The Down Grade

2 Timothy 4:3 "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do you testify with Christ? John 7:7

Do you testify with Christ? John 7:7

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

In my experiences as a Pastor and as an evangelist, I have run into many people who have criticized me for my message. In love, I try to tell the truth about people and where they stand before a loving and merciful and holy and just God. My question for myself and for you, dear reader, is do you (I) testify with Christ?

In John 6, which forms the backdrop for this verse, we see that Jesus reproves the understanding of the people. Many people who saw the miracle of the loaves and the fishes believed Jesus was the prophet that Moses predicted. Others saw him as a prophet-king who would remove the foot of the Romans off the neck of the Jews, returning Israel to a sovereign nation. Jesus was both, but he was also the great High priest, the anointed Messiah of God. He was a prophet in that He spoke with the authority of God Himself. He was king, though not of this world, indeed of a kingdom that was now and not yet. He would reign over the Kingdom of God for ever and ever! And, He was the great high priest who would give his life as a sacrifice for the people. As he showed those who were following Him who He truly was, as the bread of life of whom we must eat and drink (believe and trust alone), many could not take this teaching and they left him. Only the twelve and a few others remained.

In John 7, we see Jesus, some six months later still in Galilee. His brothers are still not convinced as to who He is in truth. They want him to go down to Jerusalem (where the Jews are trying to have Jesus killed) and proclaim Himself king. This is where Jesus reproves them (and those who will hear Him today). Jesus explains to his brothers that they would have no problem being very comfortable in Jerusalem, for they were of the world, and the world loved them. Jesus on the other hand was not very popular, because He preached the truth, and proclaimed that the world’s works were evil.

Today, this is a major problem. People do not want to serve that type of God, read that type of book (the Bible), or render righteous judgment as the Bible commands (see John 7:24). In fact, many who share the office of pastor desire that they would have the community’s and the world’s approval rather than preach the whole truth as found in the Bible. Look at James 4:4

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Indeed, Jesus proclaimed the truth, and condemned those who would seek friendship with the world

Luke 6:26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets”

My friends, what kind of person would encourage you to blindly and ignorantly step off of a cliff, without warning you of the results of a ten thousand foot fall? Would that be a friend? Certainly not. What if that person made you feel comfortable, feeding you, giving you drink, even giving you shelter and good advice for a better life as you marched toward that proverbial cliff? Is that a better friend? No it is not. Yet many of us are of the belief that it is the job of a Christian to make people feel good about themselves, and even make the way easier for them in this life rather than warning of the fall that is to come. They desire the friendship of the world. And they get it, they are well spoken of by those in this world as ones who do good deeds and speak refreshing words. They have the approval of man, and not of God.

What we, as Christians, are called to do is to warn people of the fact that they will die, and after this they will be judged:

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

And we will be judged, for our good works as well as our bad deeds. Indeed, The Bible calls our best deeds filthy rags, and declares that there is NO ONE righteous (Romans 3:9) and that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There are those who are in our lives that love us enough to warn us of the walk towards the cliff (sin), and the fall (death) In fact, God has given us a conscience that has already warned us all multiple times, but many of us have short-circuited it by our very denial of the truth that we can see so clearly.
As Christians, we must know the truth of the Word of God and, without apology, study His Word and apply it first to ourselves and then proclaim it to the world. We are the voice warning people that if they go into eternity without having their sins forgiven (through repentance and faith in Christ alone- John 14:6) they will face God who is holy and just, who will not let sin into His presence, and who takes sin so seriously and loves us so much (Romans 5:8) that He sent Christ, imputing our sin to Him, pouring out his wrath that we deserved on Him, so that those who will repent and put their faith in Him alone will be saved.

While in Florida, we searched for a reason that so many young people claimed to be Christians as they were drinking alcohol and planning for pre-marital sexual activity (fornication) and feeding the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. We also wondered why, among so many of those who came down to share a gospel, had no real training or understanding what a Christian was. This is when we studied Jeremiah 23:

Jeremiah 23:9-15 concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse l the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. 11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the Lord. 13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers,so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

As pastors, indeed as Christians, we should approach the Lord and His Word in this manner that we see in verse 9. When is the last time that you read the scripture and it broke your heart? The last time it knocked you silly, as though you were drunk? That it made you tremble and shake before God? As pastors, indeed as Christians, God's Word is a powerful thing, and is to be humbly approached by us as we allow it to change us. As it changes us, we can see very clearly the difference between those who follow Christ and those who do not. Jeremiah was speaking to Jews at the time, but we can easily cross the bridge into today and see that the land is full of spiritual adulterers, led by adulterous pastors and priests who preach a false gospel, who do not tremble before a holy God and His Word.

The prophet, one who declares God's Word, indeed the priest, who leads us into religious acts of worship, are declared ungodly in this passage. Even in the houses of worship there is evil! We saw the fruit of this on the beach. Many of these young people claim to be church goers, some even claim that their parents and their pastors or priests approve of their letting off a little steam. We had one young woman claim that her youth Pastor encouraged her to go, before she said a blasphemy and dropped an f-bomb. My friends, I have no problem hermeneutically applying this passage to the modern-day church. Even in the house- the house of worship, we see this evil. There are many evidences that in this sex crazed society of churches with 30 day sex challenges, advertised with pornographic and suggestive photos. We see it in those in the pulpit who use crass and worldly language. We see it in the removal of the Bible as the final authority. We see it in the syncretism between the world and the church, indeed in the ecumenism of 'all roads lead to heaven'. And we see it in the man-centered worship that many churches turn to as numbers and donations dwindle. I could go on; but I do not have the room. Suffice it to say that many pastors have cast aside the scripture as authoritative in their own lives long ago, and the visible local church is paying the price.

The worst thing about the priests and the prophets in this passage is that in their own lives they commit spiritual adultery, and then they lead others astray, indeed they 'strengthen their hands'. Not only do they lead their parish astray, but they actually encourage evil acts in the sight of the Lord. What is spiritual adultery? Well, it takes many forms. It begins with a low view of God, or a low view of scripture. If we as pastors and priests do not fear God, or look at His Word as authoritative, our people will catch that disease. If we do not tremble before God and His Word, neither will those in our churches. If we do not preach the truth, the people will not hear the truth. And it all boils down to the fact that many preachers and priests are more afraid of man than they are of God. They fear that if they preach the word of God as it is that people will leave. They are right; for Jesus Himself lost most of his disciples when He preached the hard truth (See John 6)

The fruit of this is the young christians we observed in Florida, indeed, that was just a very blatant slap in the face, for I have experienced the same thing in my small town. The self-professed christians who were drinking stated 'god loves everybody, and he will forgive everybody'. In other words, they have learned from someone that if you dive into sin, drinking it in like water, chase after the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, that this loving god up in the sky will wink his eye at your sin and just forgive you. It is not just these young people that believe this, it is a pervasive teaching in our country today. Indeed, many of the other campus ministries represented in Florida while we were there preached the very message that god loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you will just pray this prayer, he will forgive you!

