Rockport Sermon

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Jesus Loves Me, this I Know!"

Some questions have been asked concerning my message on Sunday Morning, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know”, and the question of our sins and God’s anger. I want to try to make this response as brief as possible. I want to begin by affirming that, NO dear friends, God is not angry with us because of our sins. Now doesn’t that cause the believer to want to go out and sin with impunity? No, it doesn’t. The gospel makes the believer want to live a holy life. The question is, how does he do that, which is actually another message, but part of the answer is believing that what God says is true. Actually, it is very common for believers to live lives filled with guilt concerning their sins, and feel that God is continually mad, or “upset” with them. No, dear ones, God has forgiven you “all trespasses”. Isn’t He gracious? Isn’t He kind? Doesn’t that make you want to love Him more? Be patient. “He that has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” It is His love, kindness and forgiveness that excite us towards a practical living out a pure life, not His anger.
One verse that was referenced in questions about God’s anger for sin toward the believer was Gal 5:7.
Gal 5:7- Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for what ever a man sows that will he also reap.
The context of this verse has most to do with the believer doing good, especially concerning those who labor in the gospel
He is certainly not talking about the sins of a believer, for in the very next verse, the result of the wrong type of sowing is corruption, and the result of the right type of sowing is eternal life.
If anything, this verse has more of a reference to character and a hope for eternity, whether false or true.
It makes for “good preaching on sin”, to use this verse to attempt to prevent the believer from sinning, but it is simply the wrong use of scripture for a gospel preacher.
If this verse is the only ground we are going to stand on to attempt to prove that “God gets angry with his children”, than we are on shaky ground.
Spiritual warfare again sin is another subject, which always needs to be addressed. The true believer always desires to fight against sin, but the question of how that is scripturally carried on is another subject also. I would maintain that a big part of it is having our minds renewed concerning sin, the cross and the love of God. We are always to admonish one another concerning sin, but more importantly, we are to point one another to Christ. The believer is always to strive against and resist sin, but how is that accomplished? We are admonished by Paul in Romans concerning “reckoning” and “yielding” and it would pay great dividends to us to study what he says. Scott covered this beautifully in his exegesis of Romans, where the doctrine of sin is most full covered. Scott’s work on this subject is very clear.
In essence, when we understand that "We are dead, and our lives are hidden with God in Christ" Col 3:3, our theology about God's attitude towards us my get cleared up.
Another question that was raised was concerning the "discipline of God". Yes, God does discipline his children, but it always in love. God never disciplines his children in anger. (by the way, just like we should not!) His discipline is "for our good", not as a result of His being angry at us. it is simply His way of training the believer for godliness.
when I was in training for football, it was rigorous. It was often painful. It was sometimes not fun! but there was no anger or punishment involved. I was being prepared for survival! When a head to head collision came between me and some young 20 year old college football player, I wanted to be prepared. My trainers and coaches were kind to me to get me ready for those days, or I may not be walking today. God is so kind and good to discipline His children, and give them His grace in order to endure trials.
the scriptures teach us that it is God's goodness that leads us to repentance, not His wrath. that, glory to Him, was vented upon Christ, for us.
let's rejoice that we have such a loving God, who although He will pour out His wrath without mixture upon them that do not know Christ, upon His blessed children, He will lavish only grace upon grace.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Brief Response to my son, regarding Mark Driscolls' "Death by Love" and Dr. Bruce Wares' article.

Dear son,
First, let me say that Driscolls new book , "Death by Love", is an extremely valueable book. What a blessing it is to the church and to many lost souls. God bless him and Dr. Breshears for this worthy work. What I am about to say, is being said matter of factly, and I encourage you to search these things out for yourself. Should you come to a different conclusion than me, that is fine. I want to again congratulate you for your accomplishments, in particular, for your choice of reading. And this book would certainly rank in the top of the many recent releases that are a great blessing to the church. I also read, Dr Bruce Ware's article on the mentioned subject, and applaud Dr Ware for his service to Southern and to the church.
Although I respect both Mark Driscoll and Dr. Bruce Ware, I must disagree with the limited/ unlimited view of atonement that they represent. They are good men, and are of great value to the church, but on this point, I believe that although sincere, they are wrong.
Although I understand the tone of this letter to his son, the implications of are simply the historical “four point Calvinism” stand that many Baptists hold to. I personally believe in an atonement that was efficient for the elect only, although certainly sufficient in value for the entire world. This does not mean that the atonement was “potentially” a benefit in particular for every single individual in the entire world at all. This would exclude the doctrine of unconditional election according to the foreknowledge of God. In fact, His foreknowledge of the elect would be no certain foreknowledge at all.
Basically the oxymoron of a limited / unlimited atonement is an old twist of Arminianism which basically states that the elect are those who believe, whom God foreknew would believe. In other words, it is all contingent on the activating of something for man by man. No my son, Salvation is of the Lord, and neither activating of faith for salvation or for the full benefits of the atonement ring true with a Sovereign salvation.

What does Driscoll mean when he says that God “desires” the salvation of all?
Does he mean that God “wills” the salvation of all? If so, then God is not able to accomplish what He wills.

In citing 1 Timothy 4:10, Driscoll mentions Christ “dying” as the Savior of all people in a general way.
First of all, the text in question in no way refers to the death of Christ in reference to all men. Christ is indeed the only Savior and in fact the only sustainer of life and existence. He is said in Pauls’ epistle to the Colossians to uphold all things by the Word of his Power. But here in Timothy Paul clearly refers to GOD, as the Saviour of all men, and in particular, those that believe. This is because God, the creator does indeed bless both the just and the unjust with his blessings of air, rain, food, etc. All life is from God. In fact, God is the Savior of the elect, because it was His plan to save the elect. It was not His plan to save the rest.
Driscoll using the words “Jesus’ dying….” instead of “the living God, who is the Savior…” brings questions to my mind. The references here and in 2 Peter 2:1 are similar to Wares arguments, but leave out some important things.
In Timothy, the entire passage is referring to the Providence of God upon all, and especially His providence on them who would believe, i;e; the elect. It is no secret that God has his hand in a special way on those whom He has ordained to eternal life.
Clearly the reference in I Timothy has nothing whatsoever to do with either the sufficiency or the efficiency of the atonement, which Driscoll later refers to. Although he is correct in his assessment that the atonement is sufficient in its value to redeem the world, and in fact, a world of worlds, the atonement is, as he says, efficient for the elect only.
This is in fact the historical position of those who would be deemed “Calvinist”. Driscoll’s conclusion here certainly falls within the beliefs that most "Calvinists" would espouse, although I really hesitate to use that word, since my belief in election and a limited atonement had nothing to do with Calvin per se.
Again, we would be sure to emphasize that Paul’s use of the word “all” has more to do with, “NOT JUST JEWS”, as is clear in some of his other epistles, which point I would be glad to elaborate on if I have time. This, to me, is a key note in interpreting many passages in James and Hebrews also, not to mention John’s letters.
It is the same in I Timothy 2:4, where the “will of God” is misunderstood, and so the conclusion is easily drawn wrongly, that God “desires” every single individual to be saved. This would mean that God’s will could be frustrated. And of course it can’t. The Sovreign, omnipotent, and all-wise God, could not will and decree something to happen and it not happen. It is a divine impossibility. But He could will that all men, rich and poor, bond and free, Jew and Gentile, etc. would be saved. All men from every context, nation and tribe, etc. Do you see how critical this Jewish understanding of these epistles are?
The entire context of the passage here in fact is Paul’s admonition to godliness, and that those who exercise themselves thereunto, have their reward, even though suffering. The reward is in the labor itself. There is no particular intention of Paul to address atonement or its sufficiency.
Driscolls reference to “a pile of verses” though in a “letter to his son” is inadequate, because we doubt the interpretation of each verse he may refer to by someone whose bent is Arminian.
In fact, here is a quote by Calvin on this passage, who Driscoll asserts would agree with him, after citing this passage.
“Who is the Savior. {1} This is the second consolation, though it depends on the former; for the deliverance of which he speaks may be viewed as the fruit of hope. To make this more clear, it ought to be understood that this is an argument drawn from the less to the greater; for the word swthr {2} is here a general term, and denotes one who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him? Will he not take peculiar care in them? Will he not more freely pour out his bounty on them? In a word, will he not, in every respect, keep them safe to the end?

Calvin’s notes on Col 1:14 have to do with redemption and forgiveness. Surely Driscoll, in citing Calvins comments on expiation, does not think that the sins of the entire world have been covered, or expiated? well, I guess he does in some way. But, in my estimation, this is redemption and only the elect are redeemed.

Driscoll comments also on Calvins notes on Gal 5:12, citing that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, failing to mention that the text says that Paul’s desire was that some would even be emasculated, and at another time, he called curses on them that did not preach the same gospel as he.
Calvins notes in context have to do with our responsibility to glorify God above all, and that even though Christ may have died for “all men”, i.e. even those Jews whom Paul denounces, we ought to aim at the glory of God before the salvation of men. That was the force of Calvins argument on Gal 5:12

Having said this, I would not disagree that Calvin seems to lean towards a “general” redemption in some of his writings, but this is debated among scholars, and when his writings are closely looked at, it seems that Calvin understood the bent of the Jews to claim the Messiah as only theirs.
For instance, see these notes of Calvin, directly addressing the point from 1 John 2:2:
“the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.”

Yes, certainly there are universal benefits of Calvary that are apparent. Societal, our laws, our culture, etc. That is not the point. The point is that, certain summations, for instance, that those is hell are somehow “reconciled “ to God, and are no longer rebels, is contradictory to my understanding of scripture.
Those in hell are eternally tormented. What kind of reconciliation could there possibly be? What scripture does he offer that they are no longer rebels?
Wares’ and now Driscolls’ assertion on these facts are no where scripturally based. It is simply an assumption that if all things are now reconciled, that there hell is included, when Paul goes on to specifically mention all things regarding “earth and heaven”. Hell is a thing in and of itself.

Ware and Driscoll also mention their assertion that Christ died so that there might be “bona-fide” offer of the gospel. This is to assert that the offer of the gospel can not be made in “good faith” to everyone, or that it is not a sincere offer of the gospel, unless the atonement could be applied to the person who believes. Of course this is an unnecessary argument, because it is clear that “everyone who believes” is saved. Our responsibility is to preach the gospel to all men, not to save all men. That is God’s job. Our job is to preach the gospel of Christ crucified, dying and being raised for our justification. God’s job is to use His word to save those whom He gives faith. (It might help to have a good understanding also of what the Foreknowledge of God means.)

When Ware and Driscoll talk of a redemption for the entire world and an atonement only for the elect. To me, that doesn’t make sense
What kind of a salvation is a potential salvation?
These and other questions have not been sufficiently addressed by either Ware or Driscoll for my satisfaction.
There is so much more that can be said, but I hope some of these issues that I have raised will only heighten your desire to fully search these things out in scripture for yourself.
Let’s talk more about this and investigate the glories of our atonement further. Especially the fact of the substitutionary aspect which propitiated the wrath of God due us!
All my love,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Only Jesus

My wife, Amy, has always had a time sitting still. Her active mind is always buzzing about something. Even in church she tends to need to occupy herself with something as she listens and participates with the congregation. This past Sunday night as we were all celebrating Christmas together, Amy was jotting down some of the thoughts that were pouring through her brain. She shared them with our congregation just before I got up to preach. I thought they are an excellent summation of why only Jesus is worthy of all praise!

Here is what she wrote:

Only Jesus

Only Jesus can be our Great High Priest

And our sacrifice

Only Jesus can be our judge

And our advocate

Only Jesus can be born

Of his own creation

Only Jesus can be humble enough

To be highly exalted

Only Jesus can be seated at the right hand of the Father

And be with us always

Only Jesus can be the hearer of all our cries

And cry out in intercession

Only Jesus can be the alpha

And the omega

Only Jesus can be the Lion

And the lamb

Only Jesus can say “It is Finished”

And “I am completing a good work in you”

Only Jesus can be feared

And calm our every fear

Only Jesus could have nothing in his appearance that we would desire him

And be the joy of man’s desire

Only Jesus can be despised and rejected

And draw all men unto himself

Only Jesus can exist before time

And appear when the time had fully come

Only Jesus could empty himself

And be the fullness of God in bodily form

Only Jesus

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reading the Bible in 2009

One of the things our elders hope to stress this year is to see our congregation committed to reading through the Bible using R M M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan (which can be found by clicking here or, in a really nice automatic 'daily reading file in the ESV by clicking here). Below is what M'Cheyne wrote when he first introduced the plan to his congregation in 1842. I thought it was well worth posting here. - SSL

Daily Bread,
being a calendar for reading through
the Word of God in a year

by Robert Murray M'Cheyne

"Thy Word is very pure; therefore thy servant loveth it."

Robert Murray McCheyneMY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. "God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question— "If in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"

Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say like David—, "The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law." "Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of thy Word."

It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.

I am quite aware that such a plan is accompanied with many


1. Formality. We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed rule may, in some minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This is to be the peculiar sin of the last days— "Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls.
2. Self-righteousness. Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the Word, and accomplished their prescribed portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with self-complacency. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any Divine work on their soul — unpardoned, and unsanctified, and ready to perish — who spend their appointed times in secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a lie in the right hand.
3. Careless reading. Few tremble at the Word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying—, "Our soul loatheth this light bread;" and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Take heed lest that word be true of you— "Ye said, also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts."
4. A yoke too heavy to bear. Some may engage in reading with alacrity for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden grievous to be borne. They may find conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.
If there be so many dangers, why propose such a scheme at all? To this I answer, that the best things are accompanied with danger, as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the clefts of some dangerous precipice. Let us weigh


1. The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year. The Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear many of you never read the whole Bible; and yet it is all equally divine. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect." If we pass over some parts of Scripture, we shall be incomplete Christians.
2. Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.
3. Parents will have a regular subject upon which to examine their children and servants. It is much to be desired that family worship were made more instructive than it generally is. The mere reading of the chapter is often too like water split on the ground. Let it be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then the meaning and application drawn out by simple question and answer. The calendar will be helpful in this. Friends, also, when they meet, will have a subject for profitable conversation in the portions read that day. The meaning of difficult passages may be inquired from the more judicious and ripe Christians, and the fragrance of simpler Scriptures spread abroad.
4. The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding. He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on the Sabbath; and both pastor and elders will be able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house to house, which will be more readily responded to.
5. The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened. We shall be often led to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, here and elsewhere, who agree to join with us in reading these portions. We shall oftener be led to agree on earth, touching something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the same words of eternal life.

McCheyne's Daily Bible Reading Schedule.

1. The [first] column contains the day of the month. The next two columns contain the chapter to be read in the family. The two last columns contain the portions to be read in secret.
2. The head of the family should previously read over the chapter for family worship, and mark two or three of the most prominent verses, upon which he may dwell, asking a few simple questions.
3. Frequently the chapter named in the calendar for family reading might be read more suitably in secret; in which case the head of the family should intimate that it be read in private, and the chapter for secret reading may be used in the family
4. The metrical version of the Psalms should be read or sung through at least once in the year ... If three verses be sung at each diet of family worship, the whole Psalms will be sung through in the year.
5. Let the conversation at family meals often turn upon the chapter read and the psalm sung. Thus every meal will be a Sacrament, being sanctified by the Word and prayer.
6. Let our secret reading prevent the dawning of the day. Let God's voice be the first we hear in the morning. Mark two or three of the richest verses, and pray over every line and word of them. Let the marks be neatly done, never so as to abuse a copy of the Bible.
7. In meeting believers on the street or elsewhere, when an easy opportunity offers, recur to the chapters read that morning. This will be a blessed exchange for those idle words which waste the soul and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. In writing letters to those at a distance, make use of the provision that day gathered.
8. Above all, use the Word as a lamp to your feet and a light to your path — your guide in perplexity — your armor in temptation — your food in times of faintness. Hear the constant cry of the great Intercessor,

St. Peter's, Dundee, 30th Dec. 1842.

Copied by Stephen Ross for from The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. 2 vols. New York: Robert Carter, 1848-1850.

Love for Jesus

The following is from (Theodore Cuyler, "Wayside Springsfrom the Fountain of Life" 1883). I borrowed it from, a fine organization that is a treasure trove of great quotations, books and sermons from the rich heritage of our Christian past. I highly recommend it -- not just the website, but the passion producing power that flows down to us from faithful men and women in our past who faithfully served Christ. They have much to teach us.

"The love of Christ constrains us."
2 Corinthians 5:14

Love of Jesus is essential to Christianity.
No privations can starve it, and no burdens
can break it down. It is the core of all true
piety. It is the only cure of the reigning
worldliness and covetousness and fashion
, which have made such havoc in
too many churches.

There is only one way to be a steadfast
Christian--it is to get the heart so full of love
to Jesus--that the world, and the lusts of
the flesh, and the devil can get no foothold.

A true Christian life is the continual
consecration of our bodily powers, of our
energies, our affections, our resources,
and our influence--to Him who bought
us with His precious blood.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of
God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living
, holy and pleasing to God--this is
your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1