Monday, December 16, 2013

Is Christianity all about being relational?



Is Christianity all about being relational? Yes, to a large degree it is, and no, to a large degree it is not. The problem arises when the Bible is cherry picked to make a certain narrative work. For the liberal/postmodern thinker cherry picking the Bible is what they do best.

The postmodern thinker has a narrative about who Jesus is and what Christianity is suppose to look like. They tell us that Christianity is all about love and helping others just like Jesus did, so goes the chirp. They provide for us examples of Jesus feeding people, healing others, and just being a real nice guy. Where they err and fail, is that they throw out any narrative that does not fit their rosy self-painted picture of Christ.

Now we know at the heart of the gospel is reconciliation which at its core is relationship. The sinner who was estranged from God has been brought into a right relationship to God by the atonement of Christ. Man is in a very serious situation, you see, he is estranged form God by his sin, and his sin must be removed before he can enjoy any relationship with God.

So yes, Christianity is about relationship. Now here is the fly in the ointment for the liberal/postmodern, they will agree about the relationship part of Christianity, but will exclaim hogwash to the sin part. They are not so readily disposed to talk of sin, for them sin is a divisive word; it separates people, and marginalizes those who might be offended by being labeled a sinner. For the postmodern thinker sin is an outdated term and should be regulated to bygone days.

The liberal/postmodern has a different brand of Christianity...for them they have an offend none at all costs religion, for them, tolerance and being relational are the supreme virtues of the Christian life. Tolerance in their theology has morphed into a pervasive insistence that no one should hold firm convictions. In the end, this high value placed on being relational has distorted and perverted the whole message of the entire Bible.

The whole of their theology of tolerance is filled with structural flaws and is in direct opposition to traditional Christianity.  Neither Orthodox Christianity nor the Bible ever talks about relationship with God apart from first being reconciled to Him through atonement. Whenever we separate what the Bible has joined together we become guilty of cherry picking and we distort the true picture that the Bible paints of Christ.






The same Savior who told us to love our neighbor also said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). The same Savior who showed kindness to the poor and marginalized also spoke to them in parables lest they should hear and understand and be converted, see Matthew 13:11,  "He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Here is the full text:
Matthew 13:10. And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12 "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.'
16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Revelation 1:7 gives us a description of the second coming of Christ when John records these words for us, "Behold He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Did you get that? All of the earth will wail when Christ comes with power and glory...not the humble Shepherd as painted in the gospels, but the Lion of the tribe of Judea.

Let us heed the exhortation in the book of Romans 12:2 where Paul tells his readers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Let us submit our minds, wills, and emotions to the authoritative word of God. Let God's word sit in judgment upon all of your narratives, and let His narrative become your story to tell.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Some errors never die.




I am telling you today that something’s never die. Something’s just hang around and continue to morph and take other forms, but the core, their center is still the same. One of those things is theological error. Irenaeus of Lyons sums up error very succinctly with this definition---- “Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.”

One such error that has been able to wear a myriad of dresses is that old evil theological error of Marcionism. You are thinking what? Never heard of such a thing...well, that is most likely because it is so old and took place in the middle of the second century.

Back in the early church there was this bishop named Marcion who was extremely influential in that he succeeded in establishing churches of his own to rival the Catholic Church for the next two centuries. He was labeled a heretic and was excommunicated from the Roman church around 144 AD.

What was so dangerous about this man? Well, Marcion concluded that many of the teachings of Jesus were incompatible with the actions of the God of the Old Testament.  Marcion responded by developing a dualist system of belief around the year 144 AD. This dual-god notion allowed Marcion to reconcile supposed contradictions between Old Covenant theology and the Gospel message proclaimed by Jesus.

The main premise of Marcion's teachings were that the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament can not be reconciled. So Marcion set out to edit his own versions of the biblical books. Marcion's edited version of the Scriptures were known by The Gospel of the Lord.

Marcion did not like the picture of how the Old Testament presented God. The God of the Old Testament was wrathful and angry, and Marcion could not reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the Jesus of the New Testament, so he simply dismissed the God of the Old Testament as a Demiurge.

It seems that in some ways Marcion lives on today...maybe in another dress, but error nonetheless. How does his teaching live on today? Our modern liberal religious climate gives his error great soil to grow and take root.

The notion that God is only love, the notion that Jesus only came to show love, the notion that the primary mission and message of Jesus was to feed the poor and physically heal those who needed medical help. The notion of God punishing sin, judging sin, being angry at sin and the sinner is dismissed as some ancient tribal myth.

The next step that our modern liberal religious elite take is to edit the parts of the New Testament that does not fit in with their narrative of what God is supposed to look like. In the end we have idols that have been concocted in the depraved minds of those who reject the revelation of God throughout the whole sixty-six books of the Canon.

The liberal religious thinking of today has created a God that does not reconcile with the God that is presented in the whole of the Canon of Scripture. Their God is only love, sin never will be punished, in fact the notion of sin is dismissed as some old fashioned guilt tool used to manipulate the masses.

Let us heed the words of our old friend, Pastor J.C. Ryle:

Let us read our Bibles in private more, and with more pains and diligence. Ignorance of Scripture is the root of all error, and makes a person helpless in the hand of the devil. There is less private Bible reading, I suspect, than there was fifty years ago. I never can believe that so many men and women would have been “tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine,” some falling into skepticism, some rushing into the wildest and narrowest fanaticism, and some going over to Rome, if there had not grown up a habit of lazy, superficial, careless, perfunctory reading of God’s Word. “You do err not knowing the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). The Bible in the pulpit must never supersede the Bible at home


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Truth Divides




Truth has a way of drawing a line in the sand; a unique way of calling the class to separate sides of the room. Truth can divide the best of friends, separate churches, split bible colleges and seminaries, and in the end it calls each man to take a stand.

So what is this thing called truth? Here is a simple definition given by John MacArthur in his book Truth Wars, "truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God." Do you see a thread here? A common link as to what truth is? Truth is the self-expression of God. The Old Testament shows us that God is the God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16).

Jesus claimed to be the truth along with claiming to be the way and the life (John 14:6). In Jesus claiming to be the truth, He was making the claim of deity for himself. This was the reason that on more than one occasion the religious elite tried to kill him (John 8:58-59; 10:30-33).

We have a choice to make when the truth is presented to us...do we submit to God's standards of truth or do we deny God's truth and create our own truth? When the human soul denies God's absolute truth he/she is by default turning to the prince of lies, to the one who in the beginning turned God's creation against Him.