That is a perversion what the Bible says.

Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

The Greek word is Metanoeo, and it means to change one's mind, to change one's mind for better, and to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins. In other words, it involves confession, which is agreeing with God and what His Word teaches about us and our sin. It involves a turning away from that sin, utterly forsaking it, having a determination never to return. However, as I have witnessed, this is not the case with many who sincerely ask God for forgiveness. For one, they do not agree that they, by nature, are sinful. They do not agree that their actions are sin, and offensive to a holy God, and they have no intent to leave behind their sin. Their mind remains unconvinced that what they do is wrong and that God will just look past their human frailty. This is due to a false understanding of who God is, indeed, it is a lack of true sorrow for sin that results in repentance. Many who confess or ask forgiveness still love their sin more than they love God. They fear the consequences more than they fear God.

On our recent trip to Florida, one young man upon hearing our message was visibly shaken. He had heard that no drunkard would enter heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) He came to speak with one of our team, but wound up counseling with one of these other campus ministries and was led in a sinner’s prayer. It was explained to him that God loved him, and that he could be forgiven if he would only ask. So, he was led in a prayer where he asked forgiveness of God and 'accepted' Christ. Assured of heaven and that he was a Christian, he ran to his cooler to drink another beer. God will be the judge if he was sincere, but the fruit was simply not there. How dare we give assurance that one is a Christian because they parrot a prayer! How dare we gloss over the grace of repentance or the work of the Spirit in one’s life!

None of this is to say that we fully understand what it means to be born again when it happens. Salvation is a work of God that is both immediate, progressive, and has a future result. The Greek word for salvation is soterios, and it is broken down in three tenses. There is the past tense, which is “I have been saved” and is described by two words: Justification (a forensic term meaning ‘being made right’) and redemption. These mean that at the moment of belief and repentance towards God, we have been saved, purchased from death, made right in the sight of God. This is in response to the hearing of the Gospel we repent of sin and turn towards God by faith, placing our trust for salvation in Christ alone. It is at this point that we are a new creature in Christ. Following that is the statement "I am being saved" a process called sanctification. In this, we are being made more like Christ as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming more and more holy, or set apart to God from the world. Lastly, we will be saved. The word there is glorified, and, if we are truly born again, we will be kept by the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit until that day.

Salvation comes by a move of God on a person through hearing the Gospel and the person responding by obeying the Gospel through faith. It is not of ourselves. It is a gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
We are not saved by praying a prayer, though prayer is involved. We are not saved by accepting Jesus, we are saved by grace through faith which is not of ourselves. We cannot produce salvation, it is given us by God. It is a work of God through the preaching of the Gospel after being drawn by God. It is nothing that we want, or even desire, for it involves a mortification of the flesh, that is, dying to the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. 

This is not the Gospel preached by the modern church. The modern church goes for the lust of the flesh and the pride of life by seeking to please men and help men and women improve their lives by giving them moral platitudes and by addressing felt needs. The fruit of this belief is a church that comes from a culturally compromised position rather than standing firm in the scripture, allowing the scripture and the application of it to change culture. The fruit is also of a generation of believers that follow a false gospel that negates the importance of scripture and orthodoxy as well as a  relationship with Christ that comes on His terms rather than ours. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Was Chicken Little Right?

What is the reality of the condition of the American Church today?

C? writers claim that everything is okay, except for the Synagogue of Satan represented by
Slice of Laodicea, Christian Research Network, A Little Leaven and finally, Apprising Ministries Even more recently, a not so veiled attack was made towards these ministries by Neil of C? stating that many of these ODM's (as they are so called) claim that the sky is falling in regards to the American Church.

My friends, the sky is not falling, it has fallen. We are just too blind to see it, unfortunately. American Christianity is broken. How so? We are more like Wrestlemania than the 1st Century church. We serve the lust of the flesh rather than the God of the Bible. American Christianity is a fake, a farce, a far cry from the Church which was established 2000 years ago. And despite what commenters at C? have stated of late, it is not more of the same, or a repeat of history. Lets look at the original Church, and its growth 'strategies'

42 And a they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

This is how the church grew: Real Christians met together, prayed together, broke bread together, shared their material goods together, and fellowshipped under the teaching of the Apostles. Thats it! No motorcycles, Pastors talking about sex, watering down of the truth of sin and the ugliness of the cross, no people promoting themselves and their healing ministries. There was no loans for multi-million dollar structures that could be everything that the community wanted: like the best gym, dance hall,coffee shop, etc. No teachings that were very poetic and moralistic but devoid of Biblical truth. Nope; it was home to home, person to person, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and one anothers' lives. There was no need for extravagant sets, no need for pornographic mailers sent to people's homes, no need for YouTube, no need for books outside of the Old Testament and the letters of the apostles. Nope- God added to their number daily those who were being
saved with no human intervention.

Today in America, we are like the church described at Sardis in the book of Revelation 3:

3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“ ‘I know your works.
You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Jesus knows our works, and He can see very clearly that the christianity in America (when I say this, I am not referring to the Church, which is Jesus' blood-purchased, forgiven, born-again followers) seems to be alive, but it is in fact dead. Why is it dead? we have fallen asleep. A recent survey of local pastors and churches in America found that 94% of churches failed to specifically present the Gospel in the calendar year 2008. This means simply that either an incomplete gospel message was preached, focusing only on the love of God without describing the need of man to be saved- our wretched, sinful, and lost position before Him (Romans 3:9-19), or no mention of salvation in Christ alone whatsoever. A recent search on the topics bar at for the topic 'the gospel' produced 0 results. The power of God unto salvation is the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17) Is it any wonder that people are leaving the church in droves? Where there is no life, there is no attraction. A dead person is still dead, no matter how good the undertaker makes him look.

The American ‘church’ has a reputation of being alive, but it is in fact dead. I suppose that I should be grateful, because this is an indication of Jesus returning. He warned us that there would be a great apostasy before his return. With Phyllis Tickle and Tony Jones calling for a departure from sola scriptura, Brian McLaren calling the death of Christ for our sins 'false advertising for God', Rob Bell proclaiming universalism in his most recent book by saying that God has painted blood over the doorposts of the universe, Rick Warren saying that we ought to test God by giving him a 60 day 'test drive'- before praying for a president who has now proven himself (again) to be an enemy of the unborn by signing abortion and stem cell research legislation- the stories keep coming and they are getting worse. And the reality is that ‘christians’ who go to church every Sunday are asleep, because those of us who are supposed to be shepherding them have fallen asleep at the pulpit. We have ceased to be under shepherds, and have become sheep ourselves, looking for the grass that is greener in our eyes while wandering far afield of where we are supposed to be.

