Humility Day One

Over the next few days I am planning to post on the subject of humility. My eventual focus will be man’s humiliation in light of the Gospel. One of the reasons that I am doing this series of post is because pride is an issue that I deal with daily, and what better cure for pride than a study on humility in light of the Gospel. Today I would simply like to start by giving a working definition of humility.

Humility is practical, and it is useful. At times humility even attracts attention from the world. There is an even bigger reason to promote humility; humility gets God’s attention.Isaiah 66:2
But this is the one to whom I will look to; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Not only does God “look to” the humble, but He goes so far as to help the humble.

James 4:6
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Jonathan Edwards, with reference to this subject, said “The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world.” But why is this so? Why does God look to, and give grace to the humble? For an answer to that I think it would be profitable to define humility.

A good starting point on the definition of humility can be found in C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness. In this book Mahaney uses this as his working definition of humility: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” To paraphrase Mahaney, humility is seeing things as they truly are. It is a self-evaluation judged by the highest of standards, God himself.

Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look at himself.”

In a real sense, our level of humility is proportional to our knowledge of God.


The Destructive Tongue

In verse 6 James gives us an explicate description of what the tongue, which is set among our members, looks like when it is ungoverned by the by God’s grace. James says that “the tongue is a fire.” As we have already seen our speech, no matter how insignificant it may seem, can have a disastrous outcome. James goes on to say that the tongue is “the very world of iniquity.” Within this context “world” is not referring to the entire earth, but rather the realm of iniquity. It is a system of iniquity, lawlessness, evil, and all kinds of sin. This word, iniquity, literally means not-righteous. It is a disregard for what is right. To have iniquity is to have sin; it is to be a lawbreaker. This iniquity is not something to take lightly because God does not take it lightly. In Exodus 34:6-7 God described himself to Moses and here is what he said:Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB95):
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
In His own self-description God revealed to Moses that He would not “leave the guilty unpunished.” Here we see that iniquity is so reviling to God and powerfully destructive, that the results of iniquity will be felt for generations to come. Here is something scary to think about; the decision that you are making right now will have an affect on your children (maybe even your grandchildren). It takes years for a forest to grow back after a wildfire, and the iniquity that you commit with your tongue can be just as devastating.

Thankfully in this same self-description of God we see that He “forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.” But this is no simple task since God leaves no guilt unpunished. He had to punish our sins. Isaiah picks up on this very theme in Isaiah 53:4-7.

Isaiah 53:3-7 (NASB95):
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

Isn’t it interesting that while he was taking on the burden of our sins, which we commit with our tongue more often than not, he did not open His mouth? If we would use our tongues, as Paul put it in Romans 10:9-10, to confess Jesus as Lord then through this substitutionary work of Christ we will be saved.

The Destructive Tongue

James 3:5bIntroduction:

In the previous verses James highlighted the power that the tongue can have over your life. In verse 2 we see that the proper use of the tongue is essential for spiritual maturity. In verses 3 and 4 James gives two illustration of the power of the tongue compared to the size of the tongue. In verse 5a James reminds his readers that men are prone to use the power of the tongue improperly, “boasting of great things.”
Did you know that the average person uses approximately 25,000 words every day? This is why controlling the tongue is so important. The question that we, as disciples of Jesus, need to be asking ourselves is does our speech fulfill God’s intended purpose for our lives? Going back to verse 5a we could ask ourselves the question how much of our speech reflects pride, and how much of our speech reflects a gospel-motivated humility? In Ephesians 4:29 the apostle Paul makes it clear that our speech either builds up or it corrupts. There is no middle ground. C.J. Mahaney defines corrupting talk as “any and all communication that deters growth in godliness; any speech that hinders the cultivation of godly relationships; [and] any words that have a deadening or dulling effect on the soul of another.” How many of your 25,000 words per day are corruptive?
This is exactly what James is talking about in James 3:5b-12. Here in these verses James’ focus is on the malicious and destructive nature of the tongue. James continues to use illustrations that highlight the small size of the tongue and the great power that it yields, however now the stress is on the often disastrous results produced by the tongue. Since the tongue has the ability to talk about anything, it has the ability to corrupt anything.
It is important, when studying this passage, to understand that James is describing the tongue as it is by nature, not what it can become through God’s grace. Apart from the grace of God our speech burns with the fire of hell, rebelling against God, and is double-minded in what it says. I don’t think that James would have agreed with “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

The Burning Tongue.

“A small fire can ignite an entire forest.”

Again James illustrates how something small can have a great impact. Here it is a small fire igniting a large forest. This illustration should be particularly pertinent to us here in Hillsborough county. It has not rained here in months days. This kind of weather is wonderful for recreation; however the danger of wildfires increases every day that there is no rain. In weather that is this dry it literally takes just one spark to set an entire forest ablaze. In the United States an average of 106,400 wildfires break out each year. 4,083,347 acres are consumed. Most of these fires are started unintentionally by people trying to enjoy the outdoors. 1995 there were 9,974 wildfires caused by lightning and 120,045 wildfires caused by human error. Most of these were started by careless mistakes. I know that I sound like “Smokey the Bear,” but I want to illustrate how an incidental small spark can have a destructive outcome. So to your speech may seem like a small thing, but it can have an amazingly destructive outcome.
Another thing that is interesting about James’ illustration of the forest fire is how easily the fire spreads. Fire is truly an amazing thing. Fire has the ability to continually reproduce itself as long as it has fuel to burn. Unfortunately for firefighters that water that is needed to extinguish the fire does not have this ability. When the planes drop water on top of a wildfire it never becomes a flood even though it is thousands of gallons of water. But, the wildfire that the firefighters are battling was ignited by a small spark. The fire only needs to be fed by oxygen and fuel to continue burning.

In Proverbs we see similar language with reference to our speech in 26:20-21.

Proverbs 26:20-21 (NASB95):
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer,
contention quiets down.
Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
is a contentious man to kindle strife.

Here we see that our whispers (or gossip) fuel the evil fire that can come from our speech. The subject matter of our speech is like the dry underbrush that continues to fuel the wildfire. If we take away the fuel we will take away the fire.

*Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Blogger would not upload my posts.*

Definitely the last post on the definite atonement

This will be the final post I plan on doing in this current series on definite atonement. I would like to conclude my thoughts on this subject with a discussion of the practical imports of the doctrine of definite atonement. These are just a few of the things that have resonated in my mind as I have thought over this issue.“It Is Finished”

The most significant implication of the doctrine of definite atonement is the reality of the completed work of Christ. To view Christ’s death as an actual atonement, rather than making atonement available, is to make Christ’s work on the cross completed. Or to use the word’s of the Messiah Himself:

John 19:30
“It Is Finished”

The work of Christ is in the state of completion. With respect to man’s salvation there is nothing left to do that has not been done by the Godhead. The Father has set apart for Himself a people through election (John 6:37-38); the Son has made an atonement for the sins of these people through His earthly ministry (2 Corinthians 5:21); and the Spirit has called (or will call) those people through the second birth (John 3:1-8). The work of Christ is complete and it is not waiting on the approval or cooperation of man to be so.

“Not Me, But God”

The second area that the doctrine of definite atonement resonates within me is evangelism. Ironically it is because of the inferred implications of this doctrine with respect to evangelism that so many reject this doctrine. I would submit that a proper view of definite atonement will make the work of evangelism easier and more effective. Within this theological perspective Christ has completed the work and desires to use you to implement it (He is using you as a “conduit to do it.”). Do you realize how liberating this is for someone sharing their faith with an unbeliever? This means that no matter how much you fumble and stumble over your words God will use the faithful proclamation of His word to change peoples lives (Romans 10:14-17).

The accusation has been made that the doctrine of definite atonement will discourage evangelism. Unfortunately, this accusation has been made because there are people who have ignored their biblical responsibility of evangelism because of a supposed knowledge of this doctrine. This is sin. If we are to understand the doctrine of definite atonement properly, and as it has been historically understood, then we must say that Christ’s work is sufficient to save all, but effective to save only the elect. From a human perspective we cannot know who the elect are. To paraphrase C.H. Spurgeon, if the elect had yellow stripes down their backs I would give up preaching and go about lifting up the back of peoples shirts looking for the elect. The bible teaches that from a human perspective whosoever will believe will be saved (I say from a human perspective because we see elsewhere in Scripture that God has chosen a group of people throughout history to be designated as His people.). Our responsibility is to 1) present the Gospel to everyone we can knowing that whosoever will believe will be saved; 2) be encouraged that no matter who we are talking to Christ’s death is sufficient to save them; 3) and do not be discouraged when we are rejected because ultimately it is the power of God not the eloquence of human speech that saves people (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:1ff).
“No Fear of Spiritual Terrorist”

In Jude’s short epistle we find some very interesting material. Jude desired to write a soteriological treatise, however through divinely inspired pragmatism Jude instead appealed to his readers to contend for the faith (vs. 3). In verse 4 we see exactly what the danger was.

Jude 4

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this
condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality
and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(I will let you deal with the questions of reprobation brought up in this passage)

The danger was, as John MacArthur has put it, spiritual terrorists. They had crept in and now posed a threat to the church. Conventional logic would be to avoid these terrorists at all costs, but this was not Jude’s advice.

Jude 23

…save others by snatching them out of the fire; to
others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by their flesh.

Jude exhorted his readers to engage the spiritual terrorists! Look at the reason for Jude’s exhortation:

Jude 24-25

Now to him who is able to keep you from
stumbling and to present you
blameless before the presence of his glory with
great joy; to the only God,
our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, e glory,
majesty, dominion, and
authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Christ is the one who is able! It is “through Jesus our Lord” that we can engage in spiritual battles and fear not because “It Is Finished.”

Two Thoughts on Definite Atonement

At the onset of this post I would like to admit that the two arguments that I plan to put forward in this post are more philosophical than exegetical. However, I would strongly contend that these arguments for definite atonement are rooted in Scripture. I have much that I would like to say concerning these two arguments, but brevity and introductory material have seemed to be more profitable (at least from the feedback that I am getting).These two arguments/reasons/observations/thoughts are of a particular interest to me because they are two thoughts that I had to wrestle with as I worked through this topic.

First, the extent of the atonement had to be defined to the elect because the Godhead cannot be divided. The force of this argument is based on the presupposition that it is the Father who elects men unto salvation. This is a presupposition that I heartily accept, and without beginning a new series of posts here are a few reasons why:

Romans 8:29a
For those whom he foreknew he also

Romans 9:16
So then it depends not on
human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Ephesians 1:4
…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…

These are just to name a few.

The basic force behind this argument is that if the Father works to elect, and it is the Father who sent His son to atone for sins through the death of the son on the cross, then the Father has chosen for whom the death of Christ will atone for (At this point I will be brief with the hope of allowing you to think through this argument.). Within this doctrine we see the wonderful unity within the Godhead. It is the Father who has chosen us, the Son who has atoned for us, and the Spirit who calls us through the second-birth.

Second, the intent of the cross must be synonymous with the extent of the cross. In other words what God accomplished what He intended to accomplish. If we were to say that God intended (it is the intention of God that is at the very heart of this argument) for all to be saved through the death of Christ then, necessarily, we must also say that God was unable to accomplish what He had intended to accomplish. This must be true because it is clear both from Scripture and our experience that not all men are saved. Think about the implications of God not being able to accomplish what he intended to accomplish. If God intended to save all through the crucifixion and was unable to do so what assurance can anyone have that God will accomplish any other of His intentions. This argument is rooted in the character of God. The question that you have to ask, as you think through this argument, is how sovereign is God?

I think that one final post is in order. I would like to talk about the practicality of this doctrine, and the impact that it can have in your walk with the Lord.

Another short expositional look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement

In case you were not all that pleased with the way that I handled the “all” and “world” passages in my previous post I would like to take another short expositional look at a passage. I would like to reiterate that my goal is not to extensively exegete this passage, but rather to put the passage before you and let you work through it yourselves.Romans 8:32 (ESV)
He did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all…

The reason that I have chosen this passage is because I have recently heard is used to oppose definite atonement. On the surface it may seem to be a good text to debunk all that I have been writing on over the past few days. However, as we take a closer look at this passage it seems to be doing quite the opposite.
The first question that pertains to our discussion is, who are they that God did not spare his son for? This is an easy question to answer because it is right here in the text, “for us all…” The next question is, who is “us all?” In order to find the answer to this question we have to go all the way back to verse 28.

Romans 8:28a (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…

As we look at the first part of verse 28 we might say that this still fits a “universal atonement” (remember all views of the atonement limit it in some way) view. But look at the rest of the verse,

Romans 8:28b (ESV)
…for those who are called according to His purpose.

Paul goes to great lengths to specify who God is working for, and he says very clearly that God is working for those who are called according to His purpose. This means that the referent of verse 32 is the called. That would mean that “He did not spare His own Son but gave him up for” all of us the elect (notice the end of this sentence are my words not Scripture).

I hope to conclude some of my thoughts on this subject tomorrow. With two final thoughts.

1) The GodHead cannot be divided.
2) The intent of the cross is the extent of the cross.

A short expositional look and the doctrine of limited atonement

I would like to continue to look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement, and lest you accuse me of accepting a system rather than Scripture let me lead a short expositional look at the doctrine of limited/definite atonement from John chapter 10. At the outset I want to admit that my goal is not to “wax eloquent” on this passage. My intent is simply to put the Scripture before you, and let it speak for itself.John 10:11 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
This is an obvious reference to the crucifixion. Here Christ foreshadows the sacrifice that would be paid on the cross. Notice who Christ says the shepherd will lay down his for, it is the sheep. So the obvious question that pertains to our subject is who are the sheep?

John 10:27 (ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Here Christ answers our question for us. The sheep are the ones who hear the voice of the shepherd, the shepherd knows the sheep, and the sheep follow the shepherd. These are the ones that the shepherd lays down his life for.

The obvious question that may be left in your mind is “what about the ‘all’ and ‘world’ passages in Scripture that seem to teach that Christ died for the sins of the world. This is a good question, because it comes from a desire to understand God’s word. I think that we can gain some insight into these passages with several thoughts. First is the use of hyperbolic language in Scripture. We should not have a hard time understanding hyperbole because we use it all the time (get it). Second, I think that we can be true to God’s word and interpret “world” and “all” to mean that the gospel is available to all people groups regardless of race. In other words, the gospel is available to the entire world not just the Jews. Again, lest you think that I am bowing to a system rather than Scripture look at John 10.

John 10:16 (ESV)
I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

I know that this has not been the most in-depth look at this doctrine, but that was never my goal. My prayer is that no matter what view you take on this doctrine you do so because your conviction of Scripture forces you to do so.