Posts Tagged ‘Romans 8’


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

– – – – – –

Surely Romans 8:28 is one of the most oft-quoted passages by both the child of God and the merely religious.  Despite the naturalist’s contention that our lives are just a running collection of chance and matter, most sense deep down (perhaps at the birth of one’s child or perhaps at the death of a great person) that there is purpose in our lives and in the fabric of the universe.  We lay hold of this verse in our trust that there is a God and He is working out his plan for this world… and for my life… according to his all-knowing time table and according to his all-good nature.

However, upon a second look, we see that the great promise of Romans 8:28 has at least two per-requisites before one might claim it for himself.  First of all, this promise is only for those who love God (see previous post).  Secondly, this promise is only for those who are called.  Thomas Watson in All Things for Good points out that although love is first mentioned in this verse, it is not first wrought.  Instead, firstly, we must be called of God before we can love God.  “Calling is made the middle link (Rom. 8:30) between predestination and glorification; and if we have this middle link fast, we are sure of the two other ends of the chain.”

A.  (p. 104) There are six things observable about calling:

1.  (p. 104) A distinction about calling.

a.  There is an outward calling. This is God’s blessed tender of grace in the gospel, his parleying with sinners when He invites them to come in and accept of mercy.  This external call is insufficient to salvation, yet sufficient to leave men without excuse. “Many are called, but few chosen” (Mt. 20:16).

b.  There is an inward calling.  God wonderfully overpowers the heart and draws the will to embrace Christ.  This is, as Augustine said, an effectual call.  God, by the outward call, blows a trumpet in the ear; but by the inward call, He opens the heart as He did the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14).  The outward call may bring men to a profession of Christ; but the inward call brings them to a possession of Christ.  The outward call curbs a sinner, the inward call changes him.

2.  (p.105) Our deplorable condition before we are called.

a.  We are in a state of vassalage – at the command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver.

b.  We are in a state of darkness (Eph.5:8). A man in the dark is full of fear, he trembles every step he takes.

c.  We are in a state of impotency. No strength to resist a temptation or grapple with a corruption.  Nay, there is not only impotency, but obstinacy (“Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost”, Acts. 7:51.)   Besides indisposition to do good, there is actual opposition to it.

d.  We are in a state of pollution – the heart is the devil’s forge where the sparks of lust fly.

e.  We are in a state of damnation. We are born under a curse.  The wrath of God abideth on us (John 3:36).

This is our condition before God is pleased by a merciful call to bring us near to Himself and free us from that misery in which we were before engulfed.

3. (p.106) The means of our effectual call.  The usual means which the Lord uses in calling us is not by raptures and revelations, but is:

a.  By his Word. The voice of the Word is God’s call to us.  When the Word calls from sin it is as if we heard a voice from heaven.

b.  By his Spirit. This is the loud call.  The ministers of God are only the pipes and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them that effectually changes the heart.  So it is not the seed of the Word that will effectually convert, unless the Spirit puts forth his sweet influence.  God’s Spirit is to be implored that He would put forth his powerful voice and awaken us out of the grave of unbelief.

4.  (p. 106) The method God uses in calling of sinners.

The Lord does not tie himself to a particular way or use the same order with all.  Such as have had godly parents and have sat under the warm sunshine of religious education often do not know how or when they were called.  The Lord did secretly and gradually instill grace into their hearts as the dew falls unnoticed on drops.  They know by the heavenly effects that they are called, but the time or manner they know not.

Others are more stubborn and knotty sinners.  God uses more wedges of the law to break their hearts; He deeply humbles them and shows them they are damned without Christ.  Then having ploughed up the fallow ground of their hearts by humiliation, He sows the seed of consolation.  He presents Christ and mercy to them and draws their wills, not only to accept Christ, but passionately to desire and faithfully to rest upon Him.  This call, though it is more visible than the other, is not more real.  God’s method in calling sinners may vary, but the effect is still the same.

