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The bitter cup is filled by His hand

21 Jan

Piper quotes Spurgeon:

“It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think I have an affliction which God never sent me; that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him nor sent to me by his arraignment of their weight and quantity.”

That kind of thinking is totally upside-down to what the rest of the world would like to say about God, but it is absolutely essential to the way this man was able to live in a world with real suffering! Piper: “What kept [Spurgeon] going was the absolute confidence that every blackness over his soul was a cloud sent by the living God. ” Does that sound crazy to you?

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

Many modern thinkers, frightened at the implications of this kind of God, have attempted to clip the wings of God’s omniscience and sovereignty. For example, recently developed doctrines such as “Open theism” strip God of his complete knowledge of the future. 
What brings you more comfort- a God too weak to be in control of our suffering, too loving to be responsible for suffering of any kind, or a God who orchestrates suffering for our good?

Piper says, “for Spurgeon this view of God was not first argument for debate, it was a means of survival.” Spurgeon knew from experience that at some point, each of us will face suffering. We will only swallow this cup with joy if we know that it is filled by the hand of a loving and sovereign God.

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Their Lives Preach Loudly

14 Jan

John Piper (theologian)

HERE is a very awesome resource from the ministry of John Piper (a scholar and a gentleman)  that I’ve been enjoying recently.  There are about 25 sermon/biographies from Piper on some of the great heroes of the faith both anceint and modern; from Augustine and Athanasius to C.S. Lewis and Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. They can all be downloaded as free MP3s. Piper goes into the details of their life and times, giving some helpful education on these historic figures, and brings in much application and soul-searching. If you enjoy listening to audio sermons, consider some of these biographies for  powerful change of pace!

So far I have listened to the bios of John Owen, Robert Murray McCheyne, and George Whitefield, and have gotten a blessing from each. Try not to get discouraged that we will likely never measure up to these men, and rejoice that the same Spirit who raised them up is at work in our lives and our churches today!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us – Hebrews 12:1

Does our soteriology stand up to the awful reality of hell?

21 Dec

Okay, I know I already posted about Christopher Hitchens, but some of the chatter on the blogosphere has prompted further reflection.

Christopher Hitchens

This post, written by an unbeliever, sums up the confusion that unbelievers are sharing in response to the way some Christians have reacted to Hitchen’s death. Many Christians are sadly rejoicing in his death, causing unbelievers to scoff at their supposed religion of love. My focus in this post however, is on another group. Whether it be due to his charm or charisma, some Christians are attempting to leave room for Hitchens in heaven by saying things like- “We can’t know the mind of God so there’s no way to tell Hitchens’s fate.” This cowardly hedging is undermining the gospel, and the hypocrisy is not missed by unbelievers. The unbelieving blogger in the previously cited post points this out clearly:

“when presented with the apparent fait accompli of a decent, gifted, beloved guy like Hitchens being thrown to the fire, group three [Christians who say we can’t know] gets nervous and tries to carve out a “well, maybe God will cut him a break” exemption. Their religion says he deserves eternal damnation but their conscience tells them that’s unfair, so … they hedge. If conscience is divinely inspired, why hedge?”

Do we really believe what we say we believe? Does our professed soteriology (doctrine of salvation) waver when it is confronted by unbelievers with the awful reality of hell, and the death of “good” non-believers? The bible is very clear on the fate of those who reject God, and any attempts by Christians to gain approval from the unbelieving crowd by downplaying hell will be sniffed out for what it is: hypocrisy.

Now, I am not saying that it is impossible for Hitchen’s to have made a last minute conversion. The incident of the thief on the cross clearly shows that it is never too late to accept Christ, and I really do hope that in the end Hitchens chose Jesus. I am saying however, that if Hitchens never professed Jesus as his Lord and his God, then he is in hell. Using passages such as Matthew 25, where both the saved and the damned express surprise at God’s decision regarding their eternal state, some Christians attempt to find ‘loopholes’ in Scripture. Surely, many self-righteous men will be shocked to face an eternity in hell. Surely too will many sinners, possessing a simple faith in Christ, express surprise at being granted eternal life on the basis of Christ’s merits. But no man who blatantly rejects Christ will find God. 1 John 2:22-25 makes it all too clear:

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us— eternal life”

In fact, the repeated theme of 1 John is tests by which we can know if we are in Christ. Christians who attempt to soften the reality of hell by saying “we can’t know the mind of God and can’t possibly know who is in hell” are completely undermining the gospel for the sake of being accepted by the world. Equally damaging to the gospel are the supposed Christians who are taking pleasure in Hitchen’s death (another of 1 John’s evidences of salvation is love for one another!).

English: Kim Jong-il Русский: Ким Чен Ир 日本語: ...

Why does hell become more difficult for Christians to preach when the dead man in question was charming, literate, and passionate? I didn’t see a single blog post on the possibility of Kim Jong Il being in heaven “because we don’t know the mind of God”. If Christopher Hitchens or Kim Jong Il is in heaven, and either of them very well may be, it will not be because God valued their philanthropic efforts. It will not be because God credited whatever good they did in the world as in His name, even though they didn’t realize they were doing it in His name. No. They were both found wanting as sinners at the judgment seat of God. Only if, in faith, they claimed the righteousness of Christ will we meet them in heaven. And that goes for every one of us, whether you are a proclaimed atheist, a bible belt Baptist, or an evil dictator.

John Owen on Christopher Hitchens (and me)

19 Dec

“The difference between the knowledge of believers and unbelievers is not so much a difference in the matter of their knowledge but in the manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, know more about God, his perfections, and his will, than many believers do; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy and heavenly light. The excellence of a believer is not that he has a large grasp of things, but that what he does grasp, which may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God.”

– John Owen, the Mortification of Sin

As I read this quote, I couldn’t help but think of the late Christopher Hitchens.  Much has been written on the famous atheist in the wake of his death this week, and a great deal of the obituaries were from the mouths of Christians. (see here or here or even here)  The overwhelming response seems to be that of respect and regret.  Respect for his wit, vigor, and knowledge of the Christian faith, and regret that he seemingly never turned from his sins to embrace Christ as Savior.  It was said that Hitchens had a firm understanding of the Christian doctrine of the atonement; he could explain an orthodox understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement as well as a true believer (probably better in many cases,sadly), only without the belief.  Instead, his knowledge only fueled his harsh anti-God rhetoric and cutting arguments.

The other person I was reminded of as I read Owen’s quote was me.  How deep is my own faith?  How often do I fail to see my knowledge of salvation “in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light” leading to communion with God?  Christopher Hitchen’s knowledge of the truth resulted in passionate raging against the God of the gospel.  How many of us know the same truth, and experience neither Hitchen’s revulsion nor the graceful transformation Owen describes? I do not doubt my salvation.  Rather, I am reminded to pray that my acceptance of this glorious gospel of grace would be at least as passionate as Hitchen’s rejection of it, and never result in the cold head knowledge that produces no fruit, no heat, and no light.