Archive for January, 2013
Last night, Ryan preached a sermon from Ezekiel 16 titled, “God’s Initiative and Persistency in Love and Mercy.”
If Ezekiel 16 peaked your interest last night, here’s another idea: read an old sermon on the same text by Charles Spurgeon, titled, “Ezekiel’s Deserted Infant.”
Here’s a link to Spurgeon’s sermon, and here’s his outline:
I. At the outset, I shall direct your contemplations to a survey of the misery of man’s estate.
- At the very first glance, we remark, here is an early ruin.
- The next very apparent teaching of the text is utter inability.
- Apparent, too, is yet a third misfortune—we are utterly friendless.
- Furthermore, our text very clearly reveals to us that we are by nature in a sad state of exposure.
- It seems that this child, besides being in this exposed state, was loathsome.
- We close this fearful description by observing the certain ruin to which this infant was exposed, as setting forth the sure destruction of every man if Divine Grace prevents not.
II. We are now to search for motives for God’s grace.
- One of the first would be, necessity.
- In this case, there was nothing in the birth of this child, in its original parentage, that could move the passerby.
- Nor was there anything in this child’s beauty, for it was loathsome.
- Furthermore, as we have found no motive yet, either in necessity or the child’s birth or beauty, so we find none in any entreaties that were uttered by this child.
- Yet, further, Brothers and Sisters—it does not appear that the pity of the passerby was shown upon this child because of any future service which was expected of it.
III. But now, we turn to consider the mandate of his mercy.
- This fiat of God is majestic.
- This fiat is manifold as well as majestic.
- It is, moreover, spiritual life.
- It is an irresistible voice.
Have you registered for Clarus yet? There’s just one week left to register at the early-registration rate.
Here’s a video invitation to Clarus and introduction to this year’s speakers, Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane.
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
Over the next six weeks on this blog we will share quotes from our speakers and links to some of the excellent resources they have published. For now, swing by the Clarus site and read a short biography for each of our speakers.
Clarus, which takes place this year from March 8-10, is a Regional Conference of The Gospel Coalition hosted annually at Desert Springs Church.
In Sunday’s Message, “How God Makes Christians,” Ryan unpacked the doctrine of election from 1 Peter 1:1-2. For Peter and his readers, the truth of God’s election of sinners to salvation was not understood as a matter for controversy, but for comfort.
At the close of Ryan’s sermon he mentioned several appropriate responses to the sermon. Some need to resolve to study this more from Scripture. Some need to accept what they have seen in Scripture. Others need to cherish what they’ve accepted.
Here are some resources to help you see, embrace, and cherish the doctrine of God’s electing love:
- “Bible Verses on the Love and Power of God,” a DSC Blog post with several dozen verses on the greatness of our need and the greatness of God’s love, including his election of sinners to salvation.
- “When God Speaks,” a sermon by Ryan Kelly on Ezekiel 37:1-14
- “Conversion: Now That’s How it’s Supposed to Go!,” a sermon by Ryan Kelly on Acts 16:6-15
- “God’s Part and Man’s Part in Salvation,” an article by John G. Reisinger
- “Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election,” a book by Sam Storms
- “Chosen by God,” a book by R.C. Sproul
- “The Pleasure of God in Election,” a sermon by John Piper
- “How Can I Help Someone Who Thinks They Aren’t Elect?,” a Q&A with John Piper
- “Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election,” a sermon by John Piper
In addition, it may also be helpful to read the Elders Doctrinal Statement, which is more narrow and doctrinally specific than the doctrinal statement required for membership at DSC. Both are available on our Beliefs page. This document expresses the doctrinal understanding of Scripture that our elders share together and the doctrinal commitments that govern the teaching ministry of our church. Several sections will be helpful for you to read, including Section 3, “God’s Eternal Purpose in Election,” Section 7, “The Saving Work of Christ,” and Section 8, “The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit.”
Section 9 of the Elders Doctrinal Statement addresses a specific question raised by the doctrine of election: the relationship of gospel preaching and human responsibility.
9. The Offer of the Gospel and the Responsibility of Man
9.1 We believe that human beings are genuinely responsible for their decisions, actions, and motives. God’s providence mysteriously involves human wills and real choices in such a way that neither God’s sovereignty nor human will is violated or sacrificed for the reality of the other. This mysterious harmony is sometimes called “compatibilism” or “concurrence,” indicating that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are compatible and run concurrently through every decision and event. Often times in the Scriptures, complete divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility are unblushingly affirmed in the same passage.
9.2 We believe that genuine human choices, though simultaneously and intimately involving God’s active providence, are made according to ability and desire. Sin’s effects have devastated our spiritual abilities and desires, so that it may be rightly said that “no man seeks after God.” Our spiritual waywardness, then, is the free, conscious, and repeated choice of those born into sin and under condemnation.
9.3 We believe that the gospel should and must be proclaimed in all the world and among all men. The legitimate gospel offer and genuine call to “believe and repent” is an offer to all, and a reality for those (and only those) who consciously and passionately confess, repent, believe, receive, and seek Christ—all synonyms for faith. God’s gospel call, in the Bible and through His people, is a genuine call to come, and those who do not come to Christ do not come precisely because they do not want to, choosing according to their wayward desires.
9.4 We believe that belief unto salvation is one of innumerable instances in the Scriptures where “concurrence” is essential to a proper and biblical understanding of divine sovereignty and human responsibility—neither negated, overruled, or dismissed by the other.
As we ponder the Word of God, meditate on God’s gracious election of sinners, and pray for the conversion of the lost, let’s keep in mind these important words from the famous 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon: “There is no more humbling doctrine in Scripture than that of election, none more promoting of gratitude, and, consequently, none more sanctifying. Believers should not be afraid of it, but adoringly rejoice in it.”
In Sunday’s sermon, “Recalibrating Expectations,” Ryan began a new sermon series through the book of First Peter, titled Between Two Worlds. The title of the series expresses an assumption at the heart of this book: we are “sojourners” on this earth (1 Peter 2:11).
For Christians in the west, this world is feeling a little less like home with each passing year. Changing attitudes within our society toward Christianity and Christian convictions are a reality, and we should not be naive to the implications of these changes. Yet, our ultimate horizon is fixed and unmoving, for God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us]” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
But that isn’t now. Just last Thursday, evangelical Christian pastor, Louie Giglio, withdrew from his part in the upcoming Presidential Inauguration after pressure from all directions, including probably the White House, to do so. Why? Because fifteen years ago he preached a sermon stating what Christians have always believed concerning homosexuality. Justin Taylor pulled together some helpful analyses in follow up.
Also in follow up, Kevin DeYoung published a good example of how to think, feel, and speak as those who are looking to the horizon of a heavenly city. His entire post, “Let Freedom Ring,” is excellent, and so we’ve included it for you here:
On Thursday we learned that an evangelical pastor cannot say a benediction at the Presidential Inauguration because 15 years ago he affirmed the Bible’s prohibition of homosexual behavior. It was a sad day for evangelical Christians. A hard day. A frustrating day.
But let it also be our Independence Day.
Let us be free from the false hope that heroic deeds and quiet agreeableness can atone for the sin of orthodox conviction.
Let us be free from the wishful thinking that good works and good manners can appease the Great God Tolerance.
Let us be free from the misplaced assumption that faithfulness to God can go hand in hand with worldly congratulation.
If it is “anti-gay” to believe that the normativity of male-female sexual union is taught by nature and nature’s God then let us wear a Scarlet Letter around our necks. Christ bore much worse.
If the culture of free love is going to hate those who believe marriage was made with God-given limits then let the opprobrium fall on us. We will despise the shame.
If henceforth we shall be considered the scum of the earth for believing what the Church has taught for 2000 years then let us be the scent of death to some. We shall be the aroma of life to others.
And lest anyone think this is a call to arms or a manifesto of malediction, it is not. If we are reviled, we shall not revile in return. If we are hated we shall pray to God for more love. If we are excluded from polite society, we will still include all Christ-exalting, Bible-believing, broken hearted sinners in the fellowship of the redeemed. And if we are esteemed by some as better off dead, we will not cease to offer the words of life.
We will not stop serving where we can. We will not stop repenting when we sin. We will not stop speaking the truth about our Lord and about his law.
There are likely far bigger disappointments to come than the one that dropped last Thursday. We did not choose this culture war and it is not about to leave us alone. The media, the academy, the government, the libertine elite–they may sully our reputation and shame our convictions, but they cannot steal our joy. We can pray more, sing more, and smile more than any of the party-goers making mud pies in the slums. We do not have to fit in down here so long as we fit in up there. We do not need a president’s approval if we have the affection of our King. Our hearts and our Bibles are wide open. Our salvation is firm. Let freedom ring.
This vision of our ultimate horizon both relaxes us and strengthens us for faithful living. On Sunday, Ryan mentioned five words that capture various unbiblical approaches to our relationship to the world around us. We should not fight the world as an enemy. We should not force the world to live our way. We should not follow the world, as though we will win them by becoming more like them. We don’t flee the world as if Christ sent us into the world to hide from it. And we don’t faint from exhaustion.
We should think carefully and seriously about the changes in our world. The tragic and transformed vision of tolerance ever prevalent in modern society is insightfully unpacked by D.A. Carson in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance. But even more important is our commitment to live faithfully in these times. That’s what Carson’s short book, From The Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the last days, is all about. Both are available at the Resource Center.
Finally, for a heavy but helpful read on the subject of the Christian’s relationship to and influence on the world, consider reading, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, by James Davison Hunter, available on Amazon.
On Sunday Ryan encouraged us to read through 1 Peter some time this week as we look forward to the start of our new sermon series, “Between Two Worlds,” this Sunday.
When we announced the series a few weeks ago we drew your attention to the theme of suffering in the book of 1 Peter. Another prominent theme is the nature of the church as a people belonging to God. Belonging to God means we don’t ultimately belong to this world.
In 1 Peter 2:9–12, Peter shows us the connection between our heavenly citizenship and our earthly life:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
This is another great passage on which to read and meditate as we begin our series.
The doctrine of justification by faith was the subject of much of Sunday’s sermon, “The Gospel of Abraham.”
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:7, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” so it is with all those who believe. Our salvation is owing to God’s free gift of righteousness and no work of our own. Even our faith is merely a receiving of this gift, and not a work performed in exchange for God’s favor.
This doctrine is a comfort for us in death, for sure. We will stand before God, “dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before his throne,” as the old hymn goes.
But the doctrine of justification by faith is a comfort in life as well as it makes possible the assurance that we are safe with God. Here’s how Martin Luther put it:
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
And here’s how this doctrine is expressed as our comfort in life in the song, “Before the Throne,” written by Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863:
When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there,
who made an end to all my sin;
Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.
To explore the doctrine of justification by faith further, listen to the audio from Clarus ’09, Galatians and the Problem of Self Justification, and especially D.A. Carson’s talk, “Justification/Righteousness and the Cross of Christ.” Then, consider reading, Justified by Faith Alone, by R.C. Sproul, available on Amazon.