Archive for the ‘Purpose – Vision – Mission – Beliefs’ Category

Looking Forward to RUF

Lord willing, Bradford and Kristina Green will be moving to Conway to begin RUF in a matter of months. There are a number of reasons that I am (and you should be too) very excited about this, but two are at the forefront.

First, having hung out with Bradford and Kristina, I have found them to be exceptionally gracious people who are excited about Jesus and have a desire to see college students walking by faith in Christ, and I like hanging around folks like that. Also, and not totally unrelated, anyone you can lose your cookies in front of and still have a good time with is good people in my book.

Second, RUF has a robust theology which has not redefined or ignored or completely jettisoned its ecclesiology. Dr. Russell Moore has written a very good article on this topic. You can read that article here, and I encourage you to do so.

Please join me in prayer for Bradford and Kristina. Over the next few months, they will both graduate from seminary, Bradford will take written and oral ordination exams, they will attend RUF training, they will move from Charlotte, NC to Conway, AR, and they will be working to raise a lot of money. I am sure there are lots of other things they will be doing as well, but that list is more than enough to keep life interesting.

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Thinking about Corporate Worship

In the church world (and perhaps especially among the reformed), the quickest way to remove grace from a conversation is to start talking about corporate worship – what we should and shouldn’t do, what styles are godly and ungodly, who the worship service is for, etc., etc., etc. Here are three blog posts (1, 2, 3) dealing with various aspects of the conversation – as you can see, grace is not always what comes to mind.

Corporate worship is something that we need to be be thinking and talking about, and it is not just the preachers and musicians that need to be talking about it. Corporate worship is necessarily something that we should all be involved in, therefore we all need to be thinking and talking about it. I would add, there is a specific aspect that we need to be thinking and talking about and that is the why aspect. Why do we come together and worship? Why do we do what we do? I am not saying this is the most fundamental question in the conversation necessarily, but I do think it is a very important one. How we answer this question directly impacts most of the other conversations and attitudes we have regarding corporate worship.

So, my challenge to you is to think biblically about why we worship? I say think biblically, to keep us all from taking our own personal reasons for why we worship and making them absolute. It may be that we come to the gathering for some sub-biblical reason. It may be that we need to be challenged in our attitudes and motivations toward worship. Perhaps a good place to begin our thinking on this would be the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134. These were the songs that the Hebrew people sang as they made their way to the temple to worship their God. Spend some time reading and meditating on these wonderful Psalms and be encouraged that we have a God worthy of our worship.

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Sesame Street and Evangelism

A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of evangelism. How do we share the gospel? With whom do we share the gospel? Do we need programs, services, classes, formulae, tracts? What do we say? Should we get to know people first, or just go in cold-turkey? Can we share the gospel without offending people? In a lot of ways, I think our attempts to answer many of these questions have made this all harder than it is. As far as I can tell, in Scripture, there are always two things present when evangelism takes place: people and the gospel.

Sometimes the the people have known each other a long time and have interacted with one another and the gospel over a long period of time – such was the case with Timothy and his family (1 Timothy 1.5, 3.14-15).

Sometimes the relationship is brand new – such was the case with Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8).

Sometimes the proclamation of the gospel is in conversation – such was the case with Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3).

Sometimes the proclamation of the gospel is in formal preaching – such was the case with Saul in the synagogues (Acts 9).

Sometimes people understood the gospel and believed in Jesus – such was the case with Lydia (Acts 16).

Sometimes the gospel was utterly rejected – such was the case with Paul in Lystra (Acts 14).

Sometimes the gospel is proclaimed publicly and wonderfully contextualized in response to some cultural phenomenon – such was the case in Athens (Acts 17).

Sometimes the proclamation of the gospel isn’t “engaging” enough to keep people awake (and they fall out of a window and die, just saying) – such was the case with Eutychus (Acts 20).

Sometimes the proclamation of the gospel is somewhat confrontational – such was the case with Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2).

