The Joy Of A Redeemed Sinner

Understanding the depths of our personal sins can fill us with despair.

On the other hand, understanding the depths of our personal sins can lead us to a Savior Who willingly and lovingly shed His blood to pay for those very sins. Once we receive His cleansing, we can’t help but love Him. Neither can we help joyfully singing of His redeeming love. There’s nothing as irrepressible, you see, as the joy of a redeemed sinner!

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

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Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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Reformation Day Is Like Christmas (At Least For Reformed Bloggers)

Reformation Day

Pastors must feel a sense of panic each December, knowing they’ll need to preach Christmas sermons the Sunday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve. How can they find a fresh angle? What can they say that pastors haven’t said for centuries on end? How do they keep their congregations from becoming jaded to the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation?

As a blogger, I believe I empathize with their plight. Before starting The Outspoken TULIP, I maintained another blog for  nine years, giving me a total of twelve years and three months doing this ministry. Around Christmastime, I panic a little myself. What can I add to the conversation that’s different from my Christmas blog posts lying in my archives? And how can my articles complement, rather than parrot, those of my fellow Christian bloggers?

Today I feel the same sort of panic. It’s Reformation Day, and I am Continue reading

It’s All Grace

I love the Doctrines of Grace, don’t you? That our perfectly holy God, for no reason other than His glory, would open my rebellious heart by calling me to salvation just plain amazes me! It humbles me.

You see, I did everything to earn damnation.  And absolutely nothing to deserve spending eternity in heaven enjoying Christ. Even my faith in Him, on which my salvation depends, is a gift from Him. From start to finish, I owe everything to God’s grace.

With Reformation Day only 10 days away, I want to post a hymn (albeit a modern hymn) focusing on God’s grace to me. To all who believe in Him. May He use it to remind each of us how incredibly gracious He is.

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The Joy Of The Reformation

Post Tenebras LuxIt’s customary, for some reason, to depict the 16th Century Reformers as dour old men with no sense of joy. Actually,  as a Charismatic I was encouraged to characterize Calvinists as humorless legalists who worshiped doctrine rather than enjoying vital relationships with Jesus. This mischaracterization of Calvinists quite likely stemmed from an ignorance of both Reformed Theology and church history.

The 16th Century Reformers rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord? Does that sound joyless?

Not to me! If you’ll examine Martin Luther’s life alone, you’ll discover that he suffered enormously during his time as a Roman Catholic monk, always fearful that his works of penance and his fastidious observances of the sacraments never pleased God. He went so far as to declare that he hated God because nothing he did satisfied Him.

And essentially, Luther was correct. Our works of human righteousness have no hope of appeasing God’s holy wrath. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to confess:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. ~~Isaiah 64:6-7 (ESV)

Luther felt the crushing weight of that truth. That weight was compounded, however, by the Roman Catholic system that insisted on penance, sacraments and the threat of Purgatory.

But in reading Romans 1:17‘s declaration that the righteous shall live by faith in the original Greek, rather than in the Latin Vulgate, he discovered the key! As R.C. Sproul explains in Justification by Faith Alone: Martin Luther and Romans 1:17:

Now there was a linguistic trick that was going on here too. And it was this, that the Latin word for justification that was used at this time in church history was—and it’s the word from which we get the English word justification—the Latin word justificare. And it came from the Roman judicial system. And the term justificare is made up of the word justus, which is justice or righteousness, and the verb, the infinitive facare, which means to make. And so, the Latin fathers understood the doctrine of justification is what happens when God, through the sacraments of the church and elsewhere, make unrighteous people righteous.

But Luther was looking now at the Greek word that was in the New Testament, not the Latin word. The word dikaios, dikaiosune, which didn’t mean to make righteous, but rather to regard as righteous, to count as righteous, to declare as righteous. And this was the moment of awakening for Luther. He said, “You mean, here Paul is not talking about the righteousness by which God Himself is righteous, but a righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own.”

By going to the language that Paul actually used in writing the letter to the Romans, Luther found peace. He, as well as other 16th Century Reformers, learned from Scripture that Christ has paid the penalty for the sin of all who put their trust in Him!

How could the discovery of Scripture’s actual promise of justification by faith alone in Christ alone be anything less than joyous and exhilarating? The Reformers all entered this wonderful freedom, as do present-day Reformed believers. After the darkness of trying to atone for our sin, the light of God’s Word and its promise that we have forgiveness in Christ causes absolute rejoicing.

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

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Saturday Sampler: October 7 — October 13

Symetry Sampler 02Looking at how believers should handle personal sin, Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure rhetorically asks, Do genuine Christians need to confess their sins and seek forgiveness and cleansing? You undoubtedly know the short answer, but Ratliff provides Scriptural substantiation for that answer.

As happens every October, Reformed writers turn their attention to the 16th Century. You’ll see plenty of articles about Luther and Calvin, which makes Steven J. Lawson’s Zurich Revolutionary: Ulrich Zwingli so refreshing. You can find this article on the Ligonier blog.

Leslie A, in Growing 4 Life, passionately declares I’m Not the One Who Moved. She addresses quite a few problems in present-day evangelicalism, rightly tracing them back to an abandonment of three of the five Solas.

As the owner of Berean Research, Amy Spreeman is Holding On to Scripture as she reevaluates the role and implementation of discernment ministry. Join me in praying for Amy and her blogging partner Marsha West as they go through this season of searching God’s Word for wisdom.

Complementing Amy’s post, SlimJim of The Domain for Truth writes Beyond cage stage: Beware of being a Nurmagomedov rage phase Calvinist/Apologist. Given the angry climate on social media these days, all of us could probably benefit from his counsel.

I’m happy to share Who will separate us from the love of Christ? by Mike Ratliff. Although I’ve already placed an article of his in this edition of Saturday Sampler, the Perseverance of the Saints is taught so seldom that I adamantly believe as many people as possible need exposure to this encouraging doctrine.

C.T. Adams of Faith Contender answers a question about Universal Consciousness with a compelling argument for loving God with our minds.

Reflecting on an encounter she had with morning glories, Elizabeth Prata reprises Why can’t they see she’s a false teacher? One reason: “Deception by investment” in The End Time. If you’ve ever experienced backlash for warning someone about a popular teacher, this essay will encourage you.

History really doesn’t have to be boring. And even church history can include a little romance. Don’t believe me? Then check out Simonetta Carr’s Anne Bohemia and her Multilingual Scriptures on Place for Truth and prepare to enjoy a wonderful love story. As an added bonus, you’ll learn some lesser known tidbits about things leading up to the Reformation.

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