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The Potter's Clay

Scripture, Theology, the Christian worldview, and other ramblings.

31 March 2005

Does God need any of us?

What! he who guides the stars, and keeps them revolving intheir orbits by the motions of his fingers, does he need aninsignificant atom like one of ourselves to serve him?

What! he whom all the hosts of angels do worship, and beforewhose throne the cherubim do veil their faces with their wings,does he need a tiny creature like man to give him homage andreverence?

If he did need men, he could soon create as many mighty kingsand princes as he pleased to wait upon him, and he could havecrowned heads to bow before his footstool, and emperors toconduct him through the world in triumph. But he needs not men;he can do without them if he pleases.

O you stars! you are bright; but you are not the lamps whichlight the way of God; he needs you not.

O sun! you are bright; but your heat warms not Jehovah.

O earth! you are beautiful; but your beauty is not needed togladden his heart; God is glad enough without you.

O you lightnings! though you write his name in fire upon themidnight darkness, he needs not your brightness.

And you, wild ocean! you are mighty; but though you hymnhis deep praise in your solemn chorus, your storms do not add to his glory.

You winds! though you attend the march of God across thepathless ocean; — you thunders! though you utter God’svoice in terrible majesty, and track the onward progress ofthe God of armies, he needs you not.

He is great without you, great beyond you, great above you;and, as he needs you not, he needs us not.

--C.H. Spurgeon

30 March 2005

Defending the Faith

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Vincent Cheung mentioned me in a recent entry on his blog. I had no idea anyone read my stuff outside my friends. Thank you Mr. Cheung.

Speaking of Reformation Ministries International, I have greatly appreciated Vincent Cheung's works on apologetics. If there is one thing (among many others) I have gained from his writings on apologetics, it would be confidence. His writings are filled with a confidence in the Word of God. I appreciate that, and have implemented it in my interactions with non-Christians. In today's climate of constant attacks on the Bible as the authoritative, revealed Word of God, it is like drinking from a mountain stream when reading someone who has a high view of Scripture. I would recommend reading the following:

This represents the bulk of what I have read. There is quite a bit more material on RMI's website worth checking out. His Systematic Theology is on my "to read" list.

Jude 1:3 ESV
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

26 March 2005

The Resurrection

With Resurrection Day upon us, I thought it appropriate to post a few good articles defending the Resurrection of our Lord, along with Scripture.

The Resurrection of Christ - B.B. Warfield

Verifying the Resurrection - James M. Boice

The Resurrection of Christ - J. Gresham Machen

Jesus' Resurrection was Physical - Matt Slick
Objections Answered - Matt Slick

Verses dealing with the Resurrection:

John 11:25
(25) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

Romans 6:5
(5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
(3) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
(4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Peter 1:3-5
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
(4) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
(5) who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

2 Peter 1:16
(16) For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

22 March 2005

The Bible...

This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe in it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is its object, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and be remembered forever. Follow it's precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

20 March 2005

That the Spirit of Charity, or Christian Love, is the Opposite of a Selfish Spirit.

The ruin that the fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in his losing the nobler and more benevolent principles of his nature, and falling wholly under the power and government of self-love. Before, and as God created him, he was exalted, and noble, and generous; but now he is debased, and ignoble, and selfish. Immediately upon the fall, the mind of man shrank from its primitive greatness and expandedness, to an exceeding smallness and contractedness; and as in other respects, so especially in this. Before, his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love, whereby it was enlarged to the comprehension of all his fellow creatures and their welfare. And not only so, but it was not confined within such narrow limits as the bounds of the creation, but went forth in the exercise of holy love to the Creator, and abroad upon the infinite ocean of good, and was, as it were, swallowed up by it, and became one with it. But so soon as he had transgressed against God, these noble principles were immediately lost, and all this excellent enlargedness of man's soul was gone; and thenceforward he himself shrank, as it were, into a little space, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of all things else. Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away. But God, in mercy to miserable man, entered on the work of redemption, and, by the glorious gospel of his Son, began the work of bringing the soul of man out of its confinement and contractedness, and back again to those noble and divine principles by which it was animated and governed at first. And it is through the cross of Christ that he is doing this; for our union with Christ gives us participation in his nature. And so Christianity restores an excellent enlargement, and extensiveness, and liberality to the soul, and again possesses it with that divine love or charity that we read of in the text, whereby it again embraces its fellow creatures, and is devoted to and swallowed up in the Creator. And thus charity, which is the sum of the Christian spirit, so partakes of the glorious fullness of the divine nature, that she "seeketh not her own," or is contrary to selfish spirit.


--Jonathan Edwards, from Charity and It's Fruits, Sermon 8

18 March 2005

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.


Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

16 March 2005

Without Holiness

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!" Isaiah 6:3

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!" Rev. 4:8

If every attribute of the Deity were a distinct member, holiness would be the soul to animate them.

Without holiness . . .
His patience would be an indulgence to sin,
His mercy a fondness,
His wrath a madness,
His power a tyranny,
His wisdom an unworthy subtlety.

Holiness gives decorum to them all.

--Stephen Charnock

15 March 2005

Currently reading

Posted by Hello Posted by Hello

I am currently reading the above books. Frame's book has been very edifying. Hodgkin's work is well written. I really don't know much about Hodgkin, I can't seem to find anything on him in my searches. What I do know is I haven't been able to put it down. It is published by Christian Focus.

11 March 2005

G.R.A.C.E.

I was inspired by my friend Matt to come up with a grace acrostic. Here is one I came across many moons ago that ties in with TULIP quite nicely:

(G)od's Sovereign Choice, the
(R)adical Corruption of man, the
(A)ccomplished atonement of Christ, being
(C)alled effectually by the Spirit, and
(E)nduring to the end vis God's Preservation

GRACE!
Soli Deo Gloria!

Five Things Every Christian Needs to Know

Great series of articles over at Challies.com about the five things every Christian needs to know. Well written and edifying.
The First Thing part 1
The First Thing part 2
The Second Thing

More to come I am sure... Enjoy!

In Christ,
Joe

10 March 2005

Still going after 25 years...


Mt. St. Helens did it's thing the other day. Quite a sight... Posted by Hello

Jelly-fish Christianity

One plague of our age is the widespread dislike
to sound doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of
the day is a kind of jelly-fish Christianity--a
Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew--
without any distinct teaching about the atonement
or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the
way of peace with God--a vague, foggy, misty
Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem
to be, "You must be liberal and kind. You must
condemn no man's doctrinal views. You must
think everybody is right, and nobody is wrong."

--J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

God's Hammer

Spurgeon, "The Mighty Arm" No. 674.

"Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand!
Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength."
-Psalm 89:13

God's power is perfectly irresistible.

When God puts forth his omnipotence,
who, who is there that can stay his hand?

Proud hearts are humbled,
hard hearts are broken,
iron melts, and
rock dissolves!

There is no heart so hard but what
God's hammer can dash it in pieces!

The Lord has but to will it with his omnipotent
will, and the sinner becomes a saint, and the
most rebellious cast down their weapons!

Let us never despair, while we can say
of our God, "Powerful is your arm!"
Lord, here is a great and hard rock; now wield
your great hammer, and the sparks shall fly,
and the adamant rock shall be broken into pieces.

Quarry your own stones, O God, and make them
fit for your temple, for "Powerful is your arm!"

01 March 2005

A Debtor...

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

--Augustus M. Toplady

Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism

These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available on tape from Desiring God Ministries, but I will put them here for wider use in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call "Calvinism."
1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.

I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late '70's, the threefold statement of the goal of all God's work, namely, "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.

It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.

One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.

God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.

Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don't seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.

Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, "Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn" (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.

After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.

Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.

The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,

The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.

In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.

Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: "Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy."

You can also read in J. I. Packer's Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.

1 Timothy 3:15, "The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.

I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.

When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.

And I pray for awakening and revival.

And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.

We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.

This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.

All of life relates to God. There's no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Seeing God's sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that "he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.

The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. "Hallowed be thy name" means: cause people to hallow your name. "May your word run and be glorified" means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.

We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

"God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

"Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6).

"Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27).

"Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

"Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.

So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.

John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice."

It is God's work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.

Isaiah 46:9-10, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose'"

Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.

--John Piper