Les Lanphere, a fellow brother in Christ I know through the Facebook group the Reformed Pub, is seeking crowd funding support on Kickstarter to produce a professional documentary on Calvinism. So far the support pledged toward his 35k goal has been incredible as he has already surpassed his goal with 20+ days left in his campaign. He is now seeking to hit “stretch” goals which will further enhance the reach and quality of this film. It’s been an exciting ride in the pub as we’ve all watched this campaign soar; this project is going to happen!
As you can see, this documentary will be an awesome opportunity to ask key questions of those most able to shed light upon what Calvinists actually believe. As Les puts it on his Kickstarter page, the film will be “seeking to explain Calvinism, celebrate its recent resurgence, and answer the question ‘what’s next'”.
No doubt there is an organic resurgence of Calvinism among the youth in today’s church. I’ve experienced the unexpected call to doctrinal purity and I surprisingly found myself finding the same passion in the pen of Calvin and other great theologians upon whose shoulders we stand.
The comfort learning the doctrines of grace brought to me was not controversial, it was a blessing from the Holy Spirit.
Among the Christian community I’ve learned that the title Calvinist can be perceived as either a compliment or an insult depending upon the nature and tradition of the church where that title is being thrown around. Being both informed and gracious should keep most of us out of that latter group. This film comes at a timely state where clarity on the subject of Calvinism is welcomed – I pray we in the reformed camp and our brothers and sisters outside of it can see how important it is for us all to remain teachable while we also all can show our combined support to this project.
Click the link below and join in the effort to support this film.
The fact that God thought to sometimes mix in the rumble of thunder with rain storms is an awesome thing. Sitting in my study, on the 2nd floor of an old Dutch colonial type house, the thunder can sometimes feel as though it penetrates right into my chest. It’s like these old walls don’t even try to smother the sound as it enters into the room. Especially late at night when nothing else can be heard except the rain dripping outside or the occasional car passing by on the very wet road near my house.
I was quickly brought outside of my self as I stopped and listened to the noise as it cracked the night sky and flooded over all the surrounding hills. The trees get no break, they’ve no insulation – they are completely exposed and they almost seem to amplify the effect. How far each wave of thunder reaches is incredible and I’m brought to thoughts of how small I am and how God’s powerful creation obeys and displays his rule; a rule that is beyond man’s capacity and which must be utterly terrifying to those who do not know the Sustainer of all things.
The God of creation is terribly powerful indeed and I see that on display in such storms. Yet I also note that this natural order reveals that He also provides the rain through such awesome demonstrations of might. It is very much the case scripturally that the God of the Bible is revealed as one who brings salvation through judgement. It isn’t any wonder that the created order can be heard singing this tune also. A man may be struck with the fear of death at the horrid noise of thunder and raise his fist to the sky while at the same time another man raises praise for the life the rain of that same storm brings to his crop.
While the storm parallel isn’t exact, the narrative fits: Christ who bore God’s wrath at the cross suffered terribly while at the same time completely gained salvation for His people. One can look at the cross and see only unnecessary violence and another can believe upon the Son, confess their sin and be brought to their knees in utter worship of the one who conquered death. The latter group rejoice to know that their Savior is also sovereign over such noisy affairs as thunder storms. The fear of the Lord trumps and subdues any fear common to humanity. Trust in Him and find rest. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14 ESV
What has to be in place in order for someone to receive an inheritance? Well, at the most basic human level, one has to have a possession he or she wants to give to another, and then from there make the necessary preparations for it to be passed on. There is planning that takes place. There is also a process of election where those who are chosen to receive the inheritance are incorporated into that plan by the one who intends to do the giving.
Scripture often speaks in similar language when it refers to God’s plan of redemption. A group often referred to as the Elect in scripture are described as those who receive salvation only by their Savior’s merits and not of their own, they are called adopted sons and daughters, they are those who have received a great inheritance.
Hebrews 1:14 comes at the tail end of an awesome section of scripture where the Father is talking about the eternal glory of the Son and how much more magnificent he is above all things including the created angels. The Father here asks a rhetorical question to make a point as to the purpose for which His angels perform their appointed duties. He says they are “sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Here is then a glimpse into God’s redemptive means – the elect are served by God’s angels for the express purpose that they will inherit salvation. Also worth noting is that the passage doesn’t say those who “may” inherit but rather “who are to.” I see preordained election in this passage; a glimpse into the plan where God has made known His intentions – to make alive those who are dead in sin through those servants of the gospel. How beautiful are those messengers who bring good news! May we servants of Christ be about this awesome business.
“ Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV
The first verse here presses to the mind the awesome reality that God has spoken! It does so however with a very important qualification, that God speaks through His own appointed mediators. The varying accounts recorded in Old Testiment times were interpreted through the lense of such prophets. So history for God’s chosen people has always had theology as its primary emphasis. For sure, to the 1st century Jew, the events of the Old Testement were ancient history but they had the written word of these accounts passed down to them and they considered the texts revelation from God; Jesus himself held men accountable to those very texts as those who have heard from God through them.
Verse 2 then draws finality and closure to what is to be revealed from God when it tells us that a greater mediator has been given, The Son. Jesus is understood by the author here to have spoken to God’s chosen people again, in great display, after a long period of silence, in what is framed in the context of “these last days.” God’s revelation gets closure when Christ is done teaching us about His Father who sent Him.
God appointed Christ “heir of all things.” Instantly, the scripture commands that the relationship between the persons of the trinity come to the mind. The Godhead has determined that all things are for Christ, the Son has been appointed such a global and universal inheritance of glory that is hard to fathom. This assertion that all things have their purpose in this appointment is addressed in the very same sentence that states the Son also created the world. If anyone would credit this inheritance appointment due to the actions of Christ in time as we creatures know it, they miss that the appointment to inherit all things written of comes before His incarnation, it was planned from before the foundation of the world. The context here is that the Son was with the Father when the Father made the world through the Son. For certain, the actions Christ performed on earth revealed the glory due His name but that glory He kept vailed in the form of a suffering servant who would go to a cross and suffer wrath on behalf of His elect. The greatest truly became the least and will forever be praised as the greatest by those He saved in the process.
Christ is the ultimate purpose for creation and verse 2 here teaches that before time began for the creatures in God’s creation, this purpose was settled among the three persons of the trinity – creation is to be the theater where the Father unfolds the reality of this inheritance appointment to the Son.
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” – Galatians 5:5-6 ESV
The hope of righteousness that comes by faith produces an eager anticipation of the eternal life obtained in Christ…a hope which is longed for by every believer. A hope worth fighting for and keeping secure in ones heart. Paul warns here that the circumcision party was adding works to the equation of justification (beware any teaching other than that of faith alone in Christ for justification) and therefore was robbing the hope that is so precious to every ‘child of promise’ (those who have faith in Christ).
How does this righteousness produce hope? First by recognizing that it is not ones own righteousness that the one who has faith tastes, but that of Christ’s. This recognition comes to light by the grace of God when humility speaks honestly to ones own sinful nature; that ones best deeds done in the flesh are equaled to nothing more than that of filthy rags (scripture says that man’s ‘good’ works = menstrual rags). It is His Spirit working in the believer, through faith, that one performs true works of Godly love. Such works will not feed a self righteous mindset, but these are those that can only result in the believers ascribing glory to God…because such works are completely by His grace and granting from start to finish and the believer praising God will sense this to be true both in the experience of it or upon reflection of it as we do now.
In His providence I suppose these works can and often do go unnoticed by the believer; perhaps so that the right hand not know what the left is doing…thereby pride would continuously be slain at its roots. I also wonder how often these works are left undone by believers and what type of judgement awaits us who through slack and apathy stall our Lords call to serve. I fear this for many Christians, myself included.
I can speak for myself as I know I’ve turned aside many times from opportunities from His works. What comforts me though is that my Lord is faithful when I am not; that He is Lord and I am not; that He is the perfect Teacher and I His student; I am His subject and He is my kind Ruler; I am his adopted son and He my loving Father; that He saved me a sinner, not as a righteous man and has committed to conform me to Himself; that He will finish what He started; that He is mighty to save. Oh goodness! He has dealt ever so kindly to me, even when my heart condemns me and my accuser screams my list of sins at me, He has not forsaken me and He leads me to repentance…He restores my soul. Praise God, grace is mine as a son, eternally!
Let me not lose sight of the hope of righteousness; let me let go of the elemental powers of this world; let me fully trust in my Lord and walk in His ways. I know that when I walk in His righteousness I am eternally minded; the temporal is enjoyed and used for His purposes but it becomes necessarily secondary. I pray to do more and more of His works to know the joyous laughter of His praise and glory. May it be so. Amen.
You may have heard someone say, “God helps those who help themselves,” and then thought to yourself how many times you’ve been a helpless failure. Is there any hope for those of us who seem to have a persistent proneness to failure and of weakness?
Good news, God saves the helpless, the lost, the rebel, the sinner to the uttermost! Christ came to save sinners not the self righteous. Jesus hung out with sinners teaching them His ways while rebuking and condemning the self-righteous Pharisees.
Beware of the form of legalistic teaching that clothes itself in light while telling you that you must help yourself before God will help you. Who can truly do this who is not blindly self righteous? Only God is truly good and not a single man to ever walk this earth other than Christ is without a sin deserving of death (this is why we all are headed to our graves by the way…”the wages of sin is death.”)
No, it starts with an honest confession of sin and a request for mercy; this is God in His grace lifting the sinner’s soul to see the cross and what the only Son of the Father accomplished at it: complete salvation for all who believe. He came to heal the sick, not the healthy.
Recognizing ones own sickness is to truly see ones own sin for what it is: cosmic treason against ones own Maker. Yet He is kind to sinners leading them to humble repentance. He grants them new hearts, hearts that actually long for Him and desire to please Him. He faithfully teaches them His ways. He promises them He will never leave or forsake them and that He will finish the work He began in them. He promises resurrection of the body in a world to come that is without sin! Oh the peace in Christ; in Him alone there is rest for the weary and a living hope for all eternity.
