Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
- Progressive Sanctification -- an ongoing work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. (in regards to Sanctification, Mahaney later says, "Small groups are not primarily intended for teaching and preaching; those functions are the responsibility of your pastor. Rather, small groups are designed for application.")
- Mutual Care -- the practical outworking of our sacrificial love for each other which results in meeting one another's needs and carrying one another's burdens.
- Fellowship -- participating in one another's lives because of the unifying bond we share in Jesus. This is more than just friendship or social activity, it is an active pursuit to see and be Jesus in the lives of other believers.
- The Ministry of the Holy Spirit -- using the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit to enhance our fellowship together and to accomplish Jesus' mission together.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009
The following article was written by Casey Corum.
"The glory of God is man; fully alive" - St. Irenaeus of Lyons
At first reading, this often-quoted phrase can be interpreted in a number of ways. Let's explore this from a couple of different angles.
The glory of God is man - fully alive. In other words, it can be put forward that there is a measure to which God is glorified when we are fully being ourselves. God is glorified as we express our God-given gifts, talents, quirks and personalities. In other words, we are us being truly "us." I'm reminded of the quote from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, when the character playing runner Eric Liddell expresses this thought:
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."
I think this quote gets at the heart of this idea - that God can be glorified when we express how He has made us. It is a powerful idea, indeed.
Another angle we can observe this quote from might be better understood if we turn St. Irenaeus' quote around on itself this way:
"Man fully alive, is man glorifying God."
I also love this interpretation because I believe it digs into the heart of our higher purpose and calling as the children of God. This is to say that our highest and most noble purpose, the place where we truly find that for which we are made, is to be found in that place of worship, glorifying God with all we are. This is the place we find His life in exchange for our own.
We can sense some of the deep joy to be found in this place of worship expressed in the words of Paul found in Romans 11:33,
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!"
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil came from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite - everlasting righteousness and joy.
God takes what we meant of evil at one level and turns it into good (Gen 50.20; Acts 2.23, 4.27-28; Isa 53.10). Piper again ...
This is why Jesus came to die. God meant to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy. The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23.34).
The Christian idea of salvation relates to past, present, and future. The Bible says, "By grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2.8). It says that the gospel is the power of God "to us who are being saved" (1 Cor 1.18). And it say, " Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Rom 13.11). We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved.
At every stage we are saved by the death of Christ. In the past, once for all, our sins were paid for by Christ himself. We were justified by faith alone. In the present, the death of Christ secures the power of God's Spirit to save us progressively from the domination and contamination of sin. And in the future, it will be the blood of Christ, poured out on the cross, that protects us from the wrath of God and brings us to perfection and joy.
Those who reject Christ and give their allegiance to another "will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and ... will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night" (Rev 14.10-11).
To achieve this, as John Piper puts it, "first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ." Paul tells us in Phil 3.9-10 that his ambition was first to share in Christ's righteousness by faith, and then to share his sufferings in ministry. Again, Piper, "Justification precedes and makes possible imitation. Christ's suffering for justification makes possible our suffering for proclamation. Our suffering for others does not remove the wrath of God. It shows the value of having the wrath of God removed by the suffering of Christ. It points people to him. ... Our suffering is crucial (2 tim 2.10), but Christ's alone saves. Therefore, let us imitate his love, but not take his place."
In Christ, we use our freedom to serve one another (Gal 5.13).
The New Gospel generally has four parts to it.
It usually starts with an apology: “I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity. It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’ Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous. I know we screwed up with the Crusades, slavery, and the Witch Trials. All I can say is: I apologize. We’ve not give you a reason to believe.”
Then there is an appeal to God as love: “I know you’ve seen the preachers with the sandwich boards and bullhorns saying ‘Repent or Die.’ But I’m here to tell you God is love. Look at Jesus. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved unconditionally. There is so much brokenness in the world, but the good news of the Bible is that God came to live right in the middle of our brokenness. He’s a messy God and his mission is love. ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world,’ that’s what Jesus said (John 3:17). He loved everyone, no matter who you were or what you had done. That’s what got him killed.”
The third part of the New Gospel is an invitation to join God on his mission in the world: “It’s a shame that Christians haven’t shown the world this God. But that’s what we are called to do. God’s kingdom is being established on earth. On earth! Not in some distant heaven after we die, but right here, right now. Even though we all mess up, we are God’s agents to show his love and bring this kingdom. And we don’t do that by scaring people with religious language or by forcing them into some religious mold. We do it by love. That’s the way of Jesus. That’s what it means to follow him. We love our neighbor and work for peace and justice. God wants us to become the good news for a troubled planet.”
And finally, there is a studied ambivalence about eternity: “Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in life after death. But our focus should be on what kind of life we can live right now. Will some people go to hell when they die? Who am I to say? Does God really require the right prayer or the right statement of faith to get into heaven? I don’t know, but I guess I can leave that in his hands. My job is not to judge people, but to bless. In the end, God’s amazing grace may surprise us all. That’s certainly what I hope for.”
Wow!!! That's all too familiar these days. I see that everyday in the blogsphere and even in my personal interaction with Christian friends. They seem almost unaware of how their thinking has be affected by the weltgeist. DeYoung explains how this can easily happen.
1. It is partially true. God is love. The kingdom has come. Christians can be stupid. The particulars of the New Gospel are often justifiable.
2. It deals with strawmen. The bad guys are apocalyptic street preachers, Crusaders, and caricatures of an evangelical view of salvation.
