Beginning With Moses

Our family sat together this evening and found this gracious message from Dr. Steve Lawson. What an incredible testimony of the grace of God that points clearly and unequivocally to the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in the entire Scriptures.

Positive or Negative?

Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

As I peruse the internet, listen to people chat, watch interaction between people with each other, as well as interaction within the church, I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in this age that seems to lend itself to credibility even from Scripture.

I’m sure we have all seen this to some extent or other and maybe even agreed with it to a certain extent.

It is the “Get rid of all those negative relationships that don’t build you up” meme or quote.

It’s interesting how this generation views negativity. When I was younger, quite a bit more than I am now, there was nothing wrong with negativity, to a certain extent. If we look in the Bible at Exodus 20, we will find that God was negative towards His people and demanded complete perfection. Seven of these commandments say, “You shall not,” and one says, “You will have no…” The other two were about the Sabbath and obedience to parents.

I used to think, every time I saw one of these, “Yeah! I can see what they’re saying. You don’t want someone pulling you down to sin and do things wrong before the Lord. Those are negative people and, as such, you need them out of your life.”

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As I’ve studied people’s responses towards things they want to do, my eyes have been opened, through the years, into what was really being said. Years ago, we lived in England and I became friends with someone through the internet. She homeschooled her children, just as we homeschooled ours. One day, out of the blue, she contacted me to tell me her child was looking to become an actress and had the availability to act in one of the newer style family movies which in the early days was not of the quality they are today.

She told me how much they were doing and then began complaining about other people who had been friends and, “…were so negative towards me about this that I had to cut them off.” I was troubled by the fact that people would give her a rough time over it so I started sympathizing with her. After a few days, she began giving me a detailed schedule of what would be happening and, it was at this point I realized the people who were supposedly negative may not necessarily have been.

I struggled to know what to say to her while wondering if what I was going to say would make her think I was being negative, as well. As I had very few friends, anyway, I didn’t want to lose her friendship and kept quiet for a time. The more I thought about her ‘predicament’ (my understanding) the more I became concerned over the situation and how it would affect them spiritually.

I eventually shared with her to be careful that she guard her time with her daughter and their time with the Lord so they didn’t fall by the wayside spiritually. She said she was was stunned and accused me of being negative. At that point she cut me out of her life and refused to talk with me for many years. Eventually, she did speak with me again but only for a short time. The evidence of her new life was painfully apparent in her dress, her speech, and her lifestyle.

As I think of other similar times that this has happened, I’m saddened by what is considered positive influences and what isn’t. I’m also very concerned when people try to use the Word of God to make all this seem as if it were credible.

The truth of the matter is, if you only want yes individuals within your life to give you the nod over whatever it is you want to do then you are headed down a dangerous path. You see, we are sinful creatures and we sin. When we only allow people to advise us who refuse the truth how can we expect they will give us godly advice?

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

We, as true believers and children of the Sovereign Lord, are expected to share the truth, in love, with each other. We cannot expect others to give us what we want to hear no matter how much we want it. The truth of the Scriptures is the only way we can know how to do what is right. If we choose the right way that means we have to keep our eyes on Scripture regularly and know what direction we must go. If we don’t follow the Lord, He will discipline us to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and to keep our feet on the right path. Heb 12:11.

If you find someone willing to share the truth with you, don’t cut them out of your life. Proverbs 9:8 makes it clear that if you rebuke a scorner, he will hate you but when you rebuke a wise man that person will love you. If every time someone seeks to give you godly advice and you cut them out of your life the question must be asked, “Are you a true believer?” If you are then why aren’t you listening to godly advice? If you aren’t then today is the day of salvation!

The Awe-Full Psalm

A dear friend and brother in Christ wrote this recently. It is a wonderful reminder of how awesome is our God and how much we have to be thankful for, regardless of our station or circumstances in this age.

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My favorite hymn is, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place” written by Issac Watts. Some modern versions use alternate words like awesome, awe-filled, or sacred, but the word was originally used in a way that literally meant, “full of awe.”

This hymn paints a picture of God’s elect worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, something we also see portrayed in Psalm 118. Take a look at them in parallel:

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 118:1-4)

The everlasting love of God has been shown to His people since Eden. All those who fear the Lord, regardless every generation, find solace in Christ alone.


While all our hearts and all our songs
Join 
to admire the feast,
Each of us 
cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5-9)

Dining with rulers is hard enough, but having a seat at the Lord’s table? How much better is that refuge than trusting in man, his princes, or temporal promises?


“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:10-14)

Salvation only comes through the Lord, yet we do not call to Him on our own. We were among the wretched who looked to God’s people with disdain! Why, oh why, did God choose to save us from that state of pure rebellion against Him?


‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:15-18)

The love of God is far greater than any man could tell. He sweetly drew us in, His right hand holds us fast, and we are now destined not to die, but live in His presence forever!


Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:19-21)

Asking Christ to constrain His arrival seems terrible at first – why delay such a wonderful event? Consider how the gates swung open for us when we did not deserve it. Does this motivate you to ask for more time to share that news?


We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief 
corner stone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 118:22-29)

Christ was the stone rejected by man, exalted by God. The number of elect God granted Him is entirely the Lord’s doing, which should be marvelous to our eyes. Such everlasting lovingkindness makes us want to sing of that redeeming grace with our fellow believers for all eternity.

Issac Watts did not relate this hymn to Psalm 118 when he penned these beautiful words. Yet, through the same providence he described, we still hear the truths of Scripture burst out of the pages several hundred years later. The message is clear in both texts: God’s plan will succeed, and we must praise Him in response!

Do justly. Love kindness. Walk humbly. Stay tuned.

In Christ,

CK Hicks

“I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” (2 Peter 1:12)

Costing Everything

We have used this video before about 3 years ago, but I feel compelled to share it again. Our family watched “God’s Not Dead 2” last night and found it to be a blessing. However, one aspect that stood out to me is the reality that persecution is coming, and it is coming sooner than we hope and think that it will come. To follow after Christ though requires that we are willing to understand that ultimately it will cost us everything.

In Moderation?

Over the past few months, I have not been able to get on Defending Contending that much for a variety of reasons. The main reason is because I have been very busy with work, working on a professional level exam in the evening, and trying to squeeze in time for family with what little bit of time I have left. Having said that, I wanted to take a few minutes to say that I appreciate those who have been able to contribute and who have commented.

Yet, with the responsibility of sharing with others comes another responsibility that I believe is even more important. This responsibility has been sadly lacking in some of the things that have been shared and I want to clarify a few points so we can move forward. The responsibility of which I speak is that, as true believers, we are called to reflect Jesus Christ in all that we say or do. Our position can be right, but if our disposition is wrong, then we are wrong. Being belligerent, obstinate, hateful, derogatory, or even caustic does not reflect who we are in Christ.

Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have walked the path before us. When I think of this passage, I cannot help but wonder what they would say to us if they could read our words or hear what we say to others who are true believers. As but one example, I wonder if they would wince when our words are written or designed to tear strips off of those who believe in salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone yet are not in total agreement with us on some point of doctrine that has nothing to do with our salvation.

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It seems that on a regular basis, we can get sideways with others for a variety of reasons and in the process we forget that part of being in Christ is that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. This has not always been the case here at Defending Contending, and even I have had to back off and extend an apology to our readers and our commenters for not being gracious. Again, my position may well have been right, but my disposition only inspired others to dive for shelter instead of looking to Jesus Christ.

Too often it seems that we forget the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul reminded the believers of Corinth that we are not called to be followers of Paul, or Apollos, or Luther, or Calvin, or MacArthur, or Sproul, or Paul Washer, or fill-in-the-blank. When we put our eyes on mere men who are fallible and by no means 100% correct in every single area of their life, we will be disappointed. Not only will we be disappointed, but the world will have reason to wonder as to who really paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. They may well wonder why we spend more time trying to defend points of doctrine over acting, speaking, and listening in ways that are truly glorifying and Christ-honoring.

Recently, we have had posts that were meant to be words of encouragement only for the gloves to come off and comments began to spin out of control. The post was never intended to be anything more than apples of gold in pitchers of silver. The short post got hijacked and it became a stomping ground for people from different ends of the spectrum to parade how they felt. Several posts recently have been such that I cringe when I look back and read them and the comments. I wonder what in the world we are really doing or what we are attempting to do.

Finger-pointing does nothing profitable. Thus I felt this post was necessary to hopefully clear the air. First, let me reiterate that I am unashamedly, first and foremost, a Christ-follower. Second, I hold to the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God that is good for ALL that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Third, I do not have any desire to follow a mere man. Yes, I, myself, have posted comments or quote or even sermons from men like MacArthur, Washer, or Dr. Steve Lawson, but they are men just like me. Others quote Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Sproul, or whoever as though they are to be esteemed to the level of the apostle Paul.

Anybody that cares to take the time to read through more of this blog will know where I have stood for the more than 8 years I have written here at Defending Contending. I have no intention of backing down from defending truth or contending for the faith. Many of you already know that I do not use the term Calvinist to describe myself. Most would be hard pressed to tell you exactly where Mark Escalera stands, but I am willing to share if I am asked. I have no issues standing against false teaching or false teachers. What I do have an issue with is the attitudes that are portrayed at times that are not Christ-like.

likeChrist

I have almost shared enough for now, but I want to share just a couple more things. Not every reader, nor every person who comments, nor even every person who has been asked to contribute stands on the same ground theologically. While I disagree on various points with each contributor, I still have the final say on the blog and who I invite to write here.

I would kindly ask that each reader remember that ultimately, I am the one that is responsible for Defending Contending and that this is not, nor will it be, a forum for just anybody to come here and defend and contend for what everyone else believes. If a person comes here and desires to share, there are still rules that are not going to change.

If you come to DefCon just for the purpose of trying to change all of our minds on a particular area, then please feel free to start your own blog. We do not mind questions, nor do we mind disagreements. But, writing inflammatory comments or demanding to be heard on one side or another of a particular issue will not be tolerated. If you have a comment that is held in moderation, I do not need 1, 2, 5, or 10 more comments letting me know that your comment is in moderation. I have a busy life and it may not be answered for an hour, a day, or even 2 days.

As for those who write blog posts here at DefCon, I respect each one and each one has added to the mix various points that I appreciate. This is true whether it is George Alvarado’s points on evangelism or apologetics, Manfred’s book reviews or posts on various doctrinal issues, J.L. Pattison’s posts on various topics, or even Sony Elise’s words of encouragement. Each of these individuals are my friends, some closer than others, and I will defend each one of them even if I do not always agree with them with everything they post or will post.

In conclusion, my entire point of the post is to bring us back to the reality that we will all disagree until the Lord takes us home. Then we will quickly come to the understanding that we were not right on everything. However, that will quickly fade as we realize how glorious it is to be worshiping with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To find ourselves standing, kneeling, dancing, waving our hands, stomping our feet with glee, or running the hills of glory will be all worth it in the end when we see Jesus Christ, who ALONE is the author and finisher of our faith. I expect, in the meantime, that we each strive diligently to be gracious to each other so that others will see the reflection of the Master Carpenter.

His Robes For Mine

The glorious work of what Christ has done for me can overwhelm the heart and soul. That God was estranged from God cannot be truly comprehended. Just as great is the truth that this beggar had Somebody to die in my stead so that I would be able to stand faultless before the Father.

All because of Christ and Christ alone!

 

Every Christian Believes Election

Every Christian Believes Election

Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.

Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with either of these two views:

  1. God chose to save some out of His own free will, without regard to their future faith in Him.
  2. God chose to save some out of His own free will, but with regard to their future faith in Him.

I hate to be overly simplistic, but this is really the pivot point of almost every predestination conversation. Regardless of whether or not you believe man’s will is totally free or a slave, whether man can fall away from grace, or that man has the ability to resist God’s grace, this is where the starting line is painted.

Does God choose men from before the foundation of the world in accordance with man’s future faith? Or does God do this freely from His own volition without regard to who He knew would choose Him? This may sound a little extreme, but I propose that, although this conversation is important, and that I lean toward God choosing of His own volition without regard to our future faith, in the grand scheme of things, both are essentially saying the same thing, just with different emphasis. Here’s what I mean.

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone that strongly insists that God foreknew who would choose Him, and therefore chose who would be saved from that, my normal reaction is not to exegete Romans 8:29 properly (although certain contexts may allow for it). Nor do I fret when someone dogs election and predestination when they make mention of how God is a tyrannical, diabolical, evil, etc., for electing some to salvation while choosing others also to hell (which is often a straw man, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ad hominem, and most of the time, a deliberate negligence to comprehend the doctrine of reprobation. Meanwhile wrongly attributing predestination to double predestination). I just simply ask if they believe God is omniscient. That’s all. Here’s why.

If God is omniscient, then that means He knew even before all of us were born who would be saved. God still possessed this knowledge of whom He would choose, and He had it without our permission. How we see God working this out from Scripture can be debated, but it can still be a bit of a red herring sometimes to discuss in my opinion. Because since God is omniscient, He knew from the foundation of the world who was destined to salvation. Understanding this, if God knew who would be saved, even before we were born, how does the fact that He chose based off our faith change the reality that God was in the beginning sovereignly deciding who would be saved? Did you catch that? Let’s say it another way. Even if God did indeed choose to save some based off of who would trust Him, and He foreknew who would believe Him, and from that decided, how does that negate the fact that He decided before we were even born? Even before we were even able to exercise that faith? We still didn’t have a say in the matter!

My intent here is not to rouse strife for shock and awe. I developed this in order to establish some peace in a conversation as well as some logical agreement. If you are a Christian, and you believe that God is omniscient, by default you implicitly ascribe to predestination and election, although unadmittedly. You may not believe that God elected and predestined some despite their faith, but you must logically deduce and concede to the fact that God’s omniscience alone makes election at least plausible. And by simply trying to soften the blow of election in saying that God chose some to be saved in accordance with our faith, one must admit that it doesn’t sweep away the problem at hand –  that man’s problem with God is His sovereignty and free will to do as He pleases way before we were even born! A problem that even most professing Christians today have contention with. But if we are honest, we have no choice but to affirm this if we believe God is omniscient.

I hear the marching drum pounding with an army of rebuttals. One rebuttal is that even though God is omniscient, that doesn’t mean men are not accountable for their sin. I agree. Often Calvinists are attacked because others believe that in the doctrine of election that man can’t be held responsible for their sin. This of course is not true, but once again outside the scope of this article. Another rebuttal is that God’s omniscience is not the same as God choosing some to be saved. I agree again. But His omniscience alone approves of His will to choose because it was already in His nature to know and do as He pleases. So while the act of knowing and choosing may be distinct, they are in harmony with each other. Because how does God know who will be saved, and yet, decide against it? And if He did change His mind, and like man wavered between choosing (which I don’t believe), it still leaves us with the same conclusion.

Let’s say you’re still not convinced. For argument sake, let’s say you’re not persuaded that God’s omniscience does not equal affirming predestination and election, and that election (where God chooses of His own will and pleasure without regard to who would choose Him) still presents an evil, unbenevolent God. Philosophically speaking, you cannot have mercy without judgment, can you? Can you have evil without good? Can you understand salvation without sin? At base level, if you didn’t believe in double predestination (the idea that God chooses some to heaven as well as hell), or even predestination (God elects some to be saved meanwhile passing over others), you still would have to conclude that God knew from the beginning who would go to hell and to heaven. Unless you believe in universalism where God saves everyone eventually, or affirm a pelagian/deistic god who purposefully limits His own knowledge of the future so as to not infringe upon the will of man (both are heresy by the way), you must believe, as a Christian, that some will inevitable go to heaven or hell in the end. And God knew it! This isn’t fun to talk about out loud. I know. But it is still reality. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, you must, I repeat, you must submit to the idea that God knew from the beginning who would eventually go to heaven or hell. It’s not about whether or not God is evil or good, or making Him more or less benevolent. It’s about accurately representing God and His word without conceding to man’s ideas of how they feel God should act.

I don’t say any of this without grace. It took me a long time to come to these realizations, and I trust that many readers will find what I have said offensive. Meanwhile others are perhaps still trying to comprehend such a deep theological issue. Trust me, I sympathize. I only wish to make plain that in arguing for whether or not God chose in accordance with man’s will or His own, that we don’t cower from it simply because some have issues with it. And whatever the motive someone has to propagate that God chose because He knew who would have faith in Him, it doesn’t really change anything in light of God’s omniscience. Because if God is omniscient, He still knew, before we were born, who would be saved. And He still acted, prior to our birth, based upon His own will and good pleasure and consulted no one in process!

In essence, we will always end up back to square one regarding the most classic question ever asked by man: “If God knew man would fall, why did He create us in the first place.” The answer may vary depending on your theology, but it doesn’t do away from the inescapable truth that God, if He is truly that, has already determined who would be saved, based off of the good pleasure of His will, and the benevolence of His person. And that it will be through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – Son of God, 2nd person of the Trinity, fully God fully man – that this salvation is attainable. Because, if you think about it, God didn’t have to save anyone. None! We all deserve hell. Period. If God saved one person, it would be the most gracious and loving act that God could have bestowed upon a human being, and God would be perfectly justified in sending the rest to eternal torment. But since God is infinitely more gracious than we could imagine, He has chosen to save millions to date (by my puny estimation). If man wants to secure his free will and be a contributor to their salvation, they can have it. So as long as God gets to keep His free will and do as He pleases without obligation to any man’s volition.

-Until we go home