5. (p. 107) The properties of this effectual calling.

a.  It is a sweet call.  The freedom of the will is not taken away, but the stubbornness of it is conquered.  (“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” Ps. 110:3.)

b.  It is a holy call.  “Who has called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9).  This call of God calls men out of their sins; by it they are consecrated and set apart for God.  They who are effectually called are separated from sin and consecrated to God’s service.  Holiness is the badge and livery of God’s people.  Let not any man say he is called of God that lives in sin.  Let not the merely moral person say he is effectually called.  What is civility without sanctity?  It is but a dead carcass strewed with flowers.

c.  It is an irresistible call.  When God calls a man by his grace, he cannot but come.  When He says, “Let there be light,” there was light, and when He says, “let there be faith,” it shall be so.  If God will call a man, nothing shall lie in the way to hinder – difficulties shall be untied, the powers of hell shall disband.  “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom 9:19).

d.  It is a high call.  “I press on toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil. 3:14).  It is a high calling because we are called to high exercises of religion – to die to sin, to be crucified to the world, to live by faith, to have fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:3).  It is a high calling because we are called to high privileges, to justification and adoption, to be made co-heirs with Christ.

e.  It is a gracious call… free grace. That God should call some and not others; some taken and others left; one called who is of a more rugged, morose disposition, another of sharper intellect, of a sweeter temper, rejected… here is free grace.  That the poor should be rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom (Js 2:5), and the nobles and great ones of the world for the most part rejected… this is free and rich grace.  “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Mt. 11:26).  That under the same sermon one should be effectually wrought upon, another no more moved than a dead man with the sound of music; that one should hear the Spirit’s voice in the Word, another not hear it… behold, here is distinguishing grace!

f.  It is a glorious call.  “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory” (1 Pet. 5:10).  God calls us first to virtue and then to glory.  God would have us part with nothing for him but that which will damn us if we keep it.

g.  It is a rare call.  Few are savingly called.  “Few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14).  Few, not collectively, but comparatively.  Many have the light brought to them, but few have their eyes anointed to see that light.  And in those climates where the Sun of Righteousness does shine, there are many who received the light of the truth without the love of it.  There are many formalists, but few believers.  There is something looks like faith which is not.  The hypocrite’s faith will break with the hammer of persecution.  Most men shape their religion according to the fashion of the times.

h.  It is an unchangeable call.  When God calls a man, He does not repent of it.  This is the blessedness of a saint – his condition admits of no alteration.  God’s call is founded upon his decree and his decree is immutable.  Acts of grace cannot be reversed.

6. (p.112) The end of our effectual calling is the honor of God – “That we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12).

The Lord will have some in all ages who shall oppose the corruptions of the times, bear witness to his truths, and convert sinners from the error of their ways.  They who have been monuments of God’s mercies will be trumpets of his praise.

These considerations show us the necessity of effectual calling.  Without it, there is no going to heaven.  We must be “made meet for the inheritance” (Col. 1:12).  What gives this meetness, but effectual calling?  The high calling is not a thing arbitrary or indifferent, but as needful as salvation.  It is called a creation (Col 3:10) and a man can no more convert himself than a dead man can raise himself.

Objection:  Some say the will of natural man is not dead, but asleep, and God by persuasion does only awaken us and then the will can obey God’s call and move of itself to its own conversion (Armenianism).

Answer:  Every man is by sin bound in fetters (“I perceive that thou art in the bond of iniquity,” Acts 8:23).  It is insufficient to persuade a man in fetters to go.  There must be a breaking of his fetters and setting him free before he can walk.  So it is with natural man – he is fettered with corruption.  Now the Lord by his converting grace must not only file off his fetters, but give him legs to run too or he can never obtain salvation (Reformed theology).

– – – – – –

B.  (p. 113) An exhortation to make your calling sure.

“Give diligence to make your calling sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).  This is the great business of our lives – to get sound evidences of our effectual calling.  Do not rest in baptism. Do not be content that Christ has been preached to you.  Do not satisfy yourselves with an empty profession.  But labor to evidence to your souls that you are called of God.

1.  (p. 114) Consider how sad your case is if you are not effectually called:

a. If you are not effectually called, you are strangers to God. “At that time ye were without Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12).  If you are strangers, what language can you expect from God but this, “I know you not!”

b. If you are not effectually called, you are enemies. You are heirs to all the plagues written in the book of God.  Though your resist the commands of the law, you cannot flee from the curses of the law.