Satan is presented to us in Scripture as the antithesis of truth. He is called the prince of the power of the air... Ephesians 2:2. The Living Bible puts it like this: "You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil--the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God."

The reality of life is that there is a spiritual battle raging. The forces of darkness do not want man to ponder the reality of absolute truth...MacArthur notes in Truth Wars, " The moment you begin to ponder the essence of truth, you are brought face-to-face with the requirement of a universal absolute---the eternal reality of God."

We are living in a culture and time that says that truth can not be known, and if it can be known, it can't ever be known perfectly. The postmodern thinker disdains absolute truth. Absolute truth to the unconverted postmodern mind is anathema. The postmodern lives in the gray areas of life, they have blurred the line between certainty and uncertainty. They presume that truth resides in all of us. But the follower of Christ knows that truth is found outside of himself, and that is in the sacred Scriptures.

But for the orthodox Bible believing Christian we reject the notion that truth resides within us. We reject the notion that if we just dig deep enough we can find truth inside of us.

The true regenerated believer has been given the Spirit of truth as 1 John 2:19-21 tells us:


"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fit Bodies, Fat Minds!



               


I'm just taken with the idea of the "thinking process," or the "life of the mind." My last post dealt with the importance of being critical thinkers and developing the ability to think deeper so that we become the owners of the truth or concepts that we are trying to understand. It bothers me to see so many in the Christian community just parroting their pastor or their favorite Christian author. It truly is the bane of the Church...we have become in many respects mere lemmings.

I love the title of Os Guinness's book, "FIT BODIES FAT MINDS." Guinness puts forth the argument that one of the leading problems in American evangelicalism is...anti-intellectualism. "Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind," says Guinness. He continues this thought, “Living in a sensuous culture and an increasingly emotional democracy, American evangelicals in the last generation have simultaneously toned up their bodies and dumbed down their minds."

We live in a Joel Osteen culture... where feeling good, and having your best life now has become the Christian manifesto. Osteen's positive thinking messages appeal to many who love to feel emotionally satiated. Our culture prizes feeling good, experiencing emotional peace, and where the idea of feeling secure far out weighs the concept of  seeking absolute truth. Positive thinking has become prized above reflection and hard critical thinking about the eternal truths of God's word.

The Christian community has suffered tremendously from this lack of thinking and love of feeling good. Guinness tells us:

" Evangelical anti-intellectualism bears on many of the problems of evangelicalism...superficial or bad theology, the lack of serious apology for the faith, the lack of constructive public philosophy, and the continued defections of thinking evangelicals in the direction of Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy."

Let me provide a snap shot of the love of the mind from the origins of Harvard Divinity School. The study of theology at Harvard can be traced back to the very beginning of Harvard College, when an initial fund of 400 pounds from the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony established the College in 1636. The founders of Harvard recorded their reasons for establishing this center of learning:



"After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God's worship, and settled the civil government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust."

When the believer develops a Christian worldview...which takes time, hard work, and much reading... then he can go out and apologize for the "faith that was once delivered unto the saints." The body of Christ must be able to speak to all aspects of life: education, science, government, and all things that make up society.

Where do I start, always with an open Bible?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Life of the Mind


To think or not to think, that is the question! Research shows that the amount of time that someone spends making a choice affects what kind of information they use to make that choice. What implications does this have for the Christian life? How much time do we spend making our decisions? Where do you go to get your information when you are making life's decisions?

A driving goal for educators is to cultivate a natural level of inquiry. So for the child of God, do we have the desire to go to the source book for our information? The process of gathering information is one step in the process, but the next step is the process of thinking.

I'd like to look at the process of thinking assuming that you already went to God's inspired and inerrant word to get your information. Let me also add that  there are many other sources of spiritual advice that the believer can make available to himself: commentaries, topical books, Christian seminars, advice from other Christians etc.

It is not enough just to read our Bibles. We must think and think hard. We must ask penetrating questions and allow the Bible to answer those questions for us. The cultivation of the mind is hard work. The Apostle Paul urges Timothy to "think carefully, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything" (2 Tim. 2:7).

I didn't do a count on how many times the bible uses the words thinking or mind, but from a quick glance it seems that there are many  passages that deal with our minds and how we think. One of the most well known texts of Scripures is Philippians 4:8... Paul urges his listeners to "think about certain things..." this is how the Christian mind is cultivated...through hard and intentional thinking.

Paul then urges his readers in Romans 12:2  to be transformed by the "renewing of their minds;" and the results would be that they could  then discern what is the will of God, and what is good and acceptable and perfect. This process of thinking and having our thinking influenced by the wisdom and mind of God is the most richest treasure that we have as believers...John Piper tells us that "thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God."

So believers, we are to love God with all our minds. We must be intentional in allowing God's truths to go deep inside of us and make us alive. We are to be "set on fire" by the pure truth of God's word.

My concern is that for too long the church has been ambivalent about the life of the mind. I personally lament the lack of thinkers in our evangelical culture. We need deep thinkers. We need Christians who can articulate a Christian worldview with passion and integrity.


Application: Start a plan where you do more than just read and parrot information. Write out thoughts. Write out your understanding of a text or biblical idea as if you had to convince a class of non-believers. Keep a journal of important truths that hit home or where God was speaking to you through a particular text. Cultivate your mind for the Glory of the King.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Sleeping Church.


The Sleeping Church.



As I observe what is happening around us socially and politically, I see a culture that has abandoned God and has drifted into the high seas of moral relativism. My take on our culture is that we have lost our moorings, and our moral foundation has crumbled. It is a scary thing to be adrift without a sail. We as a society are drifting along the dark seas without a sail or compass.

How did we get here? And what are the consequences? As I read the first chapter of the book of Romans, three times the Apostle Paul uses the term "God gave them up." For any society or kingdom the road to destruction is always the same; ruin comes slowly and gradually. When society moves away from the rule of law, when society moves away from God as the sovereign King, that society starts a downward spiral and drift into the black hole of corruption.

From a theological perspective when God gives an individual or society over to their own ways it is an indictment of God's ultimate wrath...it is the surest sign that God has turned His back and removed His restraining grace which allows for evil and depravity to run rampant.

How did we get to where we are at? That question can't be answered with one answer, but I’ll provide at least one answer that I believe is undeniable. The Church of Jesus Christ went to sleep, and as she was sleeping the Prince of the power of the air was busy doing his work.




While the Church was asleep, the ungodly, the secularist, the depraved mind of man was busy implementing his poisonous world view that has permeated all of our society. Whenever the Church of Jesus Christ pulls out of society and ceases to be light and salt there is left a moral vacuum which will always be filled with secular,  humanistic, and Godless thought.

It would be an interesting study to look at all of the reasons why the Church withdrew and became non-reactive to societal issues and ideologies. It would be an interesting study to look at how and why the church became in some respects relativistic and accommodating to the culture...to the point that there was not much difference between the church and the secular culture.

But I think that we can all agree to some extant that the church did withdraw from society in the early part of the twentieth-century, and the results have been devastating.

Whenever the Church starts to be  a voice again, and  starts to proclaim absolute truth again, she can then expect to be derided and told to go back inside the walls of her buildings...the culture says, "you can be a church just keep your religious stuff private...don't bring it out in the public square.

The answer must be that the  church wakes out of her slumber. The church must start to become what she was called to be: light, salt, ambassadors for Christ, healers, ministers of grace, and boldly proclaim the gospel to a dark and sinful culture.

Wherefore `he' saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee Ephesians 5:14.





Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Performance based Christianity.


Do you think Christians avoid Jesus? What I'm getting at is that rule keeping and legalism is not only practiced before salvation, but also after salvation. We know that our salvation is a work of God and most of us know Ephesians 2:8-9 by heart. We grew up hearing that text of Scripture from our Sunday School days and of course our Awana days.

But when it comes to our daily Christian living, we suddenly become rule keepers or legalistic. In the matter of our personal spiritual growth and maturing into Christlikeness ---we suppose that it is all up to us. We fall into the rut of performance based Christianity. We develop the mind set that says, "I can be right with God if I keep all the rules and do all the right things." Now, you tell me how that is different than how any other religion works? Is not this truly avoiding Jesus? We take our attention off the cross and we place our performance at the center of our lives--- the Christian life then becomes all about us and less about Jesus.

We get the Christian life all messed up. We start out coming humbly to the cross. Our sin is ever before us--- our cry is the same as the Publican in the Temple when he cried out, "God be merciful to me a sinner." And somewhere along the way, the Christian life becomes all about us, our performance, how much we are doing, and how well we are doing it-----and sad to say the Evangelical Church Culture feeds this insatiable appetite of the flesh---to be self focused, instead of Christ focused.

Michael Horton tells us that, "the pinpoint setting of the human heart is the religion of self-salvation. It really is an alluring religion for it feeds the pride of the human heart. It elevates man to a place of the devils and demons. It sets man on the throne, as he can now sit in judgement upon those who have not made the grade.

But God hates pride and legalism. The law keeper maintains that his/her ongoing relationship with God is based on his/her ability to do good. The law keeper can't be free. The bondage of the performance based Christian life leads to despair and darkness.

The good news is that the believer can live in grace, move in grace, and breath grace every day of his life. Grace sets us free, and Jesus came to set His people free. The famous line from William Temple is apropos, he says, " I like to remind myself and others that the only thing you contribute to your salvation and to your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary."|

The follower of Christ loves His Lord. Sin to the follower of Christ is detestable, for he knows for sin his Savior died. Grace is never abused by the child of God who has tasted and experienced God's loving, merciful, and great salvation.

Christian, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness---yes, we strive to put sin out of our lives, yes we pursue holiness, but we live in the truth that our acceptance by God is in Christ and not our performance.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Deviations we all got' Em!


         Deviations we all got' Em!



A deviation you say, what does that have to do with the price of eggs? Well, really nothing, but the other day my wife was telling me that at her place of employment which is in the pharmaceutical field a deviation in your work is a real big deal. Merriam Websters gives this definition for deviation: "an action, behavior, or condition that is different from what is usual or expected;" The Free Dictionary gives us this definition: "The act of deviating or turning aside, an abnormality; a departure."

OK, where are you going with this? It got me thinking about the Christian life, about my life, about how we humans live. Now you might be saying, man, this guy thinks too much! Hold on, let me make my point, and I promise it won't be long or philosophical.

In a very real sense before we came to Christ and before we were reconciled to God; when we were dead in our trespasses and sins our whole existence was a deviation. We were as sheep going astray (Isa. 53:6). We were constantly sinning which is the Greek word hamartia, and is rooted in the notion of missing the mark  (Rom.3:23).

God is a God of justice, perfection, and holiness; He will accept nothing other than perfection and a complete adherence to his laws and His statutes without one deviation.

I asked my wife what happens when you get a "deviation," she told me that you need to do a corrective action; laying out the steps as to how the deviation occurred and the steps taken so that the deviation will not be repeated again in the future.

As we look at our lives and see that we're really one big deviation, we are filled with praise that God the Father of all mercy and grace laid out a corrective action in order to deal with our messed-up lives. Now keep in mind our disobedience's to God can't be remedied  by our drawing up our own corrective action; no penance, no church attendance, no sacraments will do, no, only God's provision will cover the enormity of our sin of our missing the mark.

God's corrective action is found in Isaiah 53:6

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.


Notice the last clause of this verse, The LORD laid on Him the deviations of us all.


Oh what a savior, oh what a God who takes our sins, our missing the mark, our deviations and places them on His Son. The forgiven person is cleared of all offenses against a holy God, by what God has done in providing His corrective action plan…. The death, burial, and resurrection of  His Son.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buckets of cold water.

                

         

                                              
The other day a friend said something that gave me a moment of pause, he said, "what people need to be saved from is God." My first reaction was emotional; saved from God, what are you talking about! God is the one who saves us and gives us eternal life!

As I thought about the statement my theological training and discipline kicked in and poured a bucket of cold water on my initial emotional response. Now, before I go any further, let me note by way of observation how many people would continue to argue, debate, or reason from their original emotional response? How many have been conditioned to believe that their "gut feelings" are some how inerrant or are sanctioned by God as truth because they have a spark of divinity within them? How many believe that truth is subjective and arises from within?

Those with a Christian worldview know that truth is not subjective; they know that truth is outside of themselves. Those who view the bible as that truth will always allow the bible to inform and shape their natural logic and reasoning, now notice, I said that those who believe the bible will allow the bible to shape and mold their thinking, they do not suspend their logic and thinking, no, they have their logic and thinking sanctified and informed by the truth of God's word.

How then did God's truth inform my logic and reasoning when my friend said "we need to be saved from God? The first splash of cold water came from Psalm 7:11 "God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.

Another bucket of cold water came from Psalm 82:8. "Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you." And then a monsoon came from Hebrews 10:31, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Then finally, the mother of all tsunamis came from the lips of Jesus himself, And anyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life,  and anyone who doesn't obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God's angry judgment" (John 3:36).

So, what my friend said about man's need to be saved from God was theologically spot-on. Those who are in unbelief are already under the righteous wrath of the judge of the entire world. Man is separated from God due to his sin; God's righteous judgment sits upon the head of all who are in unbelief.

Now the bible presents us with a wonderful theological word, it called reconciliation---Jesus is the bridge that reunites man with God, Jesus is the one who bore His Father's righteous judgment for those who believe unto salvation.

Believers allow your logic and reasoning to be molded and shaped by the inerrant word of God---and may many cold buckets of water be poured upon your faulty emotional reactions.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Christian, will you defend the meaning of the cross?


The teachings of the Bible have always come under attack, and they will continue to come under attack as long as there is breath in man. Why has the Bible been the target of attack throughout its long history? Because what it says so goes against the depraved nature of man.

To be told that you are a sinner and that you can't help yourself causes the pride in man to shout out, "no not I, I'm basically a good person, I'm not perfect, but I'm basically a good guy." To be told that your religion and your good works are like filthy rags will do nothing less than cause the sinner to rise up in righteous indignation and exclaim, "away with your message of condemnation and judgement, I live the best I can, no, not perfect, but I'm a pretty good person."

Which brings me to what I would like to speak on today--- The bible's teaching on penal substitionary atonement. This core teaching of the gospel has suffered attack throughout the long history of the bible and it is being attacked today by many modern humanistic men who have an aversion to the meaning of the cross of Christ. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology does a fine job in explaining penal substitution when he notes, "Christ’s death was “penal” in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a “substitution” in that he was a substitute for us when he died.

There have been several theories put forth that sees humanity's main problem differently, and each theory explains how Christ's death solves that problem. Pay attention how two of these theories completely by-pass the thought or idea of Christ dying to appease God the Father for our/your sin,

Mark Dever in a cover story for (Christianity Today, 2006), outlines three theories in a very succinct way:

1.) The first set of theories argues that humanity's main problem is that we are trapped and oppressed by spiritual forces beyond our control. Christ's death, then, is seen as a ransom that frees us from captivity. His death and resurrection defeats the evil spiritual forces. These theories are generally summarized under the heading of ransom theory or Christus Victor (Christ the Victor).

2.)  The second set of theories deals with the subjective need of all people to know God's love for us. These theories emphasize that Christ's death on the Cross demonstrates God's love so dramatically that we are convinced of his love and are now able to share it with others. This set includes the moral-influence theory of Abelard, among others.

Dever then gives us the biblical description of penal substitutionary atonement in a little more detail than the above description by Grudem.

3.) A third set of theories assumes that our main problem is God's righteous wrath against us for our sinfulness, which puts us in danger of eternal punishment. These theories argue that Christ's perfect sacrifice for our sins is necessary to satisfy God's righteousness. Christ's death bore a divine penalty that we deserved. By taking our penalty upon himself, God satisfied his own correct and good wrath against us. Theories in this set, such as the satisfaction theory and the penal-substitution theory, emphasize how Christ represents us.

Dever goes on to note that the attack has been mounted against the last set of theories, namely the substitutionary atonement theory, he notes:

The new wave of criticism has targeted this last set of theories, especially the view of Christ as a penal substitute—a theory long central for most Protestant groups, especially evangelicals. The criticism follows a path laid by others throughout history, from Abelard to Socinus to Schleiermacher to C. H. Dodd.

My purpose of today's article was to make believer's aware of the attack and always be ready to give an answer to every man that asks the reason of the hope that you have within you. The cross will always come under attack, my charge to the body of Christ is, stand strong and proclaim with the loudest voice that your religion is the cross of Christ, your faith and hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

I love this quote by Martin Luther:
“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Should Christians be speaking out against the evil in their culture?


How should a Christian respond to the evil and wickedness in his culture? What should the body of Christ be doing about the corruption that surrounds her? Should pastors, bible teachers, Christian authors, and those on the vanguard of Christian thought and  Christian worldview be speaking out?

I'm of the firm conviction that the body of Christ should "speak out" against evil and the trends of our culture. But how do we "speak out?" Can we run the risk of just becoming moral crusaders? Can we get side-tracked with being a moral voice and totally miss the gospel? Is the gospel simply raising our voices against the evil that surrounds us?

That's a lot of questions and they are there to get you to think. Questions are good, they probe and cause us to stop and evaluate our motives and our course of action. Are we following the biblical blue print? Are we missing the mark of what the true calling of the Church is? So, take the time and ask yourself these question and form a solid Christian worldview concerning your mission and your response to the cultural madness that surrounds you every day.

One book that had the greatest impact on my Christian life was Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer, lived in Hitler's Nazi Germany where he was forced to take a stand and speak out against the evils of Nazism. Bonhoeffer like many of his peers in the ministry could have stayed safely tucked away in his Church or academic studies. Bonhoeffer could have rationalized and compromised like many of his contemporaries did, and say that his job was to be a pastor and not to get entangled with the things of this life.

The majority by far in the state run Lutheran Church accepted the Nazization of the Church. One of Bonhoeffer's close friends and fellow Lutheran Pastors, Martin Niemoller, who at first decided to stay silent and accept the Nazization of the Church; and rationalize away the evil that was perpetrated upon his fellow countrymen by the Nazi machine wrote this poem about his error of staying silent:

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."


The question for me is how big is the gospel? Is the gospel just mans eternal salvation? Or as citizens of God's Kingdom are we under compulsion to speak for the oppressed, denounce evil and sin, and be true lights in this dark sin-sick world.

I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with the old maxim, " The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing;" by our very nature as being: salt, light, sons of righteousness, children of the Kingdom, and representatives of our Father's holiness, how can we as good men keep silent in the face of evil? How can we not speak out against the evil trends in our society that are ripping the very fabric or our culture apart?

Our Savior and master teacher taught us to be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves---this is the advice that I would give to any believer who is bold enough to stand on the rooftop and denounce sin, evil and oppression. How one speaks out, how one accomplishes the mission may be different, but my plea to the body of Christ is not to go to sleep and say it's not my job.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14
 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.



Monday, August 19, 2013

The believer must guard his thought life at all costs.


I was thinking how important it is for the follower of Jesus Christ to guard and protect his thought life. We should all be aware that our actions are preceded with a thought, an idea, a whisper in the ear. Our thought life is secret, it is veiled to those around us, which leaves open for us to be one thing on the outside all the while being someone else on the inside.

The Bible is filled with admonishments, instruction, and charges for the believer to be aware of his thought life. That old sage Solomon gave us great advice when he told us "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life" (N.L.T. Proverbs 4:23). Keep in mind that the Hebrew thought of heart included the whole of the inner life: mind, emotions, and the will. It is not wise to separate the inner workings of our life, for they are intertwined and the parts make up the whole.

The follower of Jesus while being given a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17), still carries with him the old man with all of his dirt and baggage. David in Psalm 139:23-24 asks God to look deep into his inner life and shine the light of his holiness, listen to what David asks God to do, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."

When the Christian understands just how deeply sin has affected him---his emotions, will, and thought life he is better equipped then to put up the proper guards to deal with sins devastating consequences. Keep in mind that the role of sanctification has a duel role; the believer is to work out his own salvation (our part) while God is working in us to do his good pleasure (God's part) Philippians 2:13.

One of the old saints made the theological mistake of seeing the fall as only affecting the will of man while not touching the mind of man. St. Augustine did not see the fall as having a total affect on man---he maintained that the nature of man remained untouched by the fall, and is all that man needs is God's grace to help him along. In other words man is not totally depraved, just semi depraved---our theological understanding of the fall has deep and far reaching consequences into all of our theology.

 When the Reformation came to Europe initiated by John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Swingli they brought with them the theological idea that the fall affected every part of the whole. They called this teaching the total depravity of man; that is man's will, emotions, and thinking (logic) have all been touched by the fall.

What this means for the follower of Christ is a due diligence in paying attention to his thought life---as God  tells us in  1 Peter1:13 "gird up the lions of you mind, " the free online dictionary tells us that this phrase "gird up"comes from the Bible, where girding up your loins meant to tie up long, loose clothes so that they were more practical when you were working or travailing.

There is truly a "battle for the mind" of the believer. The believer must strive will all diligence to live a life where his inner life is congruent with his actions or the way he lives on a daily basis. We must strive to have our inner thought life sanctified by the washing of water by the word of truth see John 17:17. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For the love of reading.


How many really love to read? Have you developed a love for reading in your life? Notice that I said developed the love of reading---reading is like any hobby or skill it must be developed.

Now I know there are many hindrances to picking up a book and getting started: For one  it takes time, which many look for so desperately in this crazy culture of busyness that we live in. For some it is a question of what to read. Some of you might have to do a self examination to see how much time you're spending in front of the tv or in front of the computer screen For others is is just, well, I don't like to read; here is where I can sorta help I think.

I'd like to share how I gained a love for reading and how the scope of my reading over the years has widened and deepened. When I came to know the Lord as a young teenager back in the 1970's my coming to Christ touched every area of my life. I look back at my school years and I'm convinced that my teachers just passed me to the next grade level because they did not want to deal with me for another year, and that is a whole other article.

Soon after my conversion I was diagnosed with hepatitis. This diagnosis laid me up for several weeks. This is the time in my life when God gave me the opportunity to read and read I did; and have not stopped since. Kinda reminds me of the line from the movie Forest Gump, when Forest tells us, " and from that day on I just kept running."

There are so many positive things that I can say that I've gained from reading, but I'd like to talk about what I feel has been the most important of all to me. All of my reading has always brought me to see God more clearly. If I was reading about the history of the Revolutionary war there I saw God's providence in leading and guiding the founders of our Country to establish our Constitution on biblical law.

While reading about Hitler's Germany I saw evidenced the total depravity of man. The fall of man with all its effects was brought out during Hitler's push to purge Germany of all those who didn't fit into his super-race vision. Hitler's worldview was the antithesis of a Christian world view--in fact Hitler has said that Germany must be purged from the weakness and moral softness that Christianity espouses.

When reading biographies of men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer I'm humbled by a man who followed Christ which resulted in Hitler having him put to death. Bonhoeffer loved not his life over death, he followed Christ faithfully to the end. As I read Bonhoeffer I saw how God's hand is always upon his people and His providence and Sovereignty are always working for the good of His people.

All of the commentaries, theology, and written sermons that I've read over the years has created deep within me a strong and firm confidence in the God of the Bible. As the proverb says, as iron sharpens iron---the reading of Godly men has surly had this sharpening effect in my life. The reading of theology has caused me to have to think critically and think hard on what I was reading.

Let me finish with what I'd say has been my greatest experience of all---that  is the reading God's message to me; the bible. Think about what the bible is---God's mind to you and me. God has given His word to the Church so that we may know Him and live our lives in a way the pleases Him.

So exercise the gift of reading;  read a wide variety of subjects and see God at work in history and in the lives of His creation. Read God's word which will  provide you with the discernment to be able to properly interpret all other subjects and disciplines.




Thursday, August 1, 2013

How do you use your time?



Have you ever thought about how you use your time? Many of us think of our religious duty as it pertains to going to church on Sunday mornings and for some Sunday evenings. Some even make a mid-week service or attend a small group study during the week.

I did a very unscientific calculation on how much time the average Christian spends doing church---which would include Sunday mornings (avg 2 hours) and a mid-week service (avg 2 hrs), which comes to 4  hours a week, or 16 hours a month --- this is against the back drop of 168 hours in a week and 672 hours in a month.

I think that you can see where I'm going with this idea---by far the believer spends his time outside the walls of an organized church. So the question that the God of the Bible asks is how do we spend our time? Which brings me to a text of Scripture that I'd like to examine with you. Le's us look at Ephesians 5:15-17:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The Apostle Paul tells the saints at Ephesus to live a careful life---the word "walk" is used throughout the N.T. to denote how believers are to practice their Christianity. The believer is to live a morally upright life---he is to live a life that is producing the fruit of the Spirit---the believer is to be living in, and abiding in Christ. God tells us that our spiritual life's blood comes only as we abide in the True Vine.

As the believer lives a carefully guarded life in all he does, in all his thoughts, in all his motives, he will be wise and his life will be honoring to God. By contrast, those who live an unguarded life will be considered fools, not that they lack academic intelligence, but they lack moral intelligence.

In light of the evil days that we live in, in light of our deceptive culture where the god of this world is masquerading as an angel of light, Paul tell us that we are to be making the best use of our time, see v. 16. We are to use are time wisely. We are to look at time as the wind; once it blows by we can't get it back. The believer as a steward of God will be held accountable as to how he uses his time.

I'll spare you of what you should and shouldn't be doing with your time---that is the job of the Holy Spirit, and the instruction of the Word of God. My goal in writing is to show you that how you use your time is extremely important to God.

Let me pull this all together: Paul tells the believers at Ephesus that they need to be careful as to the manner in which they live their lives. One way that the believer is instructed on how to live a God honoring life is how he uses his time. In light of the evil culture that we live in we can't afford to go to sleep spiritually. We need to be alert and wise, so that we know what God's will is for our lives. The goal of all that the believer does should be the glory of God.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The niceness doctrine exposed



In today's blog I'd like to talk about the idea of niceness and how this philosophical way of living and thinking has been perpetrated on our society and has found its way into the Church. Now, as your know I try to get down to the nuts and bolts of thoughts, ideas, and meanings of words.

Most people probably are thinking what in the world is wrong with being nice? Why would anyone have a problem with such a wonderful virtue like niceness? Here is where we clear the air, so to speak. I'm looking at niceness as to a blanket acceptance of all thoughts, ideas, faith traditions, and behaviors. In our culture  tolerance, which is the brother of niceness has replaced the golden rule of loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are told through our media that to disagree with someone's lifestyle choices, or their views, say for example, one's views on abortion would make us intolerant or not nice, and who wants to be not nice or intolerant. And if you are strident in your religions beliefs or dogmatic in what you believe than the next level of accusation is the dreaded bigot label.

There is a powerful force at work in our society to steer the ship of though, belief, and ideology. And when one stands up to this powerful current that runs through the fabric of our society they better be ready to defend what they believe. Now, here is where I expose the weakness of this niceness concept; this idea that we all need to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, it is not only unhealthy, but it is outright UN-Biblical and violates all that God is.

This idea of niceness or accommodation to all thoughts and behaviors is totally foreign to the Christian world view. We should think more in terms of how we are to love, and it is here that we need to understand what God's love is like, and then seek to emulate that kind of love.

Let me offer four Biblical thoughts on love:

1.) Real love has zeal, self-sacrifice and an inherent call in it for change ( Isa. 49:15; 1Thess. 2:7-12).

2.) Love has built in to its fabric a call to "hang in there" with others, a call to walk the mile with them, a call to get into their skin (1 Cor. 13:4;1Thess.5:14).

3.) Love, loves those where they are at, but it  also seeks to lift them up and move them out of the pit ( Matt. 3:2; Gal.6:1).

4.) God's love for the unsaved comes with a story attached: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). God's love is not a blanket acceptance of our lives, but God's love is an action story whereby He loves us so much that He gave us His one and only Son.

Think on this---if we offer blanket acceptance (niceness) to others there is no need then to call them to repentance. If we make people feel good about themselves by being nice than we just confirm them in their lifestyle without bringing the humility that is needed for one to enter the Kingdom of God. If we seek to comfort others and give a false sense of security than we have confirmed them in their self-sufficiency which is the ultimate sin against God.











Monday, July 8, 2013

Could it be a heart issue?

          Could it be a heart issue?


Why does the unregenerate heart rail against God's Word? Why does the sinful nature of man become stiff necked when God's truth confronts them and knocks on their door? I think we find the answer all throughout the pages of the Bible.

It all comes down to a heart issue. No, not the physical organ that pumps life giving blood throughout your body, but who you are, your very nature, the center of your being. The Hebrews understood the heart in a much broader sense than we do in our modern western culture, but still the use of a concrete object of the heart to express an abstract idea is understood in both cultures. We in the western culture often associate the heart with emotions such as love and kindness as in, "He has a good heart". This is also true with the Hebrews who saw the heart as the seat of emotion. But unlike us they also saw the heart as the seat of thought, whereas we see the brain as the seat of thought. To the ancient Hebrews the heart was the mind including all thoughts and emotions.

Louis Isaac Rabinowitz notes,
"The rabbis adopted the biblical view that the heart is the seat of the emotions, and they applied this notion to every sphere of human action and thought." The Hebrew Bible speaks about the whole inside of man being the center of life as so aptly put by Harold Louis Ginsberg when he says,”The interior of the body is conceived of as the seat of the inner life, of feeling and thought. Strong feeling is conceived of as a stirring or heating of the intestine...."  Ginsberg tells us that even

"Gladness is a function not only of the heart (e.g., Prov. 23:15) but also of the kidneys (Prov. 23:16; cf. Jer. 12:2b)."

The picture is that the whole of man is referred to when the Bible uses the word heart: man's thoughts, emotions, and will. Getting back to the question, why does the unregenerate rail against the truth of God's word? Because he has been corrupted in his whole inner life, sin has affected his emotions, his will, and his thoughts. The picture of man’s brokenness in the Scripture is what the Reformers called Total Depravity.


Unless God gives a new nature to man he will always rebel against the truth of God's word. One of the most glorious portions of Scripture is found in Ezekiel 36:25-31. In this passage we find Israel’s restoration and national salvation. Their salvation is described as a washing in v.25, in v. 26 as the giving of a new heart, and finally in v. 27 as God putting His Spirit within them.


The answer to a rebellious hard heart is no less than getting a heart transplant. God needs to give a new heart to the unconverted so that they can then please Him and submit to Him through the authority of His word. The difference between an old heart and one who has had a heart transplant is that the new heart will delight itself in the law of the LORD Psalm 1:2



Monday, June 17, 2013

Stand tall and defend the Faith




There never seems to be a lack of false biblical teaching on any given topic or subject. Church history is replete with the onslaught of attacks against the core teachings of the Bible. Think of all the councils, confessions, and catechisms throughout church history and the fact that they were borne out of the Church's desire to protect the purity of the faith. As you go through the New Testament the writings of the Apostle Paul make up 13 out of the 27 books found in the New Testament; with a large portion of his writings dealing with the importance of fighting for the purity of doctrine.

  We find Paul refuting salvation by works; explaining the truth of justification against the false teachings of the Judaizers who taught that salvation is not attained simply by faith alone, but by faith and the work of circumcision. Paul took antinomianism head on---those who taught that since we are saved by grace we can simply go on sinning. Then there were those in the church that were teaching Jesus never rose from the dead in a real and literal resurrection---again, Paul did not back down from these false and erroneous errors that were starting to spread in the early church, but he battled against false teaching with all his might.
Martin Luther the great reformer who stood so tall during his examinations by his enemies, sounded very much like the great Apostle Paul as he defended the faith against those who would impose church rules and regulations to make salvation complete, here is Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms in 1521:


   "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."



Today, we can't be any less diligent in our fight against false teachings and errors as they creep into our churches through our leaders, popular teachers, and current books that become the current cultural rave, but we like Luther must accept the full authority of Scripture and have our consciences bound fast to its truths. We can never let our guard down, for man will never give up in his relentless pursuit to usurp his authority over the Holy Scriptures. I dare say that not all error is borne out of evil and malicious intent, but error is error nonetheless.
 






Let us be like the Berean Jews who were commended by Paul in the book of Acts for searching the Scriptures daily so they could verify what was being taught to them. The battle for truth will never end; it will be a constant fight until the day our Lord takes us home.
 My admonishment to the Church and my fellow  believers is to study the Scriptures, become a student of God's word, learn to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him; and when error is detected confront it and do not back down---you can stand on the shoulders of the great ones who have gone on before us



















Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What is man?


What is man asks Job (7:17)? The Psalmist asks the same question, "what is man that thou art mindful of him" (8:4)?  In Mark Twain's "The Old Man"--- the old man and the young man had been conversing and  the old Man had asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more.

Man has been trying to figure this question out since the beginning of time. Philosophers of all stripes have tried to answer this question and it has stumped them all. Some philosophers see man in all things such as Confucius when he says, "and remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Sylvia Plath took a philosophical jab at the question when she noted, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart.  I am.  I am.  I am."  Walt Witman, took his turn in trying to figure out who we are when he notes in his poem Leaves of Grass, he says, "The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual - namely to You."

So, who are we? why do we exist? why are we here? what is our purpose? It is my belief that only Christianity provides the answers to the questions "who is man" and "what is his purpose?" Christianity answers these questions with clear and unambiguous language. Christianity purports to have God's revelation of Himself and His answers to the the questions of man's purpose. The Church claims to have God's revelation given to us as found in the Bible, all sixty-six books, written over a period of some sixteen hundred years with  over fort different authors.

We find in the first book in God's revelation to us that man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). We see purpose for man as he was to care for the earth and all living things (Genesis 1:26-30). We see that man was to live in relationship with his wife (Genesis 2:18) and man was to walk in constant communion with his Creator God (Genesis 3:8).

We were created to live for the glory of our creator. As man moves away from the purpose and design of his Creator man loses his identity and purpose for life. As man moves away from the source of life and light, he drifts closer and closer to the darkness of despair and doom, he moves away from life and lives in emptiness and hopelessness, ever trying to satisfy that inner desire to be happy, contented, and at rest. Man will flounder and fail as he seeks to fill his life with things other than the God of peace and life.

The ultimate failure of man is that he tries to fill the God vacuum with the things of this life---while our creator tells us that we must be in relationship with Him in order to experience true inner rest and peace. Since the fall (man's disobedience to God) the bridge has been burnt, and man has become spiritually dead with no way of rescuing himself. Humanity is lost and separated from the source of life and light.

The central teaching of the Bible is that God has built a bridge between Himself and sinful disobedient man---Jesus is the mediator, Jesus provides redemption for man, and the call in Scripture is to come, look to that bridge (Jesus) and humbly thank God for His provision to restore man and bring him back into relationship with Himself.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I did it my way, somethimes not a good thing!


What happened at the fall? No, not when you tripped on the sidewalk down town, not when you fell off your bike or fell out of the tree house when you were a little tike, but the fall that is recorded for us in the first book of the O.T.

The first disobedience of man against God is recorded for us in Genesis 3, this "act of disobedience" has become known as the fall. The concept of the fall is extrapolated from an exegesis of Genesis chapter 3. The word fall is not recorded in the Genesis account, but it has become the normative name for identifying what happened after man's disobedience to God's direct rule over Adam and Eve.

Let's focus on the effect of the fall. There are a myriad of thoughts, ideas, and biblical concepts that can be dug out of Genesis chapter 3's account of man's disobedience to God, but I would like to take just one effect of the fall, and I believe it is to be front and center. Think first about what kind of relationship Adam and Eve shared with their creator before the fall: close communion, friendship, the creator's protection and provision, all of the things that are good and wholesome. Adam and Eve lived in the paradise that we see continually trying to be recaptured by Hollywood, romance novels, and yes even certain philosophies of government where man is told that he can have heaven or paradise here and now.

The devastating effect of the fall was that man would now live autonomous from his God and creator. The state of living in communion and dependence on God was gone, the state of living in innocence and purity was gone, the paradise that they so enjoyed would now see weeds and erosion, the joy of living with God would now be replaced with the devilish and hellish seed of man's motto for life, " I'll do it my way."

This effect of the fall is echoed throughout the entire Bible with language like Isaiah's when he tells us that we are all like sheep who have gone astray and turned to our own way (53:5), and again, Daniel uses the same language when he tells us that we have turned away from God's plan and purpose for our lives (9:5), and even Jeremiah the prophet speaks of our  rebelling; and sinning against our creator and God (14:7).

This is the effect of the fall; we have fallen away from dependence on God and have replaced that dependence with the mother of all sins---self-sufficiency. This sin is the weight on the ankles of all men, it is the weight that will pull all men down to the pit to live eternally in such a separated condition from the King and Creator of all life.

As the old hymn tells us:

  • I was sinking deep in sin,
      Far from the peaceful shore,
      Very deeply stained within,
      Sinking to rise no more;
      But the Master of the sea
      Heard my despairing cry,
      From the waters lifted me,
      Now safe am I.
  • Love lifted me!
    Love lifted me!
    When nothing else could help,
    Love lifted me.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Labels


    Why I'm a Calvinist! I'll admit, I'm one who does not like labels, and for sure there is something pure and simple about just answering with well, "I'm a just a Christian." We see no such labels in the the Bible, but we do see that they were called Christians in the book of Acts. Even the Catholic Church rails against Protestantism for all our divisions and labels.

    An extremely interesting study would be to look at Church history and discover where all the different streams of denominations come from. One of my favorite classes when I was studying for my masters degree was a class on church history. We diagramed and outlined many of today's denominations and their founders with the history behind each one, quite interesting! 

    So, why do we have a myriad of different denominations with different teaching and contrasting ways of doing church? Short answer, most all denominations started as a reaction to something that was askew in the church, so to answer the error another denominational sect was founded.

    Let me now get back to my question, why do I label myself a Calvinist and not just a Christian? Or why not just label myself a Biblicist? that certainly covers all the bases.  Here is why I think of myself as a Calvinist, with the plethora of denominations and sects within Protestant Christianity, the label or tag of Calvinist distinguishes or qualifies my belief system. Now, I know that in our post-modern culture distinguishing yourself by what you believe is akin to blasphemy. It is like poison, and to be avoided at all costs, but what we believe about the Bible, Jesus Christ, redemption, salvation, justification matter to God, and doctrine is the foundation for the life of the believer.

    The Apostle Paul while addressing young Timothy gives instruction on how the people of God are to conduct themselves as the Church, he tells Timothy, "If am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church is the "pillar and foundation of the truth," pretty awesome responsibility that the Chruch is to place on her shoulders and carry---to protect the truth, to keep the truth, and to proclaim the truth, yes doctrine matters and matters supremely to God.

    I call myself a Calvinist because the body of truth that Calvinism teaches captures God's plan to redeem his people in the most Biblical way. The teaching on soteriology that Calvinism purports is Christ honoring and exegetes the Scriptures in an honest and academic way, making the best use of grammer, historical context, and applies the rules of hermeneutics in the most precise way.

    Today's blog does not go into the details of Calvinism, just lays out my position on why I align myself with the teachings of Calvinism.

                                          Colossians 3:17 

     "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."


    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Mission = Gospel


    The mission of the Church comes up in many a conversation. How do we make sense of social justice, community/relationship building, doctrinal truth, and the Great Commission? Remember, we are the Church, the Church is not some abstract idea or building with steeples and bells, or is it an organization that is to maximize its resources in order to grow the organization.

    Let me cut to the quick, I say this without any qualifications, or without any apologies, the one thing that the Church is to be (in terms of mission) is that she is to be proclaiming the gospel in all she does, she is to be a gospel community. The gospel you say? well, isn't that helping people, and building relationships? wouldn't that include being involved in the sex slave trade movement?

    It seems whenever we speak or write we need to make sure that we are all on the same page or at least playing in the same ball park. Defining our words and our Bible talk is extremely important in a post-christian culture. I'd purport that anyone who is even halfway Biblical literate would conclude that the focal point in the book of Acts (the history of the early christian church), would be the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The Apostle Paul told us that he was not sent or commissioned to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). Paul again repeats this theme of the importance of the gospel when he writes his letter to the Church at Corinth, he says, "... it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe ( 1 Cor. 1:21). Paul then speaks of the gospel as the means of salvation when he says that the gospel is the power of God that leads to salvation see (Rom. 1:16).

    So what was this gospel that the early church preached, and that the Apostle Paul was so emphatic about? Well, Gilbert Beebe gives us a good workable definition when he states, "the Greek word "evanggelion" is translated "gospel" in the King James Version. This word, together with its rendering of "good tidings," glad tidings" and "preach the gospel" occurs some one hundred and eight times in the New Testament, none of which intimate anything less than "finished redemption" in Christ" http://www.pristinegrace.org/media.php?id=366.

    Good news, glad tidings,--- that Jesus the Messiah has accomplished redemption for His people, the price has been paid at the cross, victory was evidenced through the miracle of the resurrection, this is the good news for the sinner who was under the curse of the laws penalty. Jesus rescued His people, He accomplished their salvation when He cried from the cross, "it is finished."

    So if the gospel is anything we know that it is this: The proclamation of the good news, the glad tidings, that Jesus has provided redemption for those who were once separated from God because of their sin. Eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, this is the message the church carries to the world, for she has the words of eternal life.

                                                             Go, tell it on the mountain,
                                                             Over the hills and everywhere
                                                             Go, tell it on the mountain,
                                                            That Jesus Christ is born

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Make your calling and election sure!


    One thing that seems to get overlooked in the Christian life is the practice of self examination. The most important point of self examination is for the believer to know that he is truly the Lords---or in the words of of Peter, "making your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).

    Throughout the pages of the Bible we are confronted with the reality of false professions, false prophets, and those who are self-deceived. Jesus says, "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, see Matthew 7: 21. Again, this issue is addressed by our Lord in the gospel of  Mark when he says, " Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not what I say?" (6:46), the implication of what our Lord is saying is that there will be those who think they are His, but in reality they are not---this is the group of people who will hear the dreadful words from our Lord, "depart from me, for I never knew you" (Matt. 7: 23).

    One of the dangers in our churches today is the profusion of a teaching called "easy- believism," you might be saying, "what is easy- believism?" So that question should get answered. First, let me say that any deviation from the gospel the Apostle Paul preached is to be avoided and is to be considered heresy, see Galatians 1:8 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse."

    Easy-believism certainly falls under the heading of "another gospel!" I'll make this as simple as possible, for one, easy-believism's emphasis is on "the decision" that one makes. This emphasis on the "decision" leads to making salvation man centered instead of God centered. A decision for Christ does not save us, if the decision saved us then salvation would be considered a human work, and we know from Paul's teaching in his letter to the Church at Ephesus that we are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves (2: 8-9).

    When we place our faith in the "decision" we are  indeed placing our faith in something "other" than God's work of regeneration in the sinners soul. Apart from God regenerating the dead, blind, and spiritually deaf sinner they would never come to faith (or a decision).

    There is much more that can be said about the dangers of easy-believism, but for now just the understanding that this heretical teaching emphasizes man's decision for salvation while ignoring the work of God in the sinners heart should be enough.

    So how does one examine himself/herself to make their calling and election sure, or really know if they are saved? How does one examine their lives to make sure that they are truly the Lords? and  avoid hearing those dreadful words on the day of judgement; " I never knew you, depart from me."

    Any self-examination must start with what you believe about the gospel as taught in the Holy Scriptures:
    1. Dispel any notion that a decision saves you.

    2. Stop trusting in your decision and understand that salvation is completely a work of God.
    3. Get an understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of regeneration.
    4. Know what the Bible teaches about salvation: regeneration, justification, conversion, sanctification etc.
    5. Humble yourself before God and ask Him to show you where your trust is being placed? And if you have your trust in anything other than the Cross of Jesus ask God to grant you repentance and cling to the cross as your only hope of salvation.

    Self-examination must also include looking at the fruit in your life:1. Jesus told us by their fruits you will know them (that you are His).
    2. Sanctification is the evidence that regeneration has truly taken place in your life.

    3. Do you have new desires and new motives?
    4. Do you seek and desire to do God's will (as revealed in the Holy Scriptures)?

    5. Does disobedience to God's revealed will bring deep grief  and repentance into your life?

    Go into your prayer closet and do some good old detective work and see if their is the evidence in your life that would indicate that you are a Child of God. This is one of the most important disciplines that one could ever practice---in fact, your eternity depends on it!












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