Posts Tagged ‘effectual calling’
As the minister speaks to the ear, Christ speaks, opens, and unlocks the heart at the same time; and gives it power to open, not from itself, but from Christ…. The manner of working of the reasonable creature, is to work freely by a sweet inclination, not by violence. Therefore when he works the work of conversion, he doth it in a sweet manner, though it be mighty for the efficaciousness of it.
Richard Sibbes, “Bowels Opened,” in The Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 2:63.
HT: The Old Guys.
Scott Clark points us to a piece by John “Rabbi” Duncan on effectual calling and the free offer of the gospel.
With my father still away in the US, I had both services again. He returns this week, but then I am away, visiting Emmanuel Baptist Church in Coconut Creek, Florida, for a couple of weekends. On my return, I am preaching almost immediately at a Ladies’ Conference hosted by the church, and then our friend from the Reformed Baptist Church of Chelmsley Wood, Pastor Gearóid Marley, will be preaching on the following Lord’s day (when we shall be having a special ‘Sunday Listen & Dine’ service, inviting unconverted friends).
This morning I preached from Luke 5.27-32, on Christ’s calling of Levi, under the title, “Follow me”. The structure was very simple. On the one hand, we considered Christ’s call: it was sudden, almost random to the eyes of men; surprising, because Levi seemed to have no expectation or desire of Christ, was in a business for collaborators from which you would not expect disciples to be drawn, and was in the grip of wealth which he was in the process of collecting; gracious, for the same reasons, and yet Christ is pleased to speak to him; personal, as the Lord bids Levi come into relationship with him; simple, being crisp and clear – leave your sin and life of sin and come after me; absolute, issued with no qualifications or options, demanding an absolute renunciation of his old life and absolute commitment to Christ; purposeful, because though men might have imagined Levi a waste of space, yet our Lord would use him to bring others, and would make him the Spirit’s scribe to record the gospel of the kingdom; and, effectual, working a response in Levi by the power of God.
Then there is Levi’s response: fundamentally, it is obedient – called to follow, Levi got up and followed; furthermore, it is immediate – there is no delay, he neither denies nor defers; sacrificial, for he leaves all behind, the unqualified call receiving an unqualified response; joyful, without regret for what is left behind, and honouring Christ with a great feast; public, for Levi did not so much leave his friends behind as seek to draw them with him, demonstrating a missionary spirit without leaving home; shocking, for such men and women as this to be found keeping company with Christ, and he with them – but this is just where we should expect to find the Great Physician; and, encouraging – if then, why not now? If them, why not you?
We paused with the two enduring images of Christ: the Son of God looking at Levi, and – with authority, integrity, and tenderness, bidding him “Follow me”; and, the Saviour among sinners, the Redeemer among the lost, the light shining in the darkness, the Lord Jesus about his saving business.
With these images before us, we asked the believers to remember Christ’s gracious dealings with us, contrary to our deserts, expectations and desires. Has he captured our hearts like he captured Levi’s? Do we have the disciple’s grateful and missionary spirit?
Or has the spirit of the Pharisees crept in, whereby we preach for the pleasant but dismiss the perverse, look for the worthy and despise the unworthy? Do we receive the righteous, or sinners? How much we need confidence in this Saviour for all sinners, to call men of all sorts to follow him, and pray for the Spirit to make the call effectual. Out and out Pharisees, too, need a Christ, but they must first humble themselves and confess themselves sinners: the church is not a moral club for the socially acceptable and outwardly upright, but a joyful gathering of black-hearted wretches saved by grace and made followers of the Saviour of sinners like us.
Then, this evening, I continued in Colossians: Beware the predators. Paul now launches into battle on behalf of the Colossians, proceeding by way of admonition and affirmation – exposing error and affirming truth, applying Christ’s personal, saving and sovereign fullness to the errors being pushed on the church.
We began with a clear warning given. Paul calls the church to be always on their guard. Though danger is clearly implied and alertness demanded (a vigilance modelled by Epaphras), he does not merely give a general directive.
There is also a real danger identified. A person or persons in the Colossian church is seeking to carry Christians off captive, to take them as prey. This is a real danger, the very opposite of walking in Christ. To false teachers, Christians are prey, and so we need to recognise that there are such enemies of our souls who have such designs; pastors must issue specific warnings as appropriate; and, the saints, once warned, must be on their guard.
Finally, there is a seductive method exposed. The tools of the predator are “philosophy and empty deceit.” Such weapons, used cunningly, are effective against all manner of Christians, striking at every weak point. Philosophy here is (not a genuine love of wisdom but) the elevation of the human mind above revelation, a blanket term for claimed mystical, intuitive, imaginative ‘insights’ into the divine nature and natural phenomena. By definition, such philosophy is empty deceit – seductive, impressive, even intimidating, but really just high-sounding nonsense, a pretty poison. It is that which pleases fancy and ruins faith. I gave some examples of this kind of material from hypercovenantalism (the Federal Vision), the emergent church, post-modern Gnosticism, the Lakeland revivals, and current philosophy of science, to take but a few. Though a wide spectrum, they share characteristics of style or elements of untruth that put them firmly under this banner. It is a mask for old errors, the garb of neo-paganism, and altogether dangerous. Phil Johnson posts some words from Charles Spurgeon that echo some of the same issues.
The three marks by which such empty deceit can be identified are its being according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. While intending to consider these marks in more detail, we paused simply to note that an accurate knowledge of Christ, in whom is all fullness, and in whom we are made full, is the antidote to such error. This is why it is so vital, having received Christ Jesus the Lord, to go on walking in him.