Scribblings on Philippians 2:12

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When we find ourselves free from the fear of death

free from slavish obedience to our passions

graced with access to all wise counsels

empowered by God himself

and loved forever,

Let us now work it out,

Live as the new people we are–

Ready to see the One Who did this all for us

To find Him pleased

And to find that we have loved

The consummate Lover of all.

 

 

 

 

John Piper: Why Do We Celebrate the Protestant Reformation? — bonhoefferblog

October 31, 2016 John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory. Today is Reformation Day, October 31, 2016 — the 499th anniversary of […]

via John Piper: Why Do We Celebrate the Protestant Reformation? — bonhoefferblog

Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Christ and Why You Should Too

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I firmly believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as an actual, historical event, and for very good reasons.
  1. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead but rather passed out on the cross and revived in the tomb three days later goes against proven, medical facts. The excruciating torture of the cross resulting in tremendous loss of blood and injury to vital organs, combined with the professional assessment of the Roman guards whose job it was to make sure Jesus was dead, in addition to the lack of physical care and treatment and nourishment Jesus would have physically needed to remain alive in the tomb if He was in fact simply unconscious, combining those essentials together render the so-called “swoon theory” totally implausible.
  2. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the Jewish leaders secretly stole the body of Jesus to prevent the disciples from stealing the body and claiming a resurrection simply does not coincide with the actions of those same Jewish leaders. How could they have stolen the body while the tomb was guarded by soldiers to prevent grave robbery? Why would they have paid the soldiers to accuse the disciples of stealing the body only later to be discovered as the real thieves? And most pointedly, why did they not produce the body of Jesus to quell the rumors of His resurrection and finally put an end to His following? If they had the body, they had the means to stop Christianity, which was their intention and they did not do so. That theory is then implausible.
  3. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the disciples stole the body and then made up the resurrection in order to institute a new religion does not match the facts of history. How could the disciples sneak past the Roman guards who were put in place for the precise reason to keep the disciples from doing so? Furthermore, why would the disciples be willing to experience severe persecution and all but one to die as martyrs for what they all knew to be a lie? Maybe one or two would’ve tried to keep their self-proclaimed religion alive, but eventually one would have broken silence. None ever did. That theory falls as well.
  4. I hold to the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that every witness of the resurrected Christ was simply hallucinating does not fit the evidence. It is impossible for more than 500 people to have the same hallucination and even more impossible for people to have the exact same hallucination at exactly the same time in exactly the same place. That theory falls.
  5. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the resurrection of Christ is simply a spiritual metaphor used by early Christians to describe the sense of newness of life and uplifting of one’s spirit horribly fails to account for how these early believers spoke of the resurrection. They spoke of it not in figurative language but in literal language. The Gospels recored the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ as speaking with Him, eating with Him, watching as He ascended back into the heavens. It wasn’t a metaphor for them; It was real.
  6. But far more importantly than all previous reasons, I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because the Bible, God’s divine revelation to man, says that it is so.  Read Matthew’s account in Matthew 28:1-10.
Given the fact of the resurrection of Christ, that one pivotal event in history has massive implications for life, faith, and salvation.
  1. The Resurrection of Christ means then that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh as the Bible presents Him because only God could defeat death.
  2. It means that when Jesus died, His death was indeed a sacrifice to pay for sin, and that His sacrifice to the Father was acceptable to God, the resurrection being God’s vindication upon the work of His Son.
  3. It means that when Jesus says He is the Resurrection and the Life, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and no man comes to the Father except through Him, that salvation, forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven is possible, but it is only possible by faith in Jesus Christ.
  4. Can you go to heaven when you die? Yes – but only through Christ because only He has paved the way.
  5. Can your sins be forgiven so that you are made right with God? Yes – but only through Christ because only He has made adequate payment for your sin.
  6. That is not narrow-minded, religious intolerance; that is grace and truth! You don’t have to die with a question mark, you don’t have to die grasping for hope. You don’t have to die wondering what will happen. You can face death with absolute confidence that you will meet your Maker and you will be welcomed into His everlasting arms, but in order to to do so, you must come to God through His gracious, loving, sacrificial provision of His Son! –Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

If God is Sovereign, Why Do We Pray?

