Tag Archives: Theology

Born Again

 

“In the mid-1970s, Charles Colson, an adviser to President Nixon who became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, was converted to Christ and wrote a book titled Born Again, which sold millions of copies. A few years later, President Carter revealed that he was a “born-again Christian.” Suddenly, the words “born again” became part of the nomenclature of American culture. Many people began to call themselves “born-again Christians”. That term, however, is a kind of stuttering, because “born-again Christian” is really a redundancy. It’s like speaking about “an unmarried bachelor” or “three-sided triangle.” All bachelors are unmarried and all triangles have three sides. The simple reality is this:  everyone who is truly a Christian is born again. There’s no such thing as a non-born-again Christian or an unregenerate Christian. Yes, there are plenty of unregenerate church members and plenty of unregenerate people who profess to be Christians, but a person cannot be in Christ unless he or she is regenerate. By the same token, if you are regenerate, you are a Christian.

…there is an absolute requirement that must be met if a person is to enter God’s kingdom. A person must be changed by God; the disposition of his heart, which by nature does not want to do God’s bidding, must be altered by God the Holy Spirit. Man’s natural tendency is to flee from the presence of God and to have no affection for the biblical Christ. Therefore, if you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in His sweetness, in His power, in His mercy, and in His grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead. So you are now alive to the things of Christ and you rejoice in the kingdom into which He has brought you.”

~ R.C. Sproul,  John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  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?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:3-8


“Theology is for Everyone” – Dr. J.I. Packer

Here is a lecture that J. I. Packer gave on why “Theology Is for Everyone” (MP3) at St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Tallahassee, Florida) on February 1, 2010:

“Knowing about God (theology) is crucially important for the living of our lives.  As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.  The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God.  Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.  This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God


Should Christians read non-Christian books?

 

Should Christians read non-Christian books? I would say yes, but I’m young and you probably shouldn’t heed too much of what I say. However, there are several old, and very much dead church leaders who have said the same thing. Perhaps you should listen to them. (Please do note that when Calvin says “profane authors” he does not mean raunchy romance writers, but merely thoughtful non-Christian writers.)

“Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insults to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising gifts, we insult the giver.” ~ John Calvin

“All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just,  we ought not reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose.” ~ John Calvin

“All branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them.” ~ Augustine of Hippo

“Heathen learning is not unprofitable for the soul…”~ Basil of Caesarea

“For the journey of this life eternal I would advise you to husband resources, leaving no stone unturned, as the proverb has it, whence you might derive aid.” ~ Basil of Caesarea


Edwards: Loving God

Consider what Christ has done for you. He died for you. O what did he bear for you. If you knew the pains, the distress, and the agonies the glorious Son of God underwent for you, how would the thoughts of his kindness and love to you overcome you. . . .

God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it. You may be familiar in your expressions of your love to Christ, as little or unworthy as you are, for he is near to you. He is come down from heaven and has taken upon him the human nature on purpose, that he might be near to you and might be, as it were, your companion. . . . You may place yourself in his divine embraces.

Therefore don’t let your unworthiness discourage you. Let it heighten your surprise and cause you to express your love in the most humble manner possible. But let it not keep you at a distance or change the expressions of your love. You may want humility in your love, but you never can be guilty of any excess in the joys of divine love. . . .

Let these considerations influence you to the love of God and Jesus Christ, to love them with a superlative love and love nothing contrary to them, and love nothing above them, and love nothing equal to them, and love nothing along with them with any parallel love. And express your love by doing for them by being willing all your days to labor and suffer for the glory of God. Can you think of living so as to dishonor God and to be a stumbling block to others and a disadvantage to religion without the utmost dread of it and being sick at the thought of it?

–Jonathan Edwards, “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” in The Glory and Honor of God: Volume 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (ed. Michael McMullen; B&H, 2004), 338-41


Limited atonement?

