Does God Love All Sinners?


ask-question-1-ff9bc6fa5eaa0d7667ae7a5a4c61330cThis question originated from a young Christian girl in the children’s ministry I lead. At First Baptist Church, East Bernstadt, we encourage our children to ask difficult questions. Then, we answer them as best we can. The last thing we want is to limit the heart and mind of a child. Doubts only slip into unbelief when they are ignored. So, instead of shunning doubts, we welcome them. We do not have all the answers, but our desire is to be open about any concern about life, death, Christianity, the Bible, God, Jesus, or whatever else.

The girl that asked this question has been thinking a lot about eternity, and she has taught me to think more about eternity than I currently do. Her question comes from this conundrum in her mind: “If God loves everybody exactly the same way, then why do some people go to heaven, but others go to hell?” If God does love everyone in exactly the same way, then his love is no good for those in hell. So, if there is a difference in the result of the love, isn’t it possible that there is a difference in the way God loves. This girl is questioning the nature of God’s love (in a good and healthy way). Is it as simple as we present it to children–“God loves all the children of the earth!” Or, is God’s love a little more complex than that?

From Hate to Love

First, before we can fully appreciate and grasp the nature of God’s love for us, we must first realize another biblical truth. The Bible tells us that God hates sinners. What?! Yes, you read that right. God hates sinners. Don’t take my word for it. Take God’s: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers” (Ps. 5:5). The Bible doesn’t say that God just hates evil, he hates the one who does evil as well. Psalm 11:5 says, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” God doesn’t just hate wickedness, he hates the wicked one as well.

You see, it is not just my sin that God hates, it is me that God hates. This makes us uncomfortable. In fact, it was a little hard to write. But is this because it is an unfair treatment of God’s nature, or is it because we are so filled with pride that we cannot begin to see ourselves as deserving of hate? We have done evil by elevating ourselves above God. We have done wickedly by breaking God’s law and seeking satisfaction in everything but him.

It is so, so important to know that God hates you first, so that you can begin to understand his great love for you. If God did not hate you in your sin, his love for you in Christ would mean nothing. Jesus did not die for sin. He died for sinners! The tremendous hatred of God for sinners and the tremendous love of God for sinners collide in the cross of Christ. So, God hates all sinners in this sense.

God’s General Love for Sinners

But thank God the Bible does not stop there. The Bible also teaches us that God loves all sinners in a general way. Jesus puts it this way: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). In James we see that “every good and perfect gift comes down from above . . . from the father of lights” (Jam. 1:17). Historically and theologically, this has been called common grace. Theologian John Calvin once said in The Institutes of the Christian Religion,

“[L]et that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts” (Book II.2.15).

God even loves those who will never repent and believe in Jesus in this general way. He cares for their basic needs by allowing even the most evil people to have families, friends, food, and shelter. He gives them abilities to play beautiful music. He gives them knowledge to discover mathematical and scientific truths about the world. This means that even though some people clearly do not believe in Jesus, they are still loved by God in his provision for them and allowance of good gifts. No one can claim that their abilities originated with them. Every good thing that anyone has is the gift of God’s general love or common grace.

Special Love for Not-So-Special People

However, the Bible also does not stop there, thank God. God also loves some sinners in a special way. This is not because they are more special themselves. Quite the contrary. The testimony of the Bible is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In spite of how not-so-special we are, God loves some sinners in a special way. It is because he is especially gracious in sending his Son to die. For those sinners who repent and believe in Jesus, God loves in a special way.

This means that he not only gives them good gifts like family, friends, and food, he gives them the greatest gift of all, himself. It is from this special love that sinners are adopted as sons and daughters of the King of the universe. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirsheirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). God loves his children in a special way, which is more than the general love that he shows to all sinners. We are not only given the ability to create or write or play music, we are given the eternal kingdom of God.

Certainly God’s love for those who are in Christ is greater and more special and specific than for those who are dead in their sin. The pivotal question here becomes, “What is the key to eternal destination? Grace or ability?” If we answer with “grace,” then we can see God’s love in both general and special terms. If we answer with “ability,” then we can see that God’s love is the same for all, but eternal destiny is up to our own abilities. I praise God the Bible seems to indicate the former. God loves some sinners in a special way, not as a result of their ability, but as a demonstration of his grace.

