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Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures


All right, well, I am eager to answer the questions that you have on your mind – let me give you a few ground rules. First of all, here's how it works – there's a mic here in this aisle, and a mic over here in this aisle, and so, when you're ready to ask your question, you come down to that microphone and stand there, and I'll call on you.

And let me tell you one other interesting rule, and that is, don't do the Texas thing – you know, when we first got to Texas, my wife often corrected me because, I think, I was rude to people because I would go up to the cash register and somebody would be standing, like, ten feet back, and I just assumed they were waiting for someone or whatever; I didn't think they were standing in line because they were ten feet away from the next person. If you do that tonight, if you sort of say, well, there's somebody up there, I think I'll wait – here's how I work; if I see one person, that means I can spend a long time answering that one question, but if I see there are other people waiting in line, then I know I need to keep moving. So, I really do need you to help me in that way; so, don't think, I'll just sit here until that question's done. It helps me for you to be in line, so I know what I'm looking at, and I know it's a little awkward for you to stand there, but you're among friends, so don't worry about it, but it'll help me do that.

So, here's the next rule, and that is, when you get up to the microphone, you have to introduce yourself so that I and everyone else know who you are – I know many of you, but I don't know everyone, and there are a lot of folks here who won't know you, so you have to introduce yourself and let us know who you are, and then ask your question.

Now, the questions should be – and this one is the really important one – it should be a real question. You know, I hate to say this, but we've all been in classes and events where someone is asking a question that's not a question; they're making a point; please don't come up and make a point, all right? If you have a real question that has been troubling you, I'd love to interact with that, but please refrain – you can make the point to your friend afterwards, all right? But only real questions, all right?

So, I think those are the basic ground rules – and if you come with several questions, I'm going to have you do it one at a time because, you know, I may not remember all of your questions when I'm done and finishing with the first one. Those are some basic ground rules – so, anyway, go ahead, if you have a question, come on up to the microphone and we'll get through as many as we can. So, let's start here – yes?

[Cathy] Hi, I'm Cathy Hale –

[Tom] Good job – see how well this works when people obey the basic rules? Good job, Cathy.

[Cathy] Tom, we have been praying for you and Sheila with her recent health issues, so the question is kind of about that – could you share with us how to think about disease and sickness? What does the Bible say about disease and sickness, what does it say to encourage us as we encounter it, and as our friends do? And as a follow-up, can I just ask you to also tell us how we could best encourage and love Sheila?

[Tom] Now, that's two questions, Cathy – you did well with the first point, but just hold on to that second one, stay there for a second, let me answer. So, that's a great question, honestly – and it's something all of us have to deal with, right? I mean, whether it's a small illness or whether it's something major in our lives and families. There's a message that I did, and it's been years ago now, but a message that I did – at some point I want to preach it again, where I fill that out in greater detail – it's in James 5, the passage there about praying for the sick, and I give a little theology of illness in that message; there are a couple of messages there, in one of those, so if you're interested in filling that out some. But here's the short version – we need to understand that illness and death, disease, decay, all of those things are part of the curse, they're part of the fall, and so, they're not good. Ultimately, all of those things will be destroyed – in fact, I was talking with the elders this morning; I love the way Revelation puts it when it says in the end, Jesus will throw death and the grave into the lake of fire[SR1] . Paul says death is an enemy, so is disease – that's why you see Christ, in His compassion, so often healing people in His earthly ministry. Sometimes, as I mentioned last Sunday, not because they're His disciple or going to become His disciple, but simply out of the compassion and heart of God. So, you have to start there; you have to understand that, in the Garden of Eden, there were no illnesses, there were no diseases – it's part of the curse, it's part of the fall. So, understand then, that one day, it will all be destroyed – we will have new, perfect bodies that will be impervious to disease and illness – and won't that be wonderful, right?

So, in the meantime, as we think about the issue of disease, we have to understand that sometimes, God afflicts people with illness for specific purposes. Sometimes, it's simply part of the fall, part of living in a fallen world – you get colds, and everybody gets colds, because that's part of living in a fallen world. But sometimes God intervenes directly in order to give an illness to someone; sometimes it's for a specific purpose – let me back up from that and say, first of all, just to make the larger point, God says, "I wound, and I heal."[SR2] So, ultimately, He takes the responsibility for the infliction of disease and illness and even death – Jesus said in Revelation 1, "I have the keys of death and the grave."[SR3] But, while He takes the ultimate authority, that doesn't mean that it's a good thing that it's in the world – it's not; it's part of the fall, it's part of the curse, and one day, it will be eradicated.

But sometimes, He intervenes directly to give illnesses for His own specific purposes – you remember in John 9, Jesus talks about the blind man. The Pharisees had this retribution theology, that you could look at a person's life, and if they were going through hard times, wow, you knew God really wasn't happy with them, and if everything was going great, then God was happy with them. That's not the way it works in the real world; I mean, Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone, and yet God said, with Him "I am well pleased."[SR4] So, we can't think like that – but what God does at times is, He brings illness for His own purposes, and in John 9, where I was a moment ago, basically, He says this is for the glory of God. This man has this blindness because – not because of anything in his life, not because of any sin, but because God wanted to accomplish something greater; He wanted to put Himself on display. Sometimes it's as simple as that. In 1 Corinthians 11, he said there were some sick in the church in Corinth because of their sin; so, God can use illness as a punishment for sin, as a corrective – punishment wouldn’t be the right word on its own – but as a corrective, as a discipline in our lives. And I think that's what's going on in James 5, by the way – I think there, it's not just any illness that's in that context, but it's an illness that the person who is ill thinks is tied to their sin, and that's why they call for the elders and ask the elders to pray[SR5] , and then James makes the point, you know, if he sinned, then it will be forgiven him.[SR6] I think it's because he thinks that, perhaps, this illness in his life is tied to his sin, as it was with the believers in 1 Corinthians 11.

Other times – so, sometimes God directly brings these things into our lives; other times, the scripture is clear, that God allows Satan to bring these things into our lives. I mean, in Job 1, right, and in Job 2, as the story unfolds there, Job is afflicted with an illness, and it is at the permission of God, but it's at the initiative of Satan. And so, it's – you know, it's never out of God's control. Some of you are from charismatic backgrounds, and let me just tell you, you don't have to worry that Satan is going to somehow get one over on God. Luther was absolutely right, the devil is on a leash – God permits him to go so far and no farther, and He uses it for that purpose.

So, my point in all of that, Cathy, is God has purposes, and sometimes we can discern those purposes, and sometimes we can't. So, then the issue is, so how do we respond? And that brings us back to the basic passages on trials and suffering, right? We can understand some of what's going on, on a larger level, but we can't always apply that directly to our situation – God has a purpose, but He doesn’t always tell us, just like he didn't Job. And so, what we have to do then is respond to that suffering in a biblical and godly way – the book of Job is a great example of that, as we bow to the sovereignty of God in suffering, and we allow God to be God, the last chapters there, Job 38 through the end of the book. I think James 1 is a great example of how we are to respond to suffering. Romans 5, verses 3 and following there, where he talks about – you know, think about what God uses suffering for. In fact, look at that – just turn there with me, and then we'll move on to the next question, and you can listen again, there's a message that gives you a fuller version of that. But Romans 5:3, as he's talking about the immediate effects of justification, he says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith," verse 1, certain things are true, and here's one of them, verse 3. "We exult in our tribulations" – the word is a general Greek word that means all of the pressures that come in life; it includes illness and includes sickness – we exult in them; why? "Knowing" – it's not because we like hurting, it's because of what we know, and here's what we know – we know "that tribulation brings about perseverance," endurance, the ability – the Greek word is the ability to remain under; it's like a weightlifter who has to hold the weight up for a certain period of time, and as he does that, his muscles grow in strength. That's what trials do in our lives.

You know, the trial Sheila and I are going through right now – we would not have been as well-prepared to deal with this when we were younger in the faith – the Lord would have given us grace, He would have allowed us to do that – but we've learned by building endurance that brings about perseverance, "and perseverance, proven character." In other words, the more you endure in your faith in the midst of trials, it proves who you are – not to God, He already knows – but to you. You endure, you stay faithful in the midst of trials, you get the C-word, cancer, and you remain faithful to the Lord through that, you trust Him, you serve Him, you obey Him – it proves you're the real deal, like you're not the ground, the soil that was prone to sprout up and then, when difficulties come, pfft – you're gone. And he says it brings about proven character, "and proven character, hope" – it strengthens your hope; as you see who you are, I really am a believer, and one day, I'm going to be done with the troubles and pressures of this life. It's temporary and it's light, Paul says, momentary and light, and it's working for me "an eternal weight of glory."[SR7] And so, it builds hope, and that's the process that the trials do, and that's true of sickness, it's true with every other form of trials.

So, I would say then, understand the big picture, that God is the One who wounds and heals, He takes ultimate responsibility. Sometimes He interacts directly, sometimes He allows Satan, but regardless, He has a purpose, He has a plan. Romans 8:28 is still true, He will not allow anything in our lives, if we're genuine Christians, that He doesn't intend to use for our good. And how does He use it for our good? Romans 5:3 and following, James 1, and so you concentrate on those passages. All right? Thank you.

You had a second question, I'm sorry.

[Cathy] Could you tell us how we could best serve and love Sheila, while you guys are in this trial?

[Tom] Well, thank you, and I would just encourage you to be praying for us – she has five treatments in radiation this week, five the following week, and then three, and then she'll be done with the radiation, so, she's about halfway through. And she is seeing some effects of that; she's seeing some burning in her esophagus and some other things, so, we would appreciate your prayers, just that God would give her grace and strength and minimize the side effects that go with it, and that He would use it, obviously, to eradicate the cancer. But mostly, I think, just pray for us – people have been so gracious to pray and, you know, we have all we need, so, there's nothing really we need at this point, except just your prayers and love for us, and thank you so much.

All right, yes?

[Laurie] Hello, I'm Laurie Fossack.

[Tom] Hi, Laurie.

[Laurie] Hi. So, my question is about The Chosen – I wrote it down, so I'm just going to read. So, The Chosen is, like, a free series about the life of Christ – the creator, Dallas Jenkins, says he is making a Hollywood-level series about the authentic Jesus, and people have said that they pull out their Bible, and the series is saying the same thing as the Bible. However, its connection to Mormonism concerns me – Jenkins has said, after reviewing the Mormon text, that the Mormon Jesus is the same as our Jesus. He also met with the Pope and demonstrates an openness with heretical forms of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism – but then, I hear believers say that The Chosen is enlightening and helps them understand scripture better. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or is it something that we're better off just tabling and talking about other spiritual things?

[Tom] No, it's a great question, Laurie, and I know it's out there and very popular. I share your concerns; I mean, if you back up and say it's entertainment and it's fictionalized scripture. It's fiction, it's not – some of it is quoting scripture, but much of it is not; much of it is pretense. And so, as long as you understand that, you know, you watch it the same way you would watch Ben Hur, for example, or some other older film that has some reference to Jesus – and as long as you're not using it for those purposes, you're just seeing it for what it is, somebody's idea about Jesus, then you won't get into too much trouble with it. But I think the problem is that a lot of Christians are thinking it's the best thing since sliced bread, and that this is going to be the new, you know, power of the gospel that's going to take over the world – that's not going to happen.

I have those concerns about Dallas Jenkins – I don't know the man personally, but I am very concerned about some of the things he's said publicly. He certainly reveals an affinity for Mormonism, an openness, a drift that makes me very uncomfortable. So, you know, there were – I watched some of the first season, because I knew there were going to be questions. And there were episodes that I thought, well, that's intriguing, that's interesting – there were others that I thought were just bad; I disagreed with how things were presented.

So, I think you have to be careful with anything outside the scripture – and so, particularly when you have someone who's doing it; it's not finished. Here's why I don't recommend it – if I looked at one or two episodes in the first series, I might say, wow, that's thought-provoking; you know, you might enjoy watching that – but the problem with that is, it's not done; I don't know where it's going, I don't know how he's going to finish this story, and I know some of what I've seen, I don't like. I don't like, for example, the way John the Baptist is presented as a nut, you know – he came across as a nut, but he wasn't a wild-eyed crazy man, he was a prophet of God. So, there are misrepresentations – the idea of Nicodemus possibly becoming one of the disciples; that's a clear misrepresentation of scripture.

So, as long as you see it for what it is, okay, it's a fictionalized version of some events from the life of Christ, and you can watch it that way, watch it - but my concern is that some Christians will think this is the real thing, this is how they ought to read their Bibles – rather than watching the films through the lens of scripture, they're reading their Bibles through the lens of The Chosen; that's exactly backwards. So, you know, that's a real concern, and I would urge, if you're not a discerning person, then don't watch it, because you're going to have a hard time sorting all of that out. If you're a fairly discerning person, and you want to watch some of it, watch some of it – just remember what it is, it's not the Bible. There are quotes from the Bible in it, but that doesn't mean it is the Bible. So, you know, again, that would be my encouragement, is just to beware – don't recommend it wildly and widely because you don't know where it's going; we don't know where the producer is going in his own theology, and therefore we don't know where the series is going, and so, it's just not wise to do that – so, the verdict's out, is what I would say, but what we've seen so far is cause for concern, and the way some Christians respond to it is cause for concern.

What you can't do – let me say one other thing – you know, there are those who believe there should never be any representation whatsoever of Jesus, no pictures, no drawings, nothing. And, while I don't believe the second commandment forbids that, I do think that you have to be careful of potentially violating the second commandment. What you don't want to do is get so entrenched in your mind that the character playing the role of Jesus on The Chosen is Jesus, that when you're thinking about Jesus, the real Jesus, when you're praying to the Lord, when you're praising Him, you have that guy in your mind. That's not Jesus, all right? So, be very careful – and that's not just The Chosen, frankly, that's any representation of Jesus.

So, with those cautions, I would say use your own discretion, but be very careful, and just understand the dangers that come with a fictionalized version of the Christian faith.

[Jonathan] Hi, Tom, Jonathan Cooper.

[Tom] Hi, Jonathan.

[Jonathan] I wrote my question down – basically, it boils down to this. Is it appropriate for Christians to use superstitious words and phrases, like crossed fingers, knock on wood, don't jinx it, and even things like good luck or lucky whatever? What's the biblical view of those things?

[Tom] Well, you know, it's fortunate that you asked that question – sorry. No, I would say this, you know, I think it's like – let me go back to what I said this morning about saying, using language with other people, like "you fool" or "you idiot" or whatever. The scripture in that passage of Matthew 5 is not forbidding that there might be a jest in which you would say something humorous, or you would even say it to yourself – you know, if you hear me sometimes, I hit my finger with a hammer, you know, I'm going to say something like Pennington, you're such an idiot, how did you hit your – you know, it's not that scripture is forbidding the use of any of those words; it's what's going on in the heart, what's going on in the mind, in that case, anger – those things are coming out of an angry heart, not a joking heart where two friends are kidding each other.

I think the same thing is true in this category you're talking about – you know, is it appropriate at times, is it harmless for a Christian who doesn't believe in luck, who believes in the sovereignty of God, who believes, you know, the divine decree, right? Many of you know the divine decree as it's recited in the confessions, and that is, God has eternally, freely, unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass. I believe that with all of my heart, and many of you believe that – but that doesn't mean, at times, I don't, in jest, use one of those things you talked about, you know, knock on wood or, you know – I don't cross my fingers, but – you know, I mean, you're kidding, you're just kidding about something. I don't think that's something we need to get legalistic about and say no, you can't joke, you can't kid – but you can never, in your heart, doubt the sovereignty of God, you can never call into question who He is and that He is in control of all those things.

And so, I think each person has to look at their own heart. Rather than making a hard and fast rule that says thou shalt not, which God hasn't done, it's more, what do I mean when I say that – am I really concerned, you know, as a baseball player, that if I step on the line, you know, I've jinxed my team, is that really what I believe or am I doing it just because my fellow players are going to get all over me if I don't? You know, what's going on in my heart – and so, I think that's the key issue; as long as you're confident that God is sovereign in all of those details, and whenever you use any of those phrases or do any of those things, it's in jest, then yes, I don't think there's any issue with them – but certainly never seriously.

Yes sir?

[Dennis] Hello, I'm Dennis Cole – my question is that A.B. Caneday, in his booklet Must Christians Always Forgive, makes the case that the Christian duty to forgive others is conditioned upon the confession and repentance of the person who has wronged us, and that the requirement in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13, "just as God in Christ also has forgiven you," should be understood in view of Matthew 18 and Luke 17, where repentance is required. What concerned me is that R.C. Sproul also seems to support this position. May I have your thoughts, please?

[Tom] Yeah – no, Dennis, it's a good question; there are those that we respect and use their materials a lot who take that position. For example, Jay Adams, whose resources are the foundation for biblical counseling, he took that position as well.

I have a real problem with that; I disagree with it biblically. I think you have to look at forgiveness in two different ways, and if you want this filled out – actually, I love the way John MacArthur handles it in his book On Forgiveness, I think he does a great job with it. But I think, if you fill it out, there is, first of all, the spirit of forgiveness, which is to characterize every believer constantly. We are not to harbor a grudge, we're not to hold on to any wrong – we are to have that spirit of forgiveness. And so, I think, you see it, for example, in Christ on the cross, but some would say, well, He was praying for the specific forgiveness of specific individuals – not Stephen, I don't think; I mean, Stephen was praying generally, I think, out of a heart of forgiveness. And you see that throughout church history with those who were persecuted; and so, we are to have a heart of forgiveness toward anyone who wrongs us, we're not to hold on to any grudge.

At the same time, there is a truth that I can't be fully reconciled with someone relationally until there is a willingness to deal with that issue, that wrong, and they're willing to acknowledge that wrong and I can offer that forgiveness. And so, there is some truth to the view; I just think it gets overstated. So, I would say, like Paul says to the Romans, as much as lies within us, "be at peace with all men"[SR8] – what does that mean? That means every wrong that has been committed against me, I freely forgive, and I don't hold it against them, and I pray the Lord will work in their hearts to deal with whatever they need to deal with. We've all been wrong; there's not one of us in this room that hasn't been wrong, and to have that spirit of forgiveness that lets go of those offenses.

But, if there is a breach in the relationship, it doesn't matter how much I have a spirit of forgiveness, there's still a breach in the relationship until there's a willingness to really resolve it and to come together. And so, I think both are true, but I would emphasize our responsibility is to have that overarching spirit of forgiveness and then do good to them; we're commanded to do good to those who harm us, who hurt us; we're commanded to love them just like our Father does to evil and ungrateful men[SR9] in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. And so, we are to have that spirit constantly, and then, whenever we have the opportunity to set something right, we're to take that. And, by the way, Matthew 5 says we are to take the initiative in that, you know? We're not only to receive those who come to set things right, we're to do what we can to set things right ourselves – but we can't always do that; let's admit that in a sinful, fallen world, sometimes I can go this far and no farther because the other person isn't willing. And so, that's where Paul says, as much as lies within you, "be at peace with all men."

[Dennis] I have a follow-up.

[Tom] Okay.

[Dennis] Do we treat Christians and/or non-Christians the same in that respect?

[Tom] Personally, I think yes, I think we do – I think there is that same spirit, and that's why I love Stephen, that example, because there were a lot of people gathered around him stoning him who would not come to faith. There were some – obviously the Apostle Paul would be chief among them – who would; he was there, participating; they laid the coats at his feet. I don't think he was the coatkeeper, I think he was the authority authorizing it. And so, you know, he would come to faith, but many of them would not, and yet Stephen still had that spirit – and so, yes, I think it applies equally to believers and unbelievers.

You know, believers are, by nature – the Beatitudes, right? – peacemakers. That doesn't mean we tromp over truth to be peacemakers, but it means we're eager for there to be peace in relationships, because that's the nature of God. God sought reconciliation; He's the one who initiated the process of reconciliation – so, it's a great example for us.

[Dennis] Thank you.

[Joe L.] Hello, I am Joe Lee – just a question about, what does the scripture teach about self-defense, and what implications does that have on us today?

[Tom] Yeah – no, that's a familiar and constant question, because it's something that, in a fallen world, we're often faced with, is the reality of that. The answer to that is to go – let's make sure that we don't misunderstand what Jesus says about turning the other cheek. That passage is often used to say that we shouldn't, in any way, defend ourselves, but that's not what Jesus is teaching. If you look in context, He's talking about taking revenge – so, we are to have that revenge-less spirit that isn't seeking to get even, if somebody does something to us.

On the other hand, when you look at the Old Testament law – built into the Old Testament law was the reality that there would be times when a person would have to defend themselves, and the law authorizes that and justifies a person. If my life is at risk, I can use deadly force to defend my life or the lives of other innocents. And so, that's a clear biblical model in the law, and you see that, I think, reflected in, even some of the patterns in the New Testament. You don’t see weapons, for example, with the Apostle Paul; you see him acting in self-defense, you see him doing things, for example, to escape cities, to do things that put him out of harm's way. It's a reflection, I think, of that mindset, that there's nothing wrong with defending yourself and taking the opportunity to try to keep yourself from harm.

It really comes down, in some respects, to the sixth commandment we were talking about this morning. You know, positively, I have the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to preserve my own life and the lives of others. And so, if someone is threatening my life wrongfully, or wrongfully threatening the life of someone else, then I have a responsibility, I think, to step in and to defend them. Okay?

[Joe L.] Thank you.

[Joe A.] Good evening – my name is Joe Anderson, and my question is, did the Old Testament believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them, and if they did not, then how – are they born again?

[Tom] That's a great question, and it's a question that I think we gloss over too quickly. I would say this; when you look – the real question is, what is the difference between the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament – that's really what you're asking – and to what extent was He involved, therefore, in the lives of Old Testament believers? And I would say this; when you look at the reality of regeneration, we're told explicitly, only the Spirit can bring new life, only the Spirit can produce that. So, I don't care if you're dealing with Adam, you know, in the first book of the scripture, or if you're in the New Testament era, you're talking about the need for the Spirit to bring life, for the Spirit to bring regeneration. And so, that's the only way it happens, and it happens through the Word, according to a number of texts – James 1:18, and other places; 1 Peter 1. So, the Spirit uses the Word – that has always been true; that was true in the Old Testament and it's true in the New. The Spirit uses the Word to sanctify – read Psalm 119, read Psalm 19, where you have those descriptions of the power of the Word in the life of the Old Testament believer. So, sanctification happens by the work of the Spirit through the Word.

So, you also have the Spirit present in the lives of believers – you know, you have David in Psalm 51, "do not take your Holy Spirit from me."[SR10] Some would say that was the theocratic anointing, it was a special anointing for David as the king of Israel – there's no indication of that in the context, and I think David is saying, you know, my sin puts everything at risk; You would be right, God, to withdraw entirely from me; don't let that happen – I think he's crying out for forgiveness. So, I think what you have is, even in the Old Testament, you have the abiding presence of the Spirit – but something new happens in the New Testament. So, I would say this; there is more continuity than discontinuity in the work of the Spirit between the Old and New Testaments. Regeneration is the same, sanctification is the same, the work of the Spirit using the Word – revealing the Word, inspiring the Word, you know, 1 Corinthians 2 – you have all of those things the same.

So, what is the difference? That's the best way, I think, to ask the question and to answer it – and I would say there are two things the New Testament explicitly says are different with the work of the Spirit in the New Testament. Number one is in 1 Corinthians 12:13, New Testament believers are baptized into the body of Jesus Christ; you don't see any reference to that in the Old Testament. So, there's a new thing the Spirit is doing with New Testament believers, according to that verse. The second thing you have is some change in the abiding presence of the Spirit – I mean, Jesus says, you know, I'm going to send the Spirit, and He will be in you.[SR11] And yet, you still had the abiding presence of the Spirit in some way and shape and form in the Old Testament, but there is a difference of some kind in the New Testament. Now, if we start trying to drill down on what that difference is, I can't explain that to you; I don't know what that difference is. But I know, I know that there was a whole lot more the same than there was different, than there is different – and the two differences I can nail down are those two. There was, according to the upper room discourse in John 13, 14, 15, 16, there is a change in the abiding presence of the Spirit, and, 1 Corinthians 12, New Testament believers are baptized into the body of Christ. So, other than that, I personally don't see a lot of difference in the work of the Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.

[Joe A.] Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

[Tom] You got it.

[Brian] Hi, I'm Brian Wozniak, and my question is related to the doctrine of election. So, when you have the non-elect, you know, per the doctrine of election, my understanding is that they're not equipped to be able to accept the gospel to come to Christ. However, we're taught also that the Lord won't turn anyone away that will come to Him. So, I'm trying to understand, you know, how does that work?

[Tom] Well, that's a great question, Brian, it's a common question. You know, I grew up in circles where nobody talked about election and pretended the word wasn't in the Bible – you know, you just sort of ignored it like, maybe if we don't talk about it, that it will go away. Well, it's in the Bible, it's there, you have to deal with it, and so, what I would encourage – I'm going to give you a short answer, but what I would encourage you and anyone else who is newer to our church and is struggling with that issue is, I did a six-part series in the early verses of Ephesians called "Sovereign Selection," and in that series I just walked through all of the issues like the ones you're raising. In fact, one message is devoted to questions about election – well, what does that say about God's universal love for mankind, you know, et cetera. And so, I would just encourage you to walk through that series – and I teach it as one who hasn't always believed in election; I grew up in a setting where I didn't. Like I said, we just ignored it – I just assumed it wasn't in the Bible. Well, it is, and so, I try to walk through that and explain it – so, that would be the short version.

But I would say this – when you look at election, we often think of it the wrong way; we think of it as something God does, that if God doesn't elect you, God did something to the non-elect. It's so important to remember that God does nothing to the non-elect – He simply passes them by; He intervenes in the case of the elect. So, everybody gets justice. There is another helpful book on this that R.C. Sproul wrote called Chosen by God, which is excellent – but everybody gets justice, nobody is treated unfairly. The illustration I use when I talk through Romans 9 – and that's another place you can go to sort of walk through this process, a number of messages on Romans 9 – but what you have to understand is, it's as if our governor, Governor Abbott, went into death row down in Huntsville, and out of those men and women, all of whom deserve death, all of whom deserve the death penalty because of their crimes – they're getting justice – if the governor walks into that cell block and he identifies one person on whom to show mercy and to pardon, we don't say, you know, the governor is being unfair. That's unfair; he should leave that guy alone and let him die too – or he should rescue them all; that's the only way it's fair. You don't believe that and I don't believe that, but when it comes to God, that's how we begin to think, that somehow it's unfair of God to give justice to everyone who deserves justice, and then for some, to show grace and mercy and to pardon them.

So, it really comes down to a couple of issues – the key issue is on what basis does God choose? You know, once you deal with the fact – and, by the way, nobody else get up, all right? I think I've got as many questions as I can get to in the remaining time – but when you look at election, the question is, on what basis does God choose? And one answer to that is, God chooses based on what He sees in the person – you know, the standard answer is the Arminian answer, God looks down the corridors of time, He sees those who are going to choose Him, and He chooses them. Well, that sounds helpful, it sounds like it's going to get God out of a jam, you know, that it's not going to make Him look unfair. But the truth is, the scriptures won't allow that because there are clear statements contrary to that. For example, what does Jesus say to the cities He ministered in around Galilee? He says, woe to you, Bethsaida, Chorazin, all those cities – He says, because if the deeds that had been done in you had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, "they would have repented … in sackcloth and ashes." [SR12] Jesus says, I know that if what happened here, if I had done that there, they would have repented. But guess what? God didn't give them anything but the justice they deserved; that was His decision. So, it's unconditioned on anything in us, it's simply sovereign grace, and that is Romans 9, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." [SR13] God says, I have a right to decide who I pardon, okay? But go listen to the Ephesians series, verse 4 through 6 – it's six messages, I think, on sovereign selection, chapter 1 – just look for "Sovereign Selection." And you can listen to the Romans 9 series too.

[Brian] I'll listen, Romans 9.

[Tom] Thanks, Brian.

[Garrett] Hi, I'm Garrett O'Hara – my question concerns the Marrow Controversy and its relationship to lordship salvation. I've been through about two thirds of Sinclair Ferguson's book The Whole Christ; I'm about to get into The Marrow of Modern Divinity sometime tonight. And what's clear so far is that one, the Marrow men were not Antinomians by any fair stretch of the word. So, concerning the relationship between that and lordship salvation, I've identified a couple of guys on the Internet – I know that's pretty dangerous – who are trying to –

[Tom] That's always dangerous.

[Garrett] They're trying to drive a wedge, basically, between the lordship and anti-lordship positions to say no, this narrow, this position that we have is the traditional confessional Reformed position on such things. I wish I could present you something concrete in terms of what they're saying about lordship salvation, and really, all I'm getting is, it's hard to have assurance when you're looking at your own obedience, because you're always going to sin, you're always going to grieve over your own sin. So, my primary question is, is lordship salvation, which – the term only having existed for the past forty years or so, it's not really a traditional term – I think it was originally a pejorative –

[Tom] It is pejorative, it was created pejoratively.

