18 Thoughts on Psalm 116.15

Psa 116.15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of all his saints,” from which I infer:

(1) many things are said to be wicked in the eyes of the Lord, but the death of all His saints is not one of them;

(2) rather this moment is said to be precious in His eyes, which is a very blessed thing that it should be, as what is precious in God’s sight is really precious;

(3) that this preciousness is not confined to select saints, but all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, all our deaths are precious in the sight of the Lord;

(4) saints are not just the canonized of the Catholic religion, but every repentant person that has believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ is properly called a saint, one set apart by God in Christ and indwelt by the Spirit of holiness unto holiness;

(5) that this preciousness which is a preciousness in the eyes of the Lord is a preciousness inherited by the saints, not being precious in ourselves but as we appear to Him and come to Him in Christ;

(6) that the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord because He knows that death is a conquered foe with regards to them all, and this is a sweet-smelling aroma of Christ to Him;

(7) that the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord because it evinces His great redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, the removal of which means that we cannot be held by death, and so His effectual grace towards us is a precious thing for Him to observe as we come to conclude our sojourning;

(8) that this preciousness is so precious in His eyes precisely because He welcomes us.  That we should see Him is precious in His sight;

(9) that it is all of God’s full and free grace that any should be called a saint by God and so have their death considered a precious thing in His sight;

(10) that no matter the manner of the saint’s passing, it is precious in the sight of the Lord; no matter how terrible, how laborious, how young or old, how defiling or degrading, cut down in the prime of life or laid low by the effect of many days; no matter how we perceive it, if they be a saint, their passing is precious in the sight of the Lord;

(11) that God often sees differently than we do.  We see in part, and so we find it hard to call the death of a saint precious; but God sees, not in part, but perfectly, and so is pleased to call it a thing precious to Him;

(12) what manner of glory the saints do come into that God should call that entrance into it by death “precious”;

(13) how uninviting death must be, then, for anyone not a saint, how terrible a thing for anyone to die in unbelief;

(14) that all Christians ought to mourn when a saint passes, but that we ought not mourn without hope and eventual happiness because the saint that passes does so into the glorious presence of God (cf. Ps 16), and this is to make us satisfied in the goodness and will of God;

(15) that doubtless many who hear such things take them lightly, will pat me on the back and tell me how good these things written do seem to them.  These no doubt think these things fantasy, imaginary, unreal, because unseen, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Even now every person stands on the precipice of eternity, hanging by a thread, as it were, the mercy of God alone upholding them, though He has made no promise to unbelievers to hold them up any one second longer.  Such people do not know the danger they are truly faced with, and how they have most certainly lived all their lives on borrowed mercy and known it not one second.  If any person be like this, I do not want pats on the back, but repentance; not niceties but faith in Christ.  For

(16) as long as any person lives God may grant them to become one of His saints whose death will be likewise precious in His sight.

(17) Because of what God has done for us in Christ, the fear of death is removed, and it stands only in service of the saints.

(18) How this ought to free us for gospel ministry and for following Jesus even unto death.  Sin, Satan, the gates of hell and the world may do their worst, may take our lives because of the gospel, but it will only bring us to what God delights to call “precious.”  What a flame for the cause of Christ!

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Heaven and Hell

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for heaven and hell.

First, what of heaven then?

“Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever-greater joy in him.  If God’s glory and our joy in him are one, and yet we are not infinite as he is, then our union with him in the all-satisfying experience of his glory can never be complete, but must be increasing with intimacy and intensity forever and ever.  The perfection of heaven is not static.  Nor do we see at once all there is to see — for that would be a limit on God’s glorious self-revelation, and therefore, his love.  Yet we do not become God.  Therefore, there will always be more, and the end of increased pleasure in God will never come.

Hear is the way Edwards puts it: ‘I suppose it will not be denied by any, that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good [which is] infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed.’  Moreover, he says, our eternal rising into more and more of God will be a ‘rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and . . . not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps increasing) celerity [that is, velocity] . . . [to an] infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be said already to have come to such a height.’  This is what we see though a glass darkly in Ephesians 2.7, ‘[God seats us in heaven with Christ] so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’ It will take in infinite number of ages for God to be done glorifying the wealth of his grace to us — which is to say the will never be done.”

Second, what of hell?

Hell is unspeakably real, conscious, horrible and eternal — the experience in which God vindicates the worth ofhis glory in holy wrath on those who would not delight in what is infinitely glorious.  If infinitely valuable glory has been spurned, and the offer of eternal joy in God has been finally rejected, an indignity against God has been committed so despicable as to merit eternal suffering.  Thus, Edwards says, ‘God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners; which will be satisfied by their damnation, considered no otherwise than with regard to its eternal duration.  But yet there never will come that particular moment, when it can be said, that now justice is satisfied.’  Of the love of God and the wrath of God, Edwards says simply, ‘Both will be unspeakable.’

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 37-38.

Tract Written by an Atheist

Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything.  I would cast away earthly enjoyments, earthly cares, and earthly thoughts as worthless.  Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness.  I would look at one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering.  Earthly consequences should never keep my hand from being active in the cause of the Gospel nor seal my lips.  I would strive to look upon eternity alone and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable.  I would go out into the world and preach, and my text would be Matthew 16:26, KJV, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

– From Overcoming Walls to Witnessing, Timothy K. Beougher, pp. 31-32.

One can only hope that this person did come to faith; let we who have believed absorb this lesson into our hearts.

“Embarrassment is the Gateway Drug to Theological Accommodation and Denial”

This line is a sober reminder to evangelical Christians.  It is the second to last line in R. Albert Mohler’s article “Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens.”  This is a short but necessary refrain to every Christian regardless of vocation.  It is a call to doctrinal sobriety, to spiritual discernment, to the honoring of our great God, and to an immovable stance upon His infallible Word.  To learn in a brief sketch how liberalism happens, why evangelicals should not apologize for doctrine – particularly that of hell, and more regarding such things – go here.

“The Importance of Hell,” an article by Tim Keller

A frequently and (often) intentionally left behind doctrine is the doctrine of hell.  And while it shouldn’t be our favorite discussion piece, it may be one of the most crucial to resurface.  Where it lands upon hearts, there you will often discover the line between authentic Christianity and truly born again people, and, by contrast, those who belong to the cultural Christian movement, who bear the name so long as everything is nice and the content of their lives remains unchallenged by biblical authority.  Keller discusses the “importance of hell” here.

The Good News and the Truth of Hell

“John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16-18).

I was reading a chapter in John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals that dealt with feeling the truth of hell.  This passage in Luke came to mind.  Hell has its place in God’s good news.  John the Baptist exhorted the crowds saying, “Christ will gather the wheat into his barn.”  This we can readily identify as “good news.”  But he also exhorted the crowds in the same breath saying, “Christ will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And this clause is included in what follows: “So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.”  That Christ will burn unbelievers with unquenchable fire hardly seems like it should have any part in God’s Gospel.  But Luke says that it does!

While there are many veins that could be followed in attempting to understand this, I would highlight two of them:

1.  Because the Gospel is not only that by which the sinner is born again, but also the food upon which the believer daily lives, the biblical notion of hell – belonging to this good news – should be frequently reflected upon by the Christian.  Why?  Because we are reminded of so many of God’s near unfathomable graces in plucking us up out of the pit to which we were all at one time quite close to inhabiting.  I praise my God this morning for His free grace, mercy and compassion; that He has saved me from a just condemnation, and an eternal fury of fire on account of my sin; that He, by the truth of hell, would magnify the grace involved in my becoming the wheat of Christ which He will gather into His barn.  This does not produce morbidity in my soul, but an intense joy in God my Savior, a humility (If I may speak thus), and a passion to make Christ known.  And to be quite frank, how is your joy this morning, you or I, who think little on the torment from which God in Christ rescued our souls?

2.  The truth of hell, if truly recognized, will produce a holy passion for Christ-saturated preaching, earnest teaching, holy living and evangelism.  We will recognize the true nature of the Gospel task.  It is a task that holds eternity in the balance.  People have been appointed to die once, and then comes judgment, Hebrews 9:27.  They will go one of two eternal places.  One involves a just and unquenchable fire.  The other involves the infinite glory, praise, and worship of the One, True, and Living God.  The Gospel of Christ – the wills rejection or reception of it – is the bridge which will either condemn you to hell, or rescue you from it unto glory.  While we then have glory to make known in hopes of the sinner’s salvation, we have flames to make known as well.  Let them both – the glory and the flames – and the soul’s recognition that we by God’s free grace in Christ Jesus have been redeemed from the one for eternal life in the other – move us as Christians to daily bear the weight of eternity in all things, to make the Good News of Christ known.

The Nature of Conversion and Biblical Evangelism

From Matt Click’s site.

Open Air Preaching in Lima – Paul Washer

Originally from  http://todaslascosasencomun.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html

For more video like this go here.

Tragedy and the Hope Explicit in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The world is not a novice at observing tragedy.  Ironically, human beings have not become inoculated or insensitive to tragedy despite our many dealings with it.  People respond to tragedies that impact people with whom they have no acquaintance, tragedies that effect those on the other side of the earth. 

America is no novice either.  In fact, some would argue that it is tragedy and America’s response to it that has defined the nation throughout the course of its history.  Americans have known their fair share of wars, infanticide (though this is largely swept under the proverbial rug), and weather calamities.  More recently, we have felt the anguish of Columbine, 9/11, Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings.  And within the first ten days of this month, tragedy has fallen twice more – in Binghamton, NY, Jiverly Wong walked into the American Civic Association and shot and killed 14 people, including himself.  And yesterday, 22 year old Nick Adenhart, a pitcher for the L.A. Angels was killed in an early morning car accident (along with two others) when an intoxicated man sped through a red light at an intersection.

This is tragic.  There is no downplaying such tragedy.  But, I think perhaps, that the responses of unbelieving people to such tragedy – in particular to death – is more tragic, for it evidences the deadness of one’s soul.  In response to the Binghamton shootings, Vice President Biden stated, “We have got to figure out a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence.”  Implication – we don’t know how to deal with it; we have no place to turn, no refuge, no hope.  In response to the death of Adenhart, Mike and Mike’s Mike Golic said, “There’s not a book that tells us how to deal with it,” (paraphrased).  Golic is a professing Catholic.  These are tragic responses to tragedy and the death that accompanies it.  No direction and utter hopelessness.  When death is the cessation of true life, indeed, thought to be one’s only life, then one’s grip upon this life is truly seen, the loss of which is enough to sour the soul beyond description.  Revealed therein is the depravity of man’s knowledge of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There is a book that teaches us how to deal with and think about death.  There is a God who offers Himself as a refuge.  The full range of human emotions are not foreign to the Bible.  They were not foreign to Jesus Christ.  At the occasion of Lazarus’ death in John 11, Jesus wept with anguish.  But His angered weeping was not that Lazarus had died, but that death was a reality, the consequence of the principle of another reality, namely, sin, and that the people responded to Him in unbelief, and therefore, they had unbelieving understandings of death.

Jesus taught that God was not a God of the dead but of the living, Matthew 22:32.  Jesus taught that the dead will be raised upon hearing His voice, the good to the resurrection of life and the evil to the resurrection of judgment, and of course, he qualifies “the good from the evil” by saying contextually, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).  For this reason Paul could write, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” which he explains saying,  “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better,Philippians 1:21, 23. 

In Christ there is life, John 5:26.  Jesus is Sovereign over the gift of it, John 5:21.  Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, John 11:25.  Jesus lived the life of perfect obedience to God the Father, Romans 8:1-4.  Jesus died on His cross in the place of sinners whose wages is death, Romans 5:6, 6:23.  Jesus became sin for us on that cross, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Jesus, being sinless and thus not capable of being held by death, was raised bodily from the dead, Acts 2:24-36.  Jesus is, therefore, the “firstborn from the dead”, the beginning of the new creation, Colossians 1:18.  Jesus, then, is the basis of the resurrection unto everlasting life, 1 Corinthians 15:42-57

In Jesus, the following is fulfilled:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine will refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all the nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,'” Isaiah 25:6-9.

Paul well writes “of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27). 

Dear friends who may well be unbelieving in this hour, let tragedy turn you to God’s Word for answers; yes, there is a time to mourn over the death of loved ones and the terrible circumstances of life; but there is an infinitely greater tragedy than death – it is that fraction of a second later when you stand before Jesus having never embraced Him as both Lord and Christ, and you discover quite quickly that the greater tragedy is an eternal life lived apart from the glory of God in judgment and the unquenchable fires of hell. 

