Merry Christmas, Fearing God

Posted: December 26, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

“I think when I meet God one day, the first thing he will say to me is: you don’t take me seriously at all. You have no idea how to fear me” – Francis Chan

 

Nominalism and complacency is so rampant in the Christian church today. We have talked so much about the love of God that it doesn’t even mean anything to us. Before I was a Christian, I was totally unaffected by the thought that God loves me. God loves me; so what? What difference does it make? The love of God can only hit us when we come to an understanding of who we are, and who God is.

 

We can complacently sin, presuming that God would simply forgive us. We live our lives completely devoid of prayer and worship; we put church life in a totally seperate box and think that we can live our lives in different compartments. We come on a sunday morning as a mere obligation, performed in such a perfunctory manner. We live our lives thinking that we are invincible, and when something tragic happens, when something bad happens; we complain.

 

We are in a constant need of reminders. God had made us. We are His. He is Lord, and without Him, we are nothing. God is holy, and being holy means that he is completely other. He is a cut above the rest, he is that which is completely alien to us. He is the standard of perfection, without a single stain in sight. He will not tolerate, he cannot tolerate a single act of sin, for it is that which is against His nature. And we humans are by nature afraid of what is alien to us.

 

The penalty for sin, a single sin, is death. Look unto the ten commandments, and feel your whole body tremble. How many times have we broken these commandments. Haven’t killed anyone? Christ says that the mere thought of hate is equivalent to killing them. Committed adultery? Christ says that the mere lusting after a woman is sin. If we take this seriously, at all, then we should have perished, vaporized from existence and thrown into eternal condemnation a hundred times over in a single day. I’m afraid that words cannot ever come close to fully express the horrifying nature of the wrath of God that reigns in hell. Think. The very same power that sustains and upholds the universe will be the same power that inflicts suffering upon those down there. My description makes His wrath much too light. We truly have gotten so used to His mercy that when justice is done we get shocked. We cannot take sin lightly. Indeed, we ought never to.

 

Christmas is coming, Christians, but if we have ever thought that Christ was actually born on Christmas day then we are foolishly wrong. Furthermore, if you are a Christian who never goes to church except for Christmas day then you are a fool who spits God in the face, and idolizing a day, instead of truly worshiping the true God. Christmas might be the day where we ponder upon the birth of Christ, but that little baby in a cute little cradle grew up, was beaten, tortured and nailed on a Cross because of our sin. We should never limit the worship of God to a single day of the year. The reverence for God and the awe that we might have for Christ on Christmas day should be the very same reverence and awe that we have for Him every day.

 

Ultimately, without Christ, man ought to fear God the same way a thief fears a cop. We have broken his commandments, we have disobeyed. We have raised our fists against the Creator through whom all things came to be. We have kicked against the Sustainer of the universe and the very molecules that make up our body. Wake up, O Christian, and smell the fire that could have been your eternal destiny. Open your eyes, Christian, and see the red that has made you clean; the blood that Christ has spilled on the Cross for our sake.

 

If we can get how deserving we are of death, and how Christ layed down His life for such a great sinner as me; as us, how can we, ever, take His name in vain? How can we come to church with a mere sense of duty and without a sense of humility, joyful reverence and fear? How can we live our lives in utter complacency? How can we neglect such a great Treasure and Grace? How can we not take God seriously?

 

Let’s think about it, and let’s actually have a merry Christmas for the right reasons.

 

Why The Calvinist/Arminian Debate is Important

Posted: October 11, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

1. To be a Christian means we must seek to understand all that the bible has to say in the best possible way, especially those things that are so clearly taught. Predestination is one of those things – therefore it is important that we hold to some sort of understanding of predestination, and the right understanding is what we must aim for.

 

2. God’s sovereignty hangs on it. Does God ever have a plan B? Is Jesus Christ THE plan from the very beginning or was he a back-up plan that God had when man sinned “against his will”? Does God ever fail or does He always ultimately get what He wants? Does God prioritize His glory first or does He prioritize man’s salvation and their free will?

 

3. God’s glory – the question as to how God glorifies Himself is at stake. Does God glorify himself through salvation alone or does he glorify himself in the just damnation of sinners? If God’s glory the manifestation of His attributes, which part of His attributes would we not have seen had He not allowed sin to come into the world from the beginning? If God’s glory diminished depending upon what we do?

 

4. God’s love. Does God love His elect conditionally or unconditionally? Is the love that He has for man conditioned upon what man does? or is the love that He has for man completely from His sovereign freedom? We must ask why God loves us. Does He love us because we chose Him, or do we choose Him because He first chose to love us.

 

5. An understanding of man’s sinful nature is at stake. Is man so sinful that he cannot even choose God or is man “not that bad” and can choose God? If no man can choose God, if every man are so depraved that they cannot, and do not ever want to seek God apart from God’s sovereign election, then there is no such thing as a non-believing “seeker”. Therefore it is a horrid idea to advocate anything that is “seeker-sensitive” for it is the idea that a church must make itself attractive to a people group that does not exist.

 

6. Evangelism depends on it. Without God’s sovereign election/ predestination of Christians, evangelism would be pointless. For it would make conversion/ regeneration dependent upon the ability of the evangelizer and the willingness to change by the one being evangelized to – rather than conversion depending upon the sole power of God. Without God’s sovereign work in a man’s heart, conversion/regeneration/being born-again is absolutely impossible. Becoming a Christian is a miracle, not a mere change of mind.

 

7. An understanding of WHY God saved you. Did God save you because He wanted to or because you wanted to save yourself? Does God save you out of grace or was He obligated to save you because you first chose Him? Did your ability to become a Christian come from God’s grace or did God’s grace come to you because of your ability to become a Christian?

 

8. Eternal Security. Is God strong enough to keep His elect or can we lose our salvation? Does our willingness to stay with God depend on us or with Him?

 

9. The Success of Jesus’ atonement. If Jesus died for all men without exception then with so many already in hell we would have to conclude He failed miserably. + without God’s sovereign election no one would have the desire to believe in the Cross/ Jesus at all.

 

10. Humility. Knowing whether or not your salvation was primarily caused by God, solely a work of God, and not by your choice determines and demands that we greatly humble ourselves. The only difference between the Christian and the non-christian is not his will to choose God, but simply grace alone.

 

11. God’s holiness. How does God feel about sin? Can a holy God really be holy without the manifestation of His wrath?

 

12. Finally, the GOSPEL is at stake. If God did not predestined the Cross, the sins of the gentiles, jews, herod and pilate just as Acts 4:27-29 said He did, the Cross would have never happened, and if it did happen it would have merely been one “good” accident that God had no part of.

 

Conclusion: VERY important.

Twitter, Facebook, and a few Theologians

Posted: September 7, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

Hebrews 5:13-6:3 (New International Version)

13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6

1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.



John Calvin ran away from the persecution of the Catholic Church as a vinedresser. After finding shelter in Geneva, he spent his life preaching, teaching and writing all dedicated to the Word of God. He wrote the magnificient 1500+ pages Institutes as an attempt to show the waywardness of the Catholic Church to the king, wrote commentaries on almost every book of the Bible, and many other tracts and letters. He suffered under a lot of diseases but fatigue never let him stop working. When his friends told him to slow down or stop he would respond by saying “If God were to come down today, would he find me idle?”. He would even preach or teach from his bed when he didnt have enough energy to stand. His definition of leisure was reading and writing. All his work was handwritten.

Jonathan Edwards would make sure he didnt eat too much so that he would not get drowsy so that he could remain fully focus on his writings and study. Now that’s dedication!

Charles Spurgeon would spend long hours meditating on small portions of Scripture every day.

Back in his day, William Shakespeare’s plays would be enjoyed by the poor and uneducated who were homeless. Now we strain to understand them in college.

C.S Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” started out as a radio talk before it was printed as a book. Now many complain of it being too complicated.

I often wonder what was the difference between us and them. It seems that somewhere in between we have lost the ability to think well. The main medium of communication in their days was reading and writing, I believe that something is seriously wrong because we have traded that with Twitter, youtube and facebook. We have succumbed to communicating ideas in 140 characters or less because anything more than that would be too tedious. We seem to take comfort in not being able to deduce the logical conclusions of our assertions as we throw out half-baked ideas. Compare the letter of a farm boy to his mother when he is away 100 years ago and of a soldier sending back a letter today and you will see astounding differences.

Compare the lyrics hymns of a century ago and the lyrics of today’s contemporary worship and you’ll see the differences. It’s quite clear. (Although Stuart Townend’s got it right!)

Unlike them, I find it ridiculously hard to just sit down for a couple of hours, completely focused on trying to understand a book in front of me. Every ten minutes or so I would be itching to check my twitter news feed, give it an update or to check my phone. What happened?

And then as Christians, often times we buy into the lies that secular culture throw out at us. We are often called “Bible fanatics”…. really? I doubt that. I wonder how many of us can recite the ten commandments. I wonder how many of us can restate the basic argument of the letters to the galatians. I even wonder how many of can state the fundamental truths of the Gospel. I wonder how many of us have actually read the whole Bible.

Bible Fanatics? No. We are hardly even Bible readers. Something’s wrong.

I bet that many of us have not spent even an hour just sitting down to think about the trinity, creation, sin, man, the divnity of Christ, and all the implications that come from these serious yet fundamental biblical truths. I wonder how many of us could even focus on prayer for more than ten minutes. I know I still struggle. And yet people call us Jesus Freaks? It’s not true. We are far behind.

What saddens me even more is that I have heard Christians arguing that ignorance would be a spiritually superior position. That the study of theology would actually hinder a genuine love or relationship for God. This is absolutely ridiculous. Yet how many times have we heard it said:

“Just love Jesus”

“Just be a good person.”

Wow. Well if Hebrews 5:13-6:3 is not clear enough. Let’s examine this for a little bit. Professor Thoennes gave a wonderful analogy. Imagine going on a first date… you start telling your date a bit more about yourself, where you grew up, the things you love, the things you hate… and then your date stops you mid-sentence and says “I really want to love you…. but all these details about you, and all these information are seriously stopping me from being able to love you genuinely… so please let’s not get into the details and feel good!” … The point should be clear here.

Furthermore, let’s check out that first statement. What is love? Today love is almost always associated with sex, or with warm fuzzy romanticised sentimentality. Is that biblical love? If not, how do we love? How does God love us? What is holy love?

And Jesus…. well, which Jesus? We certainly cannot love someone we dont know. Cosmic Jesus? New age Jesus? Santa claus Jesus? Weak Jesus? Prosperity Jesus? Jesus who wants to save everyone but cannot? Or the Jesus who actually saves all of His elect? Sovereign Jesus or Butler Jesus? Truth matters. Which Jesus matters. Sound theology matters.

And about the second statement, well what is good? Who decides what is good? What is a good action? Is that even possible? Who is good? But before we can answer those, well… what is a person? Are we just a bunch of cells? a mere rational animal? or are made in the image of God? What does the Bible say about us? How does God view us? How does sin affect personhood?

It seems to me that people have forgotten the deep and inseparable connection between belief and behavior. What we believe will always affect our behavior. Wrong beliefs = Wrong behavior. Survival of the Fittest lead to the Holocaust. Sovereign Grace leads to Humility. We cannot behave the way God has called us to without believing what God has told us we need to believe, and all of this depends on an understanding of the Bible. We need to study the Scriptures.

And the connection between love and Knowledge should be clear. What we know about a Person affects how we love them, when we truly love someone we want to know them.

So let’s turn off our phones for a while. Let’s turn of twitter for a while. Close your laptop after you read this note. Take sometime in prayer, meditation and in thought.

Open the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Love it. So that you can love God.

To think well, about what really matters, is the business of the Saints.

“Good lovers are always intense students of the Beloved” – Prof. Erik Theonnes

Altar-Call Salvation

Posted: August 15, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

I remember it clearly.

4 years ago, there was an altar call. The music was beautiful, the preacher was very charismatic, and the atmosphere felt right.

People were lining up praying, a lot were on their knees, and many more were crying.

That night, I got on my knees, and that night, I cried. That night, my conversion was not real.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I believe God can work mightily in altar calls (he worked through a donkey!), he can get his work done through anything! But I believe the fundamental difference once again is whether we believe that our salvation comes from the power of God or does it come from the choice of man? How we answer this question really determines our view on the altar call.

in the Gospels, we hardly see jews lining up in tears, filled with guilt, convicted of their sin and professing Christ as Lord. The amazement hardly happens when Jesus calls people to acknowledge their sins and repent. Instead, we see time and time again that the Gospel from the lips of Christ Himself was received with much more no’s compared to yes’s… People don’t like hearing that they need a savior. In fact, in John 6 everyone left Jesus, only His disciples stayed.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that often times we use human means to try and “help out” the work of God…. To fasten up results, to muster up numbers. A sort of “dope” that creates emotional hype, causing the person involved to thereby make an emotional decision for Christ. Nice music, dim lights definitely helps.

like a drug that makes us comfortable to make a certain choice we won’t actually want to be making when all things are considered equal…

But how many altar calls can we come back to? How many times do we actually need to be “saved”?

I’ve heard it so many times.

“That night in church was amazing, but my christian walk can’t last…”

“I long for that feeling of being so close to God again. I’ve never felt so good.”

Emotional hype creates emotional decisions.

Biblical teaching, on the other hand, nurtures and draws God’s elect.

A man cannot cause himself to be born again. It is not his choice to make. A miracle is required. God’s work is necessary, and we can only depend on His choice.

Furthermore, when our emotional “conversion” does not harness new desires and transformation in our lives, we can end up being drawn further away from God. if our salvation depends upon us hanging on and making ourselves righteous then we are already lost.

The Gospel must be preached. The Gospel is the only message, and method to preach. And only by it can a true convert be transformed by God.

