Archive for April, 2010

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Chosen…

April 9, 2010

Ephesians 1:3-14

How glorious is it that our salvation was written long ago apart from human hands or deeds.  Our hope rests not in our choosing Christ but in his choice of us as predestined children waiting to be brought into the family of God with an eye toward “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”(10)

This truth is not a cold distant reality that we observe intellectually and hope is true.  This promise is made real in the promise of the Holy Spirit, in which we have been sealed.  And it is in this sealing we find a guarantee that what we did not work to gain shall be our inheritance in the truest since of the word.

Given freely by a God who, in love, blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (3), lavished upon us in all His grace. (7) Our possession is guaranteed to the praise of his glory, what a hope we have in Him who chose us.

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Alert: Escapees from the Law… an APB for the Spirit.

April 8, 2010

Romans 8:1-39

How can we face the righteous requirements of the law? The Law condemns us in our sin and through our inherent inability to fulfill it.  Born into the flesh with a carnal mind we are placed in enmity with God, praise God though for Christ Jesus.  For in Him we have no condemnation when we walk not according to the flesh but the spirit. (1) The ministry of the spirit is not merely to provide aide but to provide life, indeed it is the spirit of life in Christ that has made us free from the law of sin and death. (2)

This Spirit represents God’s dominion over the most daunting forces we face, those of sin and death.  This Spirit is the same force by which Christ was raised from the dead defeating death and the power of sin. (11) This Spirit is one of adoption, and through that adoption the receipt of an inheritance undeserved, eternal glory with our joint heir Christ. (17)

This Spirit provides the life which is the first fruits of the ultimate redemption which is to come, a redemption longed after and groaned for by all of creation.  And while creation groans for redemption the spirit groans for creation making intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And that will is that those who are called will prosper and will with all certainty reach the glory that awaits justification.

For He who spared not His own Son, will give all these things to those he loves and calls.  With love like that what assault against us can succeed or separate us from the Lord who is both our intercession and our glory.

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Aware of Scripture… The Doctrine of Scripture with Dr. Bruce Ware

April 8, 2010

Dr. Ware is a highly esteemed theologian and author in the evangelical world. He came to Southern Seminary from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he served as Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology. Prior to this, he taught at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and at Bethel Theological Seminary. Dr. Ware has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews and, along with Thomas Schreiner, has co-edited The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will and Still Sovereign. He also has authoredGod’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open TheismGod’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance.

His passion is contagious and it is always a delight to hear him extol the applicable merits of Scripture. Biblical Training.org provides access to an excellent outline to Dr. Ware’s teaching on Systematic Theology and the Divine revelation of Scripture.  It is well worth your time to read. 

Read Here…

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A Master Sketch…

April 7, 2010

Spencer begins his work of recollections with the sentence, “This is a work of truth.”  He is referring to the fact that these stories which he is about to lay out actually happened, they were factual occurrences.  One could argue though that this book is as much about The Truth as it is about fact.  The Truth of Jesus Christ and how His gospel interacts with and arrests individuals through the faithful ministry of Spencer is at the heart of this work.

Spencer’s Approach to Evangelism

Spencer’s approach to evangelism, in the opinion of this writer, can be divided into three main characteristics.  First is his availability to entertain conversation.  This element appears to be essential in ministering the gospel.  He frequently is summoned to speak to someone on the behalf of a friend or relative; and he is always available to discuss the need a sinner has to repent and receive Christ.  Rarely if ever does he state in the book that he is too pre-occupied with something else to attend to the ministering of the gospel message.  Even when he is on his way to another engagement and briefly puts up resistance he ultimately and quickly seeks to address the need. (104)  One can see Spencer’s commitment to the gospel not in his mental grasp of concepts or even scripture but that he votes with his time and seems little distracted by things other than ministry.  Even in his ministry conversations, where it would be so easy to talk about surface matters he always moves to the core concern, “Have you given Christ your heart…?”(78)  Spencer is not distracted nor does he make excuses, as he says, “The human heart will weave an excuse for impenitence out of anything…. It makes them think they lack time, while, in fact, they only lack heart.”(68)

The second characteristic Spencer displays in his evangelism could best be termed discernment.  Throughout his work he comes across a variety of different people each with unique circumstances, and he approaches each with tact and deftness.  To those who require reasoning and intellectual debate Spencer engages in debate as in the Young Irishman (11) and Total Depravity (116).  Where people are dying or near death his approach is firm but not exploitive.  When the subjects seem unclear as to the elements of the Gospel he can offer step by step approach, as in Waiting for Conviction (69) and The Welsh Woman and her Tennant (89).  One of the most touching instances is in The Persecuted Wife (143), here Spencer ministers to a woman who desperately wants to attend church and seek after God but is threatened by her unbelieving husband.  Spencer encourages her to trust God and seek after Him not regarding the cost.  He explains to her, “He will not turn you out of the house. If he should, remember ‘Blessed are ye when men revile you…”(147)  Spencer displays faith in God and in a way that is counter to what contemporary ministry might stress, he places the highest priority not on the family but on obeying God despite the potential cost.  He is ultimately proved right in the story, and God worked things according to his purpose.

This discernment would even lead him to leave a person and allow the Spirit to convict and direct. Where we might feel compelled to continue on until a decision was made, he recognized that the Holy Spirit is a much more effective influence than any words a man can utter.  In fact, “…the very urgency and influence of the Holy Spirit consist in bringing sinners to embrace Jesus Christ.”(56)  We are not in this fight for souls alone; Spencer recognized this and relied upon it.