3. The New Gospel leads people to believe wrong things without explicitly stating those wrong things. That is, Christians who espouse the New Gospel feel safe from criticism because they never actually said belief is unimportant, or there is no hell, or that Jesus isn’t the only way, or that God has no wrath, or that there is no need for repentance. These distortions are not explicitly stated, but the New Gospel is presented in such a way that non-believers could, and by design should, come to these conclusions. In other words, the New Gospel allows the non-Christian to hear what he wants, while still providing an out against criticism from other Christians. The preacher of the New Gospel can always say when challenged, “But I never said I don’t believe those things.”
4. It is manageable. The New Gospel meets people where they are and leaves them there. It appeals to love and helping our neighbors. And it makes the appeal in a way that repudiates any hint of judgmentalism, intolerance, or religiosity. This is bound to be popular. It tells us what we want to hear and gives us something we can do.
5. The New Gospel is inspirational. This is what makes the message so appealing to young people in particular. They get the thrill and purpose of being part of a big cause, without all the baggage of the Church’s history, doctrine, and hard edges. Who wouldn’t want to join a revolution of love?
6. The New Gospel has no offense to it. This is why the message is so attractive. The bad guys are all “out there.” This can be a problem for any of us. We are all prone to soft-pedaling the gospel, only presenting the attractive parts and failing to mention where Christ does not just comfort but also confronts. And it must confront more than the sins of others. It is far too easy to use the New Gospel as a way to differentiate yourself from all the bad Christians. This makes you look good and confirms to the non-Christians that the obstacle to their commitment lies with the hypocrisy and failure of others. There is no talk of repentance or judgment. There is no hint that Jesus was killed, not so much for his inclusive love as his outrageous Godlike claims (Matt. 26:63-66; 27:39-43). The New Gospel only talks of salvation in strictly cosmic terms. In fact, the door is left wide open to imagine that hell, if it even exists, is probably not a big threat for most people.
So what's wrong with that? As usual, DeYoung has a few suggestions ...
It shouldn’t be hard to see what is missing in the new gospel. What’s missing is the old gospel, the one preached by the Apostles, the one defined in 1 Corinthians 15, the one summarized later in The Apostles’ Creed.
“But what you call the New Gospel is not a substitute for the old gospel. We still believe all that stuff.” Ok, but why don’t you say it? And not just privately to your friends or on a statement of faith somewhere, but in public? You don’t have to be meaner, but you do have to be clearer. You don’t have to unload the whole truck of systematic theology on someone, but to leave the impression that hell is no big deal is so un-Jesus like (Matt. 10:26-33). And when you don’t talk about the need for faith and repentance you are very un-apostolic (Acts 2:38; 16:31).
“But we are just building bridges. We are relating to the culture first, speaking in a language they can understand, presenting the parts of the gospel that make the most sense to them. Once we have their trust and attention, then we can disciple and teach them about sin, repentance, faith and all the rest. This is only pre-evangelism.” Yes, it’s true, we don’t have to start our conversations where we want to end up. But does the New Gospel really prime the pump for evangelism or just mislead the non-Christian into a false assurance? It’s one thing to open a door for further conversation. It’s another to make Christianity so palatable that it sounds like something the non-Christian already does. And this is assuming the best about the New Gospel, that underneath there really is a desire to get the old gospel out.
Paul’s approach with non-Christians in Athens is instructive for us (Acts 17:16-34). First, Paul is provoked that the city is so full of idols (16). His preaching is not guided by his disappointment with other Christians, but by his anger over unbelief. Next, he gets permission to speak (19-20). Paul did not berate people. He spoke to those who were willing to listen. But then look at what he does. He makes some cultural connection (22-23, 28), but from there he shows the contrast between the Athenian understanding of God and the way God really is (24-29). His message is not about a way of life, but about worshiping the true God in the right way. After that, he urges repentance (30), warns of judgment (31), and talks about Jesus’ resurrection (31).
The result is that some mocked (32). Who in the world mocks the New Gospel? There is nothing not to like. There is no scandal in a message about lame Christians, a loving God, changing the world, and how most of us are most likely not going to hell. This message will never be mocked, but Paul’s Mars Hill sermon was. And keep in mind, this teaching in Athens was only an entre into the Christian message. This was just the beginning, after which some wanted to hear him again (32). Paul said more in his opening salvo than some Christians ever dare to say. We may not be able to say everything Paul said at Athens all at once, but we certainly must not give the impression in our “pre-evangelism” that repentance, judgment, the necessity of faith, the importance of right belief, the centrality of the cross and the resurrection, the sinfulness of sin and the fallenness of man–the stuff that some suggest will be our actual evangelism–are outdated relics of a mean-spirited, hurtful Christianity.
A Final Plea
Please, please, please, if you are enamored with the New Gospel or anything like it, consider if you are really being fair with your fellow Christians in always throwing them under the bus. Consider if you are preaching like Jesus did, who called people, not first of all to a way of life, but to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). And as me and my friends consider if we lack the necessary patience and humility to speak tenderly with non-Christians, consider if your God is a lopsided cartoon God who never takes offense at sin (because sin is more than just un-neighborliness) and never pours out wrath (except for the occasional judgment against the judgmental). Consider if you are giving due attention to the cross and the Lamb of God who died there to take away the sin of the world. Consider if your explanation of the Christian message sounds anything like what we hear from the Apostles in the book of Acts when they engage the world.
This is no small issue. And it is not just a matter of emphasis. The New Gospel will not sustain the church. It cannot change the heart. And it does not save. It is crucial, therefore, that our evangelical schools, camps, conferences, publishing houses, and churches can discern the new gospel from the old.
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I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and I also agree with other points made by White ... but not enough (in this case) to say I should not have signed.
Monday, November 23, 2009
But there's another group I don't understand, for conversation, let's call them "morons". These can be found in both of the aforementioned groups. One of these guys, who happens to be in the egalitarian camp, recently wrote, "And my bullshit detector went off because I couldn’t help but think, 'It’s kind of convenient that all the book[s] about submission are written by guys?'"
I don't know which irks me more, that this guy equates complementarianism with some kind of perverted male dominance position or that because books are written by men they should be discounted. Interestingly he lists several great books on the topic but clearly hasn't read them because he thinks they are talking about male over female rule. As with other distortions of truth this guy makes elsewhere in his blog, he cites his unfortunate upbringing as proof that the positions he opposes must be wrong. He's convinced that his sad childhood accurately reflects these positions and he ignores any reference by those on the other side which confronts the kind of error he grew up with.
Of course his commenters aren't much brighter, one writes, "Unfortunately, there *are* books by women promoting the 'male headship' weirdness. That's always seemed tragic to me - women encouraging other women into such dysfunction."
But why am I on about this now? I just read Jeff Robinson's Q&A with Dorothy Patterson. You can go read that if you'd like but the point is that here's an intelligent woman who is part of my "weirdness" crowd ... and it's easy to see why ... she thinks Scripture means what it teaches. I guess she doesn't understand that the experience of the blogger I'm referring to above, especially with his fine-tuned bullshit detector, should trump Scripture.
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Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
- the sanctity of human life
- the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
- the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Download the declaration here ...
I've lived 17,532 days. If I live according to Psalm 90.10, I have between 8,035 and 11,323 left. Am I living them right? One thing for sure, while I thought they should get easier, they have not. Lord grant me strength.
And on the lighter side ...
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Sunday, November 22, 2009
Listen to James C. Collins tell of his conversation with James Stockdale regarding his coping as a Vietnamese POW. Click on The Stockdale Paradox.
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Level 1 - Unconscious Incompetence (You Don't Know that You Don't Know) At this level you are blissfully ignorant: You have a complete lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. On top of this, you are unaware of this lack of skill, and your confidence may therefore far exceed your abilities.
Level 2 - Conscious Incompetence (You Know that You Don't Know) At this level you find that there are skills you need to learn, and you may be shocked to discover that there are others who are much more competent than you. As you realize that your ability is limited, your confidence drops. You go through an uncomfortable period as you learn these new skills when others are much more competent and successful than you are.
Level 3 - Conscious Competence (You Know that You Know) At this level you acquire the new skills and knowledge. You put your learning into practice and you gain confidence in carrying out the tasks or jobs involved. You are aware of your new skills and work on refining them.
You are still concentrating on the performance of these activities, but as you get ever-more practice and experience, these become increasingly automatic.
Level 4 - Unconscious Competence (You Don't Know that You Know - It Just Seems Easy!) At this level your new skills become habits, and you perform the task without conscious effort and with automatic ease. This is the peak of your confidence and ability.
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Peter denied Jesus, to preserve himself physically (Mark 14:66-72). Later he denied the gospel, to preserve himself socially (Galatians 2:11-21). But by the time he wrote his first letter, his heart had been set free: “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (1 Peter 5:12).
What is “the true grace of God”? Not survival, physical or social, but the privilege of sharing in Christ’s sufferings that we may also rejoice when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13). Whatever life thrusts upon us, the true grace of God is to stand firm in that hard place and embrace identification with Jesus.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The promise [of the gospel], by contrast, tells us what has been done by someone else. That is why it brings life.
Once the law's just sentence has been satisfied in Christ, it is no longer our executioner, but instead plots the course for our gospel-driven life...."
-- Michael Horton, "The Gospel-Driven Life" p. 139
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One of the harms is that he has created a backlash. I see some who defend those Silva attacks not because they agree with the person or group but because they are driven to be a defender. While I think this is noble, I don't understand why they jettison truth along the way. Others embrace the accused because they simply do not want to be associated with the ugliness they perceive among Silva's ilk. Sadly, they haven't sorted out that truth can still be upheld in a loving way.
Coincidently, I just read Silva's QUEERMERGENT ADELE SAKLER AND EMERGENT VILLAGE while a friend of mine just did an on-line interview with Adele Sakler. In Silva's post, he rightly builds on the postmodern innovator's rejection of knowable truth. For some reason, because we cannot know all truth the postmodern has decided we cannot know any truth. Since they now suppress the truth (Rom 1.18), it is a simple step for them to embrace sin (namely homosexuality - Rom 1.26-27).
Sakler boasts about McLaren, Rollins, and others who have helped her question Scripture and thereby enable her to embrace her sin.
In 1997 I moved to Los Angeles and began living a double life as a Christian and as a gay woman. I began to read Brian McLaren and found him writing things I had felt inside but was very afraid to express outwardly to anyone. In 2002 I went to Northern Ireland to do a DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM.
I met the great Peter Rollins and we developed a great friendship. His teachings and writings on postmodernism and Christianity radically shaped how I viewed my faith. I could no longer hang onto certainty with regards to interpreting scripture. (Online source)
Sakler writes more:
Evangelicals are hyper-concerned with pointing out how being queer is a sin, and that the Bible explicitly denounces homosexual acts. Trust me, I get it all firsthand. But I’m not buying the rhetoric. I disagree with what I have come to consider outmoded and out-of-context religious interpretations. (Online source)
That caused me to wonder if I am "hyper-concerned" with this but then I realized, only in reaction to the onslaught of ideas trying to pervert God's truth. I do not seek these out. I do not mention it except when I find it in the course of my normal reading. And these days it seems the attack on Biblical truth is everywhere.
Note Sakler's enlightened state. The position that homosexuality is sin is to her "rhetoric", outmoded and out-of-context religious interpretations. Wow.
But now to my friend's interview with Sakler. In fairness, I stopped 34 minutes into the 71 minute interview but I didn't sense it was going to change course. In the interview I hear my friend say some concerning things. I sense he desperately wants to model the heart of Jesus but in doing so made some off-target points.
First my friend is learning to "love people without an agenda" because "Jesus accepted me as I am". While I get the 'spirit' behind this he misses the point. Yes Jesus loved him, suffered and died for him while he was still a rebel sinner. But Jesus had a clear agenda, he did this to (among other things) redeem us from lawlessness, to purify us, and make us zealous for good works (Titus 2.14). Jesus then instructed us to do the same. That is, go love the sinner but do so with an agenda (Matt 28.19).
My friend's message is that love is unconditional but he confused unconditional love with us not having a mission, i.e., an ultimate goal. He reinforced this wrong thinking by stating that we all have "junk in our lives" and spoke at length about sin in the church which he and Sakler (1) identified as hypocrisy and (2) as justifying homosexually as consistent with Christian living.
First, yes we have sin. Even as the redeemed, we sadly still sin. But we call it that. We do not embrace it and state that it is who we are - lashing out at those that dare call it sin. My friend infers this by calling it "junk". But the homosexual is not calling homosexuality "junk". They are saying it is ok. Why my friend misses this is beyond me.
Contrary to 1 Cor 6.9-10, my friend and Sakler believe there is nothing inconsistent with "being gay and having a relationship with Jesus." Sakler states that "no one can judge me except God" and that she is "saved by grace". God has already spoken on the matter in if she were saved by grace (which is the only way for all of us), then she would see that. She would read 1 Cor 6.11 as a promise not as "outmoded and out-of-context religious interpretations" used by fundamentalists to beat up others.
Second, it's interesting that they want to say that the homosexual "Christian" deserves kindness and understanding but the Christian struggling with some other sin is "hypocritical". So are these things sin or not? And is the person in sin struggling or hypocritical?
Finally, if I'm struggling with sin, it seems they would have me embrace it rather than speak out against it. Does that make me a hypocrite? Well, that depends on my heart. If I'm honestly wrestling to overcome and simply speaking God's truth on the matter, than no, I'm not. But they don't seem to see this.
Sakler proclaims in regard to her homosexuality, "I'm great with it and fine with it ... and God embraces me ... I'm the happiest that I've ever been." She throws out the Bible as a story that has and needs to change through the generations and accepts her 'story' as the truth - the error of the postmodern (although not new at all) mind.
I could go on but it's basically more of the same. Bottom line, I get - and respect - my friend's compassion. But I'm deeply concerned with his ultimate approach to this sin. In contrast, I also just read John Starke's An Open Letter to Adele: A Response to Queermergent. I found Starke most compassionate in that he spoke kindly yet upheld truth. To speak kindly at the cost of truth is not compassion, it is fear.
Starke challenges Sakler (and McLaren and Rollins) with, "We should not base our knowledge on what we can know but what God has made known to us.
In response to Sakler saying, "There were more important things in kingdom living than where we go after we pass from this world to the next, like poverty, AIDS, the environment, etc." Starke writes:
I believe you have made an "over-correction" to the Church's neglect of these social concerns. There are "other" important things in kingdom living like poverty, AIDS, etc, but the ultimate remedy to these things is the hope that we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not our efforts to remedy them in this life. Just the simple truth of "what does a man gain if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?" should speak loudly to this. If we look to remedy the poor and sick without remedying their sinful condition, we have only prolonged their suffering.
I agree with him. And I love his closing challenge:
Please repent and stop what you are doing and approving of at Queermergent. Consider the consequences of your practices and your hearty approval of the practices of others. You say, "About 2.5 years ago I FINALLY came to terms with my sexuality. I found peace with myself and with God." Finding peace with God is not coming to terms with yourself and concluding what is or is not acceptable in life. Finding peace with God is only found in the Gospel - the forgiveness of our sins through the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Please don't abandon the Gospel. The peace, reconciliation, love, and community you and others are blogging about at Queermergent can be found at local any YMCA or community center. The peace, reconciliation, love, and community you speak about is not Christian, because it is not centered around what God has done on our behalf. The hope for change from homosexuality and any sin in this life is not to (as you put it) "pray the gay away" or even making your best effort to be straight. But the hope for change is found in trusting in the power of the Gospel because it is the power of God.
I encourage my friend to continue in love but to add a balance of truth.
When we befriend the world we are adulterers (James 4.4). The image of Christ and His Church as a marriage union is an important one and is reflected in human marriage. It is a mystery and has only one proper manifestation (pure, love-based, male-female, etc., Eph 4, Gen 2.24). Marriage is meant to make Christ's love for his people more visible in the world (Eph 5.32). There is only one true love and it is found in and through Christ alone.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
- that we live holy, set-apart lives (1 Thess 4.3)
- that we always rejoice, pray, and give thanks (1 Thess 5.16-18)
- that we know God's will so that we can bear fruit and know Him better (Col 1.9)
- that we be full of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5.17-21)
And what is that will [of God}? Is it some specific, secret plan God has for us and wants us to spend days, weeks, even years discovering? Not at all. Rather it consists of a sober life, living in the power of the Holy Spirit, and offering praise and gratitude to God for his goodness. Paul's main concern is about how believers conduct themselves in ordinary life.
Simply put, God's will is your growth in Christlikeness. God promises to work all things together for our good that we might be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8.28-29).
Most of us have never really understood that Christianity is not a self-help religion meant to enable moral people to become more moral. We don’t need a self-help book; we need a Savior. We don’t need to get our collective act together; we need death and resurrection and the life-transforming truths of the gospel. And we don’t need them just once, at the beginning of our Christian life; we need them every moment of every day.”
- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, Counsel from the Cross
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Note, "it is no longer I who live" and "I now live". Which is it? Do I live or do I not live?
It is "I" who died and now it is a different "I" who lives (2 Cor 5.17; Eph 2.5-6). Our old self is dead (Rom 6.6) and now a new self lives. A self who can do all things prepared beforehand by the Father (Phil 4.13; Col 1.29; Rom 15.18; Eph 2.10).
Which life are you living?
Some postmodern innovators focus on this life rather than the afterlife. Machen said that liberals in his day believed that concern for the next life is “a form of selfishness.” Consequently, “the liberal preacher has very little to say about the other world. This world is really the centre of all his thoughts; religion itself, and even God, are made merely a means for the betterment of conditions upon this earth.”
Machen responded that we must not treat Christianity “as a mere means to a higher end. …Christianity will indeed accomplish many useful things in this world, but if it is accepted in order to accomplish those useful things it is not Christianity.” Those who seek first the kingdom of God will find that “all these things shall be added unto you. But if you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in order that all those other things may be added unto you, you will miss both those other things and the Kingdom of God as well.”
Machen agreed that our Christian faith must change the way we live here and now, but he insisted that “there can be no applied Christianity unless there be ‘a Christianity to apply.’ That is where the Christian man differs from the modern liberal. The liberal believes that applied Christianity is all there is of Christianity, Christianity being merely a way of life; the Christian man believes that applied Christianity is the result of an initial act of God.”
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The postmodern innovator favors a watered down version of inclusivism which extends salvation to those who have not believed in Christ. Machen said that liberals in his day wanted “a salvation which will save all men everywhere, whether they have heard of Jesus or not, and whatever may be the type of life to which they have been reared.” He replied that such openness would remove the offense of the gospel and change its historic meaning. He wrote: “What struck the early observers of Christianity most forcibly was not merely that salvation was offered by means of the Christian gospel, but that all other means were resolutely rejected. The early Christian missionaries demanded an absolutely exclusive devotion to Christ. . . . Salvation, in other words, was not merely through Christ, but it was only through Christ.”
Thus, Machen would probably disagree with those postmoderns who suggest that simply being postmodern enables them to transcend the modern liberal-conservative controversy. Instead, Machen would likely argue that these postmoderns repeat too many of the mistakes of modern liberalism to get very far past it. Their “third way” is too much like the old way to become a new way.
A better way to transcend the liberal-conservative controversy is to incorporate the insights of each. Liberals emphasize ethics and conservatives defend the specific, historic doctrines of the Christian faith. Don’t we need both? Is it even possible to have one without the other? The Apostle John writes that God commands us both “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commands us” (1 John 3:23).
Conservatives must acknowledge with James that faith without works is dead, for how can we claim to believe in God if we do not pass on his love and serve our neighbor? (Jam. 2:17-26). And liberals must concede with Paul that works without faith are vain. Works without faith give us reason to brag—look what we did—but they are useless in earning any part of our salvation. Paul explains, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God” (Rom. 4:2).
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
If we think the Bible teaches universal salvation, we may arrive at a false sense of assurance by reasoning as follows: Everybody is saved. I am a body. Therefore, I am saved.
Or, if we think salvation is gained by our own good works and we are further deluded into believing that we possess good works, we will have a false assurance of salvation.
To have sound assurance, we must understand that our salvation rests on the merit of Christ alone, which is appropriated to us when we embrace Him by genuine faith. If we understand that, the remaining question is, "Do I have the genuine faith necessary for salvation?"
Again, two more things must be understood and analyzed properly. The first is doctrinal. We need a clear understanding of what constitutes genuine saving faith. If we conceive of saving faith as existing in a vacuum, never yielding the fruit of works of obedience, we have confused saving faith with dead faith, which cannot save anyone.
The second requirement involves a sober analysis of our own lives. We must examine ourselves to see whether the fruit of regeneration is apparent in our lives. Do we have a real affection for the biblical Christ? Only the regenerate person possesses real love for the real Jesus. Next we must ask the tough question, "Does my life manifest the fruit of sanctification?" I test my faith by my works.
Coram Deo: What is your response to the questions posed in this reading: Do you have the genuine faith necessary for salvation? Do you have a real affection for the biblical Christ? Does your life manifest the fruit of salvation?
Psalm 9:14: "That I may tell of all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation."
Psalm 13:5: "But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation."
Psalm 20:5: "We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions."
Monday, November 09, 2009
1. What is our new and improved definition of marriage? If marriage is no longer a covenant between one man and one woman, then what is it?
2. What is the source of this new definition? It doesn’t come from the scriptures or tradition of any world religion. It doesn’t come from natural law (as most junior high boys could tell you, the possibility of gay penguins does not overturn the basic facts of biology). Are we grounding our new definition in social convention? If so, is that a suitable foundation, or have we just taken a giant leap down the slippery slope? If our definition of marriage is grounded in something as ephemeral as social norms, what happens when these social norms change?
3. While it is wrong to discriminate against homosexuals in most employment opportunities, the majority of our churches and religious organizations are constrained by the Word of God to not hire unrepentant, practicing homosexuals. Are we committed to provide an exception to these groups?
I continue to read and be saddened by the church's embrace of the homosexual agenda. To Wittmer's thrid point, we ought not discriminate but to embrace the legitimatizing of a sin is unconscionable. Listen to Tony Jone's infamous claim:
GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.
What!?!?! Because we sin we should stop calling it sin for one group engaged in a specific sin. Even worse, we should bless it?!? It's interesting that many who embrace this kind of thinking also reject the atonement. Many well meaning brothers and sisters are sympathetic to the homosexual agenda but it is because they fail to grasp our fallenness and that redemption comes through the cross. They see any confrontation of sin as condemning as opposed to the Biblical reality that it is the beginning of freedom.
Paul tells us to flee specifically from sexual immorality because we were bought with a price (1 Cor 6.18-20). Does that make other forms of sin ok? Absolutely not. But there is particular attention paid to sexual sin. Those caught in and supporting these perversions do so because they suppress the truth (Rom 1.18-32). They do not honor God. They claim to be wise but instead they are foolish. And God gives them over to their impurity. Rather than seeing God for who He truly is and confronting our need for forgiveness of sin, they fail to acknowledge Him and become all the more debased.
What really angers me is that they become deceived such that, as Jones, they think confronting sin is hateful and condoning it is loving. This is the opposite of the God of the Bible who loves man, confronts his sin, and sets him free from it by His grace.
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Sunday, November 08, 2009
Postmodern innovators seek to break down the walls between Christians and non-Christians and emphasize our common journey with God. Machen agreed that “The Christian man can accept all that the modern liberal means by the brotherhood of man. But the Christian knows also of a relationship far more intimate than that general relationship of man to man, and it is for this more intimate relationship that he reserves the term ‘brother.’ The true brotherhood, according to Christian teaching, is the brotherhood of the redeemed.”
I see this. I see that in our love for right belief and our requirement to confront error, we have too often neglected that real people are involved. And these real people are in need of grace just as we are.
My issue is that the postmodern, in an attempt to be inclusive, misses that ultimately Christianity comes with a prerequisite not shared by all.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Some postmodern innovators object to the traditional understanding of the cross: Why does God demand the sacrifice of his innocent Son to satisfy his wrath? Machen noted that modern liberals raised the same issue. He wrote: “Modern liberal teachers…speak with horror of the doctrine of an ‘alienated’ or an ‘angry’ God,” for this implies that God is “waiting coldly until a price be paid before He grants salvation.” Liberals deny that “one person” may “suffer for the sins of another,” and “persist in speaking of the sacrifice of Christ as though it were a sacrifice made by some other than God.” They insist that a loving God would forgive without penalty.
This relates back to an earlier Wittmer quote and is reinforced as one postmodern writes;
I have looked at virtually the entire spectrum of reformed theology. From my perspective, the problem stems from our historical understanding of the Garden and the nature of the problem. As we rethink the the nature of the problem, our understanding of the solutions (specifically the cross) will radically change.
The bottom-line is that many postmoderns prefer to see man as broken rather than as sinners. On that basis many then fail to see the need of all that was accomplished on the cross. They do a great job of seeing elements of Christ's work that are often missed by others but they do so at the cost of rejecting ultimate life saving truths.
I have not read much of Scott McKnight but the few quotes I've seen seem balanced. McKnight of course is right leaning in comparison to most other key Emergent voices.
As Tony Jones clearly states contrary to Scripture:
Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God's wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.
Instead, Jesus death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was "sinless." But thank God, Jesus was also human.
The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.
This sounds attractive but ignores the basic doctrines of the cross.
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pastors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura.
A couple of other references here and here in contrast to the typical postmodern innovator approach of negating something before properly understanding and then replacing it with some fluffy sounding misdirection to ultimately undermine truth.
One emergent puts it this way:
The end of Sola Scriptura actually means that we are coming to terms with our limitations to get it right. It means we’re realizing that we have to listen to community, science, imagination, history AND the Bible to create a more robust picture. Because as broken human beings we sometimes get it wrong.
So because we fail in some of our understanding, we will deny the Scripture is our final authority? The pretense is that we fail. So what confidence should we have in our understanding of these other things? And how does undermining the authority of Scripture address our problem with understanding?
But this emergent goes further:
The final subject in the turn away will be how we address homosexuality in the church. [Phyllis Tickle] reiterated that it’s not if Sola Scriptura ends but when. ...
And now we see what's really behind this. If we can undermine the authority of Scripture, we can substitute our works based thinking and false definition of love and God Himself in place of God's standard. Interestingly, the sin the emergent embraces is the lust Paul tells us God gave man over to as man "suppressed the truth" (Rom 1.18-32). So in this context, as man rebells against God and embraces his own lusts, yes, Sola Scriptura ends.
Furthering his error, this emergent writes:
Tickle talked 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.
Again, correct, if we throw out a final authority and allow anything, we can have what appears to be unity. But that in the end will fail. If we hold up truth, yes, there will in fact be division (e.g., the sheep and the goats) but not chaos and unending conflict.
"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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). I guess the post modern innovator is right in terms of what is happening in practice. He just doesn't realize it is happening to him.
Some mean God loves them as He loves anyone? Yes ... while that could use more fleshing out I'd say, "yeah sure". He loved me even when I was a rebel sinner. He even suffered and died so that I might die with Him. And He rose so that I might live again in Him. Amazing love!!!
Others mean that we ought not engage in unloving activity toward homosexuals. I get that also. I'm not sure what the anti-gay bill in Uganda is all about but if Iggy's report is accurate, this is not Christ-like living. I'm not sure how to balance law in regard to many of life's moral questions (not just homosexuality) but this bill feels over the top.
Outside of these two contexts however, the other meanings/implications I've heard just don't hold up. Some mistakenly think that homosexuality is consistent with Christ-like living. It's not ... a few months ago Kevin DeYoung wrote a kind and concise post regarding the Biblical position. Homosexuality in practice is sin.
In the mind of the postmodern innovator who can skip over belief to living, "God loves gay" equates to "God doesn't see homosexuality as sin which in turn leads to separation from Him." Because right belief isn't needed, right living can be defined anyway the innovator wants. And what they want is to cull the sin of homosexuality out from others, treat it as special, and confront anyone who addresses it head on as a homophobe who treats homosexuality as different - ironic isn't it?
Dan Phillips wrote yesterday (based on the precept that only those born of God can truly love - 1 John 3:10-18; 4:7, 16, 19; 5:1-2; 2 John 6) that homosexuals cannot love. I thought this was a great post because Phillips was careful to define love and to note that this inability to love properly is not isolated to homosexuality. Anyone who does not submit to Jesus as Lord has this same problem.
Today DeYoung wrote A Status Confessionis Issue. Here are some key excepts (ok, pretty near the whole thing - emphasis mine):
The phrase status confessionis ... means that a particular doctrine is essential to who we are as a church ... it means this is a make or break issue ... it means that the church will not tolerate others views on this matter ... it means that this is not an indifferent matter or one on which we can agree to disagree ... it means that if we are to be faithful in confessing the gospel we must confess this.
Homosexuality is a status confessionis issue. If we tolerate the doctrine that says homosexual behavior is a gift from God, we have tolerated too much. We must confess, always with love and graciousness, that homosexual behavior is a sin and we must not allow our churches, our ministers, our schools, or our professors to say otherwise.
The quick reply to this last paragraph will be, “Hold on just a minute. Why are we singling out one sin and making it a litmus test for our denomination? This is an important issue, but not as weighty as the Trinity or the deity of Christ or the resurrection. Those are the kinds of issues that are status confessionis, not acts that some people claim are sinful.” This line of reasoning sounds plausible, but it’s not exactly true. In adopting the Belhar Confession ... the RCA is saying that the specific sin of racism is a status confessionis issue. ... In the 1980s, the RCA broke off ecumenical relations with the Dutch church in South Africa because of apartheid, effectively communicating “No matter how great your sermons may be and how wonderful your doctrines of grace, if you are a racist, you have not understood the gospel.” The same is true of homosexuality. No matter how many other things we may hold in common, if you affirm homosexual behavior, you have not understood the gospel. This is one issue on which we must not compromise. We cannot agree to disagree. We cannot hold hands together in mission.
Those last few sentences may sound too strong. A bit over the top. Maybe we should allow for different interpretations on this issue, you think to yourself. Maybe we are making too big a deal out of this. Maybe this isn’t a make or break status confessionis kind of issue. But consider:
- Homosexual behavior is repeatedly and clearly forbidden in Scripture. The order of creation informs us that God’s plan for sexuality is one woman and one man (Genesis 2). This order is reaffirmed by Jesus (Matthew 19) and Paul (Ephesians 5). The Old Testament law forbade homosexual behavior (Leviticus 18, 20). Paul reiterates this prohibition by using the same Greek construction in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. Paul condemns same sex behavior (among many other sins) in Romans 1. Jude in his epistle links sexual immorality and the “unnatural desire” present in Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Our confessions speak against the sin of homosexuality. “We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and Holy,” Heidelberg Catechism Answer 109 states. “That is why [God] forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts or desires.” 1 Cor. 6:18-20, where homosexual behavior is listed as a sin, is cited as a Scripture proof. Likewise, Q/A 87 quotes from 1 Cor. 6 to the effect that no unrepentant sinner is going to inherit the kingdom of God. Unrepentant sin is no light thing. Moreover, Belgic Confession Article 29 says in connection with the marks of the true church, “As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or the left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.” Christians are not expected to be perfect. But as the Spirit works in us, we will be marked by fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, including sexual sin and ethical righteousness.
- If 1 Corinthians 6 is true, unrepentant homosexuals (along with unrepentant thieves, drunkards, idolaters, adulterers, revilers, swindlers, and those who are unrepentantly greedy) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Heaven and hell literally hang in the balance. Of course, homosexuality isn’t the only sin out there. But no one else that I know of in our denomination is advocating idolatry, drunkenness, or stealing. Yet, many are advocating homosexuality. It is not an overstatement to say that such advocacy is in danger of leading people to hell. This isn’t because homosexuals are worse sinners than all the rest, but because unless we turn from our sin and fight against it in faith–with victories and defeats to be sure–we will face God’s wrath. By tolerating the doctrine which affirms homosexual behavior, we are tolerating a doctrine which leads people farther from God, not closer. This is not the mission Jesus gave us when he told us to teach the nations all that he has commanded.
- For 99% of church history, Christians have said unequivocally that homosexual behavior is immoral. No one had to write a confession about it, because it was an implied status confessionis. No church would have tolerated a difference of opinion, let alone practice, on this issue.
- The overwhelming majority of our brothers and sisters in the two-thirds world understand that homosexuality is a sin. Further, they understand, as African leaders in the Anglican church could testify, that this is not an agree to disagree kind of issue. We can love those who disagree. But we do not hold hands in mission and dialogue ad nauseum. We call homosexual advocates to repent much like we call perpetrators of racism to repent.
- If we tolerate homosexual behavior and advocacy in our denomination, we undercut the efforts of men and women in our congregations who struggle–in faith and repentance–to overcome same gender attraction. Affirming homosexuality denies the grace of God to change sinners and our most entrenched and confusing desires (1 Cor. 6:11).
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009
- Jeremiah 25 - God sent Babylon to punish Juda, but God also punished Babylon for acting wickedly against God's people ...
- Acts 2.23 - God planned the death of His son and yet those who killed Christ were called lawless men ...
Hebrews 9:26 says: "But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
Three words in the middle of that verse define the distinction between Christianity and every other religion in the world.
ONCE FOR ALL.
Virtually every world religion shares one fundamental similarity. At the heart of the religion is instruction for achieving "eternal life", or whatever else might be the ultimate goal of the religion (eg. Nirvana, Heaven, etc.). Another way to say this is to say that the majority of religions tell you what you need to do. I think this concept of religion resonates with most people.
Let me provide a few examples.
