Friday, September 30, 2016

The Doctrines of Grace

This book is from the larger book on the doctrines of grace. This is just one chapter from that book. I cannot even begin to say how precious these truths are to my soul. I did not find the Lord He found me. God's electing love is the reason any of us have a home in heaven. Praise be to God for the great things He has done.

Is The New Birth Controlled By Man Or By God?
John 3:1-8
In John Chapter three we have the thrilling story of a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came at night to see Jesus. The text says,
 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
  Why this man came at night is not told us, but we have a pretty good idea what might have influenced him to do so. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and and the Pharisees were highly respected religious leaders in Israel. Perhaps because of his position, he did not want to b e seen conversing with Jesus. In any case, It is very apparent that something disturbed this man and prompted his curiosity about Jesus. No doubt he saw some of the miracles that Jesus performed or heard about them from the many witnesses who saw them. Perhaps Nicodemus was struggling with the question, “Could this be the promised Messiah?” I think it is safe to conclude that Nicodemus was deeply stirred in his soul by the ministry of Christ. He may have been thinking, “If this man is the Messiah, how can we be right with God? 
In the text we see that Nicodemus makes a statement, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” He does not raise any questions. But Jesus, knowing the heart of all men read his mind and cut right to the chase with His response. Jesus answered the unasked question which He knew was disturbing the  heart of this religious leader of Israel. Three times in this passage Jesus tells this man that he must be born again. This is puzzling to Nicodemus and he asks for clarification. “Can a man who is grown go back into the womb of his mother to be born again?” It is clear by his question that he is clueless as to what Jesus means by the spiritual work of God in the soul that we call the new birth. Jesus even rebukes him by asking, “Are you a spiritual leader in Israel and do not know these things?”  
Jesus then proceeds to explain the spiritual work of being born again by comparing it to natural birth. Just as a man is born physically, he must also be born spiritually. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. With solemn and serious words, Jesus warns Nicodemus that he must be born again. We know from reading the Scriptures that no one can go to heaven if they have not been born again. Just as John tells us in Chapter one that those who receive Christ have been born of God, so too in this text, John recounts the words of the Master to Nicodemus that we must be born again. 
But in verse eight, John gives us a statement that Jesus made about the new birth that is matchless in its clarity. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes,and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is  everyone who is born of the Spirit.” What could be more clear than this verse? Jesus is telling Nicodemus that just as we cannot control the movements of the wind, or tell it to blow this way or that way, so it is with the new birth. The new birth is under the control of the Holy Spirit. There can and should be no ambiguity on this point. Jesus could not have said this in any other way to make it clearer. The new birth is not something we do; it is something God does through the Holy Spirit for us. 
Again, I repeat that if this were the only verse in the Bible that spoke of the nature of our salvation, it would be sufficient to convince us of the Doctrines of Grace.  This verse tells us that the new birth, just like the wind, is under the total control of a sovereign God. There can be no debate about what Jesus told Nicodemus in this passage. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” And He clearly tells Nicodemus that the new birth is something God does for man, not something man does for God.

Here is an excellent article on how to plead with God for your soul. May the Lord bless you all as you seek His face.

What Sinners Should Plead with God
by Ralph Erskine

  1. Plead his promise, Ezek 36:26,27. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." It is a free, gracious promise: cry to him to make good that word to you, seeing he has said, "Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them." ver. 37. Tell him, that now you are come to inquire, and request him to do it.
  1. Plead your own feebleness and inability to help yourselves; this was the impotent man's plea at the pool of Bethesda, John 5:6,7 "When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?' 'Sir,' the invalid replied, 'I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.'" So say you, Lord, I have lain many years with this dead plagued heart, beside the open fountain of your blood; I am unable to move to it of myself; I have none to put me in: ordinances cannot do it; ministers cannot do it; you must put to your helping hand, or else the work will remain unperformed.
  2. Plead his power, in a sense of your own weakness. Do you feel the power and multitude of your corruptions within you? Say with Jehoshaphat, "Lord I have no might against this great company; neither know I what to do: but mine eyes are upon you." With you all things are possible. Though I may despair of help in myself and others; yet, you have forbid me to despair of help in you. You said, Let there be light, and there was light; therefore say, let there be faith, and it will immediately take place; for faith is your work and your gift: it is "the work of God that we believe: by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”
  1. Plead your necessity, your extreme need of Christ and of faith in him. O man, there is not a starving man that needs food so much as you need Christ: there is not a wounded man that needs a physician; a shipwrecked man that needs a plank; a dying man, with the death rattle in his throat, that needs breath so much, as you need Christ. O then, cry, "Give me Christ, or else I die." I may live without friends, without wealth, and honour, and pleasure; but I cannot live without Christ, and without faith. Plead his power; how easy it is for him to help, saying, as Psalm 80:1 "you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth!" It will cost you no more pain to work faith in me, than it does the sun to shine forth. Yea, he can more easily put forth his power and grace, than the sun can dart out its beams. It is no trouble nor loss to the sun to shine forth, so neither will it be to him, to show his power and mercy: a look, or a touch, will do it; since he can so easily do it. You may cry with hope; he will never miss an alms bestowed on a beggar, out of the ocean of his bounty. Nay, as the sun, the more it shines displays its glory the more; so will he gain glory by putting forth his power to help you.
  1. Plead his mercy, and the freedom and extension of it. Plead the freedom of his mercy, that needs no motive, and expects no worth: it runs freely, so that the mountains cannot stop the current of it, no more than the rocks can stop the ebbing and flowing of the sea. Plead the extension of his mercy to others: he had compassion on men's bodies, that came to him for healing, and will he not have compassion upon souls, that come to him for life? Is not mercy the work that he delights in? The perfection of his nature, he takes pleasure to display.
  2. Plead Christ's commission, Isa. 61:1, that he came "to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Cry, Lord, here is a poor prisoner, a locked and bound up heart; here is employment for you. O loose and knock off my fetters, and bring my soul out of prison. O here is a naked sinner for you to cover, a wounded soul for you to cure, a lost sheep for you to seek and save; and was not this your errand? You came to seek and save that which was lost. And will you not find a lost sinner, that desires to seek you through your grace? Plead his commission under the broad seal of heaven; for, "Him has God the Father sealed." And plead the value of his blood, and merit of his righteousness: and upon that ground whereby all grace is purchased: plead for faith and grace to receive Jesus Christ the Lord.

Thus I have laid before you some directions, in order to the receiving of Christ. O cry for grace to follow them, and put them in practice, so you may indeed close the bargain with him. O shall all these directions be lost, and Christ be still slighted and rejected! O friends, you cannot please God better, than by coming to Christ and embracing the offer of him; and you cannot please the devil better than by refusing the offer of Christ; and putting him off with delays, till you perish in your unbelief.

And now, after all that has been said, what are you resolved upon? Will you receive Christ or not? Our glorious Lord and Master has sent us to pose you man, woman, and demand whether you will receive him or not? O! what answer shall we return with? Must we go and say, that all this people, upon no terms, will receive him; none of them are for precious Christ? Oh! God forbid! shall he not see the travail of his soul, who travailed through all the armies of God's wrath for you, and gave his soul an offering for your sin? O give your soul to him, saying, Lord, in spite of the devil and of unbelief, through grace I will open my heart and arms to receive Christ! The Lord himself help you to receive him, and walk in him.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Holy Spirit's Work In Our Lives

This material on the Holy Spirit is from my book "The Foundations Of Godly Living."

The Practical Implications of Being Filled 
with the Holy Spirit

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be conformed to the image of Christ, and we will develop personal godliness. I have been privileged to have known some of the most godly servants of the Lord over the years. Some of these men and women have been such outstanding Christians and have lived lives that are truly astonishing in their zeal and devotion to Christ. Some of these believers have had to overcome great hardships and handicaps, yet they lived in such a way as to be an amazing testimony and credit to the Lord they loved and adored. What was the secret behind their great devotion to Christ? I can say that without a doubt it has been their deep spirituality that came from the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual people are like Christ. When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, He goes to great lengths to conform us into the image and likeness of Christ. British scholar and author C. S. Lewis, in his book Screw Tape Letters, allows the Devil to make the point of how God is making His children replicas of Jesus Christ His Son. The Devil sarcastically says:

“One must face the fact…an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own.”7

One of the joys of my own life over the years has been at those times that I have been approached by people outside of the faith who asked me what was it that made me different? What was the secret or the reason for the joy in my life? How thrilling to tell them that the life they see in me is a result of my being born again and having been indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. Every true Christian should be able to share similar stories of how their life touched the lives of others by their example of love and joy in Christ. If this has never happened to you-ask yourself, “why?”

The reason Paul commands his readers to be filled with the Spirit on a daily and continual basis is that we need God’s strength in order to live spiritual lives. No one is filled with joy, peace, love, kindness, etc. all the time. When we fail to obey this command, we can quickly slip back into the flesh and begin to live lives that are unspiritual. A life dominated by the flesh is a life that is doomed to destruction. You remember what Paul said concerning those who practice the works of the flesh, “… those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21. Listen carefully, those who live in the flesh will die.

Two verses that speak to the need of living a spiritual life are Romans 15:13, and Psalm 42:1-2. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The Apostle Paul makes it clear to the church at Rome that joy, hope and peace come from the filling of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist also gives us his testimony in Psalms 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God When shall I come and appear before God?” This spiritual longing for God comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Do you have such a longing for God? Would you describe your spiritual life as one of intense and passionate longing for the reality of God in your life? May you search you heart and see if these things are a reality in your life. If you have no     passion for Christ in your life, you should consider whether or not you have really been born again.

Let me summarize the implications of the filling of the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Spirit and are under His control, we should be the best husbands, wives, friends, workers, citizens, and people that others  ever meet. The Christian testimony of those who truly know the Lord is that they are characterized by these spiritual fruits that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22-23. If our lives were characterized by love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control would not the world be amazed by the difference they would see in each of us? The fact that there is so little difference between the professing Christian and the person of the world who is not professing the Christian faith should alarm us. Pastors must realize that perhaps many of the people in their churches may be unsaved believers or they may be living very sub-par lives even though they profess to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In every generation the world needs to see a genuine and consistent Christian testimony from those who are followers of Jesus Christ. When Christian profession and Christian living do not measure up, the result will be a lack of credibility before the watching world. Each professing believer should grieve if they are a part of this problem. 

Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

  First, what we need to do is realize that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a command. This is not just a suggestion. We are commanded to be filled by the Holy Spirit every day of our lives. 

Second, we must have a desire to live a holy and godly life. Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled

Third, we need to humbly ask the Holy Spirit Who indwells us to fill us and take control of our lives. This means yielding to Him and allowing His presence to empower us.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, to take control of your life, and to enable you to live a godly life. Romans 12:1-2 tells us, “I beseech you  therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” C. H. Spurgeon had this to say about asking God to fill us with His Holy Spirit:

“I want to remind you of those blessed words of the Master, "Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" You see, there is a distinct promise to the children of God, that their heavenly Father will give them the Holy Spirit if they ask for His power; and that promise is made to be exceedingly strong by the instances joined to it. But he says, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" He makes it a stronger case than that of an ordinary parent.”8

Fourth, yield your life moment by moment to the Lord and walk in the Spirit. Obedience to the commandments of God and a desire to live in holiness is essential to a Spirit-filled life.

  Fifth, you must confess any known sin in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the desire and the power to live the Christian life. When you sin, immediately confess it to the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit to enable you to walk with God. 

Sixth, and finally, you must receive the Spirit by faith. Jesus told His disciples that if we ask anything according to His will, He will grant it to us. We know it is the will of God that we are filled, controlled, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a godly life. Therefore, we can have full assurance that the Lord is delighted to grant us this filling with His Spirit, for this is His will for our lives.
One Christian leader pleaded with his people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

“…be filled with the Spirit. Seek to be more and more under His blessed influence. Strive to have every thought, and word, and action, and habit, brought under obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Grieve Him not by inconsistencies and conformity to the world. Quench Him not by trifling with little infirmities and small besetting sins. Seek rather to have Him ruling and reigning more completely over you every week that you live. Pray that you may yearly grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ. This is the way to do good to the world. An eminent Christian is a light-house—seen far and wide by others, and doing good to myriads, whom he never knows. This is the way to enjoy much inward comfort in this world, to have bright assurance in death, to leave broad evidences behind us, and at last to receive a great crown.”9

Let us all strive to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day of our lives. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is one of the foundational truths of godly living. Without the filling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot live a godly life.