Throughout Scripture, there are all types of circumstantial issues surrounding evangelism, but as we can see, two things are always present: people and the gospel. A lot of time and energy has been spent  studying, analyzing, and systematizing the various contextual issues we find in Scripture surrounding evangelism, and our efforts to grapple with these realities has often overshadowed the non-contextual issues of people and the gospel.

So where do we start? Find someone and tell them the story of Jesus: who he was, why he came, what he did, etc. etc. But who? Well, here’s an idea.


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1 Corinthians 1.18-2.5 – The Word of the Cross = Folly = The Power of God

1Cor. 1:18   For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  19 For it is written,
     “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
        and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

1Cor. 1:20   Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Cor. 1:26   For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1Cor. 2:1   And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 

In 1 Corinthians 1.17, Paul made the point that he didn’t preach with eloquent words of wisdom because he did not want to empty the cross of its power. Does this mean that Paul’s sermons were incoherent and the Spirit just kind of magically worked in people despite his acting a fool? Of course not. Paul was making the point that trying to handle the gospel as the eloquent wisdom of the popular wisdom teachers in Corinth handled their teaching would be to empty the cross of its power. In 1.18-2.5 Paul builds his argument for why it is the case that relying on human wisdom empties the cross of its power.

Paul sums up his argument in 1 Corinthians 1.18. The same “word of the cross” is viewed very differently by two different groups. Those who are being saved know the word of the cross to be the power of God. Those who are perishing see the same word of the cross as foolishness. One group says the gospel is the one and only message by which man can be saved from the eternal wrath and curse of God. The other group says the gospel is a ridiculous and silly proposition. From this point, Paul lays out how the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God are so fundamentally different that through his own wisdom, man cannot know God and he will judge the gospel to be foolishness. Therefore, forcing the gospel into the mold of human wisdom is to empty the cross of its power.

Paul continues his argument along two very practical lines. First, he reminds the Corinthians that they, as a general rule, were not called because they were impressive by the world’s standards. Second, he reminds the Corinthians that when he was with them he didn’t preach as their wisdom teachers taught. When Paul came to Corinth he preached Christ and him crucified. In fact, if we study Paul’s ministry we find that his whole church planting strategy can generally be summed up in five steps: 1. go where the Spirit leads, 2. preach the gospel in the synagogue (if there is one), 3. when rejected by the Jews go to the Gentiles in town, 4. if they believe in Jesus stay for a little bit and teach and preach some more, 5. if they try to kill you go somewhere else and start over.

In an age when church can accurately be thought of and described in the terms of an industry – with all sorts of sub-industries like church-growth, church-planting, and church-revitalization – whose principles and practices are often nothing more than the wisdom of business consultants baptized, translated into Christianese, and applied to the church, Paul’s message is needed and his strategy is refreshing. Such strategies will certainly get a group of people together, but if we are interested in seeing the church grow and not simply growing larger and larger groups of people who like sing in public, then we would do well to remember that the proclamation of the word of the Cross, however foolish it may seem, is the only biblical means.

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Westminster Wednesday #8

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

God has designed the world for a particular purpose, his own glory. The Westminster Divines stated this clearly in WSC #7. “What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” WSC #8 begins to answer how God carries out his decrees with a general two-fold answer – the works of creation and the works of providence. This answer places all things under God’s sovereign care.

God is responsible not only  for actually creating the heavens and earth, but also for continually holding all things together for the purpose of carrying out his decrees. Genesis begins with the story of God creating all things out of nothing and ends with one of the hallmark stories of God’s providence, the story of Joseph. God’s providence is seen clearly in the life of Joseph, the favored son who was sold into slavery by his brothers, endured an unjust imprisonment, and rose to a position of authority in Egypt in order to provide for his family and welcome them into Egypt where they would dwell as slaves for 400 years in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. At the death of their father, Jacob, Joseph’s brothers got nervous, apparently thinking Joseph may now, in the absence of their father, deal harshly with them as they had with him. However, Joseph comforts his brothers saying, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50.19-20, ESV). Paul also lays out this idea of God sovereignly carrying out his decrees in the works of creation and providence when he writes of Jesus, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1.16-17, ESV).

