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Why Has the Lord Pronounced All This Great Evil Against Us?

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I’ve been reading Jeremiah lately. It came to my mind to do so awhile back, and as I read, it seems quite appropriate to our times. In the very first chapter, God says:

And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. (v. 16).

“Offerings to other gods.” That struck me as quite an accurate diagnosis of us. I suppose our worship of other gods is not a recent development, but we seem to be more bold, and deceived, in our false offerings.

Jeremiah speaks much about God’s people having “forsaken” God. The famous text in 2:13 tells the story:

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and dug out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

What’s more . . .

How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. (5:7).

And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’ (5:19).

[Y]our fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law. (16:11). 

Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind.” (19:3-5).

So God tells Jeremiah to not even pray for His people, nor to weep or grieve for them. Such is their sin. Such has it been for centuries. God has indeed been patient. Yet he finally says: You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of relenting. (15:6).

In spite of this, idolatry seems to be sparse in our vocabulary today. We acknowledge it as a biblical notion, but we do not see its subtlety or pervasiveness. Idolatry is not really a “psychological” or “therapeutic” category, so we don’t have much use for it in our current reflections on our individual, communal or national lives. Or, perhaps, it’s a transgression for “those out there” who are not a part of the church. It’s easy to think in my heart that somehow idolatry resides elsewhere. So we, so I, cast aside the truth for what is convenient to me. As Jeremiah says:

O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. (5:3).

And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. (7:28).

They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord(9:3).

Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. (9:5).

Judge for yourself whether you think this speaks to us in this hour. Have we not taught our tongues to speak lies? I do not leave out that the prophet’s words were spoken to God’s chosen people living under his law given specifically to them. Yet I do not either take this to mean the words are devoid of application for us. Idolatry is not a sin relegated to God’s people. The later chapters of Jeremiah speak of God’s judgment against the nations. I may have some thoughts on that when I get there.

-D

 

Written by Michael Duenes

May 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Duenes, Jeremiah

The Richness of Our Salvation in Christ

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Endurance: The Faith that Saves is a Faith that Endures to the End

 “The one who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13)

“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13). This is not saving belief because the person does not persevere. Saving faith is a persevering faith.

“My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never die. No one will steal them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than anyone. No one can steal them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). In other words, they “follow,” that is, endure/persevere in faith.

“These whom [God] predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30).

  • This Scripture tells us that God sees to it that justifying faith is glorifying faith. If those who are justified are inevitably glorified, which this Scripture affirms, then the justified have inevitably persevered. They have not “walked away” from Jesus ultimately. This doesn’t say what level of sanctification the justified person has attained in this life, it just means that they have persevered in faith.

“You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. “ (Rom. 11:19-22)

“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:4-8). God keeps the justified believer persevering to the end.

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:1-2)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph. 1:3-4).

  • This Scripture teaches that, before the day of God’s creating the world, before any believer was even born, God chose each believer; and He chose them to be holy and blameless. So God has already ordained that the believer will persevere in faith and stand before Him, holy and blameless. This does not negate or obviate our choices to pursue Christ, it simply means that God has sovereignly given us the gift of perseverance “from before the foundation of the world.”

“He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard.” (Col. 1:22-23)

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:14)

“And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Heb. 5:9)

“By this will [i.e., God’s will] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10)

  • Notice it says believers “have been sanctified,” in the perfect tense, meaning it’s taken as something already completed, with present abiding results. This frequently happens in the Bible. The sanctification is a good as done, and yet, we still have to cooperate with God in the doing of it in our lives. (See e.g., 2:6, God has already “raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly places,” and yet, our bodily resurrection is still future.)

“For by one offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). Here again, the perfecting has already happened, but it is also happening in real time. Thus, the sanctification is as good as done the moment a person believes, even though they have to work out their sanctification in life.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27).

  • I would take the “go on sinning willfully” to mean a decision not to persevere. In other words, if a person does not persevere in faith to the end, but willfully and ultimately abandons the faith, they are not saved. Thus, saving faith is persevering faith.

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Heb. 10:36-39). The faith that saves is a faith that does not “shrink back.”

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Heb. 12:25).

“…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5). This text shows two things: (1) the believer is protected in faith, i.e., God sees to it that he perseveres; and (2) the “salvation” talked about here is “revealed” in the future. It was secured at the moment of true belief (justification), but it is a final salvation revealed in the future.

“And every one who thus hopes in [God] purifies himself as [God] is pure.” (1 John 3:3). The faith that saves is a faith that inevitably brings purity (i.e., holiness). This does not negate our obligation to choose holiness and purity, but true hope in God means that the believer, by God’s influencing Spirit, will indeed make the choices for purity, ultimately. The gift of God’s influence by the Spirit is part of the overall gift of salvation.

“God, in the act of justification, which is passed on a sinner’s first believing, has respect to perseverance, as being virtually contained in that first act of faith; and [persevering in faith] is looked upon . . . as being as it were a property of that [first act of] faith. God has respect to the believer’s continuance in faith, and he is justified by that, as though it already were, because by divine establishment it shall follow” (“Justification by Faith Alone,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974], p. 641).

“[T]he justified children of God never forsake Christ utterly. God keeps them.” (John Piper, “The Purpose and Perseverance of Faith”).

“What a living, creative, active, powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith [should] ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.” (Martin Luther, “Preface to Romans”)

“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.” (Westminster Confession of Faith).

“God elected us for this very purpose. “He chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph. 1:4). We were predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ in all His spotless purity (Rom. 8:29). This divine choice makes it certain that we shall be like Him when He appears (1 John 3:2). From this fact, John deduces that everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as Christ is pure (1 John 3:3). His use of the word “everyone” makes it quite certain that those who do not purify themselves will not see Christ, nor be like Him. By their lack of holiness they prove that they were not so predestinated. The apostle thus deals a crushing blow to Antinomianism.” (Richard Alderson, No Holiness, No Heaven!, p. 88)

Assurance: The Faith that Saves is a Faith that Includes Assurance

“For the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom. 8:16) This “internal witness of the Spirit” is part of the gift of salvation.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.” (1 Cor 2:12)

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession (Eph. 1:13-14)

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

Justification: The Faith that Saves Brings Justification as a Gift from God

“Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:23-24). Justification occurs on the first act of true faith, and that first act of faith is a gift of God’s grace. Justification is part of the overall gift of salvation.

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

  • Here we see that justification is a gift. If God foreknows someone (before he is born), he predestines that person to be like Jesus, and if He predestines them, He calls them and He also justifies them. So the justification follows necessarily from God’s foreknowing and predestining and calling, which are done by His grace before we choose anything. This passage also shows us that more than “justification” is involved in salvation. Salvation entails sanctification (“becoming conformed to the image of His Son”), becoming a part of God’s family (“firstborn among many brethren”) and final glorification.

Sanctification: The Faith that Justifies is also the Faith that Sanctifies

“These whom [God] predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30).

  • This teaches that the sanctification is part of the whole chain. No one can get from “justification” to “glorification” without sanctification. The faith that justifies is necessarily a faith that sanctifies.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 6:11).

  • Notice that it says “you were sanctified,” not that you will be sanctified. Yet both are true. The sanctification, however, is as good as done at justification, in God’s view. Again, this does not negate the fact that we have to choose to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” But God could only speak of sanctification in the past tense if, in His view, it will certainly happen.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph. 1:3-4).

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

“By this will [i.e., God’s will] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . For by one offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:10, 14).

“To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ…But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1, 20-21)

  • Here’s another one of those texts, where God does something and we do something. Neither is negated by the other. Believers are “kept” by God. God sovereignly does it. But, the believer also has to “keep himself in the love of God,” his own action by God’s grace. But, it’s clear that saving faith is a faith wherein the believer is kept. That’s part of the nature of saving faith; it’s a faith that endures because the believer is “kept.”

“It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone: just as it is the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is not alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light.” (John Calvin).

  • In other words, faith always brings holiness and the fruit of the Spirit.

Indwelling Holy Spirit: Saving Faith Brings the Indwelling Holy Spirit

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Rom. 6:9). Obviously believers “belong to Christ” and thus, they necessarily have “the Spirit of Christ.”

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezek. 36:25-27)

Adoption into God’s Family: Saving Faith Brings Sonship

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but rather, you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15)

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3:26)

“In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:4-6)

“Behold, what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)

“Although adoption is a privilege that comes to us at the time we become Christians, nevertheless, it is a privilege that is distinct from justification and distinct from regeneration.” (Wayne Grudem, “Systematic Theology”). This goes to my point that justification is just one aspect of the rich tapestry/package of what salvation includes. (Grudem points out that holy angels are right with God, but do not seem to enjoy the privileges of sonship that believers enjoy.)

Christ’s Intercession: Saving Faith Brings Christ’s Intercession for Believers

He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:27)

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Rom. 8:33-34)

  • Justification and intercession are inextricably linked. We have Christ’s intercession as part of salvation.

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25)

All Things Working for Good: Saving Faith Brings “All Good Things”

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things.” (Rom. 8:32).

  • The “all things” here are “all things that are needful to fulfill God’s purposes for your life and bring everlasting joy.”

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11).

All things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

  • Much more Scripture and commentary could be brought in on these points, but all I am trying to convey here – which I take to be a positive thing – is that “justification” is a necessary and wondrous part of the whole package of “salvation,” but not the whole thing. Salvation is an immensely rich and full reality, encompassing all of the promises and blessings we have in Christ: justification, assurance, sanctification, resurrection (spiritually and bodily), glorification, adoption, Spirit-indwelling, intercession (answered prayers), perseverance, co-rulership with Christ, fullness of joy and all good things.

– D

Written by Michael Duenes

May 19, 2016 at 4:29 am

Posted in Duenes, Theology

Jesus Paid It All, Not So We Wouldn’t Have To Do Anything, But So That We Would Be Empowered To Do All Sorts of Things

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These are the explicit and implicit commands from Hebrews 10. These commands flow out of all that God has done for us, thus, contrary to the notion that we no longer need to “do anything” because “Jesus paid it all,” Hebrews stands for the truth that because “Jesus paid it all,” we should be even more energetic in “doing things.”

  1. Draw near with a sincere heart
  2. Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering
  3. Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds
  4. Assemble together
  5. Encourage one another all the more as you see the day approaching
  6. Don’t go on sinning willfully
  7. Don’t trample underfoot the Son of God
  8. Don’t regard as unclean the blood of the covenant
  9. Don’t insult the Spirit of grace
  10. Don’t throw away your confidence
  11. Endure in doing the will of God
  12. Live by faith
  13. Don’t shrink back

– D

Written by Michael Duenes

May 6, 2016 at 5:02 am

Posted in Duenes, Theology