Monthly Archives: August 2011


Heart Change Wrought by the Holy Spirit

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Titus 3:5-6

Regeneration is a change wrought by the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person transforming their motivation from a heart of self-centeredness to a will that is Christ-loving and people-serving. This work of regeneration is released by faith and changes us from hearts of stone, that can only sin, and nothing else, to hearts that serve, love, and sacrifice.

This means that our regeneration is owing to the historical work of Christ. . . . New birth is not a vague spiritual change disconnected from history. It is an objective historical act of the Spirit of God connecting us by faith to the historical, incarnate—the appearing—Lord Jesus, so that the life he now has as the crucified and risen Savior has become our life because we are united to him. New birth happens because Jesus came into the world as the kindness and love of God and died for sins and rose again.

John Piper, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again (Christian Focus, 2009), 94.


The Doctrine of Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Authority and Character  

It has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, . . .

Acts 15:25 ESV

Apostolic Succession is historic continuity with the apostles imparted through the laying on of hands in ordination; thereby, receiving the apostles’ authority while simultaneously experiencing the Holy Spirit’s anointing to embody apostolic character and teach apostolic doctrine. This ancient succession grants to the bishops the same authority, commission, and responsibility as the apostles. Also, this ancient continuity extends special grace and authority to the clergy from the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel throughout the world. An Anglican theologian defines the doctrine of apostolic succession:

As our blessed Lord ordained the twelve to be his representatives when He left the earth, so the apostles chose others to take their place when they in turn were withdrawn by death. … During this long period, successors of the apostles, first receiving, and then in turn handing on the divine power and authority which Christ gave to the twelve, have never been wanting. The apostolic succession is the link or bond that connects the Church of the 20th century with that of the 1st century.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Press, 1983), 15.

The doctrine of apostolic succession has both Petrine and Pauline qualities. Petrine in that the bishop’s consecration and ministry must be in historic continuity with the church catholic and Pauline in that the bishop should be governed by the Holy Spirit and has an individual (not individualistic) walk with the Lord exemplified by the “faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6).

If a bishop is not Pauline then he is not apostolic. In other words, no matter the fact of his ordination, he is not a representative of the church if he is not living a holy life and does not believe the historic doctrines of the apostles. However, when a bishop is Pauline and not Petrine, he lacks authority in his ministry. That deficiency keeps him from speaking from and to the church. As one presbyter stated:

When I received Christ, I discovered the grace of God. When I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I discovered the power of God. When I received the laying on of hands in apostolic succession of the government of God, I discovered the authority of God.”

Ed Wills, “Sensitive to the Holy Spirit,” Sursum Corda (November 1994), 2.

Whether You Eat or Drink

Do All to the Glory of God 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Cor. 10: 31 ESV

“Glorify,” means to clothe God in splendor by those who recognize their victory in the Cross, their triumph in the resurrection, and their restoration in the ascension. To glorify is to give the reverence, awe and honor in worship to God for his excellencies and praiseworthiness. We glorify God when we find the Lord beautiful for what he is in himself.

In the difficulties of life, the righteous choices we make and the Christ-like attitude that we maintain gives praise to the holy God we serve. This manifested presence is the person and work of the Holy Spirit magnifying Jesus. To glorify God is to recognize God’s presence in our lives while yielding to his Lordship in utter dependence on his grace.

The chief end of man is to glorify God. And it is truer in suffering than anywhere else that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 288.



His Blood Is Bibline

A Life That Is Bible Saturated

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that ethe man of God2 may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 ESV

The Bible is the Word of God by its immeasurable majesty, moral purity, essential unity, and time-tested faithfulness. The Bible is unique in its power to convince and convert our hearts, comfort and build-up our spirits, and divide and measure our motives. The Bible is encouragement in trial, insight into the tribulations of life, and guidance in the midst of confusion. The Bible is the only book whose author can personally and directly apply its truths to our daily lives. The Bible is to be believed, obeyed, trusted, digested, and honored. When we read the Bible, the Spirit leads us to repent that we may be made holy; hear God’s voice that we may be drawn nearer to Christ, renounce the world that we may be transformed into the image of Christ, revived as the people of God that we may be a light unto the world, and prepared for the Second Coming of Christ that we may be ready to see Christ face-to-face.

Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.

”Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Curtis & Jennings, 1900), p. 268.


Liberation from Tyranny or Restraint 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 ESV

Freedom is the ability to do what we want to do. What a Christ-follower wants to do is please their Lord and Savior. Christian freedom is not the freedom to do whatever I want, but the freedom to do what is right by God. Freedom for the Christian is the heart-felt, passionate desire to please their Lord.

By contrast, legalism, that is the law, can only motivate through fear of rejection, punishment, and slavish duty. Legalists are fear-based, proud, and guilt-ridden which leads to touchiness, insecurity, pride, discouragement, and weariness. The legalist believes that they are not valuable to the kingdom of God unless they perform well. They cannot receive Christ’s righteousness for they feel that they are unworthy creatures who have not done enough. Rule keeping is a perversion of freedom: we think by doing we can achieve acceptance by God. Legalism stifles joy and freedom in the Christian life.

On the contrary, the saint is free for he or she is liberated by their righteous standing in Christ: nothing they do or fail to do will change their status as saints in Christ. God’s grace magnifies God’s unconditional love and motivates us by filling our hearts with overwhelming gratitude and appreciative love.

True freedom is not freedom from all responsibility to God and man in order to live for myself, but the exact opposite.  True freedom is freedom from myself and from the cramping tyranny of my own self-centeredness, in order to live in love for God and others.  Only in such self-giving love is an authentically free and human existence to be found.

John Stott, ‘Obeying Christ in a Changing World’, in Obeying Christ in a Changing World, Vol. 1: The Lord Christ (London: Collins, 1977), 28.

The Wilderness of God

The Trial of Faith

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

Isaiah 30:20-21 NLT

The wilderness, or desert, is the lonely place where we think that God is rejecting us. This wilderness of soul is where the silence of God allows our demons of fear, worry, anxiety, anger, and self-rejection to be exposed. The wilderness is a trial of faith where God uses the stress in our lives to drive us to him for comfort, love, healing, forgiveness, and discipline.

The wilderness is the ordained place of training for the man or woman of God who desires to be used by God as a discipler of other Christians. A clear pattern emerges from scripture, God sovereignly uses the desert places to develop Christ-like character in the lives of his leaders: Joseph in prison, Moses in the Sinai, David with the sheep, and Paul in the Arabian desert, etc.

In the modern world, our desert is the jungle called day-to-day living in a stress-filled and an anxiety-ridden world: the pressures of work, school, family and finance are the tools God uses to teach us to trust him. In the desert, God seems far away, yet he is as near as the air that we breathe. Initially, the desert is a place of dread, but in the passing of time, it becomes a place remembrance of God’s grace and goodness.

Faith must be tried, and it is the trial of faith that is precious. If you are faint-hearted, it is a sign you won’t play the game, you are fit for neither God nor man because you will face nothing.

Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where [electronic ed.] (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1996), 36.

What Is a Consecrated Life?

I Surrender All

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

Phil. 3:8 NLT

Consecration is the abandonment of our lives without reserve to the loving purposes of God. A consecrated life is the conviction held deep within our beings that we are God’s without reserve, qualification, or equivocation. We do not hold back from Christ’s Lordship any rights, gifts, possessions, relationships, or privileges: all that we are and have are His.

God is not satisfied by the sound of our lips, nor the position of our bodies, nor external ceremonies. What he asks is a will which will no longer be divided between him and any creature, a will pliant in his hands, which neither desires anything nor refuses anything, which wants without reservation everything he wants, and which never, under any pretext, wants anything which he does not want.

Francois Fenelon, Christian Perfection  (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1975), 64.


Are You Assured of Your Salvation?

Arrogance or Confidence?

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Romans 8:15-16 ESV

Christian assurance is the belief that our salvation is presently secured in Christ’s saving work on the Cross. Therefore, we can be certain in this life that we are accepted and approved by God. Objectively and subjectively, we can experientially know that we are saved by Christ’s finished work on the Cross and by the Holy Spirit’s ongoing testimony. Christian assurance is not a form of arrogance as many suppose. Faith in God’s Word and trust in his Holy Spirit’s witness is true humility. We do not conceive it for the Lord himself gives us confidence. Certainty is not arrogance if it’s given to us by the promise of God’s Word and the witness of the Spirit.

