Excuse Me, Waiter, Did You Mess With The Food?

Pastor John Samson

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 ESV

To serve as the pastor in the newly formed King’s Church in Phoenix is a high calling and an amazing privilege. To serve the King of Kings and the people Christ died for – what could be greater than this? Yet with every great privilege comes great responsibility.

Have you noticed in the above text how it is the presentation of Scripture as God breathed (at the end of 2 Timothy 3) that is the basis for the solemn and holy charge given to preach the Word, in chapter 4? The one thing naturally leads to the other. It is because of the nature of Scripture as divinely inspired that Paul tells Timothy to preach it with boldness, in season and out of season. Literally this phrase means “in good times and bad times,” or by way of application, “preach the word when the people like it and when they do not.”

Being a pastor and talking with other pastors, I think I understand how pastors think. God has placed a servant’s heart in every true shepherd’s heart. The genuine pastor did not get into this for money or fame, for the gold or the glory, but because there is a driving passion in the heart, placed there by God, to obey the One who called him for His own eternal purposes. Sadly, what is crystal clear at the beginning phaze of ministry can become fuzzy over time as Church pressures, politics and personalities all have their influence. But the above passage gives us a solemn charge to stay at our post knowing our chief responsibility under the gaze of God is to serve the people of God the Word of God.

I have met some people in ministry who have openly told me that they teach through the Scripture but seek to avoid controversial subjects. I know why they do this. They do not wish to divide their congregation. The Evangelist may count how many people were in a service, but a pastor is far more likely to count how many were not there – he aches inside to see the people he loves come and be built up in their most holy faith and knows what the Word of God can do for them. He organizes his whole week to make room for the serious study of God’s word. It is labor indeed – real work. Often it is in the early hours of the morning that he is awakened from sleep with inspiration to dig out or mine the Scripture – and the inspiration lasts until the clock tells him he must take a quick shower and get on with the business of the day (and restful sleep is only a hope for the next night).

But here’s the problem. Love for the people is very commendable, but it should not be the chief motivation in ministry. There should be a greater love for the God who called us to obey Him. The truth is, if we preach the Word accurately and with the fire and passion He instills in us, this shows great love for people too, because we are giving them the very best thing imaginable – the word of Almighty God. People need a lot more than a pep talk once a week, as in a coach’s half time team talk. No, they need far more substance than this. What they need is a genuine word from God.

If we love Him, we will teach and preach in order to please Him first, for the message of the text is that we preach to the audience of One. God is watching us closely as we preach His Word. 2 Timothy 4:1 could accurately be translated, “I solemnly charge you as one under the gaze of God…”

I think if we were to see this from God’s perspective, when a pastor or preacher says he teaches the Bible but avoids controversial issues, he is acting as a disobedient slave of the Master as well as short changing the people. The fact is that controversy cannot be avoided. There’s no main truth of Scripture that is free from controversy. That’s true whether we are talking about the existence of God, His purpose in suffering, the Trinity, the full Deity and full humanity of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of grace and how God saves by His grace alone through faith in Christ alone. You can try to find something in there that is not controversial, but I cannot. Truth is controversial – so get used to it.

Having a doctrinal position is unavoidable if we are to say anything about what Scripture means. The question is not can we avoid theology, but which theology is biblical. To try to avoid it is like saying to a waiter, “may I have some water, but can you hold the wet!” The wet comes with the water, because quite simply, water is wet.

If for illustration purposes the waiter is the preacher, then the cook (and owner of the restaurant and the franchise) is God Himself. Waiters are not permitted to look at the plate handed to them by the cook and then cut off the edges of the meat before serving the people. The cook determines what is served to the people not the waiter.

If the text speaks of controversial things such as true discipleship or Divine Sovereignty, who do we think we are if we then say, “this is not what the people want to hear, so I will leave that part out of the sermon”? This would be an act of defiance not of servant-hood, both of God and of the people. We need to ask, “who is it we are really serving?”

It is because of the fact that we are called to serve God first before we serve people that the text goes on to say “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” This is the truth so let us face it. Not everyone who listens to us will like us or the message we proclaim. As preachers, we must face this and get over it! If everyone likes the message, and I mean everyone, then perhaps the One we should always seek to please first may well be displeased. And this should scare us a lot more than it does, because one day we will stand before Him and give an account to Him, when no crowd is applauding us, its just you or me standing before the King.

