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     Amos   6 - 9

Amos 6

Woe to Those at Ease in Zion

Amos 6:1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
2  Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3  O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

4  “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5  who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6  who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7  Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”

8 The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds,
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

9 And if ten men remain in one house, they shall die. 10 And when one’s relative, the one who anoints him for burial, shall take him up to bring the bones out of the house, and shall say to him who is in the innermost parts of the house, “Is there still anyone with you?” he shall say, “No”; and he shall say, “Silence! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”

11  For behold, the LORD commands,
and the great house shall be struck down into fragments,
and the little house into bits.
12  Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—
13  you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
who say, “Have we not by our own strength
captured Karnaim for ourselves?”
14  “For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,
O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;
“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath
to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 7

Warning Visions

Amos 7:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings. 2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord GOD, please forgive!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
3  The LORD relented concerning this:
“It shall not be,” said the LORD.

4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said,

“O Lord GOD, please cease!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
6  The LORD relented concerning this:
“This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them;
9  the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Amos Accused

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said,

“ ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.’ ”

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15 But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

17 Therefore thus says the LORD:

“ ‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’ ”

Amos 8

The Coming Day of Bitter Mourning

Amos 8:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me,

“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them.
3  The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
declares the Lord GOD.
“So many dead bodies!”
“They are thrown everywhere!”

4  Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
5  saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
6  that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

7  The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8  Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who dwells in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

9  “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10  I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.

11  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.
12  They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.

13  “In that day the lovely virgins and the young men
shall faint for thirst.
14  Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,
and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’
and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’
they shall fall, and never rise again.”

Amos 9

The Destruction of Israel

Amos 9:1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:

“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;
not one of them shall flee away;
not one of them shall escape.

2  “If they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
if they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
3  If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search them out and take them;
and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
4  And if they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
and I will fix my eyes upon them
for evil and not for good.”

5  The Lord GOD of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who dwell in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
6  who builds his upper chambers in the heavens
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
the LORD is his name.

7  “Are you not like the Cushites to me,
O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
8  Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,
and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the LORD.

9  “For behold, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
10  All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

The Restoration of Israel

11  “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
12  that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,”
declares the LORD who does this.

13  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
14  I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
15  I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the LORD your God.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Catechisms for the Imagination

By N.D. Wilson 11/01/2013

     What are stories for? Ask an average group of young American narrative consumers this question and they most likely won’t know what you mean. What you’ll likely get are blank faces, shrugs.

     So, let’s get more specific. What are movies, TV shows, comic books, and novels for? What’s the point? Why watch? Why read? Why do we as a culture bother to spend billions of dollars (and hours) creating and consuming stories?

     The consensus answer — regardless of whether the kids asked are active and aggressive readers or merely passive imbibers of whatever happens to be on — will almost always come down to one word and one word only: fun. Why do we watch? For fun. Why do we read? For fun.

     Spider-man and Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead all exist for fun. Twilight is fun. Or it isn’t fun. And so this girl is absorbed in the books while that boy sneers and mocks. Personal and peer-group tastes and pleasures are adhered to as if they were indisputable and authoritative.

     But the word fun is a simplistic label for what is actually a remarkable and complex experience. Stories make people feel. Stories (particularly novels) take control of and govern the imagination, causing readers to feel things on command. Stories create empathetic and sympathetic bonds between readers and fictional characters, and those bonds are truly real. In fact, they can be more lasting than the bonds between readers and their fellow earth-walking humans because a fictional character is fixed and unchanging. I have deeply admired and looked up to Faramir (from The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings, the second book of the Lord of the Rings series) from my youth, and that admiration has only grown. On the other hand, there are real men whom I long admired, and whom I admire no longer.

     Stories create affection and fear and joy, love and hate and relief. Stories can create loyalties and destabilize loyalties. Stories are catechisms for the imagination. Catechisms for emotions, for aspirations. Stories mold instincts and carve grooves of habit in a reader’s judgments.

     Stories are dangerous, and that isn’t a bad thing. Rain is dangerous. Sunlight is dangerous. Stories are potent, but that potency can be used for true and good and beautiful ends, or it can be used to attack and destroy and undermine truth and goodness and beauty.

     Let a faithful author guide a child’s imagination, and that child will learn (and feel) what it is like to be courageous, to stand against evil, to love what is lovely and honor what is honorable. Hand them the wrong book, and they could learn to numb their own conscience, to gratify and feed darker impulses. The wrong stories catechize imaginations with sickness.

     Twilight is a manual for adolescent girls on how to become abused women. Is that man moody and mercurial and vicious? Is he death and danger? Let’s have tens of millions of young girls practice (through emotional connection to a character proxy) envisioning themselves trailing around behind him like kicked puppies, just hoping for a sparkly smile. And let’s have that imagined behavior rewarded. What could go wrong?

     Of course, it’s rarely that simple. Books (and stories in general) can weave just a single layer of dissonance through an otherwise harmonic structure. The Hunger Games begins with a girl selflessly offering herself as a substitute for her little sister. Grand. We see beauty there and we bite. We attach to Katniss (our heroine) because she has earned our sympathy, and then we ride with her through her awful and horrific servitude to the debauchery of a corrupt nation. But a switch takes place. We linked up with her when she was driven by selflessness, but she quickly moves into a radical Darwinian selfishness, willing to participate in the murder of innocents in order to preserve herself. Cruciform behavior is subbed out and survival of the fittest (as an ethical justification for bloodshed) is subbed in.

     And here we see what happens when a book (and a character) is well-crafted but false. When I criticize the motivation of a character in The Hunger Games, it is easy for people to respond emotionally as if I had insulted their most beloved sister. Because, even though the character isn’t real, the affection and loyalty and pride and worry created in the readers is very real indeed. And once the affections are involved, objective critical discussion is emotionally charged (and zesty).

     Critical thinking and imaginative selfcontrol are obviously essential things to give to young readers. We should want to raise children with the ability to resist an author and a narrative, to laugh, criticize, and dismiss folly, no matter how hard a storyteller might be working to feed them falsehood. But the first step is to establish their tastes in truth with stories that will root their instincts and loyalties in goodness and beauty. Feed them narratives that love the lovely and honor the honorable. Let them wander Narnia and Middle-earth and be edified and strengthened and inspired. Give them a strong foundation and stubborn taste. When it comes to story, there’s nothing wrong with being a picky eater.

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     Per Amazon | N. D. Wilson is a best-selling novelist, professional daydreamer, and occasional screenwriter. He enjoys hilltops, callouses, and the smell of rain on hot asphalt. He and his wife have five children, and he is currently a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College, where he teaches freshmen how to play with words.

N.D. Wilson Books:

An Interview with R.C. Sproul Jr.

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2013

     Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian, and how did you receive the call to ministry?

     R.C. Sproul Jr.: I was raised by my parents in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For that I am eternally grateful. Though I had a number of conversion experiences, my last while a student in high school, I never remember a time that I did not believe the Bible was God’s Word, that Jesus was God incarnate, that He died for our sins and rose again. Having turned to Christ’s work, and committed my life to His rule, I still did not perceive myself to being called to full-time ministry. I attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, seeking simply to strengthen my understanding. I started working on Tabletalk magazine during that time, which I loved. My “inward call,” however, was rather less than dramatic. I was grumbling in my own heart about the weakness of pastors in the churches I was familiar with and thought, “Well, if you think it’s so easy, why don’t you try it?” Not long after, I moved to Virginia to start Highlands Ministries and plant Saint Peter Presbyterian Church.

     TT: For our readers who may not be familiar, can you tell us a little about Highlands Ministries?

     RS: Highlands began in 1996 as an attempt to help Christians deal with the perennial and pervasive problem of worldliness in our lives. In turn, we wanted to, as Ligonier grew in its reach, reach more deeply into the lives of our students. We wanted to teach face to face, personally, in small numbers, and so began to create media based on conversations (the Basement Tapes) and small group events (Couples Camps and Pastors Camps.) In addition, we publish Every Thought Captive magazine and produce Bible studies and curricula.

     TT: Can you explain what it means, in the words of Highlands Ministries’ mission statement, to “Live more simple, separate, and deliberate lives to the glory of God and for the building of His kingdom”?

     RS: By “simple” we mean that we want to serve only one master. Christians find themselves weary and burned out precisely because we, like our fathers before us, think we can serve the spirit of the age while serving our Lord as well. By “separate” we do not mean leaving the world geographically but in terms of our lives. We are to be set apart, distinct, a city on a hill—in a word, holy. By “deliberate” we mean thoughtful and intentional in our thinking and doing. Too often we allow the broader culture to make our decisions for us; we accept the normal as acceptable. All of these things, of course, we pursue not for our own sake, but that the glory of the reign of Christ over all things might be made known.

     TT: What are some of the unique challenges and blessings that come with having a well-recognized and well-respected theologian as a father?

     RS: Great teaching! I’m blessed first to have parents who love me and love Jesus. That is the important thing. But sound theology wasn’t, in my youth, a subject to be studied, but it was part of the warp and woof of my household. What I have learned seems as natural to me as the sky being blue. The downside? The realization that every brilliant insight I think I have is really just a memory of what I learned. Many worry for me that I go through my life in the shadow of my father. It does not concern me,  since we both live in the shadow of Jesus.

     TT: Do you have any encouraging words for those who may feel as if they are not doing enough for God’s kingdom because most of their current time and effort is spent caring for young children?

     RS: Of all that our eyes see, the only thing we can be certain will last forever is our children. To labor for their souls, to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is to invest in eternity. What could be more important? And what could be more rewarding? There is, according to John, no greater joy than to know our children walk in the truth (3 John 1:4). No greater joy.

     TT: At Reformation Bible College, you have been teaching some of the Great Works courses. What are two classics of Western Literature (besides the Bible) that have exerted a strong influence on your life and ministry and why?

     RS: The Confessions (Saint Augustine), because it marries so beautifully and powerfully sound theology with a changed heart. And Shakespeare’s Macbeth, because it reveals the darkness of our own hearts. The Bard potently communicates how sin, pride, and presumption creep up on us, and how destructive our sin can be.

     TT: What advice would you give to parents who want their children to be culturally literate in the great works without harming their Christian worldview?

     RS: We encourage our students not to see themselves, in reading the great works, as participating in “the great conversation” where we join our ancestors in dispassionately wrestling with the great questions. Instead, we see our studies as participating in “the great confrontation.” We are looking to see how the wisdom of the world has infected our minds that we might tear down strongholds and every lofty thing that exalts itself against our Lord. A proper approach sees reading these works both as preparation for battle and as battle itself.

     TT: What was the motivation behind your recently completed series Economics for Everybody?

     RS: In diŸcult times, Christians have questions. The Bible has answers. Economics is a profoundly ethical field of study, as well as a profoundly important one. We wanted to help Christians come to understand just a hint of how God answers our prayer for our daily bread and to grasp how governments, often at the behest of their citizens, interfere in and distort, even destroy economies. We aŸrm, of course, that the Bible equips us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It equips us, therefore, to be about the good work of being good stewards and good neighbors. Both require that we come to some basic understanding of economics. Our commitment with the series, however, was that we would topple the twin giants of fear and boredom when looking at these issues. I believe we did well.

     TT: Why is it so important for Christians to understand what is happening in their local abortion mills?

     RS: Three reasons. First, abortion won’t end until our hearts are genuinely broken, and going to the mill breaks our hearts. Suddenly, abstract arguments about rights and court rulings dissipate when you see a mom enter with her unborn child and leave, her baby murdered and in the trash. We, those of us who describe ourselves as prolife, need to be changed. We need to wake up to the scope and depth of the greatest evil of our day. Second, there at an abortion mill, because it is the very gates of hell, is where the Spirit moves in power. There you get a palpable sense of the presence of evil, as if the demons themselves dance on the roof. But you also know the Spirit comes in power. We come away convicted, and souls are won there. Those who are murdering their own children have a hard time suppressing the truth of their sin, and so are ready to hear about Jesus. Third, because this is what our faith is. True religion is visiting orphans and widows in their trouble (James 1:27).  No one is more a widow than a woman being led by her husband/boyfriend/father to murder her baby, no one more an orphan than the unborn being put to death by its parents.

     TT: What are the top two lessons you have learned from ministering in other countries?

     RS: We need them more than they need us. Too often we show up to minister to saints overseas as the Americans come to set the less sophisticated straight. What I have found is I need to learn from my brothers around the globe. They are the ones cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. They are the ones who understand God’s provision in Christ. Second, God is at work in places we wouldn’t expect. As the West descends deeper into unbelief it is all too easy to grow discouraged. But the West is not the kingdom of God. The world is.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

Of Veils and Vales

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2013

     Abraham, we are told, looked for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Jesus promised us that He was going to prepare a place for us (     John 14:3). And when history draws to its close, a great city, the New Jerusalem, will descend from on high (     Rev. 21:2

). Is it any wonder that we, like Pilgrim before us, see our walk as a metaphor, a journey to the celestial city? And is it not just a short step to then conclude that our call to seek first the kingdom of God is a call to make our way there?

     There is not a thing in the world wrong with these spatial kinds of metaphors. One does not complain when the Holy Spirit uses a word picture. There is, however, an associated danger. We are indeed on a journey. But we are going to a Person more than a place. To seek first the kingdom is less about getting there or building the kingdom and more about seeking the King. We will arrive not when we pass by the sign at the edge of town, but when we are embraced in our Savior’s arms.

     The glory of the gospel in like manner, is less the glory of how we have peace with God and more the glory that we have peace with God. The good news is not just the forgiveness of sins, but also our adoption as sons. Our religion is not a relationship, but a joining of the relationship. We are brought, by God’s grace and without becoming God ourselves, into the very family of God.

     Over the years, it has been my habit when speaking here and there at conferences and in worship services to offer up a little gift to those in attendance. It’s an outline of the entire Bible. It’s time I offered it here:

I. Genesis 1–2: Creation
II. Genesis 3: Fall.
III. Genesis 4–Revelation 22: Trying to get back to Genesis 1–2, only better.

     History is the story of getting back to the garden. History ends at the beginning. I fear that we fear eternity, that we are reluctant to go where we are going, that it might grow boring precisely because we have missed the beauty of where we came from. We do not look forward to heaven because we do not look backward to the garden.

     In the garden we were, first, without sin. Before my wife’s passing, she asked if I thought she would be able to recognize those who had gone before her to heaven. I explained: “Dear, I’m pretty sure I won’t recognize myself when I get to heaven. Me I know. Me without sin, I can’t imagine what that would look like.” What an astonishing thing it will be when we get home and find we have left sin behind. In one sense we won’t recognize ourselves. In another, however, we will finally be what we always were. We will come into our own. We will shed our fallen nature completely, and recall our created nature.

     In the garden we were, second, in harmony with the world and with one another. In the garden, not only did the lion and lamb lie down together, but so did the husband and wife. Human relationship was untouched by death, by sickness, by sin. There was no need to be or to feel defensive, no need to guard one’s “rights.” And so it will be in the consummated kingdom. All our relationships will be unsullied by sin or fear. We will be at peace. Thorns and thistles will be banished, and there will be no more sweat on our brows. All will be well.

     All of this, however, Adam and Eve, before their fall, and we, after our glorification, would trade for the one glory above all others — we will walk with Him in the cool of the evening. The glory of eternity is that we will be with Him. We will see His face and live (Rev. 22:4). Better still, we will see Him as He is, and be made like Him.

     The kingdom, however, is not merely future but present. Our sanctification is nothing other than becoming more what we will be. Our living out the “one anothers” here on earth is nothing other than doing what we will do. And our living coram Deo, before the face of God, is nothing other than how and where we will live then. Our progress as pilgrims is measured not by miles but by veils. For now we see through them darkly. But as we grow in grace, as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, the veils are progressively removed.

     The glory first begins to peek through, giving only hints of what is to come. But as we descend into the vale, the veils begin to drop, and eyesight which had begun to grow dim becomes faith sight that now beholds the Shekinah.

      Pray that He would give us eyes to see what eye has not seen. Pray that He would give us ears to hear what ear has not heard. Pray that He would give us minds to grasp, even just a hint, all that He has promised to His beloved. Pleasures Evermore sits at His right hand.œ

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

Ordinary Means

By Michael G. Brown 11/01/2013

     Nowadays, ordinary is a bad word. In a culture that is constantly looking for the next big thing, who wants what is ordinary? We want the spectacular. We want what is bigger, better, and exciting. We desire extraordinary gadgets, extraordinary kids, and extraordinary lives. To feel validated as a person, one must not settle for what is ordinary.

     Our approach to church is not much different. In a world that values novelty, innovation, and relevance, the expectation is for pastors to appear hip, worship to feel amazing, and teaching to be useful for our most recent news feed of felt needs. We don’t want ordinary ministers of ordinary churches, but bigger-than-life celebrities who lead transformational movements that are in a rush to make a radical impact on our lives. We want churches that are worthy of our personal quest for the spectacular. We want churches that are worthy of us.

     In such an age as ours, why should we bother planting churches that are committed to the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament? Such an endeavor seems backwards and counterintuitive. Yet this is precisely what the Head of the church has called us to do. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us our marching orders:

     All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)

     The goal of the church’s mission is to make disciples. The means of the church’s mission is the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament in the local church.

     This becomes clear when we consider how the Apostles sought to fulfill the Great Commission. After receiving the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:1–4), they preached the gospel (vv. 14–36), baptized people (vv. 37–41), and began meeting weekly with those who “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). Not long after receiving their commission, they planted a church.

     The whole book of Acts goes on to document this pattern of planting churches that were committed to the ordinary means of grace, following Jesus’ prophecy that the Apostles would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). The Apostles went throughout the world preaching the gospel, baptizing believers and their households, and planting congregations where they appointed elders to oversee the new disciples (14:21–23). This work continued in the transition from the Apostles to ordinary ministers (1 and 2 Timothy; Titus), and remains to this very day (Eph. 4:1–16).

     The necessity of the local church for the making of disciples can hardly be overemphasized. This is our Lord’s chosen means for gathering His redeemed people, feeding them with His Word, receiving their worship, nurturing their faith, and bonding them as a community rooted and established in love (Rom. 12; Eph. 4; Phil. 1:27–2:11). The local church is a manifestation of the people who belong to Christ, and also the place where He meets them through the means He has ordained: an ordinary ministry of Word, water, bread, and wine.

     Those means do not appear spectacular to the world. There is nothing particularly exciting or novel about a ministry of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. It is the same routine each week. We hear the Scriptures proclaimed, we come to the table, we sing, we pray, we enjoy fellowship, and then we go home. There are no halftime shows, no rock concerts, and no celebrity personalities. It is plain, ordinary, and even boring at times. Truth be told, it is about as exciting as watching a tree grow.

     But then Jesus said that the coming of His kingdom is like the growing of a tree (Luke 13:18–19). A tree doesn’t grow by big and marvelous events but through the slow, steady diet of sun and rain year after year. The same is true with the kingdom of God. More often than not, it does not grow by what the world considers a mark of success: big buildings, big budgets, and big names. Instead, it grows in simple and often small services where the gospel is proclaimed. It grows where believers and their children are baptized into the covenant community. It grows where repentant sinners come to a holy meal that appears tiny and insignificant. It grows where ordinary members of a congregation love and serve one another. It grows in those late-night, unglamorous meetings of the elders as they seek to tend faithfully to Christ’s sheep.

     We do not need more movements, more conferences, and more celebrities. We do not need the next big thing. What we need are more churches committed to the way disciples have been made since the Apostles planted a church in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: the slow-going, unspectacular, ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament, where God is raising dead sinners and creating a living communion of saints.

     By God’s power and grace, we are growing together into a tree whose glory will not appear fully until the end of the age. Until then, the extraordinary is God’s business. Our task is to be faithful to fulfill the ministry Christ gave us, as ordinary as it is.œ

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     Rev. Michael G. Brown is pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, Calif.

Faith Has Its Reasons

By R.C. Sproul 11/01/2013

     Christians from every theological tradition have for centuries confessed their faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Elsewhere I have taught on the actual content of this creed, but if there is one aspect of this confession that we often fail to reflect on, it is the creed’s opening words: I believe.

     Here I want to consider faith in relation to what are often seen as its opposites — reason and sense perception. Epistemology is the division of philosophy that seeks to answer one question: How do we know what we know, or how do we know what is true? Reason, sense perception, or some combination of the two have been among the most common answers to this basic question.

     Our minds function according to certain categories of rationality. We try to think in a logically coherent manner. Our judgments and deductions are not always correct and legitimate, but our minds always look for logical, intelligible patterns. Some people say that we find true knowledge exclusively within the mind. These “rationalists” stress the mind and reason as the sources of true knowledge.

     The mind processes information that we acquire with our five senses. Our minds act on what we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Perception is the experience of being in touch with the external world, and “empiricists” emphasize sense perception as the true basis for knowledge.

     The scientific method combines sense perception and reason. In scientific experiments we gather facts with our senses. Our minds then draw conclusions, reasoning through what our five senses discover. Some want to oppose this way of learning to faith, but I don’t find in Scripture the idea that faith is irrational or anti-sense perception. According to God’s Word, reason and sense perception form the foundation of knowledge. Faith rests on this foundation but takes us beyond it.

     We live in the most anti-intellectual age of history, and even many Christians believe we can compartmentalize faith as a way of knowing completely separate from sense perception and reason. Yet as Augustine told us centuries ago, how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind? Could we say that “Jesus is Lord” without some understanding of what the term Lord means, what the verb is indicates, and who the name Jesus refers to? We can’t believe the gospel without our minds understanding it to a degree.