The true and living God, did not inherit a broken world that he had to set about repairing. Neither did the true and living God of Scripture merely wind the world up like a big top and then step away once it was spinning. Our God is both transcendent, standing outside of his creation, and immanent, intimately involved in his creation. In the creation of the world God was at work to execute his decrees for his glory. Likewise, in all that we face, God is at work to execute his decrees for his glory.

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Why and How Christians Should Engage Popular Culture – Ted Turnau

Here is another great post that I didn’t write. I found it through Justin Taylor’s blog at the Gospel Coalition, which led me to a blog, Against Heresies, written by a Welsh minster named Martin Downes, which led me to the actual article published in the online (and apparently print) magazine published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales. Without further ado, read and consider a very helpful article.

On being as wise as serpents

Published by Ted Turnau

on October 1, 2010

in Christian Living and Sept/Oct 2010

Why and how Christians should engage popular culture

One of the issues that has perennially dogged the Christian church is the issue of how to relate to the culture that surrounds us, especially popular culture. Are we to separate from it, in order to preserve our purity? Or should we go along with the flow, so we can better relate to those in the culture. Both options have their strong points – maintaining purity is essential, as is relating to those who have no place for Christ in their lives. But both miss the mark, biblically speaking. The Bible supports neither a knee-jerk rejection of culture, nor an uncritical acceptance of it. We are to be both as  wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16), both engaged with our culture and distinctive from it. It could hardly be otherwise. If the people we seek are immersed in the surrounding culture, in its worldview and worship, then obviously we must understand that culture if we are to speak to the concerns of their hearts. But just as obviously, we cannot simply uncritically imbibe the surrounding culture so that we blend in, chameleon-like. We cannot simply share their system of life and worship, for we would have nothing distinctive to offer. How do we maintain this balance? We must intentionally and critically engage the surrounding culture, especially culture that has the widest impact: popular culture.  Here are a few practical points on Christian engagement of popular culture.

Whatever else popular culture is, it is not trivial, because it is an expression of faith and worship.

Not too long ago, I watched Andrea Arnold’s gritty estate-drama Fish Tank (2009). The lead character, the young, frustrated Mia, lives for hip-hop dancing. Her life is infused with its rhythms, its lyrics of urban despair. In a sense, her dance training is a form of worship, her grasping at salvation. It is the same with all popular culture: they are all, ultimately, forms of worship. We need to see them as expressions of non-Christian faiths, non-Christian worldviews. Popular culture is, in this sense, like a mission field in your own home town.

Not all popular culture is equally meaningful.

Even though popular culture is not trivial (it represents an alternate form of worship and belief), some pieces of popular culture are more worthy of attention than others. Much popular culture can be ephemeral, like bubbles in a can of soda. But there are other pieces that have real depth, real staying power. If you find keeping up with popular culture too much, find a few artists working in popular culture who have the ability to really tap into the spirit of the age. Thom Yorke of the band Radiohead is one such, as is the television writer/producer Joss Whedon (creator of various sci-fi/fantasy series), or David Simon (creator of The Wire). Pay attention to the musicians, writers, and directors who make a difference. These are the ones who produce works of depth and meaning. They could be called ‘cultural leaders’. They lay paths that the rest of the culture follows.

Not every piece of popular culture is appropriate for engagement.

If we are to be wise as serpents and remain innocent as doves, we need to be careful not to put ourselves (or our children) in the path of temptation. Hard and fast rules are not typically helpful here. Rather, we need to know the idols of the heart that we ourselves are attracted to, where we are weak, territory that ought to remain off-limits for us. We also need to think through issues such as age-appropriateness, which will be different for different children. It is important to engage popular culture, but we must do so without compromising our walk with the Lord.

Popular culture works by creating imaginative landscapes for us to inhabit.

Popular culture works not by blurting out a message, but through appealing to the imagination. A television show does not simply convey a message, such as ‘Life is meaningless, so have all the fun you can while you can’. Rather, it tells a story in which someone discovers the ‘truth’ of that message; it tells it in a style that underlines that message, and it invites us along for the journey. Popular culture works indirectly, suggestively, not like a slogan at a political rally, but like a poem or a song. It draws you in and gets under your skin. Therefore, you must be intentional in your approach to popular culture so that you understand its effects on the imagination (including the imaginations of your friends and neighbours).

