Grace and Bible Reading

“Show me a person who despises Bible reading, or thinks little of Bible preaching, and I hold it to be a certain fact that they are not yet born again.” ~ J.C. Ryle

I read that quote the other day online and I glanced through the comments afterward knowing I’d see it, the one comment I knew would pop up. Sure enough, I found it, “We’re saved by GRACE!!”

The comment was made to thwart the idea that people do something to get saved, it’s all grace. If Ryle says people are only saved if they read their Bible, then he is ruining grace.

This is typical thinking about grace. We are saved by grace, but there is still something that determines who is saved and who is not. I wouldn’t call it merit, no one deserves salvation, but I would call it “fulfilling conditions.”

The Bible does say we are saved by grace, but it also doesn’t just say that. It says we are saved by grace through faith. God shows grace, we respond to it with faith. Without faith, you have no saving grace.

If faith is our part, it seems important we know what faith is. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Ryle is saying that the saved man esteems God’s Word, because that is what faith is and it is by faith we receive grace!

If a man does not esteem God’s Word there is no way that man has faith, and if he does not have faith, he has no basis to claim he has God’s saving grace.

Furthermore, our faith is placed in Jesus Christ, who is called The Word. If we claim to be saved by Jesus Christ we can’t help but esteem The Word. If we do not esteem the Word, we do not esteem Christ and thus there is no way you could claim to be saved.

We need to be careful with our treatment of the word “grace.” It has come to mean so much that the Bible does not say. There are other words in the Bible besides grace and those other words are there on purpose.

Repentance and Stupid Definitions

Ask most evangelical types today what “repentance” means and they will, no doubt, say, “Repentance means to change your mind.”

OK, fine. That definition is true if the definition of “air craft carrier” is “a boat.”

Repentance certainly does involve a change of the mind. But I’ve heard it so weakly stated that repentance is changing your mind about Jesus. “I didn’t think He was my savior, and then, shazam, all of a sudden I changed my mind and now He is.”

This is not repentance, it might be faith, but it isn’t repentance.

Repentance is deeper than changing your mind, it actually implies a change of heart, rebirth, a new, changed life that ensues from understanding things you’ve never understood before. The changed life is evidence that the mind was changed.

Repentance requires two main things:

1) We must be bad.
2) God must be good.

Both things are true. It’s the goodness of God that brings sinners to repentance. Repentance comes from a sinner who is tired of being bad, he wants to be made good–to be changed.

Proper repentance leads to salvation. Salvation is a spiritual act of God whereby a sinful man is given the righteousness of God and a new righteous life is created, all through faith in the gracious, loving act of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Repentance is a desire to get rid of the old man with his corrupt deeds, and to be made a new man created in righteousness and holiness. It’s a desire for all things to be made new. A complete turning from the old, temporal fixations of life to grasping hold of eternal life and heavenly desires.

That may indeed be a change of mind, but it sure goes way beyond that.

Talking Pigs and Experiencing God

“Imagine that I cart a pig into your living room and tell you that it can talk. You might say, “Oh, really? Show me.” I then wave my wand and the pig starts talking. You might respond, “That’s amazing!” You are not likely to say, “Ah, but that’s just one pig. Show me a few more and then I might believe you.” —V. S. Ramachandran

The point of this quote is that if you experience one pig talking you are unlikely to need more proof that it happened. No amount of non-talking pig proof would convince you that the pig you heard didn’t talk. Your experience trumps all.

People often have “God experiences” in life that they swear happened to them. They saw visions of dead people, mystical experiences of healing, direction-giving or seeing the future.

No amount of Biblical evidence will convince them it didn’t happen, it did and you can’t take that away. Soon experience is trumped over Biblical consistency. There is no longer a unified basis of conversation.

Sometimes it even works the other way. Scripture says in order to be a true believer you have to hate your family, money, self-promotion, etc. “Well, I never did that and I’m saved.”

Because our experience doesn’t back up what Jesus says we assume Jesus didn’t mean what He said.

Making experience trump the Bible is a sure way to get yourself off the strait and narrow. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He is more than willing to use signs and wonders, dreams, experiences or lack thereof to get you to trust your life events over Scripture.

