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Guest Post by Nick BatzigSinclair Ferguson has recently released his second advent themed book, Love Came Down. Together with his previously published Child in the Manger, this has quickly become one of my favorite sources for advent meditations. That is not at all surprising, as I have found Sinclair's advent sermons to be among the most thought provoking and spiritually enriching. There are gold nuggets in all of them. For instance, in one of his sermons on the virgin birth, Sinclair explained,Â
Excerpt from The Holy Spiritby John Owen“To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.”- John OwenAll men can be divided into two groups. They are either regenerate or unregenerate. All men are born unregenerate (John 3:3-8)....Spiritual darkness is in all men and lies on all men until God, by an almighty work of the Spirit, shines into men's hearts, or creates light in them (Matt 4:16; John 1:5; Act 26:18; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9). ...The nature of this spiritual darkness must be understood. When men have no light to see by, then they are in darkness (Exod. 10:23). Blind men are in darkness, either by birth or by illness or accident (Psa. 69:23; Gen 19:11; Acts 13:11). A spiritually blind man is in spiritual darkness and is ignorant of spiritual things. There is an outward darkness on men and an inward darkness in men. Outward darkness is when men do not have that light by which they are enabled to see. So outward spiritual darkness is upon men when there is nothing to enlighten them about God and spiritual things (Matt 4:16; Psa 119:105; Psa. 19:1-4,8; 2 Pet 1:19; Rom 10:15, 18). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to remove this darkness by sending the light of the gospel (Acts 13:2, 4; 16:6-10; Psa. 147:19,20).Â
A Guest Post by Peter KozushkoSince 2005, Bart Ehrman, a distinguished critical New Testament scholar, has authored four New York Times best sellers challenging the historical accuracy of the Bible. That is a significant readership for a Biblical scholar. Ehrman has succeeded in popularizing the efforts of The Jesus Seminar which sought to undermine confidence in the Gospels a decade before. Ehrman may have also won a significant number of converts. A 2016 report by the American Bible Society revealed that the percentage of American Bible skeptics rose over the previous six years from 12 percent to 22 percent. Whether a correlation exist between Ehrman's popularity and this sudden increase in Bible skepticism in America, Ehrman has certainly had an impact. It is common place in our day to hear skeptics credit Ehrman for their personal doubts and questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible. In recent years this has been my experience conversing with skeptics and my latest doctoral work on the historical reliability of the Gospels has introduced me to many more. How should Bible believing Christians respond to Ehrman's influence?
Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was referred to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Spirit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus will then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements.
The visible church of Christ is mixed; having both wheat and tares. It is the characteristic of God's people to persevere to the end because God preserves them (John 6:38-40, John 10:28-29, Romans 8:28-39). Those who fall away demonstrate that they had spurious faith. (See 1 John 2:19) The Holy Spirit quickens His people and since His seed abides in them He keeps them from falling away because they have been born again (1 John 3:19). He also preserves His own by disciplining us when we fail to judge ourselves, so that we won't be condemned along with the world (1 Cor 11:31-32). God also uses his word as a means of preserving us by calling us to persevere and giving us warnings of what will occur if we don't. The elect hear his voice in the word and take heed. The non-elect (tares) do not hear his voice and fall away."He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever." - Psalm 37:28-----Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the SaintsSection I.–They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.Section II.–This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own freewill, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
John Calvin once said, "...this is everlasting life: to wit, to know God the Father, and to receive Christ as our only Savior." Â Here John Calvin partially quotes John 17:3 and then tacks on the the suffix about receiving Christ as the only Savior. As you probably know, the fact that Jesus Christ is the Savior of sinners is emphasized heavily throughout the New Testament. That He comes into the world with the name or title of "Savior" ought to be a constant reminder to us that we cannot save ourselves. Â "Isn't that obvious John", you may be thinking. Don't worry I am going somewhere with this.
The Gospel can never be preached without consequence of ultimatum! And the presentation of the Wrath of God is not optional but mandatory, not suggested but required. But know this that the Wrath of God is never intended to scare sinners into salvation (for fear is never a proper motive for salvation), but is always there to condemn those who will never come unto salvation.For God has so prepared His message for both groups of hearers, seeing that the preaching is done before a mix of those that are to come and those who are to turn away. And it would appear that the Gospel preached in its entirety must have both ingredients within to be the one and only true Gospel.Therefore it makes no difference whatsoever how well one presented the truth of God's Mercy, for if he did not present alongside of it God's Wrath, the Gospel complete was not preached.What are the effects of only preaching a message where the Mercy of God is lone presented? The effects are tremendous, in that what we fail to see is something revealing about the Wrath of God. For where God's Mercy is presented as the only part of salvation, it is here where we will find both believer and unbeliever alike coming forth to receive what only the one could ever receive. And it's the Wrath of God that reveals in truth the true believer. Because it's something that's tied to the unbeliever that this Wrath of God brings out from within.
I have been reading from Calvin's Commentariy on Isaiah and I had to included this portion because it is so sublime. I would encourage you to open you Bible to read the first seven verses of Isaiah 9 and may the Lord use this expostion to richly bless you..by John Calvin1. Yet the darkness shall not be. He begins to comfort the wretched by the hope of alleviation, that they may not be swallowed up by the huge mass of distresses. Many take these words in quite an opposite meaning, that is, as a threatening which denounces against the Jews a heavier affliction than that with which Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29) and Shalmanezer (2 Kings 17:6) afflicted them. The former inflicted a heavy calamity, the latter inflicted one still heavier, for he carried the twelve tribes into captivity, and blotted out the name of the nation. Some think that he now foretells the heaviest calamity of all, for if it be compared with the former two, it exceeds both of them. Though I am not prepared to reject this view, for it does not want plausibility, yet I rather favor a different opinion. The other interpretation is indeed more plausible, that the Prophet intended to deprive hypocrites of every enjoyment, that they might not imagine that this calamity would quickly pass away like a storm as the others had done, for it would be utterly destructive; and so we shall take the particle ky (ki) in its literal meaning. [138]
By Pastor John SamsonWe believe it is a great privilege for a child to grow up in a Chriswrtian home and for the entire family to worship together, week in and week out in the Sunday morning worship service. Over time, this teaches the child much in the way of what a normal life as a Christian is to look like as well as the necessary connection each of us is to have with the local church. Here at King's Church, we believe parents should keep their children with them throughout the entire service.Let me say this again (in different words) – rather than children or teens attending their own meetings separate from their parents, we believe that the Biblical pattern is for families to worship together. The only exception we see to this (both now and in the future) is to provide a safe place for the under 3's in a nursery. However, we do not wish to segregate older children and teens from the rest of the congregation – sending them off to different rooms or buildings. Instead, on earth, as it is in heaven, young and old together, with one voice in unity, we the gathered people of God worship Him together.We also believe that there are times when it is entirely appropriate for specialized ministry to take place (outside of the Lord's Day morning service). One Biblical example of this is that older women are exhorted to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5), which presumably means that men are excluded from such a gathering.While in no way wishing to be divisive or suggest that we are the only church in town obeying God, we practice “Family Integrated Worship” because of certain convictions we have. As we examine the Biblical data, we find that throughout the centuries this has been the normal way in which the people of God have gathered. This is clear from both the Old and New Testaments.
by Dr. Robert L. Reymondfrom A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith 2nd EditionWhy do some people repent and respond by faith in Christ to the divine summons to faith while others do not? Concerning those who believe in Christ's name John immediately says in John 1:13: “[These are they] who have been begotten [egennēthēsan], not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of a husband, but by God.” By this particular reference to God's “begetting” activity John refers to regeneration, and clearly suggests by his statement that, while faith is the instrumental precondition to justification and adoption, regeneration is the necessary precondition and efficient cause of faith in Jesus Christ. In short, regeneration causally precedes faith.
by Joseph AlleineWe turn from our own RIGHTEOUSNESS.Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself acceptable with God, by his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his pennies for gold, and not to submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the verminous tatters of a nasty beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself; and all his inventory is, 'I am poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked!' [Rev 3:17]. He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it!
By John CalvinIt ought to be observed that we are exceedingly disposed to wicked imitation. When we see bad examples, we are drawn to them with great force, and take the example for a law; for when others go before us, we think that we have a right to act in the same manner, and especially when it is not only one or a few persons who have led the way, but the custom has become universal. What is in itself manifestly wrong is concealed by the plausible cloak of public opinion; and not only so, but all are carried, as it were, by the violence of a whirlwind, to adopt an established custom, as if the will of the people had the force of a law to authorize their corruptions. This has not been the fault of a single age, but at the present day it abounds as much or even more than before; for it is an evil deeply seated in all by the corruption of nature, to reckon a prevailing error as a law. Hence arise the superstitions of all ages, and those which at the present day exist in Popery, the origin of which, if it be investigated, will be found to be nothing else than that some persons have drawn others into the same error; and thus almost all have been foolishly caught by the snares of Satan, and the general agreement of men is still the chief foundation of those superstitions. All defend themselves by this weapon. “We are not alone,” say they; “we follow an immense multitude.”-----From Commentary on Isaiah 8:11 by John Calvin
One of the common arguments I hear against the biblical doctrine of irresistible grace (effectual calling) is an appeal to Acts 7:51 which declares“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you."Oddly enough, the very Text here cited by some to demonstrate that grace is resistible contains they very language that makes a decisive argument against their own position. Indeed it is true that these persons cited resist the Holy Spirit, but look closely... the Text declares that their heart and ears are "uncircumcised". In the Old Testament this is the language used for regeneration (See Deut 29:4, 30:6 & Ezek 36:26) so being unregenerate, to resist every outward working of the Spirit, is simply acting in accordance with their corrupted, fallen nature.People always resist the outward call of the gospel.. ALWAYS, until God opens their eyes, ears and heart to the gospel. That is called circumcision of heart, the new birth or regeneration. The work of the Spirit is manifold, regeneration being only one aspect ... The Bible declares that He may convict the unregenerate of certain sin and do many things short of regenerating grace. Anything short of regeneration CAN and will be resisted.Paul also shows these two types of calling in his first letter to the Corinthians:"but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor 1:23-24
Question: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn." Deut. 10:16 --> If God commands the Israelites to circumcise their own hearts in this verse and in Jer. 4:4, how can we reconcile these two verses with monergistic principles?Answer: Good question.Let me first answer with a question. God commands you love love Him with all your heart mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Can you do so apart from grace?When Adam fell in the garden God did not change his holy standard for him or us. Although corrupted, God still commands all men everywhere to be holy, and he punishes men for not obeying his law perfectly. This demonstrates that our inability does not alleviate our responsibility - God commands holiness even though we are impotent to be holy. This is the whole point of the gospel where He extends grace in Jesus Christ - TO GRANT WHAT HE COMMANDS. And we see this very principle later in (the book you cite) Deuteronomy 30:6 where God declares: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live."He grants in Deuteronomy 30:6 what he commanded in Deuteronomy 10:16.Remember Romans 3:19, 20 teach us the purpose of the commands in the Bible >>> "through the law comes knowledge of sin"... In other words, the purpose of commands is not to show our ability but our inability. Carried over to Deut 10:16 this means the command to circumcise our own hearts is God's holy requirement for us, but can only be fulfilled by grace.God commands us to circumcise our hearts because this is his holy requirement for us. And then in his mercy He grants the very thing he commands (Deut 30:6). Jesus came to do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves.
Excerpt from Dr. James White's book "The Potter's Freedom" (pages 211-214):For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:17-18)The example of Pharoah was well known to any person familiar with the Old Testament. God destroyed the Egyptian nation by plagues so as to demonstrate His might and power in the earth, and key to this demonstration was the hardening of Pharoah's heart. Before Moses had met with Pharoah the first time God told him:When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21)It was God's intention to bring His wrath upon the Egyptians. God's actions were not "forced" by the stubborn will of the Egyptian leader. God said He would harden Pharoah's heart, and He did. Listen to the impudent response of this pagan idolater to the command of Moses:
John Owen is among the theologians whose thoughts most closely mirror my own and this particular book of his could easily be called a manifesto of monergistic, God-honoring theology. I agree with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson when he says, "Whenever I return to read Owen I find myself at least in part wondering why I spend time reading lesser things." I would unhesitatingly put this book up there among Christian classics, and, probably, at least in my opinion, is one of the top ten Christian books ever written. This book will magnify your understanding of the Holy Scriptures and its divine author and make you wonder what ever happened to all the churches who preached from this perspective. Here are among my favorite quotes from the books' abridged edition ...-----To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.ÂťAll men can be divided into two groups. They are either regenerate or unregenerate. All men are born unregenerate (John 3:3-8). ...Spiritual darkness is in all men and lies on all men until God, by an almighty work of the Spirit, shines into men's hearts, or creates light in them (Matt 4:16; John 1:5; Act 26:18; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9). ...The nature of this spiritual darkness must be understood. When men have no light to see by, then they are in darkness (Exod. 10:23). Blind men are in darkness, either by birth or by illness or accident (Psa. 69:23; Gen 19:11; Acts 13:11). A spiritually blind man is in spiritual darkness and is ignorant of spiritual things.There is an outward darkness on men and an inward darkness in men.
by J. Ligon Duncan1. Relentlessly encourage, edify & inform.2. Ignore trolls, mockers & slanderers into oblivion.3. Starve dissensionists, narcissists, & errorists of the attention they crave.4. Point people to sound people & resources.5. Exalt Christ. Bible. Grace. Truth. Gospel.6. Stay out of food fights. Don’t lob hand grenades into serious discussions. Bring people together.7. Be kind. Persuade (rather than rally).8. Treat people on social media like I would treat them in person.9. Don’t be different on social media from what I am in my life, family, church and ministry. Be the same person online and offline.10. Don’t give inordinate attention to people whose only “platform” is social media & who elsewhere have little accountability, responsibility.-----Dr. J. Ligon DuncanChancellor/CEO of @ReformTheoSemhttp://www.rts.edu //John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology
by Loraine Boettner1. That it is Fatalism2. That it is Inconsistent with the Free Agency and Moral Responsibility of Man3. That it Makes God the Author of Sin4. That it Discourages All Motives to Exertion5. That it Represents God as a Respecter of Persons or as Unjustly Partial6. That it is Unfavorable to Good Morality7. That it Precludes a Sincere Offer of the Gospel to the Non-Elect8. That it Contradicts the Universalistic Scripture Passages Objection 1. It Is FatalismMuch misunderstanding arises through confusing the Christian Doctrine of Predestination with the heathen doctrine of Fatalism. There is, in reality, only one point of agreement between the two, which is, that both assume the absolute certainty of all future events. The essential difference between them is that Fatalism has no place for a personal God. Predestination holds that events come to pass because an infinitely wise, powerful, and holy God has so appointed them. Fatalism holds that all events come to pass through the working of a blind, unintelligent, impersonal, non-moral force which cannot be distinguished from physical necessity, and which carries us helplessly within its grasp as mighty river carries a piece of wood.
by Archibald AlexanderIn comparison with salvation, all other subjects are trivial. To waste time in the pursuit of wealth, or in the chase of sensual pleasure, while our salvation is not secure, is more than folly—it is madness. What, would you agree to dwell in the dark dungeon of despair forever and ever, for the sake of living a few years upon earth in a sumptuous house? Would you consent to endure the sting of the never-dying worm, and the torment of unquenchable fire, to all eternity, for the sake of gratifying your appetites and senses for a moment? No man would deliberately make such a determination; yet such is the language which many speak by their conduct. The world is pursued daily, at the risk of eternal damnation.
by C. H. SpurgeonIt is grace, free, sovereign grace, which has made you to differ!Should any here, supposing themselves to be the children of God, imagine that there is some reason "in them" why they should have been chosen, let them know, that as yet they are in the dark, concerning the first principles of grace, and have not yet learned the gospel.If ever they had known the gospel, they would, on the other hand, confess that they were less than the least- the offscouring of all things- unworthy, ill-deserving, undeserving, and hell-deserving, and ascribe it all to distinguishing grace, which has made them to differ; and to discriminating love, which has chosen them out from the rest of the world. Great Christian, you would have been a great sinner if God had not made you to differ!O! you who are valiant for truth, you would have been as valiant for the devil if grace had not laid hold of you! A seat in heaven shall one day be yours; but a chain in hell would have been yours if grace had not changed you! You can now sing his love; but a licentious song might have been on your lips, if grace had not washed you in the blood of Jesus! You are now sanctified, you are quickened, you are justified; but what would you have been today if it had not been for the interposition of the divine hand? There is not a crime you might not have committed; there is not a folly into which you might not have run.Even murder itself you might have committed if grace had not kept you.You shall be like the angels; but you would have been like the devil if you had not been changed by grace!-----Excerpt from the sermon The Fruitless Vine by C. H. Spurgeon
by Octavius WinslowBy simple, close, and searching views of the cross of Christ, the Spirit most effectually sanctifies the believer. This is the true and great method of gospel sanctification. Here lies the secret of all real holiness and, may I not add, of all real happiness? For if we separate happiness from holiness, we separate that which, in the Covenant of Grace, God has wisely and indissolubly united. The experience of the true believer must testify to this. We are only happy as we are holy – as the body of sin is daily crucified, as the power of the indwelling principle of sin is weakened, and as the outward deportment more beautifully and closely corresponds to the example of Jesus. Let us not then look for a happy walk apart from a holy one. Trials we may have; indeed if we are the Lord's covenant ones, we shall have them, for He Himself has said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). Disappointments we may meet with – broken cisterns, thorny roads, wintry skies; but if we are walking in fellowship with God, walking in the light, growing up into Christ in all things, (with) the Spirit of adoption dwelling in us and leading to a filial and unreserved surrender – oh! there is happiness unspeakable, even though in the very depth of outward trial! A holy walk is a happy walk. This is God's order ... and therefore must be wise and good.The Spirit especially and effectually sanctifies by unfolding the cross of Jesus
by Joel Beeke1. True prayer brings heaven down into the soul, and lifts the soul up to heaven.2. True prayer is the prime exercise of faith where all saving graces converge to climax in both the highest expression of gratitute (to God) and the deepest expression of humility (with regard to ourselves), as well as the broadest expression of love (for others).3. True prayer is real life. It is the “soul's breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father” (Thomas Watson).4. True prayer is the sinner's response to God's voice. The prayer of the broken-hearted is a gift to God in reply to God's gift of prayerful brokenheartedness. True prayer is returning to God through the weaknesses and stains of human brokenness and unworthiness what God has decreed from all eternity, made room for in time, and brought to fruition in the moment of actual soul-wrestling.5. True prayer is a holy art taught by a groaning, wrestling Spirit who often uses the impossibilities and apparent “artlessness” of the believer's entangled and sin-stained life to pencil upon him the image of his worthy Master.6. True prayer is spiritual air for spiritual lungs. Where prayerless praying overtakes prayerful praying, the true believer degenerates into listlessness.7. True prayer is the fruit of God Triune – the Father as Giver and Decreer, the Son as Meritor and Perfector, the Spirit as Wrestler and Indweller.8. True prayer has an unexplainable way of augmenting both the worthiness of Christ and the unworthiness of the sinner; hence, it is both the chief part of humility and of thankfulness (cf. Heid. Cat. Q. 116).
by Louis BerkhofOne of the most important points of the controversy between the Church of Rome and the Reformers, and between Reformed theology and the Arminians, concerned the ground of justification. With respect to this the Reformers taught:1. Negatively, that this cannot be found in any virtue of man, nor in his good works. This position must also be maintained at present over against Rome and the Pelagianizing tendencies of various Churches. Rome teaches that the sinner is justified on the basis of the inherent righteousness that has been infused into his heart, and which, in turn, is the fruit of the co-operation of the human will with prevenient grace. This applies to what is called the first justification; in all following justification the good works of man come into consideration as the formal cause or ground of justification. It is impossible however, that the inherent righteousness of the regenerate man and his good works should be constitute the ground of his justification, for (a) this righteousness is and remains during this life a very imperfect righteousness; (b) it is itself already the fruit of the righteousness of Christ and of the grace of God; and (c) even the best works of believers are polluted with sin. Moreover, Scripture teaches us very clearly that man is justified freely by the grace of God, Rom. 3:24, and that he cannot possibly be justified by the works of the law, Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; 3:11.

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