The call from Jesus? WAKE UP and strengthen what remains. In Hebrews 5:11-14, we see a warning

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The American ‘church’ has become very dull of hearing, perhaps because of all the white noise that is out there influencing us. With all of the Christian radio, television, freedom of religion, multiplicity of Bibles, Bible studies, Christian colleges, etc. we are flooded with information, but in many cases, we are devoid of the Spirit. We should be teachers, if by the Spirit of God in us we would simply open the Bible and do what it says. As it is, many of us need someone to teach us again the very oracles (words) of God. Those who have not gone on from ‘elementary’ teachings, they are in fact unskilled, or imperfect in the Word. We see here the role of those who are mature, who have gone on from these elementary teachings to study and actual practice of the Word of God. How do we get this discernment? It is not from a constant study of the most hip theologians. It is from study of the Word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And it is more than study, it is the practice of what we read in our everyday lives, so that we can discern good from evil. We need to wake up. We need more mature Pastors to exposit the Word of God clearly for us in our churches. Most importantly, the Gospel needs to be preached in its entirety, that Jesus Christ was crushed for our iniquities- for we are a wretched people, devoid of any good whatsoever, and despite this Christ died for us (Romans 3:9-19, 5:1-8) The gospel is what we need to strengthen what remains, and to drag us back from the deep chasm of apostasy we are approaching.

The call from Jesus to the American Christian is to REPENT! That is, we need to change our very orientation- our mind, our will, our whole being away from ourselves and our flesh towards God. We need to agree with what God says- about everything (we can find it in His Word) and strive to live holy lives. This takes a work of God, and we can only have this and desire this if God has drawn us. The bottom line is that we must be born again! We must be born of God. I urge all of us to consider our lives in the bright light of God’s law. We need to examine ourselves, and we need to have a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Do not come to judgment day with a false hope, saying to Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’, only to have His reply I never knew you. Take the medicine of the Church of Sardis- Repent. The other option? Jesus will come against us when we least expect it. And we do not want to meet Jesus in this way, as our judge instead of the One who justifies.

The sky is falling- but we can be protected in Christ alone. Come back to Him!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The wonderful grace of repentance Psalm 130 The glory of God in Repentance: Jeff Noblitt

Martin Luther called this the “Pauline Psalm” for it demonstrates very clearly repentance and faith in God, our Savior. The background to the Psalm demonstrates the dire straights that the Psalmist was in; we have Assyria on the march, conquering lands all around. This brought about fear in the land, and a surface revival, men and women bargaining with God to save them. Manassah, an evil king, ruled. It was a time of serious crisis for Israel, for they were under attack, and God seemed so far away.

It is in this condition, Noblitt teaches, that God is most close, for it is this condition that we are weak, humbled, and desperate. If we bring it to today, it is the condition that we are in when we are living in sin, falling fast. But the life of sin loses its satisfaction, we begin to find no reward in rebellion. Indeed, the consequences of sin begin to weigh on us as God crushes us under the weight of his judgement. We have two choices; to continue deeper into the pit or to climb out by the help and grace of God.

I Turning to God in despair and confession: 130:1-3
“Out of the depths I cry to you oh Lord” The depths can be described as a pit, a deep dark well into which one has fallen. You scratch and claw and struggle to climb out, Eventually, you grow tired, and weary, and realize that in your own strength you can never get out. It is then you begin to simply look up and cry out. This is where God will meet us if this is the point we call out to Him by faith.

Sometimes, God allows us into the depths to teach us or to mold us into the image of His Son. Look at Joseph- sold into slavery by his brothers after being thrown into a pit. Thrown into prison for refusing to dishonor God by dishonoring his masters wife. Looking to God by faith, he was exalted to a high place of honor in Pharaoh’s kingdom. Daniel, for refusing to stop praying to God was thrown low into the Lion’s den, and called out to God and God saved him. Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and were thrown into the lion;s den. All these stories have one thing in common; these were men who were not being directly punished for something that they did against God (though none were righteous). God disciplines those he loves, he brings difficulty into our lives to try us and test us and to make us more into the image of His Son Jesus.

God does not hear us just because we cry, nor does he hear us when we are just in the depths. God hears us when we are in the depths of our sin and we turn to Him for mercy. The psalmist is saying Lord, hear my voice! His call is desperate and frequent and pleading as He cries out to God for help. The psalmist is going after God hard; but God will respond when we turn to him out of this place of brokenness. The fact is, and the psalmist realizes, that if God counted his sin against him, he would be forever lost. We forget how merciful God is, for He has every right to kill us for the very first act of disobedience. The psalmist encourages us to remember that God is full of mercy, because we are but lost sinners deserving of death and we have not gotten what we deserve. Sin is a direct offense against a holy God (Romans 2:23, 1 Samuel 2:30, Isaiah 2:17, Ez 6:9, Hebrews 6:6) Our sins are much more horrible, for, unlike the demons, we realize what we are doing is wronging God, and offending Christ. But God can turn us from loving sin to loving Him. When we turn to him, even when we have deserved his anger, He demonstrates His grace and His mercy in our lives. This brings us to our next point:

II Trusting in God for forgiveness and hope (130:4-5)
Indeed, the beauty of redemption and of grace is the one most offended by sin is the one who is the most forgiving of it. Our God is a great loving, merciful, and forgiving God! Glory to God! With the greatness of our sinfulness, we are rightly called God’s enemies (Romans 5) indeed, we are anti-God. Everything we are in our nature fights against God. We, as God’s enemies, should be rightly crushed under His wrath. Instead, in our condition, He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty and take the wrath for our sin. Glory be to God!! As a result, we know that in withholding his wrath and showing us grace and mercy, we should have a fear of God, a reverential affection for Him. I wait for the Lord-in God’s Word I hope. I am looking for nothing outside of God. I am waiting in patience for God (vs. 5)
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;

The Psalmist waits- in waits in patience for God, and according to His revealed Word, he puts his hope and his trust in the Lord. The psalmist, and we, should put our trust in the Lord because His word is true. Our hope will never be rewarded with disappointment as long as we hope in the Lord in alignment with His Word and His will. When we repent, change our mind due to circumstances and cry out to God for mercy, his Word can be trusted, and therefore we have a hope that will not disappoint.

Treasuring God as the Highest good (vs 6)
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
God should be our treasure as well as our trust. Our soul should wait for the Lord, more than the watchmen for the morning. In the OT, a levitical priest would have the privilege off offering the morning sacrifice once per year. Knowing that this was a day of great opportunity for him, he would spend the entire previous evening preparing for the morning sacrifice, consecrating himself and his tools. He wanted to make sure he was ready morally and ceremonially. Oh, brethren, we should seek God like that, as our greatest treasure. We should seek to worship him in spirit and in truth. And we should desire that there be no sin in our lives that would create a barrier. We must repent and forsake our sin so that we can commune with a holy God, and make him our treasure.