Question:  Is there any hope of my being called?  I have been a great sinner.

Answer: Great sinners have been called (ex: Paul).  God loves to display his free grace to sinners.  Therefore be not discouraged.  You see a golden cord let down from heaven for poor trembling souls to lay hold upon.

Question:  How shall I know I am effectually called?

Answer:  He who is savingly called is called out of himself; not only out of sinful self, but out of his righteous self as well.  “Not having mine own righteousness” (Phil. 3:9).  He whose heart God has touched by his Spirit lays down the idol of self-righteousness at Christ’s feet.  He uses morality and duties of piety, but does not trust to them.  This self-renunciation is, as Augustine says, the first step to saving faith.

2.  (p.115) He who is effectually called has a visible change wrought.  He is altered from what he was before.  His body is the same, but not his mind… he is another spirit. “And such were some of you; but ye are sanctified, but yea re justified” (1 Cor. 6:11). Grace changes the heart in three ways:

a.  There is a change wrought in the understanding. The first work of God in the creation of the world was light… so it is in the new  “Whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).  He sees such evil in sin and excellency in the ways of God as he never saw before.  Indeed, this light which the blessed Spirit brings may well be called a marvelous light.  “That ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).  It is a marvelous light in six respects:

(1)  It is marvelous light in that it is strangely conveyed – from above, from the Sun of Righteousness himself.

(2)  It is marvelous in its effect. This light does that which no other light can – it makes a man perceive himself to be blind.

(3)  It is marvelous light because it is more penetrating. Other light may shine upon the face; this light shines into the heart and enlightens the conscience (2 Cor. 4:6).

(4)  It is marvelous light because it sets those who have it a marveling. They marvel at themselves, how they could be contented to be so long without it.  They marvel that their eyes should be opened and not others.  They marvel that though they hated and opposed this light, yet it should shine in the firmament of their sols.  This is what the saints will stand wondering at to all eternity.

(5)  It is marvelous light because it quickens. It makes alive those who “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  Therefore, it is called the “light of life” (John 8:12).

(6)  It is marvelous light because it is the beginning of everlasting light. The light of grace is the morning-star which ushers in the sunlight of glory.

Can you say that this marvelous light of the Spirit has dawned upon you when you were enveloped in ignorance and did neither know God nor yourself – suddenly a light from heaven shined round about you?

b.  There is a change wrought in the will. The will, which before opposed Christ, now embraces Him. The regenerate will answer to every call of God as the echo answers to the voice. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).  The will now becomes a volunteer; it enlists itself under the Captain of Salvation.

c.  There is a change in the conduct. He who is called of God walks directly contrary to what he did before.  He walked before n envy and malice, now he walks in love; before he walked in pride, now in humility.  Truly, natural men must have a gracious change while they live or a cursed change when they die.

(1)  He who is effectually called of God esteems this call as the highest blessing.  A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings than a baby can value a diamond necklace.  He who is enlightened by the Spirit counts holiness his best heraldry and looks upon his effectual calling as his preferment.

(2)  He who is effectually called of God is called out of the world.  It is a “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).  Godly man, though his body be from the earth, the sparkling of his affections is from heaven.  His heat is drawn into the upper region, as high as Christ.  He not only casts off every wicked work, but every earthly weight.  He is not a worm, but an eagle.

(3)  He who is effectually called is diligent in his ordinary (earthly) calling.  Religion does not seal warrants to idleness.  Christians must not be slothful.  A slothful person becomes a prey to every temptation.  He who is called of God, as he works for heaven, so he works in his trade.

– – – – –

Watson, Thomas. “Effectual Calling.” All Things for Good. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986. 104-118. Print.

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“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

– – – – –

I live in a part of the country that has not so honestly come to terms with its rejection of Christ’s rule in the lives of many of its people, not so honestly as perhaps many on the coasts did years and years ago.  Many here, out of tradition or sentimentality, claim an alliance, if not with Christ himself, at least with a local church or sometimes just the mere title “Christian” (like when asked to fill out a form, etc.).  They have some past echo or rhythm or tie to the Christian faith, but in reality, there aren’t too many ties that bind anymore and they live like practical atheists.