If Scripture is indeed our sole authority for life and practice, let’s make it that. I’m not against experiences; I’m against making experiences the final authority when experiences can be deceiving when God’s Word never is.

Die Sinner! Or Not.

The Old Testament is filled with guys getting judgments from God. Priests offer strange sacrifices and die. Guys get swallowed by the ground for questioning authority. The king has his son die because of the sinful way in which the son was conceived.

One would think with all that judging going on, people would be scared to sin. On the contrary, it seems like the OT is brimming with fine displays of sin.

What’s up with this? Are these people dumber than the average bear or what? Here’s my guess.

If you know that guys who sin die, and you sin and don’t die, hmm, why not? Maybe that wasn’t sin.

Knowing people I can see this “logic” taking hold. We act off of experience not off of correct information. If God kill sinners and I’m not dead, I must be doing fine! I’ll just keep on keeping on then.

No matter what God does, people will twist it into some way to justify their desire to pursue sin.

What should settle the matter for us is that God does not want us to sin. Regardless of the outcome, response, immediate judgment or not, the fact that God doesn’t want us to do it should be enough.

Funny how it isn’t.

Doeg and Why Are You At Church?

In 1 Samuel 21, David is running from Saul and goes to the temple to talk with the priest, get some food, and a weapon. While there, a guy named Doeg sees him.

It says that Doeg is there because he is “detained before the Lord.” The word “detained” means to be restrained or stopped. God was keeping him there.

In the next chapter, Doeg rats out David and eventually is the only man willing to kill all God’s priests. He’s a real dork. Two things to note about Doeg the Dork:

1) He was at the temple! Presumably he went there to worship God! Just showing up to the building where worship takes place does not mean anything about the state of your soul.

2) God kept him there! God knew there was a plan for Doeg’s life, a bad plan, but a plan nonetheless. God keeps him there so all the priests would be killed.

Man can make a mockery of worship, but God’s plans are not mocked. There is a reason for everything.

Why are you showing up at your church? Are you there to truly worship or are you just playing a game? God will use it, one way or the other, but pray He won’t use you the way He used Doeg.

Biblical Case Studies

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22).

I’ve heard this verse spoken about many times. Generally the context is how dumb signs are and signs miss the point completely. A point I don’t necessarily disagree with, but it always strikes me that us Gentiles skip the part of the verse directed at us!

Gentiles, particularly those of the Western mind we in America find ourselves surrounded by, are obsessed with knowledge and wisdom. We want to know stuff.

When we take this into a religious realm, we find an obsession with doctrine and theology, parsing verbs and diagraming sentences, arguing about large words with Latin origins.

I’m not completely opposed to these things, but there is a danger. We can get so wisdomly minded that we miss the point.

One of the reasons people today don’t know their Old Testament is because there are not doctrinally thick passages in it like there are in the NT. We like to stew over Pauline sentences about justification, yet it’s been awhile since we’ve read 1 Samuel.

Yet reading the life of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan and David is highly instructional. The Bible is giving us insight into human nature. They are fascinating case studies.

That’s right, my point is that we should also look for wisdom in the pictures and types of the OT, not just Pauline passages. We are Gentiles after all, this is what we do.

Love and Friends

The number of friends you have does not show you how loving you are.

It seems we forget that. We define love our way and then use our own measurement tool to determine how loving we are. We look at our results, the number of people who like us, and we draw conclusions as to how loving we are.

If I have more friends than you then, obviously, I am more loving than you are. And if you have more friends than me, well, I better try to love a little harder then, eh?

But love does not always keep friends. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). Being accepted by everyone is not a sign of good things.

The proper application is not to go out and be a jerk, however. The proper application goes like this:

Love is honest and brutal, it works out of truth. When you live and share the truth with people it doesn’t always go well. People hate the truth and they’ll hate you for representing truth.

Don’t consider it a strange thing if people hate you, they hated your Savior too. If you are one of the Savior’s kids, there’s no way everyone will like you. No way.

They killed Jesus and He was love personified; never forget that. Love is not friendliness at all costs. Love is the ability to act out of truth because you have a love for the souls of those around you.