Telling others that they must turn to, trust, and treasure our God (vs 7-8)

 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! True theology makes us go after souls, as we testify to the Lord’s goodness in saving us. Israel hope in the Lord! This is a call to the nation to find repentance and salvation, one we should imitate. When we respond to God’s restoration, it is only natural that in our joy we should testify, for in this testimony, in evangelism, God gets all the glory. And indeed, when people respond in repentance and faith, God gets all the glory. We need to place our hope in the Lord, for in Him, and Him alone, is steadfast love and plentiful redemption. In our iniquity, we are warped, perverse, and we are lost. But God will redeem us from all of this, even the future potential of it. We are forgiven, redeemed of all of our sin past present and future when we come to Christ. The good news is that the slate is wiped clean, and even when we fall, we have an advocate in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Salvation, wrought by grace through repentance and faith, is so marvelous and incredible that the angels who witnessed the first creation of the heavens and the earth; indeed, who witnessed the very incarnation of Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son into human form, stretch and strain to get a glance into God’s second creation; the creation of a new creature in Christ. We are dead in trespasses and sins, anti- Christ, anti-God; sworn enemies. But he changes us, and it is such a miracle that its glory and the glory it brings to God are even greater than the other things the angels have witnessed. To the praise of the glory of His grace. (Ephesians1)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Wonderful Grace of Repentance: Brokenness is appropriate response to sin Voddie Baucham

In our culture today, we so often want to fix everything, especially when it comes to our personal mental health. You cannot watch television on your typical sitcom or sports programs without advertisements for pills that can cure your libido or your mental state. This is where Voddie Baucham launched. We are a generation of Christians who do not understand or desire the launching place of true repentance, the soil from which it grows, or, as Voddie described it, the off ramp that allows us to get off the road we are on to turn around to get to the narrow road that leads to salvation. Brokenness is the place where we can stop and observe what will happen if we stay on the road we are on. Brokeness is where God allows us to be crushed under the weight of our own sin so that we can be healed by Him. The problem in our culture is that we see discomfort of any kind as problematic. It is as though an warning light is on in our car, and we choose to break the light because it bothers us.

Voddie sees this entering into the church culture as well; he observed from Rob Bell’s The gods are not angry tour that the guilt and brokenness we feel over sin is part of the old system. There is no brokenness in grace, Bell teaches. In the Shack, Mac is told that god submits to us, just like they all submit to one another. There is no need for brokenness in that system. You tell God who you want Him to be and what you want him to do. In the modern church, there is an aversion to the true doctrines of grace, and the doctrine of God, which includes his sovereignty, His holiness, and our brokenness before Him.

The text for Voddies message, which was very powerful and life changing for me personally, was Psalm 51. (My devotions were on that Psalm today; and two preachers preached on it. Who says God is not sovereign and in control?) Psalm 51 teaches us many things, but the main thing is that Brokenness is the appropriate response to sin for several reasons:
Sin stains and scars our souls 51:1-2

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

blot out- same hebrew word used at the flood. David needs to be cleansed completely like God wiped out the earth with a flood.
wash me thoroughly- like a woman cleaning on a washboard cleanse- ceremonial cleansing, making ready for ceremonial or religious use.

Brokeness gives us the ability to recognize how damaging and rotten sin is. We really don’t understand the scar tissue it will leave when we are in the midst of it. We will suffer for it, be broken because of it. But it leads us to repentance. Who the Father loves He disciplines!
Romans 7:23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? A true godly convert has great sadness and grieving over his sin! But this grieving leads to Christ- Thanks be to God!

Sin creates memories that remain with us 51:3

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
It is good to remember, for a number of reasons that Voddie gave. For one, if I could forget my sin, how could I testify to God’s goodness in removing it? If I could not remember my sin, how could I remember the negative consequences? And, how could I rejoice in God’s goodness in giving me victory, and how could I celebrate my growth? I mean, it really reminds of God’s grace and mercy and goodness towards me. I am not where I ought to be, but I am surely not where I used to be. The memories of sin give us a needed brokeness not to repeat, and the victory gives us a greater love for God and the cost of our salvation.
Because our sin is an affront to a holy God 51:4-6
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
If we have a wrong view of who God is, like the lovey dovey all forgiving Jesus with perfect hair carrying a lamb, this will not matter to you. In other words, if we serve a sissified Jesus, like the one presented in the Shack, the one presented in much of the modern emergent/emerging conversation books, then this will not impact you. Your brokeness is an appropriate response if you serve the one true God. Listen to how John describes Him in the book of Revelation 19:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Many of us have a false view of God. Think about this: Why would God pour out his wrath for the sins of the world on Jesus Christ, and just let us slide? He won’t, and we must not mistake his longsuffering and kindness for a lack of action. If you have not the Son, you have not life. You are already condemned. How dare we take his mercy and grace lightly, by taking sin lightly! Our brokenness over sin shows we do not. But this must be granted us by God.
Sin is a hinderance to the worship of God 51:7-12

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Apart from brokeness, you are not capable of genuine worship. God will not endure iniquity and worship together. To much of modern worship is man centered, man initiated, and man created and it is worthless before God. So many times we desire to please man rather than God with our worship.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause.18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,they shall become like wool.19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

God insulted the people of Israel here by calling them the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, for they did the outward things but their hearts were far from God. He would not receive their worship until they came to Him in a right manner, indeed until he cleansed them for their sin. Without brokeness that leads to repentance, all we have is the appeasement of the tyrannical old man. But the whole of the teaching is this, and David realized this, as we observe all the action words of Psalm 51, directed towards God: Only God can provide the brokeness that leads to repentance. Everything we need can only be found in God.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Wonderful Grace of Repentance: Grace Wrought RepentanceJeff Noblit

Another fine time of praise and worship this morning was followed by a message by Pastor Jeff Noblit called Grace wrought repentance. A couple things before: In my one year Bible reading today, Psalm 51 was the Psalm. God sure was trying to speak to me today; for this Psalm is all about true repentance, indeed grace wrought repentance. 

The background Pastor Jeff provided was great, and I have heard it before, but I think for this blog it does us well to repeat these concepts as a basis. The law, before Christ, only could bring death. Under gaining redemption by the works of the law; that is doing good works, we all sin and we all die, because living by the law requires perfect perpetual obedience.(James 2:10, Galatians 3:10) In other words, with the law there is no grace.  Jesus Christ brought grace, demonstrated Grace. Repentance and faith were brought by the Gospel. Indeed grace is wrought by repentance. We cannot repent; indeed, we do not want to. God grants repentance (Acts 5:31, 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25) True repentance is a gift from God. It is not a natural trait, it is not a learned response, it is not rubbed off on us, and the only source is God. The greek word for repentance is actually two words that mean "to think" and "after" In other words, you used to think one way, now you think differently. There are two things needed for repentance, the Word and the Spirit. (Acts 2:37, 10:44, 8:29, 16:14, Zech. 12:10) The preaching of the word is like organ pipes; and God the Holy Spirit provides the wind- or else no 'music'- no repentance. 