Some may argue that spending time on this doctrinal controversy is a waste of time, but the doctrine of particular redemption is worth talking about because it gets to the heart of the gospel. Should we say “Christ died so that sinners might come to him?” Or, “Christ died for sinners”? There’s a big difference. Did Christ’s work on the cross make it possible for sinners to come to God? Or did Christ’s work on the cross actually reconcile sinners to God? In other words, does the death of Jesus Christ make us saveable only or does it make us saved? If the atonement is not particularly and only for the sheep, then either we have universalism – Christ died in everyone’s place and therefore everyone is saved – or we have something less than full substitution. If Jesus died for every person on the planet, then we no longer mean that He died in place of sinners, taking upon Himself our shame, our sins, and our rebellion so that we have the death of death in the death of Christ. Rather, we mean that when Jesus died He made it possible to come to Him if we will do our part and come to Him. But this is only half of the gospel. Certainly, we need to come to Christ in faith. But faith is not the last work that finally makes us saved. Faith is trusting that Jesus has in fact died in our place and bore the curse for us – effectually, particularly, and perfectly.

Reformed people talk of “limited” atonement not because they have an interest in limiting the power of the cross, but in order to safeguard the central affirmation for the gospel that Christ is a Redeemer who really redeems. “We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ,” Spurgeon observes, “because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved.” But, Spurgeon argues, it is the view of the atonement that says no one in particular was saved at the cross that actually limits Christ’s death. “We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.”

I belabor this point not to belittle Armenian brothers and sisters but to give Jesus Christ His full glory. Christ does not come to us merely saying, “I’ve done My part. I laid down My life for everyone because I have saving love for everyone in the whole world. Now, if you would only believe and come to me, I can save you.” Instead He says to us, “I was pierced for your transgressions. I was crushed for your iniquities. I have purchased with My blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (see Isa. 53:5; Rev. 5:9). I Myself bore your sins and assuredly live for righteousness. For My wounds did not merely make healing available. They healed you (see 1 Peter 2:24).

“Amazing love!” a great Armenian once wrote. “How can it be that You, my Lord, should die for me?!” Praise be to our Good Shepherd who didn’t just make our salvation possible but sustained the anger of God in body and soul, shouldered the curse, and laid down His life for the sheep.

~ Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot


How the Creeds Helped Me

Here is a great post written by Winfield Bevins on the Creeds of Christian faith and how they helped him.

These standards of our faith have stood the test of time and have the power to speak to our postmodern world. They have been battle tested and found to be true and essential in every generation. We need to keep the past and the future in perpetual conversation so we can have a fresh expression of the timeless gospel in the twenty-first century.

Here Because of Their Faith

The Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayerhave helped me in two important and surprising ways. First, they helped me realize I am a part of the larger Christian family whose roots go back to the time of Christ. Too often, contemporary Christians forget there have been two thousand years of Church history. The history of the church is full of amazing stories of great men and women who helped change the course of history and fought to pass on the faith so future generations may believe. We are indebted to them; it is not too much to say we are here today because of their faith.

Know Your Spiritual Genealogy

For years I felt like a spiritual orphan who was unaware of having a rich family heritage and roots. Then, like someone who discovered their family genealogy for the first time, I discovered my spiritual family tree. Robert Webber reminds us, “Our family tree begins not with the Reformation or the twentieth century evangelical movement but with Jesus Christ, and it continues through the Apostles, the primitive Christian community, the Apostolic Fathers, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Church of the Reformation, and all who say, “Jesus is Lord.”

What We Should Know and How We Should Live

Secondly, they help me live out my Christian faith. I’d be lost without them. They provide a moral and doctrinal compass for Christians. These essential doctrines help us navigate our way around the larger story of God. Like a roadmap, they provide us with a clear and concise summary of what Christians should know and believe from the Bible. Theologian and author J.I. Packer says, “The hundred word Apostles’ Creed is the simplified road map, ignoring much but enabling you to see at a glance the main points of Christian belief.”


Christian doctrine is not just for knowing, but for living. The essentials give us a foundation to build our life upon. What we believe about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit shapes and influences how we live and how we see the rest of the world:

  • God is the Creator of all things, so I should care for his creation
  • Jesus died for my sin, so I must live for Him and share my faith with others
  • God created us to live in community, so I need the church

In the end, a creed is not just what we believe but how we live out what we believe.


Corrected and Constrained by the Text

D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper discuss biblical authority and authoritative preaching— focusing on how the Bible itself constrains and corrects our interpretation of its text: