Friday, July 31, 2009

violence

"There are people in this world who go about demanding to be killed. You must have noticed them. They quarrel in gambling games. They jump out of their automobiles in a rage. They humiliate and bully people whose capabilities they do not know. These are people who wander through the world shouting, kill me. And there's always someone ready to oblige to them." ~ Vito Corleone

Thursday, July 30, 2009

absorbed wrath

"If God were not just, there would be no demand for His Son to suffer and die. Yet, if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for His Son to suffer and die. But, God is both just and loving. Therefore, God's love is willing to meet the demands of His justice." ~ John Piper based on Gal 3.13; Rom 3.28; 1 John 4.10

While I appreciate penal substitution deniers for helping me see that not all I thought supported the idea was correct, they have failed (in my mind) to deal with explicit Scripture dealing with this. And more so, the beauty of how this fits with the whole of who I understand God to be.

hate

"Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment. " ~ Michael Corleone

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pluralism

Pluralism by Greg:

The modern pluralist claim that "all religions are basically the same" might be rephrased thus:

“When you remove all of the differences, they all say the same thing.”

It's not the similarities that matter, it's the differences. Classical pluralism implores us to show respect to those with whom we have disagreements without ignoring those differences.

He's right, under the guise of a false sense of "inclusion" today's postmodern innovators would have us believe that differences are not important or at least not as important as "getting along". The latter may be true depending on the particular difference but of course that would never be recognized if we ignore differences or do not define our core.

not just for individuals

The gospel, you see, is not just a message for individuals, telling them how to avoid God’s wrath. It is also a message about a kingdom, a society, a new community, a new covenant, a new family, a new nation, a new way of life, and therefore, a new culture. God calls us to build a city of God, a New Jerusalem.

Remember the cultural mandate. Sin does not abrogate it..

The gospel creates new people, who are committed to Christ in every area of their lives. People like these will change the world. They will fill and rule the earth for the glory of Jesus. They will plant churches and establish godly families and they will also establish hospitals, schools, arts, and sciences. That is what has happened, by God’s grace. And that is what will continue to happen until Jesus comes.

~ John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp.861-862)

HT:DD

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

polemic

We are flooded with instant information these days via the internet and it seems most of it is worth what we pay for it - nothing. With this spate of information comes an overwhelming source of unqualified critics - especially among Christians. While I understand some of the motivation, I like DA Carson's words on Polemical Theology.

... there is something wrong-headed about making polemical theology the focus of one’s theological identity. This can be done in many ways. There are well-known scholars whose every publication has an undertone of “everyone-has-got-this-wrong-before-me-but-here-is-the-true-synthesis.” Some become far better known for what they are against than for the overflow of their worship or for their generosity to the needy or even for their affirmation of historically confessed truth. Still other Christians develop websites and ministries whose sole aim is to confute error. God knows there is plenty of error to confute. To make the refutation of error into a specialized “ministry,” however, is likely to diminish the joyful affirmation of truth and make every affirmation of truth sound angry, supercilious, self-righteous—in a word, polemical. In short, while polemical theology is just about unavoidable in theory and should not, as a matter of faithfulness, be skirted, one worries about those who make it their specialism.

Amen. On the other hand, ultimately, as much as postmoderns would like otherwise, the Kingdom of God is not all inclusive. In the end, there will be some that Jesus didn't know and who will be separated from God for eternity. Our joy, like God's, is not to exclude, but in the light of this knowledge, our heart is to include on the basis of Truth.

Carson notes:

. . . any robust theology that wounds and heals, that bites and edifies and clarifies, is implicitly or explicitly engaging with alternative stances. In a world of finite human beings who are absorbed in themselves and characterized by rebellion against God, polemical theology is an unavoidable component of any serious theological stance, as the Bible itself makes clear.