There is an offense to the message of the cross – Jews want signs and Greeks seek wisdom – but preach the cross anyway, for this indeed is the true sign and the true wisdom of God. Not everyone who hears us can handle the truth of God’s Sovereignty, and they may leave. Lets remember that the crowd left Jesus, the Master communicator, when He preached it too:

John 6:65-68 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

People will come and go. As much as it may sadden us, not everyone will stay with us for the longhaul. So lets face this fact and decide beforehand who we will be serving, and who it is we will be prepared to lose! We will lose people, but let us not lose true disciples who really want to know what the Word of God says. If we are going to lose people, lets be prepared to lose those who put their opinions and traditions above His word. Making this choice does not mean that in doing so our ministry will always be small. The God who called us is in charge of such things. Paul may plant, an Apollos may water but it is God who causes the growth. The size of the ministry is not in our hands, that is God’s decision, but because of His amazing providence, God’s book certainly is. Lets preach this Divine Word with boldness as heralds of the King, knowing the truth that “Christ’s sheep will never be offended by Christ’s voice.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

Preachers are to use wisdom in how they go about this task, of course, but that’s another subject for another day. But when it comes to a preacher’s job responsibilities, we have no real choice when it comes down to subject matter concerning what we leave out or what we put in. It is the height of presumption to think any other way. God has never asked us for our opinion on the matter. He is the Owner and cook – we are simply humble servant-waiters with an amazingly high calling to be His Royal Ambassadors.

2 Timothy 4 reminds me that my primary task at King’s Church is to serve the King’s food to the King’s people. Let us also realize that Christ’s sheep are amazingly precious to the Shepherd. He is concerned for the welfare of His flock and has established the menu for the diet of the sheep.

“Excuse me waiter, did you mess with the food?” Selah.

I Love The Trinity

Pastor John Samson

The Trinity: our one God is eternally existent in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal.

I love the Trinity. That’s because I love God, and God is a Trinity.

Very few people have a firm grasp of the concept of the Trinity. It is important therefore to determine what we as Christians mean by the term. The doctrine of the Trinity, stated simply is that there is one eternal being of God, and this one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is therefore one in essence and three in personality.

It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms “being” and “person.” It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. There is no contradiction though because that is not what is being said at all. There is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what and three who’s.

All the major cults today (Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, etc.) contend that Christians have simply made up the concept of the Trinity, saying that the term is not even found in the Bible. Though it is true that the actual term cannot be found in Scripture, I would have to say, “so what?” for even the word “Bible” is not found in the Bible! The term “Bible” comes from the word biblos meaning “book,” and therefore means “the Book.” The Bible is not just “a” book but “the” book. Because it is the very word of Almighty God, and therefore the most important book anyone can ever read.

So while the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the concept of the Trinity certainly is. On the basis of Scripture itself, Christians throughout the centuries have professed belief in the Holy Trinity, affirming the fact that our one God is eternally existent in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. This is because the following three things are very clearly taught in Scripture:

(1) There is only one God, who is eternal and immutable (unchanging). (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Mal. 3:6; Mark 12:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jam. 2:19)

(2) There are three eternal Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another – that is, they are carefully differentiated as distinct Persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Spirit, and nor is the Holy Spirit the Father. (Matt: 3:13-17; 28:19; Luke 10:22; John 1:1, 2; 3:16, 17; 15:26; 16:7; 17:1-26; 2 Cor. 13:14)

(3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being full Deity – that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of the Father, the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 9:6; John 17:3; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; Acts 5:3, 4; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18)

Some believe in the unity and oneness of God, but deny that He consists in different persons. Heretics such as monarchists, modalists, and Arians (the modern day counterparts are the Jehovah’s Witnesses) take this position, as do followers of non-Christian religions, such as Unitarians and Muslims. Others believe in the different persons but deny their unity in one God. This is the position of heretics such as the tritheists and followers of other non-Christian religions, such as the LDS (Mormons) and polytheists.

When someone denies any of these three statements (above), severe error is the result. Dr. James White states, “if one denies that there are Three Persons, it results in the “Oneness” teaching of the United Pentecostal Church and others. If one denies Full Equality, one is left with Three Persons and One God, resulting in “subordinationism” as seen in Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, etc. (though to be perfectly accurate the Witnesses (JW”s) deny all three of the sides in some way – they deny Full Equality (i.e., they believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel), they deny the Three Persons (the Holy Spirit is an impersonal, active “force” like electricity) and One God (they say Jesus is “a god” – a lesser divinity than Yahweh). And, if one denies One God, one is left with polytheism, the belief in many gods, as seen clearly in the Mormon Church, perhaps the most polytheistic religion I have encountered.”

“God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Dr. Wayne Grudem)

“To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine: Preface/Book 1 Chapter 5).

The Thief On The Cross

Pastor John Samson

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23: 39-43

I have often contemplated the potential scene in my mind as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross, and what they would say to him. This was a man who was a criminal, a notorious sinner, and definitely one whose so called “bad deeds’ would outweigh the good ones. Being nailed to a cross negates any further opportunity for good works to be done. But it would be an interesting conversation, wouldn’t it, to hear what each religionist might say to him? In every case (apart from perhaps universalism which teaches that all people will be saved regardless of their works) each religion would require the man to somehow come down from the cross to do something.

What would a spokesman for Islam say? How about a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? What would a Buddhist say? or a New Age guru? How about a Roman Catholic? If each could speak to this man, what religious advice would or could they give to him for the purpose of being saved (however they even define what that means)? Some might say that all he could do would be to hope for mercy, but Christ, the biblical Christ gave him far more than just hope. In contrast to what all man made religious systems could give the man, Christ gave him full assurance of salvation – and not just eventual salvation after countless years in the fires of purgatory, but bliss and paradise that very day!