Here is what a friend of mine wrote + the words of C.H Spurgeon: “”Ah! says somebody, ‘I fear that this kind of preaching will be very discouraging to a great many people.’ Well, how will it discourage them? ‘It will discourage them from trying to save themselves.’ That is the very thing I want to do. I would not only like to discourage them from attempting the impossible task, but to cast them into despair concerning it. When a man utterly despairs of being able to save himself, it is then that he cries to God to save him, so I believe that we cannot do a man a better turn than to discourage him from ever resting upon anything that he can do towards saving himself.”

And Spurgeon practiced what he preached (or should I say that his sermons constantly exemplified this principle)?

“Sinner” cried Spurgeon in a sermon on the new birth “I warn thee thou canst never cause thyself to be born again, and though the new birth is absolutely necessary, it is absolutely impossible to thee—unless God the Spirit shall do it.” And again, toward the close of an Exeter Hall sermon, he said “You who have not been converted, and have no part or lot in the present salvation—to you I say this much: man, man, you are in the hand of God. Whether you shall live to reach home today or not, depends absolutely on His will.”

Does that sound like a man who preached without confidence or hope? Well, it wasn’t that way at all. To the contrary. Spurgeon was mighty precisely because he saw the true source of hope.

“I know this,” he insisted, “if the Lord willed it, there is no man so desperately wicked here this morning that he would not be made now to seek for mercy, however infidel he might be; however rooted in his prejudices against the Gospel: Jehovah hath but to will it, and it is done. Into thy dark heart, O thou who hast never seen the light, the light would stream; if he did but say, ‘Let there be light,’ there would be light. Thou mayest bend thy fist and lift up thy mouth against Jehovah; but he is thy master yet—thy master to destroy thee, if thou goest on in thy wickedness; but thy master to save thee now to change thy heart and turn thy will as he turneth the rivers of water.”

Do you see why he abhored the altar call? It was simply because he knew something better—the Reformed faith””

The Gospel is here to tell you that you cannot save yourself. That you cannot make a choice for yourself. God must save you. It is only here, and not a moment sooner, that we will begin to seek after Him.

We do not preach the Gospel for numbers or rapid salvation. We preach it because its true – and it is the only message we have from God. Anything else is prideful, and human manipulation.

God transforms, God decides. He makes the decision. He regenerates, and that’s when we can respond. We do not control our destiny by tearing up for 15 mins on an altar. God decides before we were born, and He had decided that he would save some; that he would save you.

So let’s preach the Gospel. Let’s preach the Bible. Let’s put our trust solely onto Him – who is the sole author, finisher, and sustainer of our salvation. Only He can change hearts. Anything else is mere counterfeit. So let us be faithful.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Why Preach?

Posted: August 15, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,

that i might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

- Jeremiah 9:1

Why preach the Gospel? Why teach the Scriptures?

Jeremiah was called as a youth. His life was dedicated to preaching the Word of God to Israel.

Giving them a message of repentance, of a need for change.

Nobody listened.

Jeremiah’s scrolls were burned, yet he would start a new one all over again

He was betrayed, scorned, and has had multiple near-death experiences.

His own people tried to kill him. He witnessed the people whom he loved so dearly get exiled unto babylon.

The people who refused to listen to him.

Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet. His sermons were often delivered in tears.

He was hard-working and he perseveared through the struggles,

remaining faithful the whole way.

Yet, with no results, why did he keep going?

Why didnt he modify his message? Make it more pleasing to the ears of man?

Why didnt he appeal to their emotion? Why didnt he try some sort of different method?

Why didnt he try some shortcuts? Some evangelizing techniques that were different?

No one in the Bible was interested in numbers.

No one was interested in being attractive to the masses.

Why then?

Simply because the Word of God is the Word of God.

We preach not to get results.

God determines the outcome and the result of our preaching.

We faithfully carry out our work, knowing He is in control.

Relying solely on Him alone.

We preach because we are commanded to.

We teach because the Scriptures are true.

We preach because the people need to hear the truth.

Whether or not people respond, is up to God.

Let’s keep preaching what’s true, and nothing else.

Soli Deo Gloria

Personal Response

Personally, I believe that the timeless truths of this passage are absolutely sweet. Indeed, the whole paradigm of my thinking was turned upside down for the better when I came across a true understanding of this chapter in the book of Romans. I used to believe that God had chosen me only because I first chose Him, but I realized now how arrogant it was to think this way. For it is exactly that sort of thinking that implies God chooses according to the merits of a positive response towards the Gospel. This would not be salvation by grace but of works! Only through this passage that the truths of the doctrines of grace really made sense to me, making the Christian belief so different from any other religion which states that we must do something to attain salvation.

I rest in knowing that my God never fails, and that everything that happens only happens because it is in His secret decree. It follows from this that whatever happens must be what is best, for it corresponds to His will. I also rest in knowing that, being chosen by God, His grace will sustain me through every difficulty, trial and affliction. Often times my conscience condemns me in times of great trouble, and the truth of this passage would comfort me, reminding me that I have been justified by the will of God, and nothing can separate the love of God from His elect. The truths of this passage has also caused me to be more patient when speaking to non-believers, knowing that I could just be like them if it were not for the grace of God that found me. It is also the truths of this passage that convicts me anytime I feel pride lurking in. All in all, I am compelled to a much deeper sense of gratitude towards the God who saved me, seeing that there was absolutely nothing in me that could have influenced God to choose me over another. I live, breath and work only by the grace of God. Knowing the grace of my God, I cannot NOT be caused to fall in love with Him

“Why I became an Atheist”

Posted: August 7, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

I don’t know if it’s the gloomy weather or the fact that there really is not much to do in Minnesota that I have retained the habit of intensive reading (and thinking!!) and writing. I was strolling through Barnes & Noble today with a starbucks coffee in hand as I was struggling against jetlag when I stumbled across a book entitled “Why I became an Atheist”. I was instantly intrigued. I picked up the book and started reading through it. Upon half an hour of reading I was inclined to purchase it, and I have to say so far, I thoroughly enjoy it.
I believe it’s very important as Christians to see and understand opposing worldviews. Not just that, it is also important to learn about such worldviews from first-hand defenders of that worldview, not just from Christian authors. Its one of the reasons I enjoy studying philosophy so much.

I enjoy this book a lot because unlike other atheistic books written by Dawkins or Harris, this book did not consist of just a bunch of Ad Hominem arguments that tries to appeal to your emotion. Those books could’ve been written by an angry 13 year old for all I know. Instead, this book was very charitable to the Christian worldview, and though I disagree with the author’s conclusions, I respect his reasoning and honesty. In fact, a lot of his arguments are valid arguments. Norman Geisler even mentioned that this book has a lot of things to say that every Christian ought to wrestle with.

The author started his book by explaining his “de-conversion” from Christianity. He was very honest. He was once a preacher, zealous for the cause of Christ, and admitted that his decline against Christianity was not triggered by intellectual doubts, but by psychological and sociological causes. Intellectual doubts instead became the fuel that continued the fire of doubt to burn. He had admitted that the cause was a struggle in his marriage – he had committed adultery with another woman and as he was recovering from it, the church was not very helpful to him. Instead of seeking to help him out, his local church condemned him. Instead of trusting that he was truly wanting to repent, his church doubted his very motives. What a profound reminder that as Christians we have no excuse to not help and love one another, seeking to build each other up. (Now don’t get me wrong here, i dont believe you can lose your salvation, and I will affirm that he fell away because of the reasons of 1 John 2:19, and he was never “there” in the first place…)

Now here I was tempted to say that his subjective experiences is not a good reason to doubt his faith (or should I say, his unwise choices to begin with). However I believe the author was right to argue that a lot of Christians begin their conversions with some sort of subjective experience too, and if we are to disregard this deconversion on the basis of that argument, then to be consistent, we would have to disregard the arguments of many Christian testimonials. I loved his reasoning. From here on he proceeded to make a case against Christianity.

What intrigued me the most from the author’s arguments is that they consisted mainly not in formulating his own arguments against Christianity, but in using the popular Christian arguments that we know and love and turning it against itself. This obviously comes because of his Christian background. He was taught by Dr. James. D Strauss, and studied WITH Dr. William lane Craig. His arguments are challenging, logical and indeed valid.
This reminds me of the passage above from 1 Corinthians, and to the fundamental truth of the doctrine of Election as taught in Scripture. The author has studied Christianity along with one of the world’s most zealous and popular Christian apologists today. Went through the same classes, learned under the same professor – and yet one ended up with an entirely different conclusion than the other. Why?

I believe this brings us back to the thing that I have been arguing for: that it is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration and preservation, God’s unique revelation to an individual which is the effectual cause and determinant of our faith, and it’s perseverance. We can argue for the existence of God, the rationality of Christianity, the reliability of the Scriptures all we want, but the natural man simply will not accept them without the working of the Holy Spirit causing him to believe. Apologetics and reason can only take us so far. This causes me to think back of my life in the past and of the people I know.

I grew up in a Christian school. I was exposed to the Gospel for a long time before my conversion. But these didn’t affect me. In fact, a lot of times it warded me away from God instead of to him. Yet I also know that many of my peers enjoyed and were spiritually nourished by the Christian teachings of my school. Why?

Let me bring this back as to the trigger of the author’s de-conversion. He asked a rhetorical question “If God knew that I would end up the atheist I am today, and would be writing this book to lead others astray, why didn’t he do something in my life that was far different than what actually happened?” I’ve asked myself a very similar question. In fact, many others have asked myself a very similar question. When I tell them about my conversion, people ask me: “Gray, why did God reveal Himself to you, spoke to you in such a personal way and yet chooses not to reveal Himself like that to me? And not to everyone else?” Anytime this question was posed, I could only respond with “I don’t know. It was all of grace.”

Why is it that one is born into a family of non-believers, and will live his life never ever having heard of the Gospel? Why is it that one is born into a family of puritans? Why is it that the Gospel is preached, and one is drawn towards God and the other finds it repulsive? I believe simply it is because God chooses one and not the other, and this choice is made purely out of grace. The author of the book was right that many times our conversion is caused by a sociological event, and not an intellectual enlightenment. So why are some people bombarded with opportunities and spiritual experiences while others get none? The answer, I believe, is simple. The grace of God is not extended equally to each person. He gives it to whom He pleases.

A lot of the author’s arguments take the form of arguing that the biblical God flies in the face of our common senses. Why does God do this instead of that? Doesn’t it make more sense if God had done this? The book is filled with arguments like that. And I have to say, a lot of what the author argues makes a lot of sense, and is appealing to me. I have to agree that a lot of what Scripture says will be completely alien to our human reasoning. In fact, a lot of it won’t make sense to us. And when things seem funky to our reasoning, we come back to say that this is why faith is required. But again the question persists, why does one choose to say “This is what the Bible says, I’ll accept it even though I can’t understand it.” And another reads the Scriptures and concludes with “The things said here are absurd, how can I ever believe in such a thing?!”

In fact, the author argues that it makes no sense that Jesus only chose to reveal himself to such a few people. If Jesus really was God, after His resurrection, He would’ve made a huge entrance, revealing Himself to the whole earth. Plus a “real” God would’ve chosen to resurrect His son at a different, more convenient time. But here it seems to me that the Sovereignty of God and election must be affirmed for faith to retain itself. Why did Jesus only reveal Himself to a select few of people post-mortem? Well, because He only wanted to reveal Himself to those people. Why was Israel singled out as a country? Why was Jacob singled out? Why was Moses chosen? Any why did Jesus choose to reveal Himself to those particular people. Why didn’t He choose to reveal Himself to the emperor instead? Well, because God chooses whomever He chooses. Once again, apologetics and human reasoning can only take us so far. Faith is required here. And Faith can only be caused and sustain by the election of the Spirit. And the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, it seems to me, is an essential doctrine given to us by the Spirit as a means of preserving His elect.

Many Hands
The author continued to proceed that even IF God existed, in the face of the many religions we have today, which God is the right one? Once again, I believe the electing grace of the Spirit is needed here. Many Christians have preached that man is sick in sin and is in need of a Savior. All man has to do is to take the hand of God who is already there ready to save him. But this analogy does not go far enough. With so many religions today, the analogy must include that more than ten hands are being offered to help the sick man. The sick man must first desire to seek God, desire to reach out his hand in reciprocation to God, and then figure out which “God” is the right one for him to choose. The new age God says “Take my hand and you will receive spiritual enlightenment.” Jesus says “I am the way the truth and the life.” And so forth and so on. I have to say, that for a sick man to reach out his hand, and to pick the correct God, that would be one sharp sick man. And surely it would give him some sort of grounds on which to boast on. Instead, the biblical view says that the man is not just sick, but instead is dead in sin. And among all the hands offered to him, God makes sure the man is saved by grabbing him from the grave, giving him life, and reveals to him the Truth. The Gospel is not just a mere offer. It is a certainty. Not by our works, but by His grace and doing alone.

Perception
Let’s take this thought even further. If the Gospel is a mere offer, and it indeed is seen for what it truly is, then who, in the right mind, would choose to reject it? Offer a beggar water and food and he will gladly accept. The problem is not in the thing that is offered, the problem is in how people perceive of it. The beggar who rejects the water and food perceives that he is actually being offered poison. The person who reject the Gospel perceives that he is actually being offered folly and wretched falsehood. Just as a beggar would never reject food and water, when the Gospel is seen for what it truly is, it would never be rejected. Yet what causes a man to see the Gospel for what it truly is? What reveals this to a man? What causes the “natural man” is described in 1 Corinthians 2:14 to see the message of the Spirit as the sweet fruit it truly is, and not as folly? Well, it must be none other than grace, and grace alone.

A few days ago I was given a book by Martin Lloyd Jones called the “Plight of Man and the Power of God” It’s a short piece, only 119 pages long, consisting of five sermons in the context of World War 2. MLJ turns to the second half of Romans 1 to address the contemporary issues.

Now I have to say I haven’t gotten so excited of reading any book since D.A Carson’s “Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God”! (Not even Calvin’s institutes!) The message of this book is still so immensely important for us today. As I read it I am amazed at how true many of his predictions and observations have come to be. At this point I have only read the first 40 pages, yet these first pages are so packed with hard truths that I have to pause every few lines to meditate on what he means, that I could not bring myself to continue just yet. Instead I’ve brought myself to read these first pages 3-4 times now. It was like reading the book of Romans for the first time!

Being in the context of World War 2, this book certainly delivers what I would not expect in such a difficult time. People doubted the existence of God, church attendance was dwindling and many more doubt the goodness of God. One would expect to hear something very comforting and fluffy to be preached at church.

Yet this is now how he begins. He begins his five sermons exploring the depth of the depravity of man, and the falsity of human goodness. He stated a few very good reasons by which we should doubt the theory that humans seek God and that we are making some sort of progress towards theological and spiritual enlightenment. He does this not just by observing the biblical Israel, but also by noticing the Spiritual roller-coaster human history is perpetually riding in. From the OT, to the declines and inclines of the Church, to the rising atheistic tendencies of the secular world, It is clear that humans do not seek God, God must take the initiative in revealing Himself, and yet when He does, we willingly choose and suppress His revelations. The Old Testament alone should be enough to testify to this truth as stated in Romans 1.

MLJ states that the Church cannot be presumed to only offer a message of comfort. One cannot deny the amazing comfort the Gospel offers to believers but if one was to assume that the only job of the church is to comfort people, then we would end up with a weak version of Christianity, and a sentimentalized version of God. Hence instead of saying frothy things that you would expect Joel Osteen to be preaching every weekend in his church, MLJ demands that we take a clear look at ourselves, deny the “lamentable ignorance” that is the theory of human goodness and get a biblical view of the nature of man.

It is only when we find a true view of ourselves that the gravity and immensity of the Gospel can ever make sense to us – that the grace of God becomes amazingly irresistible to us. Instead of saying “God is still loving and is still seeking to make us comfortable in this time of war”, he says “We are evil, prideful and we indulge in ungodliness, what did you expect?” Only when we realize how undeserving we are can we fully live joyously in the grace of God, no matter what the external circumstances are.

I am afraid that the church that we have today has fallen into such a trap. We have sentimentalized God and we have falsely affirmed the goodness of man. No longer does God love us merely out of grace alone, but now we hear false preachers speak of how God must necessarily love us because we are so lovable, because we are so good, because we are so “worth it”. Instead of preaching the Sovereignty of God, we succumb to philosophical speculations of free-will and the so called “problem of pain” or “evil”. Instead of emphasizing that God can do whatever He wants, we end up saying that God cannot intervene in what WE want. Such nonsense will only lead men astray and away from God when suffering and tribulations come their way.

We have seem to forgotten that both blessings and calamities come from a holy God. We seem to have forgotten that the only message there is to preach is what the Scriptures have written in front of us. Instead we have lost confidence in the power of the Word of God to draw men onto Himself and instead have replaced expository preaching with marshmallows, seeking to be attractive, seeking to be comfortable. We replace them with men-made techniques of loud music, nice lights and human fallible testimonials. We compromise mature leadership by stooping down to the maturity of the unbelievers, entertaining a delusion that somehow the natural man has an inclination to seek God. We have now replaced the goal of nurturing believers into a strong biblical foundation to the goal of numbers and hype.

Martin Lloyd Jones was right to point out that the only study man will ever be fully interested in is man himself. There are no seekers. There is no such thing as a seeker-friendly church. There is only one Seeker, and His name is Jesus Christ. We just run and hide. There is certainly something wrong when not a single person is challenged or angered at the preaching from the Pulpit. When we preach the Word, the natural man is inclined to hate it. Indeed the flesh is naturally in enmity against God (Rom 8:7-8). Will we succumb to feeding the hunger for self-comfort or will we actually heed to the Scriptures, get an honest clear look at who we really are, get a sense of true fear of the Wrath of God and then actually come to a true understanding of the Gospel? The Bible is the only message that God had given us to preach. And what, may I ask, will be more powerful than the Word of God alone? If we are not confident in His word, is it really any more sensible that other human means can bring in more profitable affects? Human means may bring in some sort of emotional affect, or as MLJ puts it, human means is inducing “dope”. But “dope” does not last.

The problem does not just exist in the Pulpits, today Christians have replaced the fundamental need for Godliness and a relationship with Christ to emphasizing moralistic (and often times, legalistic) living. Once again MLJ pointed out that we have now come to accept that unrighteousness is a more heinous sin than ungodliness when the former actually naturally comes from the latter. We see “Christian” books telling us to live a good life and to love one another, while leaving out the most important aspect: The Gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ as the motivating power driving that should be driving all of our actions.

I will continually pray that God will cause us to seek Truth, and to preach Truth as found in the Scriptures alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

Timeless Truths and Application

An understanding of this passage is still immensely significant for us today. It is relevant because through this passage we come to understand that the God we serve never fails, even when it seems that many are rejecting His name. A correct understanding of this passage should encourage believers as they rest in the absolute security of the will of God. If God had already chosen you from before the foundation of world then you could never lose your salvation for God never changes His mind. This is the epitome of what it means to be saved by grace. Christians do not need to live in constant worry about whether or not they might lose their salvation, for it is God who determines their justification and salvation. As this rests upon the mercy and electing grace of God, it follows that His promises are irrevocable. Furthermore, believers can feel secure even when sin and evil lies rampant on the world today, knowing that their very existence is dependent upon God’s preservation, thus ultimately fulfilling His sovereign plan. Sometimes the fewness of believers might shock us. Indeed, just a stroll down the streets of downtown Los Angeles today will reaffirm this. Instead of getting discouraged by such things, the message of this passage should comfort us, exhorting us to live in contentment and security.

In terms of evangelism, believers should be even more encouraged to do so in light of this passage. For this passage supplies believers with the confidence that it will be God who will effectively bring about the results. Evangelists, therefore, are not responsible for the salvation of others, but should be trusting in God’s sovereignty in bringing about salvation through them. Hence evangelists should not be discouraged when their labor seemingly does not produce fruit, for it will be God who decides which seeds He would cause to grow.

This passage also contains one of the most humbling messages in all of Scripture. It reveals that nothing in you caused God to choose you over the atheist next door; that even your decision to choose Christ was foreordained by the grace of God. There is therefore no difference between believers and non-believers but the sovereign choice of God alone. It follows from this that we cannot boast in anything, but only by the power of God; neither can we boast when God uses us to bring about salvation in others. There is then no place for pride in the Christian walk. It reminds us of our position as creatures and God as righteous Creator and that He has the absolute right to do what He wants to do with His creation.

19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?… Paul anticipates yet another objection. Here the sinful mind is so quick to question the authority and justice of God. The question, plainly stated is “How can God hold unbelievers responsible for their sin if it is God who had already predestined them to destruction?” The objection is charging God with tyranny, and thus argues that God would not be just in condemning men, neither would he be just in putting the blame on man as no one can thwart His will.

20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?… Paul’s reply is a sobering reminder of who we are before a Holy God. We are to know our place, who is man, and how arrogant is it for man to think he can contest with God? As sinners before God we deserve nothing but condemnation, and are therefore not entitled to anything. Paul’s response places the ontology of God as the only and highest reason, content and knowing that such a reason would suffice. Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Paul further emphasizes that our very life is dependent upon His will and this should greatly humble us. As He had made us, He has full authority and power over our lives and we have no right in challenging our Creator.

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? … Here Paul lays out the reason to which the formed has no right to content to its former – that is that the former has complete right to do what He wants with what He had formed. An owner has the right to do what he wants with the things that he owns, so is God with His creation. We have no claim on His grace and nothing is ours except for what He had given us, and neither are we entitled to any of His merits. Therefore God has the right to make one individual for honorable use and another for dishonorable use.

22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power,… Though Paul does not give an explicit reason to why one was chosen over the other, except that the reason was not any goodness or initiative of the elect, Paul reasons that God would have the perfect right to prepare some for destruction. This would be fully just for God to do, as it would show His righteous wrath on undeserving sinners, thus making known His power among the rest of creation. Has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction… Some of the reprobates, God deals with patiently, suspending judgment upon them for a time being to make known the severity of His wrath and power. These reprobates, though seemingly rampant in disobedience to God for a time being are ultimately under His very will and are dependent upon His sustaining power, and will be thrown into utter destruction at a time that seems most pleasing to God.

23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,… The vessels of destruction which reveal the wrath of God amplifies the glory of God as He chooses to be merciful to His elect. For the mercy of God will shine far more radiantly in the midst of His wrath, as His elect sees the wrath of God befalling upon the reprobates. Which he has prepared beforehand for glory— … God, just as He had prepared some for destruction beforehand, has prepared some for glory beforehand. Thus this coheres with the rest of Paul’s argument that the mercy of God rests solely on His will and had already been determined before the foundation of the world.