Re-read Galatians. Within the space of six short chapters, Paul can be indignant with his readers, but he can also plead with them. He openly admits he wishes he could be present with them so he could better judge how he should adjust his tone. He can be scathing with respect to his opponents, precisely because he wants to protect his readers; he can devote several paragraphs to clarifying and defending his own credibility, not least in demonstrating that his core gospel is shared by the other apostles, even though he insists he is not dependent on them for getting it right. He happily connects his theological understanding to ethical conduct. All of this suggests that a mature grasp of the potential of polemical theology wants to win and protect people, not merely win arguments.

Amen again. Running from arguments is wrong. At the same time making the winning of arguments our objective is equally wrong. We desire to participate in God's redemptive work and in that we must demonstrate and proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

HT for Carson's words:JT

Monday, July 27, 2009

zion & babylon



Zion & Babylon
by Josh Garrels

Oh great mammon of form and function
Careless consumerist consumption
Dangerous dysfunction
Described as expensive taste
I’m a people disgraced
By what I claim I need
And what I want to waste
I take no account for nothing
If it’s not mine
It’s a misappropriation of funds
Protect my ninety percent with my guns
Whose side am I on?
Well who’s winning?
My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves
Orphans, widows, and homeless graves
I sold their souls just to build my private mansion
Some people say that my time is coming
Kingdom come is the justice running
Down, down, down on me
I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son
I refuse to give my love to anyone,
Fight for the truth,
Or help the weaker ones
Because I love my Babylon
I am a slave, I was never free
I betrayed you for blood money
Oh I bought the world, all is vanity
Oh my Lord I’m your enemy
Come to me, and find your life
Children sing, Zion’s in sight
I said don’t trade your name for a serial number
Priceless lives were born from under graves
Where I found you
Say, my name ain’t yours and yours is not mine
Mine is the Lord, and yours is my child
That’s how it’s always been
Time to make a change
Leave your home
Give to the poor all that you own
Lose your life, so that you could find it
First will be last when the true world comes
Livin’ like a humble fool to overcome
The upside-down wisdom
Of a dying world
Zion’s not built with hands
And in this place God will dwell with man
Sick be healed and cripples stand
Sing Allelu
My kingdom’s built with the blood of my son
Selfless sacrifice for everyone
Faith, hope, love, and harmony
I said let this world know me by your love
By your love
Oh my child, daughters and sons
I made you in love to overcome
Free as a bird, my flowers in the sun
On your way to Mount Zion
All you slaves, be set free
Come on out child and come on home to me
We will dance, we will rejoice
If you can hear me then follow my voice

deeds

Deeds of love allow us to sneak into the hearts of those we serve. ~ Steve Sjogren

Sunday, July 26, 2009

amillennialism

I'm finally making progress again studying eschatology and to quote Kim Riddlebarger:

I remain satisfied that only the amillennial interpretation of Revelation 20.1-10 lets John speak in the light of his own thought world, and that, of course, is the Old Testament now fulfilled by Christ. John was not describing an earthly scene at all. The scene takes place first in the abyss (vv. 1-3) and then in heaven (vv. 4-6) before shifting to earth in verses 7-10. John was not describing a time of universal peace and brotherhood, although he did describe a time when Satan's ability to deceive the nations is curtailed. Instead, John is describing the present reign of Christ's saints and the final consummation of all things when, in the end, the ultimate enemy of Christ and his people, Satan, finally gets everything that is coming to him.

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eternal life

The implications of the present possession of eternal life are brought out in the assurance that its possessor "will not be condemned" or, more accurately, "does not come into judgment." This is the usual Johannine thought that judgment takes place here and now. People who accept the way of darkness and evil have already been judged. Their judgment lies in that very fact. So with those who have already passed right out of the state of death, and have come into life. ~ Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, pg 280

calvin comments

From Calvin: Commentaries, Introductory Selections from Calvin, pages 66, 69;

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death. This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Friday, July 24, 2009

where is the kingdom

One postmodern innovator writes, "It seems to me the primary narrative of the Bible is this exile, this disconnect – we are always trying to come home, always struggling to find the Kingdom and yet most the time remain as Moses looking into the Promised Land we can see it but not quite enter." I'm not quite sure what the author meant but it seems inconsistent with the message of Christ.

