Greetings from Tom’s River, New Jersey. A fairly uneventful (if rather bumpy) flight out here yesterday. Speaking this evening, tomorrow, and Sunday. Here are the details once again.
Just a quick “thank you” to the Calvinist Gadfly for this article this morning. I followed his links and was once again deeply touched to think of our brothers and sisters who this day languish in bonds for their love of Christ and His gospel. Oh how few who crowd into the mega-plexes of creature comforts often called “churches” in our land on a Sunday morning (unless the NFL playoffs get in the way) would give up family and friends and freedom! Remember these words:
I dare you to memorize that one. I would also like to link to the stories of these dear ones. I have likewise raised an eyebrow once or twice by preaching on Jesus’ call to the crowds to “join the death march,” which is exactly what He did in Mark 8:34-38. We need to remember that the Jesus who had compassion on the crowds in Mark 8:2 is the same Jesus who said these words:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Do we live in an adulterous and sinful generation? Sure do. Does Jesus call us to die to self, walk the opposite direction, join the death march to crucifixion, endure the mockery inherent in such an action? Yes, He does.
It’s a little like the biblical concept of compatibilism: there is a vital, living, purposeful relationship between the sovereign and eternal decree of God and the actions of men in time. They are not contradictory, nor are they equal. This isn’t the “train tracks that meet in eternity” routine (the train would still wreck if the tracks ever met, in time or in eternity). One truth conditions (God’s creatorship and hence His purposefulness, resulting in the necessity of His decree) and forms the other, to be sure. But the truth is that God’s sovereign decree exists, it is real, and man’s will exists, and it is real, and the one gives the basis and foundation of the other. You cannot deny one without materially impacting your understanding of the other. Likewise, proclaiming God’s love does not mean we have to define that love in terms of human sentimentality. God’s love transcends merely human categories, and as such, co-exists in perfect harmony with His holiness, His justice, His grace, His mercy, and even His wrath. The strong call of the gospel to die to self and renounce self-sovereignty is not contradictory to the proclamation that God’s salvific love is freely available to all who repent and believe. But skip the repentance, skip the dying to self, leave man in possession of self-sovereignty, and the result is spiritual poison, resulting in buildings full of unregenerate hypocrites, twice hardened to the true call of the gospel.
And the funny part is, those brothers and sisters suffering today under Islamic and atheistic regimes would not even understand why I am belaboring the obvious. Think about that.