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In our study on prayer yesterday from Matthew 9:35-38, the theological tension of prayer became evident. It is a question all of us have probably pondered from time to time, even if we did not consider it a “theological tension.”
Matthew 9:38 says, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Ok, so let’s get this straight. The harvest is the Lord’s. It’s His business, and He will accomplish His purposes. So why are we to pray about it? What good will our prayers be? Do our prayers really do anything? If God is sovereign, why do we pray? If God is in control of all things, if God knows the beginning and the end, if God has ensured and secured His purposes, why does it matter if we pray or if we do not pray? We’ve all probably struggled with this question from time to time.
Fatalism says, “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It doesn’t matter if you pray or not.” That is not Christian theology. That is not the Bible’s teaching on the relation of sovereignty and responsibility. This tension in prayer is an example of this larger, biblical tension of how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility cooperate together to fulfill God’s purposes without doing injury to either one. God is truly sovereign. Man’s response to God is a true and consequential response.
So why do we pray? Because God has not only ordained the end (sovereignty: His harvest) but He has also ordained the means to fulfill that end (responsibility: the prayers and participation of His people). God is sovereign, wise, and good, and He has ordained it such so that He folds the prayers and participation of His people into the means of accomplishing His purposes.
The sovereignty side of it is that God will accomplish His purposes. The responsibility side of it is that He will do so by calling His people to pray and answering their prayers. His end will not be accomplished without the prayers of His people. That would be fatalism. His purposes will not be thwarted by the failure of His people to pray. That would mean He is not sovereign. The solution is this: God’s purposes will be realized but not without the prayers and participation of His people.
So why does God include His people in His work? Because if we join with Him in the labor, we will also join with Him in the glory and the joy of the reward!
If God is sovereign, why do we pray? For our good and His glory!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Divine Mercies Produce Sincere Worshippers

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Worship is the willing, proper response of moral beings to the revelation of the Triune God. By divine initiation, God graciously discloses Himself, His purposes, and His will to man. Man, in response to God’s gracious initiation, worships God. This is my understanding of the biblical definition and portrayal of worship. God tells us something about Himself or His acts, and we willingly respond to Him in appropriate ways, which He has also revealed. This is worship.
In Romans 12:1 when Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God” by “mercies” he is referring to our eternal, secure, everlasting salvation! He has been building this case, doctrine upon doctrine, through the first 11 chapters. We are saved because of divine initiation. Our salvation has nothing to do with us because we have all turned from God and rejected His revelation (ch 1-3). Therefore, God is credited with every single aspect of our salvation. He has totally, completely, eternally saved us. He sent His Son to pay for our sin so that we can be saved if we would just believe (ch 3). Having believed in Christ, He sent His Spirit to indwell us as believers and sanctify us as believers that we would no longer serve sin but serve Christ (ch 4-8). He made sure through sovereign election that we would believe because if He did not choose us before time we would never have chosen Him in time (ch 9-11).
God has been incredibly merciful to us in every phase of salvation. He has acted. He has initiated. Now living our lives as worship to God is our willing, proper response to divine initiation. So Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

The Spiritual Connection Between the Heart and the Mouth

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Ever blurted out something really hurtful and then immediately apologized with some kind of excuse, hoping the excuse will automatically wipe away the inflicted harm? The excuse usually runs something like, “I’m sorry. I don’t why I said that. I’m tired and today has been a frustrating day. That’s not really me. That’s not how I actually feel.”
Well……actually…..it is. We just don’t like to see, admit, or confess our own horrible selves when they show up! The Bible reveals though that what comes out of the mouth was birthed in the heart – the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Consider these biblical assertions on the relationship between the heart and our actions or words.
1. Matthew 12:34 – For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
2. Mark 7:21-23 – For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
The hard truth is that when we blurt out hurtful words, entertain unholy thoughts, secretly engage in sin, or speak ill of someone behind his back, it is a reflection of our hearts. Sin has taken root, it has been cultivated, and now it has blossomed! More often, it blossoms in what we say or how we say it. (James 1:14-15)
Rather than deny our sin through some lame excuse, better to own up to it, apologize for it, confess it to God, ask forgiveness, and seek the strength to sever the root of sin from our hearts! (I John 1:9)
On the other hand, our mouths do not only reveal when sin has taken root in our hearts, they also reveal when grace is growing in our hearts!! Note carefully how David describes the relation between grace at work in his heart and the song of praise on his lips. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” Psalm 28:7
Let us pay close attention to the words of our mouths, for they are reflecting something about our hearts. When our words are unholy or unhealthy, let’s confess our sin to God and ask that He fill our hearts with faith, humility, and grace. When our words are pleasing to God and edifying to others, let’s praise God for His grace in our lives and beg Him to continue to fill us with His Spirit!!
The mouth reveals our true selves, our inner selves, our hearts. When they show us sin, sever the root! When they show us grace, give God the glory!!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Avoiding Legalism and Moralism with the Commands of Scripture

chainAny time we are presented with a list of commands, like the 50+ commands found in Romans 12-14, we are prone to head down one of two dangerous paths: legalism or moralism.
Legalism is the pursuit of keeping a list of commands, biblical or man-made, in order to make yourself right with God. Paul just spent 11 chapters arguing against keeping commands in a legalistic fashion. First, he argues that we are all sinners, so it does no good to try to keep a list of commands to be right with God because we’ve already missed the mark. We can’t undo by keeping the law what we’ve already messed up by breaking it. Second, the Jew already tried the way of the Law, and he is not right with God because he is a lawbreaker. Third, that’s why God made the way of salvation by faith in His Son and not by the law.
So when it comes to the 50 commands in Rom 12-14,or any other biblical imperatives, we must not view keeping these commands as earning salvation or favor with God. If we do so, therein lies an eternal danger. If you think that salvation is in the keeping of the commands, it is possible for you to make yourself obedient to these commands to a certain degree and totally miss heaven.
Moralism is slightly different but just as dangerous and just as prevalent as legalism. Moralism views Christianity as simply a moral code, a list of do’s and don’ts. Moralism is not trying to be right with God by keeping commands, moralism believes it is right with God by simply being a good person. However, the Christian faith is not simply good works; the Christian faith results in good works. The failure of moralism is the absence of viewing good works as being dependent upon faith and grace. In a moralistic view, Christianity is just being a good person. The eternal danger is that it is possible to be a “good person” to a certain degree and totally miss heaven!
So how do we avoid legalism and moralism when it comes to Paul’s list of 50 commands in Rom 12-14 or any biblical commands?
There is a biblical paradigm found throughout Scripture that gives us the answer. The paradigm is that as God has been so merciful to us in Christ to save sinners, we respond to Him with lives of worship. The commands of Scripture are simply clarifying for us how we worship God with our lives. In Romans 12:1, this paradigm is stated as “the mercies of God” and our response as “living sacrifices.” Remember, Paul calls this our spiritual worship!
We avoid legalism and moralism by viewing these commands as the way we worship God with our lives, the way we respond to the mercies of God in our salvation. Legalism is not worship. Legalism is not responding to God’s mercies by laying down our lives in humble obedience. Legalism is trying to obtain God’s mercies. Moralism is not worship. Moralism is not responding to God’s mercies by self-denial for the good of others. Moralism is simply abiding by a self-imposed standard with no regard for the worship of God. But when we are in awe of how sinful we are and yet God has been so graciously merciful to us, we respond to His mercies by laying down our lives, resisting the world, and filling our lives with God’s Word. It is not an attempt to make ourselves right with God, it is our willing, proper response for being made right with God. It is not simply being a good person, this life is worship!
If we approach the commands of Scripture as the way we worship God in response to His rich, eternal mercies to us in Christ, we avoid the eternal dangers of legalism and moralism!!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor