Sunday, December 31, 2006

Our Living Hope

Praise to God for a Living Hope

3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

Even during times of trial, temptation, or suffering, we know that God alone is faithful. As pastor B says, 'He is sovereign, and we can trust Him.' He is with us and He is FOR us. Jesus asks/ rebukes His disciples: "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:22-25). Their concept of God, just like mine, is sometimes too small for the circumstance. The disciples repond: "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." Yes, the creator of the universe is pleased somehow in His great mercy and grace to come to us and act on our behalf, while we are but powerless to save ourselves from sin and circumstance alike.

When the disciples called out: "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" their despair and lacking in faith was evident on one hand, and so was a very tiny mustard seed of faith as well. They cried out to Jesus. Though they displayed a very limited and constrained faith in Christ, He received them. "Such is the gracious Lord that you and I believe in and follow. Though He is disappointed in us often and though He rebukes us, He will never neglect us; He will receive us, He will bless us, He will give us peace, indeed." (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones p.147) Even during the stormy trials and tests of faith. "With this peace He gave them a still greater concept of Himself than they had had before."

The trial increases our faith, in that the next position of trial, trouble or testing should result in a fuller manifestation of faith and "bringing glory to His great and Holy name." But we also see, with the disciples, that if we be apparently too weak to even do this much to apply our faith, besieged and attacked by the devil and the world, we know we can run to Him and cry out -- "Master, Master! We are going to drown (perish)!" Because we know that He alone is faithful and full of grace and mercy. All praise, honor, and glory belong to God - the author and finisher of our faith. Amen.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Isaac Watts: Joy to the World

Our pastor shared during last Sunday morning's service the gospel in Christ, who is more Wonderful than wonderful. And within his sermon our pastor spoke of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, and his biography - here is a link to more about him. What really stuck out in my mind is how at the age of 7 - SEVEN! - Isaac Watts made an acrostic that diplayed not only his brilliance even at that young age, but also his theology - the foundational characteristic of his life:


"I" - I am a vile, polluted lump of earth
"S" - So I've continued ever since my birth
"A" - Although Jehovah, grace doth daily give me
"A" - As sure this monster, satan, will deceive me
"C" - Come therefore, Lord, from satan's claws relieve me.

"W" - Wash me in Thy blood, O Christ
"A" - And grace divine impart
"T" - Then search and try the corners of my heart
"T" - That I in all things may be fit to do
"S" - Service to Thee, and Thy praise too.

Theology renews the mind which enables the heart to sing "Joy to the world, the LORD is come" and to rejoice in His greatness.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wearing Our ID Badge: Christ's Righteous

Am I wearing my I.D. badge? Here are a couple of reminders of identity in Christ:

Rom 5:6 "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

and

1 John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Believe again

1 Tim 1:13 "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen
."

"If simply to believe and accept salvation is everything, then these New Testament Epistles would never have been needed, indeed, in a sense, you would not need the Church at all. People would just be saved and go on happily for the rest of their lives as Christians. But there is abundant evidence that this is not the case. These New Testament people had believed and had become Christian, and yet it was necessary for the Apostles Paul and Peter and John and others to write letters to them because they were in trouble one way or another." (Excerpt from the book I'm reading by D. Martin Lloyd Jones. In fact, all of these scripture references are found in Ch. 5)

"Work out your doctrine," he says, because the most basic problem in bringing up past sins is unbelief, alongside the attacks of satan. The Word of Truth is the sword, and our minds must be conformed to the doctrine of scripture. While it is true that only a Christian can say 'I am the chief of sinners,' (and because the nearer we get to God, the greater and clear our sin comes into view), in the final analysis there is but one "Chief sin" and that is unbelief.

Therefore, grading sins is wrong doctrine that fails to understand the sinfulness of sin.

Psalm 51:4 "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."

It is not a particular sin or degree of sin that matters, for if we offend in any one point, we are guilty of all. (James 2:10)

And replaying past sin or feeling condemned by past sin fails to trust in Christ's perfect righteousness, imputed to us.

1 Peter 2:24 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Jesus declares: "It is finished." (John 19:30)

Paul tells us we are "crucified with Christ," and we are one with Him. We have union with Christ. We are buried with Christ, and have risen with Christ, and have been seated in heavenly places in Christ. Romans 6:11 "..count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

One more... will I believe this, can I believe this? I must believe this ...
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, appointing me to his service.." 1 Tim 1:12

May we all rejoice in His super abounding grace and mercy that has covered our sin and made us His children. Though we were blind and lost, His grace, love, and mercy were more abundant and all-sufficient that it has all been forgiven. We are a new creation in Christ. Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

Scripture focus:
1 Tim 6:11 "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen."

Our great high priest: Better than... Jonah?!!!

Jesus the Great High Priest
Hebrews 4:14 " 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The book of Hebrews talks about Jesus, our great high priest: "greater than Moses," and "forever, in the order of Melchizedek." In our time of need, we may draw near to the perfect, eternal, wonder of wonders: Jesus and His throne of grace. Yet, for me it is strange how so often when I find myself in such times of need, I instead identify with the miserable, disobedient prophet of little faith, Jonah. He had the memory span and gratitude toward God that lasted all of about one chapter.

The redeeming truth from Jonah is Christ's faithfulness and worthiness, NOT Jonah. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson spoke during the 2006 PCRT conference about "What Jonah Learned," which of course was summarized by quoting Jon 2:9b "Salvation comes from the LORD" and "yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God." Jonah learned that despite his ingratitude and unfaithfulness, God alone is faithful, gracious, and merciful. In the NIV Jon 2:8 says: "those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." How painfully true it is to realize that great statement. Yet it is barely a beginning. Turn from the idol and turn TO the Christ!

So, in my readings I'm finding hope and grace in dwelling upon, studying in, and soaking up Jesus in the gospels, and identifying with Him, His Words, His prayers, His actions. And even the epistles of Paul, Peter, John, and James provide examples of Christ's love and faithfulness worthy to dwell upon. And all because of His great love and grace that He lavishes upon us.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas!

I'm taking off to go see Handel's Messiah performed. What an incredible chorus that is:

    And He shall reign
    Forever and ever

    King of Kings,
    For ever and ever.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    And Lord of Lords,
    Forever and ever.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!



God bless, goodnight, and may we lay hold of Christ Jesus - He is faithful and He reigns.

Scripture focus: Ephesians 2: 1-10

Ephesians 2: 1-10
By Grace Through Faith

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Repentance unto life

Herein lies the rub. Repentance. How often do I read the wretched man in Romans 7, recognize the old man creeping up and just want to jump as quickly as possible to the life of victory in Romans 8? Life by the spirit, as a blessed child of God. Oh, it's true, to be sure. But what misery and turmoil is being wrought in my mind and heart, if my will has not been submitted fully to God, to be conformed to His will and the renewal of my mind.
Repent and believe!

Westminster Confession of Faith CHAP. XV. - Of Repentance unto Life.

1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

4. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

5. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

6. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy; so, he that scandalizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or publick confession, and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended, who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.

John Calvin on Repentance and Faith

"From mortification we infer that we are not conformed to the fear of God and do not learn the rudiments of piety, unless we are violently slain by the sword of the Spirit and brought to nought. As if God had declared that for us to be reckoned among His children our common nature must die" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John McNeil, Ed., (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Vol. I, Book III, Chapter III. 5-8, pp. 597-600).

And
"Even though we have taught in part how to possess Christ, and how through it we enjoy his benefits, this would still remain obscure if we did not add an explanation of the effects we feel. With good reason, the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31). Any discussion of faith, therefore, that omitted these two topics would be barren and mutilated and well–nigh useless... Surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance. Can true repentance stand apart from faith? Not at all. But even though they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III, Chapters 1, 5, pp. 592-593, 597.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Confessions of a blog-aholic

Does anyone else have trouble with spending too much time online, reading blogs? Do you have favorites, perhaps people you know, or maybe just interesting blogs by people who you don't really know? So at what point does blog-surfing become 'obsessive?' Can it be sinful? According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, anything that we do that we don't do to the glory of God is considered sin. So that opens it wide up, right? But is that not just a little too vague to really pin down to a confessional statement of something we might lift up to God for forgiveness? Okay, how about when blogging or visiting a particular blog becomes an idol? When you would rather read someone's blog page for a daily fix than to read the Word of God or to go to God in prayer? Yep. That's got to be sin. Big, huge, ugly, nasty sin. So, today I'm confessing my sin of blog-surfing idolatry, offering it up to God, and praying 'Thy will be done.'

(Snip and edit previous quote) Add :
Quote from 'The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes,' by G.I. Williamson, pg 133:
"But how can a defiled sinner stand before that holy God who is a consuming fire? Do we not need a priest who stand between.. who can 1) remove God's wrath, and 20 absolve our own guilt and remove defilement?"
"And it is the glory of the gospel of Christ and the Reformed Confession that they inform us of the only Savior and priest who is able to do what the situation requires. He was 'made like His brethern, that He might be merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people' (Heb 2:17). By the sacrifice of Himself He removed God's wrath AND our defilement. HE ascended up on high in order to make intercession for us. For this reason we are commanded in the Word of God to acknowledge none other to be our priest. ... Therefore no sin can be removed until it is confessed unto God through Him."

Why do I keep thinking that I can do something? As if I could somehow pay for my sin or could perhaps punish myself enough or do enough penance to somehow absolve myself? IMPOSSIBLE. Look to the LORD. Confess to Him and rest upon Jesus Christ.

!!!!!!!!!! AND ! I learn to give grace to myself and others in the words of C.S. Lewis --

"the things that Laurence loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said."
"If I were Laurence I'd just say in my prayers something like this: 'Dear God, if the things I've been thinking or feeling about those books (blogs?) are things You don't like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them."

"I see men, but they look like trees, walking."

Mark 8:22-26 (ESV) Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" 24 And he looked up and said, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."

Okay, so I'm on a D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones kick. In the third chapter of his book on "Spiritual Depression," he writes about believers who are not fully discerning and who are not fully discernable as disciples. They know the truth, but they don't really believe and understand it yet. They see, but only as if they see men like trees. They don't yet perceive reality through the eyes of Christ or they are not fully engaged. Sometimes it is an area of a lack of submission to the authority of scripture, sometimes it is a lack of discipline. Overall, it amounts to knowing of God and about God, but not KNOWING GOD, truly, intimately. Certainly, I can identify with this. I know the truth of doctrine, but so often I don't really live it out.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones goes on to write that there are 2 common mistakes: 1 - to run out and proclaim: I can see, I cans see! prematurely - before we have full sight. Or 2 - to become paralyzed by the knowledge that we are not fully perceiving, to feel hopeless, and to want to give up. Wow! Do I teeter totter back and forth between these two or what?

He asks us: "Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on the Cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible."

So what does the good doctor order here?

"Come to Him, come to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, ask Him in the words of the hymn:

'Holy Spirit, Truth Divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine,
Word of God, and inward Light,
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.'

Much to ponder this evening. dw

Luke 2:34-35 & Conviction of Sin

D. Martin Lloyd Jones' writes in his classic book titled 'Spiritual Depression: Its causes and its cure' on pg. 28:

"Indeed the real trouble with the miserable Christian is that he has never been truly made miserable because of conviction of sin. He has by-passed the essential preliminary to joy, he has been assuming something that he has no right to assume."

He also goes on to quote from Luke Chapter 2 when the aged prophet Simeon said of Jesus the Christ child to His mother Mary:
34 "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

We studied this in our Bible Study group exactly two weeks ago today. And I 'so illustriously' spoke about how much this reminds me of my recent studies of Jonah -- how he sinned and fell into a pit - the belly of a great fish - but how the LORD in His great mercy spared Jonah, saved him, brought him back to his duty, and caused him to rise up and go fulfill his commission. And others at our Bible study shook their heads, yeah! That sounds right. Good analogy.

OH! But how wrong-wrong-wrong, dark-dark-dark, wicked and deceitful is the heart! What a casual tone and approach to the wretchedness and very sinfulness of sin on my part. Not that what I said was not true, but that my conviction and my attitude was not coming from true understanding or self-examination. What a process understanding is.

I don't know about anyone else but when I share what God's Word says about about sin or idolatry with others (especially at Bible study), it's almost inevitable that some heinous, crushing idol or sin pattern is soon revealed to me along with the resulting pain of wrestling with and ultimately giving it up to God, placing it on the altar and leaving it there, so that God can change my heart.

And boy oh boy is my heart one big idol factory. I'm completely unworthy before God, a complete failure and utterly condemned. (If only you knew.) That has been the lesson of these past two weeks since I spoke so boldly on sin during Bible study. I am but a wretched sinner in desparate need of a savior! (Romans 7:24)

Please dear God, do not allow me to accept this as a modus operandi any longer. Please continue to convict me of the very sinfulness of sin, purge my complacency with idolatry, so that I might truly learn and remember that it is only You oh God. You alone and nobody else. And nothing of myself could ever pay for my sins. And I could never punish myself enough to pay for it all. And that I would never, ever be able to bear the punishment of the Your holy wrath.

It is only by Christ's brutal sacrifice on the cross that sin can ever be dealt with or ever be fully paid for and justified. He paid it for me. He paid it for us. He lived the perfect, righteous life and deserved none of Your wrath. But it cost Him everything - the wages of sin is death. His death.

And what do I deserve? eternal banishment from God. But Christ took it upon Himself for me. For us. Dear LORD help my unbelief, that I might not be so glib, passing off the very essence of our salvation from sin in a few short, nonchalant sentences at Bible study? Even in this writing now, I pray Heavenly Father that you might forgive my sin and help my unbelief. Amen

Isn't it kind of ridiculous that a person who decided to call her blog "Sola Fide" (meaning Justified by Faith Alone) struggles with the most basic elements of faith? Ridiculous, yes. Unique, absolutely not. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23)

But Dr. Lloyd-Jones goes on to say: "Look at nothing and nobody but look entirely to Christ and say:
'My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu's blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust my sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu's Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.'
....
"Say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: 'It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ.'
.......

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Welcome and Welcome Back!

I guess you could call this Sola Fide 2.0, except that I'm not simply renovating and re-releasing the site. Instead, I basically want to start over. Will probably re-post some of my favorite posts from the past months that are focused on the five great "solas" of reformed faith. Also will hope to try to be a bit more focused on here theologically - for the purpose of course of giving all praise and honor and glory to the only One who deserves it - The almighty God, maker of heaven and earth.

Meanwhile, here is a restatement of the theological basis for the title of this site, as cited from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Westminster Confession of Faith XII
1. Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

2. Faith, thus recieving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

Thank you Jesus for you giving Yourself freely as the ransom for our sin.