Pastor Jeff went on to explain two different types of repentance, and friends I want to tell you this hit me right between the eyes. The first is worked by the flesh; Flesh wrought repentance. It is a counterfeit of the real thing. It looks like this: We may first be troubled over sin, and its natural consequences. This is not real repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) nor is the pragmatic commitment against sin where we are motivated by the pain of sin. In other words, we may repent when the flight is bumpy, but we forget about it when it is smooth. When you are in the middle of the consequences and pain of sin, it is easy to repent. It is when everything is going smoothly that we forget. Lastly, a fleshly repentance can look like giving up sins like, for example, smoking or drinking too much. Again, it has practical, temporary, and even positive outcomes, but it is not repentance unto God. 

Then there is repentance wrought by grace. It is like the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:16-17) where we finally come to our senses, seeing ourselves in truth. We must feel sorrow for doing wrong against God, recognizing our own sin and our own falling short. Indeed, the root of repentance is sorrow for sin. There is no repentance without sorrow. (Zech 12:10, Luke 7:38, Psalm 51:17) Sorrow, or a broken and contrite heart is a sacrifice God will always accept. The sorrow begins in the heart, the innermost part of man. This is not an outward show, indeed, the result of deep spiritual repentance is not often times tears, it is outward joy! (Mt6:16) Ahab repented, rending his garment but not his heart. Pharaoh was troubled about the frogs and the bloody water, but not over his sin. Sin begins in the heart (Mt 5:19) and it is there repentance must begin. 
For repentance to be true, it must be God-ward. It is a sorrow over the offense and the one offended rather than the consequence. A real convert, a true repenter will lament his heart condition before God (Ps 51:3) Thats where grace brings us to; an awareness of our selves and our sin and the cure in turning from it. This sorrow is accompanied by faith; faith that God will save us, and even in our mourning over our sin, there is joy in God's salvation. There is great sorrow in grace wrought repentance (Luke 18:10-13) expressed differently by different people. When we recognize sin for what it is, and for who it offends, if we love God we are truly sorrowful over it. It is an abiding sorrow; for as sin abides in our flesh, as it is chronic, we must repent of it continually. (Romans 7:18-20) 1 John 1:9 tells us that our sin is forgiven, if we will simply confess, agree with God about our condition. Finally, this sorrow embraces Christ, finds Him all sufficient to save us wholly and completely (Matthew 11:28-29). God does not bring us to repentance to leave us writhing in despair. It is to bring us to Christ so that we can experience His grace. 

Finally, Pastor Noblitt brought us through the fruits of repentance. What does this look like in practical application and life change? First, it manifests itself in confession. When one is deep in sorrow for sin, it comes out through tears and a verbal confession (Neh 9:2, Hos. 5:15, 1 John 1:9) In a very real way, we replace satan as the accuser, and we stand on God's side and we accuse ourselves of sin. Confession is the vomit of the soul, making the worst of sin. We must never stop confessing, for it removes the sickness from our soul. How precious is the cure if we see and acknowledge the seriousness of the disease. If it is a public sin, confession ought to be public. If private, the matter ought to be private. But confession must come nonetheless.

Another fruit is a hatred for sin.  (EZ 36:31) You will loathe yourself for your iniquities. We are never more precious in God's eyes than when we see ourselves as lepers. (Psalm 119:104, Romans 7:23) Since sin is the opposite of God, we hate it. It is an incurable hatred for loving sin is worse than committing it (Psalm 101:7). Finally, we must turn from sin (Ez 14:6, Is 55:7, 2 Cor 3:3, Job 11:14) We must not be turning to heaven, or turning from hell, but turning towards God because of His love.

Repentance is the child of regeneration, and regeneration is the child of grace.

May God grant me (us) repentance. 

Live Blogging the True Church Conference: The Wonderful Grace of Repentance

With all the conferences in Christendom that go on, and my role as a dad, church planter, evangelist, substitute teacher, referee, and sports coordinator, I have to be very careful about the ones that I choose to go to. I cant waste my time going to one that headlines guys like Shane Claibourne, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Bill Hybels (even though I desperately wanted to open air preach there while visiting my mother). No, I need a conference that will challenge me, engage me, and give me practical tools that I can use back home in my personal life, and in the life of our local church. 
One of my elders planned, organized and financed the way for me to have the privilege to come down here with him (thanks John, I love you brother!) The name of the conference is "The Wonderful Grace of Repentance". I know. Strange. Last year, it was called Church Discipline; The missing Key to Church Growth. I know. Strange.  But true! I didn't know what to expect, but I was (and am) Praying for great things to happen. 

The opening service was magnificent. A large Choir filled the loft, and an orchestra filled the pit. Two white robed figures appeared in the midst of magnificent columns behind the choir. One was a boy, 17, and the other a Pastor. The boy gave a testimony of his false conversion, his previous 2 baptisms, and his recent repentance crying out to God to save him. This was, he testified, his third and final baptism. Praise God. Magnificent! The Choir, led with an orchestra, began to sing a hymn with a modern twist of lyrics. It was high, holy, and glorious. It was enrapturing; not because of a power jam, repeated lyrics, and an effort to elicit emotions from the congregation. No; it was singing that magnified God, thanked him for saving us though we do not deserve it, and magnifying his name. Yes, there were upraised hands in praise, but it was not manufactured or planned (except by God) or created by the repetition and instruction of a worship leader. It was as far as I could see and feel a genuine outpouring of love for the Savior, and it was beautiful. 

Pastor Jeff Noblit then welcomes us. He prays an invocation, one that asks God to be present, to bless, guide, lead the conference, and something strange. I can't quite remember how he said it, but it was a call to God to reveal and purify our motives if there were any who were personality or attention seekers that they would repent and seek only after God, and that the personalities (the preachers) would only preach the glory of God, and point only to Him. Wow. Refreshing. He also pointed out that this is their annual missions conference, and he brought up a national pastor from Romania who gave a wonderful testimony of evangelism, church planting, and the move of God in his country. The whole of this conference, as Pastor Jeff explained, is to move the church, the True Church (the invisible body of Christ) into a passion for completing the great commission in building Christ's true Church. 

After some more glorious singing, it is time for the main message. No, we are not talking a 20 minute bang bang entertain me message pulled out of a box. This was a full hour of rich, expositional preaching from the book of Romans 3:9-15 entitled: The Radical Depravity of Man

9 What then? Are we Jews  any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

 “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
q “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The Preacher, Conrad Mbewe from Zambia, is an incredible and gifted preacher with a very unpopular subject in the visible church today. He contradicts guys like Tony Jones who say there is no original sin, that man is basically good. He preaches that this conclusion of the Apostle Paul after 2 chapters of the inditement of mankind is that all men- Jews and Greeks- are under sin- totally depraved- and this started in the garden. He wondered aloud why people are not and have not come to God in droves to receive the great offer of salvation from sin and death? Because they are under sin, blinded by it, and cannot see, cannot seek, and have no desire for God.  From the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned, their fundamental nature was changed, they were alive in Christ, and now they became dead in sin. Instead of desiring fellowship with God, now they ran and they hid. This spiritual death has been passed to us, robbing us of the ability to see and to sense the one True God. We are hostile to God (Romans 8:7-8) we cannot please God, submit to God, or even seek God. Our heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9-10) Depravity has robbed us of the ability and desire to see the one true God; This is why so many churches today spend a lot of time making an idol that the people want and desire that is a false God; one that is all forgiving, all loving, and will give them anything they want and need like the spoiled children that they (we) are.

This is where Pastor Conrad gives us a call to the preaching of the Gospel. He says that the preaching of the Gospel infuses life into dead people. God acts upon souls by the preaching of the Gospel; they will not turn from sin and repent except for the grace of God. We are called to the blind, the weak, the lame, those who cannot see and have no desire for God. Amazing that this man from one of the poorest African nations comes to the pulpit not begging for clean water or food so that his people can come to know Christ. He shared that all over the world, all people are wicked, all people are under sin, and all people need the power of God through the Gospel. He called for the preaching of the Gospel, not some misguided social agenda. He desires that His people be saved from sin and death. Why are our priorities so different here?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What is the problem with todays church??

Please watch this very important video from the White Horse Inn which asks the question " What is the problem with today's church?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Where is the social justice in this?

170 million dollar inauguration?

With all the poor, all the homeless, all the thirsty, and all the hungry in Washington DC, our nation, and around the world? We are going to have a 170 million dollar inauguration?

I don't get it.

All the social justice emergent church types wanted Obama to be president. Who cares if he promises to sign the FOCA, allowing the murder of unprecedented numbers of babies, continuing a quarter century long genocide? After all, he is going to bring social justice! He is going to help the poor! He is going to stick it to the rich!

Yep, having spent more than Clinton and Bush II combined, it certainly demonstrates a concern for the poor. That could pay an annual wage of 18,000 per year to 14,000 unemployed Americans. It could supplement the incomes of three times as many of the working poor in our country.

Imagine all it could do to help the hungry of the world.

But Shane Claibourne, Tony Campolo, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, and Brian McLaren, along with all the other social justice emergents are silent. They believe that the chance that he will redistribute wealth (stealing) from the rich to the poor (stealing) so that the cause of social justice in America will be done.

This is not to mention the HUGE amount of money spent in elections this year.

It is hypocrisy. And nothing has changed or will change until the Lord Jesus changes people.

Jesus came in a manger, humble, meek, and lowly. He brought the greatest amount of change ever without spending 170 million to proudly proclaim His coming. The fanciest he got? palm leaves and a ride on a colt.

Obama, the new 'messiah' comes with pride, spending the people's money to proclaim his greatness. Is this Christianity? If it is the kind of Christianity we proclaim to the world, no wonder they hate us. No wonder Christ's name is mocked because of us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where does 'America's Pastor' stand on homosexuality?

Rick Warren flip-flops more than John Kerry working in a Waffle House.

Perhaps this is because his PR team thought he was in a little trouble following this video interview:

The fact of the matter is that Rick Warren was right in his definition here of marriage, that it should be between one man and one woman. This outraged the homosexual lobby in America, despite the fact that he said here that divorce is a far more dangerous to America then homosexual marriage. He states very clearly that he is against homosexual marriage, but is for civil rights. I think this is fair, I believe homosexuality is a sin, because the Bible clearly states that it is. But I cannot place my Christian morals on a non-believer in Christ. However, it is ridiculous for the homosexual lobby to steal marriage and the definition of marriage. To be fair, Rick Warren was right to warn against the potential for other groups, like a brother and sister, or a man and his dog to desire to be married and call it marriage. He was not saying that homosexuality is like beastiality or incest, he was stating the potential of a slippery slope. 

Now Rick Warren's PR team is doing damage control, sending Rick into a West Hollywood bookstore that raises funds for AIDS patients, and trying to get the owner of the store there to be convinced of all the good Rick does for gays. It also seems that they have replaced a video presentation proving homosexuality is wrong from the Bible with:

On Tuesday, the church replaced a brief article on the Bible and homosexuality with an audio message on to better explain the church's view that Scripture prohibits sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman, according to Larry Ross, a Warren spokesman.

Saddleback and Rick Warren are caving in on the issue because of the pressure that they are receiving from the homosexual lobby. I personally though Rick Warren was making progress, but in the news networks and on his own church website, he has been back peddling. 
I would have far more admiration and respect for Warren if he would make a stand and stay there, not worrying about public opinion. But he cannot; for the whole concept of being seeker-sensitive is all about the opinions of those outside the church. He needs a PR team to send out test balloons, for in all of his years in ministry he has built a church based upon the felt needs of 'seekers'.  Now, he sees that some of these 'seekers' are homosexuals, and he must go back and explain that he does not hate gay people, and that he is not against gay rights, he just does not want them to have the term 'marriage' applied. 

Rick, be at least like Tony Jones. Make a stand, even if it is unbiblical, and stay there. If it is your desire to be loved by the masses, do not make a stand based on the scripture, because the masses hate that. And please, as you make the invocation at the inauguration, do not pray in Jesus' name, because that name is offensive. 

Or, you can stand on the scripture, state without reservation that homosexuality is a perversion of God's plan, and that God's way is marriage between one man and one woman. You may lose the love of the world, but God will be pleased. You may lose some members of your church, but God will be happy. You may not get to pray at the inauguration, but that is a small price to pay for integrity and character. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rick Warren did it right?

Last night (Christmas Eve) I was in the twin cities with my extended family, but we wanted to be home for Christmas day, so we drove home late at night. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive, so by the time we got home at around 12:30, I was pretty amped up. So, I channel surfed to quiet down, and found the tail end of Rick Warren's "A Christmas at Saddleback" on Fox News Channel.

I watched with a critical ear, as usual, because Warren has so wrecked the Gospel in his multiple TV appearances, at Davos, and in the national cathedral. But I was pleasantly surprised last night when Rick Warren actually said the word 'repent' when describing how to receive the greatest Christmas gift ever. He said that we must admit that we need and want God, that we want to be saved from our sin, and that we repent and turn from our sin, and we receive the gift.

I do not agree that there are seekers as Warren describes, for the Bible states clearly that no man seeks after God, and that no one can come to God unless He draws them. God is the seeker. But, Warren's proclamation of repentance and faith for salvation deserves a hearty three cheers from his critics, of which I am the chief.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Jesus are you praying to?

In this rather humorous piece, we see a serious point. Problem here is that the emergent world and the modern evangelical institutional church are much like the Ricky Bobby table prayer. The problem? Manyl choose a Jesus that we like and a theology that we like. Like Rob Bell who says

Velvet Elvis “For a Christian, Jesus’ teachings aren’t to be followed because they are a nice way to live a moral life. They are to be followed because they are the possible insight into how the world really works. They teach us how things are. I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’, he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God.” - p. 83

Are Jesus' words a possible insight into how the world really works? Or are they the words that show us the way to eternal life? Does Jesus lead us into the ultimate reality, or has He paid the penalty for our sins to give us righteousness? When Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but by me, He was saying that He was the Way the Truth, and The Life. He is the only way, that is by His ultimate sacrifice, the only way to peace with God, the only way to Salvation. The point of Jesus' coming was NOT to connect with the ultimate reality, it was to reconcile us with God. Ultimately, the point of Jesus' coming was to bring Glory to God!

What Jesus is Rob Bell and his buddies talking about? What Jesus is going to reconcile and restore all people, regardless of their religious belief like Doug Pagitt believes in? What Jesus does not know the future, like the one Greg Boyd believes in? What Jesus was called the Word, and yet sola scriptura is coming to an end like the one Phyllis Tickle believes in? What Jesus does Tony Jones believe in, as he makes a mockery of being Born Again, and of the clear teaching of the Bible about the sin of homosexuality?

We better make sure that we are praying to the right Jesus; like the one presented in the Bible. The one presented in the Gospels. The one presented in John ch. 1 with the all the different names He is called by John to demonstrate his character and nature. I urge you to make sure that you believe Jesus in truth, as presented in His Holy Word. His Word is closely associated with His character. He is the Word, and we must believe in Him in truth. We do not want to come to the day of Judgement, thinking we know who Jesus is, and we believed all along in the wrong one.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Great Emergence from Biblical Authority

It is simply shocking, but there have been warning signs. What is it that emergent is emerging from, and where are they emerging to? At the great emergence conference, Phyllis Tickle-your-ears (as quoted by the blogger Jonathan Brink, claims that they want to emerge from denominations, organized churches, and central authority. The shocking claim: That the reformation transfered authority from a flesh and blood pope to one made of paper (the Bible). 
I’ve heard Tickle-(your-ears) talk about the faulty logic of Luther’s choice for Sola Scriptura and the inevitable consequences of it but she mentioned something today that really caught everyone’s attention. She went extensively into the concept of division and how Sola Scriptura is naturally bent towards division, which is eventually a recipe for chaos and unending conflict. She mentioned the 26,000 Protestant denominations on record. The choice for Sola Scriptura had a positive consequence in that it did foster literacy in order for people to read Scripture on their own, but it also took away a central authority in the Pope which allowed everyone to have an opinion. Outcome: Instant division.

HT: Missio Dei/Jonathan Brink

Well, Mrs Tickle-your-ears is right; Sola Scriptura is bent towards division.  Jesus Christ himself (red letter christians, pay attention) said that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. The author of Hebrews notes that scripture is a two edged sword, and the division it causes. The conflict is brought about when people trip over the rock which is Christ, and His Word, which is so closely associated with who He is. God literally breathed out (inspired) the Bible, and therefore, it has authority, and is useful:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (English Standard Version)16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work
When the light comes into our lives, we have a choice, we can cover our sin, deny the light, suppress the truth or we can confess our darkness, our sin and be forgiven:

1 John 1:5-9 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and(I) the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We can choose to walk in the darkness, out from under the authority of scripture. By emerging out from under the authority of scripture, the light of scripture, we are walking in the darkness. To coin an old Doug Pagitt coloquialism: 'the way of Jesus' is only presented in the Bible; it is not our opinion of how Jesus would act, it is the truth of Jesus and who He is according to the scripture. Apart from scripture, we cannot know Jesus and what He wants us to do.

Further proof of the slide away from biblical authority came when Tony Jones last week announced his opinion that GLBTQ people can live as Christians, We see that Jon Brink also notes that this has to do with the departing from Sola Scriptura:
.....Tickle’s comment that there are forty-four specific events that underline the move away from Sola Scriptura. I would love to see what those 44 are but that would be like icing on the cake. The final subject in the turn away will be how we address homosexuality in the church. She reiterated that it’s not if Sola Scriptura ends but when.

Amen, again, this is so true. If scripture is not the final authority, and feelings or our modern intelligence becomes the source of reason and rule in religion and faith. We will go with what seems the most logical to us, and not what the Word of God teaches. This is presented oh so clearly by Paul in Romans 1:18-22: exegesis
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, and Phyllis Tickle-your-ears claim to be wise, but they have become fools, because they do not see the scripture alone as the final authority. It is as though God needs help to catch up to postmodern thought and sensibilities. The God of the universe saw this before time began, and knew that man would fall away. When you emerge from scriptural authority, you commit apostasy. Maybe next year (the the Lord tarries) they could call this conference that: The great apostasy. This great apostasy is coming; be watchful; for we see at the great emergence what Paul warned about in 1 Timothy 4:

1 Timothy 4:1 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared
Those who call God a liar are liars, by saying that scripture alone is not enough calls God a liar. It is really just that simple. If they do not trust His word, then they are not Christians.

And then Peter in 2 Peter 3:
I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires
Many of these scoffers can be found in emergent fellowships around the world. They scoff at God's law like the serpent did in Genesis 3 : Did God really say? 
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

We are called by God to be diligent in holiness. We are told to avoid those who twist scripture (or cast it aside) to their own destruction. We should not be carried away by their teaching, because we will lose our stability (found only in Christ. We are called to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus; the only way to do that is by loving His Word, reading His Word, and obeying His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Burning down "The Shack"

Many of the folks who attend the local church in which I serve have come to me in recent months asking about the book "The Shack". I must confess, I have not read it, as yet, because I do not really frankly have the time. I have done quite a lot of reading about the book, its author, and what it teaches as the truth. I have decided that I will not be spending my time reading it, rather, I will trust the reviews of trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. I recommend highly Dr. Michael Youssef, Tim Challies
, and Berit Kjos

For those who have little time to read, and are interested, Dr. Michael Youseff has put together thirteen heresies refuted by scripture that he found in The Shack. I post this her because I believe the most important thing that we must know and agree upon is the truth about Christ as we find in scripture, not the pictures of God that the world is more comfortable with.

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus.

Because God's eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.

The Bible declares that God's love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.

Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.

Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins.

The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.

The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn't mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, "I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father." Jesus also said, "I will send you the Holy Spirit" (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices.

Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, "Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life." We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love.

The Bible teaches that when God's love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.

Jesus' own description of hell is vivid ... it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn't matter which way you get to Him.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me" (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.

Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, "In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.

Jesus said, "Only those who believe in me will have eternal life" (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.

The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God's words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read "We Preach Christ" (2 Timothy 3:16).

HT Dr. Michael Yousaf

This Christmas, the Shack may have been on a list of books you might want to give to a loved one who is hurting or seeking God. A far better gift would be the Bible, which is the only text from which you can discover God's answer to the human condition, as well as the one true God. It is the only inspired Word, and it is the only source that can claim divine authorship. If you must read the shack, do so with the Bible nearby, Do not trust the words of the human author, who himself has denied scripture and turned from the truth.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rick Warren on Hannity and Colmes: He almost got it!