When thinking about a piece of popular culture, it pays to know the tricks of the trade.

Engaging popular culture means exploring the imaginative world, exploring the details of the stories it tells, the styles that it exhibits or fashions for us. That means you should try to understand how popular cultural producers do what they do. If you are considering a movie, think about things such as lighting, camera angle, shot selection, music, and so forth. If you are thinking about a song, pay attention to chords, rhythm, genre, instrumentation, as well as the lyrics. By paying attention to these details, you become more familiar with the imaginative landscape that the popular work invites you to inhabit.

Every piece of popular culture is a complicated mixture of grace and idolatry.

There is no piece of popular culture so banal or twisted that it does not contain some glimpse of God’s grace. And there is no piece of popular culture so pure and profound that it does not contain an invitation to idolatry. Popular culture appeals to non-Christians for a reason, namely, they sense some of God’s beauty, power and goodness in it. This is what theologians call ‘common grace’ – fragments of grace that God spreads to everyone – even those who will never come to believe. As Paul says in Acts, these gifts of God are ‘testimony’ to God’s being and character (see Acts 14:17). Popular culture contains such ‘fragments of grace’ woven into the very fabric of the popular cultural song, movie, television show, book, etc. But in non-Christian popular culture, these fragments of grace are bent to serve false gods. In fact, the idols presented in popular culture become persuasive for non-Christians (and sometimes Christians) precisely because of the attractiveness of those glimpses of God’s grace.

For example, James Cameron’s summer blockbuster Avatar (2009) won accolades for its stunning visual effects, and rightly so. The digital artistry created a beautiful and fascinating alien world filled with realistic and delightful creatures. It served to remind us of the real and delightful creatures God has made. In this way, the film served as a reflection of God’s creative artistry, and ultimately, the beauty and power of God Himself. But the film bends that fragment of grace into the service of pagan nature worship (the nature deity ‘Eywa’). Likewise, all meaningful and attractive popular culture succeeds by drawing its audience in with such reflections of God’s beauty, while putting those grace fragments into service to another god.

Think carefully about how to undermine the idol, and how the gospel applies to the piece of popular culture you’re sharing with friends.

Popular culture often uses ‘grace fragments’ to steer the imagination towards an idol. Think of ways that the idol shows itself to be inadequate and false, and how the Christian worldview and the riches of the gospel offer a better alternative.

Look for occasions where you can experience popular culture together with friends and family (both Christian and non-Christian).

My wife and I host movie discussion nights for my students every fortnight. You may not want to do something so formal, but you should seek out opportunities to experience popular culture together with people you care about. Listen to the music your children listen to. Go see a movie with friends. Invite friends over for dinner and a few episodes of your favourite television series on DVD. Open up your homes and your lives to be shared with family, friends and neighbours.

If we carefully consider the popular culture that surrounds us, we can develop biblical wisdom that neither dismisses it nor blindly accepts it. Such a wisdom that is ‘in the world, but not of the world’ can be very attractive to non-Christians who need Christ, but cannot see what difference He can make. By engaging popular culture, we can speak of Christ in a language familiar to them. And that can make all the difference.

Ted Turnau is a visiting lecturer at WEST.

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What do the parties that make up the global church have to learn from each other?

Dr. Derek Thomas and Rev. Jeremy Smith sat down with Dr. Ligon Duncan to talk about the recent Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa. The interview is a brief discussion, but it provides a helpful take on how the various churches and denominations that make up the  global church can and should benefit from one another as we work for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the Gospel.

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International Burn a Koran Day? What Exactly is the Message?

If you have watched the news at all in the last few days, you have probably come across the story of Rev. Terry Jones and the Florida church preparing to celebrate “International Burn a Koran Day.” Apparently, this is a holiday established by the Dove World Outreach Center to commemorate 9/11 and to publicly announce their disgust with radical Islam.

The question that I have about this whole issue is this, “What is your message?” Rev. Jones, the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center answers, “Our 9/11 protest is to send a clear message to the radical element of Islam that we will not tolerate that in America.” Here’s the problem I have with Mr. Jones answer – it is not the gospel. The church’s job is not to announce a supposedly American disdain for radical Islam. The church’s job is to announce the good news of Jesus Christ.

As I have thought through this issue it seems that one of the fundamental problems is a confusion, or perhaps a conflation, of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of America. When preachers confuse these two kingdoms, we get confused about our goal. Jesus Christ did not die to build an earthly kingdom, a better America. Jesus came to Earth as a man, lived perfectly, died, rose, and ascended in order to establish his kingdom and populate it with his people. When Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand, he spoke of the heavenly kingdom, the kingdom over which he reigns.

If our goal is to work for the expansion of the Kingdom of God, it is necessary that we come to grips with a issues.

1. Neither America nor Israel (nor any other nation for that matter) are to be equated or confused with the Kingdom of God.

2. The kingdom we are working to build determines our method of building.

3. The Kingdom of God will only be built through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When ministers and churches replace working for the expansion of the Kingdom of God with working for the security of a kingdom of men, we are guilty of idolatry. We have ceased to rest in the hope and future that are certain in Jesus Christ and are working to establish our own security on Earth. In essence, we have moved back to Babel and started building another tower.

Nevertheless some will object, “But they burned religious books in the Bible! Haven’t you read Acts 19?” Yes, I have, and yes, they did. However, they were burning their own books after hearing the gospel and converting to Christianity. Tony Reinke, who I know almost nothing about, has a great post dealing with this exact issue. You can read it here. He makes six point about the book burning in Acts 19.

1. The Ephesian people burned their own books.

2. No Christian leader encouraged the book burning.

3. The books posed no threat to the gospel.

4. God’s display of power convinced the people that their books were worthless.

5. The book burning was a display of godly sorrow.

6. The burning illustrated the victory of the gospel.

As a church, our job is to work for the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the Good News that Jesus Christ came to save his people from their sins. May we be faithful with this message.

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Pursuing Cultural Relevance as a Church

As a church planter I do a lot of thinking about how to reach the community in which I am seeking to plant a church. To be clear, I think church planters, pastors, sessions, congregations, and individuals should be engaged in such thought and conversation with one another. Such thinking is pretty easily defended from a biblical perspective. Jesus talks about not throwing pearls before swine in Matthew 7, and he instructs his disciples in how to proceed with their work in Matthew 10. Clearly, Paul has given some thought to his missionary journeys as evidenced by the fact that he is planning and desiring to visit Rome.

However, I must be extremely cautious when thinking about such issues. While I may begin the thought process desiring intelligibility (making sure that I am clearly communicating the gospel to the folks I am working with), it is all too easy for my flesh to get involved and to begin to think about how to make the gospel relevant (downplaying certain aspects of the gospel and emphasizing others in order to make the gospel more immediately accessible to the folks I am working with). The church has struggled, and in my opinion often lost this battle, as she has tried to work through ministering within the business-minded and results-driven culture of America.

Recently, I have had to think through some of these issues again, and the same struggles arose in me. Therefore, the quote that my wife showed me the other day was incredibly convicting and refreshing. Donald Miller writes,

A friend of mine, a young pastor who recently started a church, talks to me from time to time about the new face of church in America–about the postmodern church. He says the new church will be different from the old one, that we will be relevant to culture and the human struggle. I don’t think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool Web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, p111).

So, the question I must repeatedly ask myself is this, “What am I teaching the people to be passionate about–meeting in a bar, being a downtown church, having great music, being reformed, asking hard questions, amassing theological knowledge, etc., etc., etc., or the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Now I know some of these things may be the outflow of a genuine excitement about the gospel, but all of these things can be pursued in place of the gospel. Only the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Nothing else is. I have heard Charles Spurgeon quoted as saying, “If you win them with a carnival, you will have to keep them with a carnival.” The bottom line is this, if someone “believes the gospel” because of a Web site or great music, then I must ask some hard questions because they might have faith in a Web site or song leader. If someone “believes the gospel” because of me, the church, something I do for them, or something the church does for them, then I must ask some hard questions because they might have faith in me or the church. The problem with teaching people to be passionate about something other than Christ is that when that Web site crashes, that song leader moves on, I fail them, or the church changes directions, then so does that person’s hope and security. My prayer is that I will be a pastor and we will be a church who are passionate about one thing, Jesus Christ–crucified and resurrected.

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Westminster Wednesday – WSC #7

What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Often times, among armchair theologians, discussions on the decrees of God quickly turn to the specific order of the decrees. We like to do this because we get to use big words like infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and amyraldism. However, the Westminster Divines, those men who had a hand in writing the Westminster Standards, displayed far more wisdom and restraint in dealing with this grand subject. They simply sought to define what they were talking about. Five points can be developed from the Divines answer to WSC #7.

First, the decrees of God are his eternal purpose. Each of the last three words could be emphasized to bring out various issues. The decrees of God are HIS eternal purpose. The decrees of God are not my purpose, or yours, He is the one at work. The decrees of God are his ETERNAL purpose. As much as we understand that God is eternal, so his decrees are eternal. The decrees of God are his eternal PURPOSE. The decrees of God are neither his eternal slip-up nor his eternal reaction.

Second, the decrees of God are according to his will. In other words, God was not strong-armed into decreeing something. When we couple this with the first statement we are able to take comfort in all things knowing that while we may be surprised, God is not surprised or taken aback by our present situation. Rather, it is his purpose and according to his will.

Third, the decrees of God are for his glory. God is single-minded in his pursuit of his own glory, and he should be. After all, if there were something or someone other than God more worthy of being glorified then God would not be ultimate.

Fourth, the decrees of God are prior to the things decreed. God foreordained. Just to be clear, that means that God ordained it (whatever it is) before it actually was. This seems obvious, but alas, there are numerous theological attempts to hijack the plain meaning of foreordination. The argument generally goes like this. God is outside of time, so he looked down and saw what was going to happen then went back and foreordained it. The problem with this idea, beyond it being a man-centered attempt to put a leash on God so we can walk him around like a puppy dog in order to impress our more religiously sensitive friends is as follows. If God saw what was going to happen without his ordaining it to happen first then it doesn’t really matter what he decrees because it is only a reaction to our actions. In other words, if this is the case, God is a patsy unworthy of being glorified.

Fifth, the decrees of God encompass everything that is. God foreordained “whatsoever comes to pass.” Let that soak in. When this last phrase is considered along with the rest of the Divines answer to question #7 we being to understand why the Psalmist wrote Psalm 46 in which we are encouraged to “Be still, and know that I am God.” His God is absolutely in control. Here is the deal. Whatever situation you are currently in, God foreordained that situation for his glory according to his will as part of his eternal purpose. In other words, God has it under control. Go ahead, pick a situation, this applies. We can rejoice in hard circumstances and be humble in wonderful circumstances precisely because “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Now some will cry foul at this doctrine saying, “That’s not biblical! That goes against the free will of man! That offends every rational, autonomous sensibility in man! You only believe that because you are a Calvinist!” We will work backwards through these objections.

“You only believe that because you are a Calvinist!” Perhaps, but if I answer the first objection then it very well may be the case that I am a Calvinist because I, along with Calvin, believe the Bible.

“That offends every rational, autonomous sensibility in man!” Which is exactly why so many people left Jesus when he taught the same thing as recorded in John 6.

“That goes against the free will of man!” You are partially correct. This goes against your understanding of the free will of man. However, if I answer the first objection this is your problem not mine.

“That’s not biblical!” – Well…

Gen. 1:1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Deut. 30:1“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.

Job 38:1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Psa. 33:10The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Is. 14:24The LORD of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”
This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?

Is. 45:5I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

John 6:35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For 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.” 41So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught  at Capernaum. 60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Acts 2:22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Rom. 9:6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath  prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called  ‘sons of the living God.’”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Rom. 11:33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Eph. 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Eph. 1:11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

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