Certain religions would require baptism, others would require the man go through religious instruction and devotion of some sort, while others would ask him to do more good works before his death hoping that they might outweigh the bad ones. But here’s my point, the man could never find salvation in those religious systems because he was stuck, pinned, nailed to a cross. His chance to help elderly people cross roads, or to give to charity or to live a life of service was gone. Nailed to a cross, works and service were no longer possible. His was a totally hopeless case.. except that crucified next to him was Someone who was able to save him by what He was doing, rather than what the man might do. Only the real biblical Jesus with the real biblical Gospel could announce to a criminal that before the day was over, he would be with Him in Paradise.

This thief’s salvation portrays the Gospel so clearly. Someone embracing anything other than the biblical gospel can only scratch their heads in wonder at the precious words given to this man, for in their system, such words would be impossible to say.

As far as I know, this man was the only person in the Bible that Jesus gave instantaneous assurance of salvation to. Jesus’ words, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” removes all doubt.

Can we know what was going on in the heart of this man? Well, we do not have a perfect understanding, but putting the pieces of the biblical text together, we can get quite a good picture. What is clear from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is that this man had been amongst the many who had mocked Christ. Yet seemingly, out of nowhere, he turns to the other thief and says, “Don’t you fear God?” Obviously, this thief was now fearing God for him to be asking this question of the other one.

He also knew he was getting exactly what he deserved – “we indeed suffer justly” he said.

He also recognized the innocence of Christ when he said, “this man has done nothing wrong.”

When he turned to Jesus and requested, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom” though knowing death was inevitable for all three of those crucified, he believed Jesus would triumph over death, and therefore, would be resurrected.

In affirming the fact that Jesus would come into His kingdom, he affirmed the Lordship or even the Deity of Christ. How much he knew of this we do not know, but obviously, he knew that Christ was indeed King.

So, he had an awareness of divine judgement, he knew the availability of forgiveness, he believed Christ was the true King and that in Christ there is hope even for him, he knew of the coming Kingdom and wanted to be a part of it.

As God opens our hearts and mind to the one true biblical Gospel, we will also find in Christ the full assurance of salvation. As we turn away from any attempt at self justification, knowing that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith and all of this is the gift of God, not as a result of works (Eph. 2:8,9), we too will enjoy the sweet saving mercy of God.

What a testimony to the Gospel this thief is. His testimony is exactly the same as mine. God saves sinners through the perfect work of the perfect Savior, plus nothing! Hallelujah!

The Assignment

Pastor John Samson

For Preachers:

IMAGINE – Its 9/10/01 – and you are are given an amazing assignment – the privilege of preaching to all on the 11th floor of one of the Twin Towers… and somehow, God lets you know that EVERYONE you will talk to that day will be dead within 24 hours…

(ohhh – and you are absolutely forbidden to tell them that)..

Some Questions: WHAT would you preach? HOW would you preach it? Would you have to adjust your sermon from the regular feel good “five steps to a happy life” or “try Jesus” or “try Christianity, you will really like it” idea? If you have to adjust your sermon from your normal one – what does that tell you about what you normally preach? Does your normal sermon seem just trivial now? Or does what you normally preach carry with it the weight and urgency and power of the Gospel? Quite a thought, isn’t it?

Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (that based on Scripture alone, the most wretched sinner is justified – declared right before God – by God’s grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone) with GREAT boldness, with SINCERE love, with REAL urgency, and with AUTHORITY as A HERALD OF THE KING, as if HEAVEN AND HELL were real places that people go to for eternity – and that hell is a certainty for all who ignore or reject this Gospel you are preaching that day – but that God’s love for the world is seen by the giving of His one and only Son so that everyone who places their faith and trust in Christ would in no way perish, but have everlasting life for certain!

And.. one final question: As you would consider what and how you would preach that day and find your answers in God’s word, should it not be that you preach the exact same way every time you preach, for is it not true that there is no guarantee than anyone hearing you will live another 24 hours?

Selah!

Saved By God, From God, For God

Pastor John Samson

Christians are notorious for using a vocabulary that is not always understood by those around them. There’s no doubt that we have our own lingo and jargon.

One such word is the word “saved.” Often, Christians ask unsuspecting neighbors, colleagues and friends the question, “are you saved?” and usually receive only puzzled expressions in response. These folk are desperately trying to understand the question, but have no reference point whatsoever from which to make an assessment of how to answer. The Christian, on the other hand, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to evangelize, usually pounces on this hesitation, though just how much is communicated in such times is open to debate. Though the Christian is usually sincere in desiring to share his faith, he needs to provide some foundation for the person to understand what he is seeking to communicate.

Yet in saying this, the word “saved” is very much a biblical word. The scripture says, “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

But what exactly is this referring to? What is it that those who call on the name of the Lord are saved from?