Here is a simple and imperfect illustration I hope helps you understand. I love all children. I would do anything I could to care for a child in need. However, I will love my child in a special way. I will do more for him than I would for children that are not my own. It is the same with God. God loves his children in a special way and will do for them eternally more than he will for those that are not his own in Christ.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Throwback Thursday: Carl Trueman on Martin Luther


91n23Upf5ILFriends, Carl Trueman’s new book Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom is terrific! I just want to start off by saying Carl Trueman is not merely a gifted historian and theologian, he is also an excellent writer. He has written some of the most helpful biblical and theological books on many numerous subjects. But I have anticipated this book for a long time. Crossway has done an excellent job in this series with picking some of the best writers and scholars to write on Calvin, Warfield, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, Wesley, Edwards, and now Luther.

Luther’s significance to Protestantism cannot be understated! In this book, Trueman shows us how important Luther is to the church. For example, Trueman says,

“For Luther, however, faith is the instrument, and there is no place for merit, either before or after the individual comes to trust in God’s Word and be united to Christ. Justifying righteousness is alien righteousness, and justification is always the extrinsic declaration of God, not based upon any intrinsic quality. Further, while Luther does regard the sacraments as important, they are not strictly speaking necessary for salvation, since faith is the one thing needful in this regard” (70).

Faith and justification were at the heart of the Reformation. Friends, faith and justification are at the heart of the gospel (Romans 1:17).

Trueman does not take to task Luther’s opposing views in theology and the sacraments. His goal in this book is to simply address Luther’s massive contribution to Christian living. For any Protestant, this book will be a joy to read. Luther is fun. Trueman is fun. We should be thankful for both of them.

As Luther once said, “When faith grasps the Word, the power of the Word is imparted to the believer as heat is imparted to an iron placed in the fire.”

Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass, only what is done for Jesus Christ will last!


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Indifference or Obedience: How to Respond to God’s Grace in Christ


KneelingAtTheCross

When we are presented with a truth-claim, we must respond to it in some way. I think about the resurrection of Jesus. When you are presented with the truth claim that a man named Jesus walked the face of the earth 2,000 years ago, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, it forces us to respond in one way or another. We can reason and trust that this is true. Or we can reason and trust that this is not true. However, what we cannot do is remain indifferent. There is no indifference when it comes to the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. Either Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead or he didn’t. There is no middle ground. And no matter which option we choose, our lives will be dramatically impacted one way or another by our response to the truth-claim of the resurrection of Christ.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul presents a few truth-claims to which believers must respond. Paul presents a truth about God’s heart and a command from God’s Word in this passage. First, we are commanded to pray for all people. And secondly, we are told the truth-claim that God desires the salvation of all people and Christ died as the sole mediator for all people. The question is, will you take the next step through obedient response or will you miss the opportunity through disobedient indifference?

As people of the cross, we have been commanded to pray for all people because God desires that all people be saved and Jesus died for all people. This all means that there is no one too bad or too different for God’s love or Christ’s salvation. God pursues all kinds of people on earth. In fact, the Bible says that God has a people from every tribe and tongue on earth (Rev. 5:7). This means that from every nation on earth, there are those for whom Christ died. In the most remote village and in the busiest city are people for whom Christ shed his blood.

Paul knew this to be true. And because there is only one God and only one mediator in Jesus, Paul knew and now we know that this means that all of those people on earth cannot come to God unless they do so through Jesus. So, not only was Paul urging Timothy to pray for all people because of these things, he was urging Timothy to go to these people and to not keep the gospel away from anyone.

Notice Paul’s response to the dramatic truth-claim of God’s grace in verses 4-6: “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7). Paul’s entire ministry was based on the fact that God desires global salvation and Jesus died for people from every tribe and tongue on the planet. Because the gospel is for everyone, Paul made it his goal to preach the gospel not just to people who look like him, but to anyone and everyone.

What about you? Do you have this attitude? Has the heart of God and the death of Christ for sinners caused you to desire all kinds of people in your family, circle of friends, and community to be saved? Has it caused you to pray for them? Are you willing to pray for not those who benefit you, but those who have little to do with you or even oppose you? Are you willing to share the gospel with those who make life hard for you? For those who are culturally miles apart from you? For those who do not do things the way you do? Does your prayer life, evangelistic outreach, and missions work in some way reflect the heart of God to save all kinds of people in Christ?

God uses the prayers of his people to accomplish the purposes of his heart through the work of his Son. You cannot be indifferent to the grace of God in Christ. You can be disobedient, though. Indifference to the gospel is just a quiet and subtle form of outright rebellion. And it is the evidence of an unchanged heart.

Instead, allow the grace of God in Christ to move you to respond with global prayer and global gospel proclamation. Respond to the great grace and love of God in the gospel of Jesus by sharing its message with your friends and enemies alike.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Review: “Counter Culture” by David Platt


41O76wsT0VLDavid Platt. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99.

