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For your weekend reading I wanted to pass along some classic sermons and essays that have had a deep impact:Imitating the Incarnation (.pdf)by B. B. WarfieldThe Religious Life of Theological Studentsby B B WarfieldMan's Utter Inability to Rescue Himselfby Thomas BostonThe Expulsive Power of a New Affectionby Thomas ChalmersWhat Did the Cross Achieve?: The Logic of Penal Substitution by J. I. PackerA Day of Sober Rejoicingby Francis SchaefferThe Emotional Life of Our Lordby B. B. WarfieldThe Martyrdom of PolycarpTranslated by John LightfootIntroductory Essay to the Death of Deathby J. I. PackerWhat is Christianity?by J. Gresham MachenHistory & Faithby J Gresham MachenThe Good Fight of Faithby J. Gresham Machen
Recently a good friend of mine, who is an atheist, who seems convinced of total depravity, sent me a Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode (Parental Guidance recommended) where his guest, a world-renowned physicist makes some astonishing claims. Professor Brian Cox is an English physicist and Professor of Particle Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester in the UK.Among many of the claims Professor Cox makes in the podcast episode, my friend asked me to comment on the segment where he said that since we are all there is in the universe, all meaning the in universe centers around humans. He claims we ought to locate the miracle in the here and now. This is the miracle. We are living it right now.Here are a few comments in response to this idea put forward by Professor Cox:Without knowing what the purpose of a typewriter is, we cannot determine its worth or excellence. Similarly, we cannot realize human excellence if we don't have a grasp of human purpose. Apart from this, we end up with only practical and emotional outcomes. Modernity has in many ways, stripped us of a telos, or our search for an ultimate end. But without an external, objective source of meaning and purpose, we are left with only being informed and driven by subjective feelings.I would argue that people flourish the most, not when they invent their own meaning and value, but when they tap into their value and meaning as God's image-bearers.
There has never been a time when so much sound biblical teaching has been available at the fingertips of the ordinary person. And, thank the Lord, much of it is free. On the other hand, there has never been a time when such a vast amount of poor and heretical theology has been available to the same people. So much that I cannot keep up with it all.Many of our brothers and sisters are held captive by bad or inconsistent theology... theology that will not be able to bear the weight of the onslaught of ideologies and plausible arguments being waged against the Church. We should not behave angrily as if this was entirely their fault. It seems plausible to many Christians because that is all they have ever known. So we must patiently, with gentleness and respect pluck them from the fire by openly declaring the whole counsel of God. Is it sad that one of the greatest mission fields is the visible church itself and it grieves me to see it, but we must press on and simply carry out our role to proclaim the word of God, and let Him determine the results. So do not grow weary. He is sovereign and will take your faithful work and make it fruitful.
by Dr. Thaddeus WilliamsIf I were the devil—which some of you may believe after reading on—if my sworn mission was to devour the Christian faith from the inside out, then here is what I would NOT do. I would not slither into a Sunday service, breathing blasphemy and dragon fire, bragging about my triumphs at Auschwitz, commanding the congregation, “Deny that God is God!” I would not be an idiot.I would dress up to look like justice, compassion, or equity, or some other ideal Christians would be quick to ‘Amen!' I would sink my teeth and suck the true, biblical content from those words—not that many of the Enemy's people know the true, biblical content of those words to begin with—then inject it with the venom of new meaning, a meaning that is antithetical to the Enemy's definition of such silly words. Then I could get nearly every faithful Tom, Dick, and Sally to deny the Godhood of God while they think they are merely being more just and compassionate. I could get them to deny the Gospel itself while they think they are merely caring for the oppressed. Even better, I will include in that injection certain policies that are almost certain to further hurt the oppressed, the same policies I've used over and over to crush image-bearers. It's the perfect evil trifecta I try to achieve in all my ploys. Rob worship from the Enemy, dupe the Enemy's church, and inflict even more oppression on as much of that despicable race who bears the Enemy's obnoxious image as possible.
I understand that actress Ellen Page called out Chris Pratt for attending an 'infamously' anti-LGBTQ church. While not commenting on his specific church, I am trying to get my head around this common secular logic which they seem to apply to just about any local church or school which takes the Bible seriously. Wouldn't it actually be anti-LGBTQ to EXCLUDE those who identify as LGBTQ by withholding the gospel from them? More and more people like Page assume that declaring the gospel to LGBTQ people is somehow discriminatory, but the opposite it true - it is radically inclusive. It is actually the same gospel that we all need for our sins. Jesus did not die for good people but for sinners like me. So no one is being singled out as if some deserved God's grace but others do not. Theologically conservative churches (like mine) do not exclude any people from any nation with any sin, who by grace, willing come to Christ to be saved from it. And that's why we have sinners of all types in our pews. It seems what people (like Page) are offended by is that LGBTQ is even classified as sin to begin with. These false narratives are really a kind of tactic and grandstanding that is getting really boring.
"On the issue of social justice, it is important to remember that changing laws does not change hearts. Changing a law may get you compliance, but it will never get you repentance, which is--or should be--the goal (at least for those who profess to be followers of Christ). Unjust laws are the by-product of unjust hearts (Mk. 7:17-23). As Christians, we must not only desire that people *do* right, but that they *be* righteous (Rom. 12:2)." - Darrell Bernard HarrisonThe new social justice movement among professing Christians has very little (if any) understanding of human nature and the degree of our corruption. Consider, if they had free reign to enact every law and educational reform they wanted, do they honestly think it would solve the worlds problems? It would not even scratch the surface. Our problem is much, much deeper than that. The problem with humanity is pre-political. It is a spiritual problem.This denial of total depravity reveals a complete lack of self-awareness. Jesus die not come to die for good people but for sinners. The kingdom of heaven is not for people who think they are righteous, but for those who know they are not. Forgiveness is not possible for people who think they need no forgiveness. And since the SJ movement will never solve all the world's problems, they will always remain unforgiving and demand justice now. While we all ought to work for justice, we should be under no illusion that we are wise enough as fallen human beings to bring it about perfectly, or even well. That is over-realized eschatology. God calls us to be patient. He will repay. (Rom. 12:19) Our inner biases means we ought to be careful when we do justice since we are prone to error ourselves.
by John Calvin16.You have not chosen me. He declares still more clearly that it must not be ascribed to their own merit, but to his grace, that they have arrived at so great an honor; for when he says that he was not chosen by them, it is as if he had said, that whatever they have they did not obtain by their own skill or industry. Men commonly imagine some kind of concurrence to take place between the grace of God and the will of man; but that contrast, I chose you, I was not chosen by you, claims, exclusively, for Christ alone what is usually divided between Christ and man; as if he had said, that a man is not moved of his own accord to seek Christ, until he has been sought by him.
Guest Post by Jared Moore[Glass has several things that may violate your conscience. Know your conscience. Be sure to look it up before you watch at Plugged In or Common Sense Media.]*Additionally, if you want some very detailed interaction with Glass from a Christian worldview, check out the Glass episode of the Pop Culture Coram Deo Podcast (available on iTunes, GooglePlay, Stitcher, TuneIn, Pod Bean, etc.).
Visitor: The atonement of Christ is sufficient for the entire cosmos. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, not just some people in the world. It's not “hypothetical” but completely real. To be sure, only the elect receive the grace to believe in Christ, by which faith the benefits of the atonement are applied to them.
by R. C. SproulThis classic issue between Augustinian theology and all forms of semi-Pelagianism focuses on one aspect of the order of salvation (ordo salutis): What is the relationship between regeneration and faith? Is regeneration a monergistic or synergistic work? Must a person first exercise faith in order to be born again? Or must rebirth occur before a person is able to exercise faith? Another way to state the question is this: Is the grace of regeneration operative or cooperative?Monergistic regeneration means regeneration is accomplished by a single actor, God. It means literally a “one working.” Synergism, on the other hand, refers to a work that involves the actions of two or more parties. It is a co-working. All forms of semi-Pelagianism assert some form of synergism in the work of regeneration. Usually God's assisting grace is seen as a necessary ingredient, but it is usually dependent on human cooperation for its efficacy.The Reformers taught not only that regeneration does precede faith but also that it must precede faith. Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration's fruit, not its cause.According to semi-Pelagianism regeneration is wrought by God but only in those who have first responded in faith to him. Faith is seen not as the fruit of regeneration, but as an act of the will cooperating with God's offer of grace.
PRINTABLE PDFGuest Post by Rev. C. R. BiggsPart IBy the middle of the second century,the Church had developed the Apostle's Creed which contained the foundational doctrines, or essential beliefs of the Christian Church. In the 4th century, the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ had been established at the Councils of Nicea in 325 AD, Ephesus in 431 AD, and Chalcedon in 451 AD. The doctrine of soteriology however, or the doctrine of salvation and grace had not been clearly and systematically established until Augustine and the Pelagian controversy in the 5th century in the West. These doctrines of Salvation and Grace would continue to be debated throughout church history, through the Medieval period, the Reformation, and up to the 20th century. In contrast to these Augustinian doctrines of sin and grace, the controversial doctrine of Pelagianism would reappear in many forms to challenge these doctrines.
by Jeff DurbinThere's a lot of talk today about abortion and national sin. There's also a significant display of ignorance about God's Law and His judgment upon nations (including pagan nations). I saw a few people arguing that though child sacrifice is sin, it's not like God would pick any one particular sin to judge a nation and drive them out of a land. I mean, "Hey, we're all sinners, right? All sins are the same to God, right?"This is sheer, unbiblical ignorance. And it shows that theology matters. Bootleg theology can sound so true until we open our Bible and simply read. Unbiblical views and ignorance of God's Law, today, tend to show up in moments like this.As a start: All sins will separate you from God for all eternity no matter how "small". Yes. Very true. However, keep in mind, God didn't call for the death penalty for theft. He did for murder. So, no. Not all sins are the same before God. There are heinous sins and crimes for which God has stiffer penalties; for individuals and for nations.Furthermore, there is a category of specific sins for which God says He judges (even pagan nations) and drives people out of a land. These sins run across the sexual and even child sacrifice (Leviticus 18; 20). Look at this regarding the sexually perverse in Leviticus 18:
Semi-Pelagianism is theological position midway between Pelagianism and the teachings of Augustine of Hippo regarding the origins of the experience of salvation. Pelagianism placed salvation in the power of human free-will; Augustine ascribed salvation (regeneration, new birth) wholly to God's grace; the Semi-pelagians held that salvation was initially prompted by God's grace, but depended for its effect on human cooperation.
Question: Is promoting same sex romance in the church a primary issue or a secondary issue? In other words, shall we break fellowship with churches that promote this or shall we treat them as brothers?Answer: This is a primary issue, because it is a gospel issue. Those who embrace these practices in the church are withholding the gospel from an entire group of men and women who are created in the image of God. While you and I appeal to Jesus to save us from our greed, our idolatry, our sexual immorality, and a multitude of other sins for which we are guilty and justly deserve the wrath of God, incredulously, this one sin is somehow being made exempt. Thus, in order to be popular with the spirit of the age, they sacrifice the precious lives an entire group.
By Jared Moore[Bird Box has several things that may violate your conscience. Know your conscience. Be sure to look it up before you watch at Plugged In or Common Sense Media.]*Additionally, if you want more detailed interaction with Bird Box, check out episode 36 of the Pop Culture Coram Deo Podcast:IntroductionNetflix's original movie, Bird Box, within its first 7 days of release, was viewed (70% of the movie) by over 45,000,000 accounts. Bird Box tells the story of an invisible presence that when viewed with one's eyes takes on physical form to the viewer, and drives most people to suicide. Sandra Bullock stars, along with John Malkovich, and Trevante Rhodes. It presents a compelling story with something important to say, something Christian parents need to hear, as well as an idol and false gospel that Christian parents need to reject.But what is the message of Bird Box?The Good[Spoiler Alert: Spoilers Follow!]The primary message of Bird Box is similar to the principle we find in Proverbs 22:13. Solomon wrote, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets! (ESV)'”After Malorie (Sandra Bullock) experiences the loss of her sister, boyfriend, and friends (almost every person she gets close to), and after having barely escaped death herself on numerous occasions, she seeks to shelter herself and her children from these apocalyptic monsters in the name of survival.
by John NewtonDear Sir,I make no doubt but you have at times had pleasing reflections upon that promise made to the Israelites, "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Deuteronomy 8:2They were then in the wilderness, surrounded with difficulties, which were greatly aggravated by their own distrust and perverseness. They had experienced a variety of bitter dispensations, the design of which they could not as yet understand. They frequently lost sight of God's gracious purposes in their favor, and were much discouraged by reason of the difficulty of the way. To compose and animate their minds, Moses here suggests to them, that there was a future happy time drawing near, when their journey and warfare would be finished; that they would soon be put in possession of the promised land, and have rest from all their fears and troubles; and then it would give them pleasure to look back upon what they now found so uneasy to bear: "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands."
by Steve Hays What's the best evidence for Jesus? Many Christian apologists and Jesus scholars make a case for the historical Jesus. Having read so much material over the years, this is how I approach the issue. To a great extent I'm summarizing the best arguments, as I see them. But I also have some reservations about the stereotypical apologetic. Because apologist are influenced by other apologists, and scholars read other scholars, that has a conditioning effect, which produces a stereotypical apologetic. The standard apologetic has some good elements, but the conditioning effect fosters tunnel vision, so that other lines of evidence are neglected. In addition, there are bad elements in the standard apologetic.I. Preliminaries1. The historical JesusThe "historical Jesus" is often a downsized Jesus or even a naturalized Jesus. What's left over after the NT is filtered through the sieve of standard criteria. A historical reconstruction of the real Jesus, once we peel back the layers. However, the scope of my post isn't the "historical Jesus" in that residual sense, not about a reconstructed Jesus, hidden behind the NT record, but about the NT Jesus in toto.Of course, there is a Jesus who stands behind the NT record, independent of the NT record. A Jesus who is, in a sense, bigger than the NT. But for me, the real Jesus corresponds to the NT Jesus. While Jesus is ontologically prior to the record, yet our knowledge of Jesus is epistemologically dependent on the NT record.2. "Bias"A stock objection to using the Gospels is the allegation that the Gospels are partisan sources since their writers are Christian. But that's a confused objection:
In his book Knowing God J.I. Packer shares five basic truths that serve as core principles for knowing God:1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.2. God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore Him.3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as His sons, and to bless them accordingly.4. God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, and the Spirit applying it.5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This and nothing else is true religion.-----From J.I. Packer in Knowing God, pages 15-16
by Dr. N.R. NeedhamChapter 5 of The Triumph of Grace: Augustine's Writings on Salvation - posted with permissionTHE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST‘Can we possibly, without utter absurdity, maintain that there first existed in anyone the good virtue of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his heart of stone? How can we say this, when all the time this heart of stone itself signifies precisely a will of the hardest kind, a will that is absolutely inflexible against God? For if a good will comes first, there is obviously no longer a heart of stone.'Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 29
by John MurrayThe basic religious question is that of our relation to God. How can man be just with God? How can he be right with the Holy One? In our situation, however, the question is much more aggravated. It is not simply, how can man be just with God, but how can sinful man be just with God? In the last analysis sin is always against God, and the essence of sin is to be against God. The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God then God is against us. It could not be otherwise. God cannot be indifferent to or complacent towards that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God's wrath. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18). This is our situation and it is our relation to God; how can we be right with him? The answer, of course, is that we cannot be right with him; we are all wrong with him. And we all are all wrong with him because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of this fact. Hence the reality of our sin and the reality of the wrath of God upon us for our sin do not come into our reckoning. This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. And this is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the twentieth century. We are not imbued with the profound sense of the reality of God, of his majesty and holiness. And sin, if reckoned with at all, is little more than a misfortune or maladjustment.
by John CalvinAnd he will lift up an ensign to the nations. This verse contains nothing more than the explanation of the former verse. The language is metaphorical, and admits of two meanings; either that, by giving an ensign, he will terrify adversaries, so that they will not dare to prevent his people from returning, or that he will give an ensign to the wretched exiles not to hesitate to make preparations for their return. But even at the present day this doctrine is highly useful among us; for as an ensign is lifted up in the army, that the soldiers may assemble, and that every one may follow and may keep his proper place, so a banner is here held out to us, that we may assemble to it, namely, the gospel, which the Lord has lifted up among the Gentiles, by which Christ is preached to us.And will gather together the dispersions of Judah. Hence we ought to conclude, that we cannot be gathered by the Lord unless we assemble to this ensign, and be joined to him by faith; for there is no other way in which he acknowledges us to be his sheep, than when, after having been scattered, we are gathered together, and meet in the same assembly under this ensign; as he says,My sheep hear my voice and follow me. (John 10:27.)
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,

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