God wants his children to be sure that they belong to him, and does not want us to remain in doubt and uncertainty. So much so, that each of the three persons of the Trinity contributes to our assurance. The witness of God the Holy Spirit confirms the word of God the Father concerning the work of God the Son. The three strong legs of this tripod make it very steady indeed.

John Stott, Your Confirmation, rev. edn. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991), 36.

Discerning a Word of Prophecy

Assessing a Word of Prophecy

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.

1 Cor. 14:29

Every believer can prophesy because every believer has indwelling within him or her the presence of the Holy Spirit. The word of prophecy has not ceased because the Holy Spirit has not stopped being our advocate, counselor, and guide (1 Thes. 5:19-22). In addition, the Holy Spirit endows every believer with the gift of discernment.

Evaluating a word of prophecy involves three elements: revelation, interpretation, and application. Revelation: Is a prophetic word genuinely from the Holy Spirit having a sense of eternity? Interpretation: What does the word mean to us? The correct interpretation is important as the revelation. Application: What do we do with this word?

The gift of discernment is insight from the Holy Spirit which enables a believer to know whether a practice, teaching, or gifting is from God, Satan, or a manifestation of the flesh (Luke 10:19, Acts 16:17-18, 1 Cor. 12:10). The Holy Spirit has not only graced the Body of Christ with prophetic guidance, but also, he has granted the church the ability to weigh prophetic words. Is a prophetic word from the Lord or simply a human creation? Is a prophetic word eternal, genuinely from the Lord, or a manifestation of the flesh, an emotional working up of concern? Could it be possible that a prophetic word is a distraction from Satan?

The gift of discernment operates in the congregation and within the leadership of the local church. This gift is enables the congregation to identify the source, content, and intent of a prophetic word. Individually, discernment is a check in one’s spirit with a question mark in one’s mind. A prophetic word may sound right, but does not register in our spirits as being from the Lord.

Certainly in these Last Days, the church needs the gift of discernment more than ever before. All types of false teaching and wrong-headed leadership are attempting to subvert local churches. We are not only called to discern, but are commanded to do so. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-2).

One aspect of discernment is the ability to judge not by what our eyes see, or our ears hear, but with righteousness through the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11: 2-4). The Holy Spirit can show us whether or not predictions will come true. But this is not the highest level of discernment that he has to offer the church.

The Spirit of Truth is given to the church, especially its leadership, what promotes the love, testimony, and glory of Jesus. If the leadership of the church would follow resolutely after these three things—the love of Jesus, the testimony of Jesus, and the glory of Jesus—it would be very difficult for them to be deceived.”

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 198.

The Shadow of Death

A Painting With a Story

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21-22 ESV

Do you know the painting by Holman Hunt, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, entitled ‘The Shadow of Death’? It depicts the inside of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Stripped to the waist, Jesus stands by a wooden trestle on which he has put down his saw. He lifts his eyes towards heaven, and the look on his face is one of either pain or ecstasy or both. He also stretches, raising both arms above his head. As he does so, the evening sunlight streaming through the open door casts a dark shadow in the form of a cross on the wall behind him, where his tool-rack looks like a horizontal bar on which his hands have been crucified. The tools themselves remind us of the fateful hammer and nails.

In the left foreground a woman kneels among the wood chippings, her hands resting on the chest in which the rich gifts of the Magi are kept. We cannot see her face because she has averted it. But we know that she is Mary She looks startled (or so it seems) at her son’s crosslike shadow on the wall.

The Pre-Raphaelites have a reputation for sentimentality. Yet they were serious and sincere artists, and Holman Hunt himself was determined, as he put it, to ‘do battle with the frivolous art of the day’, its superficial treatment of trite themes. So he spent 1870-73 in the Holy Land, and painted ‘The Shadow of Death’ in Jerusalem, as he sat on the roof of his house. Though the idea is historically fictitious, it is also theologically true. From Jesus’ youth, indeed even from his birth, the cross cast its shadow ahead of him. His death was central to his mission. Moreover, the church has always recognized this.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 17.