[Garrett] Is there any real difference between the lordship salvation position and what has been traditionally held in Reformed circles?

[Tom] And the answer to that is, no, there isn't; in fact, if you want a great historical set of quotes about the lordship position, get John MacArthur's book Faith Works, and in the back of that book, there's an appendix with quotes from church history that will give you a full survey of the fact that what the lordship position – let me back up and explain, just in case some of you aren't understanding, sort of, the larger context.

When we talk about the lordship position, all we're talking about is what has historically been taught about the nature of saving faith versus what has been taught in some modern circles, particularly here in Dallas, out of DTS – specifically, out of Dallas Theological Seminary. Specifically, the works of men like Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges and others who have taken issue with that traditional view and said, that's works – if you insist that someone submit to the lordship of Christ as part of salvation, then you're adding works to salvation. Instead, historically, saving faith, as I defined it even this morning, has been defined as following Jesus; it's having enough faith in who Jesus is that you're willing to follow Him. In fact, Jesus Himself issues these hard demands to follow Him – you "must deny yourself;" you must refuse to associate with the person that you are, you must say, I want nothing to do with the person I've been, and you must die, "take up your cross and follow Me." [SR14] And so, you must die to – you must be willing to die, literally – but you must be willing to die to all of those things that matter to you and follow Me. That's the essence of saving faith, that's what it looks like to follow Jesus, that's what the opponents of that view eventually called lordship salvation. Again, I worked through this at length when I taught through James 2, so I would encourage you to go and listen – you know that section in James 2 where James is dealing with dead faith versus living faith – and I gave, one of the messages was on lordship salvation, explaining its background, how did we get the term, what is this and is this what the church has always taught.

And the answer to your question, for everyone just to be clear, is the scriptures have historically taught that the nature of saving faith, the kind of faith that saves, is what its opponents call lordship salvation; it is a willingness to follow Jesus Christ and to confess Him as Lord. It doesn't mean you're perfect, doesn't mean you're not going to sin – obviously, that's a radical position that no one holds – it means there is a willingness in your heart to follow Jesus Christ, to become His disciple. Jesus demanded it for those who – I mean, read John; you have those in John's gospel who say they want Jesus, who say they want to follow Jesus, and Jesus calls them into question and says no, those who are really My disciples obey Me. And so, Jesus Himself identifies it that way.

But back to the issue of assurance – you know, how do we know? It is true that assurance is based on two realities – it's based on our confidence in the gospel promises, and our taking the test that scripture itself gives us, of our lives, as we're doing in 1 John. It's not either-or, it's both-and; if all I do is spend all my time reminding myself of the gospel promises, and I don't love other believers and I don't live in obedience to Jesus Christ, and I don't even believe the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel, I'm not a Christian. So, all of my preaching the gospel promises to myself, that's just giving me a false assurance – so, it's the combination that gives me genuine assurance.

Now, there is a balance – you know, the Puritans used to say, for every one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. You know, I think that's a pithy way of making a great point, and that is, don't concentrate on looking at yourself, looking at yourself all the time; we're doing that as we're going through 1 John, but remind yourself, even as we're doing in 1 John, of the gospel promises. You know, I quoted one this morning, I love John 5:24, "Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting, eternal life and will not enter into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." So, I hold on to that promise, I preach the gospel to myself, but at the same time, I look at the test that scripture itself gives me in 1 John, to make sure that that's in check and balance, that I'm not assuring myself of the gospel promises when I'm not genuinely a Christian. So, it's both-and, not either-or.

[Garrett] Thank you for your time.

[Tom] By the way, that's a great book – those of you who are readers, I highly recommend; I've read it a couple of times, actually, Sinclair Ferguson's book The Whole Christ.

[Marcus] Hi, I'm Marcus White, and in light of gnostic and dualist position that is in direct opposition of Jesus Christ, can any particular sin issue in the life of a believer mean that they have a specific demon that needs to be cast out, and do pastors have the authority to rebuke Satan in the name of Jesus, lay hands on the particular victim who is experiencing demonic possession, in order to cast out the specific named demon, naming the spirit that is oppressing them? Do…

[Tom] No, I understand where you're going – let's start with this; there were specific men that God chose to give the capacity and power to do miraculous works, including cast out demons. When others try to take that on – you know, you read the book of Acts, and it's like, look; Jesus we know and Paul we know, but who are you? You know, we don't have that authority; no pastor has that authority – the miraculous gifts have ceased; that's a different message for a different time, but go online and listen to The Biblical Case for Cessationism[SR15] , because that will explain why we don't believe the miraculous gifts continue. That's really what we're talking about here, is this miraculous capacity to cast out demons.

But let's talk about believers; that's really what you're asking – and the answer is, demons cannot indwell a believer. Demons can demonize, as the word that's used in the New Testament, an unbeliever – we see that often in the ministry of Jesus, where they take control of an unwitting victim, and there are ways that people open themselves up to that – but they're not ultimately responsible for that demonic possession. Again, if you want to learn more about that, I dealt with the issue of demon control and all of that in a message on Mark 1, a passage there, where He deals with the demon-possessed man. But I would say this – what happens in the new birth? What happens in the new birth – we are made a new creation in Jesus Christ, and we are indwelt by the Spirit. That's the new covenant promise in Jeremiah, that's what Jesus talks about in John 3 – when we are redeemed, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. Really, it's possible for the Holy Spirit to live in the same house with a demon? No – that's why the John the Apostle says later in 1 John, "Greater is He who is in you" – that's the Spirit – "than he that is in the world" [SR16] – that's Satan. So, the realms are different.

Now, can believers be influenced by, externally – by temptation, their circumstances structured to lead them into sin, by Satan and his demons? Yes, of course; there are a lot of things that – you see that, you know, when Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan;"[SR17] He's saying, you know, listen, Peter – you're being influenced by and doing the works of Satan here in saying this. But that didn't mean Peter was indwelt by a demon; it didn't mean that a believer can be indwelt by a demon. I'm indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit of God is the One resident in my life, and therefore "greater is He who is in" me, the Spirit, "than he that is in the world." Okay?

