Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Come and Welcome - Conclusion

One of the reasons why I haven't blogged much on this book is due to the fact that I really enjoyed it. So much so that I decided that any spare time was better spent reading this book than writing about it.

In one of my early posts I spoke of the fact that Bunyan exhibits a beautiful joining of Reformed theology with a heart for evangelism. He is no "hyper-Calvinist", and his concern for lost souls pours off of the pages of Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. Two final examples of this union:

Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed. Alas! The best of us, if life was left in our hand, to be sure, we would forfeit it, over, and over, and over. Or, if it was in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us. But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yes, multiply pardons. It is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that has a heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding. Blessed be God that life is in Christ! For now it is sure to all the seed. (pg. 199)

God has strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where you were, to the gate of heaven, where you are going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, call, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about you! Take heed that you do not tread them under foot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yes, he has mixed all those with his own Name, his Son's Name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner. (pg. 221-222)

Oh what blessed promises are contained in the text that Bunyan so thoroughly exposits in this book:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. - John 6:37, KJV

Monday, May 26, 2008

Come and Welcome - Lazy Post

I was going to post Bunyan's 25 comparisons between faith and unbelief later today, but Timmy Brister beat me to it.

Rather than repost, I will be lazy and link to him.

Good stuff.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day - 2008

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13, ESV

Monday, May 19, 2008

Come and Welcome - Militant Unbelief

I have sometimes been taken aback by the militancy of many who don't believe. Whether atheism, agnosticism, paganism, or a variety of other "isms", there is often a strident militant opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is nothing new, and is something that John Bunyan dealt with as well.

But, faithless sinner, let us a little explore the matter. What has this man done against you, that is coming to Jesus Christ? Why do thou make him the object of your scorn? Does his coming to Jesus Christ offend you? Does his pursuing of his own salvation offend you? Does his forsaking of his sins and pleasures offend you? (pg. 139)

Last I checked, nobody was forcing people to convert to Christianity at the point of a gun. It could even be argued that those historical attempts at forced conversion were not representative of Christ and His church, but instead a perversion of Biblical Christianity. Even so, can anyone point to a single contemporary example of force being used in connection with Christian evangelism?

Yet, the presentation of the Gospel message of salvation in Christ Jesus is often met with ridicule, scorn, opposition, and , in many places, persecution. Even in "tolerant" cultures it is considered acceptable to be intolerant of the biblical message.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God i in that name. - 1 Peter 4:12-16, ESV

Come and Welcome - Evangelical Calvinism

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts this month that John Bunyan was thoroughly Calvinistic in his soteriology while at the same time wholly evangelistic. Even a cursory reading of Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ would show the latter to be true. Passages like the following show that my earlier premise is true as well:

There are some men who think they may not be contradicted when they plead for the will, wisdom, and power of man in reference to the things that are of the kingdom of Christ. But I will say to such a man, he never yet come to understand what the Scripture teaches concerning himself; nor has he ever known what coming to Christ is, by the teaching, gift, and drawing of the Father. He is such a one that has set up God's enemy in opposition to him, and that continues in such acts of defiance; and what his end, without a new birth, will be, the Scripture teaches also; but we will pass this. (pg. 136)

When Bunyan states "he never yet come to understand what the Scripture teaches concerning himself" he recognizes the total depravity and inability of that man. None of us, being dead in trespasses and sins, can exercise any "will, wisdom, and power" in matters of salvation. We need a Savior, One who really and completely saves, Jesus Christ.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. - Psalm 14:3, ESV (compare Romans 3)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Take heed lest you fall

One more example in the news as to why we should constantly cling to Christ and mortify the flesh.

Sad as this is for the family and the local church, it is sadder yet that the world will use this as one more excuse to slander the name of God. What you do is never private, there are always others who experience the consequences of your sin.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Come and Welcome - Conversion vs. Profession

'And him that cometh.' He says not, and him that talks, that professes, that makes a show, a noise, or the like; but, him that comes. Christ will take leave to judge, who, among the many that make a noise, are those indeed that are coming to him. It is not him that says he comes, nor him of whom others affirm that he comes; but him that Christ himself shall say does come, that is concerned in this text. (pg. 103)

We might talk a good talk, making a great show, and a grand noise, and yet be far from the Kingdom. When you look at the last century of evangelicalism you see a leaning towards "easy believism" and "repeat this prayer after me" decision making. Describe the state of the lost under the wrath of God? We wouldn't want to scare them off. Preach about hell? More of the same.

Heaven forbid that we would call men and women to turn from their sins and forsake the world. That wouldn't be "seeker sensitive".

