In verse 6 he describes the glorious feast that God will prepare for those whom He saved. Then we come to verses 7 and 8 which speak of the death of death. Consider verse 8, "He will swallow up death forever;" Death will one day disappear. How can this happen?

We learn the answer to this question in 1 Corinthians 15:4. Paul quotes this text in Isaiah there. "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to the pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 15:54-57.  Jesus won the victory over death by his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. He is the great Champion, the Conqueror. Not even death can stand before Him.  Now He can give eternal life to all those that come to Him for grace and mercy. Jesus died their death and has wiped away all their sins. Death has no power over them. The sting of death has been thrust onto Christ, so now for the redeemed, there is no sting in death.  For those who are forgiven, death is now a door into a new world of perfect joy. In the new heavens and the new earth, there will no more death at all. For after the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth, all the dead will be judged. Along with the unredeemed, death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire; the second death. Rev 20:14-15 So the victory that was begun with the death and resurrection of Christ, will be completed.

With death, sin, evil and the devil will all be removed from earth and so there will no more tears. We cry at the death of those we love. We weep over our sins or over the sins of others. We may cry in our pain and trials. But here in this new world, there are none of the things that cause us to cry. The Lord will wipe away all our tears. He will as it were comfort us, like a father who holds his crying child and wipes away his tears with his hand and softly says  "All is well now. There is nothing to be afraid of." Likewise, " the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces," Isaiah 25:8. This expression is used of those believers who have suffered on earth but are now in heaven in Rev 7:17. It is also used of the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation 21:4. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

  If you won't repent of your sins and beg forgiveness of Jesus Christ, all you have to look forward to is a never ending horror of death and pain. But if you have been given salvation by the great mercies of Jesus Christ, you have an eternity of joy and peace with God. No more tears will fall from your face. And the only reason you will be there, is the infinite grace of God in Christ. There is absolutely no difference between you and those who will suffer in hell forever. We deserve to be in the lake of fire. It is only because of the electing love of God that we are not there. What grace and love is this! No words can express it. Such divine love is "so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." (from Isaac Watts' song, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross")

 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Shoes, No Clothes, No Idolatry?

In your time of need, where do you look for help first? When faced with difficulties or a need, who is the person you go to first? The truth is we often look to people or to ourselves first. We have idols that seem more able to save than the Lord God. But as we will see in this post idols will always disappoint us, but our God is an ever present help in trouble.

It would be helpful as you read this post that you turn in your Bible to Isaiah 20. It is short chapter, but it is very instructive. The previous chapter explained the fall of the Egyptians. Egypt was a super power in this area of the world at the time and Israel and Judah often looked to Egypt for help in their wars with Assyria and later Babylon. In 711 B.C. the Assyrians attacked the Philistine city of Ashdod and captured it. During this battle, the word of the Lord came to Isaiah and it was no ordinary word. Isaiah was told to take off his clothes and sandals, and walk around in this condition for three years. Being a prophet was not easy. Often the prophets were called to do strange things like this. See the strange actions of Ezekiel. The way of a Christian can be filled with tasks and situations that are hard and humiliating. Like our Lord, we may become an object of scorn. Yet God has a purpose in it all for us and for those watching us. We are theaters that display the glory of God in jars of clay. This was true for Isaiah.

Now it is likely that Isaiah was not completely naked as that would violate good morals. Also the word naked doesn't necessarily means completely without clothes. He may not have walked around in this state all the time, but at times through out the span of three years. Exposing any part of your skin was a great shame in that culture. Can you imagine what people would say? Most would laugh and call him crazy. Others though may have asked why he was dressed like this. Then Isaiah would have an opportunity to explain why God wanted him to walk around partially naked. This living sign was a way to get people's attention to the word of God.

God's message was that just as Isaiah was walking barefoot and naked, so the Egyptians and Cushites would walk barefoot and naked as prisoners of war, led into exile by the Assyrians. The great super power Egypt and her close relative Cush would soon be defeated and humiliated before the terrible Assyrians.