Each of these varied accounts displays a range of ability to deal with the diverse people one must address when one preaches the gospel, there can be no ‘one fits all’ approach.  Indeed we must, “become all things to all to all men that by all possible means (we) might save some.”(I Cor. 9:22)

The Third mark that characterized Spencer’s approach is that of Faithfulness.  Faithfulness to the message but also to those whom he preached pastured.  This trait is displayed in the overall image given of a man who spent years in the ministry and saw the fruits of those years.  One sees it, as well, in the commitment he had to return again and again to individuals as they struggled through the elements of faith. In the first account that of the Young Irishman Spencer make five visits over the course of several weeks, and saw the fruit of that labor in the eventual salvation of the man prior to his death.  Even when the first attempts are unsuccessful Spencer continues to sow, and rarely did he fail to see growth.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Strengths to Spencer’s approach to evangelism are really outgrowths from his approach.  The fact that he would take as much time as was necessary to interact, that he stayed faithful to the message and was consistent from person to person; these are real strengths.  His reliance on the Holy Spirit, in as much as he partnered with the Spirit and sought to discern the persons condition and need and address that need with the gospel.  Also that he on God’s sovereignty, once the gospel was preached it was up to God and the Spirit to convict and bring to faith.  “If anyone thinks that he has turned to God without the special aids of the Holy Spirit, it is probable that he has never turned to God at all.”(109)  One never gets the impression throughout the book that Spencer feels the weight for their conversion.  He bears the weight of delivering the message and the call to repent, but it is up to God to draw.

The weaknesses are really a matter of opinion.  Spencer lived in a time of greater biblical literacy and religious respect.  These elements were instrumental in his interactions during his life.  Today, due to failings and mistrust, Preachers must do a great deal of groundwork to gain respect of those to whom they preach.  In addition one can not assume that individuals have any knowledge of the Bible.    He would often call on women alone and un-accompanied, which certainly one would be ill-advised to do today.  He also failed to use his ministry opportunities to teach and disciple other pastors, or lay people in the art and practice of evangelism.  This particular criticism is mitigated somewhat in the publication of Sketches.

Personal Strategy

Upon reflection of Spencer’s insights, I am greatly encouraged to pursue four goals to develop my own strategy for personal evangelism.  The first is the vital importance of interaction.  It is hard to preach to those whom we don’t see and meet.  Paul admonishes us in Romans 10:14, “How will they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?”  So I must resolve to put my self in front of non-believers and pray that God will guide my meetings and place the message within me in contact with those who need the message.  Second I must resolve to know and learn more Scripture.  A page is not turned in Spencer’s work that does not have a scripture on it.  Throughout every conversation he would quote scripture in calling people to repent, and repent today.  Christ attests in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  And it is clear that hidden in the heart of Spencer was the living and abiding word of God, “able to save men’s souls.”(James 1:21)  Third, I must be willing to take the time and not allow myself to get distracted with less important matters.  Conversations take time, prayer takes time, people take patience, and I must endeavor and pray that God will remind me that the lack of time I may have to do all that I want is the same lack of time an unbeliever has to hear the message.  Time is running out for both me and for the lost, and whatever I can construct to take up my time matters little against a souls need to hear the gospel.  That is a convicting sentence but none the less true.  Finally I must have faith.  A Faith that God will effectively call those whom he knows and those whom he has predestined.  Again Paul instructs in Romans 8:29-30, “For whom He foreknew, he also predestined…and whom he predestined these he also called, and whom He called He justified, and whom He justified He also Glorified.”  I must trust that I am to preach and God is to call, and justify and glorify as he has promised to do.  It is easy to take the responsibility on one’s self and rely on one’s abilities or skills.  To be effective, however, one must rely solely on God and relies that the very faith I profess and the very faith I possess is in itself a gift; a gift which came by a shear act of grace.

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From Whence Cometh our Help…

April 6, 2010

John 15:18-16:15

Christ chose us, He appointed each of us to go and bear fruit.  This is a mission that can be and is fraught with difficulties.  If we abide in Him, as He does in us we will experience the hatred that the world expresses toward him.   What is so glorious is that we serve a Lord and are loved by a God who asks us to abide in His love.

This is a sovereign God who informs us in these passages of John’s gospel that he knows the future and has the future firmly in hand.  So He can simultaneously call us to work and acknowledge that His very call will come with a price and with consequences. (Vs2)  This consequence however will not be faced in isolation.  He who calls, gives an answer to the rejection His “called” must face, this answer comes in the form of a helper.  This Helper (the Spirit) will be from God (vs26) and will quench the sorrow felt by those who mourn the absent savior who has gone on to be with the Father (vs5-7).

The mission we are called to accomplish will be done through the Spirit’s faithful ministry in our lives enabling us to accomplish that which could not do under our own authority.  He will “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.”(8)  While we, from God, seek to offer God service apart from the spirit we end up “killing” his servants and throwing them out of assembly only to learn that “we have not known the Father.”(2-3) However with the Spirit we are led to all truth, and through Him glorify the Father by receiving that which has been given to the Spirit by the Son.  Such help we cannot do without.

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Some Meditations to Receive and Replenish…From the well that never runs dry.

April 6, 2010

This week I will publish three short meditations on passages of Scripture. May they provide encouragement not only in their content but in the indispensable value of their subject and source.