Fear After the Fact of Forgiveness by the Sovereign Potentate

“But there is forgiveness with Thee, That Thou mayest be feared.” (Psalm 130:4)

Well, it works for me this way, anyway. You do as you will… or should I say, “as you can”?

God must act in forgiveness before we can properly fear Him. Yep. It’s another one of those “but God…” scriptures similar to the Ephesians 2 Grace First Model. I mean, it’s His move isn’t it? It always has been. After all, He is a seeking, a pursuing God. On the Chess Board, God is always white. No slur there, He is light. (I digress. Back to the reservation! Oops! “Sorry,” said Pinocchio.)

Are you confused in thinking the old hymn goes, “’Twas not that Thou didst choose me, for Lord that could not be! Thy heart would still refuse me, Hadst I not first chose Thee.” That’s the Arminian and erroneous version. #Rutrow

Of course we know how is really goes…
“’Twas not that I didst choose Thee,
For Lord that could not be!
My heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not first chose me!”

If you think about it, otherwise it is the Job, (the man Job, and not employment we seek), experience of Divine revelation. “Lord, I heard about Thee with the hearing ear, but now mine eye sees Thee, and I retract and repent in dust and ashes.” #Worship. True worship contextualizes even body posture as a secondary nonverbal cue as to heart condition. 

It is only a clear view of God that enables and insists upon a full view of His holiness so we decidedly and rightly fall and worship. Without fear. That’s the enigma. Without fear. And we serve Him in holiness. Without fear. And that is why Jesus came; access to the glory of worship without fear by fear being established. So it’s a fear of respect and awe; and we see and know glory!

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved…”
Newton. 

True and saving religion is a paradoxical thing that God only can explain in the mystery of Christ the crucified.
#Paradox #Mystery

“He made Him who knew no sin, to become sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

#HeckofaParadox and a #Glorious one at that!

#HeOpensTheDoor because frankly and Biblically, we are, on our best day, dead and in a casket, and there simply ain’t no caskets I have ever seen with a doorknob on the inside. And there sure ain’t nobody escaping.

Well, that was like a walk-about in the forest. I gotta go. My tractor is calling me to go break up some soil for that spring garden. And that appeals to me greatly.  


Now a worthy song… it actually fits. 

https://youtu.be/zKjq30_pC2k

A Plethora of Some Relevant Questions for a Pastor by a Visitor Interested in Bilateral Committed Church Membership

Questions…if I might, & if you please?

 

  1. How did you come to know Christ?
  2. What have you discovered to be essential to maintain your walk with God? Contrarily what trips you up most readily?
  3. What is your besetting sin and do you find grace sufficient to overcome?
  4. Do you distinguish between personal devotion and sermon preparation? What is the difference? How do you practically guard your personal time alone with God so as to not to allow sermon prep or ministry challenges to intrude into your heart preparation of your walk before God?
  5. What role does personal holiness play in your public ministry? What makes a man holy?
  6. When you preach do you preach from your head or your heart? What is the difference?
  7. Do you consider yourself a man of prayer? What role does prayer play in your ministry, and what practical evidence do you point to that demonstrates its essential centrality to your ministry?
  8. How do you show the love of Christ to your wife and your kids? Does she generally validate your calling and affirm your witness? Would you eagerly call her as your first witness to testify of your secret life before God or cringe to think of what she might say?
  9. Do you delight to pray with your wife? How do you overcome hindered prayers?
  10. Who are your favorite authors? What books are you reading now? How many and what types of books do you read every month? What authors have most influenced your life, your marriage, your ministry and your personal walk with God? These are likely different authors.
  11. If you were marooned on an island with your Bible and one other book, which book would it be?
  12. If you picked one book besides the Bible to give to your children which book would it be?
  13. What do you think of the 9 Marks Ministry and their accountable approach to Body life and ministry?
  14. Do you believe church discipline to be a relevant Biblical doctrine for the church today? Have you ever excommunicated or participated in the excommunication of an unrepentant believer? What is at stake when the church tolerates known, public, willful, blatant, unrepentant sin?
  15. What steps would you take today to implement the recovery of a wayward saint? Do you believe Biblical discipline correctly implemented is an act of love and hopeful restoration? 
  16. What do you think of Pink and the Sovereignty of God? Of Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Of John Piper, Of Alistair Begg? Of RC Sproul? Of Walt Chantry? Of Albert N. Martin? Of John MacArthur? Calvin? Edwards? Of Spurgeon? Of Wesley and Whitfield?
  17. Do you read CSLewis, and what is your favorite book of his and why?
  18. Who is your favorite contemporary pastor and why?
  19. Who is your favorite pastor of the past and why?
  20. What are essential components of a successful sermon? What are the essential components of a successful pastor?
  21. What is your view of Confessional Christianity? Do you hold to any particular confession? Why or why not?
  22. Do you see the need or have the desire to move toward Confessional Christianity for both historical and theological stability, and for accuracy and the general safety of the body of truth?
  23. Do you catechize your children and your converts? Do you see this as helpful?
  24. Many believe in the profit of the systematic reading of the Psalms as a fundamental part of the call to worship. Do you have thoughts?
  25. If you see and believe in and value a historical Christianity why do you rarely reference the old writers such as the Puritans, and very rarely have the great hymns of the faith been sung? I speak of Wesley, Cowper, Watts, and others. (I refer primarily but not exclusively to hymns of the 1600’s through the 1800’s, not the modern “hymns” of the 1900s which generally lack depth of theology as they generally became more man-centered and needs-oriented.)
  26. Do you actively and normally participate in the weekly selection of appropriate hymnology material with thematic elements to validate and coincide with your sermon topic? Should you participate for sake of order and decency?
  27. What system do you enact to ensure that you fulfill the divine mandate to “keep watch over the souls of those entrusted to you as one who will give an account”?
  28. Do you envision ever having a loving type of shepherding oversight of members at large so that you and other staff may actually ensure how it goes with the souls of the brethren entrusted to your care? Do you see yourself as being accountable for implementation of this principle of watchful accountability?
  29. How do you define a successful ministry and how is that to be measured practically and biblically?
  30. Are you responsible to establish and maintain relationships with the membership at large or is it permissible to stay aloof from more intimate relationships with the general population? When and how do you intend to implement a closer, more aggressive relational pursuit of others?
  31. Why are you in the ministry and can you satisfy your calling by occupation of the pulpit alone or must you pour out your life into others to fulfill your calling?
  32. Have you ever preached a good sermon that gave you total satisfaction? When have you fully discharged your gospel duty? If the glory of God is the end of preaching, what part does man’s response have in the successful preaching of Christ?
  33. What role does prayer have in your life? In your ministry? In the church? When does this church pray corporately? Are we meeting a minimum or acceptable Biblical standard of prayer today?
  34. What are the central components of corporate worship?
  35. What are the ordinances of the church?
  36. When was the last Communion service at SGBC? Why are they so infrequent and is something lost in their absence? What has taken the place of Communion?
  37. How would you distinguish your calling to the ministry from another’s job? What are the inherent dangers of seeing yourself as an employee on the clock? Why is it important for you and staff to be visible at most services? With the new schedule do you intend to exercise a sort of liberty of absence?
  38. Who do you work for and how do you answer to them? Why should your intended absence be previously announced to the church at large beforehand and not to a select few?
  39. What happens when you don’t get your way or when things don’t go your way? Do you see yourself as a man under authority?
  40. When was the last time you were told “NO!” (I am not referencing a NO by your wife.) Perhaps by staff? How did you respond? What was the last occasion that you publicly confessed sin to your fellow staff members in the ministry? 
  41. What is the process whereby decisions are made in the church and how is the church body involved? Are we elder ruled, deacon ruled, elder/pastor ruled by congregational consent, or does the preaching pastor generally get what he wishes? I really don’t know and I would like to know how the practical functioning of government and decisions are fleshed out.( I have witnessed abuse by an authoritarian style of ministry in the past.)
  42. How can three separate worship services promote unity of one Body with one mind, in one voice and in one accord? Is that wise or even possible and will it not possibly result in the essential formation of three separate churches rather than one Body?
  43. What in your opinion is the greatest need of the church today? What is the greatest threat to the church? What is the greatest danger to your ministry personally? (Please don’t say these questions or one who asks them.)
  44. What steps are you taking to avoid a simplistic event-oriented Christianity that emphasizes an aesthetic or entertainment value over an encounter-participatory worship experience that actually encourages communion with and transformation by the living God? One is spectator-oriented and the other is participatory that sees God.
  45. Which of the calling requirements (Timothy/Titus) to ministry as elder/pastor causes you the most angst and why? How do you, and who honestly assists you in your ongoing evaluation of continued personal fitness for the ministry? How often do you open yourself up to scrutiny by others? The real question here is, who pastors you and your family? Do you believe a pastor needs a pastor?
  46. Statistics indicate many pastors struggle with pornography and we know it is ubiquitous. (They have solitude, access and opportunity.) How do you guard your heart/eyes, and who holds you accountable?
  47. Do you take criticism well? Would you like some constructive criticism? Do these questions anger you? That is not my intent.
  48. What part of man was affected by the Fall and to what extent? What are the implications of this corruption and curse?
  49. What role do we have in salvation by grace? How do you communicate man’s responsibility but hold to God’s sovereignty?
  50. How does a dead man of Ephesians 2 come to Christ? What are the conditions of salvation? Does the new birth precede repentance and faith, or do repentance and faith move God to grant the new birth? (This is really not the proverbial chicken/egg question and is actually very crucial in your practical methodology applied to men in the Gospel call.)
  51. How do you explain Philippians 2:12-13 to a new convert? To yourself? To me?
  52. Why do you believe and why do you preach? What will you do if all you hold dear is taken from you? Would you be content with God alone? “ He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God and nothing.” (GKC) Is this true?
  53. Do you struggle with options or with the temptation to implement an apparent viable Plan B in a secular world to find more temporal happiness or security?
  54. Describe worship in spirit and truth, and what are its signs that we have arrived or are at least that we have begun the journey off the mount or out of Jerusalem back to the Father?
  55. What is the multifaceted goal or ultimate end of your ministry at SGBC in particular?
  56. Finally: Have you read, and if not, would you and your staff purpose to read and interact over…
    Preaching and Preachers by Lloyd Jones
    Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
    Lectures to My Students by Spurgeon
    Preaching by Keller
    Brothers, We are Not Professionals by Piper
    The Reformed Pastor by Baxter
    Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

God, the Benevolent Dictator

I cringe when I hear an older, experienced pastor naively say, “God is a Gentleman…hee, hee, hee. He would never force…nor impose His will upon you…” I then wonder what his name is, for the God of Scripture is revealed as a Benevolent Dictator who always acts according to His predetermined plan in the lives of the wicked and saints alike to bring glory unto Himself and redemption unto His elect. (What Bible have they been reading? And we won’t even get started on the young whippersnapper preachers rolling into pulpits today from liberal Bible colleges and seminaries.)

Do you think it an accident the Lord of glory was crucified? And do you think it anything other than grace that you today happen to love Christ and despise the sin that you once loved?

Or… Do you think you can escape sin you now love and are intimately married to…apart from God overthrowing your rebellion, changing your heart, and commanding you to life from death into the freedom of knowing the Son? If God does not act to impose grace and His sovereign will upon you, you perish in sin. It’s that simple. He makes you willing to do His will. You can’t do that in your natural flesh.

Acts 2:23 (NASB)

“…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

God has a plan. It will not and cannot fail. Ours is to discover this plan and ensure we become worshippers of the One who can reveal or conceal the Father. 

If your God is not as I have described… then just what idol of your own creation are you worshipping? Repent and bow to Creator God, Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth. It matters Who you worship. You have absolutely no right and no authority to ignorantly attempt to remake God; He has revealed Himself to be, I AM that I AM. He will have no other gods before Him. He is a jealous God. And He is good.

Matthew 11:25-27 (NASB)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Are You Eating Mush or Real Meat?

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”Hebrews 5:14

For some as we physically age certain ailments and afflictions may require solid foods to be puréed so we might safely ingest them. (It’s not Yum Yum, but Yuck Yuck!) This baby food consistency does not aesthetically allure the taste buds nor stir the heart but is required by the body.

I fear the spiritual ignorance of the Today Church age has produced a contemporary loss of appetite “to hunger and thirst” for the richness of heaven-born righteousness,” and has landed our society at an historical place of spiritual darkness and Biblical dysfunction. Consider how culture no longer collectively discerns evil and good; yes, we rather call blatant ungodliness good, and the timeless truth of moral principles emanating from the throne of God evil. Look at the poor quality of pseudo-preaching rampant across the land, and God constrain me not to open up the apostasy of much of the “worshiptainment” in many churches. Theology of hymnology is out. I, the big I, is in as I am needy and must “feel” better.

We witness a daily erosion of the foundational Creational principles of worship, work, and marriage/family. “If the foundations are destroyed what shall the righteous do?” (Psalms)

I know for certain, God is not mocked. He will establish His rule and dominion. We live in an age whereby we must respond, and thus cling to and fully declare the whole counsel of the wisdom of God, without apology: “Christ died for the ungodly” thus the Gospel is relevant and active today, though He stands at the door of judgment for His imminent reentry into our existence to set in order what remains. 

“O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”

“I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Jesus

Are you distinctive in your discipleship unto the Lord Jesus? Are you committed to the spiritual disciplines? Are you going to die this day that Jesus might be manifest in your life? How shall you “Take Time to be Holy”?

Does your worship evoke the volcanic rumblings of the authentic presence of Holy God or does it resemble more the sound of war?

How quickly we go from the fire and rumbling presence of Holy God to merriment and idolatry in the midst of Covenant Community worship.
  Reference Moses on the Mount with Jehovah, and then the god of the golden calf celebrated with revelry at the foot of the mount. Such a short time… 40 days. Such a short distance… the height of a mountain. Does your worship  evoke the fear and trembling of the Holy One of Israel or does it “sound of war in the camp?”

The sounds of war in the camp… when in fact seasoned saints recognize it as the deceptive and enticing sound of idolatrous merriment…

And here are we, some two thousand years the backside of Calvary, yet this is relevant and something to think about today; perhaps something to repent of and depart from as the Spirit moves. Do you worship in Spirit and truth or are you engaged in an event or happening that leaves off the spirit of truth?

Do I Worship an Icon or God?

The ever-present danger of intellectual formalism is its capacity to woo me to comfortably tolerate a cold reductionism of saving religion to signs and symbols. In an icon-driven society we can stealthily become “icon-worshipers” rather than a people who are preeminently relational in our religion. We can discover the value of form and practice as paramount to and the equivalent of walking with God as His imitators. We imitate a practice rather than God. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh can become a mission of dealing out retribution to those who disagree with me over my icon. (An icon sure sounds similar to an idol.) Jesus said it simply and concisely to the Formalists of His day, “You search the Scriptures, and it is these that testify of Me, but you will not come to Me that you may have life.” My Bible can be my idol or icon I substitute for my God. 

If my good habits, my disciplined duties and even zealous religious practices are not enhancing my entry into the close proximity of His actual light and presence, to the end of a required and desired change of my heart and essence, then I need to abandon the form that hinders and simply start over. I must come to Christ for life. I must do that every day. That is not once-for-all… “I die daily.”

My religion when functioning near the Biblical norm is intensely personal and obligatory to a supremely worthy and intrusive God who demands my good through His nonnegotiable Lordship of even the most insignificant details of my life. (If the hairs of my head are numbered… what can possibly be insignificant to this God?) Furthermore, His dominion of my life is perfectly reasonable to me and my supreme desire lived our in response to His call to be His disciple. Discipleship requires a ransack of the old to know true life as a new creation. We don’t buy nor sell “cheap grace.” (Bonhoeffer)

The Lord Jesus Christ is not an icon. He is my Friend by faith who loved me and actually gave Himself up for me, and He bids me do the same for Him. There is and must be a mystical aspect of my walk with God as He, the unseen God, governs my all by His Spirit, and I see Him do it as He speaks to me in the Way. That sounds pretty mystical to me yet I perceive it to be more real and enduring than all I see, for it touches eternity. 

“Knowledge makes arrogant; love edifies.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

So God offers His shadow as my shelter. That’s beyond an icon to a Biblical theophany I pursue as worthy.  

 
Photo by George Dobbs. A friend and adventurer who is a hybrid form of Jeremiah Johnson and Ansel Adams.

My Personal Tent of Meeting

“And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.”

Psalm 27:6
Notice this exultation in the Lord is not by deliverance FROM enemies but by worship of God in the MIDST of enemies ALL around. How so? Prominently so… lifted up above… It’s all about a mindset set above, where Christ is. It’s about an act of worship wherever we are, indifferent to circumstance. All things we encounter today are calculated by a sovereign God to stimulate a faith-walk of worship, not sinful frustration, reactiveness nor retaliation. (How we doing on that? Hmmm?) Either our Heavenly Father works all things after the counsel of His will or He doesn’t. I choose to believe a God who rules in the midst of the praises of His people. I bow low in His presence. And He lifts me up in adversity. He moves me to worship the beauty of His holiness. He completes my lack by His abundant sufficiency. 
Perceived hinderances and adversaries are in reality to be viewed and experienced as gigantic springboards to propel one heavenward as we dive into the ocean of His joy-filled presence. (“To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry…”)
It’s really a story of keeping your “tent of meeting handy”…

The thing about tents is their portability. They pack and store well, so when I arrive on location today, (work or school or home with kids, etc…), the first objective is to unpack and secure the tent, (HIS TENT), to enter in and begin to sing praises and offer sacrifices with shouts of joy to God as the enemies of the Lord congregate about. Isn’t that neat? Wherever… Whenever… In all places we hang out today we are to worship the King of glory in the midst of the conflict as we shout with joy, joy, joy… down in my heart this day! He has designed you and He orders your particular circumstances to aid you to construct an altar of worship as you go through life fulfilling your duty by the Light and Salvation of His countenance. I think of Abraham as he trudged throughout the land, not having a clue but only a promise, yet he seemed quick to construct multiple altars of worship as he sojourned. Don’t all people of faith? So it doesn’t really matter how many Philistines or Canaanites surround you or me today: Worship God! He seeks you to be a worshiper in spirit and truth. All is well when we worship God.

I encourage you to hang out with the Shepherd-King David today, especially in Psalm 27. Who knows but that light and salvation may sweep you away into another place. To a holy place. To a place of joy and praise. That is what I seek upon the eve of the eve of the #NewYear #2016.