But it need not be so!  There is a refuge!  God has swallowed up death in His Son Jesus Christ!  And thus, you must put on Christ Jesus!  (That is) you must repent of your lifestyle of sin and embrace all that Christ is, all of His perfections on your account, all of Him, and God will save you.  He will place you in Christ, and Christ in you such that Jesus will be to you “the hope of glory.”  Once again, Jesus was delivered up for trespasses and raised for justification, Romans 4:25.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is His validation before God as the sinless Savior, and thus, His exclusive exercise of salvation for those who trust in Him. 

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, “let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  Let us celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.  Let us embrace, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Let us not live as those without hope, but as those who having a living hope, indeed, a certain hope of glory.  Let us be awakened from slumber – the resurrection of Christ, and our certain anchor in Him for everlasting life bids us, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  By the resurrection of Christ be encouraged by Paul’s words, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’  Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.  For some have no knowledge of God.  I say this to your shame,” (1 Corinthians 15:32-34). 

In the midst of tragedy there is hope, and His name is Jesus Christ.  Mr. Biden, Jesus is the Way that you deem undiscovered.  Mr. Golic, Jesus is the Word that teaches us how to deal with death and tragedy.  America, flee to Christ to find life and hope, lest you love hopelessness.  Beloved, celebrate the cross and the resurrection of Christ Jesus, for this is our certain hope, God’s power in the midst of every suffering.  By our witness, may the world so acquainted with tragedy, become savingly acquainted with Jesus – the Resurrection and the Life.  Amen.

Does Believing in God Save You? The Answer of Jonathan Edwards: “It is no sure sign!”

True Grace Distinguished From The Experience Of Devils
by Jonathan Edwards
Dated September 28, 1752.

James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou dost well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

Observe in these words, — 1. Something that some depended on, as an evidence of their good estate and acceptance, as the objects of God’s favor, viz. a speculative faith, or belief of the doctrines of religion. The great doctrine of the existence of one only God is particularly mentioned probably because this was a doctrine wherein, especially, there was a visible and noted distinction between professing Christians and the heathens, amongst whom the Christians in those days were dispersed. And therefore, this was what many trusted in, as what recommended them to, or at least was an evidence of their interest in, the great spiritual and eternal privileges, in which real Christians were distinguished from the rest of the world. 

2. How much is allowed concerning this faith, viz. that it is a good attainment. “Thou dost well.” It was good, as it was necessary. This doctrine was one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and, in some respects, above all others fundamental. It was necessary to be believed, in order to salvation. To be without the belief of this doctrine, specially in those that had such advantage to know as they had to whom the apostle wrote, would be a great sin, and what would vastly aggravate their damnation. This belief was also good, as it had a good tendency in many respects. 

3. What is implicitly denied concerning it, viz. that is any evidence of a person’s being in a state of salvation. The whole context shows this to be the design of the apostle in the words. And it is particularly manifest by the conclusion of the verse, which is, 

4. The thing observable in the words, viz. the argument by which the apostle proves that this is no sign of a state of grace, viz. that it is found in the devils. They believe that there is one God, and that he is a holy, sin-hating God and that he is a God of truth, and will fulfill his threatenings by which he has denounced future judgments, and a great increase of misery on them, and that he is an almighty God, and able to execute his threatened vengeance upon them. 

Therefore, the doctrine I infer from the words to make the subject of my present discourse is this, viz. nothing in the mind of man that is of the same nature with what the devils experience, or are the subjects of, is any sure sign of saving grace. 

If there be anything that the devils have, or find in themselves, which is an evidence of the saving grace of the Spirit of God, then the apostle’s argument is not good; which is plainly this: “That which is in the devils, or which they do, is no certain evidence of grace. But the devils believe that there is one God. Therefore, thy believing that there is one God is no sure evidence that thou art gracious.” So that the whole foundation of the apostle’s argument lies in that proposition: “That which is in the devils, is no certain sign of grace.” — Nevertheless, I shall mention two or three further reasons, or arguments of the truth of this doctrine.

I found this fascinating in light of Mark Driscoll’s recent debate on Does Satan Really Exist?  I find it more fascinating because the majority of America believes that believing in “God” certainly validates their fanciful, albeit self-deceived, claims that they are saved.  Perhaps, still more convicting is the subject of Edwards’ discourse, a topic and aspect of the true Gospel that we often leave out with convenience.  Go here to read the rest of Edwards’ sermon.