Saturday, 24 November 2012

Dr. No

Dr NO is alive and well on planet earth!  He says NO to everything, even that which is right.  Take the Gospel offer of Jesus Christ, for example.  When this comes to him, what does he and his followers say?  "NO.  Not for me.  Not my thing.  Not interested."

Dr NO has no time for the Gospel, no time for Christ, no time for his soul's salvation, no time for crucial eternal matters.  He is against everything, even the good and the true.  He has no care for the consequences of his decisions, and matters not what the result will be.  In fact, he does not believe there will be any bad results to his decisions.  He still says NO to Christ and the Gospel.

Is your real name Dr NO?  Are you a NO sayer to Christ your Saviour?  Do you say NO to heaven because you are saying YES to this world and to sin and rebellion against God?  That is what every NO sayer is actually saying.

I am calling upon you to change the record from NO to YES.  Why do I say this?  Because God loves you and sent His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die on Calvary to save your never-dying soul and to bring you to heaven.  Recognise your lostness because of your sin and cry out to Christ for mercy.  Christ died as the Redeemer of the world (Calvin's beautiful phrase), the Saviour of mankind, and that means He died for you, too.  Christ loves you and died for you, bearing your sin in His own body on the Cross.

"The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all," (Isa.53:6).  Christ died as "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world," (1 Jn.2:2).  He now calls on all men everywhere to repent.  He does not want you to perish in your sins.  Every Dr NO will perish in his or her sins. God "is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance," (2 Pet.3:9).  

That includes YOU.  Do you see that?  You need not be lost in hell forever.

There's a way back to God from the dark paths of sin; 
There's a door that is open and all may go in; 
At Calvary's Cross is where you begin 
When you come as a sinner to Jesus.

Will you come to Him right now?  You'll find Him at Calvary.  Admit you're a sinner and that you deserve nothing but wrath and judgement from God.  Cry out for Him to be merciful to you as you put your trust in Christ alone for your eternal well-being.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Owen Thomas - The Atonement Controversy

The following are my initial reflection on the introduction of John Aaron's translation of Owen Thomas' book, The Atonement Controversy in Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707-1841.  The book is published by the Banner of Truth Trust.

I am amazed at the hatchet job that John Aaron has done on Owen Thomas.  I would have thought that if one is to translate an author's book from a foreign language to English, he would at least have some sympathy for the author, but Aaron seems to have little or no sympathy of Owen Thomas's position.  It is a terrible thing, according to John Aaron, to be grouped together with men of God like Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins (xvii).

If Owen Thomas's sympathies have to be guarded against, what exactly are John Aaron's theological sympathies?  Are they not to be guarded against similarly?  They do not appear to be on the same theological wavelength as Owen Thomas and John Jones, Talsarn.  He criticises Owen Thomas for allowing his views to colour his history writing (xxv), but remains blissfully ignorant that his writing is doing precisely the same thing.

Conceding that Owen Thomas's heart is with John Jones (xxvi), this linkage makes Owen Thomas a partial observer and therefore not to be followed in all points.  In fact, we must also be careful not to follow men in all points, unless first those points and teachings are drawn from Scripture.  After lifting Owen Thomas up in the earlier pages, he then proceeds to tear him down and criticise him for not being "as discerning a theologian as some of the previous generation,"  (xxvii).  The base line against which he is measuring Owen Thomas is a man like John Elias and his high orthodox fellow-travellers. 

John Aaron simply does not like what he calls 'modified Calvinism' and saw this as the thin edge of the wedge which would have inevitable consequences.  If Calvinism had to be 'modified,' it is obviously because it had departed from the teaching of Calvin himself.  In this case, modification is a duty.  John Aaron is of the opinion that Calvinism in 18th and 19th century Wales was true to the reformer in its soteriology.  Well, this is easily disproved as even a casual look at Calvin's own writing and published sermons will indicate.  This 'modification' (and it's a word I don't like) had the effect of changing "the general theological landscape" making it "very different," (xxvii, xxviii).  This 'difference' would make Gospel understanding more biblical.

John Elias is the preferred Welsh preacher for John Aaron (xxviii).  This explains why his criticisms of Owen Thomas are so trenchant.  While Owen Thomas had clear sympathies with Jonathan Edwards & Co (USA), John Aaron does not seem to favour them one bit.  Yet fellow Welshman, DMLJ, held Jonathan Edwards in the highest regard.  Opining that Elias's writings were 'very perceptive' in contrast to those of Owen Thomas which are described as 'bland', John Aaron reveals his theological prejudice for all to see. 

He dismisses OT's insights as 'wishful thinking,' (xxx) - a rather poor and unscholarly way of dealing with those with whom one disagrees. Owen Thomas is criticised for presenting no validating evidence for his 'opinions,' (xxxi).  Owen Thomas's alleged lack of objectivity is criticised, but where does that very criticism leave John Aaron? His objectivity leaves a lot to be desired.  Accepting that not one of us can be completely objective in anything we say or write, credit can be given to those who are prepared to follow the textual evidence wherever it leads.  He is unhappy about the distinction that Owen Thomas draws between particular redemption and Dordt.  On this he (John Aaron) is correct; he has seen what few others perhaps have admitted to seeing.

Aaron's accusation that Owen Thomas & Co were proceeding in a liberal and Arminian direction (xxxii) is pathetic.  If this is true, so also did Calvin and DMLJ, not to forget Jonathan Edwards, Bellamy and Hopkins, Ryle and McCheyne, etc.  His quotation from R W Dale is surely taken out of context given Dale's very frequent use of universalistic statement regarding the atonement.  He quotes from W T Owen's biography of Edward Williams, who quotes Dale as saying that "Moderate Calvinism is Calvinism in decay," (xxxii).  In his book on the atonement Dale confirmed authentic Calvinism many times.  So what is the truth about this?  Was Dale playing to the gallery?  Or was he in fact addressing a modification of Calvinism that then existed?  Dale created his own modification of Calvinism when he denied eternal punishment, election and predestination, etc.  Dale's orthodoxy in places is questionable, therefore care must be taken to ensure that his statemens are properly contextualised. 

This all raises the question, What is authentic Calvinism?  John Aaron has not got it.  The Calvinism of Owen Thomas was not an exercise in selling one's theological birthright (xxxiii) at all.  It was a recovery of what Calvin actually taught and preached.  It was not the "wooden horse to Welsh Calvinism" that "carried Liberalism within the gates," (xxxiv).  Authentic Calvinism is not international Calvinism with an Arminian or  Semi-Pelagian interpretation (xxxvii), but a return to the authentic teaching of John Calvin.

All in all, not a helpful introduction to a mighty man of God or to his biblical theology/soteriology.  It is an introduction that must have "HANDLED WITH CARE" written all over it.  This is sad, but any attempt to be scholarly and objective is lacking from this introduction.  There is not even an attempt to be fair to Owen Thomas.

As will always be the case, 'true truth' is not welcome in this fallen world, and sometimes Christ's servants can fall into the trap of being diverted from the truth by those to whom they look up, not considering that they too might have departed from that truth in some significant aspect.  We, too, must be careful lest we fall into this same trap.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow is that day that is ever before us, the day that never comes, the eternal day we might call it.  We have not seen it nor experienced it.  It is all ahead of us, with all it's unknowableness.

But one day it will come, be assured of that!  One day tomorrow will come for you and for me.

The big question is, What will that day hold for you and for me?  For me, it will be the day I am ushered into God's nearer presence, the day when I will be separated from all that is sinful and dirty and foul.  It will be the day of my perfection, cleansed completely by the precious blood of Christ, the day when I will be white as snow and clothed in the spotless righteousness of my Saviour.

On that great day, I will be received and welcomed into God's heaven to be with my Saviour forevermore.  It will be eternal bliss, no sin, no sorrow, no pain, no want, no devil, and no darkness, and it will be forevermore, for eternity. 

For the unbeliever, the false believer, the false professor of faith in Christ, the outright infidel, the immoral person, the ungodly, guilty, unrighteous sinner, that will be the most horrible day he will ever know.  It will be a day of eternal darkness, utter loneliness, of "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."  Sinners will be forever in that place "where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched."  For them, it will be the second death.  It will be indescribable torment of mind and soul, the place where your conscience will work perfectly, and where you'll have to live with that properly working conscience.

For you and for me, that tomorrow will come; it will come, we do not know when, but it will never die.  It will be an eternal tomorrow, and what it holds for you and for me will also be eternal.

Think about that.  Place yourself there for a moment, and see if you will like that kind of everlasting residence.  Try to imagine what it will be like to never be able to stop dying.  How often we talk about the relief someone gets when they eventually die; well, the unbeliever who dies will die but will never be able to stop dying.  They will go on dying for eternity.  The second death.

The worm of a never-dying conscience will gnaw at you for ever and ever.  Condemning you, reminding you what you have done, or not done; reminding you of the numerous opportunities you had to get right with God, but refused to take them; reminding you of the opportunities you missed to settle your account with the eternal Judge; reminding you that despite being taught to the contrary, you still refused to love Christ with all your heart.  You were shown the only way of escape from this certain eternity, but you turned your stubborn back on it and went away.

Think of being burned forever - not a pleasant thought.  Indeed that is a thought that would keep you awake at night, all night, every night.  Burning is not nice, to put it mildly.  But being burned forever is intolerably terrible.  Imagine that for you.  Not even a thimbleful of water to slake your thirst, cry out as you may.  Burning, burning, burning.  Crying , crying, crying.  Agony, agony, agony.  No hope, no hope, no hope.

Christ stands before you today offering to rescue you for that awful destiny.  Just acknowledge your sins, admit that you are a guilty, hell-deserving sinner, turn from every known sinful way, and put your trust in Christ alone as you rest in Him alone for mercy and salvation.

You'll need the fellowship of likeminded people so seek out a church that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and that might or might not be the church you are connected with - and join in the fellowship of believers as you serve the Lord.

Please do this.  I urge you to do it now.  There is too much to lose if you don't.  Read over this post again, then make your saving response to the only Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Irish Presbyterian Church Confused About Marriage - Or Is It?

The confusion amongst evangelicals within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) over what constitutes Christian marriage is continuing, with the leadership refusing to signal any steps the church will take to remove a church official who supports same-sex marriage.  This liberal elder to date carries the support of that denomination, with no one daring to speak up against this betrayal of Christian standards.  Evangelicals are silent, presumably because they either accept what Mr David Ford, a ruling elder in Second Donegore Presbyterian congregation in Co Antrim, has stated as the true position, or they are afraid to speak out against this high profile elder and politician lest the Judicial Commission of that church will remove them from the ministry within that denomination.  
Mr Ford's publicly stated position will no doubt have the effect of promoting sodomy, not just within Northern Ireland society at large, but also within PCI.  He now believes that marriage is not the life-long union of one man and one woman.  Another church elder refused to support his minister because the minister stated that co-habitation is wrong. Several church elders actually live with their girl-friends, if not constantly, then at weekends and whenever else suits their urges.

Does Mr Ford not know that marriage is not a human institution at all, but a divine one, marriage between one man and one woman being God's idea and provision for humanity?  In God's plan, marriage as understood in the Bible, provides a complimentarity and unity within the human race.  This is how He started mankind, and intended mankind to continue until the end of the world.  

This is not some kind of arbitrary arrangement that we are talking about, but something that tells us who God created us to be, and gave us truths about what it means to be male and female.  It is not a mere social construct of some kind, as sociologists like Mr Ford seem to believe.  As to the actual and original meaning of marriage, we have no mandate from anyone to change that; nor has Mr David Ford.  His denial of this divine institution constitutes a front-on challenge to his church and a 'dare' on his part to see what PCI will do.  

