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Archive for the ‘Doctrine’ Category

Who Does He Think He Is?

posted by FBC Elder
Feb 1

Who Does He Think He Is?        

(Frank Hall)

 

“Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with what is My own?” Matthew 20:15

 

How dare people walk their pets on leashes to control them!

How dare parents force their children to obey their rules!

How dare employers insist that their employees do their jobs!

How dare governors rule over the people!

How dare policemen take criminals to jail without their permission!

 

How dare God have His way with His creatures!

How dare the Potter make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor!

How dare God love and hate whom He will!

How dare God the Father choose to save whom He will!

How dare God the Son die for whom He will!

How dare God the Spirit call whom He will!

How dare the Almighty have His way with all men, in all places, at all times!

How dare God save and damn whom He will!

How dare God judge us!

How dare God call us into question!

How dare the indisputable Sovereign of the universe do . . .   what He pleases,   when He pleases,   where He pleases,   how He pleases, and   with whom He pleases!

 

Who does He think He is – God?

“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases!” Psalm 115:3

“I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!” Psalm 135:5-6

“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: What have You done?” Daniel 4:35



The Bible Story:;

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

A friend of mine has been known to encourage me to produce my own study Bible. Happily, his vision for my study Bible isn’t quite the mammoth undertaking that putting together a real study Bible is. He suggests that my Bible just have a few notes, repeated over and over again. Things like, “See this promise? Believe it.” Or, “This sinner in this story—he’s just like you. Learn to see yourself in the Bible’s great sinners.” These two themes—that we need to learn to believe more fully, down to our toes, the promises of God, and that we need to come to a more potent, existential awareness of our sins and our weaknesses—are a big deal to me. The themes find their way regularly into my writing and into my teaching.

That, in itself, is not a bad thing. Wisdom calls us to recognize, as much as we are able, our own peculiar callings. If God gives you a cannon, He expects you to fire it. There is, however, also a danger. Just as it has been said that to the man with a hammer everything can look like a nail, so when we come to the Bible with our pet passions we will find ourselves tempted to see things in the text that aren’t there, and to miss things in the text that are there. We will show ourselves workmen who need to be ashamed for mishandling the Word of God.

There are, of course, metanarratives to go along with biblical narratives. A narrative, simply put, is a story. A metanarrative is a storythattranscends stories. It is the overarching story. The Boston Tea Party is a narrative. America as a fearless bastion of freedom—that’s a metanarrative. The two, of course intersect, just as they do in the Bible. Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah is a story that illumines the metanarrative of substitutionary atonement and of fathers sacrificing sons (see also John 3:16). Nathan’s confrontation of David is a story that illumines the metanarrative of blindness to sin.

Because there are metanarratives, we are wise to see them in the narratives we read. But because there are many, we need to be careful not to put square narratives into round metanarratives. Trouble is, because there is more than one metanarrative, we face the temptation to seek out the metametanarrative, the story that transcends the stories that transcend.

Consider covenant theology and dispensational theology. These big-picture interpretative grids are so broad, so all-encompassing that each side often finds itself struggling to correct the other. Our differences are so foundational, touching on how we understand all of God’s Word that we seemingly have nothing to do but talk past each other. We can’t walk inside each other’s shoes because we’re walking in opposite directions. I have my own convictions on the issue, strong ones. But I’m not afraid to confess that I am virtually uncorrectable from my friends on the other side, simply because this is such a foundational issue.

Which makes me long for an unimpeachable answer, a meta-meta-metanarrative that comes from the lips of Jesus Himself. Is it just possible that all the Bible’s stories about substitution, about covering, about creation, fall, redemption, about covenant are subsumed under one grand story? Perhaps so. What if, in the end, it were all about the kingdom? What if that is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”? What if He was clueing us in on the big picture? What if the dominion mandate, the Great Commission, the promise that all things are being brought into submission to the reign of Christ—what if these were all the one great story?

This doesn’t, of course, undo the other stories in the Bible. It’s still true that the Bible is the story of Jesus’ rescuing not the beautiful princess, but the ugly hag. But in doing so, He secures a queen for His kingdom. It doesn’t undo His death and resurrection for us. But in doing so, He wins citizens for His kingdom. It doesn’t undo creation–fall–re-creation. But it affirms that God created a kingdom, Adam failed to rule it, and Jesus now succeeds where the first Adam failed.

When Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom, He isn’t turning sanctification, evangelism, sound doctrine, atonement, and meeting the needs of widows and orphans into secondary matters. Rather, He is telling us why we pursue these things, the end for which they exist. It is affirming the forest that helps us understand the trees.

There is, however, one more step. The Bible is only penultimately the story of the kingdom. For the glorious truth is that the kingdom exists for the sake of the King. The Bible is Jesus’ story from beginning to end. He is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible, even as He is the Alpha and Omega of history. We understand history, we understand the Bible, therefore, only insofar as we understand Jesus. That is what each is for: to show us the glory of the Only Begotten, to the everlasting praise of the Father. May we never, in all our study, lose sight of Him.


Nov 23

Delighting in God!  

(James Smith, 1842)

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart!” Psalm 37:4

Delighting in worldly things effectually prevents our delighting in God. Therefore it is often the case, that the Lord strips us of these things, or incapacitates us to enjoy them in order to bring us back to delight in Himself.

He delights in His people and He desires that His people to delight in Him. In order to accomplish this, He has revealed Himself in the most amiable characters, as . . .

a Husband;

a Friend;

a Brother;

a Savior;

a Shepherd, and so forth –

all on purpose to endear Himself to us!

 

Surely if our hearts were right we would delight in Him on account of . . .

His glorious perfections;

His unalterable love;

the perfect atonement made for our sins;

the promises made for our comfort and encouragement;

the gift of the Holy Spirit;

the communion we are urged to hold with Himself;

and the glorious paradise of blessedness set before us where we shall forever . . .

view the unfolding of His glories,

enjoy the riches of His grace, and

drink of the river of His pleasures!

 

Sick Christian, Jesus bids you to delight in Him!

Delight in Him as your Savior, Friend, and Brother!

Delight in His person and glories!

Delight in His perfect work!

Delight in His glorious fullness!

Delight in your salvation in Him, union to Him, and claim upon Him.

Oh, delight in Jesus!

You will have no permanent peace or solid satisfaction, but as you are delight in Him, and rejoice in Him, saying, “You are my portion, O Lord!”

 

He who delights in God has the desires of His heart because they are in accordance with the purpose, promise, and pleasure of God.

The mind is thrown into the mold of God’s mind, and the soul cries from its inmost recesses, “Not my will, but may Your will be done!” Its pleasures are spiritual, permanent, and satisfactory. The desire for earthly things becomes very contracted a little of the things of this poor world will satisfy a soul that is delighting in Jehovah.

Delighting in God always produces resignation and holy contentment. Whatever they have they enjoy it as the undeserved gift of God; and they feel obligated and thankful for all. They would rather be conformed to God’s will than have their own will. They know that His appointments are best because they are infinitely wise, holy, and gracious. They can say, “I trust in You, O Lord, for You are my God! My times are in Your hand!” They find that godliness with contentment is great gain; and say with one of old, “The little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked!” “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil.”

The presence, the promise, and the smile of God are to them inestimably valuable; but other things are not so important. They seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other necessary things are added unto them. They live at the fountain when all the streams are dried up! They delight in God when creatures fade and wither!

O Lord! I would delight in Thee,

And on Your care depend;

To You in every trouble flee,

My best, my only Friend!

No good in creatures can be found,

But may be found in Thee;

I must have all things and abound,

While God is God to me!


Oct 15

Adoption and Spiritual Warfare

15 June 2015

 

This post was adapted from Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice by Russell Moore.

 

 

You Are Loved:

The couple looked familiar to me as I saw them approaching, smiling, pushing a stroller toward me, but I couldn’t place their names. It was the annual summer meeting of my denomination, so I was used to renewing old acquaintances from all over the country.

The husband was the first to speak, and he told me that he and his wife had met with me about adoption a few years earlier when they were students at the seminary I served. They wanted me to see the little boy they had adopted, from a former Soviet state. I knelt down to talk with the little fellow as he shyly curled back in his seat. The little boy had beautiful olive skin coloring, looked as though he had Arabic or perhaps Persian roots, and had cute little chubby cheeks. As I played peekaboo with the little boy, I asked the parents if they’d had any trouble with bureaucracy along the way.

“The only problem we had was with the judge,” the wife said. “The judge thought there was some mistake that we’d want this child because he’s dark skinned. The judge said no one would want a child like that and that there were plenty of light-skinned babies available. He just couldn’t believe that we would want him and almost treated us as though we were up to something shady because we did.”

I wasn’t expecting that, and as I stroked this little boy’s cheek, those words struck me: “No one would ever want a child like that.” I picked him up from his stroller and hugged him, hoping I wouldn’t start crying in front of my denominational peers walking up and down the corridor of the convention hall. “You’re loved and wanted,” I told him. “Isn’t that great?”

After I finished the conversation with the family and went back to the relative inanity of voting on resolutions and motions on the convention floor, I couldn’t get the horror of that situation off my mind. How could a judge sit in his chair and deem that lovable child to be unworthy of love simply because of the shade of his skin? What kind of backward Philistines were they dealing with in that courtroom?

And then I remembered that my denomination, in whose deliberations I then sat, was formed in a dispute with other American Christians over the slavery of other human beings because of the color of their skin. And my people had been on the slaveholders’ side. Previous generations of preachers just like me (indeed probably some related to me) had argued that some children were unworthy of freedom because of the shade of their skin. My own ancestors had seen to it that children of a darker skin than themselves were made orphans. As the resolutions flew around the convention hall about “the sanctity of marriage,” I realized that previous generations of preachers in this very same context had propped up a system in which parents couldn’t marry legally because that would make it more difficult to sell them individually when necessary.

A similar story could be told a billion times over in virtually every human society throughout history. There seems to be an orphan-making urge among us, whether we see it in the slave culture of centuries past or the divorce culture of today. But where does it come from?

 

Satan’s Rage Against Christ and Children:

It’s not just impersonal economic and sociological factors at work. “The course of this world” is driven along by “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Jesus showed his disciple John what the story behind the story is. It’s the picture of a woman giving birth to “a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). Crouching before this woman’s birth canal is a dragon, the Serpent of old, who seeks to “devour” the baby (Rev. 12:4). That dragon then “became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17) and has done so ever since.

The demonic powers hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes their head (Gen. 3:15). They know the human race is saved—and they’re vanquished—by a woman giving birth (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15). They are grinding apart Jesus’s brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:40). They are also destroying the very picture of newness of life and of dependent trust that characterizes life in the kingdom of Christ (Matt. 18:4). Children also mean blessing—a perfect target for those who seek only to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

But Satan always uses human passions to bring about his purposes. When new life stands in the way of power—whether that power is a Pharaoh’s military stability or a community leader’s reputation in light of his teenage daughter’s pregnancy—the blood of children often flows. Herod loved his power, so he raged against babies. In the middle of all of this stood Joseph, an unlikely demon wrestler.

Far More than Charity:

The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps.

It’s spiritual warfare.

Our God forbids Israel from offering their children to Molech, a demon-god who demands the violent sacrifice of human babies (Lev. 20:1–5). Indeed, he denounces Molech by name. He further warns that he will cut off from the people of God not only the one who practiced such sacrifice but also all who “at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech” (Lev. 20:4). Behind Molech, God recognizes, there is one who is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

The spirit of Molech is at work among us even now. Even as you read this page, there are bones of babies being ground to unrecognizable bits, perhaps even a few short miles from where you’re sitting. There are babies lying in garbage receptacles waiting to be taken away as “medical waste.” These infants won’t have names until Jesus calls them out for the first time. There are little girls waiting in Asia for a knock at the door, for an American businessman who’s paid a pimp to be able to sexually assault them. There are children staring out the window of a social worker’s office, rubbing their bruises as they hear their mother tell the police why she’ll never do it again.

Aborted babies can’t say, “Abba.” But the Father hears their cries anyway. Do we?

The universe is at war, and some babies and children are on the line. The old Serpent is coiled right now, his tongue flicking, watching for infants and children he can consume. One night two thousand years ago, all that stood in his way was one reluctant day laborer who decided to be a father.

 

 

Russell D. Moore is the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. A widely-sought commentator, Dr. Moore has been called “vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate” by the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, Tempted and Tried, and Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice, and he blogs regularly at RussellMoore.com. He and his wife, Maria, have four sons.


The Pope Was Here!

posted by FBC Elder
Oct 1

I keep reading in the news and fb posts and hearing conversations a great deal regarding the visit of the Roman Catholic Pope to the United States. I am especially concerned that I keep hearing doctrinal confusion from professing evangelical Christians as to his teaching and that of his church. Are we to welcome him as a teacher of truth or heretic? Do we call him a brother in Christ or one outside the family of God? Basically was there any real reason for the Reformation other than non-essential differences that that we should lovingly agree to disagree over? Perhaps all the Reformation was about were mere preferences in form of worship and church polity, etc. What is the heart of the matter anyways? As so often, for me anyway, John Piper gets to the heart of the matter. This is not the only important doctrinal area for certain, but it is the heart of the matter! Yes, the Reformation was important and the basic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church has not changed on this issue! Please read with genuine love and with a sincere heart that all men might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

If You Had Two Minutes to Talk With the Pope, What Would You Say to Him?:

December 15, 2009; by John Piper; Topic: World Religions

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

If you had two minutes to talk with the pope, what would you say to him?

O my, I have never asked myself that question at all.

I would say, “Could you just, in one minute, explain your view of justification?” And then on the basis of his one minute, I would give my view of justification.

I think Rome and Protestantism are not yet ready — I don’t think the Reformation is over. I don’t think that enough change has happened in Roman understanding of justification, and a bunch of other things.

I’m just picking justification because it’s so close to the center. You could pick papal authority or the nature of the mass or the role of sacraments or the place of Mary.

But those seem to be maybe a little more marginal than going right to the heart of the issue of, “Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes? Do you teach that?”

And if he said, “No, we don’t,” then I’d say, “I think that right at the core of Roman Catholic theology is a heresy,” or something like that.

 

 

Clarifying My Words About Roman Catholic “Heresy” ;

March 14, 2013; by John Piper; Topic: Justification

A few years ago, I was asked on camera what I would say to the Pope if I had two minutes with him. I said I would ask him what he believed about justification. The video ended with me putting the question to the Pope and then responding as follows:

“Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes? Do you teach that?”

And if he said, “No, we don’t,” then I’d say, “I think that right at the core of Roman Catholic theology is a heresy,” or something like that.

“Heresy” is a strong word. The problem with it is that its meaning and implications are not clear. Dictionary.com defines heresy, for example, as:

  1. opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.
  2. any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.

You can see how fluid such definitions are.

So what did I mean in the video?

I meant that the rejection of 1) the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as an essential part of the basis of our justification, and 2) the doctrine that good works necessarily follow justification but are not part of its ground — the rejection of those truths is a biblical error so close to the heart of the gospel that, when consistently worked out, will undermine saving faith in the gospel.

The reason for saying, “when consistently worked out,” is because I think it is possible to inconsistently deny the truth of imputation while embracing other aspects of the gospel (blood bought forgiveness, and propitiation, for example), through which God mercifully saves.

I am thankful that God is willing to save us even when our grasp of the gospel may be partial or defective. None of us has a comprehensive or perfect grasp of it.

Nevertheless, God’s mercy is not a warrant to neglect or deny precious truths, especially those that are at the heart of how we get right with God. And the teachers of the church (notably the Pope) will be held more responsible than others for teaching what is fully biblical.

Thus, any church whose teaching rejects the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as an essential ground for our justification would be a church whose error is so close to the heart of the gospel as to be involved in undermining the faith of its members.

 

 


Aug 1

The Preeminence of Jesus Christ!

{Colossians 1:15-18}

 

Question:          “What is the chief end of man?”

Great Answer:               “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

More Precise Answer:             “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever by exalting, loving, and serving the Lord Jesus Christ for whom the entire universe was created.”

 

Goodin, Douglas (2012). Exalted: Putting Jesus in His Place (p. 4). Cross to Crown Ministries.


Searching for God!

posted by FBC Elder
Jul 1

Searching For God

February, 2015 / Anthony Delucia

Have you ever played the Google Search Game? It’s where you start typing a phrase into Google and take a look at the search recommendations it gives back to you. The suggestions are based on actual searches done by others. For instance, if you go to Google and type in “Why do babies” into the search box; Google will suggest that you might be searching for, “Why do babies cry” or “Why do babies sleep so much” or “Why do babies drool”. Likewise, if you entered the phrase “Why do women”, then you’ll see more varied suggestions; from very serious ones like, “Why do women cheat” and “Why do women stay in abusive relationships” to more humorous ones like “Why do women play Peter Pan”.

But when you type in the phrase “Why does God”, then the suggestions are rather telling. Here are the suggestions Google recommended:

“Why does God allow suffering?”

“Why does God let bad things happen?”

“Why does God hate me?”

These questions pretty much sum up the entire collective depraved human heart as it exists in every nonbeliever right now. They show that people have no idea who God really is. They’ve been blinded to truth, and the gospel is but a word to them. But let’s see if we can give them some answers.

Why does God allow suffering?

Right at the outset, the question is flawed because it implies that God’s role is a passive one. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is active, not passive. In fact, God is the only one who is completely independent from everything else. God was not created, He is the Creator. From every star and every galaxy, to every atom and subatomic particle, as well as the forces that hold it all together; God created and maintains it all.

Jeremiah 10:12-13

He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His direction. When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”

John 1:3

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

God is always at work. Jesus Himself tells us this when He spoke to the Jews saying, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). Nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign will. God is active, and God is acting, and God’s actions have purpose. That would mean that God does not allow suffering, He has a purpose for it. The better question would be, ‘What is God’s purpose for suffering?’. Next question…

Why does God let bad things happen?

The first thing you would have to ask here is, what do you consider a bad thing? How do you distinguish it from good things, and what is your standard for doing so? Another way you might find this question phrased is, ‘Why does God let bad things happen to good people?’. And again, I would ask how do you decide which things are good, and which things are bad? The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus saying “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17), but Jesus answered him saying, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18). Paul reminds us of this in the book of Romans:

Romans 3:10-12

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.”

It would seem clear that the standard is God. God is good. There are no good or innocent people to be found on earth. All of us have turned away from God. Just as we’re told later in the book of Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). It’s sin that has come into the world; that has also corrupted all of creation. The sin of Adam, which has been carried all the way down to each and every one of us, is the source of all bad and evil things. All pain, all disease, all treachery, all hatred, all lust,.. all of these things are a result of our sin. And sin is what separates us from God, and so all our acts that are not done in faith are sin, and so, are also bad. That’s how you define ‘bad’. To ask why God allows bad things to happen is to ask why God doesn’t wipe us all from the face of the earth for continuing to disobey and turn away from Him with such spitefulness? Last question…

Why does God hate me?

There are many who would answer this question by saying, ‘God doesn’t hate you,.. He loves you!’. But we have to be very careful not to go outside what is defined for us in scripture. In fact, although the love of God is talked about in many ways; in most translations of scripture the phrase, ‘God loves you’ is nowhere to be found.

Many people would stop me here and bring up very popular verses like John 3:16:

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

But what is this verse saying? ‘God so loved the world’; “the world” doesn’t mean “all people”. We know that because we have the rest of the verse to explain “that whoever believes in Him should not perish”; which would mean that all those who do not believe in Him will perish in hell. It’s almost like me saying that I love baseball. That doesn’t mean that I love all teams and all players. Actually, if I were to say the phrase ‘I love baseball’, then the next question I’d likely be asked is, ‘What is your favorite team’?

God loves the world He created, but the world as He created it was a world without death or sin. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve broke God’s command that the curse of death came into it. But continue the verse, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,’. God didn’t love the world to let those who live in it do whatever they want. He didn’t love the world, and so decide to forgive everyone of their sins. God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus Christ here, so that He could give His life, and take upon Himself the wrath that God had stored up for us. And why did God do this? “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But read those verses carefully. “Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8), “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). Christ didn’t die to save everyone, but He sacrificed Himself so that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and [He] will raise [them] up on the last day” (John 6:40). Christ made it clear when He said “I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14 & 15). So who are Christ’s sheep? Whoever repents of his sins and trusts in the name Jesus as the only way to salvation; those are His sheep.

Acts 17:30

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.

If God hates you, it’s because you do not believe in Him. You have turned away from Him and have disobeyed His commands. You hate Him. But if you’re reading this right now, and you know that I’m describing you, then God still commands you. Repent, and put your trust in Jesus. If you do that, you will be saved. If you will not believe, and reject the gospel, and reject Jesus, then you are condemned already.

Acts 17:31

Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

Romans 2:5-8

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath

So what are you searching for? If it’s another excuse to disbelieve the promises of Him who is unchanging and unshakable; then I’m sure you’ll come up with something. But if you are truly seeking truth, and salvation, then look no further than Christ on the cross. Yes, there is death there, but there is life too. The question is, is it your death, or the death of Christ that leads to life everlasting? I’ll be praying for you.

John 11:25

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Amen!!

 


#Gospel

posted by FBC Elder
Jun 15

Twitter Gospel;

by John Johnson

In a world of sound bites, Instagram, #, and Twitter, we have become really good at saying as much as possible in the fewest words. We have become highly effective reductionists. The more I look at my faith, particularly as an evangelical, the more I realize we have done the same in our spiritual practice. We have reduced worship to preliminaries, message, and invitation, washing out much of the weighty and scriptural aspects of historic worship. In reaction to the more liturgical, we have condensed communion to a wafer, a mini-cup, and a 30 second reflective memorial moment. Worst of all, we have diminished the gospel to an add-on altar call. We really have earned the title, “Church Lite.”

It’s the gospel part that has gotten my attention as of late. I grew up with altar calls and gospel tracts. They were designed to simplify and reduce the gospel message to a three minute presentation. I carried the Four Laws in my pocket through my college years, sharing the message whenever opportunities arose. All of this was reinforced in a national youth ministry I was a part of, where I was exposed to hundreds of messages that preached “the gospel” and called for immediate decisions. Unfortunately, many of those decisions did not stick.

I am still in ministries that underscore the importance of the gospel. Christ and the gospel are central to my faith. I am part of a seminary that refers to itself as “gospel centered.” I work with people who are committed to The Gospel Coalition. But while it serves as a sort of badge of authenticity (Gospel-Centered Preaching, Gospel-Centered Worship, Gospel-Centered Church, Gospel-Centered Parking Lot, etc.), I wonder if we, in all too many ministries, have compromised the larger meaning of the gospel. Recent books raise similar concerns, including Darrell Bock’s Recovering the Real Lost Gospel, N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News, and Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel. These are important reads, each underscoring that, in too many cases, we have reduced the gospel to 140 characters or less; worse, we have extracted the gospel from its context.

Defining the gospel is not as easy as people would suggest. Is the gospel reserved only for the New Testament? Does it begin and end with Jesus? Is there gospel in books like Genesis or Jeremiah? Can you really say Ecclesiastes is gospel centered? It depends upon how we use the word. When Jesus preached the gospel (e.g., Mark 1:14, “Jesus went…proclaiming the gospel), did it sound anything like what we call the gospel? What does “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” mean? When you read Paul’s gospel presentations in Acts, do they correspond to what we often preach?

In too many cases, we have reduced the gospel to a tweet, an altar call, a tack on prayer, a salvation formula. It amounts to a decision that typically does not lead the hearer to become a disciple—but simply gets one saved. Some of my congregants expect an altar call, but did Jesus give altar calls? He clearly called us to go and make disciples, but I am not certain He ever called us to go and make decisions.

Many of the gospel presentations in my growing up amounted to an arrangement to get our fire insurance papers in order—freeing us to get back to life. Dallas Willard refers to this definition of gospel as “sin management.” This presumes a Christ with no serious work other than redeeming humankind, and it fosters ‘vampire Christians,’ who only want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven. But this sells the gospel way short.

In our reductionist ways, our “gospel invitations” have thinned out the larger framework. And we wonder why people are confused. It’s like reading John 3:16 without first reading the encounter with Nicodemus. There is a necessary context. We miss the fact that the gospel does not begin with the Cross—it does not even begin with Jesus. It’s is part of a larger good news message. Look back at the gospel presentations of Jesus or Stephen or Paul, and one notices they always started from the beginning. When Jesus shared the gospel in His hometown, He began with Isaiah (Lk 4:18). In Stephen’s address, he began with, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham…” (Acts 7:2). When Paul shared the gospel in Antioch Pisidia, he opened with the words, “The God of this people Israel chose our forefathers…” (Acts 13:17). They never preached a formula. They always went back to the roots. They set a context for a message that would have otherwise made no sense. They seemed to say, “Do you want to hear the gospel? Sit down. It will take a while.”

To preach the gospel is to tell an ongoing story of God’s pursuit of man, one that continues to be played out. It begins with the good news of Genesis (we are created in His image to govern the world). It has to start here. It moves to the good news that though we usurped His authority, He created a nation to be His rescue plan—to be His good news and His light (Isa 42). And even though Israel preferred her own king, God did not give up on us, but sent His Son to fulfill the promises of Israel and declare His rule (Matt 4). And though man has still sought to commandeer God’s supremacy at every turn, even putting the King of kings to death, God used this death to pay the price for our failure. And the really good news is that His death also served to conquer sin and death, affirmed by His resurrection. And He is presently working through His church to call men to repentance, back to their original design, and back to governing this world for Him.

So what is the gospel? It is the good news of God’s stubborn love, which can only be understood by telling the story. It is the good news that He has won the victory, which is the very nature of the word euangellion. It is bad news for those who still insist on being their own god, which explains the deep aversion many have towards the gospel. It is what we are called to preach, defend, live out, and live in a worthy manner (Phil 1:27). Maybe it is time we stop reducing the gospel to a transaction, like a lot of other things in culture. Tweets and formulas have their place, but not when it comes to preaching God’s good news. Until we do it right, our culture will be confused, unimpressed, and unmoved.

John Johnson | April 22, 2015 at 8:49 am | Tags: altar calls, gospel tracks, Gospel-centered, sin management, The Gospel Coalition, what is the gospel? | Categories: Bible, Culture, Discipleship, Featured, Gospel-Centered, Ministry, Teaching, the gospel | URL: http://wp.me/p4dWCg-1ve



Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?

Contributors – Kevin DeYoung  

It is difficult to exaggerate how seriously the Bible treats the sin of sexual immorality. Sexual sin is never considered adiaphora, a matter of indifference, an agree-to-disagree issue like food laws or holy days (Rom. 14:1-15:7). To the contrary, sexual immorality is precisely the sort of sin that characterizes those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There are at least eight vice lists in the New Testament (Mark 7:21-22; Rom. 1:24-31; 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; Rev. 21:8), and sexual immorality is included in every one of these. In fact, in seven of the eight lists there are multiple references to sexual immorality (e.g., impurity, sen­suality, orgies, men who practice homosexuality), and in most of the passages some kind of sexual immorality heads the lists. You would be hard-pressed to find a sin more frequently, more uniformly, and more seriously condemned in the New Testa­ment than sexual sin. All of these third ways regarding homosexuality end up the same way: a behavior the Bible does not accept is treated as acceptable. “Agree to disagree” sounds like a humble “meet you in the middle” com­promise, but it is a subtle way of telling conservative Christians that homosexuality is not a make-or-break issue and we are wrong to make it so. No one would think of proposing a third way if the sin were racism or human trafficking. To countenance such a move would be a sign of moral bankruptcy. Faithfulness to the Word of God compels us to view sexual immorality with the same seriousness. Living an ungodly life is contrary to the sound teaching that defines the Christian (1 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 1:16). Darkness must not be confused with light. Grace must not be confused with license. Unchecked sin must not be con­fused with the good news of justification apart from works of the law. Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser ethical issue, the New Testament sees it as a matter for excommuni­cation (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Cor. 6:12-20), and a temptation for perverse compromise (Jude 3-16).For more on this and other related themes, see What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? The book releases in April.

  • We cannot count same-sex behavior as an indifferent mat­ter. Of course, homosexuality isn’t the only sin in the world, nor is it the most critical one to address in many church con­texts. But if 1 Corinthians 6 is right, it’s not an overstatement to say that approving same-sex sexual behavior—like sup­porting any form of sexual immorality—runs the risk of leading people to hell. Scripture often warns us—and in the severest terms—against finding our sexual identity apart from Christ and against pursuing sexual practice inconsistent with being in Christ (whether that’s homosexual sin or heterosexual sin). The same is not true when it comes to sorting out the millennium or deciding which instruments to use in worship. When we tolerate the doctrine which affirms homosexual behavior, we are tolerating a doctrine which leads people further from God. This is hardly missional leadership or kingdom Christianity. According to Jesus, it’s repentance for sexual immorality, not tolerance of it, which leads to human flourishing (Rev. 2:20-23). Christians who get this fundamental point confused are not purveyors of a liberating third way, but of a deadly and dastardly wrong way.
  • When the Bible uniformly and unequivocally says the same thing about a serious sin, it seems unwise to find a third way which allows for some people (in a church, in an organization, or in a denomination) to be for the sin and other people to be against the sin. History demonstrates that such half-way houses do not stand. Every doctrine central to the Christian faith and precious to you as a Christian has been hotly debated and disputed. If the “conversation” about the resurrection or the Trinity or the two natures of Christ contin­ued as long as smart people on both sides disagreed, we would have lost orthodoxy long ago.
  • March 13, 2015

Apr 15

Do Catholics Possess Life Eternal?

 

by Richard Bennett on 2015-02-19

 

In my 48 years as a Catholic and my 22 years as a Catholic priest I believed in the Catholic Church. Consequently I thought that as I had the Sacraments by means of which, when I died, I would have everlasting life. Like other priests, I taught the people that once they were faithful to the Church as Catholics and died in the state of “sanctifying grace,” they would go to heaven. With deep respect for these who have been so misled, I now write on the topic of Catholics and eternal life. As an Irish Catholic, I remember the grip that Catholicism had on my own soul; in a sense, it was second nature to me. So it is with sensitivity that I write on a Christian’s relationship with God the Father and a Catholic’s relationship with the Holy Father in Rome.

A Christian’s relationship with God the Father is a crucial topic. Jesus Christ declared, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”1 Not to know and believe in “the only true God” is to be deprived of “life eternal.” However, a Catholic is first required to believe and know that the “Church is the mother of all believers.” This is because, according to the Catholic Church’s official teaching, “‘Believing’ is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother’”(Para 181).2

Consequently, a Catholic in daily life willingly has a relationship with “the Church as Mother” replacing what ought to be a relationship with God as his adoptive Father. The essence of this substitution is obvious when a devout Catholic refers to the Pope as “Holy Father.” In fact, the Catholic news agency, Zenit, normally calls the Pope the “Holy Father.”3 And for most Catholics, the term the “Holy Father” usually means the Pope.

The Concept of God as Father:

It is noted that in Scripture the word “Father” was on the lips of the Lord Jesus no less than one hundred seventy times. Christ Jesus spoke of God distinctively as Abba Father.4 In Scripture the same concept, “Abba Father,” is explained to the believer in these words, “for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.5 Beholding the Father’s love by the intimate title of “Abba Father” gives the true believer the deep sense of being loved personally as a child of God.6 The Lord Jesus Christ offered the following prayer for all those who would genuinely believe in God as their Father, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”7

In contrast, the official law of the Roman Catholic Church speaks of the necessity of submitting one’s highest faculties, that of mind and will, not to God the heavenly Father, but to the Supreme Pontiff in Rome. Thus, the official law of the Roman Catholic Church states, “A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals…”8

However, the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”9 One cannot serve two sovereigns, for the Lord’s command contradicts that of the Pontiff. A man cannot be impartial between two masters who are incompatible and demanding total allegiance. The necessity of a choice arises. So a Catholic ought to decide who indeed is his or her Lord!

Moreover, as the Lord Jesus Christ deeply treasured the word “Father,” He gave this commandment, “call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”10 This is the essence of the message of the Lord concerning our Father in heaven. Thus, the Father in heaven is worthy of worship, and a true believer will speak the words, “The Holy Father” for God alone! Nonetheless, the Church of Rome teaches that her pope is called “Holy Father.” For example, the Vatican website announced regarding Francis I, “Address of the Holy Father” in the Vatican Gardens Sunday, 8 June 2014.11

The Lord God is Sovereign:

God is all-loving, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The Lord God is sovereign with complete, supreme, and universal power of all things, in heaven and on earth. Even on the topic of the sovereignty of God, Papal Rome’s claim is stated in the following official words, “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”12  Thus, the Roman Pontiff attributes to himself the sovereign rule of the entire Church that belongs to the Lord God alone. Let us make no mistake, the Catholic Church throughout its history has persistently and arrogantly assumed and appropriated to itself the offices of the Heavenly Father. For example, Pope Boniface VIII in 1302, in the Papal Bull “Unam Sanctam” decreed, “Furthermore we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they, by necessity for salvation, are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”13 The papal arrogance is blasphemy of the highest order!

God the Father’s Love in Salvation:

God the Father’s love always achieves its purposes, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love … that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”14 The design and intention of God the Father was that salvation should come to sinful man in and through Christ Jesus. Emphatically, grace in its most proper sense is free as given, a gift from heaven. Thus, as Scripture says, sinners are saved by grace; it is “the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”15 The reign of sin is overcome by the reign of God’s grace, as the Scripture says, “even so might grace reign!16 The abundance of grace far surpasses the evils of sin. Once a believing sinner trusts upon Christ Jesus as his only surety and substitute, he discovers that not only is he freed from his sins, but also he is made to “reign in life.” As Scripture states, “for if by one mans offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”17

Attempting to imitate this, the Roman Catholic Church claims that its sacraments are necessary for salvation. Its official teaching states the following, “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.18 Thus, the Catholic Church presents her seven physical sacraments – mediated through her – as the means of obtaining the grace of the Holy Spirit.19 The Vatican’s pretense is to present her symbolic sacraments as the efficacious cause of salvation. These enticing ways to obtain salvation are but the age-old temptation of looking to physical performances and human works to gain favor with God. Such teachings as these come under the eternal curse of perverting the Gospel of Christ.20 Nevertheless, to administer her seven sacraments, the Catholic Church ordains priests of whom the she states, “Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels…God above confirms what priests do here below.”21 In the New Testament, no sacrificial priests are mentioned, only elders and pastors.22

Thus the Catholic Church’s man-made belief system is a catastrophic imposition on the souls of men and women. However, the true Gospel lays before each person the solution that is ample to face all evil. The power of it is strong enough to raise people up to life, peace, and heaven itself. The same Gospel causes the Lord’s redeemed people to rejoice in the glorious grace that flows through His own plan of eternal life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”23 The eternal Son of the Father has life in His own essence and person as the Word of God.24 From Him eternal life is given to each true believer, both here and in heaven.25 However, the Catholic Church teaches that God’s grace comes through the Roman Catholic sacraments.26 Anyone who believes in the Catholic sacramental system and places his or her soul’s trust on ceremonial proceedings is not trusting on Jesus Christ alone.

A Catholic Believes in the Mass i.e. the Eucharist:

At the heart of Roman Catholicism is the Mass or Eucharist, described by the Second Vatican Council as “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life.” Rome claims that the Mass is a sacrifice and that the sacrifice of Calvary and the Mass are the same; namely, “one single sacrifice.” Thus she teaches, “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner…this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.’”27

To propose a bloodless sacrifice is a contradiction in terms.28 A bloodless sacrifice is a senseless inconsistency that can have no purpose other than to deceive. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice; it is a memorial. The bread and wine are tokens symbolizing the body and blood of the once and for all sacrifice of Calvary. A true believer eats the bread and drinks the wine to remember Him and His atonement with thanksgiving and praise until He returns. Again what a different relationship there is in the faith of a true believer regarding the Lord’s Supper and the belief of a Catholic regarding the Mass or Eucharist. There can be no more remembrance of sin against a true believer, either to shame him now or to condemn him hereafter. The sacrifice of Christ was once for all time. Its power is eternal. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”29 Jesus Christ the Lord procured a perfect, eternal salvation for one who truly believes in His finished sacrifice. Not so for the poor Catholic who persists in depending on a so-called, “divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass.”

A Catholic Prays not to Christ Jesus Alone but also to Mary and the Saints:

A true believer looks to Christ Jesus as the one mediator, “for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.30 The splendor of the Gospel is that the believer’s heart is set on Jesus Christ, the fountain of life. A Catholic, however, will also pray to Mary and their declared Saints. This is because the Catholic Church officially teaches, “Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead… Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping “them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”’31

The Bible teaches that God alone is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Thus, He alone hears prayers, He is the all Holy One; in a word, He is God alone. Prayer directed to the dead, and not the Lord God alone, is consummate blasphemy! Calling up or invoking the dead; i.e., necromancy, is strictly forbidden in the Bible.32 As the One great true High Priest, Jesus Christ completely satisfies all the intercessory prayer service that a true believer needs; as Scripture states, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.33 Again, a poor deluded Catholic who persists in following the Roman Catholic tradition of prayers to, or invocations of the dead, has no biblical warrant for being heard by God the Father. Scripture asserts that in seeking other mediators, Catholics reject the unique redemptive office of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the sole mediator of the covenant of Grace appointed by the Holy Father.34

Conclusion:

In Scripture, the believer looks to Christ Jesus as “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”35 The splendor of the Gospel is that the believer’s heart is set on Christ, the Fountain of life, where the believer drinks more and more deeply of the rivers of pleasure that are at Christ’s right hand. Eternal life is to be found only in Christ Jesus, His perfect life, and Him being an all-sufficient sacrifice. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”36 This is the true focus, because a believer learns more and more consistently to look always to the Lord Jesus Christ alone for life. How completely different this is from the goal and destiny that Papal Rome holds out to people. Rome directs her people, and mankind in general, to look to physical sacraments and her ruling hierarchy that uphold her sacraments. However, the biblical Gospel does not involve looking to physical signs; rather, believers are to follow the biblical injunction to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”37 He is the author and finisher of their faith: its beginning and end. “Looking to Jesus” is to trustfully keep one’s heart and mind stayed upon Him. In Him is grace. He is the Fountain of all grace and supplies all the needs of each believer. The believer’s life is drawn from Christ, and directed to Him; he is its initial principle and the final end of it. True life is that which is lived in personal, intimate communion with Christ, as the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated, “For to me to live is Christ.” It means that as a person is justified by the All-Holy God alone, he is to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, taking Christ’s yoke upon him and learning of Christ, so that he drinks deeply from God’s Written Word and begins to follow what the Scripture says, rather than devising his own ways.

The Lord faced the sincere and devout Pharisees with a very strong word. They were looking to their leader and chief, Caiaphas, the High Priest. The Lord said to those Pharisees, “if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”38 Like the Pharisees, many present-day Catholics look to the Pope. And likewise today, as with the Pharisees, if any Catholic continues to recognize the Pope as “Holy Father,” he is, in fact, denying the true Father and Son.”39 He who persists in his sins, will likewise die in his sins. The Lord Jesus Christ died in place of the true believer. His life and finished sacrifice alone are the ransom for the believer. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”40 This was the price demanded by the All-Holy God in order that His justice might be satisfied in the forgiveness of sins. As a result of this payment, the true believer on Christ Jesus alone is freed forever from sin and Satan. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”41 Such a gift of God engages our hearts in deep gratitude as we proclaim, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”42

by Richard Bennett | http://www.bereanbeacon.org