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(9 posts)

The Grace of Repentance

Monday··2007·07·30 · 5 Comments
Let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. —Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter VII
continue reading The Grace of Repentance

Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

Tuesday··2012·10·02 · 3 Comments
Right now, if you’re a Christian, you’re thinking—or, at least, I hope are—that the answer is obvious: of course same-sex attraction is sinful. But that answer is not as universally obvious among Christians as you might think. It is becoming increasingly popular to acknowledge innate homosexual orientation, even accepting the term “gay Christian,” while maintaining that homosexual acts are sinful. So-called “gay Christians” must therefore remain celibate. As long as they do, their homosexual attraction incurs no guilt. The attraction itself is not sin. At least part of this opinion is based upon equivocation. I say, “Same-sex attraction is sin,” and the other guy replies, “Is it a sin to be tempted? Surely not; so the one who is tempted only sins when he surrenders to the temptation.” Nicely done, very tricky—but not so fast. Of course, I agree that to be tempted is not sin, or Christ himself would be a sinner, but that’s not what I said. I said “attracted,” not “tempted.” Temptation is nothing more than the enticement to have or do something God has forbidden. The store clerk gives me too much change. I can remain silent, keep the money, and get away with it. That knowledge is temptation, but it is not sin. As soon as I want to do it, as soon as I am attracted to dirty money, I sin, even if I overcome the desire and return the money anyway. To be tempted is to be offered a potentially attractive opportunity; to be attracted is to want it. I need to repent of my urge, however momentary, to have that money. When did Eve first sin? Was it when she saw the fruit, or when the serpent enticed her to eat it, or when she actually ate it? It was none of those. Eve sinned when she looked at an object that God had declared off-limits and found it attractive. Jesus teaches just that when he tells us that murder and adultery are only the outward expressions of sin that has already been committed in the mind (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). Potiphar’s wife enticed Joseph to sin (Genesis 39:7–18). We do not read of Joseph struggling with his desire to have her. Rather, we read of his repeated refusal to even consider it. Joseph did not sin. Nor did Christ struggle with his desire in the desert. Read his terse answers (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13) to the greatest tempter of all time and see if he ever said, “I’d love to, but I can’t.” It is sin for me to be attracted to other women than my wife, not because they aren’t attractive, but because they are forbidden. Just so, I am not to desire men; it is forbidden. As noted above, the desire is the same as the act. I must repent of my sinful inclinations as well as my sinful acts. How sad and cruel it is to gloss over sin and deny sinners the grace of repentance, which they so desperately need.
continue reading Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

How to Pray When You’re Angry with God

Last week, I came across a video of hipster pastor Doug Paggit interviewing an Episcopal pastor and author of a book Driscollesquely titled How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God. Disappointed that the video had no audio (a logical tactic of postmodernity?), and thinking, “Sounds good! I must look into this!”* I hurried off to to read the reviews. Not too surprisingly, the book is (if I may trust the reviewers) all about how it’s all okey-dokey to be angry† with God. This is no novel notion. People with cleaner mouths have been saying this for as long as I can remember—and they’re all wrong. That God could ever be a legitimate object of anger, and that anyone could ever be angry with him without sinning is absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Job, who famously remonstrated against God and received a four-chapter lecture on knowing his place saying, in short, “Who are you to cast aspersions on my sovereign acts?”—which moved Job to demonstrate how one is to pray when he is angry with God: Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” —Job 42:1–6 * No, not really. † Anger in general is an ugly thing, and is rarely excusable. I wrote on righteous anger here.

Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful? (The Sequel)

Thursday··2014·01·02 · 2 Comments
Once upon a time, I wrote this, probably as a response to something. I don’t remember. Now, once again, the word comes down, from Desiring God this time, that: 1. The Bible explicitly says that impenitent homosexual acts, not homosexual desires, keep a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). 2. The Bible does not seem to explicitly mention same-sex attraction. It is possible that the “dishonorable passions” in Romans 1:26 could be dealing with SSA, but it’s unclear whether this is a reference to simply experiencing an attraction, or following the attraction into active lusting. 3. Our passions may be disordered by the fall of this creation, and yet be distinct from active sinning. Paul said, “the creation was subjected to futility . . . [and will one day] be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–21). Even Spirit-filled believers groan under this “futility” and “corruption,” including “dishonorable passions.” “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Given the above three realities, it seems right to say that while homosexual practice is active sinning, the experience of same-sex attraction need not involve active sinning. John Piper says it like this: It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders (“Let Marriage Be Held In Honor,” emphasis added) In other words, although SSA is a disordered desire, owing to the fall and thus rooted in sin and broken by sin, nevertheless experiencing SSA is not in itself an act of sinning. Well, I have said what I have said, and have nothing original to add. However, if I did, I’d like it to be something mature and biblically well-rounded, like this from Pastor Don Green: Is it okay to be attracted to the same gender as long as you don’t have sex? Short answer? No. The sin of homosexuality is more than the external behavior. The disposition toward homosexuality is also sinful. This may surprise you if you have approached Christianity as a series of rules to be kept and going to church on Sunday. But biblical righteousness is far more than avoiding physical sin. Continue reading A Pastor Responds to Desiring God on the Issue of Same-Sex Attraction and listen to a discussion of same with Pastor Green and Pastor Mike Abendroth.

The Spirit’s Work in Salvation

John MacArthur writes, “If we are to honor our divine Guest, treating Him with the reverence and respect that is His royal due, we must rightly discern His true ministry—aligning our hearts, minds, and wills with His wondrous work.” Toward that end, he lists “six aspects of the Spirit’s work in salvation.” The Holy Spirit Convicts Unbelievers of Sin As the general, external call of the gospel goes forth, through the preaching of the message of salvation, unbelievers in the world are confronted with the reality of their sin and the consequences of their unbelief . For those who reject the gospel, the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction might be likened to that of a prosecuting attorney. He convicts them in the sense that they are rendered guilty before God and are, therefore, eternally condemned (John 3:18). The Spirit’s convicting work is not about making unrepentant sinners feel bad, but about delivering a legal verdict against them. It includes a full indictment of their hardhearted crimes, complete with irrefutable evidence and a death sentence. Yet for those whom the Spirit draws to the Savior, His convicting work is one of convincing, as He pricks their consciences and cuts them to the quick. Thus, for the elect, this work of conviction is the beginning of God’s saving, effectual call. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 184. The Holy Spirit Regenerates Sinful Hearts Regeneration is a transformation of a person’s nature, as the believer is given new life, cleansed, and permanently set apart from sin (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13). Those who formerly operated in the flesh now operate in the Spirit (Rom. 8:5–11). Though they were dead, they have been made alive, indwelt by the very Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead (v. 10; cf. 6:11). The Spirit of life has come upon them, empowering them to resist temptation and live in righteousness. This is what it means to be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). —Ibid., 188. The Holy Spirit Brings Sinners to Repentance A vivid illustration of this is found in Acts 11:15–18, where Peter reported the conversion of Cornelius to the other apostles in Jerusalem: ”As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” As Peter and the others realized, the undeniable proof Cornelius and his household had truly repented was that they had received the Holy Spirit. They had been convicted of their sin; their hearts were regenerated; their eyes were opened to the truth of Peter’s preaching; and they were given the gift of repentant faith (cf. Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:25)—all of which was the Holy Spirit’s work. —Ibid., 188–189. The Holy Spirit Enables Fellowship with God The Spirit produces an attitude of profound love for God in the hearts of those who have been born again. They feel drawn to God, not fearful of Him. They long to commune with Him—to meditate on His Word and to fellowship with Him in prayer. They cast their cares freely on Him, and openly confess their sins without trepidation, knowing that all has been covered by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, the Spirit makes it possible for believers to enjoy fellowship with God, no longer fearful of His judgment or wrath (1 John 4:18). As a result, Christians can sing hymns about God’s holiness and glory without cowering in terror—knowing they have been securely adopted into the family of their heavenly Father. —Ibid., 190. The Holy Spirit Indwells the Believer It is important to emphasize that there is no such thing as a genuine believer who does not possess the Holy Spirit. It is a terrible error—one tragically promoted by many within Pentecostalism—to assert that a person could somehow be saved and yet not receive the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit’s work, no one could be anything other than a wretched sinner. To reiterate Paul’s statement from Romans 8:9, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Put simply, those who do not possess the Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ. Genuine believers—people in whom the Holy Spirit has taken up residence—think, talk, and act differently. They are no longer characterized by a love for the world; instead, they love the things of God. That transformation is evidence of the Spirit’s power at work in the lives of those whom He indwells. —Ibid., 192. The Holy Spirit Seals Salvation Forever The Holy Spirit Himself personally guarantees that fact. As Paul told the Ephesians, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13–14). Believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. He secures them unto eternal glory. —Ibid., 193.

This Is Repentance

This is what repentance at the Lord’s Table (or anywhere else) looks like: It was the glory of Alexander, that, as soon as ever he had opportunity, he slew the murderers of his father upon his father’s tomb. Truly, reader, a sacrament day is a special opportunity, and thou wilt shew but little love to thine everlasting Father if thou dost not now put his murderers to death, upon those monuments of his passion. Now thou art at the table, think of thy unthankfulness, ambition, hypocrisy, covetousness, irreligion, and infidelity, and the rest, how these ‘crucified the Lord of glory,’ and resolve through the strength of Christ that these Hamans shall all be hanged, that these sins shall be condemned and crucified. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:211
continue reading This Is Repentance

At the Lord’s Table (2)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:26–29 This is the second of three parts of George Swinnock’s A good wish about the Lord’s supper: I wish that before I go for a discharge, I may look into the book of my conscience, cast up my accounts, and consider how infinitely I am indebted to my God, that I may consider whence I am fallen and repent, and . . . rend my garments, my heart I mean, with godly sorrow and self-abhorrency. Oh that my soul might be so searched to the bottom that none of my wounds may fester, but all may be discovered and cured. I pray that I may not dare to turn the table of the Lord into the table of devils, by receiving the sacrament in the love of any known sin, but may go to it with a hearty detestation of every false way, and a holy resolution against every known wickedness. I wish that after all my pains in preparing myself, I may look up to Christ alone for assistance, as knowing that I am not sufficient of myself so much as to think anything, but my sufficiency is of God; blessed Saviour, be thou surety for thy servant, and bound for my good behaviour at the last and loving supper. I wish that when I come to the table I may, like the beloved disciple, behold the wounds of my Saviour, and see that water and blood which did flow out of his side; that as in the Gospel I read a narrative, so in this ordinance I may have a prospective of his sufferings: how he emptied himself to fill me, and to raise my reputation with his Father, laid down his own; how he humbled himself, though he had the favour of a Son, to the form of a servant, and though he were the Lord of life and glory, to the most ignominious death, even the death of the cross. I wish that in his special passion I may ever take notice of his affection, and esteem the laying down his life, as the hyperbole of his love, the highest note that love could possibly reach. Ah! how near did this high priest carry my name to his heart, when he willingly underwent the rage of hell to purchase for me a passage to heaven! ‘I will remember thy love more than wine.’ I desire that when I see Christ crucified before mine eyes, in the breaking of the bread, and pouring out of the wine, I may not forget the cause, my corruptions, but may so think of them and my Saviour’s kindness, in dying to make satisfaction for them, that as fire expelleth fire, so I may be enabled by the fire of love to expel and cast out the fire of lust. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:219–220
continue reading At the Lord’s Table (2)
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. —1 Peter 4:1 Sproul writes, “When we come to Christ, we come by repentance. There is no other way. One does not cling to Christ as Savior until he first acknowledges that he is a sinner who needs a Savior.” Knowledge of sin is the very first step in conversion. Without that knowledge, there is no reason for turning to Christ, and no one ever will. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (v. 3). Augustine spent the early years of his life following the pattern that Peter describes here. Then one day . . . he picked up the Bible and his eyes fell upon this passage: “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:13–14). At that moment, Augustine’ s heart was stricken because he recognized himself in the text he was reading. He said in essense, “I have made every provision I could to fulfill the lusts of my flesh. I need to change my clothes. God grant that He would dress me in the clothes of Christ that I may no longer make provision for the lusts of the flesh.” Peter says the same thing. We know the bankruptcy of our former way of life. We ought to spend our time for the will of God. We have spent enough time doing the will of pagans, when we walked like they walk—lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 143. I have often said, if you have never been overwhelmed by the guilt of your sin, you have never been born again. The objections I hear in response are many, but I stand by it. There is no salvation without repentance, and no repentance without conviction.
continue reading Enough!

Sorrow that Produces Repentance

Not all sorrow over sin is genuine repentance. Some is only motivated by self-interest. Inquire seriously, in the first place, “what views you have had of sin, and what sentiments you have felt in your soul with regard to it?” There was a time when it wore a flattering aspect, and made a fair, enchanting appearance, so that all your heart was charmed with it, and it was the very business of your life to practice it. But you have since been undeceived. You have felt it “bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder, Prov. xxiii. 32.” You have beheld it with an abhorrence far greater than the delight which it ever gave you. So far it is well it is thus with every true penitent, and with some, I fear, who are not of that number. Let me therefore inquire farther, whence arose this abhorrence? Was it merely from a principle of self-love? Was it merely because you had been wounded by it? Was it merely because you had thereby brought condemnation and ruin upon your own soul? Was there no sense of its deformity, of its baseness, of its malignity, as committed against the blessed God, considered as a glorious, a bountiful, and a merciful Being? Were you never pierced by the apprehension of its vile ingratitude? —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 115. Worldly remorse sees sin only as a detriment to the sinner. Genuine repentance sees sin for what it really is: an offense against God. Worldly remorse prompts one to seek change in hope of a better life. Godly sorrow seeks reconciliation with God. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. —2 Corinthians 7:10


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