Last night, Rick Warren went on Hannity and Colmes to promote his book the book "The Purpose of Christmas". My first note: This guy is a marketing genius. He refuses to confront Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox and calls Rick Warren his 'pastor') about his distribution of pornography etc, and Rupert gives Warren plenty of face time on Fox News and on Christmas specials. He is also a marketing genius because he uses purpose in all of his books, and has peace with God summed up in three pithy phrases, all found in his books. (I do not want to misquote, so I will not write them here)

I was actually tracking with Warren for a time while he and Hannity were talking. The conversation was all about how Thanksgiving and Christmas have both really lost their meaning in a consumer driven society. Warren appropriately mentioned that many families fail to give thanks to God even on Thanksgiving! I really agree with this. The focus has become (for many) family, football, and shopping on Black Friday. Christmas has become less about Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God's gift to mankind , and more about business and sales and family and vacation. (It is kind of hypocritical, therefore, in my view to promote your book that you are trying to sell about Christmas...perfect Christmas gift!)

Now, I am sure Richard Abanes, professional apologist for Rick Warren will disagree with where Rick and I really parted ways. Alan Colmes( a Jew) basically begged Rick Warren to proclaim the Gospel. He went at Rick at least three times, giving him the perfect opportunity to say that Jesus Christ is the only way. Rick kind of partially quoted John 14:6 and said that Jesus is the way; but then Alan Colmes came back at him and asked if that means that you must take Jesus Christ as your Lord to be saved, and Rick dodged that question, as well as the follow up, asking if Jews, Muslims, etc. will be in heaven if they do not believe in Christ. Alan Colmes was giving Pastor Rick Warren ample opportunity to proclaim that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes judgement. A perfect opportunity to say that God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him- but that whoever does not believe is condemned already. And he could have said that the wrath of God abides on those who will not take this gift. He could have proclaimed the good news. He didn't, except in code and pithy phrases from His book not the Word of God. The real bummer is when he told Alan Colmes to try Jesus for 90 days and if he didn't feel better or get his life improved, he could 'return Jesus' would get his money back. Everybody on the set thought that was really funny. God did not.

Many people who read this blog think I am too hard on the emergents and the wishy-washy seeker sensitive Pastors. This is the very reason. Rick wanted to be a 'bridge builder' (his words) and was more concerned about ratings and not being offensive than he was about preaching the truth. But he will not be asked back you may say. SO WHAT! If he proclaims the truth once with the millions of viewers out there, he will do more than many will do in a lifetime. As usual, and with his seeker sensitive aplomb, Rick Warren decided it was more important to sell books and not offend than it was to preach the Gospel. He thought it better to be a comedian, to make salvation into a sales pitch, to make Christmas all about me, and not the glory of God. For shame, Rick, For shame.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Open letter to a friend who has a gay loved one:

My dear friend,

You have asked me to exegete Romans 1:18-32 for you to examine whether or not God through Paul is addressing homosexuality specifically or sin generally. Here is my take:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

We are correct in assuming that this is a passage against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The wrath of God is revealed, specifically in the fact that men die ( the soul that sins, it shall die). People who are trapped in sin suppress the truth, because, as John explains in John 3, They love darkness rather than light. The result? Jesus came to save sinners, because we stand condemned or judged already for our sins.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
A universal truth, God has revealed himself to all mankind. He has done this through creation, as well as the law written on the heart of man. Where does ungodliness and unrighteousness come in? When we suppress the truth by our deeds.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The goodness of God and the morality of God is revealed in creation. His attributes are revealed, specifically, his power (as creator) and his divine nature(merciful, loving, and yes, just) Being that the law and these attributes are written on the hearts of all men through what we call the conscience, when we sin, we do so with (con) knowledge (science), all men are without excuse when they suppress the truth and they choose to sin. Remember, John are condemned already.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

They knew God, through creation and conscience, yet they chose not to honor Him. As a result, they became futile (worthless) in their thinking. Their foolish hearts were darkened or hardened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
An example of this is the many religions formed over the centuries. Mankind has created gods in their own image. Philosophers have come and gone, proclaiming wisdom, yet in the end, they were proven foolish. One day, those who call homosexuality natural or something people are born with will have to face God on judgement day. They will understand they were very foolish, as will the thieves, liars, and adulterers who made a god in their own image believing that he made them that way and that they have an excuse for sinful actions. They will question the creator, as many do now, and He will say depart from me, you who practice lawlessness (MT 7:20-23)

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Some religions (see evolution) are so foolish that they assign creation to created things, and worship those created things rather than worshipping God. Some modern and ancient religions would worship the sun, the moon, and even rocks.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

God gave them up- that is he gave up those who suppressed truth, denied their conscience, and sinned against God, and created gods of created things. He gave them up to lusts- all the things of the flesh, all the things that are manifested out of pride and selfishness. Specifically, God gave them over to impurity, which is manifested in sexual perversions, whether it be homosexuality, beastiality, incest, pornography, fornication, etc. etc. They dishonored their bodies among themselves...God made their bodies for a specific purpose, their sexual organs for a specific purpose. He made man with parts and women with parts. These parts were for specific function for the purpose of pleasure and procreation within a covenant relationship. He made woman for man and man for woman. Any 1st year biology student can understand this. But, because they are given over, their hearts are darkened, they have become fools, they believe that they can use specific parts for different functions. They have exchanged the truth about God- that he is the creator, that he has laws, and that he has attributes and character, for a lie. They believe that, for example, God created them that way. But God is not to blame for sin of any kind. We choose to sin. We have the nature to worship and please ourselves in our own lusts rather than pleasing and serving God.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Very clearly, this is about homosexuality. This is not the way God made man and made women. God calls homosexuality dishonorable, unnatural, shameless, and punishable by the wrath of God. Since they gave up on God, and pursued their own lusts, God gave them up, and allowed them to pursue their own lusts. I don't want to seem mean, Ronald, but statistically, homosexuals have a much higher suicide rate than heterosexuals. Modern man attributes that to persecution or not being loved or accepted. I believe it is because they know that the wrath of God abides on them, they are filled with shame, andthey are receiving the due penalty for their error in their misery.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

This debased mind includes belief that what they are doing is right and proper and smiled upon by God. It is not.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

This is the description of all the other ways that sin manifests itself in people. And certainly, we should judge ourselves. Indeed, Paul was writing to the Romans describing the world caught in sin in this first 3 chapters. He was placing all of us under the law, including the Jews (and modern day pharisees)in chapter two, who would say, well, I am not like that, so I am okay. Paul uses the ten commandments to show us that there is no one righteous, not even one.

My friend, I weep for you and for your son. I pray that instead of self protection in the form of justifying your son's sin, and believing in a false God who would change His standards and His Word for your son's benefit, I would warn your son that if he dies in his sins he will go to Hell! Part of true salvation is repentance, which includes agreeing with God about sin in your life (confession) and a 180 degree turn from that sin to God, placing your full trust in Him. If your son does this, God will forgive his sins, and give him a new heart and a new mind with new desires.