Trusting God in Tough Times

One thing about the Lord is this – He’s never short of surprises, variety in how He deals with us, or last minute changes to what we thought were well-laid plans.  As Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” (Often go astray).  That’s how we sometimes see them, but from God’s perspective, nothing goes astray.  The variety of His sovereign working is utterly amazing.

How true it is that “man’s disappointments are God’s appointments.”  We do not know anything beyond ****’s current condition why this has been deferred yet again, but being surrendered to the Lord’s good will, we accept it with thanksgiving and we are in the hands of our blessed Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.  “Man proposes but He disposes.”  And we are deeply happy with that. 

Our trust is in the grace and goodness of the Almighty, and we are content to remain there.  To walk with the Lord is to walk in safety, but to stray from Him is to live dangerously.  Whatever He sends us is right and good and pleasing; and we accept it all. So at the end of the day, He knows better than we do, and He can see what’s down the road, something that is mercifully kept hidden from us.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

You Only Live Once

Truly life is a precious gift of God; He gave us the life we have, and He can take it back again whenever it pleases Him.  It is His free gift to us, not something we got or did for ourselves. 

But as long as He sustains our life, He expects us to live for Him.  Indeed, because He gave it to us as a free gift, He wants us to give it back to Him again, if for no other reason than for safe-keeping in this wicked world.  He desires that our life is lived for His honour and glory, because it is the only one we have or ever will have.  "You only live once."

That makes the entire matter of living a vitally important one.  If we have only one life to live, then we had better make a most serious effort at making it a life that brings pleasure to the living God.  You can fail exams at school or college, but you can re-sit them another time.  You can mess up in business, but again you can start all over again.  

But if you mess up your life, and by that I mean that if you live your life without God and die without Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you don't get a second chance to make amends.  "You only live once!"  When you close your eyes for the last time, it is what your relationship with Christ is that matters above all else.

Why is this so?  Because this appointment with death is also an appointment with judgement and the Judge.  It is the day your eternal destiny is eternally sealed - for weel or for woe.  

That's what makes live so precious.  It is an awesome responsibility to be given the gift of life.  Living is serious business; and so is dying.  What God has given to us He will require of us at the end.  Our lives and how we lived them will have to be accounted for. 

Therefore only a life that is hidden with Christ in God is safe for eternity.  Is yours?

We have only one life that'll soon be past
And it's only what's done for Jesus that'll last.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The World Is Not Enough.

Matthew 16:26
"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Very pertinent questions.  How they challenge us!  They bring us up sharp.  They face us with eternal realities.  This is the unavoidable choice that faces all of us.  It's a decision we take many times every day.  We are either deciding for the world and against our soul, or we are putting soul matters before everything else, including the world.  But we do not and cannot do both. 

Many are striving for the world and for all it offers, and in so doing they are losing their souls.  They are driven by money and wealth and riches, with a little religion, evangelical and reformed of course, thrown in.  The religious 'add-on' is what makes these people Christian; but leaving that aspect aside, one would be hard pressed to tell any difference between them and your common worldling.

What are you doing to your soul?  What are you prepared to do to gain the whole world - lose your never-dying soul?  To lose your precious soul is to end up an unspeakable loser.  And that loss cannot be recovered again.  Your soul will be lost forever, FOREVER.  That spiritual, invisible and immortal part of who you are lost forever.  Your soul is the real you.  For your soul to be lost is for you to be lost. 

When is your soul lost?  When it is separated eternally from the favour of God and sunk under His wrath and curse.  When your soul is lost, it is lost forever.  It is irretrievably lost.  There is no price that can be paid or deed done that will undo your wicked decision.

The world is not enough to satisfy your soul.  And even if you could gain it, and everything in it, you will end up a miserable loser.

Do you want that?  It can be avoided, you know.  The only safe thing to do with your soul, with your self, with YOU, is to give it to Jesus for safe-keeping.  Gain Christ, and the world will count for nothing.   Gain the world, and you'll be lost for eternity.