Forgive me my bluntness.  I used to think that I was a “glass half empty” person until someone told me they see me more as a realist.  That sounds a lot better to me, so I claim that title when I wish to relate sobering observations without coming off depressingly down… right?

As mentioned before, I’ve been making my way through the Puritan Thomas Watson’s book All Things for Good.  Many will recognize his title as taken from Romans 8:28 (above).  In this relatively short book (127 pp), Watson breaks down the verse and exhaustively examines each phrase.

Thomas Watson set out to comfort his readers by assuring them that “nothing hurts the godly; that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good.”  The snag, though, is that “all things work together for good to them that love God.”  It appears this promise is not for all humanity, but those who bear a love to God.  To help his readers examine themselves in this regard, Watson puts forth fourteen signs or fruits of love to God by which we might impartially test ourselves.

In our weakness, these fruits may bear imperfections.  They may be a bit bruised.  However according to Watson, the test is not in their perfection, but in their appearing and steady growth since they are not native to the natural man, but born of the Spirit: “Happy are they who can find these fruits, so foreign to their natures, growing in their souls.”

– – – – –

The Tests of Love to God (chapter five)


A.  The first fruit of love to God is the musing of the mind upon God.

He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object.  He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God.  A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts.

B.  The next fruit of love to God is desire of communion.

“My heart and flesh crieth out for the living God (Ps. 84:2) – King David breathes after God and in a holy pathos of desire, cries out for the living God.  By this, let us examine our love to God.  Do we desire intimacy of communion with God?  Lovers cannot be long away from each other.  Those who have a holy affection toward God can bear the want of anything but his presence – they can do without health and friends and without a full table, but they cannot be happy without God.  Sinners shun acquaintance with God.  They count his presence a burden and are these lovers of God?  Does that woman love her husband who cannot endure to be in his presence?

C.  Another fruit of love to God is grief.

Where there is love to God, there is a grieving for our sins of unkindness against Him.  Oh! That I should abuse the love of so dear a Savior!  Did not my Lord suffer enough upon the cross, but must I make him suffer more?  Shall I give him more gall and vinegar to drink?  How have I grieved his Spirit, trampled upon His royal command, slighted His blood!   By this let us test our love to God.  Do we shed the tears of godly sorrow?  Do we grieve for our unkindness against God, our abuse of his mercy, our non-improvement of talents (Mt. 25:14-30)?

D.  Another fruit of love to God is magnanimity.

Love is valorous, it turns cowardice into courage.  He that loves God will stand up in his cause and be an advocate for him.  “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).  Does he love God that can hear his blessed truths spoken against and be silent?  He who loves his friend will stand up for him and vindicate him when he is reproached.  Love animates a Christian; it fires his heart with zeal and steels it with courage.

E.  The fifth fruit of love to God is sensitiveness.

If we love God our hearts ache for the dishonor done to God by wicked men.  To see, not only the banks of religion, but morality, broken down and a flood of wickedness coming in, to see God’s Sabbaths profaned, his oaths violated, his name dishonored; if there be any love to God in us, we shall lay these things to heart.  Did men love God, they would grieve to see his glory suffer and religion itself become a martyr.

F.  The sixth fruit of love to God is hatred against sin.

He that loves God will have nothing to do with sin unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God’s honor, but his being.  The love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together.  He who has any secret sin in his heart allowed, is as far from loving God as heaven and earth are distant, one from the other.

G.  Another fruit of love to God is crucifixion.

A lover of God is dead to the world, to its honors and pleasures.  “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).  Love to God swallows up all other love so when a man’s heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are the set things below!  What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it!  Only the devil makes us look upon it through a magnifying glass.  The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception.

H.  The next fruit of love to God is fear.  In the godly, love and fear do kiss each other.  There is a double fear arises from love.

  1. A fear of displeasing arises from our love to God. The more we love God, the more fearful we are of grieving his Spirit, making one shake and tremble and not dare willingly to offend God.  “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
  2. A fear mixed with jealousy arises from our love to God. He that loves God is full of fear lest it should go ill with the church, lest God should go from his people.  The presence of God in his ordinances is the beauty and strength of a nation.  So long as God’s presence is with a people, so long they are safe; but the soul inflamed with love to God fears lest the visible tokens of God’s presence should be removed.  Let us test our love to God by this – many fear lest peace and trading go, but not lest God and his gospel go.  If the Sun of righteousness remove out of our horizon, what can follow but darkness?

I.  If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves.

  1. We love God’s Word – the sweetness of it, above honey, and the value of it, above gold (Ps. 119: 103, 72). Well may we love the Word; it is the lode-star that directs us to heaven, it is the field in which the Pearl is hid.
  2. We love God’s day. “If thou call the Sabbath a delight” (Is. 58:13).  The house of God is the palace of the great King; on the Sabbath God shows himself there through the lattice.  If we love God we prize his day above all other days.  All the week would be dark if it were not for this day; on this day manna falls double.  Now, if ever, heaven-gate stands open and God comes down in a golden shower.  How does a gracious heart prize that day which was made on purpose to enjoy God in!
  3. We love God’s laws which check our sinful excesses. The heart would be ready to run wild in sin if it had not some blessed restraints put upon it by the law of God – the law of repentance, the law of self-denial.  Many say they love God but they hate his laws; they pretend to love Christ as a Savior, but hate him as a King.  He were a strange king that should rule without laws.
  4. We love God’s image shining in the saints. “He that loves Him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1).  To love a saint as he is a saint, this is a sign of love to God in the communion of the saints.  Do they love God who hate them that are like God? If we love a saint for his saintship, as having something of God in him, then we love him in these four cases:

a.  We love a saint though he be poor. Though a saint be in rags, we love him because there is something of Christ in him.

b.  We love a saint though he has many personal failing. There is no perfection here.  A saint is like a fair face with a scar; we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scare in it.  You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?

c.  We love the saints though in some lesser things they differ from us. Perhaps another Christian has not so much light as you and that may make him err in some things, will you presently un-saint him because he cannot come up to your light?

d.  We love the saints though they are persecuted. Those marks were like the soldier’s scars, honorable.  We must love a saint as well in chains as in scarlet.  If we love Christ, we love his persecuted members.

J.  Another blessed sign of love to God is to entertain good thoughts of God.

“Love thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5).  He that loves God has a good opinion of God.  Though He afflicts sharply, the soul takes all well – this severe dispensation is either to mortify some corruption or to exercise some grace.  How good is God that will not let me alone in my sins, but smites my body to save my soul!

K.  Another fruit of love to God is obedience.

“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21).  If we love God, we shall obey him in those things which cross flesh and blood – in things difficult and in things dangerous.

  1. We shall obey him in things difficult. One difficult obedience is mortifying sin.  There are some sins which are not only near to us as the garment, but dear to us as the eye.  If we love God, we shall set ourselves against these, both in purpose and practice.  Another difficult obedience is in forgiving our enemies.  This is hard; it is crossing the stream.  We are apt to forget kindnesses and remember injuries, but if we love God, we shall pass by offenses.  When we seriously consider how many talents God has forgiven us (Mt. 25:14-30), how many affronts and provocations He has put up with at our hands, this makes us endeavor rather to bury an injury than to retaliate it.
  2. We shall obey him in things dangerous. When God calls us to suffer for him, we shall obey.  It is true that every Christian is not a martyr, but he has the spirit of martyrdom in him.  He says as Paul, “I am ready not only to be bound, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).  He has a disposition of mind to suffer if God call.  If love to their country will make men suffer, much more should love to Christ.  By this, let us test our love to God.  Have we the spirit of martyrdom?  Many will not forego the least comfort or undergo the least cross for his sake, yet how did divine affection carry the early saints above the love of life and the fear of death (ex: Stephen’s stoning, Luke, hung on an olive tree, and Peter, crucified with his head downwards)!  These divine heroes were willing to suffer rather than by their cowardice to make the name of God suffer.

L.  He who loves God will endeavor to make him appear glorious in the eyes of others.

If we love God, we shall spread abroad his excellences that so we may raise his fame and esteem and may induce others to fall in love with him.

M.  Another fruit of love to God is to long for Christ’s appearing.

“Henceforth, there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me,
and not for me only, but for them also which love Christ’s appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

His appearing now is very comforting, when He appears for us as an Advocate (Heb. 9:24).  But his second appearing will be infinitely more so, when He shall appear for us as our Husband!  Such as love Christ are joyful to think of his coming in the clouds.  They shall then be delivered from all their sins and fears; they shall be acquitted before men and angels; and shall be forever translated into the paradise of God.

N.  For the sake of love to God, we will stoop to the meanest offices.

Love is a humble grace and will creep upon its hands; it will stoop and submit to anything whereby it may be serviceable to Christ.  If we love God, we shall not think any work too mean for us, by which we may be helpful to Christ’s members.  Love is not squeamish; it will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints’ wounds.

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Father's love II
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,
by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15, ESV)

How many believers live like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), “He answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command…’”? While acknowledging God as father, many see their relationship as more servant-to-master than child-to-parent. Most are certain of a general love for them as part of “the world” (John 3:16) or perhaps even a more intimate love as part of “the bride” (Rev. 19), but less, it would seem, are able to settle in their hearts and minds, a particular love and affection that God the Father has for them, a love that is specific and with intent as it fixes it’s gaze on each individual believe.

That God would rejoice over us, personally, with gladness, quieting us with his love, and exalting over us with loud singing (Zephaniah 3), is more than we are willing to claim for ourselves, especially as we attempt to square such lavish love with what we know of ourselves and our fallen, sinful natures. We know only too well what is at our core. It’s hard to even imagine, let alone embrace, the idea that our Father could take a distinct pleasure in us as we still await our final perfection (1 John 3b).

While fully recognizing and embracing God’s unfathomable love in calling me out of darkness and into life and in placing his Spirit within me as a guarantee of present and future blessing, I admit I often find it hard to believe that God’s primary thoughts toward me could be anything more than a general sense of disappointment, especially as I continue to battle my old nature and as I await my future perfection in his kingdom to come. Is it only me who finds it hard to live at rest and feel that God cherishes me as I am, knowing what I know of myself? Rather than a child (and my own relationship with my dear children comes to mind here), I live more as an orphan, an orphan who has been told she will be going to a loving family in the future, but as of yet still lives without the security of a parent’s unconditional love. Yet John would have us marvel, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3) and the psalmist leaves no room for doubt, “the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (Psalm 149).

In that vein, our dear exiting pastor, David Monreal, in his final sermon to his flock before stepping down as our senior pastor, recently shared from his heart Jack Miller’s material on Sonship. I don’t know all about Miller’s theology, but the comparison between living in our state of grace as orphans vs. living as children strikes a chord with me. R.C. Sproul, Jr., has summarized Miller’s Sonship teaching as follows: The central theme, as evidenced in the title, is that we must come to understand that we are not only justified, but that we are adopted. It begins with an assumption that while our lips may affirm we are justified by faith alone, our Pelagian hearts are given to thinking that God is happy with us when we do well in our walk, unhappy with us when we do not do as well. It encourages us to enter fully into our union with Christ.

“We are not only justified, but… we are adopted.” God has not only redeemed us to be part of his great Church, but has, amazingly, done even more for us – He has adopted us, personally, into his family. We already live under the banner and security of his steadfast love and pleasure.

Pastor Monreal shared the comparisons (below) from Jack Miller’s material. It is meant to highlight the attitudes held by those who would see themselves as either the older son of Luke 15, ignoring the Father’s present love toward them, or as orphans, knowing we will one day experience the pleasure of a Father, but for now, waiting, removed as orphans without a Father.

In the sermon notes that accompanied Pastor Monreal’s message, we were challenged with two thought-provoking questions and an assignment meant to reveal our heart attitudes on the matter.  The first question was, “What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?” We are reminded that no one escapes deep struggle in our fallen condition, [and] we will often find our hearts in the Orphan column, but the question posed to us was, “How do you fight daily to believe the gospel that you are a child and not an orphan?” The assignment was to lay before God in humble frankness our true heart struggles in these matters and to ask Him to shepherd us to refreshment in Christ. This I heartily recommend, even as I grapple with my own attitudes and insecurities.

– – – – –

Orphans: Feel alone; lack a vital daily intimacy with God; are full of self-concern.
Children: Have a growing assurance that “God is really my loving heavenly Father.”

Orphans: Are anxious over felt needs – relationships, money, health. “I’m all alone and nobody cares.”
Children: Trust the Father and have a growing confidence in his loving care; are being freed up from worry.

Ophans: Live on a succeed/fail basis; need to “look good” and “be right”; are performance-oriented.
Children: Are learning to live consciously in daily partnership with God; are not fearful.

Ophans: Feel condemned, guilty, and unworthy before God and others.
Children: Feel loved, forgiven, and totally accepted because Christ’s merit really clothes him.

Ophans: Labor under a sense of unlimited obligation; tries too hard to please; prone to burn-out.
Children: Prayer is a first resort: “I’m going to ask my ‘Daddy’ first”; cries, “Abba, Father!”

Ophans: Are defensive; can’t listen well; bristle at the charge of being self-righteous (thus proving the point).
Children: Are open to criticism since they consciously stand in Christ’s perfection, not their own; are able to examine their unbelief.

Ophans: Need to be right, safe, secure; unwilling to fail; unable to tolerate criticism; can only “handle” praise.
Children: Are able to take risks and even fail, since their righteousness is in Christ; need no “record” to boast in, protect, or defend.

Ophans: Have an excessive self-confidence or self-loathing; are discouraged, defeated; lack spiritual power.
Children: Are confident in Christ and encouraged because of the Holy Spirit’s work in them.

Ophans: Exert unbelieving effort; rely only on their gifts to get by in ministry; relatively prayer-less; prayer is a last resort; pray sometimes in public, seldom in private.
Children: Trust less in self and more in the Holy Spirit – a daily, conscious, reliance; prayer is a vital part of the day, not confined to a quiet time.

Ophans: Tend to be ungrateful, complaining, bitter; have a critical spirit; tear others down.
Children: Rely on the Holy Spirit to guide the tongue; praises, edifies, gives thanks, encourages.

Ophans: Gossip (confessing other people’s sins); need to criticize others to feel right; claim the “gift of discernment.”
Children: Are able to freely confess their faults to others, finding that they are often wrong; are eager to grow.

Ophans: Tend to compare themselves to others – leading either to pride or depression.
Children: Stand confident in Christ; self-worth comes from Jesus’ righteousness, not their own.

Ophans: Feel powerless to defeat the flesh; have no heart-victory over pet sins, yet have lost their sense of being a big sinner.
Children: Rest in Christ and see more and more victory over the flesh; they see themselves a big sinner.

Ophans: Wish people would see things their way and need to be in control of situations and other people.
Children: Are becoming Christ-controlled; love others in the power of the Spirit, not in the strength of their own sinful natures.

Ophans: Look for satisfaction in positions, possessions, or pacifiers (idols); something other than Jesus make them feel worthy, worthwhile, or justified.
Children: Christ is their meat and drink; God truly satisfies their souls; “Having him, I desire nothing on earth.”


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I’ve seen t-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” which makes me laugh.  Well…Jonathan Edwards is my Facebook friend.  I, therefore, receive occasional posts which included this insightful one-liner:

“This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.”

C.S. Lewis puts a twist on this in The Great Divorce, his treatise on heaven and hell.  He wrote:

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.1

“And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin.

“Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.

“And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”

1 [This is why John Piper says we are more than conquerors.  We not only are conquerors, ultimately triumphing in eternity because of Christ, but more than conquerors as he turns even our earthly agonies to his great purpose of bringing us good and him glory.]

Returning to Edwards, we are challenged to consider our given path and its ultimate end when we read his one-liner within its context, the sermon he wrote, “Dying to Gain,” when he was but 19 years old.  I stumbled upon an excerpt of the sermon on a beautiful gem of a site called Tolle Lege, meaning (which I love) “Take up and read.”  The blog’s author, Nick Roarke, shares the context for Edward’s one-liner which should cause us all to pause and consider our ends:

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God! The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him. The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

[Illustration: Marvelous Journey by Dehong He]

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