 Why act out this sign at this time when Ashdod fell? It seems, like Judah, Ashdod and the Philistines relied on Egypt for military assistance. but in Ashdod's greatest need, Egypt failed to deliver her. Not only was Egypt unable to help her allies, one day she would be crushed in defeat as well. The lesson for Judah is very simple. Don't trust in Egypt to save you from your enemies. She can't help you. Your greatest enemy and  your greatest savior is the Lord. If you return to Him in repentance and obedience, then He will look upon you in favor. Only He can deliver you from the raging nations around you. Put all your hope and trust in the eternal and almighty God. But if you don't you will face the wrath of God, who will make you naked captives to a merciless foe.

So what about us? Do we have idols like Judah? How often do we look to man for help instead of God? When faced with a problem, do we trust our own wisdom and skill to get us out of the trouble? Or do we first pray to our God for help and wisdom? Maybe you think the only way for your loneliness and dissatisfaction to disappear would be to find that perfect person to get married to. Or if only you had children, your life would be great. Do we rely primarily on people to get us out of various troubles, or is our first reaction prayer? Do we look to good politicians to save our country? We often first try to solve our problems and dissatisfaction on our own or though others, and when our idols fails, then we turn to God for help.  I encourage you to try apply this further to your life.

Idolatry is a serious sin against God. When we sin by trusting in others rather than God, we are showing that we don't believe God is able or willing to help us. Our idolatry is a insult to the Holy One. Would it not parents be grieved if their little children went to their little foolish friends for help instead of them?  Thankfully if we repent of our idolatry, there is grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horseman because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!" 
Isaiah 31:1 


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Come to Me

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

- Matthew 11: 28-30

I’ve been feeling rather discouraged lately in my struggle against sin.
There are certain sins that are so deep rooted that it feels like they keep rearing their ugly head, no matter what my resolve is. No matter how hard I try, I see and feel these sins lurking in the depths of my heart. And, when they break through in my words and actions, my soul longs to tear them, roots and all out of my heart. But I cannot. No matter what I try to do, they stick.
It’s interesting when you first become a Christian, that it seems like so many sins just fall away. You look back and wonder, ‘where did that go? Why do I find no joy or satisfaction in doing the things I used to do?’ The joy that is felt when you see how God has changed your heart and changed the longings of your heart. You desire to please Him. You long to do His will. You want to know more about Him and who He is.
But that ‘high’ doesn’t seem to last. Often the sin of pride starts to show as you wonder why others aren’t growing or haven’t grown as you have. Then you see more sins that are much harder to fight than the more ‘outward’ sins of your actions. You start to see how wicked the heart really is. How it is just steeped in sin—rotten to the core.
This is where discouragement can settle in as it has with me. I see how wicked my heart is. I see my failings, and short comings, and then I try to fight it. On my own.  And, that is where the mistake is made. I cannot fight sin on my own. I cannot live a life that is good enough or that pleases God. Oh, I long to. I so desire to please Him and yet I know that even my best attempts are as filthy rags before Him, all my labor is in vain. And, in my looking at myself, and my rottenness, I forget to look at Christ. I forget to look to Him and His righteousness. The righteousness He has clothed me in. I forget to cling to Him—to take His yoke upon me. I forget to learn from Him. I forget to immerse myself in His Word, and to cast my prayers at His feet. This is when my soul is heavy laden—cumbered with a load of care.
May I continually cling to Him, to find my joy and salvation in Him alone.  Not in my own works, not in my feeble attempts, but in Him alone. May I find rest for my soul in Him for He is gentle and lowly in heart. 

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

-Joseph M. Scriven

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bunyan's "Holy War"

We just finished listening to "The Holy War"  by John Bunyan. Since this book was a blessing to me, I want  to encourage you to read or listen to the entire book. This allegorical book was written in 1682. It is lesser known than Bunyan's more famous book, "Pilgrim's Progress." But "The Holy War" is just as rich in spiritual truth, if not more so. Both these books have more solid theology than 99% of the books in your local Christian bookstore. "The Holy War" teaches many great truths of scripture such as, the fall and corruption of man, the work of the law and the gospel, the use of the conscience, forgiveness and redemption, sanctification and glorification. This book is almost a treatise on sanctification for you will learn about the putting to death of sin, resisting temptation, and how to grow in holiness. Many more truths from the Bible are found in this book under the guise of this allegorical story, which can't all be related here.

A summary of the book is as follows: King Shaddai built a city called Mansoul in the country called Universe. All things are well and good until Diabolus shows up. By using deception, he convinces the town of Mansoul to let him in to the city so he can rule over them instead of Shaddai and his son Emmanuel. Diabolus corrupts the town of Mansoul in every possible way. When Shaddai hears of it, he sends some of his army to take the town back. While this attack does some good, the city is even more set on rebellion than before. So Emmanuel is sent with an army to take the town. This attack is successful. Diabolus is humiliated and banished from town. In a marvelous act of grace, Emmanuel pardons the town and begins to reign over them. But there is a problem, for among the natural inhabitants of Mansoul, there are Diabolonians. These are men inside Mansoul who are Diabolus' people seeking to bring Mansoul back under the bondage of Diabolus. All is well between Emmanuel and Mansoul until the people start to listen to the wicked ideas of some Diabolonians. Then Emmanuel leaves his Mansoul for a time. Diabolus hearing of Mansoul's low condition, raises an army to take back Mansoul. Poor Mansoul! She is attacked from without by Diabolus and from within by the Diabolonians. So the rest of the book records this great struggle; the ending of which I will not tell you as I hope you will find out by reading the book.

The Holy War is worth the effort to read. It is a little tedious at times and the language is old and archaic (I am an Old English Only when it comes to these books; no modern updates for me), but plod on. Digging for diamonds takes hard work, but it is worth the effort. Glorious truths are illustrated in new and fresh ways. There are countless illustrations that can be used to color your sermons, Bible lessons, and conversation. And if you ever hear me teach, you will understand all the references I make to "The Holy War" and "Pilgrim's Progress" and then I won't have to explain them. So take the time to read or listen (it is an audio book) to "The Holy War" and then read "Pilgrim's Progress" while you are on a roll.


In honor of this John Bunyan themed post, We are giving away a CD. It is called "Pilgrim's Praise" by Judy Rogers and Craig Pitman. It has a number of songs based on "Pilgrim's Progress." You can find out more about Judy Rogers at her website. If you want the CD, leave a comment below and we'll draw someone's name at random in a few days.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Lord's Day

This is the last post in a series on the Sabbath. As we have seen before the Sabbath day was for the people of Israel under the Mosaic covenant as a sign of that covenant. It pointed them back to the creation rest and redemption from slavery in Egypt. The Sabbath was a type and shadow that pointed them forward to the spiritual rest and liberty in Christ. We have seen from Colossians 2:16,17 that we are not required to keep the Sabbath. So in this post we will look at the Lord's day. Is there any connection between it and the Sabbath? Is the Sunday our new day of rest? I will answer these questions as best as I can from scripture. If you disagree that is fine, just make sure you back up your conviction with scripture, not tradition.

 The basis for worship on the first day of the week comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first day of the week is when Christ rose from the dead. Salvation was completed. Death was defeated. Our Savior is alive. Oh! There have been few days so filled with joy as that day. The apostles went from the deepest depths of despair to an incredulous joy. The resurrection is the pillar of Christianity. For if Jesus did not rise, then our faith is vain. His resurrection ushered in a new era. To celebrate a finished salvation, Christians started to meet on the first day of the week to worship.

The first reference to meeting on the first day of the week is found in Acts 20:7. "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day....." Here we read of believers gathering together on the first day of the week to take communion and to hear the preaching of God's word. The next time we read of the first day of the week is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2. "Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up,....." This verses teaches that it was Paul's frequent instruction to churches that each Sunday, they collect an offering for other needy believers. This also implies that every first day of the week believers were gathering together for worship. One part of that worship was giving financially. The last reference to the first day of the week or Sunday is found in Revelation 1:10. There we find that on the Lord's day, John saw a vision of Jesus Christ. The Lord's day is a reference to the first day of the week. It seems likely that John was worshiping on the first day of the week as was the pattern of the church, even while he was alone on the island of Patmos. These verses are the only references in the New Testament to believers gathering together to worship on the first day of the week. This pattern of worshiping on the first day of the week continues on through the early church and through out church history.

Now I think we can agree that the first day of the week is a day of worship, joy, and fellowship. But is it a day of rest? Did the Sabbath day become the Sunday? If it did, what proof do we have? Nothing I have found in the New Testament has made a link with the Sabbath and the Sunday in regard to resting. Now the Sabbath was a day when the Jews would worship in the synagogues. The synagogues were meeting places where the Jews came together to be taught God's word. These came into being during the exile. Now on this point of worship, there is a connection between the Sabbath and the Sunday. But as to the Sunday being a day of rest that replaces the Sabbath; nothing is said. If the Sunday was a replacement, then where is that clearly laid out? The Sabbath had clear rules on what couldn't be done and how to punish Sabbath breakers. Are those laws still in force or are they changed? The Sunday is not a day of rest like the Sabbath is, rather it is a day to rejoice in the rest we have in Christ together with God's people.

Do we have no day of rest? I believe that there is a principle in the Sabbath that should be applied to our lives. We need to rest physically. We can't continue working until we drop. Our bodies and minds need time to rest and relax. Jesus understood this and tried to give His disciples a time for rest. We would be wise to take time to rest; to take a day off from work. Sunday is one of the best days to do that. It a normal day off for most people and if we are to worship on Sunday, we need to take time away from our work to do that. Thus we don't have a day of rest or rules laid down for us to follow for resting, we have a principle we can apply to our lives. If you can, rest on Sunday. If you can't, find another time to rest on. Just let us remember the command to "not neglecting to meet  together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrew 10:25

Lastly, if you disagree with all that I have written concerning the Sabbath and Sunday, that is all right, provided you are fully convinced from God's word about your position. You have freedom in this matter and I will respect that freedom. But also allow me my freedom in this matter as well.
 Romans 14:5-6 says, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.."


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Shadowy Sabbath

In the last post I wrote about the Sabbath day, I looked at a large overview of the Sabbath day in the Bible and even into early church history. I explained that for those who live in the New Covenant, we are not obligated to keep the Sabbath day. I want to show from scripture the meaning of the Sabbath day as it will help us understand why it is only a temporary law for Israel. Let us look at the purpose of the Sabbath day.

 Every covenant has a sign to confirm it. The covenant with Noah had the rainbow as a sign of God's promise. The Abrahamic covenant had circumcision. The New covenant has baptism. And the Mosaic covenant had the Sabbath day. "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you through out your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you." Exodus 31:13  And in verse 17, "It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." This point is also made in Ezekiel 20:10-12, "So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my statues and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them."  The Sabbath day was to function for Israel as a reminder that they were set apart by God to be His people. The Mosaic covenant was where the Lord formally entered into covenant with His people. There He set the terms of the covenant, one of which was keeping the Sabbath day, which was something new, even to the people of Israel.

  There are two reasons given why Israel was to rest on the Sabbath day. One is given in the 10 commandments given in Exodus 20:1-17 and the other is given in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In the Exodus version of the 10 commandments the reason given for the Sabbath day is the Lord's rest on the seventh day. The 10 commandments in Deuteronomy the reason given is the Lord's deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. These two reasons explain the meaning of the Sabbath day for Israel.

 The people of Israel were to rest on the Sabbath day because God rested on the seventh day. God did not rest on the seventh day because He was tired. His rest was a cessation of His labors and an invitation for man to enjoy this rest with God. Man was to enjoy fellowship and harmony with his Creator in this true rest. But sin came into the world and this rest was lost. Sin makes us restless. Sin destroys our peace with God. Fallen human nature cannot rest, but tries to work to find salvation. As Israel rested physically on the Sabbath they were to remember this spiritual rest that was lost because of sin. The Sabbath day was to direct their hearts to come back to God in true faith and repentance to find that true rest. We know from Hebrews 4 that this rest of God's was to be restored in Christ. He is our rest. Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath. "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His." Heb 4:9-10.

The Sabbath day was also to remind Israel of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Israel was for many years a nation of slaves. They worked and worked to build cities in Egypt. Slavery is tiring business. You don't get to pick your hours or vacations. They were owned by a very strong nation. They were oppressed and worked almost to death. I am sure they would have loved just one day to rest from their hard labor. The Lord stepped in to save His people. He destroyed their oppressors by 10 plagues. He delivered them from Egypt and led them to freedom. Yet in a sense they were still slaves, just of a different owner. The Lord now owned this people. But He is a good owner. He gave His people many good things. One of the many festivals and holidays was the Sabbath day. As they rested on that day, they were to remember their hard labor in Egypt and how God delivered them. Thus Israel would be thankful to their God for His liberation. They would remember that they were His people and they were called to live to His standards. Even this reason for the Sabbath day was to point to something greater. The freedom given in the exodus is a picture of a greater freedom found in Christ. He delivers us from the power of sin and Satan. We were slaves to sin, but now we are free to be slaves of Christ and righteousness. Thus resting on the Sabbath should have directed the minds of the Israelites to seek a greater freedom; a freedom from slavery to sin.

The Sabbath day was full of types and shadows that are all fulfilled in Christ.See Col 2:16,17. It was a sign of God's covenant with Israel. Now that Christ has come it is no longer binding on Christians. For us to observe the Sabbath would be like sewing a new patch on an old garment. It just doesn't work in this New Covenant age of grace.

So what about Sunday? Is that our new day of rest? Do we have a day of rest? Well in the next and last post in this series I will examine what the Bible says concerning the Sunday and our need for physical rest.


Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sabbath

The question of whether we are to keep the Sabbath in this New Covenant era is one which has been on my mind for a number of years. Over the years as I have studied the Bible an understanding of the Sabbath has been put in place brick by brick. But in the last few weeks I have given a bit more time reading and studying this issue of a Sabbath day. The reason for this is that I came to this passage in my reading of the scriptures. "Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Colossians 2:16-17. In this passage Paul is saying that the Jewish laws about food and drink and festivals and the Sabbath do not apply to the Christian. No one is to force you to observe these laws for they have passed away with the coming of Christ. Those rules were only shadows but Christ is the fulfillment of those shadows. This applies to the Sabbath day as well, which may be hard to believe. Yet the text is very plain and it would be dishonest to try and escape its teaching with all its implications. So in order to help us understand better why the Sabbath day is no longer in effect, lets take a brief look at its history. I say brief because this subject could fill a book.

The first time the Sabbath day is mentioned is in Exodus 16:23, when the Israelites were commanded to gather enough manna on the sixth day for the seventh day. Before this there is no mention of a Sabbath day or a day of rest, besides the seventh day of creation where God rested. "And on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation." Gen 2:2-3.  We know God didn't need to rest since He never gets tired. But it is also true that man at this time didn't need to rest either since he was perfect. While God blessed the seventh day because He rested on it, there is no command for man to rest on that day. From Adam all the way to Moses we never read of anyone keeping the Sabbath. Even the book of Job which was written before the coming of the law, never speaks of a Sabbath. It is when God makes a covenant with Israel that we first read of a Sabbath day.

In the Mosaic Covenant, the Lord formally institutes the Sabbath day. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God." Exodus 20:8-10. Before this there were no Sabbaths. This is confirmed by Nehemiah 9;14, "and you have made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant." Here we see that God gave the Sabbath day to Israel. Through out their history Israel was to keep the Sabbath day. The prophets called them to observe the Sabbath. By the time of Christ, Israel had corrupted the Sabbath by many rules and had forgotten the intent of the law. Our Lord often confronted them about this and taught them how God wanted the Sabbath observed. Jesus kept the Sabbath as well as all the laws and ceremonies of the Mosaic covenant since He was born under the law and still lived under the law of Moses. But after the resurrection of Christ we never read of any Christians observing the Sabbath day. In all the letters of the New Testament, there is no command to observe a Sabbath day. In fact we find in a number of places that Christians are not bound to keep a Sabbath day as well as all the other rules of the Old covenant.

This absence of a Sabbath continues in the early church. As far as we know the early church did not observe the Sabbath. They didn't consider the Sunday to be a Christian Sabbath. While they did gather together for worship on the first day of the week, they did do work on the Sunday. In 321 A.D. Constantine proclaimed Sunday to be a day of rest, although it was not strict as various activities were permitted. Yet even in this, the basis of this proclamation was not the fourth commandment. It wasn't until the Middle ages that theologians began to connect the Sabbath day and the Sunday. So it seems fair to say that the Christian Sabbath idea is a much later development.

