Friday, July 27, 2007

Christ-full Grace

I have been thinking (though it hurts my brain) about grace once again. This brought back memories of preachings that I would do at the start of a new year. I thought it would be good for my hearers to be encouraged again about the fact that God has grace for them as they face a new calendar year. Each new year brings with it new life challenges, that is obvious. There was something wrong with those sermons.

I am in firm belief that the Evangelical Charismatic and Calvinism will one day merge. It is happening now, I know of a couple of friends from Charismania who are now Calvinist/Calvinistic today. People like Dr. Piper, Dr. Storms i.e. mainly from Baptistic/Charismatic traditions are providing such doctrinal harmony. With Charismania lacking substance and a Confession, thinking Charismatics are migrating to Calvinism helping to bolster their numbers. The thing is that both streams affirm the Sovereignty of God. In the Charismatic stream, they believe God's miraculous powers are still true today, and in the latter, God is Sovereign and can save whomever he wants to save. I can affirm both, in some sense.

But there is still something amiss. How can I know or how do I know that God's Sovereign Power is for me rather than against me?

This is what I observe, when I was in Charismania/ Evangelia, people speak of God's Grace as a separate concept or as an entity on its own. It may be taught as a doctrine that stands out in isolation from other concepts. I heard people preach on Grace and speak of Grace as a stand-alone idea. When they speak of Grace, it is not Grace because it is some kind of infusion of Power that God gives in exchange for some satisfactory action performed. In other cases, it is not a favorable attitude of God towards a sinner as it is just an arbitrary predilection without demonstration.

What is missing? Christ. He is shown not to stand in between the sinner and God's Grace. It seems to me whenever we speak of Grace in isolation from Christ, this is not essentially what the Bible means by Grace. How do I know God has favor for me, since as a sinner I have no claim from God? I am his enemy, I deserve no mercy. I can not know, unless I see Christ, for Christ is the demonstration of that Grace. It is not arbitrary, it is decisive, it is firm and it is for sure, for the sinner. It is not partial.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us--Romans 5:8b.
.

If I look away from where it is found, in Christ at the Cross, I will live life in wonder, like a sheep without a shepherd, a ship without a rudder. There is just despair with an occasional swing towards self-elation when things are going great.

Today when I get my prayers answered, I tend not to think God has Grace for me as me. Rather, I tend now to think that God answers my prayers because of Christ, because as a sinner, I am one of those Jesus died for. I have no claim, neither a right to approach God, but I do, only because of Christ since he has been provided as my Mediator.

There is no such thing as God's Grace without Christ, Christ is God's Grace for you. A Grace that has no Christ and no Cross in it, is just simply, -- not God's Grace.

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. -- John 1:17b

18 comments:

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Bro. Lito,

If I may add, John Piper, John Armstrong, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones etc. represent the pietistic streak in the Reformed Faith which has its precedents in the Great Awakening and Revivalism and the Puritans. Such an ethos and mindset is contrary to the spirit, world-view and spirituality of the Reformation.

Luther had his Enthusiasts; unfortunately, there were no strong personalities which opposed Piestism in the Reformed tradition. George Whitefield himself was friendly with John Wesley, the occasional controversial polemics against each other over predestination, notwithstanding. But Whitefield himself was piestistic.

Authentic Reformation spirituality can be summed up by the phrase, "simul iustus et peccator", which is despised by Piestism, Revivalism and Charismaticism.

L P Cruz said...

Bro. Jason,

Absolutely right! I used to be a fan of Dr Piper several years ago, back when I was Calvinistic. But as you pointed out he comes from the Pietistic line. In fact I would consider him mystical or bordering in mysticism. Except for Warfield I know of no one else who has come out of rejecting Revivalism explicitly from the Reformed camp. Even at that, Warfield was not that forthright, he criticized the Pentecostals but he did not lay the ax at the roots.

There was of course a split that happened in Lutheranism, but the orthodox continued to charge the Pietist of losing confessional fidelity.

I hope I can be of help in your present walk as you examine the claims of Lutheran view of the Christian life. I do believe it has something to offer.


Lito

The Scylding said...

I have started to measure the orthodoxy of a particular theology by how "Christocentric" they are. This is the most reliable measurement in my mind. What you describe about the revivalists and the reformed has happened to a great extent in the Dutch Reformed Church in SA - some went the church growth, Hybels route, which is closely related. Some went liberal. And some (the msot conservative bunch, generally) are going a more "pure" pietistic route.

Interestingly, John Calvin barely figures anymore.

L P Cruz said...

Scylding.

I agree that Christ should be the center of our theology and theologizing.

I really wonder if Calvin would have been a Calvinist. I know he signed a the Variata of Augsburg Confession. Even then when I was parking my tent in Calvinism I would see myself as a bit more Calvinian rather than Calvinist. Calvin allowed himself to be inconsistent and paradoxical at times. But the Calvinist has completely taken that balance away. They do not like paradox.


Lito

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Bro. Lito,

Thank you for your encouragement. Let us continue to stand steadfast in the Truth, even if we have to pay a high price for our commitment.

Mark said...

Lito,
That's a good point about Calvin. I'm sure some Calvinist scholars would diagree with us, but I think there was a deep hunger for the sacrament in Calvin's heart, because it is pure gospel when rightly perceived, but he erred in trying to rationalise the real presence and resolve the conflict of Marburg.
Sasse's 'This is My Body' has the best analysis of this, as you probably know.
Augustinian Successor, best wishes and every blessing on your entry into the Lutheran Church.

L P Cruz said...

Bro. (Pr) Mark,

There is so much polemics in the Reformed camp proving that Calvin was a Calvinist. He was at least I can say an inconsistent Calvinist in many areas. He believed in Baptismal Regeneration, how is that for starters.

If you observe what is happening in the Reformed world, it is in a great state of flux much greater today than before (even turmoil). For example take the Federal Vision movement (and many movements within Calvinism say Theonomy etc).

These are Calvinists that are trying to grapple with the lack of power in Calvinism's view of the Sacraments. However they do not go far enough, they want to be faithful to their Traditional Reformed confession but it fails to deliver the real comfort that the Sacraments bring. They go about it in so many starts and stops and I think they are hungry but they will have to lose some friends when they affirm what we affirm about the Sacraments.

I observe, Lutherans have no need of those movements - they do not have FV, no Theonomy, and whatever movements in between. It has different problems but comparatively less chaotic and more homogeneous than our Calvinistic brethren. Even the late H. O. J. Brown (author of Heresies) a Reformed theologian himself was impressed with the homogeneity of Lutheranism compared to Calvinism. According to him the former brought about few heresies and controversies compared to the latter. The latter has many regional confessions written some of them need reconciling! Now that says something.

Rightly so, those who are perceptive have left Geneva to park their tent in Wittenberg.


Lito

L P Cruz said...

Bro. Jason.

You are honored to suffer for his name and his Gospel.

Yes, bro, we may have to suffer rejection because of our stance today, but that is puny compared to what Christ went through.

Mark 10:

"Truly, I say to you,(AQ) there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and(AR) for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold(AS) now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,(AT) with persecutions, and in(AU) the age to come eternal life. 31But(AV) many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Lito

Mark said...

Lito,
Thank you for expanding your comments.
Calvin an inconsistent Calvinist?
Yes, probably so!
I notice more Reformed scholars are acknowledging this nowadays.

You mentioned the varieties of "Calvinism", and you know, I have always been puzzled at the way paedobaptist Reformed can work so closely together with Calvinistic Baptists in parachurch organisations. That's a big difference to overcome. It always made me suspicious! I too have been observing the Federal Vision controversy with interest, although at some times it is like reading a difficult book in a second language. I think I understand the inception of the movement, and that they wish to correct certain emphases in classic Reformed orthodoxy, but I'm not sure they're completely orthodox on justification.
Just a few thoughts.
Keep up the posting!

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Pastor Mark,

Greetings to you in Our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus!

You're right, the FV are emphatically NOT orthodox in their understanding of justification. So are men like Norman Shepherd, Peter Lillback and some people at Westminster Seminary, *Philadelphia*.

L P Cruz said...

That is right Pr. Mark, they crashed on justification. The thing is that they are trying to fix the sacraments (their) but it does not go all the way and it damages their justification teaching too.

They create more problems than they solve. Frankly the whole enterprise is bunk. If they get the BoC a hearing, they need not re-invent the wheel.

The Reformed Paedo and Reformed Credo can work because at the end of the day, both ideas of baptism deliver nothing. It gives a sign but gives no reality. I hope this is something they think about.


LIto

Mark said...

Thank you both for confirming my suspicions! The article of justification is so precious but so easily perverted.

L P Cruz said...

God bless you too for your encouragement in the ministry.

Lito

jim cronfel said...

Dear Lito,

The Charimatic quest is very much in my heart in the last few years. (I am a supralapsarian.) There are charismatic indicatives. But they FOLLOW suffering temporally. It seems to be very rare to be healed without an affliction over time. Salvation seems to be faith + endurance. Or, suffering leads to patience, leads to experince, leads to hope that does not disappoint.

I have a healing testimony from blood cancer.

I have experienced other prophecy over me in ways that could only have been the Holy Spirit.

The gifts are real and they are out there and so is the Holy Spirit.

The Cessationists have cannonized AN IN-"PERFECT" CANNON AND HAVE "DONE AWAY WITH" 1 cor 12 & 14 and do not understand 1 cor 14 in any way whatsoever.

Even beyond "wealth and health", I have attened Nigerian Pentacoastal Churches where the preaching and prayers were for the deaths of HUMAN enemies. And I accept these teachings.

Yet the teachings on the gifts are so infultrated with armninian and pelagian legalism and free-will instead of dependancy upon God that it is still everyone for himself with his own copy of Scripture.

Getting prayers answered is full hand to hand combat with the evil powers (according to predestination of God).

The Bible is not a different era or system of dispensatiopn from any other time in history.

There are many charismatic indicatives in the Text but they require suffering and time.

In Christ
--Jim

J. K. Jones said...

Lito,

“How can I know or how do I know that God's Sovereign Power is for me rather than against me?”

The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16). The belief is the firm conviction that “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15). If you have faith in Christ, God’s grace is for you. That’s Calvinism the way I was taught it.

“…they do not have FV, no Theonomy, and whatever movements in between …”

Thank God. Neither do Baptists, but we have our own problems (church growth, anti-intellectualism, simplistic views of worship, complete distrust of tradition, and ignorance of church history for examples).

I am personally not yet convinced of a particular position on some charismatic gifts. Sign gifts, under the direct control of God’s prophet, are out nowadays, but John Piper and Wayne Grudem define the gifts differently. God certainly does answer prayer.

Does God still speak to us today? I am just trying (and failing) to live up to His clear communication in the Bible. Many are lead into obvious sin by impressions. “God told me to divorce my [faithful] husband to be fulfilled and happy,” for example.

Is Piper confused on this? I think he is confused on several things. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Historically, Baptists can’t agree on much.

How do you associate Piper with Pietism? I must not know enough about that movement.


Mark,

“…I have always been puzzled at the way paedobaptist Reformed can work so closely together with Calvinistic Baptists in parachurch organisations…”

Baptists can work with anyone who is interested in preaching the gospel of God’s salvation through Christ. It gets us into some strange relationships sometimes, but it’s worth it.

“…I'm not sure they're completely orthodox on justification.”

I think you are showing a distinct knack for understatement there.

L P Cruz said...

JK,

I was a fan of Piper during my Calvinistic days, but he says some confusing words and mainly in the idea of sin, and its nature.

I have slight slant on the question how do I know that God's Sovereign Power is for me? Because he sent his Son to die for my sins. My faith has very little to do with it ( a bit tongue in cheek).

The Lutherans emphasize objective justification.

Now Dr. Piper is a bit of a mystic, when you read Desiring God (and Future Grace). I used to like these books until I change my view of sin and the Law.

I think Pr. Mark thinks the Baptist are not orthodox because they can not affirm the Nicene Creed. There is a line there JK that says

"we acknowledge one baptism for the remissions of sins"

see here http://extranos.blogspot.com/2006/09/that-one-line-in-nicene-creed.html

Also have you heard of Tim Keller, someone suggested that instead of getting sermon food from Piper, this preacher is Cross centered and Calvinistic too.


Blessings in your studies and blogging, I will visit.

Lito

J. K. Jones said...

"I have slight slant on the question how do I know that God's Sovereign Power is for me? Because he sent his Son to die for my sins. My faith has very little to do with it ( a bit tongue in cheek)."

I think I know what you mean by that (Solus Christus. Amen!

I'll look up Tim Keller.

"...thinks the Baptist are not orthodox because they can not affirm the Nicene Creed."

I didn't realize there were any of the historic creeds I could not recognize. I may have a different understanding of baptism, but not that different. Just because I do not believe in baptismal regeneration does not mean I think baptism is just an empty symbol. I just think that we are saved by grace, through faith, and any of the Spirit's power to work on the heart in baptism must work through faith. Only believer's have faith.

The key issue is baptism into the Holy Spirit.

I read Piper for devotinal purposes. He is at his best when he talks of justification.

L P Cruz said...

JK,

It is the fact that the Baptists do rebaptisms. Remember "we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins".

Baptism is Gospel too and not Law. It is the work of God though it is man who is doing it. More on this later.

This is not to splash water on the fires of blessings you receive from Dr. Piper but there is quite some confusing implications of his teachings on sin and grace. His justification book is ok though I have just browsed through it but clearly it is not his central hermeneutic in his books like Desiring God and Future Grace... I hope to do some points on this later, if God permits,

Lutherans you know teach JBFA but amazingly they do not look at their faith as the basis of their justification. They look at the done deal instead.

Blessings,

Lito
PS. Look also for Rev. Cwirla's Sermons from a Lutheran side or those of www.timeofgrace.org