     Christianity also features a book—the Bible—that is designed for our understanding. Why would God give us a written document if faith bypasses reason entirely? Moreover, sense perception is key to the biblical story. Luke wrote down those things to which he had eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1–4). Peter said the Apostles didn’t proclaim clever myths but what they saw with their eyes and heard with their ears (2 Peter 1:16). The biblical writers tell us about actual events in history that they experienced. Christianity isn’t ahistorical. God reveals Himself with reference to history: He is “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (Ex. 3:16).

     Faith never requires us to crucify our minds or deny our senses. It’s not virtuous to take a “leap of faith” if that means we plunge into irrationality. The Bible never calls us to leap into the darkness but to leap out of the darkness into the light.

     The New Testament defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). This doesn’t mean faith is against what we see. We are called to trust Him whom we haven’t seen—God—but He hasn’t remained wholly invisible. We have seen the Lord’s handiwork in this world, which Calvin called “a magnificent theater of natural revelation.” One day we’ll see Him directly in the beatific vision of His glory, but until then, He has not left Himself without a witness in creation.

     Revelation is the third category of knowledge. Christianity is a revealed religion. The Christian God is not mute. When we talk about faith as the evidence of things not seen, we’re talking about believing the Lord who has spoken. Not just believing in God but believing God. Believing God for things we cannot see now is the essence of faith, but it’s not an irrational or unscientific faith. God makes it very rational for me to believe He’s there. He’s shown Himself in the created order. He’s broken into time and space. Jesus came in the flesh, was seen, and rose from the dead in history. The Apostles testify to these events in Scripture, recording those things they witnessed with their senses.

     It’s not irrational to believe in the One who vindicated Himself as the incarnation of truth. This is not blind faith but faith that embraces testimony. The real opposites of faith are not reason and sense perception but credulity and superstition. Credulity, or naive believism, believes something that has no basis in reality. Superstition believes in magical things that have nothing to do with Scripture.

     We find superstition and credulity throughout the church. That’s why we continually measure our faith by the Word of God and make sure we are assenting to the reasonable, historical testimony of the prophets and the Apostles to the triumph of Christ. Faith is not mere intellectual assent. We aren’t saved simply because we affirm the truth of certain facts but because we trust the Person whom those facts reveal. So, faith is definitely more than knowledge. But it is not less.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart

By J.D. Greear 11/01/2013

     If there were a world record for the “number of times asking Jesus into your heart,” I’m pretty sure I would hold it. I’ve probably “prayed the prayer” more than five thousand times. Every time was sincere, but I was never quite sure I had gotten it right. Had I really been sorry enough for my sin that time around? Some wept rivers of tears when they got saved, but I hadn’t done that. Was I really sorry? Was that prayer a moment of total surrender? Did I really “get” grace?

     So I would pray the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. And maybe get baptized again. Every student camp, every spring revival. Rinse and repeat.

     I used to think I was alone in this, that I was just a neurotic oddball. But when I began to talk about this, I would have such a slew of people tell me they had the same experience that I concluded the problem was endemic. Countless people in our churches today are genuinely saved, but they just can’t seem to gain any assurance about their salvation.

     The opposite is the case, too. Because of some childhood prayer, tens of thousands of people are absolutely certain of a salvation they do not possess.

     Both problems are exacerbated by the clichéd, truncated, and often sloppy ways we present the gospel in shorthand. Now, shorthand is fine insofar as everyone knows what the shorthand refers to. It is obvious, however, that in the case of “the sinner’s prayer,” most people don’t anymore. Surveys show that more than 50 percent of people in the U.S. have prayed a sinner’s prayer and think they’re going to heaven because of it even though there is no detectable difference in their lifestyles from those outside of the church.

     On this issue—the most important issue on earth—we have to be absolutely clear. I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside. We need to preach salvation by repentance before God and faith in the finished work of Christ.

     This does not mean that we stop pressing for a decision when we preach the gospel. The greatest Reformed evangelists in history—such as George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Bunyan—pressed urgently for immediate decisions and even urged hearers to pray a prayer along with them. Each time the gospel is preached, that invitation ought to be extended and a decision should be called for (Matt. 11:28; John 1:12; Rev. 22:17). In fact, if we do not urge the hearer to respond personally to God’s o‰ffer in Christ, we have not fully preached the gospel.

     Furthermore, repentance and faith in Christ are in themselves a cry to God for salvation. The sinner’s prayer is not wrong in itself—after all, salvation is essentially a cry for mercy to God: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In Scripture, those who call on God’s name will be saved. I’m not even categorically opposed to the language of asking Jesus into your heart, because—if understood correctly—it is a biblical concept (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17).

     For many, however, the sinner’s prayer has become a Protestant ritual they go through without considering what the prayer is supposed to embody. God doesn’t give salvation in response to mere words; faith is the instrument that lays hold of salvation. You can express faith in a prayer, but it is possible to repent and believe without a formal prayer, and it is possible to pray a sinner’s prayer without repenting and believing.

     This finally clicked for me when, almost in desperation, I read Martin Luther’s commentary on The Confessions (Saint Augustine). Luther points out that salvation comes by resting on the facts God revealed about the death of Christ. Just as Abraham was counted righteous when he believed that God would keep His promise, we are saved by believing that He has done so in Christ.

     The gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Lord and has made an end to our sins. We are saved by submitting to those two truths. Conversion is a posture we take toward the declarations that Scripture makes about Jesus. The point is not how we felt or what we said at the moment of conversion; the point is the posture we are in now.

     Think of conversion like sitting down in a chair. If you are seated right now, there was a time at which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did. Your decision was necessary, but when trying to discern where your physical trust is— legs or chair—present posture is better proof than past memory.

     Does this mean that backsliding Christians are not saved? No, believers can still backslide. Technically, any time you sin you are backsliding. As a believer, you will struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of your life. You will fall often, and sometimes you will fall hard.

     But each time you fall, you get up again, looking heavenward. A person in the midst of a backslide may be saved, but assurance is only the possession of those in a present posture of repentance and faith (Heb. 6:9–10).

     Ultimately, the world is divided into two categories: many are “standing” in rebellion against the lordship of Jesus, standing in hopes of their own righteousness to merit favor with God; others are “seated” in submission, resting on His finished work. So when it comes to assurance, the only real question is: Where is the weight of your soul resting? Are you still standing in rebellion, or have you sat down in the finished work of Christ?

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     Per Amazon | J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it's also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God's extravagant love found in Christ.

     God has blessed The Summit Church with tremendous growth. Under J.D.'s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of nearly 9,000, making it one of Outreach magazine's "top 25 fastest-growing churches in America" for several years running.

     J.D. has also led the Summit to further the kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant one thousand new churches by the year 2050. In the last ten years, the church has sent out more than 550 people to serve on church planting teams, both domestically and internationally. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived and served among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ.

     He and his beautiful wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

J.D. Greear Books:

Comforting Eve

By Eric Watkins 12/01/2013

     There are countless places in the Bible that will comfort Christians in their trials or encourage them in their obedience through reflection on the things that are to come. Perhaps it is too common (and unhelpful) to reduce these things, the study of which is called eschatology, to “that hard-to-understand stuff at the end of the Bible.” Rather, I would like to suggest that eschatology is not simply that with which the Bible ends; it is also that with which the Bible begins, and that knowing our eschatology is extremely comforting.

     Let us begin with Eve. Among the women we honor in the Bible, Eve is not considered often enough, either for the weight of her afflictions or for the means by which God comforts her. Eve’s story is one of the most broken stories in the Bible. She comes into the world in innocence. Lovely and loveable, she is formed to bless and please the man from whose side she was taken. Yet she is left physically and spiritually unprotected in the garden by her husband, who then blames her for his faults. She experiences the most violent rupture of human history — the fall. Having once basked in the light of innocence, she now withdraws into the darkness of sin, shame, and loneliness. Eve is the beginning of a long line of broken-hearted women.

     In the midst of this, God promises a climactic redemption. He promises that she will bear children, and that from her will come a son who will consummately destroy that dreaded, deceptive serpent (Gen. 3:15). This son will obey all that was disobeyed. This son will succeed where Eve’s husband failed, and will once and for all remove her earthly garments of shame and replace them with heavenly garments of righteousness (see v. 21 for the preview). Eve looks forward to a climactic event of rescue, redemption, and reconciliation. She then conceives children in hope. What went through her mind as she bore Cain in her womb and bore hope in her heart?

     Eve bears two sons, but neither is the son she was promised. In fact, one will kill the other. What woman could endure this? A failed husband, her own failures, and now in the dawning hours of hope, her older son murders the younger, and thereby prolongs her darkness. The enmity begins — two kingdoms, two cities, and the first visible death. Both in her lifetime, both from her womb.  Is it too much to call Eve the mother of the broken-hearted?

     What could possibly comfort her and reunite her with her younger son? What could reverse the curse upon her family? What could turn these long nights of sadness into an eternal day of gladness? And for Eve’s daughters and sons, what can truly comfort us when the dearest of things in this life are taken? When the sufferings of life seem to be more than we can endure? When this world, or our family, or perhaps even our spiritual family hurts us with wounds too deep for words?

     It is here that we must admit that trite clichés of good intentions barely comfort us at all. Some wounds are simply too deep for earthly consolation. We must, by faith, join Eve and the choir of the broken-hearted, who often sing their songs of praise through a veil of tears. We must learn, with Eve, to long for the coming Son who is better than Adam and Abel, and to rest in His word of promise. He has come and is yet coming again, and through His Spirit we are assured of our eternal consolation.

     But we must remember that even when He came into this world, it offered Him no bed of roses but rather a crown of thorns, and that we bear our crosses united to Him in a bond that cannot be broken. We must learn to find our truest comfort in the same place Christ did—in heaven.

     I do not mean to commend an ungodly stoicism, disinterest in this life, or even pessimism. But I have learned after pastoring people for twelve years that in this life, some things do not just “get better.” And people do not always just “get over it.” Wounds heal, but scars remain. Eve saw flowers and rainbows and even had other children, but she would never forget what she lost in this age or what she awaited in the age to come.

     As Paul so pastorally says to us, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Our cry, “How long, O Lord?” will indeed be answered on that climactic day that God has appointed for the eternal consolation of His sons and daughters. The Bible (from beginning to end) is fixed on the coming of our King and His kingdom.

     What could truly comfort Eve — and us? In a profound sense, the answer is eschatology. It is the consummate coming of Christ and His glorious kingdom, and the foretaste of that kingdom that we have now through His Word and Spirit. That is eschatology—and there is nothing more comforting than that.

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     Dr. Eric B. Watkins is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Fla.

Escaping the “Cage Stage”

By R.C. Sproul 12/01/2013

     My friend Michael Horton often comments on the phenomenon of “cage-stage Calvinism,” that strange malady that seems to afflict so many people who have just seen the truth of the Reformed doctrines of grace. We’ve all known one of these “cage-stage Calvinists.” Many of us were even one of them when we were first convinced of God’s sovereignty in salvation.