Well let’s take a look at the word “saved.” It is a word we use quite often, especially in the world of sports. We talk of a goalkeeper making a great “save,” or a boxer being “saved” by the bell. When used in this context, the word “saved” does not have any eternal significance to it whatsoever, but refers instead to a present day deliverance or rescue from calamity. The goalkeeper doesn’t provide eternal life for his team mates when he makes a save, but merely prevents a calamity – conceding a goal to the opposing team. The boxer doesn’t gain heavenly bliss because the bell rings, but the sounding of the bell signalled the end of a round when it looked certain that the fighter was about to lose the fight. Again, the word saved refers to being rescued from a calamity.

So what exactly does the Bible mean then when it talks of our need to be saved? What is the calamity from which we need to be rescued?

The Bible’s answer is a very clear one. God is holy and He is just. That’s not good news if we happen to be sinners, which the Bible declares that we are. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). But thank God, that’s not the end of the story. But it gets a lot worse before it gets better!

God is good. God is also just. God is therefore a good judge and must punish sin. God’s justice will be meted out precisely as justice demands it – which when you think about it, is the worst of all possible news for us. We won’t be able to get away with anything – all the secrets of our hearts will be exposed, and we will be called to give an account of our lives. What is worse is that the sins we have committed are so grievous to Him that the punishment for sin is eternal in duration. In fact, rather than the judgment we will face being merely being left or abandoned by God, God is actually active in pouring out His wrath against our sin.

So what exactly does the Bible mean by the phrase, “the wrath of God?”

Well one thing we notice very clearly when we study the Bible on this issue is that wrath is not an isolated concept made up by merely one “out of sorts and grumpy prophet.” There are in fact over 600 references to God’s wrath in the Old Testament alone.

Two incidents in Exodus will help our understanding at this point. In Exodus 22:22-24, God says, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Then later on when the children of Israel make for themselves a golden calf to worship, the scripture records God as saying, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.” (Exodus 32:10-12)

Regarding this, Dr. James Montgomery Boice writes, “it is evident in this passage that Moses’ appeal to God is not based either on imagined innocence of the people (they were not innocent, and Moses knew it), nor on the thought that wrath was unworthy of God. Moses appeals only on the basis of God’s name and how his acts would be misconstrued by the heathen. No doubt is expressed that wrath is a proper reaction of God’s holy character against sin.” Dr. Boice goes on to say, “God’s wrath is not arbitrary, as if God for some minor matter or according to his own caprice simply turns against those whom he formerly loved and favored. On the contrary, wrath is God’s consistent and unyielding resistance to sin and evil. In the first passage it is wrath brought on by sin against others, widows and orphans. In the second passage it is wrath brought on by sins against God.” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 248)

Nahum 1:2-3, 6-8 declares, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.  Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.”

Again, many more scriptures would verify the reality and nature of the wrath of Almighty God. Psalm 2:5-9 says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

In the New Testament, the wrath of God is also clearly seen. Two main words for wrath are used. The first, thymos (in Greek) means “to rush along fiercely,” “to be in the heat of violence,” or “to breath violently.” It refers to a panting rage.

The second Greek word, orge, means “to grow ripe for something” with the noun form revealing that this wrath has been slowly building over a long space of time. It is a gradually building anger that rises in intensity, and therefore is not so much a sudden flare up of hostility, which is soon over, but rather as Leon Morris defines it, “a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature.” (Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

Romans 1:18-20 reveals the present day reality of this wrath.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 2:5  “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Are we all feeling the weight of this bad news yet? I don’t believe we will appreciate the amazing good news of the Gospel until we do.

Jesus is also coming back to rule and reign. When He does so, it will not be like His first coming when He came as a humble baby, born in a manger, but He’s coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to enforce His rule in our world.

Revelation 19:15 declares, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

Although this refers to a future event, the scripture reveals that the wrath of God is a present reality, as we’ve already seen through Romans 1:18. The scripture also says,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ” (John 3:36)

I can’t think of a worse calamity than this one – facing the full fury of the wrath of God against our sin.

But is it just for God to punish sinners for eternity?

Let me respond with a quote from the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, “Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honorable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honor. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience. But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he has infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him. So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment. The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite. (THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN THE DAMNATION OF SINNERS, Works, vol. 1; 669)

In light of this, it is merely the pleasure of God Himself that His wrath did not fall on us last night, or last week, or last year. In fact, it is very evident that God has been remarkably patient with us all.

So then, if facing the full brunt of the wrath of God for all eternity is the worst possible calamity, then the greatest deliverance becomes immediately clear. To be saved, is to be rescued from the wrath of Almighty God.

In His love, God sent His Son to deliver us or rescue us from His eternally fierce wrath against our sin. John 3:16  says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 declares, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (emphasis mine)

Romans 5:6-9 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (emphasis mine)

Question: Whose love is it?

Answer: God’s.
Question: Whose wrath is it?

Answer: God’s.

It was God’s idea to save all who believe in Christ from the ultimate calamity, the fierceness of the wrath of God. What a deliverance! What a rescue! God sent His Son to save us from His wrath. To put it in clear terms – we are saved by God, from God, for God!

On the cross, Jesus bore our sin, and God poured out His wrath on Him, in our place. He took the punishment we deserved as He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus bore the wrath of God on behalf of His people. All who believe in Him as Savior and Lord are forever rescued from this wrath. But for those who do not receive the Son of God, God’s wrath is being revealed (Romans 1:18) and the full brunt of that wrath will be meted out in judgement.

To these, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:12-13)

The scripture declares, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3) The answer to this rhetorical question is clear. If we neglect this great salvation, there will be no escape.  Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

So again, here’s the good news: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

Call out to Him now.


A SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL

Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things.” (Rev 4:11) “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Man has failed to glorify God and is under His just condemnation.
“For all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23). “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction” (2 Thes 1:9).

Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve.

Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin. (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) He gave His life “as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) and “rose again” from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.

All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in repentant submissive faith are forgiven and begin a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with God!

“Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:5). “in Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps 16:11).

Sola Fide (Justification By Faith Alone)

THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL
Pastor John Samson

At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church placed its eternal and irrevocable curse on the Gospel, announcing it as actually heretical. I am certain that in the hearts and minds of the delegates at the Council, this was never intended – not even for a moment – but that is in fact what happened.

The most relevant Canons are the following:

Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,… let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ…does not truly merit an increase of grace and eternal life… let him be anathema.

As Dr. Michael Horton rightly noted, “It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The ‘good news,’ which alone is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned.”

But the Council of Trent met a long time ago. Hasn’t Rome since modified its position? In another place Dr. Horton wrote, “Has Rome’s position changed? In fact it has not. The Vatican II documents as well as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reinvoke the theological position of the Council of Trent, condemning the gospel of justification by an imputed righteousness.” But knowing full well that Rome’s full curse is on me for believing the following, I quote the Scripture and embrace the only true Gospel of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). God justifies the “ungodly.” God does not wait until sinners are righteous in and of themselves before He declares them righteous. If He did, I for one would despair of ever getting there. The word “Gospel” means “good news” and the amazing “good news” of the Gospel is about how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection breaks all the power of despair and saves sinners by supplying to them a perfect unassailable righteousness AS A GIFT.

Question: Whose righteousness is supplied?

Answer: Christ’s own righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).

The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. THAT COMES LATER (Eph 2:8-10).

This is our hope – while ungodly in and of ourselves, when we give up all hope of self attained salvation, trust in the Savior allows the Savior to save and He does so with resplendent and majestic power! Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this despair shattering hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through the mechanism of faith alone (which itself is God’s gift) God counts sinners (the ungodly) as righteous because of Christ.

“For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Justification by faith alone is really shorthand for justification by the Person and work of Christ alone. Jesus saves – not merely potentially or hypothetically – but He actually saves – all by Himself! All the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him were transferred to Christ on the cross and He bore the penalty these sins deserved; and what is transferred to these sinners is a righteousness that has never known sin – the very righteousness of Christ. That is the kind of righteousness given to me – a righteousness that always obeyed every command of God fully and perfectly from the heart. The wonder of it all is that now, because of Christ, God not only merely tolerates me, but He has declared me as just, righteous, and fully pleasing to Him. “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). This peace is not a mere temporary ceasefire on God’s part. I am forever justified before God through faith in the perfect Savior. To quote Martin Luther’s Latin phrase, I am “simul iustus et peccator” – at the same time just and sinner. Christ’s own perfect righteousness is mine. It is not merely that God because of Christ now sees me as “just as if I’d never sinned”, but more than that.. much more than that… He now sees me as “just as if I’d always obeyed!” This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scan The Scriptures

Quotes put together by Justin Taylor

If you want a quick and easy way to memorize the traditional four attributes of Scripture, just put them in the order of S.C.A.N.:

  • the Sufficiency of Scripture
  • the Clarity of Scripture
  • the Authority of Scripture, and
  • the Necessity of Scripture

Below are some definitions and thoughts from Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) and Timothy Ward (Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God).

Sufficiency

Ward: “Because of the ways in which God has chosen to relate himself to Scripture, Scripture is sufficient as the means by which God continues to present himself to us such that we can know him, repeating through Scripture the covenant promise he has brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.” (p. 113)

Grudem: “The idea that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at stage of redemptive history and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”

Clarity

Grudem: “The idea that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who read it seeking God’s help and are willing to follow it” (p. 108).

Ward: “Scripture is the written word of the living Word, God’s communicative act, and the Spirit who authored it chooses to continue to speak most directly through it. Therefore we are right to trust that God in Scripture has spoken and continues to speak sufficiently clearly for us to base our saving knowledge of him and of ourselves, and our beliefs and our actions, on the content of Scripture alone, without ultimately validating our understanding of these things or our confidence in them by appeal to any individual or institution” (pp. 126-127).

Authority

Grudem: “The idea that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

“The phrase “˜the authority of Scripture’ must be understood to be shorthand for “˜the authority of God as he speaks through Scripture.’ . . . The authority of Scripture is a statement about what God did in authoring Scripture, and about how he continues to act in relation to Scripture” (p. 128).