John Piper writes the following:

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting” (John 18:36). The way of the cross is the way of suffering. Christians are called to die, not kill, in order to show the world how they are loved by Christ. True Christian love humbly and boldly commends Christ, no matter what it costs, to all peoples as the only saving way to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

In John 3 it is recorded that Jesus said if we are born again we can see and enter the Kingdom of God. In one sense, the postmodern innovator is correct in that we do not always see and experience the Kingdom. At least I agree in terms of "experience" in our limited senses. On the other hand, I find "we are always struggling to find the Kingdom" and "we can see it but not quite enter" to be sad confessions of a failed faith - a result of the absence of truth stirred to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet many embrace these sentiments in a false humility disguised in the code word "brokenness".

meant for good

John Piper in Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die:

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah, centuries before Christ, said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith”(Romans 3:25). But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, he accomplished it. To paraphrase a word from the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but Godmeant it for good (Genesis 50:20).

sin

Ed Stetzer on Secret Sins (worth reading his full post):

The lie: Secret sin in your life and in the church will not hinder the mission of God.

The answer: Live a gospel-centered, repentance-filled life.

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false doctrines

If doctrine isn't important, I wonder why Scripture would contain so many warnings against those who would bring false doctrines. I think a key false doctrine is the notion that doctrine is not important.

Matthew 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits."

Matthew 24:4-5 "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray."

Romans 16:17-18 "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive."

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness."

Galatians 1:6-7 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."

Ephesians 4:14 "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."

Colossians 2:4 "I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."

Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way."

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

1 Timothy 4:1-2 "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, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared."

1 Timothy 6:20-21 "O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith."

2 Timothy 3:5 "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."

2 Timothy 3:12-13 "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

2 Peter 2:1-3 "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words."

2 Peter 2:13 "They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you."

1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world"

2 John 7 "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist."

Revelation 2:2 "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."

Revelation 13:11 "Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon."

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boldness

“When we preach Christ crucified, we have no reason to stammer, or stutter, or hesitate, or apologize; there is nothing in the gospel of which we have any cause to be ashamed.”

—Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Quotes on the Gospel

HT:OFI

Thursday, July 23, 2009

doctrine is the enemy?

I don't know why I continue to by surprised by the number of people that fall for the timeless lie that doctrine (or right belief) is the enemy of freedom, relationships, (fill in the blank). The current world thinking is that if we are to truly love we must include everyone, we must accept the doctrines of all around us. Contrary to Scripture, they think all will be included and anything else is exclusion. They fail to see that in the end, Christ Himself will reject some.

A Facebook friend wrote, "To jump off the cliff, with arms wide and smiling face toward the sky, is the essence of faith. It's not rational - it never will be." I find that said. This is not faith, this is foolishness and a sure path toward destruction. Our faith is based on revealed truth. It has content but is more than information thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. The following analogy (which like all analogies falls apart at some point) is a better representation of faith and freedom.

Two guys jump out of an airplane; one has a parachute and one does not. The one without the parachute mocks to the other bragging that he is free from the encumbrance of the parachute.

Which man is really free? Which one understands that laws of gravity and physics? Which one is truly free to enjoy the event with the assuredness of safety in the end?

Sometimes we fail to understand what true freedom really is.

I completely get it when Nakedpastor presents the following:

Balls-And-Chains
Ball-And-Chain-1024X926
We can add to God's truth and in doing so destroy our relationship with God and with each other.

At the same time, the solution is not to reject truth. Homosexuality has become a key issue for many postmodern innovators. They have reacted to the distain presented by those who claim to know truth in such a way that they brag about including practicing homosexuals in the community of believers. They have jettisoned Biblical truth for their works based idea of salvation.

redemption of what

“The object of the work of redemption is not limited to the salvation of individual sinners, but extends itself to the redemption of the world, and to the organic reunion of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as their original head.