Rarely does a book convict my heart to the point that my emotions overflow in tears. Rarely do I find a book that causes me to experience a range of emotions stretching from anger and frustration to sympathy and sorrow. Many books convict me. Very few books break me. Counter Culture is one of those books.

The best way to describe Counter Culture is to say that it is a rarity. Counter Culture is a rare combination of cultural awareness, Christian conviction, and gospel hope as it addresses the most pressing and controversial issues in Western society.

Author and president of the International Mission Board (IMB) David Platt has developed a reputation for writing heart-wrenching and highly convicting books. Radical was a shot at the heart of the American Dream, and Follow Me was a dagger at the heart of nominal Christianity. In his third major work, Platt sheds light on the most serious issues in America and the world while showing Christians how to live and act in a way that counters culture while improving culture. He does all of this within a gospel-centered framework.

Platt takes a radical approach to social issues in Counter Culture. Instead of abandoning biblical conviction, like other young evangelical leaders have done, he relies on biblical conviction to address social issues. Platt inspires Christians and leads younger evangelicals like me to weep in conviction not because he leaves biblical orthodoxy, but because he unapologetically presents Jesus as the Bible presents him. And while Christian leaders, evangelicals in particular, are accused (often rightly) of harping on certain cultural issues while ignoring others.

Platt leaves no room for such criticisms. In the introduction, he discusses the trend of younger evangelicals standing up against poverty and global slavery. He writes, “What is problematic, however, is when these same evangelicals stay silent in conversations about more culturally controversial issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage” (xiii-xiv). He continues by establishing the primary premise for the entire book, namely, that within each issue addressed is an underlying issue we all have with God. He writes,

“What is the main issue in our culture today is not poverty or sex trafficking or homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? And what might happen if we made him our focus instead? In a world marked by sex slavery and sexual immorality, the abandonment of children and the murder of children, racism and persecution, the needs of the poor and the neglect of the widow, how would we act if we fixed our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel?” (xiv-xv).

Counter Culture begins with the premise that a gospel-centered worldview will inevitably counter the culture in which Christians live. In fact, Platt states the goal of the book in similar terms. “The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues” (20). What makes Counter Culture a rare gem is that rather than compromising the gospel for social issues or compromising relevance with self-righteous communication, Platt addresses social issues with a gospel mindset. In each chapter, he takes the truth of the gospel and applies it to the issue at hand. He basically asks, “How does a biblical worldview answer the difficult and controversial problem at hand?”

Another thing that makes Counter Culture a rarity is the amount of topics addressed in a compact book. Platt addresses nearly every pressing and controversial issue in the world today. However, the book is not overly long. This typically sets up as a light and insignificant attempt to combine bring brevity to complex issues. However, Platt is atypical in his approach, as he deeply and profoundly probes each issue while making it accessible to a wide audience.

What Platt shows in Counter Culture is that when it comes to issues like racism, abortion, sex trafficking, and same-sex marriage, the sole standard for living and engaging is the gospel. Living a life that is a reflection of God’s glory in person of Christ is living counter to culture. Addressing social injustices and moral controversies must be a personal commitment to the gospel. This book is not a call to community social activism. It is a call to gospel transformation, which changes the way we not only see each of these issues, but the way we live in light of them. For example, Platt writes,

“No matter how many red Xs we write on our hands to end slavery, as long as these same hands are clicking on pornographic websites and scrolling through sexual pictures and videos, we are frauds to the core” (124).

Basically, Counter Culture is a call to believe the gospel. Platt is clear that his “hope is that we would believe the gospel  of Christ and that our believe would move us to engage our culture” (22). This is where the rubber hits the road. Virtually every Christian can agree that we should stand against the social injustices of sex trafficking, poverty, and racism. But what about other issues that more directly require conviction that contradicts the culture? What about same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion and the fight for religious liberty? While we all will struggle with different issues, and while we cannot focus all of our energies on all of these issues, Platt writes we must be consistent in our trajectory toward them and the culture.

“What must be consistent for all of us, however, is that we pray, give, and go as he leads, and as we do, that we proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion, and courage” (253).

Despite all that has been mentioned, I feel the most significant and compelling aspect of Counter Culture is what the book is not made of. This book is not a polemic against “the world.” In the past, those in the “radical religious right” would condemn the world for their views on homosexuality, abortion, sex, etc. However, in the process they would self-righteously overlook their own failures. This is not the case in Counter Culture. Humility drips from every page of the book. Platt confesses his own failures, particularly his silence on the atrocity of abortion (57-58). Instead of pointing his finger at those who ignore these social issues, he stands with his readers before the face of God ready to repent and respond to each injustice and issue presented.

While Platt boldly speaks prophetic biblical truth into the most pressing cultural issues of our day, he soberly helps his readers see with him that the greatest atrocity in the world is not same-sex marriage, abortion, sex trafficking, racism, poverty, or persecution. The greatest atrocity in the world is the presence of unreached people groups. Platt says,

“We have settled into a status quo where we’re content to sit idly by while literally billions of people die without ever hearing the gospel. Surely this is the greatest social injustice in the entire world, over and above all the other issues we have considered” (247).

Will a book suddenly wake Christians up to the massive social injustices in the world? If at all possible, Counter Culture will affect this awakening. But will a book like this mobilize Christians to actively stand against injustice and cultural rebellion against God with biblical conviction for the sake of the glory of God in the gospel and the joy of billions of people? Maybe. But it also has the possibility to overwhelm readers.

While soaked with the grace of God in the gospel and filled with admission of personal failure to stand with “conviction, compassion, and courage,” much like Radical, it has the potential to be burdensome. Personally, I left the book realizing my failures in so many of these areas. The question, “Where can I begin to help?” is the first rock of a load unbearable. However, Platt reassures that we are not alone and that we underestimate the possibilities with God.

“Some will say that these problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference. In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But don’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So do these things with the unshakable conviction that God has put you in this culture at this time for a reason” (254).

Christians today are tempted to either compromise their convictions or cower behind them. Counter Culture is a rare book that calls Christians to face cultural issues with gospel-centered, Christ-like, compassionate conviction for the sake of God’s glory in our culture. Readers will leave the book with repentance and resolve to stand firmly to counter culture whatever the cost.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Delight Yourself in the Lord: Theological Musings on the Glory of Joy in God


Joy

There are times when meditation over Scripture or theological truths overflows into written word. Writing has been a means of sanctification for me. I learn and grow through working out my own doubts, concerns, struggles, sins, and attitudes through writing. At times, I am pleased to share some of my own musings with the hopes that it helps others to learn and grow in their faith. Ultimately I write to increase my own joy in God, which fuels a desire to see others find and relish joy in God.

In today’s post, I wanted to simply expose the nature of joy in God and how it encompasses the whole of the Christian life. Joy in God, as I argue in my first book releasing later this year, is the fuel for Christian living. The way we live our lives is highly dependent on where we find our satisfaction. This is why Christian Hedonism appeals to me. What follows are some theological musings on the glory of joy in God. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

The ultimate fulfillment of joy in man is found in the ultimate expression of love from God.

Never say that joy cannot be found in suffering. Eternal joy is found in the suffering of our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.

In fact, joy is more profound, more real, more weighty and has more substance when found amidst suffering.

Joy in God is not dependent upon circumstances.

Joy in God is dependent on the grace of the joy Giver.

Grace enables and fuels joy in God.

Where repentance goes, joy in God swiftly follows.

Joy in God is found where repentance has left its mark.

Joy in God is the footprint left by repentance.

Repenting is not only necessary for salvation, commanded by God, and a requirement for admission into the Kingdom, it is also the most freeing, liberating, and relieving act one can make.

Resting in repentance is breeding ground for a multitude of joy.

Joy in God is satisfaction in God.

Satisfaction in God is contentment in God.

Contentment in God results from resting in an eternal covenantal bond of which the Cornerstone announces: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

Repentance is a marker of a member of this covenant.

Eternal joy in God is impossible outside of a repentant heart.

Joy in God is seen in dependance as well.

Holiness is the soil in which joy in God grows.

Rich holiness leads to healthy and plentiful joy in God.

And peace will always follow joy in God.

Pursuing joy in God is nothing more than the way of salvation, which is of the Lord.

Joy in God is the catalyst for neighbor-love and enemy-love, because it is the only proper, satisfying, and freeing way to love yourself.

If you want to love yourself well, you should run to the eternal fountain of God’s joy and drink deeply.

Loving yourself then can be holy and good and God-glorifying as the best teacher for neighbor-love and enemy-love.

Magnify the glory of God by being satisfied in him today.

Be content in the Lord our God today and by doing so magnify his all-sufficient grace and demonstrate your dependence on him.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you want to love yourself and your neighbor well, you will love God to the end of glorifying him through your satisfaction of him.

Seek their joy in God.

Even better, seek your joy in their joy in God.

Oh, the glory of God in his satisfaction of his people.

May we ever revel in and spread the joy and glory of his grace.

Under this theology we will enter heaven with full hearts and eager appetites.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Throwback Thursday: Jonathan Edwards on the Suffering of Christ


christ-on-crossI have often heard fellow Christians say that when they need a good reminder of God’s love or the sacrifice of Christ, they watch a movie like The Passion of the Christ. “Whenever I watch Jesus suffer the way he did, it reminds me of just how much God loves me,” they say. Reenactments of the crucifixion are graphic and realistic (as realistic as possible) depictions of the means of the salvation of the world. When we see the blood and the brutality, we have before our eyes a semblance of the physical suffering of Christ.

I will not deny that watching The Passion of the Christ is emotionally moving. I will also agree that Christians need to be reminded of God’s love for sinners often. However, watching a movie will not even begin to scratch the surface on the sufferings of Christ.

There is a common error in the minds of many Christians regarding the suffering of Christ. They think that Jesus’ physical death was far worse than any other death in the history of the world. It is said that no one physically suffered the way Jesus did on the cross. And so, when they need a reminder of God’s love, they reflect on the physical sufferings of Christ.

But the reality is that there have been deaths in the history of the world that were worse than the death of Christ, physically speaking. Countless believers throughout history have been burned at the stake, drowned, and mutilated. Even recently we have seen 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded for their faith in Christ. So, Jesus’ death was not necessarily the most brutal or worst death in history. Tim Keller even makes the point that “there have been far more excruciating and horrible deaths that martyrs have faced with far greater confidence and calmness” (The Reason for God, 28). But why is this the case?

The physical sufferings of the cross, while great, pale in comparison to the spiritual suffering of the cross. It was not the physical pain of whips and nails that led Jesus to weep and groan in the garden of Gethsemane. Instead it was anticipation of a far greater suffering that was to come. Jesus, the Son of God, was not only about to bear the wrath of man through crucifixion, he was about to bear the wrath of God through taking the punishment we deserve. Keller observes, “Jesus’ sufferings would have been eternally unbearable” because in his death he lost the “infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity” (The Reason for God, 29).

The physical pain and suffering of Christ was nothing compared to his experience of his Father’s abandonment. No one captures this better than the great theologian Jonathan Edwards. He is abundantly clear on the importance on distinguishing between the physical and spiritual sufferings of Christ on the cross.

The sufferings which Christ endured in his body on the cross…were yet the least part of his last sufferings…If it had been only the sufferings which he endured in his body, though they were very dreadful, we cannot conceive that the mere anticipation of them would have such an effect on Christ. Many of the martyrs have endured as severe tortures in their bodies as Christ did…yet their souls have not been so overwhelmed (“Christ’s Agony” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2).

While it is possible for people to suffer the way Christ suffered physically, it is impossible for any of us to suffer as much as Christ did spiritually. He essentially experienced hell for all who would believe in him.

So, if you are a Christian who needs reminded of God’s love, look to the cross. If you are struggling to reconcile God’s love with your own suffering, look to the cross. In the cross, God himself suffered in the place of sinners like you and me. This puts his tremendous love and experience of suffering on full display, not because he died the most gruesome physical death of all time, but because in his death he bore the full wrath of God, which is the most excruciating form of suffering.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

25 Quotes from ‘What is Faith?’ by J. Gresham Machen


2625744For over a month now I have been slowly, yet gladly trekking through What is Faith? by the late, great J. Gresham Machen. Machen was probably the foremost Reformed theologian of the early 20th century. He founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He defended the ideals of the Reformation in the heat of the movement of liberal theology in American evangelicalism. And in a very real sense, he defended the gospel against fierce wolves who were attacking the heart of the Christian religion–the cross of Christ.

I cannot commend Machen enough to you. I can’t wait to get my hands on everything he wrote. What is Faith? is Machen’s classic work. Throughout the book, Machen describes and defines the nature of saving faith where he deals with all pressing issues relating to faith. What is Faith? gives a gospel-saturated answer to the title question. I leave this book a better communicator of the gospel, but also a more delighted Christian in the God of my salvation.

If my own word of recommendation is not enough to convince you to read Machen, then maybe Machen can draw you in. Although there are literally hundreds of statements in this work worthy of mention, I have captured twenty-five quotes that I hope whets your appetite for Machen.

1. “The Christian has within him a mysterious power of goodness, which is leading him by paths he knows not to an unknown and blessed country.”

2. “The salvation of the Christian is certain because it depends altogether upon God.”

3. “Christ, according to Paul, will do everything or nothing; if righteousness is in slightest measure obtained by our obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain; if we trust in slightest measure in our our own good works, then we have turned away from grace and Christ profiteth us nothing.”

4. “The gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all their hearts.”

5. “God’s law brings death because of sin; but God’s Spirit, applying to the soul the redemption offered by Christ, brings life.”

6. “If our being right with God depends upon anything that is in us, we are without hope.”

7. “To say that we are justified by faith is just another way of saying that we are justified not in the slightest measure by ourselves.”

8. “Salvation is as free as the air we breathe; God’s alone the cost, and ours the wondrous gain.”

9. “Men say indeed that they prefer to conceive of God as a Father rather than as a Judge; but why must the choice be made?”

10. “If we are to trust Jesus, we must come to Him personally and individually with some need of the soul which He alone can relieve.”

11. “It is one thing to follow the example of Jesus and quite a different thing to trust Him.”

12. “The greater be our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.”

13. “True faith in Jesus always will result in action; but faith itself is not doing but receiving.”

14. “We fear God because of our guilt; but we trust Him because of His grace.”

15. “Appeal to God’s act alone can enable us to face every adversary.”

16. “If we possess God, then we can meet with equanimity the loss of all besides.”

17. “The justice of God is everywhere the presupposition of the Saviourhood of Christ.”

18. “Faith, though it is more than assent to a creed, is absolutely impossible without assent to a creed.”

19. “Faith is the acceptance of propositions.”

20. “Far from being contrasted with knowledge, faith is founded upon knowledge.”

21. “Acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is offered to us in the gospel of His redeeming work, is saving faith.”

22. “There is no virtue whatever in ignorance, but much virtue in a knowledge of what God has revealed.”

23. “Certainly, at bottom, faith is in one sense a very simple thing; it simply means that abandoning the vain effort of earning one’s way into God’s presence we accept the gift of salvation which Christ offers so full and free.”

24. “Christ has done nothing for us or He has done everything; to depend even in smallest measure upon our own merit is the very essence of unbelief; we must trust Christ for nothing or we must trust Him for all.”

25. “Our salvation does not depend upon the strength of our faith; saving faith is a channel not a force. If you are once really committed to Christ, then despite your subsequent doubts and fears you are His for ever.”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Ten Commandments in 1 Timothy


Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectPaul mentions a proper use of the law in 1 Timothy 1:9 that reveals something pretty amazing about the law. The law of God restrains sin in non-Christians whether they recognize it or not. In another letter, Paul writes, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15).

The law of God is good in part because it restrains sin in non-Christians. The world would simply be a chaotic place to live in if there was no law. The way this works is that the law of God is written on the hearts of all people. This means even if you never read the Bible, you will know that certain things are wrong. This is one reason why Paul speaks of non-Christians being under the law.

In 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Paul gives Timothy specific examples of why the law is good. We know the law is good, as we understand that it was laid down for those who break the Mosaic Law. The biggest part of the Mosaic Law is the Ten Commandments. Paul provide us with a list of people who have broken the Ten Commandments to show us that breaking the law of God is the reason it exists and proves their condemnation before God.

Almost all of the Ten Commandments are included in this list. Let’s see if we can see them.

  1. “the ungodly and sinners” refer to the first two commandments, which say, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:3-6).
  2. “the profane” refers to the third commandment, which says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7).
  3. “the unholy” refers to the fourth commandment, which says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
  4. “those who strike their fathers and mothers” refers to the fifth commandment, which says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12).
  5. “murderers” refers to the sixth commandment, which says, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13).
  6. “the sexually immoral [and] men who practice homosexuality” refers to the seventh commandment, which says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14).
  7. “enslavers” refers to the eighth commandment, which says, “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15).
  8. “liars [and] perjurers” refers to the ninth commandment, which says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16).

The only commandment not included as an example in Paul’s list is the tenth commandment, which says, “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17). The list Paul gives is not to show that only people who do these certain sins are guilty before God. It is to show specific examples of one of the proper uses of the law. The law was given for people who break the Ten Commandments. The law was given for you and me. May this law lead us to look to Christ, the one who perfectly obeyed the law in our place.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

When Tithing Isn’t Enough


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One very confusing and controversial issue in the church is giving. It is always a very touchy thing to start nosing around in someone’s wallet. Pastors are uncomfortable talking about giving and church members are uncomfortable hearing about giving. Most would be content with 2% of the church contributing 98% to the offering. Giving is an area that many Christians, including myself at times, struggle with.

We have been culturally conditioned to strive for more. More money. More luxuries. More status. More, more, more. So, the idea of sacrificing a portion of your paycheck to the ministry of the gospel in the local church and abroad is foreign to the postmodern mind.

Sadly, it is even foreign to many Christian minds. Almost all of us know of the command to tithe (give 10% of your income) in the Old Testament. However, many pastors and church members take this command and view it in one of two wrong ways. (1) They say that tithing was an Old Testament command that has no bearing on Christians today. (2) They say that it may be difficult for you to tithe, or give 10%, so why not start at giving 2% or 5% and work your way up. Both of these erroneous, yet understandable perspectives can be quickly diffused by looking at the witness of both the Old and New Testaments on giving.

First, these perspectives overlook the fact that Old Testament believers were actually expected to give more than 10%. Giving 10% was not a cap on generosity. In fact, tithing was more likely a starting place for giving. Based on the following passages, like Leviticus 27:30, Numbers 18:21-24 and Deuteronomy 14:22-23 and 28-29, the number of tithes given to support the people of God actually totalled closer to 23%. Follow with me.

In Leviticus 27:30, God commanded that a tithe of all the produce of one’s land and flocks be given to the Lord. Later, we see that this would go to support the priests and the Levites who worked at the temple (Num. 18:21-24). However, the giving does not stop here. There was another tithe taken to support festivals and celebrations among God’s people (Deut. 14:22-23). So, now we have two tithes totalling 20%. But then, every third year a tithe was taken to support the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and widows (Deut. 14:28-29).

The generosity did not stop at 23%, though. It began there. The people of God also gave firstfruit offerings (Ex. 23:16, 34:22; Lev. 19:23-25; Num. 15:20-21). They also gave freewill offerings to God (Ex. 35:29; 36:3-7; Deut. 12:5-7). These were offerings that went above and beyond the tithes and firstfruits offerings. David Platt describes tithing in the Old Testament as the “floor for giving, not the ceiling.”

The same was true for New Testament believers. Paul gives us an example of a community of Christians who gave sacrificially. He said that the churches of Macedonia had suffered “a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor. 8:2). Although these churches were afflicted, they gave with abundant joy “beyond their means” (v. 3). This is the core of Christian giving: being overwhelmed by the grace of God’s sacrificial generosity so that it overflows in sacrificial giving. This kind of attitude places no ceiling on how much to give. In the words of pastor Jason Meyer, “Those who are drenched with gospel grace drip gospel generosity.”

So, when believers today, including myself, approach tithing (10%, mind you) as the ceiling for our giving, our generosity pales in comparison to that of both old covenant and new covenant believers. This should convict us to the core. If our generosity does not in some way capture the essence of the gospel, then we are missing the boat on Christian giving. Christian giving is not about a certain number, it is about a conviction to show God’s ownership of all things and his gospel generosity in Christ through whatever means we have. The problem with Christian giving in the church is that we have been given so much, yet give so little. Platt poses this challenge,

What would happen if we let the sacrificial love of Christ for us in the gospel create in our lives, families, and churches a sacrificial generosity toward Christian brothers and sisters who are in dire need around the world? (Counter Culture, p. 46)

The question this begs in my mind is, “Where do I begin?” Should I begin by giving just a little? Like 2% or 5%? As I said earlier, Christian giving is not about a number. But I do feel that giving far less than Old and New Testament believers gave misses the picture. What I would suggest is what I am suggesting to myself and my little family. Don’t begin with a number. Begin with your heart. Begin with an attitude that says, because God has been so generous to me in Christ, I will glorify his generosity through what he has given me in my bank account.

Tithing is not an end goal. It is more of a starting point. Give according to and even beyond your means (2 Cor. 8:1-4). How much should that be? That is really up to you. But I will leave you with the best advice I’ve ever seen on principles for Christian giving from C.S. Lewis:

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them (Mere Christianity, p. 82).

Is the sacrificial generosity of the cross reflected in your giving? If not, it may be time to look at your budget. I know that time has come for me.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Abortion in a Culture of Comfort and Convenience


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Yesterday, my wife and I had the joy of seeing our unborn son. We had been anticipating this 31 week appointment for weeks on weeks. I was all smiles and she was all tears throughout the ultrasound as we saw our baby boy moving, smiling, hiding his face, and stretching his legs. I made the comment to one of the nurses that the technology was simply amazing. I just couldn’t believe how clearly I could see my son and all of his functioning organs.

But as we showed our family the video recording of the ultrasound, an eery thought that haunts me even as I write crossed my mind. According to Roe v. Wade it would be perfectly legal to terminate (kill) a 31 week old unborn baby. The sheer evil of that fact is bone chilling. It has always blown my mind that someone could see an ultrasound of a baby (early or late term) and conclude that it is ethical and moral to terminate the pregnancy. But should it really surprise us? I am not talking about the biblical reality of indwelling sin that perverts God’s good creation. In that sense, nothing should surprise us. No, I am talking about an overall attitude toward children in our culture that allows abortionist mindsets to flourish.

I am talking about parents who push their children far too hard in sports to serve their own egos. I am talking about Little League parents who ruin their children’s experience because of their own greed as made evident on a national scale by the Jackie Robinson West Little League team. I am talking about parents who want as many “breaks” from their children as possible. I am talking about the “you know what causes that right?” attitude that places an invisible limit on the number of children that is “reasonable” to have. I am talking about parents living their own lives through their children.

Abortion will continue to flourish in a culture that views children as subordinate to our own comfort and convenience.

Consider just how anti-children Western society seems to be. Of course, we are not as bad as China’s two-child policy, but the ideology is eerily similar. The United States is one of four nations in the world that will allow late term abortions for any reason whatsoever. The other three are Canada, China, and North Korea. Great company, right? This is no-fault divorce on steroids.

Jon Bloom writes that we must speak accurately and truthfully about abortion. We must see abortion for what it really is–the premeditated and intentional killing of children.  Consider the evil possibilities. You don’t want your child because he has a deformity? Fine, abort and “try again.” You don’t want twins because thrift shops ain’t your thang? No problem, just abort. You don’t want your baby girl because you just realized you aren’t ready to be a parent? No biggie, just abort and try again later.

This have-it-your-way approach to children inside the womb is, in my opinion, the evil residue of an anti-children culture outside the womb.

When my wife and I first married over a year and a half ago, we were advised to spend the early years of our married lives doing a few things before we even think about having children.

1. We were told to build our careers. You can’t have kids without both of you working well-paying jobs.

2. We were told to travel. See the world! When you start having kids, you won’t be able to travel until you retire.

3. We were told to enjoy each other. This is the most insulting piece of advice we received, by the way. It was hard to bite my tongue. We were told to enjoy each other before we have kids, because when the kids come life will be “all about them” (*eye roll*). Children evidently rob parents of love for and joy in one another.

The counsel we received early on in our marriage was to build our lives. Get a good job so you can buy a big house and nice cars. Then, think about having one (maybe two) kids. So, the fact that my wife and I married in our early twenties and are expecting our first child is insanely radical to many in the world and in the church. The judgmental looks and subtleties we receive on a weekly basis is a reminder that a desire for children is a radical venture, especially when you have yet to “live.” This is because children are often viewed as a burden, an afterthought to self-serving greed.

Am I saying there is something inherently wrong with making a lot of money and living in a nice house before thinking about marriage and children? Strictly speaking, no. But the ideology behind waiting for marriage and children in most cases is what I see as dangerous. It views self as superior. Marriage is a means to enhance an aggrandized view of self. Children are an afterthought. When marriage and parenthood are entered into on these foundations, they will surely sink; and both spouse and child will suffer.

For the husband who takes a wife to serve his ego, he will sacrifice her needs for his desires. For the father who has a child after he has enjoyed the things he really wants, he will continue to leave his child on the back burner while pursuing other pleasures.

Granted, it is a big leap from pursuing comfort before children to abortion. And certainly not all who take this popular approach even view their children this way. There are plenty loving husbands and wives, moms and dads that waited for marriage and children in order to “build their lives.” But see the subtle connection between the waiting mindset and the abortion mindset. We wait to marry and have children because we want to be comfortable before having children; we want it to be convenient and easy on us emotionally and financially. Abortion exists because men and women value comfort and convenience above children.

If the one ideology does not directly fuel the other, it at least allows it to exist and thrive, even if unintentionally. Until we begin to value our children more than our own comfort and convenience after they are born, those who want to kill their children before they are born for these same reasons will continue to flourish.

So, when will this culture of death end? When will murder in a doctor’s office become as appalling as murder resulting from domestic violence? When will scales be removed from our eyes so we can see that life supersedes choice? Only when children outside the womb are valued above comfort and convenience. Only when we stop sacrificing our children for our own glory at the ballpark will we help create a culture that will not stand for sacrificing our children for our own glory in the womb.


 

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.