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)

Profession without repentance is false conversion. Christ might find you where you are at, but He won't leave you there. To think otherwise is a dangerous folly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Come and Welcome - "and him"

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37, KJV)

There is many a sad wretch given by the Father to Jesus Christ; but not one of them all is despised or slighted by him. It is said of those that the Father has given to Christ that they have done worse than the heathen; that they were murderers, thieves, drunkards, unclean persons, and what not; but he has received them, washed them, and saved them. A fit emblem of this sort is that wretched example mentioned in the Ezekiel 16, that was cast out in a stinking condition, to the loathing of its person, in the day that it was born; a creature in such a wretched condition, that no eye pitied, to do any of the things there mentioned to it, or to have compassion upon it; no eye but his that speaks in the text.

'And him'. Let him be as red as blood, let him be as red as crimson. Some men are blood-red sinners, crimson-sinners, sinners of a double dye; dipped and dipped again, before they come to Jesus Christ. Are you who are reading these lines such a one? Speak out, man! Are you such a one? And are you now coming to Jesus Christ for the mercy of justification, that you might be made white in his blood, and be covered with his righteousness? Fear not; forasmuch as this your coming demonstrates that you are of the number of them that the Father has given to Christ; for he will in no wise cast you out. "Come now," says Christ, "and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa 1:18). (pg. 82-83)

As you are therefore coming, oh coming sinner, judge whether Christ can save you by the true sense of his words. Judge, coming sinner, of the efficacy of his blood, of the perfection of his righteousness, and of the prevalency of his intercession, by his Word. "And him," says he, "that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." "In no wise," that is, for no sin. Judge therefore by his word, how able he is to save you. (pg. 85)

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Public Apology...

...to every living thing that has ever died.

I just returned from the veterinarian's office, where I had our beloved family dog, Cora, put to sleep. She was just nine years old, and had been in good health up until this past week when she began showing symptoms of kidney failure. She spent 48 hours in the animal hospital, but even after extensive treatment she was still showing blood tests levels that were off the charts, even with some improvement. We thought that maybe she wasn't eating due to the hospital setting, and brought her home last night to see if that would help. Everything that she ate or drank was vomited up within a minute, and she began to show signs of shutdown, to the point that she was unable to walk before noon today. She had a very peaceful passing, but one of the last things I told her was "I'm sorry". Now, I might not be thinking too clearly at present, but I really should be sorry.

I should be sorry that death is the result of man's sin. In Romans 5 we read:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin (Romans 5:12a, ESV)

When you stop and think about it, puppy dogs, and gold fish, and every other living thing dies because man sinned. Death is the result of sin.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:19-22, ESV)

All of that groaning, all of that pain, all of that suffering, all of that misery is the result of OUR sin. Yes, God will make all things right, and break the curse of sin and death, but death and suffering in creation are the result of sin. Not sin in puppy dogs, but sin in men.

Yes, Cora, I truly am sorry.

A very good dog

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Come and Welcome - Substance

I have been somewhat remiss the last few days. I have been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, but I have not posted much here about what I have read. For several days now I have wanted to make a comment on the substance of this book, but have not found the right opportunity.

Regarding substance, I find it remarkable that this entire book, 225 pages coupled with a four page outline, is devoted to the exposition of a single verse of Scripture:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, ESV)

Twenty words in the ESV, 23 in the KJV, 20 in the NIV, 23 in the NASB, 20 in the Geneva, 22 in the NET, and 18 in the Greek (TR and NA27). Just a few short words, but positively packed with meaning. (In fact, a friend of mine once told me that John 6:37 was the most Calvinistic verse in the entire Bible, but I will leave that discussion for another time. I will simply comment here that Bunyan holds a thoroughly Calvinistic soteriology, making a universal call to all to embrace Christ: "Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ". He thus refutes those who accuse Calvinists of having no evangelistic zeal .)

In this day and time, with our gravitation towards "sound bites", would we tolerate a series of sermons that would focus week after week on one short verse? Yet, as we read Bunyan we recognize that this book started out as a series of sermons, just like manyof the other books chosen this year for the Puritan Reading Challenge. There is a substance to this book that is woefully lacking in our day. Just the four page outline contains more substance than most contemporary sermons.

Don't get me wrong, there are some who handle God's Word in this way in our age, but they are the exception. In Bunyan's day I am sure that there were also many pulpits filled with unworthy, and often unregenerate, men, but 17th century Puritan England uniquely produced many, many mighty men of God.

What is most impressive is the fact that Bunyan had no formal theological education. In the words of King Charles II, Bunyan was an "uneducated tinker". Reading this book, or any of his other works demonstrates a love of God, a devotion to His Word, and a desire to feed God's children. In short, Bunyan was a man of substance. May God give us a multitude of "uneducated tinkers" of substance with the power to "touch men's hearts" in our day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Prayer - Burma

For those of you who have not yet heard, a storm that struck Burma has led to over 22,000 deaths with over 41,000 still missing and an estimated 1 million homeless. The Burmese government (I refuse to use the phony title that the current oppressors identify themselves with) has recently done much to suppress Christianity and to rule with an iron fist over its citizens.

I offer up this prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We come before you today with heavy hearts as we hear of the destruction and devastation that has resulted from the storm in Burma. We know that you have complete and absolute control over the winds, the rains, and the seas, and that nothing happens in this universe outside of your providence.

We come before you, pleading before your Holy throne, requesting your comfort in the midst of death, your provision in the midst of want, your healing in the midst of injury, and your compassion in the midst of hurt. We pray that the people of Burma would receive the aid that the rest of the world wishes to provide, and that the government of Burma would allow this aid to flow unhindered.

Awaken compassion in your people worldwide to reach out with their riches to meet needs in this sea of need. We pray that you will also awaken your people, in Burma and elsewhere, to reach out to those who are hurting with the love of Christ. We ask that you will soften the hearts of ruthless leaders, and that you would grant them wisdom so as to rule with justice and mercy.

We pray that you will be magnified and glorified in the midst of this tragedy, and that hearts would be turned toward you as your Son, Jesus Christ, is lifted up in both deed and word. We pray that not only will the people of Burma see their physical needs met, but that you would also bring many of them to salvation through Jesus Christ.

We pray all of this with the assurance that you hear us, knowing that our prayer comes to you through the agency of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Samaritan's Purse Burma Relief

Baptist Burma Disaster Assessment

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Home Page

Come and Welcome - Motives

When the jailor said, "Sirs, What must I do to be saved?" Paul did not so much as once ask him, What is your motive in this question? Do you design the glory of God, in the salvation of your soul? He had more sense; he knew that such questions as these would have been but foolish talk about, instead of a sufficient relief to so weighty a question as this. Wherefore, since this poor wretch lacked salvation by Jesus Christ, the salvation from hell and death, which he knew, now, was due to him for the sins that he had committed, Paul tells him, as the poor condemned sinner that he was, to proceed still in this his way of self-seeking, saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-32). (pg. 37)

Please note that even though the deliverance of our souls from damnation may be our motive to turn to Christ, we soon learn in his school the purpose of our salvation:

I know that afterwards you will desire to glorify Christ by walking in the way of his precepts; but at present you want life; the avenger of blood is behind you, and the devil like a roaring lion is behind you; well, come now, and obtain life from these; and when you have obtained some comfortable persuasion that you are made partaker of life by Christ, then, and not till then, you will say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Psa 103:1-4). (ibid)

In other words, don't let the thought that you might have "impure motives" keep you from embracing the salvation that is found in Christ Jesus.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What do you trust?

Our post-modern society distains any type of standards, prefering instead to follow an "if it works for you who am I to judge?" philosophy, often with disastrous results. A recent news article demonstrates that standards are necessary and essential. In this article we learn that two men were killed due to the fact that there was no objective standard.

Pilots fly "by the numbers" especially if they have 3,400 hours logged. However, what are "the numbers" if your airspeed indicator isn't calibrated properly? For those of you who are not pilots, airspeed is the most critical element for safe flying. You never want to run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas all at the same time. I have no doubt that the pilot sincerely believed what his airspeed indicator was telling him. He was doing everything correctly, yet still died, along with his passenger. Since the standard was wrong, this tragedy resulted. No pilot would ever fly an airplane without a working airspeed indicator, but this was an even worse situation, since it was not even known that the standard could not be trusted.

While not always picked up by the news media, many others "crash and burn" in their spiritual lives due to the fact that they have no objective standard. They may (or may not) be very sincere. They may (or may not) be very meticulous. Yet, if they are relying upon a faulty standard (or no standard at all) they are doomed for failure.

There is only one standard that we can trust for our spiritual well-being, that that is the Bible, God's Word.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-- which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3, ESV)

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, ESV)

Having the right standard, and following it, is very, very important.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

John Bunyan, 1628-1688

This month we are reading Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan. Bunyan is better known for his Pilgrims' Progress, but "Come and Welcome", as I have seen from the 20 or so pages that I have read so far, should be read by every Christian. Even without a formal education, Bunyan demonstrates a firm grip on the truth of Scripture. John Owen, when asked by King Charles why he, a great scholar, went to hear an uneducated tinker like Bunyan preach said, "I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker's power of touching men's hearts."

But the most remarkable thing about Bunyan, at least to me, is the fact that he was a man of principal. At least twice he was imprisoned due to following his conscience and preaching the Gospel according to his understanding of God's Word. The longest term of his confinement was twelve years. He could have avoided this by going "underground", as did some of his contemporaries, or by abandoning his ministry altogether. He refused to be ashamed of the Gospel and of his Lord, knowing full well that faithfulness to Christ would lead to prison, and possibly even to death (in 1685, 300 people died during the "Bloody Assizes" for crimes no worse than those of Bunyan). Bunyan was more concerned that Jesus be magnified than he was for his own safety, security, and comfort.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.... Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 11:36-38; 12:1-2, ESV)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Maybe this will generate less controversy...

I'm a Ford Mustang!

You're an American classic -- fast, strong, and bold. You're not snobby or pretentious, but you have what it takes to give anyone a run for their money.

"Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

(I am a Ford man, but more of the F-150/Escape variety.)