The final outcome of the future, foreshadowed in the Holy Scriptures, is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”

—Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism

HT:OFI

Monday, July 20, 2009

respect

In outreach and life respect is owed not earned. ~ Steve Sjogren on Facebook

Sunday, July 19, 2009

soda scriptura

3735935857 0F7Bab5Ca4

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god's gift

“Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath . . ., and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . . nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14).”

- John Piper, This Momentary Marriage

HT:OFI

Saturday, July 18, 2009

our freedom

"Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part out of pure free sovereign mercy so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart and with an eager will do all thing which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a father who has overwhelmed me with His inestimable riches! I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see as necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.
Behold, from faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly.

Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

Friday, July 17, 2009

jesuslessness

Jared Wilson posts this excellent piece.

On Jesuslessness

There is a pastor whose Twitter feed I occasionally read, but I shouldn't, because it absolutely drives me nuts. A large portion of my reaction is tied to my own issues, I'm sure, but I see in his broadcasts an almost pathological intention not to mention Jesus. And as I thirst for Jesus, I notice this withholding lots and lots of places in the Bible Belt.
I have been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus.

John Piper says, "What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ."

We ministers of the gospel -- and Christians at large -- can fumble this commission in three main ways:

1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities. Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It's all very inspirational. And it's rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well.

2. We speak Christ as moral exemplar. We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them to be sweet because Jesus was sweet, good because Jesus was good, hard-working because Jesus was hard-working, loving because Jesus was loving. This is all well and good, but you could substitute "Mother Theresa" or even "Oprah" for "Jesus" and essentially have the same message.

3. We avoid the real problem -- sin -- and therefore either ignore the real solution -- the cross -- or confuse its meaning. In many churches, not only is sin never mentioned -- Joel Osteen, for instance, flat out says he doesn't like to talk about it basically because it hurts people's feelings -- the cross is rarely mentioned. And when the cross is mentioned, because we don't want to talk about sin, it becomes instead the great affirmation of our special-ness, rather than the great punishment for our unholiness. The cross becomes not the intersection of God's justice and mercy but the symbol of God's positive feelings about our undeniable lovability.

In all of these instances, and others, people are inspired and enthused, but they are moved about God's recognition of their own awesomeness, not about the glories of Christ. The capacity is enlarged with our growing self-esteem.

Even angels long to gaze into the life-giving riches of the gospel of grace. We prefer to drink deeply from the well into which we're gazing -- our navels.

Pastors, inspiration sells. But only Jesus transforms.

mclaren's miss

In The Method, The Message, and The On-Going Story, Brian McLaren writes tells of this man, Sam, who, after some time of tending to the plants at McLaren’s church, approached the pastor and asked him if he was curious why Sam had never visited the church he volunteered to do work for. McLaren, approached by such a question, is of course curious and quite alarmed by Sam’s answer. Sam tells McLaren that he is Jewish and is not interested in Christianity because “I was listening to one of your evangelical preachers on the television, and he said that if Hitler had said a little prayer so that he accepted Jesus into his heart or some such nonsense, then all the wrong he did wouldn’t matter and he’d go straight to Heaven.”

McLaren rightly acknowledges that this sort of “gospel presentation” seems to make God sound unjust, reduces Christianity to easy-believism, and trivializes the Holocaust. Sam continues by describing how his son had decided to go to Israel to join the Israeli army, knowing it was dangerous but wanting to assist his people in their struggles. one night, Sam’s son came across a group of fellow soldiers who were harassing a Palestinian man by calling him names, roughing him up a bit, and brandishing knives, telling the Palestinian man that if he was going to live in the land then he needed to be circumcised. Sam’s son was disgusted by this, encouraged them to stop, and when they wouldn’t he pulled his rifle on the other soldiers. this gave the Palestinian man the chance to run away, at Sam’s son’s command, and Sam’s son apologized for his fellow soldiers’ behavior. the next day, Sam’s son was arrested, held in prison for a good while, was put on trial, was exonerated from any wrong doing, and even received a letter praising him for doing the right thing. after telling this story, Sam’s question for McLaren was this: “Would your God send my boy to hell because he never said, ‘Jesus save me,’ but he’d let Hitler go to Heaven for saying the magic words? Is that what you believe, like that TV preacher?”

McLaren’s response: “I didn’t answer his question; I didn’t know how.”

He doesn’t seem to recall exactly what he said, but he says, “I said something like this: ‘Sam, i think your son acted a lot like Jesus would have acted. Jesus cared for the outsiders, just as your son did, and Jesus gave up his life to protect us all, just as your son risked his life for that guy. So i think your son was following Jesus’ example, and I can see why you’re so proud of him. Really, i think God feels about Jesus a lot like you feel about your son. And i know God must be proud of your son too.”

Here, McLaren communicates that the Gospel is being a generally good and moral person. The Gospel is acting in a way and living in such a way as to hope that God will be “proud” of you when you stand before His throne to give an account for your life. McLaren has given Sam false hope in a false gospel. instead of answering the negative version of “what must i do to be saved” with the response that Jesus would have been “proud” of, McLaren follows the Pharisees and Judaizers in presenting a gospel of works-righteousness to Sam, a gospel which condemned in the New Testament.

As noted in the previous post, the postmodern innovators of today are returning to works based righteousness under the guise a wrongly defined notion of love.

Galations 2:21; "do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose."

Jesus had a similar encounter as McLaren. See John 3. Jesus told Nicodemus that his good life was not good enough. That he was a sinner like everyone else. And that he, like everyone else, must receive the gift of regeneration.

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what we need to believe

In A Heretic's Guide to Eternity Spencer Burke tries to promote the idea that right beliefs are unnecessary for salvation.

For most of my Christian life, I have heard people say that it is not enough to do good works or care for the world. There has to be faith in Jesus - which usually means assent to a set of presuppositions. But actually, the apostle Paul said it is good works without love - not good works without a belief system - that are empty and worthless.

I'm saddened for people like Burke. I can only presume this kind of thinking stems from hardened heart that has only interacted with a pharisaical type of Church. That is, I see Burke's thinking as an equally wrong over-reaction to an opposite wrong. As a believer in love with Christ and His Church I see where people (and especially organizations) have missed the mark but I cannot conclude that belief is unnecessary (Jn 14.6).

I like Michael Wittmer's diagram here for thinking about what is necessary, what cannot be rejected, and what is simply beneficial.

Dsb,+What+Christians+Believe
  • Sinners need Regeneration
  • Regeneration requires the Holy Spirit
  • The Holy Spirit uses Truth
In the Institutes of Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote:

For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God's face, shines; and that we in turn may embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived when we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word. ... Therefore the Spirit ... has not the task of inventing new and unheard of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine ... but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel.

Wittmer writes:

Contrary to what some postmodern innovators believe, those who reject these foundational doctrines of Christian faith cannot be saved, no matter how swell they are and how well they behave. Being good is not good enough. We must know and believe something - the basic fact about salvation - to be saved.

He is exactly right. Postmodern innovators, in a reaction to the legalist pharisees of our day, have over-reacted so far in the opposite direction that they have come full circle and ended back in a works based heresy.

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you are favorable

“God has declared in the gospel that whenever we come to him, we are to call upon him freely and openly as our Father, who has adopted us as his children. If we do not have this assurance, the thought of serving God will make us grind our teeth.

If, however, we are persuaded that God looks upon us favourably; if, though we are weak and can do nothing worthy of his approval, he accepts us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we will surely be filled with courage.

We will be like a ship’s sail that has been stretched and filled by the breeze! Thus, our hearts will run to obey him, like a ship driven along by its sail, when we know that God delights in us and accepts our works, not wanting us to be compelled into servitude. He is happy for us to be his children, and that we desire to obey him.”

- John Calvin, Sermons on Galatians

HT:OFI

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

tolerance

I need to be careful that I do not copy all of Michael Wittmer's Don't Stop Believing here - you should go buy a copy yourself, it is excellent - but I cannot resist. Here is an interesting analogy regarding how much tolerance is the right amount.

When mechanics tighten the nut on a wheel bearing, they back off the nut a quarter turn to allow grease to lubricate the bearing. The mechanic who forgets to back off the nut and allow for a grease tolerance is like some conservative Christians. They insist that every belief is important and do not give others room to breathe, to differ even on minor issues. Lacking sufficient grace to lubricate their lives, metal grinds on meal until their wheels overheat and eventually seize up, crippling their faith. ...

If conservatives sometimes lack enough tolerance, some postmodern Christians seem like the mechanic who backs off the wheel nut too far. These postmodern innovators seem so tolerant that what they are driving no longer resembles historic Christianity. They permit so much play that their wheels wobble from the beginning and, when they hit a pothole, may quickly fall off and disable their faith.

still more sola scriptura

"My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen." ~ Martin Luther

"Evangelical Christians tend to turn Luther's cherished sola scriptura (Scripture alone) into nuda scriptura (naked Scripture), so that Scripture becomes our only rather than final authority. ~ Michael Wittmer

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the word in light of culture

He who marries the present culture becomes a window in the next. At the same time, as Michael Wittmer explains, the more we learn about God's world, the more accurately we can interpret God's Word. Wittmer provides the following illustrations:

Science. Copernicus's discovery that the earth revolves around the sun enables us to properly interpret Psa 31.9: "The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved." In Copernicus's day, most Christians took this as proof that the earth is the stationary center of the universe. Even Martin Luther criticized Copernicus for allowing his newfangled view of the world to contradict Scripture. While a few such dinosaurs exist, most Christians today rightly read Psa 31.9 not as a scientific description of the earths immovability but as a poetic promise of God's provision for his creation.

Politics. Many nineteenth-century Americans used Paul's commands that slaves should obey their masters as biblical suppor for slavery. But now, in part due to our country's emphasis on democracy and human rights, no one outside of an occasional white supremacist uses the Bible to condone slavery.

History. Until recently most theologians believed that God is impassible, meaning that he does not experience emotions (a sign of weakness for an omnipotent and extremely rational God). Typical is Anselm, who, in an eleventh-century prayer to God, wrote that we may "feel the effect of Your mercy, but You do not experience the feeling ... You do not experience any feeling of compassion for misery." Try preaching that! In part because we have just past through the bloodiest century in history - from the Holocaust to Hiroshima to Hotel Rwanda - Christians are rediscovering the first verse they every memorized: "Jesus wept." We have learned from very painful experience that we not only need a God who is strong, but also a God who weeps and suffers with us.

Society. Not that long ago and still every now and again, various conservatives cite Genesis 1.28 in the King James Version to justify their right to "dominate" the rest of creation. Thankfully, society's increasing concern for the environment leads most Christians to interpret God's command to "have dominion" as his call to responsible stewardship rather than wasteful abuse of his world.

global warming settled

There's no longer a need to debate global warming. The G8 have agreed to stop the world from getting too warm.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

postmodern innovators

I am just now re-beginning Michael Wittmer's Don't Stop Believing and immediately I'm loving it. Rather than getting hung up on broad, volatile terms whose definition feel like a moving target, e.g., emergent, Wittmer starts right off with an excellent grid depicting modernity v. post-modernity and conservative v. liberal.

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Wittmer then gives this timeless warning, the "quest to correct the abuses of previous generations must not lead ... to err on the opposite extreme."

What we seek is Truth and right practice based on that. Wittmer states;

Authentic Christianity demands our head, heart, and hands. Our labor for Christ flows from our love for him, which can arise only when we know and think rightly about him. Genuine Christians never stop serving, because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving, because they never stop believing.

In light of that, Wittmer continues his analysis of today's weltgeist.

It is one thing to jettison a former generation's additions to the Christian tradition; it is quite another to question foundational elements of that tradition. We must do the former to own and embody the gospel for our day. We must avoid the latter, or we will lose the very gospel we are attempting to apply.


More to come later ...

sola scriptura

I like this because it addresses the false notion of what Sola Scriptura is and it is this false notion that most unwittingly reject and then boast how they toppled another block of the reformed house.



HT:Melinda

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the concern of preaching

“Puritan preaching revolved around ‘Christ, and him crucified’ – for this is the hub of the Bible. The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses the way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.”

– J.I. Packer

HT:EK via PC

our concern

“The holiest Christians are not those most concerned about holiness as such, but whose minds and hearts and goals and purposes and love and hope are most fully focused on our Lord Jesus Christ.”

- J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit

HT:OFI

Sunday, July 12, 2009

binding satan

In The Dark Side of the Millennium, Arthur Lewis writes this excellent summary on the "binding of Satan".

When Jesus drove out the demons, He actually proclaimed His authority over Satan and the arrival of His Kingdom. He said, "How can one enter a strong man's house unless he first binds the strong man?" (Matt 12.29).

As the disciples also found success in casting out demons, the Lord exclaimed, "I saw Satan fall like lightning out of heaven" (Luke 10.18). This was a metaphoric way of saying that the devil's power had been overcome by the king's envoys. We know that Satan was cast down when Christ was lifted up (John 12.31); thus it was Calvary's victory that broke the grip of the devil on men and nations. the Gospels clearly teach that the devil's control and power over the peoples of the world has been weakened since the first advent of Christ (cf. Heb 2.14).

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rude piano

Jordan Rudess plays this amazing piano solo ...


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evangelical distinctives

RC Sproul on evangelical distinctives in Faith Alone.

Evangelicals are called Evangelicals for a reason. That reason may change as words undergo a fluid evolution through variations of usage over time and in various cultural settings. Language changes. Words undergo sometimes radical, sometimes subtle changes in nuance and meaning. The science of lexicography is cognizant of such change. Lexicographers pay attention chiefly to two factors in the process of defining words. The first is etymology or derivation. We search for the original roots of words and their historic meanings to gain insight into present usage. Since words and their meanings can and often do change, however, it is not enough merely to examine a word’s root to discover its current meaning. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, chief architect of Linguistic Analysis, argued that words must be understood in terms of their contemporary or “customary” usage.

Words are a part of the customs of a people. Words change their meanings as the people change. Take, for example, the word scan. If I tell my students to scan the textbook, what would they understand their assignment to be? Most would understand that they need only skim lightly over the material.

Historically the word scan meant to examine closely with fixed attention to detail. The word still carries that idea with respect to the task of air-traffic controllers. The radar scan is not a loose skimming of planes in the air. A brain scan done by a physician is likewise not a casual, “once over” viewing.

The word scan sounds enough like the word skim for people to begin confusing the two. In this confusion the term scan began to be used to refer to a process that means the very opposite of the word’s original meaning. So what is the correct “meaning” of scan? Most modern lexicographers, because of the confusion in the term’s contemporary usage, would probably cite both meanings.

I labor the point of language because the meaning of the word evangelical is not immune from such fluid development, change, and confusion. The etymology of evangelical is simple. It comes from the Greek word euangelion, or “evangel,” which is the New Testament word for gospel. Historically the term evangelical meant literally “gospeler.” It was a term used by Protestants who identified with the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.

If the Reformation had two chief causes, a formal and a ma terial cause, historic Evangelicalism has the same two causes. The formal cause of the Reformation was declared in the formula sola Scriptura, meaning that the only source of special written revelation that has the authority to bind the conscience absolutely is the Bible. The material cause was declared by the formula sola fide, meaning that justification is by faith alone.

