Tag Archives: salvation

This Is the Glorying…

“As to myself, I openly confess that I should not wish ‘Free-will’ to be granted me, even if it could be so, nor anything else to be left in my own hands, whereby I might endeavor something towards my own salvation. And that, not merely because in so many opposing dangers, and so many assaulting devils, I could not stand and hold it fast (in which state no man could be saved, seeing that one devil is stronger than all men), but because even though there were no dangers, no conflicts, no devils, I should be compelled to labour under a continual uncertainty, and to beat the air only. Nor would my conscience, even if I should live and work to all eternity, ever come to a settled certainty, how much it ought to do in order to satisfy God. For whatever work should be done, there would still remain a scrupling, whether or not it pleased God, or whether He required any thing more; as is proved in the experience of all justiciaries, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost through so many years of my own experience.

But now, since God has put my salvation out of the way of my will, and has taken it under His own, and has promised to save me, not according to my working or manner of life, but according to His own grace and mercy, I rest fully assured and persuaded that He is faithful, and will not lie, and moreover great and powerful, so that no devils, no adversities can destroy Him, or pluck me out of His hand. ‘No one (saith He) shall pluck them out of My hand, because My Father which gave them Me is greater than all.’ (John x. 27-28). Hence it is certain that in this way, if all are not saved, yet some, yea, many shall be saved; whereas by the power of ‘Free-will’ no one whatever could be saved, but all must perish together. And moreover, we are certain and persuaded that in this way we please God, not from the merit of our own works, but from the favor of His mercy promised unto us; and that if we work less, or work badly, He does not impute it unto us, but, as a Father, pardons us and makes us better. This is the glorying which all the saints have in their God!”

– Luther, The Bondage of the Will (p. 254)

I Couldn’t Have Done It Without You… and Vice-Versa

“Another fellow – Lodowick (Lodo) Legup – has been convinced that he needs Christ as Savior and Lord, and has come to be saved and led. Lodo knows he’s a sinner, and looks to Christ to do something about that.

“But, oddly enough, Lodo thinks that sin has disabled him, hurt him, wounded him – but not killed him as dead as, say, Julius Caesar. So Lodo has this inner notion that he still brings something positive to the equation. Lodo’s Jesus holds out most of the makings of a nice big yummy Salvation Pie, but it’s not really a pie until Lodo puts the “decision cherry” on the top, or the “faith sprinkles.” Jesus is really a great help, He did a lot, all the heavy lifting and big stuff; but it’s still nothing until Lodo does his part. Jesus helps Lodo – but Lodo helps Jesus, too. In fact, without Lodo’s help, nothing happens.

“So, without in any way meaning to, Lodo has Jesus as Cosigner instead of Savior. Because the relationship is still partly based on Lodo’s performance, on his works, he has the feeling deep down that God doesn’t really like him much, or love him, unless he does his part. After all, He didn’t save him until Lodo did his part first. God responded to Lodo then, so maybe He responds now. Lodo works so that God will like him, so that Jesus will love him and keep him. If Lodo stopped, he’d lose that relationship.

“That kind of fear motivates Lodo. To Lodo, the Cross is where God did everything He could, made salvation possible and attainable, and then left it to Lodo to make it happen. The relationship started partly because of what God did, and partly because of what Lodo did. But Lodo added the decisive element. The relationship continues in the same way. Lodo may not be prepared to take up a cross himself, or do anything radical. After all, God didn’t do anything too radical to save him. Lodo wasn’t so bad off that Lodo himself couldn’t provide the essential ingredient. Lodo kept part of the salvation package, and now he’ll keep part of the Christian-life package.”

~ Dan Phillips, The World-Tilting Gospel (Ch. 1, pp. 57-58)

Humbled by Grace

“The doctrines of grace… direct us away from ourselves and solely to God’s grace and mercy. They destroy pride, instill humility, and exalt God. And that’s why so many invest so much time in the vain attempt to undermine their truth.” ~ James White

A common objection to Calvinism (i.e. the doctrines of grace) is that it gives man reason to boast. “How arrogant,” the argument runs, “to claim that God would save you but not someone else!”

But such a charge is untrue. One of the most beautiful aspects of Calvinism is that it leaves no room for human arrogance. In the words of C.H. Spurgeon, it causes us to “humbly prostrate ourselves at the foot of the throne of the august majesty, and acknowledge that if saved He alone hath saved us, and unto Him be the glory.”

How can I be prideful when I consider that God chose me – wretched,           fallen, undeserving me – to be numbered among His children? How can I boast when I know that my salvation is “of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and that I did nothing to bring it about? What arrogance can possibly reside in my heart when I remember that I should have remained dead in my sins but for His sovereign, unmerited grace?

He who would dare to claim that Calvinism exalts man to pride does not truly understand the doctrines of grace at all.

From chapter twelve of A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God:

This doctrine of the absolute Sovereignty of God is a great battering-ram against human pride, and in this it is in sharp contrast from the ‘doctrines of men.’ The spirit of our age is essentially that of boasting and glorying in the flesh. The achievements of man, his development and progress, his greatness and self-sufficiency, are the shrine at which the world worships today. But the truth of God’s Sovereignty, with all its corollaries, removes every ground for human boasting and instils the spirit of humility in its stead. It declares that salvation is of the Lord – of the Lord in its origination, in its operation, and in its consummation. It insists that the Lord has to apply as well as supply, that He has to complete as well as begin His saving work in our souls, that He has not only to reclaim but to maintain and sustain us to the end. It teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, and that all our works (before conversion), good as well as evil, count for nothing toward salvation. It tells us we are “born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). And all this is most humbling to the heart of man who wants to contribute something to the price of his redemption and do that which will afford ground for boasting and self-satisfaction.

But if this doctrine humbles us it results in praise to God. If, in the light of God’s Sovereignty, we have seen our own worthlessness and helplessness we shall indeed cry with the Psalmist “All my springs are in Thee” (Psa. 87:7). If by nature we were “children of wrath,” and by practice rebels against the Divine government and justly exposed to the “curse” of the Law, and if God was under no obligation to rescue us from the fiery indignation and yet, notwithstanding, He delivered up His well-beloved Son for us all; then how such grace and love will melt our hearts, how the apprehension of it will cause us to say in adoring gratitude “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake” (Psa. 115:1). How readily shall each of us acknowledge “By the grace of God I am what I am!”

Book Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury has a capacity for storytelling that I’ve seldom seen matched by any other writer. The sheer power he wields as a word-artist never ceases to amaze me. Could I choose but one fiction author to grace my bookshelves, he would be a top contender. That’s high praise, but it’s well-deserved. And if you’ve never read a Bradbury book, you don’t know what your missing.

Two of Bradbury’s books have made it into my reviews thus far. Now I’ll add a third.

Something Wicked This Way Comes has a grim and somewhat menacing title, which is completely appropriate considering the nature of the story…

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade – both age 13 – are fast friends. But their friendship is tested when a strange and sinister traveling carnival arrives in their quiet Midwestern town one October, flaunting the seductive promise of dreams fulfilled and youth regained.

Heading this carnival is “Mr. Dark”, a sinister being with a multiplicity of tattoos all over his body – one tattoo for each soul ensnared. Countering this malevolent presence is that of Will’s father, Charles Halloway, a quiet but courageous man who must be wary of his own secret desire to be young again.

Something Wicked is a compelling tale of good and evil, of friendship, fear, and ultimately, hope. The characters, as typical of a Bradbury story, are unique and well-drawn; by the end of the story, I felt I knew each one personally.

“Mr. Dark” is one of the creepiest, most tangible villains I’ve encountered in literature, and his minions (particularly the Dust Witch) made my flesh crawl. At the very beginning of the book, Bradbury quotes Proverbs 4:16-17, “For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” Believe me, the description fits. Perfectly.

Then there’s the prose, captivating prose, also typical of Bradbury. It captures, and takes advantage of, every facet of the story. Consider the following description:

At dawn, a juggernaut of thunder wheeled over the stony heavens in a spark-throwing tumult. Rain fell softly on town cupolas, chuckled from rainspouts, and spoke in strange subterranean tongues beneath the windows where Jim and Will knew fitful dreams, slipping out of one, trying another for size, but finding all cut from the same dark, mouldered cloth.

Magnificent, no?

Another aspect I greatly appreciated about Bradbury’s story was its brilliant depiction of man’s willingness to part with his soul in exchange for earthly pleasures – pleasures that ultimately ensnare, no matter how desirable they appear from a distance. A man may pursue these pleasures, but he will only pursue them “till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life” (Proverbs 22:23).

However, before you walk away thinking that I give this book my unqualified recommendation, I must say there is one aspect of this book that I did not appreciate and, in fact, greatly disagree with. You see, in Bradbury’s story God is not the savior of man; man is the savior of man. God is not the answer to evil; man has the power to overcome evil by himself.

Such man-based salvation is, from a biblical perspective, laughable. Those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb know the truth: “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 53:3).

Bearing this in mind, I do think this is a book that can and should be read by discerning Christians. Apart from the humanism, there is a wealth of other thought-provoking material that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.