[Marcus] Thank you.

[Deon] Hi Pastor Tom, my name is Deon – my question goes to the issue of deconstruction within the church. We've seen a lot of celebrities over the past couple of years, big names that have, you know, at one point professed evangelical faith, especially during the height of Covid – they went through a process where they, you know, examined the faith and came to a conclusion, and they just rejected core tenets of the faith, such as sufficiency of scripture, the deity of Christ; they just left the faith as a whole. So, my question, really, is how do believers respond to all of these big celebrities that profess to be Christians but have walked away from the faith and even some in our own family that have – you know, we've known them for years, they've been in the church for a while, we knew they were, they seemed to be pretty solid believers, but over the past couple of years have just left the faith and just rejected everything that they grew up in, essentially.

[Tom] Yeah, I would say there are a couple of things – first of all, let's get our terminology right; I hate the word deconstruction. Let's call it what it is, they're apostates, they're people who once professed to believe the Christian faith, were not truly redeemed, ever, but now have rejected the Christian faith and walked away. That's 1 John 2:19, right? "They went out from us because they were not of us." They were never of us, they were never true believers, and we shouldn't be surprised by that, because Jesus said it would happen. Look at the parable of the soils – in fact, go online and go back and listen to the parable of the soils messages I did – because Jesus said there are four kinds of hearts, right, where the gospel lands. One kind of heart rejects it out of hand, but the other three appear to receive it. But two of them end up, in the end, not to be the real deal – only one of them, the good soil that bears fruit, is the real deal, the person who is truly converted.

So, it shouldn't surprise us for a moment that there are going to be people that infiltrate the Christian church, who say they're the real deal, who look like us for a time. I remember my first experience of this; it was in high school – it was actually before I came to genuine faith, but I thought I was a believer at the time, and there was this guy in ninth grade who was one of the bigshots on the football team, he was the guy that everybody wanted to be, and all the girls swooned over him and everything else. And he had this dramatic conversion experience – he was sharing his testimony everywhere and talking about Jesus. And like six months later, he's gone and he's getting one of the cheerleaders pregnant and everything else – what happened? That man was never a believer in Jesus Christ – he was just like the parable of the soils, where some would respond favorably, but they're not real. So, that's all you're talking about with deconstruction – it's apostates, that's what we used to call them. They're people who attached to the Christian faith, were never truly converted, and then turned on the Christian faith as a great enemy. In fact, if you want a historical perspective, read Kevin Miller's book Apostate, which deals with some of the key influential people in western culture who were apostates – they grew up in Christian settings, and then they turned their back on their faith, and that's why they ended where they ended, and why our culture is where it is. Okay?

[Deon] Thank you.

[Chelsea] Hello, I'm Chelsea Miller, and I have a question about Deuteronomy 23:3, which excludes the Moabites from coming into the assembly, and I was wondering how that worked, and especially with Solomon being a descendant of Ruth.

[Tom] Well, you know, that's a great question, and I'm not sure I have a clear answer for you. There are several options proposed as to why that was allowed, but honestly, I don't really have a clear answer for you, I wish I did. I can look into it a little more and see, but it's not something I've ever studied at length – what I have read and seen, I didn't find satisfying. So, I don't really have an answer I can give you – but if you want, you can check with me offline and I'll do a little more reading on it and check it out.

[Chelsea] Okay, thank you.

[Jared] Hello, my name is Jared Hiller, and I had an apologetics question, I guess that's what I'm going for here. So, I work with this lady, a sweet grandmother type lady, and she's a Mormon – I was reading my Bible one day; I'm in Isaiah, and she asked me, what is Isaiah all about, because my temple has given me resources, but I don't understand what the book is about. So, I guess it's kind of a two-part question – A, what do you know of Mormons' beliefs about what Isaiah is about, and two, how could I tell her, shortly, what the book is about? I know it's about Jesus, but I'm not sure…

[Tom] Yeah, let's deal with it in two – you're right, it's a couple of parts question; let's, first of all, deal with what Mormons believe. Whenever you're dealing with any cult or with any group that professes to have some connection to Christianity, you're always looking at three basic questions – what's their source of authority, what's their view of God and of Jesus, and how is a person made right with God? Those are always the key questions whether you're talking about Roman Catholicism or whether you're talking about Mormonism or whatever. So, with Mormonism, you have a different god – they believe that God was once one of us, that what you are, God once was, and what God is, you may become. They have a deified human who is their god; that's not the God of the scripture. Their view of Jesus is that He is a created being, that He is the product of a relationship between God and a woman, and that He is the half-brother of Satan, of Lucifer. And so, they don't worship the biblical Jesus – it's a different god, it's a different Jesus. They have a different authority – they add to the scripture; their real authority isn't the Bible, it's the Bible occasionally glimpsed at through the writings of Joseph Smith. And then, finally, their view of salvation is that we're made right with God through our own efforts, that we earn our way into God's presence, which is a false gospel. So, the Mormons are not Christianity – they worship a different god, they have a different Jesus, and a different gospel, and a different authority. And so, that's where to start with that, and there's more material available on that, even in our bookstore; you can check it out.

But I would say, then, the second question, as far as Isaiah – where I would go with Isaiah is, first of all, the theme of Isaiah is salvation. The first part, God saving His people from the temporal troubles that they were in politically – but the second part, starting in Isaiah 40 and on, it focuses really on spiritual salvation, the coming of the Servant of Yahweh, the Messiah, and all that He would be – and of course, there are promises of that even in the earlier chapters; chapter 7 and chapter 9. And so, that's where I would go – whenever you're dealing with someone who holds those views, go to their authority, their view of God, their view of Jesus, and their view of how a person is made right with God. So, you want to use Isaiah to point up those truths – so read a little bit more about Mormonism, so you understand where they're coming from, and then you can use the book of Isaiah to point out the truth about who God is, the truth about that He is not a former man who has now become God, that He is eternally the God of the Bible, and who Jesus is, in the servant passages, and what the gospel is, as it's unfolded beautifully, of course, in Isaiah 53. Okay?

[Jared] Thank you.

[Tom] Real quickly, a couple of questions and then we'll be done.

[Albert] Thank you, Pastor Tom – my name is Albert Yang. Basically, just structurally, I heard a criticism just about Christianity in general, is that Catholicism generally is one big, unified structure, where you look at Protestants as, like, a group that's constantly splintering with many opinions. I was born in a John MacArthur branch for this journey, but he took me from basically child baptism to now here, and I believe that this is the one, because you guys go back to, we go back to the scripture to make sure the roots are correct. But what would you say about people saying why they're so divided and there are so many opinions, so many interpretations in the so-called, this branch, Calvin and all that?

[Tom] No, I understand the appeal of that idea – you know, why can't we just be one big, unified, happy family externally? But realize this – Satan can pull that off. We're studying Revelation – guess what's going to happen at the end? There's going to be a one-world religion where it's going to be truly united – and it's wrong, it's damning. And frankly, that's true of Roman Catholicism – yes, it's a big, monolithic thing. But, back to what I was just talking about, they largely have the right God, they largely have the right Jesus, there are issues there. They have the wrong authority; it's the magisterium over the scripture, and they have the wrong gospel, a false gospel. So, big and historical – it doesn't matter.

So, the question is where you came and that is, what does the scripture teach, and that's what we have to do – so, the question is why aren't we more unified? The answer is, believers, true believers are unified on the important things. Go listen to Ephesians 4, the messages I did, starting, I think it's in verse 4, 3 or 4, somewhere there, where it talks about all of the things true believers are united around. We're united on a lot of things – we don't have to be united on everything, all right? There were differences even between Paul and some of his fellow workers, you remember, where they split ways – so, God isn't after an artificial, external unity; He's after the real unity, and it's united around Jesus Christ, the real biblical gospel, and those things you read there in Ephesians 4 – one faith, one baptism, one Lord, one God and Father who is over all, and so forth. So, that's the unity – and it's a real unity. The unity Jesus prayed for in John 17; the Father's answer to His prayer; we are united in the ways the Father wants us to be united. That doesn't mean we have to force an external unity on that. Okay?

[Albert] Amen.

[Caden] Hello, my name is Caden Francis – I was just curious; if one of our loved ones passed away, can they see us from heaven?

[Tom] Well, you know, that's an interesting question, and it's one that some people have tried to point to passages like Hebrews, where it says we are encompassed by a great cloud of witnesses[SR18] , as though as we're living our lives, believers in heaven are watching us. But if you read that passage in its context, it's not talking about that – it's basically saying their lives of faith are a witness to us, that we too can run the race of faith that is before us, we can believe God and live in faith in the true God. So, that's a passage that's used – the answer to your question though is, there's no evidence in scripture that believers in heaven can witness individual lives on earth.

Now, as we're going through Revelation, there does seem to be some awareness in heaven of the big picture of what's going on on the earth, right? You have the saints under the altar praying, you have, you know, based on what's going on in heaven, they can conjecture what's going on on earth, so there's some response to the large events that are happening on earth. So, is that true today? We don't know – it's true when things unfold at the end, but there's no evidence that believers, individual believers can look down – for example, my father and mother who are with the Lord can watch my life unfold. In fact, I think the truth is – and I tell people this all the time – I think the truth is because of the nature of time here and time there, I think our loved ones, they will feel like they've just gotten to heaven and are just meeting people, and they'll turn around, and there we will be. I think it's going to be more like that than, oh I wonder what's going on with so-and-so down there on the earth, all right? And there's no evidence in scripture that they have that power or capacity – so, I think the big picture is, they are so enraptured with who God is and with what they're seeing, and they're so at rest in God's sovereignty; when you're with God, you're going to have a sense of He is good, and He's wise, and I can trust Him with my loved ones on earth, and so I know He's going to do what's best, because I now see Him as He is; I see Christ as He is, and I'm like Him, so I have a heart of perfect trust. And so, I can leave my loved ones who are on earth with the Lord and know that I'm going to be very soon reunited with them. So, I don't think there's any sort of glancing over the battlements of heaven, watching our lives unfold, but I think someday we'll have the chance to catch them up personally.

[Caden] Thank you.

[Tom] Thanks for your question.

Great questions – I hope some of those answers are helpful. There was one I didn't get to, and I apologize; if you're the young man who asked about going into the military, please come up and see me, because I do want to answer that question for you, but I just ran out of time. Let's pray, and then Seth's going to come and lead us in a closing song.

Father, thank You for the opportunity to reflect on these issues. Lord, thank You for Your Word that speaks so clearly and directly to so many of the issues of our times – Lord, help us to trust You, to trust You more. Thank you that as we walk through this life, we do so not in our own strength, but in the strength of our Lord, and I pray that, even as we think on these things that we've discussed this evening, You would cement that in our hearts that we would trust Your Word, that we would put our confidence in the revealed Word and, Lord, live a life of faith, believing You before we believe anything else. May You be true and every man a liar.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

[SR1]From Revelation 20:14.

[SR2]From Deuteronomy 32:39 KJV.

[SR3]Revelation 1:18b.

[SR4]From Mark 1:11.

[SR5]Based on James 5:14a.

[SR6]Based on James 5:15b.

[SR7]From 2 Corinthians 4:17.

[SR8]Based on Romans 12:18.

[SR9]Based on Luke 6:35b.

[SR10]Psalm 51:11b.

[SR11]Based on John 14:16-17.

[SR12]Based on Matthew 11:21.

[SR13]From Romans 9:15, based in turn on a portion of Exodus 33:19.

[SR14]Based on Luke 9:23.

[SR15]This was a two-part series that Tom preached in August of 2014.

[SR16]1 John 4:4b.

[SR17]From Matthew 16:23.

[SR18]Based on Hebrews 12:1.