Archive for March, 2008

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God’s promise of reality

March 28, 2008

The question surprised me at first, probably because it was asked in a seminary classroom, “how were people in the Old Testament saved?”

Salvation is only through Jesus Christ and always has been, that’s the short answer. But why?

The key is the nature and character of God. He is sovereign over all things so nothing can thwart His will or surprise Him. God is in full control of all things (Ephesians 1:11). His sovereignty ensures that nothing can interrupt or postpone God’s decision for something or anything to happen.

According to Ephesians 1:3-5, God the Father chose “before the foundation of the world” everyone He would save. Based on His sovereignty, how could anything else happen except those whom He specified for salvation will actually be saved? There is no other alternative. If God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” then how could His people not “be holy and blameless before Him”?

But God has not cloaked this entire work in secret. In the passages above He reveals it. Then He has also issued promises through which salvation comes (Romans 10:17). These promises have been declared throughout time, for example: Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”; Isaiah 44:22, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other”; and, John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”. When God determines before the foundation of the earth who will be saved and doubly ensures it by issuing faithful promises, we have no cause to doubt Him (Hebrews 6:13-20).

So, those in the Old Testament times were saved by trusting in the promises God made. When they believed His promise, they were saved, just as we are in these last days. Romans 8:29-30 gives us the culmination of our thinking – God has already chosen the saved and promised He would provide salvation. Old Testament believers trusted God to provide their salvation. We trust that God has provided our salvation through Jesus Christ. Verse 30 reads, “those whom [God] justified [God] also glorified”. God assures us here that His promise is a promise of reality. It is as solid as if justification (the moment He saved us) and glorification (when we enter heaven as perfect) happened at the same time. There is no difference between God’s promise and reality.

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To my friends the music worship leaders,

March 27, 2008

I have worshiped in several different churches and chapels during my Christian life. Admittedly I enjoy Psalms and Old Hymns most during worship. And I do recognize the good new music that is more contemporary. I think there is even a good argument for it to be a necessary part of worship.

I think the problem is that very few worship leaders are conscious of the Bible’s view of worship. Answering questions such as “What is the purpose of worship?”, “What biblical guidelines do we have for worship?”, “What is the focus of worship?” and “What is the most important part of worship?” are important when making decisions concerning the organization of the music.

I think one particularly obvious habit of worship leaders is to be a performer instead of fellow worshiper. Two things that lend themselves to this are: 1) improvisation; and, 2) removing the musical text from the congregation’s hands.

I would not be doing my job if I failed to provide at least biblical implications that conflict with these tendencies. Paul speaks of being orderly in worship in 1 Corinthians 14. He concludes with verse 33, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace”.

So when you, as worship leaders, invite the congregation to sing, it is necessary that they be given anything needed for them to join in singing so it will be organized or peaceful rather than confusing. If you have music, wouldn’t that help the people keep track of where you are and sing along? Couldn’t they follow along better if each note was not only provided but also kept to its proper length and timing? Instead of last minute changes (or at least last minute from our perspective) of where to jump in the music, why not provide a different order to begin with or explain it beforehand? Why jump to a completely different song in the middle of the one we’re singing? I am not terribly good with music. And I know these things will not make my singing better. But I would really like to worship God with you, could you help me by adding a little more order so I can sing along?

For anyone desiring to increase their understanding of biblical worship, consider the free resources here and here.

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Book Review – “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald S. Whitney

March 26, 2008

I’ve decided to add a “Book Review” category so I can recommend some of the books I read in seminary. I hope to update it frequently, even during semesters, as I start and finish new books. I’ll start with my first semester recommendation from the class ‘Personal Spiritual Disciplines’ with Dr. Whitney

“Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald S. WhitneySpiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney (NavPress, 1991). One group of things protestant Christians have lost sight of is spiritual discipline. Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and others all give practices for the followers of their false religions. If there is one things we know about Christianity, it is that God saves visibly. We are saved then expected to walk in the good works God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). This book focuses on how we can train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). These exercises are lacking and we need to devote ourselves to them again so we will be diligent while awaiting our Lord’s return (Matthew 25:13).

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Music gives insight for evangelism

March 12, 2008

“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 1:20

“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” – Romans 2:15

Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait til the judgement day comes

Now in darkness world stops turning
As you hear the bodies burning
No more warpigs have the power
And as God has struck the hour
Day of judgement, God is calling
On their knees the warpigs crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings

-“Warpigs” by Black Sabbath

The Bible verses above along with the old, but representative, song lyrics show how deeply people reflect the image of God. The group Black Sabbath can identify injustice in the oppression of people and unjust wars. The Bible verses, Romans 1:20 and 2:15, show that groups like Black Sabbath and even everyone in general are actively suppressing the truth while trying to uphold their internal drive for justice to be done. They do not want to admit that their standard for justice is deficient, that it applies to them also and that God’s wrath should justly fall on them.

Now, of course, we could have read the Bible verses and known these things were happening. Why the song lyrics? The lyrics are an illustration that we have common ground with unbelievers, like Paul did in Acts 17. There is common ground because we too know the need for justice to be done, and done perfectly by a righteous God. There is also common ground in our God-given conscience. Their conscience in our ally in evangelism. By opening with their songs and appealing to their sense of justice we can begin a conversation that delves deeply into how their lives fall short of the perfect Judge that everyone will one day face.

The difficulty is getting them to reflect on how far short they will fall when God judges them. Here are a few Bible verses you might suggest that they contemplate:

Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one”
Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes”
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

and hope for them when they realize their fallen condition:
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”