Why then is there no Sabbath for those in the New covenant? A look at the meaning of the Sabbath will help us understand this. But I'll look at the meaning of the Sabbath day next time. If this is all strange and new to you, I understand. Let me finish this series before you come to a judgement on this matter.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Human Nature

I just finished rereading "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is a very fascinating and entertaining read. But it does address the important truth of the nature of man. So in this story Dr. Jekyll believes that man has a dual nature, that is he has a good nature and an evil nature. He creates a potion that when drunk, separates these two natures. This he does and it works. Instead of being Dr. Jekyll, the respected and good doctor, he is now Mr. Hyde, his pure evil nature. And now as Mr. Hyde, he goes around doing evil and enjoying it. When he wants to return to Dr. Jekyll, he drinks the potion and returns to his good self. But after awhile of indulging in the evil nature of Mr. Hyde, his good nature begins to weaken and his evil nature grows stronger. In time, he can't turn back to Dr. Jekyll anymore, but must remain Mr. Hyde and die an untimely death.

It is perhaps a strange story, but it does present the author's view on human nature. But, sadly, his view is wrong as it contradicts the view of man's nature found in God's word. Humans have only one nature and it is corrupted by sin. "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Romans 3:10-12 From birth we are children of wrath, dead in our sins. We can by nature do nothing that pleases God or could contribute to our salvation. In our heart, there is the potential for us to be able to do every kind of evil deed. Given the right time and circumstances, we could do every evil deed that has ever been done. But for the grace of God, we are not all as degraded as we could be.

God restrains evil in this world by a number of ways. He uses the government to restrain evil by making and upholding laws, even by punishing lawbreakers by death. God has given us consciences which restrain people from doing evil. People often want to feel good about themselves so they give themselves to good deeds. Or they are afraid of the thoughts and opinions of others. Some, desiring to obtain salvation, work hard to show kindness and charity to others. Also believers are God's salt and light in this world. By proclaiming the truth and walking in godliness, we have a positive influence in this world, as it reminds others of good and evil. These are all ways in which people are prevented from being as bad as they could be.

People are born liking sin. We enjoy it, even if the consequences are bad. And as we indulge and feed our desire for sin, we become more and more corrupt. And, as in the case of Dr. Jekyll, in the end, we look more like Mr. Hyde than we could ever imagine. We become monsters of sin. Even our facial features will reflect our evil nature. Let your lusts gallop away unrestrained, and they will drag you into filth and mud you never dreamed possible. Mr. Stevenson was right in a way about this aspect of human nature. If we continue to practice sin, it will corrupt us and turn us into horrible ogres.

Thankfully, in Jesus Christ there is hope. For God doesn't just forgives us, He changes us. He takes our old evil hearts out and puts in a new heart. God changes us from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll, yes even more than that for He give us new life in Christ so we begin to act more like Him. This is the great new birth.

Although we are now new creatures in Christ, yet we have remaining in us the sinful flesh. This unredeemed flesh is what makes us still sin. We are called to "put to death" our sins. (Colossians 3:5) Mr. Hyde must die. Putting sin to death is hard. It takes work, sweat, and agony. We must hunt down our sins and slay them when we find them and keep beating them down all our lives. The Christian is called to be the executioner of his own sin, even of those sins we love. This is very hard. I have found it much harder than I ever imagined. The sins are like a terrible beast that fight savagely. And even after a long battle, with many cuts and bruises, that results in victory, yet this subdued sin can rise up again if unattended and encouraged. Ah, but God has given us the power in this fight. We have the armor of God in this battle. Our sword when used right, never fails. We have God's promise that we will overcome and that we will be more than conquerors, not in our own strength but through the power of Jesus Christ. One day we will stand blameless and holy in the presence of God. Then the war with our sin will be done and we will live forever in pure joy and holiness.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spiritually Modified People

Genetically modified foods, in which they modify the genetic material of a plant, is a controversial process. I have no intention of writing about that now. But I want to use GMO's as a way to introduce a very important truth from scripture. God is in the business of spiritually modifying people (SMP). He takes out their old, evil, stone cold hearts and inserts new hearts. Such SMP's are now drastically changed in how they think and live. This change is really the greatest miracle around and it happens all the time. Let us briefly spend some time examining what God has to say on this wonderful doctrine of regeneration.

  Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology, defines regeneration as "a secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life in us." Regeneration is more commonly referred to in the Bible as being born again. Being born again is an absolute necessity for salvation. " Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. This is so because when we are born physically, we are born spiritually dead. As Paul said we "were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked" and we "were by nature children of wrath." Ephesians 2:1,2,3. After Adam sinned we all died spiritually. So it doesn't matter who you are or where we live, we all need to be born again. You could be a great moral person with a religious pedigree all the way to John Calvin or you could be the most debased sinner but you still need to be born again.

Regeneration is something we play no part in. There are no commands in the Bible that we need to regenerate ourselves. Being born again is solely an act of God. Jesus referred to regeneration as being born of the Spirit."Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." John 3:5.  See also John 1:13 and 1 John 2:29. In fact while regeneration is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit, a close study of scripture reveals that all members of the Trinity are involved in regeneration. Just as we had no part to play when we were born the first time, so we play no part in being born the second time.

 The word of God is what God uses to bring about the new life in Christ. "Since you have been born again not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." 1 Peter 1:23.  This is also confirmed by James in James 1:18, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures." In both these passages we learn that God uses His word, especially the gospel message, to bring about the new birth. This should make us see how important it is to communicate God's truth with accuracy in teaching and evangelism. Since God uses His word for regeneration, we should, in our evangelism, use scripture in our conversation and gospel literature.

There is a mystery in how this work of regeneration occurs in the heart of a person. "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8. How exactly God works as He transforms a person spiritually is unknown. For some people, they will know the  precise day and moment of being born again and others may not realize all that is taking place inside them. But yet there is always a moment when God takes the old heart out and gives that person a new heart. We may not perceive it until later. While we may not know how God imparts new life in the hearts of people, we will always see the results.

The result of the work of regeneration will always be repentance, faith, justification, and sanctification. When God gives new life in the soul, the person will now see the holiness of God, the sinfulness of sin, and the beauty of Christ and the gospel. He will respond to his sins with godly sorrow and true repentance. He will lean on the finished work of Christ for his complete salvation. When he does that, then God declares that person not guilty and righteous based on the sacrifice and righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Christian is now a new creature in Christ and as such he will live differently. There will be increasing conformity to the character of Christ in a Christian's life.

 John's first letter gives some of the signs of a person who has been born of God.
1) One who is born again will not continue to live in sin. There will be true repentance and forsaking of sin. He will hate sin not love it. 1 John 3:9 and 1 John 5:18
2) The one who is born again will trust that Jesus is the only Saviour for sinners. 1 John 5:1
3) The regenerated person will desire and try to live a godly life. 1 John 2:29
4) One who is born again will love God's people, His church. 1 John 3:14
5) One truly born again will not love worldliness. 1 John 5:4

Are these signs in your life? This is an important question, for there is no other way to enter heaven. Let me finish with an illustration that I have modified from Charles Spurgeon. Suppose there was a rule in Canada that only those who were born in Canada could become citizens of this country. Now a man from Japan comes to Canada and wishes to be a Canadian citizen. He is told that is impossible. So he says that he will dress like a Canadian and eat Canadian food. Will that help him to become a citizen? No, but this man truly is willing to become a citizen so he says that he will also learn English and just to show his sincerity he will learn French too. We would admire his zeal, but the law is the law. But he continues on, "I will change my name so it is a Canadian name like Wayne or Pierre. I will study the customs and traditions of this country so that I will be able to be a typical Canadian." Sadly this man still would not be allowed to be a citizen. So it is with the heavenly country. In order to become a citizen of God's country, you must be born again. No amount of outward good deeds can get you in. Only by God's sovereign grace can you become a citizen of that country. While we cannot regenerate ourselves, God does call all of us to repent and believe in Christ.