Necessity

Grudem: “The idea that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about his character and moral laws.”

Ward: “Necessity sits right at the heart of the ways in which sola scriptura is explicated and defended. If Scripture alone is claimed to be the supreme authority in Christian thinking and living, that is because both its content (the verbal revelation) and its form (the written Scriptures) are indispensable” (p. 102).

What Is Saving Faith?

Pastor John Samson

The Apostle Paul’s main theme in the book of Romans is that of the Gospel itself, as he answers the question, “how can an unjust person ever be acceptable to a just and holy God?” In passages such as Chapter 3:20 – 4:8, he teaches that we are justified by faith alone and not by anything that we do (other passages where Paul states this are Titus 3:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil 3:9; to name just a few).

Romans 3:28; 4:3-8 – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

Having established the case biblically that we are justified by faith apart from works, we then need to ask the question, “what kind of faith is it that justifies?” In other words, what does true faith look like?

This is precisely the issue that James is addressing in chapter 2 of his epistle. He writes in verse 14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?”

The obvious answer to James’ question is “no, that is not the kind of faith that saves. True faith will produce works.” It is never enough just to make the claim to have faith. No one is ever saved by a mere empty profession of faith. What is professed, must actually be possessed for justification to exist. James teaches us clearly that if genuine faith is present, it necessarily produces the fruit of works. That’s the nature of true faith. In fact, if works do not follow from “faith,” then it is proof positive that the “faith” is not in fact genuine, but a mere claim to it.

There is no discord between what James writes and what we find in Romans and the rest of Paul’s writings. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith never saved anyone. True faith is a living faith, and will inevitably show itself with accompanying action or works. Yet even if all these good works do come from genuine faith, these works still have no part in the ground of our justification. Our works add no merit to us, removing all grounds for boasting. “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one should boast” (Eph 2:8, 9).

The only work that contributes to our justification is the work of Jesus; not the work of Jesus in us, but the work of Jesus for us. His merit is the only merit that counts for us. Paul tells us that it we are justified by faith apart from works, and James tells us that that kind of faith that actually saves is a faith that will of necessity produce works.

The Reformers of the 16th Century were very clear about all this. They described true saving faith as having three parts to it, which were described by three Latin words: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

1. CONTENT OR INFORMATION (notitia) – Like our modern day word “notice”, notitia concerns information or knowledge of the truth of the gospel. We need to understand the facts of the Gospel.

What exactly must be believed? Certainly, a person does not need to be a highly trained theologian to be saved. The Holy Spirit draws both adults and children to a saving knowledge of Christ. Yet when children are converted to Christ, they may not know every nuance of the faith, or even a detailed understanding of the atonement – merely that Christ died for our sins. However, I believe it would be true to say that a truly saved person, although they may not be able to articulate the content of the Gospel at length, will not reject it when they do hear it. I believe that’s a very important point to make. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…” (John 10: 27). Christ’s true sheep instinctively know the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. The regenerate person humbly submits to the faithful teaching of Scripture when hearing it (Scripture being the Shepherd’s voice), unlike those who are still in the flesh who are completely incapable of doing so (Romans 8:7, 8).

This noticia includes belief in one God, in the full humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), and His death for sinners on the cross (1 Cor. 15:3), as well as His physical resurrection from the dead. Romans 10:9 says,

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I believe the noticia would also include some understanding of God’s grace in salvation – that is, God saves us because of Christ’s work on behalf of sinners, not the sinner’s work on behalf of God. Dr. James White writes, “God’s grace is powerful, and it brings full salvation to the soul of the person who despairs of anything other than free, unmerited grace. Grace cannot clasp the hand that carries within it ideas of merit, or good works, or any other kind of human addition to grace. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). God’s wondrous grace cannot be mixed with human merit. The hand that holds onto its own alleged goodness, or attempts to sneak in a merit here, a good work there, will not find the open hand of God’s grace. Only the empty hand fits into the powerful hand of grace. Only the person who finds in Christ his all-in-all will, in so finding, be made right with God. This is why the Scriptures say it is by faith so that it might be in accordance with grace: in God’s wisdom, he excludes man’s boasting by making salvation all of grace.” (The Empty Hand of Faith)

2. BELIEF (assensus) – It is entirely possible to understand something (the notitia) and yet not believe it personally (assensus). We need to be able to say “I both understand and believe the content of the gospel.”

3. COMMITMENT (fiducia) – The last part of faith is a full trust in and commitment to the One who loved us and died for us. This is of critical importance simply because it is possible to understand these truths, believe they are true, and yet pull back from the necessary commitment that will actually enlist us as one of Christ’s followers. To possess only the first two parts (notitia and assensus), without the third part (fiducia), merely qualifies us to be demons! James 2:19 declares, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Even demons understand and believe, but that does not mean that they have a share in redemption.

True saving faith will always produce the fruit of good works. Though our works play no part at all in justifying us before God (Rom 3:28; 4:4, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9) they justify or vindicate our claim to faith before a watching world. Our lives should demonstrate that the faith professed was, and is, also possessed.

As you consider your own standing before God,would you say that yours is in any way based upon what you do, rather than upon what Christ has done in your place? Can you honestly say you trust Him with your eternal destiny, and fully believe He carried your sins on the cross, and has given His righteousness to you, so that you can stand before God on the day of judgment?

If at the present time you are not able to answer these questions in the affirmative, I pray that God will indeed give you the gift of true repentance and faith, and that you will call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved.

Christian, Rest In Gods Sovereignty

Pastor John Samson

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; – Isaiah 46:9-10

“When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator, looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We affirm that God is something more than a disappointed, unsatisfied, defeated Being, who is filled with benevolent desires but lacking in power to carry them out. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is “the Most High.” We affirm that God is something more than One who has endowed man with the power of choice, and because He has done this, is therefore unable to compel man to do His bidding (Prov. 21:1). We affirm that God is something more than One who has waged a protracted war with the Devil and has been worsted. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is the Almighty. To speak of the Godhood of God then, is to say that God is on the Throne, on the Throne as a fact and not as a say so; on a Throne that is high above all. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that the Helm is in His hand, and that He is steering according to His own good pleasure. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that He is the Potter, that we are the clay, and that out of the clay He shapes one as a vessel to honor and another as a vessel to dishonor according to His own sovereign rights (Rom. 9), “according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him what doest Thou?” (Dan. 4:35). Therefore, to speak of the Godhood of God is to give the mighty Creator His rightful place; it is to recognize His exalted majesty; it is to own His universal scepter.” – A. W. Pink

God is Sovereign. He rules and reigns. He can never be voted out of power; for He was never voted into power. He is, was and always will be the Sovereign King, whose will can never be frustrated. Sovereignty means that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to get anyone else’s permission.

If God is not Sovereign, then God is not God. If He were not ruling over every molecule in the universe, governing its existence, directing its course, and setting its boundaries, then we and God should be very worried indeed…

God had a plan to send Jesus to the cross to make atonement for guilty sinners… but what if some virus had gotten into the lungs of Jesus and killed Him at age 7? What if a brick had fallen off some Galilean house as Jesus passed by, killing him at age 15? Obviously, the entire eternal plan of God would have been frustrated.

Thankfully there is no counseling department in heaven, nor are the heavenly hosts regularly visiting angelic doctors to gain medication to ease their stress. When a weary saint joins the heavenly throng, he is never met by an angel saying, “Phew.. that was a close one… we’re so relieved to see that you made it here. We were all so worried about you!”

So if heaven is never worried, why is it that we are oftentimes? I believe it is because the message of God’s Sovereignty has not taken the long and mammoth 18 inch journey from our heads to our hearts. We need to saturate ourselves in the Scriptures on the issue to really get the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty in our bloodstream, so to speak.

Jonathan Edwards once stated, “From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this Sovereignty of God, and His justice in thus eternally dealing with men, according to His Sovereign pleasure. My mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those quibbles and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty, from that day to this. God’s absolute Sovereigntyis what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God’s Sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute Sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.”

Man naturally resists the idea of God’s Sovereignty. J. C. Ryle once commented that “Of all the doctrines of the Bible, none is so offensive to human nature as the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty.” Yet, though many in our day strongly resist the idea and the implications of God’s Sovereignty in all things; for the Christian, the doctrine continues to be an amazing source of strength, even in the midst of severe difficulty and trial.

God has never been shocked! God has never had to say, “Oh no, I didn’t know that was going to happen. Can anyone see a way out of this? Angels, please get together and have a “think-tank” meeting and come up with something we can do to respond.”

People might laugh at such an idea, and rightly so. It is so ludicrous a concept that it is in fact laughable. Yet it amazed me to hear some of the arguments put forth by many Christians in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. The God they spoke of was seemingly terribly shocked that terrorists would go ahead with their plans, and because He had given men their free will was now powerless to prevent the events. However, He was seeking to comfort where He could. Is that your idea of God?

I certainly hope not, because this idea does not in any way correspond to the God who reveals Himself in the pages of the Bible. Does God bring comfort? Of course… but is that all He can do – watch and grieve without having a purpose in mind in all that takes place? No, God not only knows the end from the beginning but has in some sense decreed all events in human history, “whatsoever comes to pass,” including sin.

What is the worst of sins? I believe the worst sin that has ever taken place on earth was undoubtedly the unjust crucifixion of the Son of God. Yet God not only allowed it, but He planned it before He ever created the world. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. For the crucifixion to be ordained before the foundation of the world, it means that the sin that put Him there was as well.

Peter acknowledged this when he preached “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 2:23. The early church also prayed, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Acts 4:27-28

Our God is Lord, even over sin… I realise that some gasp at such a notion, but not only does the Scripture teach this, but think of the opposite idea – God has no purpose in the sin of man. Is that a better proposal? Hardly! No, God has in some sense ordained that sin takes place (or else it would not take place) and He will in fact use sin ultimately to show forth His glory. Man is entirely responsible for his actions, and will face judgement for them, but the fact is that God is ultimately Sovereign over all human actions. Though man might mean an action for evil, God means it for the ultimate good. (see Genesis 50:20) The thing in itself is evil, but God can use even the most evil of human actions to bring about something good. That’s how Sovereign He is!

God knows everything – past, present and future… that’s why He can tell us the future with 100% accuracy. We call this Biblical prophecy. God can tell us the future not because He has an idea about how men will respond but because He in some sense ordains even these responses. For God to prophesy even a single event such as the birth of His Son in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), He would have to know a great many things. He would need to know who the mother of the Child is, when she would conceive, when the time of delivery was. But that’s far from all – He would need to know about the registration decree from Casar Augustus in a person’s home town, the method of transportation for Mary (a donkey), and even the speed of the donkey – the entire prophecy would fail if the donkey moved too slow, or too fast and ended up passing through Bethlehem earlier in the day of Christ’s birth… He would need to know exactly when Mary and Joseph could travel no further, and the fact that a stable would be available for them… and that Mary and Joseph would find it somehow.

God knows the end from the beginning, but His attribute of Sovereignty tells us that in some sense He ordains everything from beginning to end. When a man believes, it is because he was appointed to do so (Acts 13:48), and when a man refuses to obey the Gospel’s demands, the same thing applies (1 Peter 2:8).

The fact that God is Sovereign means that He is never just one who responds… oh He does respond when wickedness and ungodliness takes place… but it is never merely the response of a blind-sided God who had no idea things would happen as they did. No, a thousand times no! God saw the attack of the enemy long before the enemy ever thought of attacking, in fact, long before the enemy ever existed. God’s response is always full and final.

Think about the following incidents recorded for us in the Bible… each attack was personally masterminded by the devil himself, and yet all his evil plans were thwarted… why? Because God really does rule in the affairs of men:

Attack: Abel is murdered by Cain (Gen. 4:1-8) Response: The birth of Seth (Gen. 4:25)

Attack: Almost universal wickedness in Noah’s day (Gen 6:1-12) Response: The Flood – only Noah and his family left (Gen 6:13-7:24)

Attack: The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-6) Response: The Confusion of Languages (Gen. 11:7-9)

Attack: Pharoah commands all Jewish male children killed (Ex. 1:8-16, 22) Response: Believing midwives protects them (Ex. 1:17-21)

Attack: Jehoram’s muder of his 6 brothers (2 Chron 21:4) and Athaliah’s murder of Ahaziah’s son (22:10) Response: Joash is hidden by Johosheba (2 Chron. 22:11-12)

Attack: Herod commands all Jewish males under 2 killed (Matt. 2:16) Response: Joseph is told in a dream to leave for Egypt (Matt. 2:13)

Of course, many more of these kind of examples could be listed. But this should suffice to give us the comfort we need in our trials. Even in the midst of great trial and suffering God is still in charge. Not only can He work all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose, but He actually will do so (Romans 8:28).

This is the Christian’s source of comfort. Nothing in our lives is wasted… no trial, no experience, no grief, no misunderstanding, no hardship, no scorn, no betrayal, no injury, no loss, no scandal, no injustice, no deceit… no event takes place in our lives that God will not work for our good.

Scripture does not say that all things work for good for “everybody” but to those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. For the unregenerate sinner, it would be true to say that nothing that happens in their lives works for their good… not even a promotion at work, a successful surgery, an unexpected gift, or even winning the lottery… if their final destination is hell, what is the “good” of these very temporal benefits? Certainly, none of them would be seen as having worked together for their good, but these things only in fact increases their judgment. For in spite of these blessings, they did not acknowledge their Source, and come to Him for salvation. That’s quite a thought isn’t it?

Let us rest then in the arms of our Sovereign Lord – the One who rules and reigns and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). What an abiding place of rest this is.

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation – the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands – the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by world-lings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne.” – C. H. Spurgeon

Prayer In Preparation For Sunday

Pastor John Samson

It is common for us as pastors to be telling the congregation what they ought to be doing. It is oftentimes less common for an explanation to be given as to HOW to do these things. One such area is the arena of prayer. We all know that we as Christians should be people of prayer, but what causes many to stumble is a lack of knowledge as to how exactly to go about the task.

I was greatly impacted by reading a written prayer made by Tim Challies, found on his blog (www.challies.com), in preparation for a conference he was due to attend. The thought came to me that if I adjusted just one or two words, and maybe added one or two things, the prayer would be a useful tool for all of us Christians as we prepare our hearts each week for a different setting; that of Sunday worship. Here then is that suggested sample prayer, based almost word for word on the one Tim wrote. I trust many will find it useful. – John

A SAMPLE DAILY PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR SUNDAY

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor, this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority. May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us. May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak, the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday. Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives. Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted with sin. As I think about worshiping You, already I wonder how other men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. I repent of this Lord. Please, extend Your gracious forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things. Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your goodness.