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Over the centuries Evangelicalism became manifest in a wide variety of forms. Manifold denominations emerged with individual doctrinal distinctives. Protestants were divided over a host of theological points, including the sacraments, church government, and worship. We have seen divergent views of soteriology and eschatology—Arminianism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, dispensationalism, and many other “isms”—all flying under the generic banner of Evangelicalism.

The term evangelical served as a unifying genus to capture under one heading a wide assortment of species. The two prominent doctrines that served as the cohesive forces of evangelical unity were the authority of the Bible and justification by faith alone. Though Protestants historically were divided over many issues, they were united on these two points as well as in their affirmation of the main tenets found in such ecumenical creeds as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the formulas of Chalcedon.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

warren

This is rather sad ... "how can we can we actually work together, maintaining our separating traditions, maintaining our convictions without compromise, working together for the greater good?" Ouch. Sorry Rick, you dropped the ball.

what's available?

“Jesus gives his bride full liberty to take all that He has to be their own; He loves them to help themselves freely to His treasure and appropriate as much as they can possibly carry. The boundless fullness of His all-sufficiency is as free to the believer as the air he breathes.”

- Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning

HT:OFI

Monday, July 06, 2009

climate change change

Slowly but surely public and political opinion is reversing regarding global warming as a result of human activity. I intentionally left off scientific opinion because I was never fully convinced which way science was pointing on this issue - it seemed to me that it was heavily influenced by public and political opinion rather than true science.

Anyway, it seems I read more and more these days about real concerns with the theory and a slowing of the mad press forward to fix this before we really understand if there is something to fix. While that pleases me, I pray Christians would realize that we are not to mindlessly destroy the creation that Our Creator has graciously given us dominion over.

Friday, July 03, 2009

kevin skinner

God uses all sorts of ways to speak. Here he revealed to me how quick we judge based on our own grid. Kevin Skinner, on America's Got Talent, fools me. First, along with most others, I judged much about the man. I mean come on, "I'm not a math ... real good at math." And then he plays this song. Amazing! Beautiful! Wow, now we all regret how we assessed him. But pay attention, now that we realize our miss, Sharon Osbourne can some how see that he is a "good man".

Why do we do this?

That aside, if you like good music (and for me that doesn't normally include country), enjoy this.

video

our king

“In our vision of ultimate reality, who is occupying the throne today? Are we authentic New Testament Christians, whose vision is filled with Christ crucified, risen and reigning? Is guilt still reigning, and death? Or is grace reigning, and life?

To be sure, sin and Satan may seem to be reigning still, since many continue to bow down to them. But their reign is an illusion, a bluff. For at the cross they were decisively defeated, dethroned and disarmed.

Now Christ reigns, exalted to the Father’s right hand, with all things under his feet, welcoming the nations, and waiting for his remaining enemies to be made his footstool.”

—John Stott, The Message of Romans

HT:OFI

Thursday, July 02, 2009

false apostles

This excellent word of wisdom comes from Phil Ryken's commentary on Galatians in the Reformed Expository Commentary series by way of Martin Downes.

We cannot simply assume that we have the gospel. Unless we keep the gospel at the center of the church, we are always in danger of shoving it off to one side and letting something else take its place.

Martin Luther rightly warned that "there is a clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions..." The good news of the cross and resurrection must be preached, believed, and lived. Otherwise it will be lost.

The church's greatest danger is not the anti-gospel outside the church; it is the counterfeit gospel inside the church. The Judaizers did not walk around Pisidian Antioch wearing T-shirts that said, "Hug me, I'm a false apostle."

What made them so dangerous was that they knew how to talk the way that Christians talk. They used all the right terminology. They talked about how they "got saved." They told people to "trust in Christ." They "presented the gospel." Only they did not have the gospel after all.

We should expect, therefore, that the most serious threat to the one true gospel is something that is also called the gospel. The most dangerous teachers are the ones who preach a different Christ but still call him "Jesus."

coffee

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