     Cage-stage Calvinists are identifiable by their insistence on turning every discussion into an argument for limited atonement or for making it their personal mission to ensure everyone they know hears — often quite loudly — the truths of divine election. Now, having a zeal for the truth is always commendable. But a zeal for the truth that manifests itself in obnoxiousness won’t convince anyone of the biblical truth of Reformed theology. As many of us can attest from personal experience, it will actually push them away.

     Roger Nicole, the late Swiss Reformed theologian and colleague of mine for several decades, once remarked that all human beings are by nature semi-Pelagian, believing that they are not born as slaves to sin. In this country, particularly, we have been indoctrinated into a humanistic understanding of anthropology, especially with respect to our understanding of human freedom. This is the land of the free, after all. We don’t want to believe that we are burdened by negative inclinations and outright enmity toward God, as the Bible teaches us (Rom. 3:9–20). We think that true freedom means having the ability to come to faith without the vanquishing power of saving grace. When we realize that this is not true, that Scripture paints a bleak picture of the human condition apart from grace, that it says it is impossible for us to choose rightly, we want to make sure that everybody else knows it as well. Sometimes we are even angry that no one told us about the true extent of our depravity and the majesty of God’s sovereign grace before.

     This gives birth to cage-stage Calvinists, those newly minted Reformed believers who are so aggressive and impatient that they should be locked in a cage for a little while so that they can cool down and mature a little in the faith. At times, someone who becomes convinced of the biblical doctrines of grace finds himself in conflict with friends and family because of his discovery of Reformed theology. More than once I’ve been asked how one should handle hostility from loved ones regarding Reformed theology. If Reformed convictions are causing problems, should one just drop the subject altogether? Are we responsible for convincing others of the truth of the doctrines of grace?

     The answer is both yes and no. First let’s consider the “no.” Scripture says that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). Paul is speaking primarily of evangelism in that verse, but I think we can apply it to growth in Christ even after conversion. The Holy Spirit convinces us of truth, and one’s coming to embrace Reformed theology shows this quite clearly. Given our semi-Pelagian inclinations, it takes a tremendous amount of exposure to the Word of God to overcome that natural bias against the doctrines of grace. People hold tenaciously to a particular view of free will that is not taught in Scripture. Calvin once remarked that if you mean by free will a will that is unencumbered by the weight of sin, you’ve used a term that’s far too exalted to apply to us. It takes a lot to overcome the exalted view that most sinners have of themselves. Only the Spirit can finally convince people of His truth.

     Recognizing the Spirit’s work, however, does not mean we are silent or stop believing the truth of Scripture. We don’t give up the doctrines of grace to keep peace in the family or with friends. John Piper puts it well when he says that we not only have to believe the truth, that it’s not enough even to defend the truth, but we must also contend for the truth. That does not mean, however, that we are to be contentious people by nature. So yes, we are to share what we have learned about God’s sovereign grace with those around us.

     However, if we really believe the doctrines of grace, we learn how to be gracious about it. When we remember how long it took us to get past the difficulties we once had with the full biblical picture of divine sovereignty and our enslavement to sin, we can view our non-Reformed friends and family more sympathetically and share the truth with them more graciously. One of the first things a person who is excited about his discovery of the doctrines of grace must learn quickly is to be patient with friends and family. God took time with us to convince us of His sovereignty in salvation. We can trust Him to do the same with those we love.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 105

Tell of All His Wondrous Works

23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.

26 He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first fruits of all their strength.

ESV Study Bible

Against the Law

By Mark Jones 12/01/2013

     There are few theological aberrations more difficult to define than antinomianism. Some simply look at the etymology of the word and conclude that antinomians are against (anti) God’s law (nomos). Others are a bit more specific, suggesting that antinomians are those who deny the third use of the law (the law as a guide for the Christian life; for example, Eph. 6:1) as normative for the Christian believer. Still others contend that we should distinguish between theoretical antinomianism — just described — and practical antinomianism.

     Practical antinomianism may take on two forms. The first group are those who claim to be Christians but openly disregard God’s law in their lives. The second group are preachers who claim that they affirm the need for the moral law in the Christian life, but their preaching betrays this affirmation because there are almost never any exhortations in their sermons.

     There are elements of truth to all of these claims. Nonetheless, antinomianism is best understood as a theological phenomenon that arose in the sixteenth century and found its classical expression in the following century, particularly in Puritan England.

     Recoiling against the perceived excesses of Puritan practical divinity, antinomian theologians shared a number of characteristics that distinguished them from their Reformed counterparts. In their minds, they were the true champions of free grace. They were the heroes who vigorously held to the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone (often by preaching that doctrine alone). And they were the preachers who were going to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” With such rhetoric, finding fault with the antinomians was always going to be difficult. But their opponents, perfectly orthodox Reformed theologians with international reputations such as John Owen and Samuel Rutherford, did not shy away from the controversy. They noted that the errors of the antinomians were many and varied, since one error inevitably leads to another.

     The English antinomians gave an excessive priority to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, to the point that it effectively eclipsed their doctrine of sanctification. The current idea held by some that sanctification is merely the art of getting used to one’s justification is very much antinomian, historically considered. Moreover, most antinomians held to a view that God sees no sin in the believer, which means believers’ sins can do them no harm. Consequently, our sin or obedience has no real effect on our relationship with God (see, however, John 14:21, 23). On this supposition, God cannot be more or less pleased or displeased with his children (see, however, 2 Sam. 11:27). Divine chastisement is totally foreign to antinomian thinking (see, however, Heb. 12:3–11).

     Antinomian theologians also interpreted the Scriptures in ways that had to stay faithful to their overall principles. Regarding Philippians 1:10 — “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” — they believed it to be accomplished in justification. However, in its context, this verse clearly refers to sanctification. Today, many understand Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20 (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”) in a similar way. Yet, Christ is not here speaking of His own imputed righteousness. After all, the Pharisees did not actually keep God’s law; rather, they left the commandments and held “to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Those described in Romans 8:4 surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:6; see Ps. 106:3) because their obedience is Spirit-wrought (Rom. 8:13) and far more extensive.

     A robust doctrine of union with Christ provides the best antidote to antinomianism. Both justification and sanctification are blessings given to all Christians (1 Cor. 1:30). To sever one blessing from the other is, to use John Calvin’s words, to sever Christ. The Christian who is justified must necessarily be sanctified because of union with Christ. But these applied benefits must never eclipse the person of Christ. Christ’s person is a greater gift to His people than His benefits. Union with Christ helps believers to keep this salient fact in mind. We do not merely receive from Christ, but, more importantly, we belong to Him. Our identity is “in Him,” so much so that our understanding of the Christian life has strong corollaries with Christ’s own life of faith and obedience to the Father.

     In John 15, Christ brings home to his disciples the reality of their union with Him. In that same context (v. 10) He informs them that if they keep his commandments, they will abide in His love. But He also, rather remarkably, claims that He remained in his Father’s love because He kept his Father’s commandments. In speaking this way, Christ desires that His joy should be in His disciples so that their joy may be full (v. 11). Because the antinomians did not view the law as a true instrument of sanctification, to them the preaching of the law could only condemn believers. However, while the power to obey the law does not come from us, God nevertheless uses the law as a means for sanctifying the church.

     Thus, the solution to antinomianism must always be found in the person of Christ who provides, commands, and promises. After all, He is the one who said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), just before promising to provide them with the Holy Spirit.

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     Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver Church (PCA) since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lectures at various seminaries around the world and is currently writing a book titled, "God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God" (Crossway, 2017) and "Faith, Hope, and Love" (Crossway, 2017).

     Mark Jones Books:

Knowing Christ
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?
God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God
Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace
A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality)
A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology by Mark Jones (20-May-2012) Paperback
Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-century British Puritanism
The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox Theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) (Reformed Historical Theology)

  • Darrell Bock
  • Mark L. Bailey
  • Andy McQuitty

Emerging Adulthood & Church |
Dallas Theological Seminary


On the Way to the Day of Christ |
Dallas Theological Seminary


Blessed are the Peacemakers |
Dallas Theological Seminary


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Understanding Satan’s role (3)
     (Sept 23)    Bob Gass

     ‘The trouble the LORD had brought on him.’

(Job 42:11) Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. ESV

     Satan’s attack can strengthen your faith. The devil dared to question the stability of Job’s faith, so God gave him permission to test Job. ‘The LORD said to Satan, “All right then. Everything Job has is in your power, but you must not touch Job himself”’ (Job 1:12 NCV). Notice, God set both the permission and the parameters of the struggle. Job passes the test and Satan complains that Job would have fallen had he been forced to face pain. Again, God gives permission, and again He sets the parameters: ‘Job is in your power, but you may not take his life’ (Job 2:6 NCV). Though the pain and the questions are abundant, in the end Job’s faith and health are greater than ever. Again, we may not understand the reason for the test, but we know its source. Read this verse from the last chapter of the book of Job. The family of Job ‘comforted him and made him feel better about the trouble the LORD had brought on him’. Satan has no power except that which God gives him. Even when Satan appears to win, he loses. Martin Luther was right on target when he described the devil as God’s tool, a hoe He uses to care for His garden. The hoe never cuts what the Gardener intends to save, and never saves what the Gardener intends to weed. Surely a part of Satan’s punishment is the frustration he feels in unwillingly serving as a tool to create a garden for God. So be encouraged today: Satan’s attack will strengthen your faith, refine it, and take it to greater heights.

Is 41-42
Philip 2

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Imagine writing a book which would sell a million copies a year for over one hundred years! Well, one man did. His name was William Holmes McGuffey, born this day, September 23, 1800. Considered the “Schoolmaster of the Nation,” McGuffey’s Readers were the mainstay of America’s public school system from 1836 till the 1920’s. McGuffey was the president of Ohio University and formed the first teachers’ association in that part of the nation. In his Fifth Eclectic Reader, William McGuffey wrote: “Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man.”

American Minute
The Soul of Prayer
     by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)

     In God’s eyes the great object of prayer is the opening or restoring of free communion with Himself in a kingdom of Christ, a life communion which may even, amid our duty and service, become as unconscious as the beating of our heart. In this sense every true prayer brings its answer with it; and that not “reflexly” only, in our pacification of soul, but objectively in our obtaining a deeper and closer place in God and His purpose. If prayer is God’s great gift, it is one inseparable from the giver; who, after all, is His own great gift, since revelation is His Self-donation. He is actively with us, therefore, as we pray, and we exert His will in praying. And, on the other hand, prayer makes us to realize how far from God we were, i.e. it makes us realize our worst trouble and repair it. The outer need kindles the sense of the inner, and we find that the complete answer to prayer is the Answerer, and the hungry soul comes to itself in the fullness of Christ.

     Prayer is the highest use to which speech can be put. It is the highest meaning that can be put into words. Indeed, it breaks through language and escapes into action. We could never be told of what passed in Christ’s mountain midnights. Words fail us in prayer oftener than anywhere else; and the Spirit must come in aid of our infirmity, set out our case to God, and give to us an unspoken freedom in prayer, the possession of our central soul, the reality of our inmost personality in organic contact with His. We are taken up from human speech to the region of the divine Word, where Word is deed. We are integrated into the divine consciousness, and into the dual soliloquy of Father and Son, which is the divine give and take that upholds the world. We discover how poor a use of words it is to work them into argument and pursue their dialectic consequences. There is a deeper movement of speech than that, and a more inward mystery, wherein the Word does not spread out to wisdom, nor broods in dream, but gathers to power and condenses to action. The Word becomes Flesh, Soul, Life, the active conquering kingdom of God. Prayer, as it is spoken, follows the principle of the Incarnation with its twofold movement, down and up.2 It is spirit not in expression only, but in deed and victory. It is speech become not only movement, but moral action and achievement; it is word become work; as the Word from being Spirit became flesh, as Christ from prophet became priest, and then Holy Spirit. It is the principle of the Incarnation, only with the descending movement reversed. “Ye are gods.” God became man in His Son’s outgoing that man might become divine; and prayer is in the train of the Son’s return to the Father, a function of the Ascension and Exaltation, in which (if we may not say man becomes God) we are made partakers of the divine nature, not ontologically, but practically, experimentally. It is the true response, and tribute, and trophy to Christ’s humiliation. Man rises to be a co-worker with God in the highest sense. For it is only action, it is not by dream or rapture, far less in essence, that we enter communion with an active being—above all with the eternal Act of God in Christ that upholds the world. As such communion prayer is no mere rapport, no mere contact. It is the central act of the soul, organic with Christ’s; it is that which brings it into tune with the whole universe as God’s act, and answers the beating of its central heart. It is a part and function of the creative, preservative, and consummatory energy of the world.

     What is true religion? It is not the religion which contains most truth in the theological sense of the word. It is not the religion most truly thought out, not that which most closely fits with thought. It is religion which comes to itself most powerfully in prayer. It is the religion in which the soul becomes very sure of God and itself in prayer. Prayer contains the very heart and height of truth, but especially in the Christian sense of truth—reality and action. In prayer the inmost truth of our personal being locks with the inmost reality of things, its energy finds a living Person acting as their unity and life, and we escape the illusions of sense, self, and the world. Prayer, indeed, is the great means for appropriating, out of the amalgam of illusion which means so much for our education, the pure gold of God as He wills, the Spirit as He works, and things as they are. It is the great school both of proficiency and of veracity of soul. (How few court and attain proficiency of soul!) It may often cast us down, for we are reduced by this contact to our true dimensions—but to our great peace.

     Prayer, true prayer, does not allow us to deceive ourselves. It relaxes the tension of our self-inflation. It produces a clearness of spiritual vision. Searching with a judgment that begins at the house of God, it ceases not to explore with His light our own soul. If the Lord is our health He may need to act on many men, or many moods, as a lowering medicine. At His coming our self-confidence is shaken. Our robust confidence, even in grace, is destroyed. The pillars of our house tremble, as if they were ivy-covered in a searching wind. Our lusty faith is refined, by what may be a painful process, into a subtler and more penetrating kind; and its outward effect is for the time impaired, though in the end it is increased. The effect of the prayer which admits God into the recesses of the soul is to destroy that spiritual density, not to say stupidity, which made our religion cheery or vigorous because it knew no better, and which was the condition of getting many obvious things done, and producing palpable effect on the order of the day. There are fervent prayers which, by making people feel good, may do no more than foster the delusion that natural vigour or robust religion, when flushed enough, can do the work of the kingdom of God. There is a certain egoist self-confidence which is increased by the more elementary forms of religion, which upholds us in much of our contact with men, and which even secures us an influence with them. But the influence is one of impression rather than permeation, it overbears rather than converts, and it inflames rather than inspires. This is a force which true and close prayer is very apt to undermine, because it saps our self-deception and its Pharisaism. The confidence was due to a lack of spiritual insight which serious prayer plentifully repairs. So by prayer we acquire our true selves. If my prayer is not answered, I am. If my petition is not fulfilled, my person, my soul, is; as the artist comes to himself and his happiness in the exercise of the talent he was made for, in spite of the delay and difficulty of turning his work to money. If the genius is happy who gets scope, the soul is blessed that truly comes to itself in prayer.

--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).

The Soul of Prayer
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin
and desire nothing but God,
and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen,
they alone will shake the gates of Hell
and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.
--- from a letter in Works of John Wesley
Works of John Wesley

The sufficiency of the doctrine of Christ, to make men wise unto salvation. Paul desired to know nothing else; and, indeed, nothing else is of absolute necessity to be known. A little of this knowledge, if saving and effectual upon thy heart, will do thy soul more service, than all the vain speculation and profound parts that others so much glory in. Poor Christian, be not dejected, because thou sees thyself out-stript and excelled by so many in other parts of knowledge; if thou know Jesus Christ, thou knowest enough to comfort and save thy soul. Many learned philosophers are now in hell, and many illiterate Christians in heaven.
--- John Flavel
Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)

As you confront your problems rather than avoid them, your faith is nurtured and stretched. Your confidence grows; your fears subside.
--- Charles Stanley
Enter His Gates: A Daily Devotional (Walker Large Print Books)

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
--- Arthur Schopehauer

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. After this these Jews, without keeping any decorum, grew insolent upon their good fortune, and jested upon the Romans for being deluded by the trick they had put upon them, and making a noise with beating their shields, leaped for gladness, and made joyful exclamations; while these soldiers were received with threatenings by their officers, and with indignation by Caesar himself, [who spake to them thus]: These Jews, who are only conducted by their madness, do every thing with care and circumspection; they contrive stratagems, and lay ambushes, and fortune gives success to their stratagems, because they are obedient, and preserve their goodwill and fidelity to one another; while the Romans, to whom fortune uses to be ever subservient, by reason of their good order, and ready submission to their commanders, have now had ill success by their contrary behavior, and by not being able to restrain their hands from action, they have been caught; and that which is the most to their reproach, they have gone on without their commanders, in the very presence of Caesar. "Truly," says Titus, "the laws of war cannot but groan heavily, as will my father also himself, when he shall be informed of this wound that hath been given us, since he who is grown old in wars did never make so great a mistake. Our laws of war do also ever inflict capital punishment on those that in the least break into good order, while at this time they have seen an entire army run into disorder. However, those that have been so insolent shall be made immediately sensible, that even they who conquer among the Romans without orders for fighting are to be under disgrace." When Titus had enlarged upon this matter before the commanders, it appeared evident that he would execute the law against all those that were concerned; so these soldiers' minds sunk down in despair, as expecting to be put to death, and that justly and quickly. However, the other legions came round about Titus, and entreated his favor to these their fellow soldiers, and made supplication to him, that he would pardon the rashness of a few, on account of the better obedience of all the rest; and promised for them that they should make amends for their present fault, by their more virtuous behavior for the time to come.

     5. So Caesar complied with their desires, and with what prudence dictated to him also; for he esteemed it fit to punish single persons by real executions, but that the punishment of great multitudes should proceed no further than reproofs; so he was reconciled to the soldiers, but gave them a special charge to act more wisely for the future; and he considered with himself how he might be even with the Jews for their stratagem. And now when the space between the Romans and the wall had been leveled, which was done in four days, and as he was desirous to bring the baggage of the army, with the rest of the multitude that followed him, safely to the camp, he set the strongest part of his army over against that wall which lay on the north quarter of the city, and over against the western part of it, and made his army seven deep, with the foot-men placed before them, and the horsemen behind them, each of the last in three ranks, whilst the archers stood in the midst in seven ranks. And now as the Jews were prohibited, by so great a body of men, from making sallies upon the Romans, both the beasts that bare the burdens, and belonged to the three legions, and the rest of the multitude, marched on without any fear. But as for Titus himself, he was but about two furlongs distant from the wall, at that part of it where was the corner 10 and over against that tower which was called Psephinus, at which tower the compass of the wall belonging to the north bended, and extended itself over against the west; but the other part of the army fortified itself at the tower called Hippicus, and was distant, in like manner, by two furlongs from the city. However, the tenth legion continued in its own place, upon the Mount of Olives.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 25:20
     by D.H. Stern

20     Like removing clothes on a chilly day
          or like vinegar on soda
     is someone who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The missionary’s goal

     Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. ---
Luke 18:31.

     In the natural life our ambitions alter as we develop; in the Christian life the goal is given at the beginning, the beginning and the end are the same, viz., Our Lord Himself. We start with Christ and we end with Him—“until we all attain to the stature of the manhood of Christ Jesus,” not to our idea of what the Christian life should be. The aim of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful, not to win the heathen; he is useful and he does win the heathen, but that is not his aim. His aim is to do the will of his Lord.

     In Our Lord’s life Jerusalem was the place where He reached the climax of His Father’s will upon the Cross, and unless we go with Jesus there, we shall have no companionship with Him. Nothing ever discouraged Our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned Our Lord one hair’s breadth away from His purpose to go up to Jerusalem.

     “The disciple is not above his Master.” The same things will happen to us on our way to our Jerusalem. There will be the works of God manifested through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude and the rest will show gross ingratitude, but nothing must deflect us from going up to our Jerusalem.

     “There they crucified Him.” That is what happened when Our Lord reached Jerusalem, and that happening is the gateway to our salvation. The saints do not end in crucifixion: by the Lord’s grace they end in glory. In the meantime our watchword is—I, too, go up to Jerusalem.

My Utmost for His Highest
(Not That He Brought Flowers)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

Not that he brought flowers
  Except for the eyes' blue,
  Perishable ones, or that his hands
  Famed for kindness were put then
  To such usage; but rather that, going
  Through flowers later, she yet could feel
  These he spared perhaps for my sake.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Climax of Hebrew literary art
     The Teacher's Commentary

     To the Jews, Isaiah was the greatest of the prophets. The commentator Karl Delitzsch called Isaiah the “universal prophet.”

     Probably no other Old Testament document has been more deeply studied than the Book of Isaiah. Certainly none has had more books and articles written about it. The New Testament alludes to it over 250 times and quotes Isaiah specifically at least 50 times!

     There are several reasons for this fascination with Isaiah. As literature, Isaiah has been called the “climax of Hebrew literary art.” In content, it deals in a sweeping way with the great themes of the Old Testament. Judgment and hope, sin and redemption, find clear expression here. Christians have been fascinated by the picture of Jesus the Messiah drawn by this man who wrote so many centuries before Christ’s birth. The picture of the suffering Messiah in
Isaiah 53 has been critical in our understanding of Jesus’ Calvary death.

     Isaiah has also been a source of controversy. The book is divided into two distinct halves, set apart by a historical interlude. The first half of Isaiah announces judgment; the second half seems to assume the judgment has passed and that hope has come. Were these two sections of Isaiah written by the same person? Or was a “Second Isaiah” added later on? Conservatives have argued persuasively that the whole book was written by Isaiah the son of Amoz, whose ministry extended over some 60 years from 739 to about 681 b.c.

     This was a critical period of Old Testament history. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was overwhelmed by Assyria. Judah was threatened as well. What was God’s message to a nation and people threatened by a Gentile world power? How were His people (and how are we) to live in the face of the powers of the world around them?

But the primary reason for reading Isaiah is to see the Lord.

The Teacher's Commentary
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Richard loved being president of his synagogue. By all accounts, he did a pretty good job. In his first year he dealt with a major leak in the roof, and in his second year, the synagogue recorded a small surplus. He ran things efficiently, like a business, but he showed sensitivity and compassion to congregants who were having financial difficulties. He had an excellent relationship with the rabbi and cantor. Richard especially loved the trappings of the office—sitting on the bimah next to the rabbi, making announcements, having his name at the top of the stationary, running board meetings, and wielding the gavel.

     The trouble began when Richard left office. If it had been up to him, he would have stayed on as president-for-life. But the bylaws restricted the president to a two-year term. On the first Saturday after he stepped down, Richard walked into the sanctuary and, as if by habit, began to go up to the bimah. He caught himself on the third step and sheepishly walked down and found a seat. He turned red as he noticed a few congregants chuckling. Later, over wine and cake, Richard criticized the new president’s style of making announcements and pointed out the four mistakes and gaffes his successor had made. At the next month’s board meeting, Richard twice raised his hand and commented, rather angrily, “That’s not how we did it when I was president.” He made a number of phone calls to board members complaining about the direction that the synagogue was now taking.

     One night after a meeting, the rabbi invited Richard into his office for a chat. “You’ve got to be more supportive of the new administration, Dick. And if you can’t do that, then at least you’ve got to try not to be so critical. You’re starting to get a reputation as an angry, bitter man.”

     “Rabbi, it’s so difficult for me. This place has been my life for the past two years. I was in this building every single day, without fail. Meetings three nights a week, and some of them into the wee hours. Phone calls, day and night, at work and at home. I didn’t mind … I loved it! I came to feel like the synagogue was my baby. I can’t just sit back and watch other people do what I did, especially when I feel that they’re undoing some of what I worked so hard to accomplish. And to be honest, Rabbi, there’s a big void in my life. I don’t know what to do with myself. I miss the action, I miss the tumult, and to tell you the truth, I miss the koved, the honor that came with the job.”

     “Richard, I hear how hard all this is for you. Let me offer some thoughts … First, do you remember when you took office, Murray didn’t come to meetings for three or four months? People thought that he was glad to be rid of the burdens of being president. But he told me that the real reason was that it was just too difficult to sit through meetings run by someone else, and he wanted to give you the freedom to find your own way without him breathing down your neck.

     “Second, you still have a critical role to play in our synagogue. Not as angry critic, but as elder statesman. Our new president could definitely benefit from your experience and counsel. But do it privately, behind the scenes, and do it as an older brother, not as a judgmental parent.

     “And third, you’ve got to fill the void in your life. Maybe in another capacity in the synagogue—the men’s club has been moribund for years now, and the youth committee is without a chairperson. Or maybe even in another organization. You’ve got so much to offer, Richard. Standing up to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites through the desert were not the hardest things Moses ever did. The Midrash tells us that it was stepping aside for Joshua. Let Moses be your role model. You were our Moses when the roof left a Red Sea of water in the social hall; you can be our Moses now as well.”


     Bob was so excited when he was elected president of his synagogue. He had devoted many years to the congregation, working his way up from school board member to education vice president to executive vice president. By all accounts, he had done well in all his undertakings. Bob had an excellent relationship with the rabbi and cantor, and he was well liked by the other officers. When it came a time to choose a successor to Richard, Bob was the unanimous choice of the nominating committee.

     The trouble began when Richard left office. It was a tradition for the president to sit next to the rabbi at services on Shabbat Mornings. On the first Saturday after being installed, Bob arrived for services half an hour early; he was so eager to sit in the place of honor next to the rabbi. While waiting for the service to begin, Bob greeted the worshipers and shook hands with well wishers. A few minutes before the service was to begin, Bob excused himself and walked toward the bimah. He watched with amazement as Richard, the former president, walked into the sanctuary and began to go up to the bimah to the “seat of honor.” Bob felt uncomfortable, especially when a few congregants near him laughed at Richard’s gaffe.

     Later, during the Kiddush, Bob overheard Richard criticizing him for the way he made announcements. The tension in the room was palpable. Although Bob had come to services in a happy and upbeat mood, he left feeling hurt and dejected. During the next weeks, Bob worked hard on the new programs that he had envisioned to make the synagogue more personal and user-friendly. However, at the next board meeting, Richard twice criticized Bob for these innovations, saying, “That’s not how we did it when I was president.”

     Bob had just about had it when the rabbi asked to see him in his office. “Bob, I’ve seen the frustration on your face. I know that the tension with Richard has made it hard for you.” Bob admitted how difficult it had been for him, adding, “Rabbi, I came in with such enthusiasm and vision, but Richard has thwarted me at every step. In fact, I told my wife last night that after two months on the job, I’m thinking of resigning.”

     “Bob, I understand what you’re feeling,” the rabbi told him. “It’s hard to follow someone else, especially someone who won’t step down. The Midrash has a beautiful maxim that describes what has happened to Richard: ‘It is easy to go up to the stage but difficult to go down.’ I know, because it happened to me. Remember when I moved here from my previous congregation? Well, people from there still called me for advice. They wanted me to officiate at their weddings and funerals. And they had lots of stories about how the new rabbi was wrecking things. At first, I got sucked in. I drove back there to help them. I listened to their stories. In some way, it even made me feel better, hearing about how my successor was failing. Feeling so wanted and needed stroked my ego. Then, after a few months, my wife saw what was going on, and she said to me, in essence, ‘Don’t you think what you’re doing is unfair?’ She was right, and I started to back off.

     “Richard is a good man. He wants to be supportive. It’s just really hard for him right now. In fact, Richard could be a wonderful ally of yours. He has the best interest of the synagogue at heart, and he has a lot of talents—and connections. Maybe you can turn to him, not as your critic, but as your ‘big brother.’ Ask him for advice. Bring him back into the process. He’s probably feeling pretty left out right now. And maybe you can find a role for him so that he can continue to shine. In two years, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the synagogue. If you ask Richard to be general chairman of the anniversary celebration, you’ll be giving him a central role for the next two years, and you’ll be keeping him out of your hair. He can help assure your success while shoring up his own legacy.

     “And most of all, be patient. The Midrash doesn’t say that it’s impossible to go down from the stage, only that it’s difficult to go down. Richard will get the hang of it; it’ll just take some time, just as it took me some time, just as it takes most people some time. And remember this two years from now, after your successful presidency, so that you can try to go down from the stage with ease and grace.”

     I am reminded of John the Baptist, who said, I must decrease and he must increase and what did Jesus say about John the baptist?.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 23

     How great is God—beyond our understanding!
--- Job 36:26.

     I am tired of the known and the knowable, tired of saying this star is fifty millions of miles in circumference, and yonder planet is five million times larger than the earth. (Preaching Through the Bible) It is mere gossip in polysyllables, getting importance by hugeness.

     It is in this manner that people want to make God pronounceable in words! Failing this, they suppose they have destroyed him by saying he is Unknowable and Unknown.

     Human soul, if you would truly see—see the boundless, see the possible, see God—go into the dark when and where the darkness is thickest. The light is vulgar in some uses. It shows the mean and vexing detail of space and life with too gross a palpableness, and it frets the sensitivity of the eyes. I must find the healing darkness.

     Deus absconditus. God hides himself, most often in the light; he touches the soul in the gloom and vastness of night, and the soul, being true in its intent and wish, answers the touch without a shudder or a blush. It is even so that God comes to me.

     God does not come through human argument, a flash of human wit, a sudden and audacious answer to an infinite enigma. His path is through the pathless darkness—without a footprint to show where he stepped; through the forest of the night he comes, and when he comes the brightness is all within!

     My God—unknown and unknowable—cannot be chained as a prisoner of logic or delivered into the custody of a theological proposition. Shame be the portion of those who have given him a setting within the points of the compass, who have robed him in cloth of their own weaving and surnamed him at the bidding of their cold and narrow fancy!

     For myself, I know that I cannot know him, that I have a joy wider than knowledge, a conception that domes itself above my best thinking, as the sky domes itself in infinite pomp and luster above the earth whose beauty it creates.

     God? God! God! Best defined when undefined; a fire that may not be touched; a life too great for shape of image; a love for which there is no equal name. Who is he? God. What is he? God. Of whom begotten? God. He is at once the question and the answer, the self-balance, the All.
--- Joseph Parker

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Fulton Street Revival

     The mood of America was grim during the mid-1850s. The country was teetering on the brink of civil war, torn by angry voices and impassioned opinions. A depression had halted railroad construction and factory output. Banks were failing; unemployment soared. Spiritual lethargy permeated the land.

     In New York City Jeremiah C. Lanphier, a layman, accepted the call of the North Reformed Dutch Church to a full-time program of evangelism. He visited door-to-door, placed posters, and prayed. But the work languished and Lanphier grew discouraged.

     As autumn fell over the city, Lanphier decided to try noontime prayer meetings, thinking that businessmen might attend during their lunch hours. He announced the first one for September 23, 1857, at the Old Dutch Church on Fulton Street. When the hour came, Lanphier found himself alone. He sat and waited. Finally, one man showed up, then a few others.

     But the next week, 20 came. The third week, 40. Someone suggested the meetings occur daily, and within months the building was overflowing. The revival spread to other cities. Offices and stores closed for prayer at noon. Newspapers spread the story, even telegraph companies set aside certain hours during which businessmen could wire one another with news of the revival.

     In all these cities, prayer services began at noon and ended at one. People could come and go as they pleased. The service opened with a hymn, followed by the sharing of testimonies and prayer requests. A time limit of five minutes per speaker was enforced by a small bell, when anyone exceeded the limit. Virtually no great preachers or famous Christians were used. It was primarily a lay movement, led by the gentle moving of God’s Spirit.

     The revival—sometimes called “The Third Great Awakening”—lasted nearly two years, and between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were said to have been converted. Out of it came the largest outlay of money for philanthropic and Christian causes America had yet experienced.

  You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
  You let me rest in fields of green grass.
  You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
  And you refresh my life.
  Psalm 23:1-3

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 23

     "Accepted in the beloved." --- Ephesians 1:6.

     What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term “acceptance” in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacence, nay, even of divine delight. How marvellous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only “in the beloved.” Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience, at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour! Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted “in the beloved.” Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, “There is nothing acceptable here!” But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind his back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. Thou hast to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but thou art already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts thee; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy thee, for thou art accepted in him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance thy glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than thou art. They are only accepted in heaven “in the beloved,” and thou art even now accepted in Christ after the same manner.

          Evening - September 23

     “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe.” --- Mark 9:23.

     A certain man had a demoniac son, who was afflicted with a dumb spirit. The father, having seen the futility of the endeavours of the disciples to heal his child, had little or no faith in Christ, and therefore, when he was bidden to bring his son to him, he said to Jesus, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Now there was an “if” in the question, but the poor trembling father had put the “if” in the wrong place: Jesus Christ, therefore, without commanding him to retract the “if,” kindly puts it in its legitimate position. “Nay, verily,” he seemed to say, “there should be no ‘if’ about my power, nor concerning my willingness, the ‘if’ lies somewhere else.” “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The man’s trust was strengthened, he offered a humble prayer for an increase of faith, and instantly Jesus spoke the word, and the devil was cast out, with an injunction never to return. There is a lesson here which we need to learn. We, like this man, often see that there is an “if” somewhere, but we are perpetually blundering by putting it in the wrong place. “If” Jesus can help me—“if” he can give me grace to overcome temptation—“if” he can give me pardon—“if” he can make me successful? Nay, “if” you can believe, he both can and will. You have misplaced your “if.” If you can confidently trust, even as all things are possible to Christ, so shall all things be possible to you. Faith standeth in God’s power, and is robed in God’s majesty; it weareth the royal apparel, and rideth on the King’s horse, for it is the grace which the King delighteth to honour. Girding itself with the glorious might of the all-working Spirit, it becomes, in the omnipotence of God, mighty to do, to dare, and to suffer. All things, without limit, are possible to him that believeth. My soul, canst thou believe thy Lord to-night?

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 23

          SUN OF MY SOUL

     John Keble, 1792–1866

     For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84:11, 12)

     Jesus taught that we can learn much from the lilies of the field. How do they grow? By struggling and seeking to display their beauty? No, they simply open themselves to the existing sun, and in their sun-centeredness, they grow and become objects of beauty for all to enjoy. Indeed the sun is one of the most important factors in nature’s growth.

     We too need sun for our souls—the warmth of God’s love and presence in our lives. We were created for this in order to be complete persons. It was St. Augustine who realized this truth centuries ago: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

     John Keble, a professor of poetry at Oxford University for 10 years and later an Anglican minister of the humble parish church in the village of Hursley, wrote this poem in 1820. Seven years later he published a collection of poems titled The Christian Year with all of the poems following the church calendar year. “Sun of My Soul” was one of the poems from that collection. The book was extremely successful, going through 109 editions before John Keble’s death in 1866.

     The poem was originally named “Evening” and was based on the account in Luke 24:29, where Christ went in to dine with the two Emmaus disciples following His resurrection.

     This prayer for the constant and unobscured sense of Christ’s unwavering presence and blessing, whether in life or death, and finally the full enjoyment of God’s love in “heav’n above,” is still a worthy goal for each believer.

     Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear, it is not night if Thou be near; O may no earth-born cloud arise to hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes!
     When the soft dews of kindly sleep my weary eyelids gently steep, be my last thought; how sweet to rest forever on my Savior’s breast!
     Abide with me from morn till eve, for without thee I cannot live; abide with me when night is nigh, for without Thee I dare not die.
     Be near to bless me when I wake, ere thru the world my way I take; abide with me till in Thy love I lose myself in heav’n above.

     For Today: Psalm 4:6–8; Luke 1:77–79; 24:29; 2 Corinthians 4:4

     Pray with John Keble that “no earth-born cloud” will obscure a sense of Christ’s presence and blessing in your life. Carry this musical message to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     6. The world could not be ordered and governed but by some Principle or Being which were immutable. Principles are always more fixed and stable than things which proceed from those principles; and this is true both in morals and naturals. Principles in conscience, whereby men are governed, remain firmly engraven in their minds. The root lies firmly in the earth, while branches are shaken with the wind. The heavens, the cause of generation, are more firm and stable than those things which are wrought by their influence. All things in the world are moved by some power and virtue which is stable; and unless it were so, no order would be observed in motion, no motion could be regularly continued. He could not be a full satisfaction to the infinite desire of the souls of his people. Nothing can truly satisfy the soul of man but rest; and nothing can give it rest but that which is perfect and immutably perfect; for else it would be subject to those agitations and variations which the being it depends upon is subject to. The principle of all things must be immutable, which is described by some by a unity, the principle of number, wherein there is a resemblance of God’s unchangeableness. A unit is not variable; it continues in its own nature immutably a unit. It never varies from itself; it cannot be changed from itself; but is, as it were, so omnipotent towards others, that it changes all numbers. If you add any number, it is the beginning of that number, but the unit is not increased by it; a new number ariseth from that addition, but the unit still remains the same, and adds value to other figures, but receives none from them.   Really interesting insight.)

     III. The third thing to speak to is, that immutability is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature. Mutability is natural to every creature as a creature, and immutability is the sole perfection of God. He only is infinite wisdom, able to foreknow future events; he only is infinitely powerful, able to call forth all means to effect; so that wanting neither wisdom to contrive, nor strength to execute, he cannot alter his counsel. None being above him, nothing in him contrary to him, and being defective in no blessedness and perfection, he cannot vary in his essence and nature. Had not immutability as well as eternity been a property solely pertaining to the Divine nature, as well as creative power and eternal duration, the apostle’s argument to prove Christ to be God from this perpetual sameness, had come short of any convincing strength. These words of the text he applies to Christ (Heb. 1:10–12): “They shall be changed, but thou art the same.” There had been no strength in the reason, if immutability by nature did belong to any creature. The changeableness of all creatures is evident:

     1. Of corporeal creatures it is evident to sense. All plants and animals, as they have their duration bounded in certain limits; so while they do exist, they proceed from their rise to their fall. They pass through many sensible alterations, from one degree of growth to another, from buds to blossoms, from blossoms to flowers and fruits. They come to their pitch that nature had set them, and return back to the state from whence they sprung; there is not a day but they make some acquisition, or suffer some loss. They die and spring up every day; nothing in them more certain than their inconstancy: “The creature is subject to vanity” (Rom. 8:20). The heavenly bodies are changing their place; the sun every day is running his race, and stays not in the same point; and though they are not changed in their essence, yet they are in their place. Some, indeed, say there is a continual generation of light in the sun, as there is a loss of light by the casting out its beams, as in a fountain there is a flowing out of the streams, and a continual generation of supply. And though these heavenly bodies have kept their standing and motion from the time of their creation, yet both the sun’s  standing still in Joshua’s time, and its going back in Hezekiah’s time,  show that they are changeable at the pleasure of God. But in man the change is perpetually visible; every day there is a change from ignorance to knowledge, from one will to another, from passion to passion, sometimes sad and sometimes cheerful, sometimes craving this, and presently nauseating it; his body changes from health to sickness, or from weakness to strength; some alteration there is either in body or mind. Man, who is the noblest creature, the subordinate end of the creation of other things, cannot assure himself of a consistency and fixedness in anything the short space of a day, no, not of a minute. All his months are months of vanity (Job 7:3); whence the Psalmist calls man at the “best estate altogether vanity,” a mere heap of vanity (Psalm 35.) As he contains in his nature the nature of all creatures, so he inherits in his nature the vanity of all creatures. A little world, the centre of the world and of the vanity of the world; yea, “lighter than vanity” (Psalm 62:9), more movable than a feather; tossed between passion and passion, daily changing his end, and changing the means; an image of nothing.      2. Spiritual natures, as angels. They change not in their being, but that is from the indulgence of God. They change not in their goodness, but that is not from their nature, but divine grace in their confirmation; but they change in their knowledge; they know more by Christ than they did by creation (1 Tim. 3:16). They have an addition of knowledge every day, by the providential dispensations of God to his church (Eph. 3:10); and the increase of their astonishment and love is according to the increase of their knowledge and insight. They cannot have a new discovery without new admirations of what is discovered to them: there is a change in their joy when there is a change in a sinner (Luke 15:10). They were changed in their essence, when they were made such glorious spirits of nothing; some of them were changed in their will, when of holy they became impure. The good angels were changed in their understandings, when the glories of God in Christ were presented to their view; and all can be changed in their essence again; and as they were made of nothing, so by the power of God may be reduced to nothing again. So glorified souls shall have an unchanged operation about God, for they shall behold his face without any grief or fear of loss, without vagrant thoughts; but they can never be unchangeable in their nature, because they can never pass from finite to infinite.

     No creature can be unchangeable in its nature:—

     1.  Because every creature rose from nothing. As they rose from nothing, so they tend to nothing, unless they are preserved by God.  The notion of a creature speaks changeableness; because to be a creature is to be made something of nothing, and, therefore, creation is a change of nothing into something. The being of a creature begins from change, and, therefore, the essence of a creature is subject to change. God only is uncreated, and, therefore, unchangeable. If he were made he could not be immutable; for the very making is a change of not being into being. All creatures were made good, as they were the fruits of God’s goodness and power; but must needs be mutable, because they were the extracts of nothing.

     2. Because every creature depends purely upon the will of God. They depend not upon themselves, but upon another for their being. As they received their being from the word of his mouth and the arm of his power, so by the same word they can be cancelled into nothing, and return into as little significancy as when they were nothing. He that created them by a word, can by a word destroy them: if God should “take away their breath, they die, and return mto their dust” (Psalm 104:29). As it was in the power of the Creator that things might be, before they actually were, so it is in the power of the Creator that things after they are may cease to be what they are; and they are, in their own nature, as reducible to nothing as they were producible by the power of God from nothing; for there needs no more than an act of God's will to null them, as there needed only an act of God’s will to make them. Creatures are all subject to a higher cause: they are all reputed as nothing. “He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou?” (Dan. 4:35.) But God is unchangeable, because he is the highest good; none above him, all below him; all dependent on him; himself upon none.

     3. No creature is absolutely perfect. No creature can be so perfect, or can ever be, but something by the infinite power of God may be added to it; for whatsoever is finite may receive greater additions, and, therefore, a change.

     No creature you can imagine, but in your thoughts you may fancy him capable of greater perfections than you know he hath, or than really he hath. The perfections of all creatures are searchable; the perfection of God is only unsearchable (Job 11:6), and, therefore, he only immutable. God only is always the same.

     Time makes no addition to him, nor diminisheth anything of him. His nature and essence, his wisdom and will, have always been the same from eternity, and shall be the same to eternity, without any variation.

     IV. The fourth thing propounded is, Some propositions to clear this unchangeableness of God from anything that seems contrary to it.

     Prop. I. There was no change in God when he began to create the world in time. The creation was a real change, but the change was not subjectively in God, but in the creature; the creature began to be what it was not before. Creation is considered as active or passive. Active creation is the will and power of God to create. This is from eternity, because God willed from eternity to create in time; this never had beginning, for God never began in time to understand anything, to will anything, or to be able to do anything; but he alway understood and alway willed those things which he determined from eternity to produce in time. The decree of God may be taken for the act decreeing, that is eternal and the same, or for the object decreed, that is in time; so that there may be a change in the object, but not in the will whereby the object doth exist.

     1. There was no change in God by the act of creation, because there was no new will in him. There was no new act of his will which was not before. The creation began in time, but the will of creating was from eternity. The work was new, but the decree whence that new work sprung was as ancient as the Ancient of Days. When the time of creating came, God was not made ex nolente volens, as we are; for whatsoever God willed to be now done, he willed from eternity to be done; but be willed also that it should not be done till such an instant of time, and that it should not exist before such a time. If God had willed the creation of the world only at that time when the world was produced, and not before, then, indeed, God had been changeable. But though God spake that word which he had not spoke before, whereby the world was brought into act; yet he did not will that will he willed not before. God did not create by a new counsel or new will, but by that which was from eternity (Eph. 1:9). All things are wrought according to that “purpose in himself,” an according to “the counsel of his will” (ver. 11); and as the holiness of the elect is the fruit of his eternal will “before the foundation of the world” (ver. 4), so, likewise, is the existence of things, and of those persons whom he did elect. As when an artificer frames a house or a temple according to that model he had in his mind some years before, there is no change in the model in his mind; the artificer is the same, though the work is produced by him some time after he had framed that copy of it in his own mind, but there is a change of the thing produced by him according to that model. Or, when a rich man intends, four or five years hence, if he lives, to build a hospital, is there any change in will, when, after the expiration of that time, he builds and endows it? Though it be after his will, yet it is the fruit of his precedent will. So God, from all eternity, did will and command that the creatures should exist in such a part of time; and, by his eternal will, all things, whether past, present, or to come, did, do, and shall exist, at that point of time which that will did appoint for them: not, as though God had a new will when things stood up in being, but only that which was prepared in his immutable counsel and will from eternity, doth then appear. There can be no instant fixed from eternity, wherein it can be said, God did not will the creation of the world; for had the will of God for the shortest moment been undetermined to the creation of the world, and afterwards resolved upon it, there had been a moral change in God from not willing to willing; but this there was not, for God executes nothing in time which he had not ordained from eternity, and appointed all the means and circumstances whereby it should be brought about. As the determination of our Saviour to suffer was not a new will, but an eternal counsel, and wrought no change in God (Acts 2:23).

     2. There is no change in God by the act of creation, because there was no new power in God. Had God had a will at the time of creation which he had not before, there had been a moral change in him; so had there been in him a power only to create then and not before, there had been a physical change in him from weakness to ability. There can be no more new power in God, than there can be a new will in God; for his will is his power, and what he willeth to effect, that he doth effect: as he was unchangeably holy, so he was unchangeably almighty, “which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8); which was almighty, and is almighty, and ever will be almighty. The work therefore makes no change in God, but there is a change in the thing wrought by that power of God. Suppose you had a seal engraven upon some metal a hundred years old, or as old as the creation, and you should this day, so many ages after the engraving of it, make an impression of that seal upon wax; would you say the engravement upon the seal were changed, because it produced that stamp upon the wax now which it did not before? No, the change is purely in the wax, which receives a new figure or form by the impression; not in the seal, that was capable of imprinting the same long before. God was the same from eternity as he was when he made a signature of himself upon the creatures by creation, and is no more changed by stamping them into several forms, than the seal is changed by making impression upon the wax. As when a house is enlightened by the sun, or that which was cold is heated by it, there is a change in the house from darkness to light, from coldness to heat; but is there any change in the light and heat of the sun? There is a change in the thing enlightened or warmed by that light and heat which remains fixed and constant in the sun, which was as capable in itself to produce the same effects before, as at that instant when it works them; so when God is the author of a new work, he is not changed, because he works it by an eternal will and an eternal power.

     3. Nor is there any new relation acquired by God by the creation of the world. There was a new relation acquired by the creature, as, when a man sins, he hath another relation to God than he had before,—he hath relation to God, as a criminal to a Judge; but there is no change in God, but in the malefactor. The being of men makes no more change in God than the sins of men. As a tree is now on our right hand, and by our turning about it is on our left hand, sometimes before us, sometimes behind us, according to our motion near it or about it, and the turning of the body; there is no change in the tree, which remains firm and fixed in the earth, but the change is wholly in the posture of the body, whereby the tree may be said to be before us or behind us, or on the right hand or on the left hand. God gained no new relation of Lord or Creator by the creation; for though he had created nothing to rule over, yet he had the power to create and rule, though he did not create and rule: as a man may be called a skilful writer, though he does not write, because he is able to do it when he pleases; or a man skilful in physic is called a physician, though he doth not practise that skill, or discover his art in the distribution of medicines, because he may do it when he pleases; it depends upon his own will to show his art when he has a mind to it. So the name Creator and Lord belongs to God from eternity, because he could create and rule, though he did not create and rule. But, howsoever, if there were any such change of relation, that God may be called Creator and Lord after the creation and not before, it is not a change in essence, nor in knowledge, nor in will; God gains no perfection nor diminution by it; his knowledge is not increased by it; he is no more by it than he was, and will be, if all those things ceased; and therefore Austin illustrates it by this similitude:—as a piece of money when it is given as the price of a thing, or deposited only as a pledge for the security of a thing borrowed; the coin is the same, and is not change though the relation it had as a pledge and as a price be different from one another: so that suppose any new relation be added, yet there is nothing happens to the nature of God which may infer any change.

     Prop. II. There was no change in the Divine nature of the Son, when he assumed human nature. There was an union of the two natures, but no change of the Deity into the humanity, or of the humanity into the Deity: both preserved their peculiar properties. The humanity was changed by a communication of excellent gifts from the divine nature, not by being brought into an equality with it, for that was impossible that a creature should become equal to the Creator. He took the “form of a servant,” but he lost not the form of God; he despoiled not himself of the perfections of the Deity. He was indeed emptied, “and became of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7); but he did not cease to be God, though he was reputed to be only a man, and a very mean one too. The glory of his divinity was not extinguished nor diminished, though it was obscured and darkened, under the veil of our infirmities; but there was no more change in the hiding of it, than there is in the body of the sun when it is shadowed by the interposition of a cloud.

     His blood while it was pouring out from his veins was the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28); and, therefore, when he was bowing the head of his humanity upon the cross, he had the nature and perfections of God; for had he ceased to be God, he had been a mere creature, and his sufferings would have been of as little value and satisfaction as the sufferings of a creature. He could not have been a sufficient Mediator, had he ceased to be God: and he had ceased to be God, had he lost any one perfection proper to the divine nature; and losing none, he lost not this of unchangeableness, which is none of the meanest belonging to the Deity. Why by his union with the human nature should he lose this, any more than he lost his omniscience, which he discovered by his knowledge of the thoughts of men; or his mercy, which he manifested to the height in the time of his suffering? That is truly a change, when a thing ceaseth to be what it was before: this was not in Christ; he assumed our nature without laying aside his own. When the soul is united to the body, doth it lose any of those perfections that are proper to its nature? Is there any change either in the substance or qualities of it? No; but it makes a change in the body, and of a dull lump it makes it a living mass, conveys vigor and strength to it, and, by its power, quickens it to sense and motion. So did the divine nature and human remain entire; there was no change of the one into the other, as Christ by a miracle changed water into wine, or men by art change sand or ashes into glass: and when he prays “for the glory he had with God before the world was” (John 17:5), he prays that a glory he had in his Deity might shine forth in his person as Mediator, and be evidenced in that height and splendor suitable to his dignity, which had been so lately darkened by his abasement; that as he had appeared to be the Son of Man in the infirmity of the flesh, he might appear to be the Son of God in the glory of his person, that he might appear to be the Son of God and the Son of Man in one person. Again, there could be no change in this union; for, in a real change, something is acquired which was not possessed before, neither formally nor eminently: but the divinity had from eternity, before the incarnation, all the perfections of the human nature eminently in a nobler manner than they are in themselves, and therefore could not be changed by a real umon.

     Prop. III. Repentance and other affections ascribed to God in Scripture, argue no change in God. We often read of God’s repenting, repenting of the good he promised (Jer. 18:10), and of the evil he threatened (Exod. 32:14; John 3:10), or of the work he hath wrought (Gen. 6:6). We must observe, therefore, that,

     1. Repentance is not properly in God. He is a pure Spirit, and is not capable of those passions which are signs of weakness and impotence, or subject to those regrets we are subject to. Where there is a proper repentance there is a want of foresight, an ignorance of what would succeed, or a defect in the examination of the occurrences which might fall within consideration. All repentance of a fact is grounded upon a mistake is the event which was not foreseen, or upon an after knowledge of the evil of the thing which was acted by the person repenting. But God is so wise that he cannot err, so holy he cannot do evil; and his certain prescience, or foreknowledge, secures him against any unexpected events. God doth not act but upon clear and infallible reason; and a change upon passion is accounted by all so great a weakness in man, that none can entertain so unworthy a conceit of God. Where he is said to repent (Gen. 6:6), be is also said to grieve; now no proper grief can be imagined to be in God. As repentance is inconsistent with infallible foresight, so is grief no less inconsistent with undefiled blessedness. God is “blessed forever” (Rom. 9:8), and therefore nothing can befall him that can stain that blessedness. His blessedness would be impaired and interrupted while he is repenting, though he did soon rectify that which is the cause of his repentance. “God is of one mind, and who can turn him? what his soul desires that he doth” (Job 23:13).

The Existence and Attributes of God

Amos 6 - 9
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | In the time of Amos, there was a famine in hearing of the Word of God. Study with us the source, the unique type and the results of the famine. How is the church doing with this corporately? Let’s be those who hear the true Word of the Lord.

A Famine of the Word | Amos 8:11-12
s1-362 | 09-02-2007

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | Amos gives a strong word against being prideful and greedy for money.

Amos 6
s1-363 | 09-09-2007

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | Amos prophesies five visions of the Lord’s Judgment against Israel, yet ends with a great promise of restoration.

Amos 7 - 9
m1-375 | 09-12-2007

Only audio available | click here


Amos 6 - 9


The Elder Son

Charles P. Baylis |
Dallas Theological Seminary

Is the Question What or Who?

John D. Hannah |
Dallas Theological Seminary

Your Word: A Lamp

Ron Allen |
Dallas Theological Seminary

Aristotle on Thinking vs. Perceiving

Sean Kelsey | Catholic University

Interpreting a Passage

Walt Russell | Biola University

Social Implications of Reciprocity

Doug Hayward | Biola University

The Personhood of Christ

Bob Saucy | Biola University

Why Study Reference Works
in Theology
and Religious Studies
Neil Smyth | University of Nottingham

Wine, Women and Self

Alistair Begg

With God in the Pew

Lisa Igram | Biola University

Discerning God's Voice

When God Seems Silent
J.P. Moreland | Biola University

Who Defines What Is Real?

J.P. Moreland | Biola University

Loving God With All Your Mind

J.P. Moreland | Biola University

NYU University Questions

Plantinga on Science & Religion
Alvin Plantinga | Veritas

Science & Religion

Where the Conflict Really Lies
J.P. Moreland | Biola University

An Evolutionary Argument

Against Naturalism at USC
Alvin Plantinga | Veritas

Systematic Adamology

in Trinitarian Perspective
Fred Sanders | Henry Center