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A child’s unrestrained unction will test an adults perception of their own boldness. What do I consider bold? I’m a grown man now, and I sometimes think myself bold for sharing my faith in public. My oldest son Abe, who is now 4, is challenging me on this issue. I try to teach my children about God’s character, not just some of them but all of the characteristics of God revealed in scripture. His Holiness, perfection, law, mercy, patience, grace and love, etc. I teach them that Christ came to save sinners from hell and gives the only true hope for eternal life. I have tracts around the house that I bought from Ray Comfort’s Living Waters ministry that challenge people to consider if they think they are good when compared to God’s law. Abe is fascinated with these tracts and asks me to read them to him often.
Abe talks loudly. Sometimes he asks questions about the fear of God, death, sin, the unseen and a whole litany of other subjects because we constantly talk about them. My younger boy is starting to do the same, he is about to turn 3. Sometimes these discussions will erupt in public places, recently one did at the local diner. I have to be honest, there is an impulse of the flesh that wants to silence a loud child who is talking of any uncommon subject in public, especially when the subject is about God. Most grown people honestly just don’t want God in their thinking. A lesson I’m learning is that a child who is taught of God will not hesitate to talk about Him aloud, anywhere. As Christ reminds the believer in the scriptures, let the little children come to me. Holy Spirit subdue this flesh that strives to remain passive along with the rest of culture.
So I find myself asking the question, is this phenomenon a coincidence? Is this not an exceptionally well timed testing of my faith? Here is the reality, my child’s faith challenges me to always be ready to talk to my neighbor about the hope that is in me; I can see this child will not hesitate to bring Him up in public discourse at anytime and in any place. Will I brush my boys’ comments to the side and choose to talk about the whether or will I use them as an opportunity to witness to Christ, teach them in public and proclaim the forgiveness of sins to this world? Lord have mercy, for if I’m honest I’ve probably elected to do the former 9 times out of 10. Not necessarily due to unbelief but most likely due to my own laziness.
Abe has been invited by a friend from his nursery school to a birthday party. Of his friends from school, this will be Abe’s very first party he attends and he is super excited. He wants to give his pal those gospel tracts as part of his gift. He is super enthusiastic about giving these tracts to his friend because he considers the message contained in there to be good news. Abe has told me that I might need to read them to his friend because he can’t read yet. So my teaching my boy is producing fruit and now opportunity is presenting itself to me in that I have been given an objective witness to my son’s friend’s parents. I am encouraging him to give the tracts and am now praying for boldness to share the gospel at this birthday party when I go with him. I do sense the flesh wanting to object at so many points here, but it must be slayed at every one of them and I will not even give rise to its arguments. God willing, these parents of Abe’s friend will get the gospel through my son’s witness, through me and through those tracts.
As I reflect on a child’s faith, which both Abe and Caleb are starting to display more and more, they are not quick to hesitate to have God in their thinking or on their lips like most adults are. They are coming to Christ and I can see that Christ doesn’t turn the little ones away. I know this world will certainly challenge them to be silent as it does me, but I better not do such a thing. Just the other day Caleb pointed to the moon when we got out of the car and shouted, “look daddy, God put that there!” I am thankful to see that my children hear me when I speak and understand what I say in the privacy of our home. The duty given to me now is to continue the discussion whenever and wherever we find ourselves, inviting whoever into it. They aren’t afraid to ask questions in my house or in public and I intend to keep it that way. The easy thing to do would be not to give real answers but to silence their inquiries and avoid the work of finding real responses. To hush their excitement.
As a Christian father, I now see parenting partially designed to help parents grow in the area of witnessing. Will we have faith like a child? Will we be excited to talk about God wherever the opportunity arises? I pray that me and my wife will be enabled to do so by God’s grace, for in this work is wisdom, joy and blessing.
The worshiping of Christ and the treasuring Him above all created things will lead to discernment that sees what it truly is to be under the law and freed from its curse.
Who is it that tires of hearing of the Christ and His gospel which commands repentance and offers forgiveness of sins? It is those who would rather worship creature over Creator. Who would exchange the truth for a lie. There is danger here, especially among the self-righteous, (of which I used to be but now see Christ as my righteousness), that can go unnoticed. These error in that they worship the moral law over the Law Maker, who in loving kindness and in His goodness keeps the law universally active each day. There is much beauty in the moral law and it is extremely practical in use globally but beware the self righteous appeal of the moralist who never articulates a moral with Christ at the forefront of his mind. The moralist hesitates to lay claim to moralistic origins as if there is neutral ground here. As if one can discern any true meaning to any moral apart from the absolute worship of the Son of God, and Him alone, who created and maintains the moral laws in nature.
The Christian religion is the only religion that consistently claims the origins of moral law. The many religions of the world are perversions of the Christ who was preached even in the garden by our Maker himself when He foretold of the promised seed of the women who would crush the serpents head. The power of the serpent is sin’s power which binds and blinds the sinner to the Creator. But when Christ is formed in a dead sinner, the power of Satan is broken and his head is crushed! Freed from the curse the believer sees Christ in His glory and worships Him and delights in all created things He has made. Behold, all things are new to the believer for they have been born again. You must be born again.
To believe in the Son of God is true religion.