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From Him Alone


[W]henever we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us at the same time bear in mind that the dispensation of all those things which he has made is in his own hand and power and that we are indeed his children, whom he has received into his faithful protection to nourish and educate. We are therefore to await the fullness of all good things from him alone and to trust completely that he will never leave us destitute of what we need for salvation, and to hang our hopes on none but him! We are therefore, also, to petition him for whatever we desire; and we are to recognize as a blessing from him, and thankfully to acknowledge, every benefit that falls to our share. So, invited by the great sweetness of his beneficence and goodness, let us study to love and serve him with all our heart.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.22.

Jesus Told Me to Open My Bible

As noted yesterday, I saw the image below on Facebook last week. Christians (nominal, at least) have had two reactions that I've observed: offense at being insulted, and ridicule of Ms. Behar's theological qualifications. I commented on the former yesterday, and will attack the latter today. “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus; it’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct.” As a theologian, Joy Behar certainly leaves something to be desired. In fact, I think it's safe to say she leaves everything to be desired.* But can we pause our mockery just long enough to acknowledge the old saw that “even a stopped clock is right twice a day”? Because while the “mental illness” portion of her statement would have to be assessed case-by-case, the gist of it is true: If you truly believe you are receiving extra-biblical divine revelation, you are deceived. It is a popular notion, especially in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, that God is working today just like he did in ancient times. That is a manifestly fallacious notion, but what if it was not? The truth is that there has never been a time, beyond the Garden of Eden, when God regularly spoke to ordinary people. In the Old Testament, he gave his Word through a select few prophets. Then came the “400 silent years” between the prophet Malachi and John the Baptist, during which there was no prophetic word at all. Then John came to announce the coming of Christ, who is not only the fulfillment of all prophesy, but our final prophet (Hebrews 1:1–2). Following Christ's resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit, through apostolic instruments, delivered the New Testament (2 Peter 1:19–21). During all that time, common folks were not receiving private messages from God. So even if we grant the claims of continuity, we can't expect God to be texting us special messages just for us. That simply was never his normal practice. Following the apostolic age, there has not been a legitimate word of prophesy (in the revelatory sense). Nor should we desire any. As Paul wrote to Timothy, God's written Word is all the revelation we need. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14–17). Having been raised with “And he walks with me, and he talks with me,” and being all too aware of the mystical gibberish that passes for worship music and devotional reading these days, I know how unspiritual I must seem. But the Word that is “able to give [me] the wisdom that leads to salvation” and make me “adequate, equipped for every good work” is good enough for me. What could be better? Suggested reading: False Prophets and Lying Wonders by John MacArthur. * The same can certainly be said of MLK. I find it rather ironic that the fatuous claim of a sexually immoral man who denied the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ would be considered a credible rebuttal.

Jesus Told Me He’s Offended

I saw the image below on Facebook last week, posted, it would seem, with the intent of ridiculing the eminently ridiculous Joy Behar. Consequently, I had thoughts—two, to be exact. Those thoughts, though both relating to the image here presented, were unrelated to each other, and so would most properly be presented in separate posts. This is the first. “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus; it’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct.” The intent of Behar’s remark, uttered on the insightful* daytime television production “The View,” was to mock Vice President Mike Pence for claiming to hear from Jesus. I’ve made no attempt to verify Pence’s alleged claims to divine revelation (an issue I’ll address tomorrow), since it has no bearing on the point I want to make here. He might be legitimate; he might be a full-blown charismatic nut, or some lesser variation thereof; which doesn’t matter. What matters is his, and other Christians’, reaction to this mockery. Fox News reported that Media Research Center President Brent Bozell published an open letter to ABC News after the controversial comments, calling for an apology for the “anti-Christian remarks.” . . . “Make no mistake, the slurs against the vice president’s faith insult millions of Christians and are unacceptable. If there are no on-air apologies after this deplorable episode, Christians will tune out ABC programming across the board. And we will do our best to encourage it,” Bozell wrote. Pence himself didn’t appreciate the comments and slammed ABC News Wednesday on C-SPAN. “To have ABC maintain a broadcast forum that compared Christianity to mental illness is just wrong,” Pence said. “It is simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance.” We live in a culture of perpetual offendedness, a culture that is, as it were, poised in emotional starting blocks, adrenalin pumping, ready to fly into a fit of outrage at the crack of the starter’s pistol. This is the culture that surrounds us, but it is not—I speak as a Christian—our culture. Our culture is the Church. We are the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We follow his example who, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23). We are content to be considered “fools for Christ’s sake” and be “roughly treated.” “When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate (1 Corinthians 4:10–13). We “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44). Conspicuously absent from Scripture is any exhortation to scold, demand an apology, and threaten reprisals. How, then, should we respond to the world’s abuse? I think the answer is obvious: If we truly love our enemies, we will, rather than knocking them down for offending us, seek to lift them up. We will stifle our natural inclination to strike back, and tell them what we really believe—the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will direct them to the source of that gospel—not some mystical “God talks to me,” but “the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Peter 1:19–21), that is, the written Word of God. If they insult us for it, who cares? * Idiotic.

Lord’s Day 7, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” —Matthew 16:24; Cf. Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23 VII. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Dying Redeemer, slaughter’d Lamb, Thou poured’st out thy blood for me! O may I, kindled by thy flame, As freely give myself to thee! My heart to thee I now resign, For, Lord, it cost the blood of thine! To save my falling soul from death, Th’ immaculate Redeemer died; Lord, my offences drove the nails, The soldier I, that pierc’d thy side: For this my restless eye runs o’er, Because I can lament no more. How gladly should my head have worn The crown of thorns to hinder thine! Have suffer’d in my master’s stead, And made thy dying sorrows mine! Have stretch’d my arms upon the tree, And died myself to rescue thee. But O! no other sacrifice, The Father’s justice could appease; Ten thousand worlds had died in vain, Thy blood alone could buy our peace: The God offended must be slain, To expiate the offence of man. And shall I not his cross take up Who died upon a cross for me? Jesus, through good and ill report, I, in thy strength, will follow thee. My master liv’d despis’d, abhorr’d. And I am not above my Lord. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady: An Appendix, Not Properly Reducible, etc. (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Christ, We Do All Adore Thee

Christ, We Do All Adore Thee Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. Revelation 5:12 Christ, we do all adore Thee, And we do praise Thee forever; Christ, we do all adore Thee, And we do praise Thee forever, For on the holy cross hast Thou The world from sin redeemed. Christ, we do all adore Thee, And we do praise Thee forever. Christ, we do all adore Thee! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

All Things Foreordained

The Westminster Confession states that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF 3.1; Cf. WLC 12, WSC 7). This is at odds with what is commonly believed, that is, that Satan is a free agent, working evil in the world, and that God is left to react to his attacks, protecting us from evil, and/or using it for our good. But God is more ahead of the game than that. God does not merely use evil after-the-fact; it is a part of his eternal plan (Genesis 50:20). As for the discord and strife that we say exists between Satan and God, we ought to accept as a fixed certainty the fact that he can do nothing unless God wills and assents to it. For we read in the history of Job that he presented himself before God to receive his commands [Job 1:6; 2:1], and did not dare undertake any evil act without first having obtained permission [chs. 1:12; 2:6]. Thus, also, when Ahab was to be deceived, Satan took upon himself to become a spirit of falsehood in the mouths of all the prophets; and commissioned by God, he carried out his task [I Kings 22:20–22]. For this reason, too, the spirit of the Lord that troubled Saul is called “evil” because the sins of the impious king were punished by it as by a lash [I Sam. 16:14; 18:10]. And elsewhere it is written that the plagues were inflicted upon the Egyptians by God “through evil angels” [Ps. 78:49]. According to these particular examples Paul generally testifies that the blinding of unbelievers is God’s work [II Thess. 2:11], although he had before called it the activity of Satan [II Thess. 2:9; cf. II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2]. Therefore Satan is clearly under God’s power, and is so ruled by his bidding as to be compelled to render him service. Indeed, when we say that Satan resists God, and that Satan’s works disagree with Gods works, we at the same time assert that this resistance and this opposition are dependent upon God’s sufferance. I am not now speaking of Satan’s will, nor even of his effort, but only of his effect. For inasmuch as the devil is by nature wicked, he is not at all inclined to obedience to the divine will, but utterly intent upon contumacy and rebellion. From himself and his own wickedness, therefore, arises his passionate and deliberate opposition to God. By this wickedness he is urged on to attempt courses of action which he believes to be most hostile to God. But because with the bridle of his power God holds him bound and restrained, he carries out only those things which have been divinely permitted to him; and so he obeys his Creator, whether he will or not, because he is compelled to yield him service wherever God impels him. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.17.

Angel Worship

According to Roman Catholicism, angels as well as saints are appropriate recipients of prayer. Calvin, and Scripture, say otherwise. It remains for us to cope with that superstition which frequently creeps in, to the effect that angels are the ministers and dispensers of all good things to us. For at once, man’s reason so lapses that he thinks that no honor ought to be withheld from them. Thus it happens that what belongs to God and Christ alone is transferred to them. Thus we see that Christ’s glory was for some ages past obscured in many ways, when contrary to God’s Word unmeasured honors were lavished upon angels. And among those vices which we are today combating, there is hardly any more ancient. For it appears that Paul had a great struggle with certain persons who so elevated angels that they well-nigh degraded Christ to the same level. Hence he urges with very great solicitude in the letter to the Colossians that not only is Christ to be preferred before all angels but that he is the author of all good things that they have [Col. 1:16, 20]. This he does that we may not depart from Christ and go over to those who are not self-sufficient but draw from the same well as we. Surely, since the splendor of the divine majesty shines in them, nothing is easier for us than to fall down, stupefied, in adoration of them, and then to attribute to them everything that is owed to God alone. Even John in Revelation confesses that this happened to him, but at the same time he adds that this answer came to him [chs. 19:10; 22:8–9]: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you . . . Worship God.” —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.10.

Guardian Angels
Against Speculation
The Witness of Christ to His Divinity
Lord’s Day 6, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: In His Holy Temple
The Witness of the Apostles to the Divinity of Christ
The Proper Use of Images

Its Own Proof
God without the Word
Scripture Spectacles
Lord’s Day 4, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
The Author
The Source

Images as “Books”
Spirit and Word
Principles of Biblical Interpretation
Lord’s Day 5, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: For the Beauty of the Earth
Useful Aids
The Testimony of the Spirit


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

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