Salvation Secure

For Lord’s Day, April 1

Dear Saints,

Once saved, always saved.” Is that something you can take to the bank for yourself? Absolutely. You cannot lose your salvation. This is where the Larger Catechism, Q&A 79, will guide us in worship this Lord’s Day evening. Meditating on our secure salvation should serve as a great comfort to us after we just dealt with the fact that our sanctification in this life is imperfect (LC Q&A 78).

But this doctrine of eternal security because of our unconditional election in the Covenant of Grace often is harassed by Arminianism, which teaches (logically) that since man’s salvation is based ultimately on his choice rather than God’s choosing, then man can later choose to opt out and thus lose his salvation. Misunderstanding what choice is, the Arminians believe we can only be saved if it is by our own uninfluenced choosing. Such an idea runs rampant in American churches, causing Christians to doubt the surety of their salvation in the end. A.A. Hodge has a helpful critique of this Arminian way of thinking in his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 17, “Of the Perseverance of the Saints” [the “P” in TULIP]:

The Arminians themselves believe that the saints will be rendered secure from falling from grace when they go to heaven, and yet that they will be none the less perfectly free as to their wills. If the two are consistent conditions in heaven, they can be none the less so on earth.

This is a quote worthy of our meditation to fully appreciate a very good argument against the idea that you choose your own salvation and thus you can lose it (a conclusion which I have heard an Arminian vehemently proclaim). If God Himself will keep you from sinning in heaven and yet you will willing not sin, there is similarly no contradiction that in this life it is God alone Who made you perfectly willing through His gift of faith to be saved by Christ.

So, in the glorious, sovereign person and work of Jesus Christ, “You can’t lose” (Evening Sermon). For, as sons of Abraham, “You are never alone” (Morning Sermon).

Also, related to the above devotion, you might find helpful the following article that demonstrates the harmony of God’s predestinating and empowering our freely willing Christ for salvation: Determinism and Responsibility, by Gordon H. Clark (available on our Resources page along with many other helpful articles on doctrine and practice). Dr. Clark points out in this article that what he highlights is what Calvinists need to understand well to handle the key Arminian argument of contrary choice being necessary for man’s responsibility against the Reformed and Biblical doctrine of Predestination and Unconditional Election. It is a brief, excellent resource.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Polishing People

Dear Saints,

I want to thank you for staying committed to Christ and this local branch of His Church.  I was thinking of you all and how Christ will surely reward you for your faithfulness to one another while I was reading an article in an e-newsletter I received this week.  It talks about how we should go out of our way to stay with our church through rough times, and how God especially uses such commitment and experiences for our own personal benefit.  The author gives this lovely illustration:

Discipleship is like a rock in a rock tumbler. The rock is shined the more it bumps up against all the other rocks and water. Over time, the process turns a rock into a gem.

The article, entitled “Not So Fast – advice to those considering leaving their church”, shares how you are beautiful in Christ.  And that Christ is making you more beautiful in special ways for sticking it out together.  Liked polished precious stones.  Keep shining God’s glory together, beloved.  This is your final destination:

And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;  The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.  And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation 21:19-22)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Rain for Prayer

For Lord’s Day, May 13, 2012

Dear Saints,

In my private morning devotion, I noticed something when singing a Psalm. It’s getting better with repetition. Now, I’m not commenting on how it sounds, especially early in the morning. But I had sung it with Jennifer going to bed the evening before, and earlier that day too. It’s a Psalm that’s ministering to me right now. But I noticed this morning that the more I give myself to it, the more it gives itself to me. The more I work with it, the more I internalize it. Practice makes perfect, as they say. And the more we pursue perfection until the resurrection, the more of the next life we enjoy on this earth.

It got me thinking about Elijah praying for rain. I took a while:

And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand … And it came to pass … that … there was a great rain … (1 Kings 18:42-45)

Beloved, seek the Lord’s showering of holiness in your life by pursuing Him diligently, with your whole heart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I believe those who just won’t quit are the ones who get the most blessing. Don’t expect miracles the first or second or third time. Discover the glory of plodding and see what God produces in your life day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

Pick a Scripture and read it seven times and pray over it seven times (maybe in one day or maybe over one week). Or sing a psalm of the month seven times and work on memorizing it together over the month. I’m not suggesting a magical conjuring formula here, but simply the marvelous method of Scriptural meditation. Remember that this was Isaac’s evening example to us a while back, and along came Rebekah in the caravan.

Such dedicated devotion is what we call spiritual “disciplines”. Godliness comes with exercise (1 Tim. 4:7). In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney (the same fella who wrote the Family Worship book we studied last fall in the men’s group) lists the following spiritual disciplines/exercises to consider: Bible Intake, Prayers, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, Learning, and perseverance in them. Perhaps you would be helped by considering one of these activities and giving yourself to it in special dedication for a month and see what happens. I bet you’ll feel a holy mist come over you if you do, and that you’ll like what you see it grows for you inside and out. In particular, look for that spiritual fruit you said you wanted to see more of back during January family visitations (and what exercise we thought might help it grow). Keep cultivating and don’t give up. You’ll be so pleased with the fruit it bears by year’s end. Don’t let the fact that they’re green and small right now set you back. Growth is happening within, and more grows better with cultivation.

Here are some other Scriptures to motivate you toward what will greatly benefit you, your family, and your church:

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: (Proverbs 2:1-11)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you … (James 4:8)

Pray for spiritual rain to grow spiritual fruit in your lives, beloved. Pray again and again. Meditate more and more, on the same things. Pursue God. You will be especially blessed the more you go after His presence in your life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Totally Absorbed in the Son

(For September 9, 2012 midweek church email devotion)

Dear Saints,

I’d like to share a quote with you by R. Kent Hughes in his book, Disciplines of a Godly Man:  “We are to be totally absorbed with Jesus.  He is to fill our skies like the morning sunrise.  He is to be our high noon and our sunset.”

These words make me think about what my children have been doing each morning all this week — waiting to watch the sun rise.  They’re having lots of fun, and love to describe the effects that the sun has in bringing color first to the mountains and clouds before finally lighting up the whole sky so bright you have to look away from it; but then you can get going with your day.  

Have you ever noticed that each sunrise has its own unique look to it?  Each one is worth getting up for to watch.  And always, Joy commeth in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

We should look at Jesus like we wait for a sunrise — or on a sunset.  Hear Him like that.  Worship Him like that.  Pray to Him like that.  Wait for Him like that, as we sing about in Psalm 130, our Psalm of the month in the evening (how fitting, although not planned).  We should be eagerly expecting Jesus to rise anew in us and rise for good in the end like they who watch for the morning light.  Hoping in the day star Who has dawned and is rising in our hearts (2 Peter 1:19); for the Sun who will arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2) one day and return for us riding on the clouds (Revelation 1:7).

This quote above by Pastor Hughes is in a chapter called, “Discipline of Perseverance”.  They way to persevere in this life is to gaze on Jesus all the way into the next life.

We saw two weeks ago that John said in Revelation 1:9 that we are companions in the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patience, “of Jesus Christ”.  And we were all ministered to by James MacDonald’s message last Wednesday night on James 1:1-8, in which he explained the Greek word for patience (vs. 3) essentially means “under-remain”; he gave some moving examples from his own difficult providences at that time.  Some of you have been asking how to get a copy of Dr. MacDonald’s message.  Here’s a link for anyone else that may be interested. 

Beloved, we can indeed persevere in the Messiah’s marathon for us by “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  He kept His eyes on the joy set before Him to get through His cross for us.  We keep our eyes on Him, and He gets us through ours crosses He will have us remain under for Him.

May you be totally absorbed with Jesus, beloved.  May He fill your skies like the morning sunrise.  May He be your high noon and your sunset.  Life is lived so much more gloriously different from this most beautiful perspective — a true, celestial one, where the air is clean and clear and best to breathe. 

Get some more Son in your eyes.  Read Revelation 1:10-18 to see Jesus as you should always see Him now.  Let it prepare you for worship this Lord’s Day.  It will be glorious.  For He radiates heavenly light.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant