Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Meditation Of My Heart And How To Make It Acceptable In God’s Sight

Psalm 19V14 B&W

I lay awake last night, letting my mind wander into places it had no business going. Not only did my disobedience rob me of sleep I really needed, but much more importantly it grieved the Holy Spirit by dishonoring the Lord. Thankfully, God brought me to repentance fairly quickly, and I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I again confessed my sin to the Lord. As I prayed about it, I remembered Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

Even though the meditation of my heart had been decidedly unacceptable in the sight of the Lord, I felt a desire to  change that course. So I started pondering about ways to keep my thoughts on things that please the Lord. John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts these last two weeks came to mind, as I recalled him saying something about filling our minds with Scripture so that our thoughts would honor God.

From there, I remembered that an earlier portion of Psalm 19 actually talks about Scripture’s impact on people.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward. ~~Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)

It follows, seems to me, that keeping God’s Word constantly in mind would guard us against dwelling on sinful thoughts. If my heart’s meditation revolves around His Word, naturally it’s acceptable in His sight. Clearly, it leaves no room for entertaining unclean ideas.

Maybe what I’m writing isn’t particularly novel. But sometimes we forget foundational truths. Sometimes it helps to nudge our memories back to things we’ve known for years. We get caught up in the finer points of doctrine, or in serving the Lord, and suddenly lose sight of fundamental attitudes that Christians need.

My mental activities last night most assuredly were unacceptable. But the Lord showed great mercy in using my sin to direct me back to His Word. For that great mercy, I praise His wonderful Name!

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Praising The Lord For Technology And The Reformers

Renaissance Border

In our devotional time together this morning, John thanked the Lord for the technology that makes the Bible accessible to people like us. You see, our disabilities make turning pages and holding heavy books increasingly difficult, especially as we have reached what people euphemistically call “the golden years.” I depend on my eSword software and various online Bibles for both devotional reading and study, while John relies on all those plus his Kindle.

I understand all the arguments favoring paper Bibles (and I use one during church services), and certainly I think able-bodied people should probably use them to avoid the distractions inherent in computers and cell phones. But I praise the Lord that He’s given us such increased access to His Word.

As John prayed his prayer of thanksgiving this morning, I thought back to 1440, when the printing press enabled the mass production of books and pamphlets. In 1517, the printing press allowed for the publication and distribution of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (historians debate whether or not Luther had a hand in that distribution). Renaissance era technology had paved the way for people other than the elite to be exposed to different ideas rather than having to unquestioningly accept everything the Church told them.

Luther and other Reformers subsequently realized the value of translating the Bible into commonly spoken languages, which could then be placed in the hands of anyone who could read. This availability of Scripture in turn permitted people direct access to the doctrines of grace.

Scripture teaches, for example, that salvation comes by faith alone, not as a result of human effort.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~~Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

This doctrine flew in the face of both the sacramental system and the highly lucrative selling of Indulgences, thus threatening the Roman Catholic Church’s power and source of revenue. Yet it opened the message of salvation to countless people who had never had the opportunity to hear the true Gospel. The Lord, through the Reformers, utilized Renaissance era technology to bring about the greatest revival in church history.

I imagine that the Reformers would be amazed and delighted at 21st Century technology with respect to the wide dissemination of God’s Word, as well as the enormous variety of Bible Study tools and Biblical teachings all available on computers and cell phones. These technological advances honor their efforts to make the Bible available to all people.

So, when my husband thanked the Lord for the wide availability of Scripture this morning, I added thanks for the Reformers who first used technology to bring the Bible to every day men, women and children. What a tremendous privilege to have the very Word of God constantly at our fingertips!

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Perspectives In Titus: Salvation, Courtesy Of The Trinity

Titus 3 4 thru 6

When we think of our salvation, we typically attribute it to Jesus. This perspective is altogether proper, and Jesus definitely deserves all the glory and praise for His atoning work on the cross. But our study in Titus today shows us that the Father and the Holy Spirit also had a hand in saving us.

Let’s again read Titus 3:1-7 in order to keep the three verses we’ll examine today in their context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   ~~Titus  3:1-7 (ESV)

In verse 4, the word “but” indicates a transition from our pre-conversion state of wretchedness. Just as the Christians in First Century Crete differed from their unsaved counterparts, so we differ from the world because of the Lord showing us His mercy. Paul’s emphasis on the goodness and loving kindness of God keeps us from congratulating ourselves on our personal holiness. Consequently, as Matthew Henry makes clear, we should feel compassion for non-Christians.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that here the phrase “God our Savior” refers specifically to the Father, giving us our first glimpse of the Trinity’s activity in bringing about salvation. The goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, or was manifested. The Cretan Christians didn’t conjure it up; the Lord manifested His grace because He, by nature, is good and loving. Again, the focus on His goodness steers us away from claiming any credit for His work in redeeming us.

Paul insists that God does the saving, elaborating that He did so because of His mercy rather than as a response to our good works, as verse 5 demonstrates. Remember that the Judaizers were disrupting the churches in Crete, teaching that the work of circumcision was necessary for salvation. That fact, coupled with their new behaviors, opened the door to pride. Refer to Ephesians 2:8-10 for a fuller explanation of the sequence of salvation and works. Salvation comes about according to God’s mercy, not our efforts.

The Lord accomplishes our salvation by the “washing of regeneration,” which several commentators understand as a reference to baptism. Believers Bible Commentary, however, argues that this phrase describes the cleansing from sin that results from Christ’s shed blood. This interpretation seems more consistent with the context of this passage.

Paul also attributes salvation to the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” At regeneration, the Holy Spirit transforms us into totally new creations, as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Thus the Cretan Christians differed from their unsaved counterparts only because of the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in each of them.

The Lord pours His Holy Spirit on the Church, as evidenced at Pentecost, but also on individual members at regeneration. Furthermore, Paul says in verse 6, He isn’t stingy, but rather He pours Him out abundantly. Barnes comments that the Holy Spirit had been so generously given to the Cretan Christians in order to help them overcome their wicked manner of life, adding that this principle applies to all Christians.

Jesus Christ our Savior is the “channel and Mediator of the gift of the Holy Ghost,” say Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Indeed, Jesus promised in John 16:7 that He would send the Holy Spirit. So while most of the New Testament rightly emphasizes Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, here Paul points to His work of sending the Holy Spirit  to regenerate us.

Paul credits the entire Trinity with bringing Christians to salvation. In verse 4, he calls God the Father Savior. In verse 5, he teaches that the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews us. And in verse 6, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His exaltation of the Trinity strengthens his case that salvation comes completely from God. Next Monday we will discuss His wonderful purpose in showing us such grace.

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I Can No Longer Fear

The 16th Century Reformers recovered many glorious truths of the Gospel, all of which Protestants should cherish and celebrate. For instance, they brought back the Scriptural teaching that salvation comes, not as a result of our merits, but because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m keenly aware of the depths of my sin. In some respects, that awareness is good because it reminds me of who I am without Christ. But it gets dangerous when I lose sight of the truth that the Lord paid the penalty for each of my sins. He took the punishment that I rightfully deserve! Therefore I never have to fear God’s wrath!

He has often used the updated version of this hymn by Charles Wesley to comfort me when I feel overwhelmed by my sin. How wonderful to know that I belong to Him! I no longer fear condemnation, and in fact draw near to my heavenly Father with confidence in what Jesus did for me.

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Saturday Sampler: October 8 — October 14

Saturday Sampler graphic

Mark McIntyre, in Attempts at Honesty, asks us to consider whether or not Christian on Christian crime apples to us. His comment on discernment ministries may prick a bit, but it alone makes the blog post worth reading.

Do you ever feel tempted to skip reading your Bible? I sure do! So I appreciate Michelle Lesley’s response in The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it. (No, I didn’t submit the question.) Michelle answers this question with honesty and compassion while not compromising the truth in any way.

Not that Christians should still be confused on this matter, but the author of Unified in Truth answers the question, Can women teach or exercise authority over a man? with simple appeals to the Word of God. There’s really nothing to complicate the issue except our rebellion.

Ouch! Erin Benziger does some necessary, but painful, wielding of the Sword of the Spirit with her article Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip in Do Not Be Surprised. She also encourages those of us who struggle with this sin to remember God’s grace.

According to Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another, Before You Get Angry about a News Story you might want to ask yourself some probing questions. Our “righteous indignation” may not be as righteous as we think.

You’ll have to read Elizabeth Prata’s The Gathering Storm in The End Time all the way through to get what she’s saying, but I urge you to work through her crucially important essay. Believe me, this lady understands where our society is headed, and we need to pay attention.

Although I don’t have the time to sign up for the online Bible Studies that Lisa Morris offers, I enjoy reading the companion blog posts she features in Conforming to the Truth. Launching her study of James, Lisa writes Genuine Faith: Knows Considers and Asks Without Doubting in a manner that encourages us to walk through trials as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe you’d like reading her thoughts on James 1:1-5.

Usually I won’t include articles in Saturday Sampler if they quote someone I have significant disagreements with (like Michael Brown) or favorably reference unbiblical practices (like psychology). Walt Heyer’s article, The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill in Public Discourse is a necessary exception. Heyer lived as a transgendered woman for eight years, only to realize that his surgery couldn’t change his genetic makeup. His article challenges politically correct assumptions about transgenderism, and for that reason  I feel compelled to recommend it.

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Narrow Ways And The Claims Jesus Makes

Shrub3

As a power wheelchair user, I prefer the wide sidewalks of downtown Boston to the comparatively narrower ones in the suburban town where I live. I’ve been known to crank up my chair’s speed on Boyleston Street and leave John in the dust!

Here at home, I keep my wheelchair at a fairly conservative speed. It means a longer time between the bus stop and our apartment building, which gets annoying when the bus is late and we need to get through supper before my Personal Care Attendant arrives. But with my uncontrolled movements due to Cerebral Palsy, I feel safer on narrow sidewalks with a slower speed.

I like the wide sidewalks of Boston.

Most people tend to equate narrowness with negative things, don’t you think? We want wide sidewalks, wide margins and wide religion. And accordingly, we imagine Jesus as an inclusive God Who accepts all people (except those we really dislike, of course) regardless of whether or not they believe in Him or love His Word. Jesus, we insist, is broad minded. Surely He would detest any spiritual narrowness and exclusivity in favor of welcoming everybody into heaven!

The real Jesus, however, has a habit of going against our expectations and making proclamations that, to be honest, seem very intolerant. Let me quote just two of His frustratingly narrow remarks:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~~John 14:6 (ESV)

These words offend most non-Christians. As a matter of fact, many people who consider themselves to be Christians distance themselves from these words, sometimes even asserting that He never actually said them. But Jesus, because He is Lord, reserves the right to be as narrow as He sees fit, not depending on our approval in making His decrees.

His narrowness confines us in several respects. Most obviously, it demands holy conduct that reflects the new nature He gives His elect at regeneration. The apparent freedom to indulge sinful passions no longer reigns, and we resent His authority to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do.

Even deeper than resenting His authority over our behavior, we resent His rejection of other religions and belief systems. His narrowness demands that we worship only Him, giving no grace to those who practice other religions.

We forget that, as Lord, Jesus deserves to be our one and only object of worship. We forget that heaven, rather than being a place where all our desires find satisfaction (although that’s certainly the case), revolves around praising and worshiping Him. As wide and expansive as eternity is, Jesus alone is its focus. And He’s more than enough for me!

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What John Calvin And Martin Luther Say To Rick Warren And Beth Moore

Medieval Tower

Yesterday I tried to demonstrate that today’s popular teachers who promote new paradigms and/or claim to receive personal revelations from God are completely different from the Reformers of the 16th Century. I noted that, while these present-day teachers distract us from Scripture, the Reformers called Christians back to God’s Word.

So why should we bring up 500-year-old people instead of tackling Beth Moore, Rick Warren and the others directly?  How does understanding a group of religious dissenters from the Renaissance help us combat the false teachings that permeate 21st Century evangelicalism? Most Christians (even those who have excellent discernment abilities) ask such questions.

And in some respects, the people asking those questions have a point. Yet many of the errors that Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others make run parallel to errors that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other Reformers had to correct.

For example, Beth Moore often bases her teachings on visions and personal revelations she claims to have received from the Holy Spirit. A simple Youtube search on “beth moore visions from god” will document this fact. One of the reasons discernment bloggers warn so strenuously against Beth Moore is precisely because of her extrabiblical revelations.

But did you know that John Calvin devoted Chapter 9 of his seminal book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, to the very topic of extrabiblical revelations? It’s a short chapter, which you can read by clicking this link, but it offers a Scriptural argument (as long as you know that he understands prophecy to mean the Canon of Scripture) against personal revelations.

On a wider scope,  Rick Warren’s statement that Catholics and Protestants have the basic doctrines of Christianity in common probably would have perplexed an older Martin Luther. Hadn’t Luther risked his very life refuting Rome’s teaching that grace came through the sacraments and through purchasing leftover merits accrued by Mary and the saints? Hadn’t he insisted that justification comes through faith alone?

Until the Catholic Church rescinds the Council of Trent, which stridently condemns the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Protestants must recognize that Catholics preach another gospel. Therefore we cannot accept Rick Warren’s embrace of Roman Catholicism. The very Reformation itself exposes Rick Warren as, at best, a seriously compromised evangelical.

Of course, we must ultimately measure truth by the Bible, not by the Reformers. Calvin and Luther had a few blind spots of their own. But the Reformers teach us how to apply Scriptural principles to teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren. Studying the Protestant Reformation enhances our discernment. Don’t underestimate its value.

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