Buddhism is built on a process of holding to or believing four noble truths. The fourth of these noble truths instructs Buddhists to follow the eight-fold path, which is a list of eight activities designed to help the Buddhist gain liberation from attachment and suffering. Following the eight-fold path means doing the following:
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
According to the Buddha, apart from doing these things, one cannot hope to rid himself or herself of attachment or suffering, and has no hope of reaching nirvana.
Islam is a religion which many consider in the same family as Christianity. Muslims find their roots in Abraham's family tree (albeit their branch is Ishmael, not Jacob). Muslims are monotheistic, a trait they share with Judaism and Christianity (and maybe some "Christian-like" cult groups).
The core of the Islamic ethic is rooted in the Five Pillars of Islam. These five activities are the core of the Muslim's hope to one day find their way into the heaven of Allah:
- The shahada -- a confession that there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet
- Ritual prayer, five times a day
- The giving of alms to aid the poor and further the advance of Islam around the world
- Fasting during the month of Ramadan
- A pilgrimage to Mecca (those who are physically unable or cannot afford a pilgrimage are exempted)
(I've listed here the Sunni Muslim pillars. Other branches of Islam have slightly different but essentially similar pillars)
As with the Buddhist, performing these duties is essential for the Muslim if he hopes for a "good ending" in the after-life.
Most people assume (understandably so, due to the obvious emphasis of nearly every world religion) that our destiny in the afterlife is directly tied to what we DO in this life. Many people even assume that this is the perspective of Christianity, that our adherence to the rules in the Bible affects our ability to make it into heaven.
This is the misunderstanding that Hebrews 9:26 corrects.
First, let me point out what some might view as the ethical foundation of Christianity. Many people would view the eight-fold path and the five pillars as parallel lists to the ten commandments of Judaism and Christianity, or the three commandments of Jesus in the new testament (Love God, Love your neighbor, Love one another). However, the Bible is CRYSTAL CLEAR that someone who adheres to the ten commandments and/or the three commandments all their life will NOT earn their way into heaven.
The message of Christianity is that no to-do list of good deeds will ever be sufficient to eradicate the sin that separates us from God (if this post wasn't getting too long already, I'd discuss how our first three years of life and college put us so far behind on the good deed-bad deed ledger that we can never hope to catch up).
If you'll notice in this verse, Jesus does ALL the work. Nothing is left to us. While other verses explicitly discuss our weaknesses, this verse clearly implies our inability to be right with God on our own.
Instead, we rely on the fact that Jesus has already accomplished the necessary work to make us right with God. We only need to rely on His work on our behalf. His sacrifice was ONCE. It requires no on-going work on our part, it requires no repetition, it requires nothing in the future. It was a one-time historical event that eradicated the penalty of sin for all who believe. His sacrifice was for ALL. We can understand this to mean that his sacrifice was good for all people of all races, tribes, creeds, etc. We can also understand this to mean that his sacrifice was good for all time, it left nothing undone that needed to be done.
According to the Bible (Hebrews 9:26 particularly), my eternal destiny is completely dependent on ONE past historical event. My ability or inability to follow a list of rules or an ethical code has no impact on my standing with God. phew!
It boils down to this:
- Religions require an ongoing process of deeds as the only way to be purified from wrongdoing.
- Christianity recognizes one righteous act by God was sufficient to put away sin.
How do you respond to this truth?
- For some, this brings great relief as they willingly place their reliance in Christ's work
- For some, this brings confusion as it conflicts with life-long deeply held notions about religion, God, and Christianity
- For some, this brings frustration as they still cling to the idea that they are good enough on their own to be okay with God and therefore they don't need someone else
- For some, this causes laughter as they simply cannot conceive of such a simple salvation
How do you respond?
PS - if you don't subscribe to Rudd's blog you should.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The will of God in this passage does not refer to the way God ordains things, but to the way God commands us to live. Walking in the will of God for the apostle John is the opposite of worldliness. Doing the will of God means we say no to the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and out pride in possessions (1 John 2:15-17).
The will of God, as His will of desire, means that we do what is pleasing in His sight (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Again, we see the will of God is shorthand for obedience to God''s commands and walking in His ways-this time from the lips of Christ Himself (Matthew 7:21).
This is the closest we come to finding the will of decree and will of desire side by side in the same verse. God has secret things known only to Him (His inscrutable purposes and sovereign will), but He also has revealed things that we are meant to know and obey (His commands and His Word) (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Technorati Tags: sovereignty
Some postmodern innovators believe that people are basically good and free from serious sin. Likewise, Machen observed that the defining belief of modernity was its “supreme confidence in human goodness.” He wrote that “according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin.” This absence of sin led Machen to wryly observe that the liberal church “is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task—she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance.” Machen countered that the gospel must begin with sin, for “Without the consciousness of sin, the whole gospel will seem to be an idle tale.”
Classic stuff ... this is the same as we see today, the postmodern innovators seem more focussed on deconstructing the church than confronting rebel sinners with their need for a savior.
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
Monday, November 02, 2009
And now, when I fall into sin, I have not sinned against the law, I have sinned against love. Like the prodigal, I will go back to my Father and I will tell Him, “Father, I am not worthy to be called your son.” But He will embrace me, and He will say, “Do not talk nonsense, you are My child,” and He will shower his love upon me! That is the meaning of putting on the breastplate of righteousness! Never allow the devil to get you into a state of condemnation. Never allow a particular sin to call into question your standing before God. That question has been settled.”
Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Christian Soldier, p. 255
Sunday, November 01, 2009
God works out everything - the big picture, the little details, and everything in between - according to His own good and sovereign purposes (Eph 1.11).
God micromanages our lives. He doesn't just plan out a few big ticket items. Praise the Lord. He knows the smallest sparrow and the grayest hair. And neither falls tot eh ground unless our heavenly Father wills it (Mat 10.29-30).
Every human lamentation and woe must look to the cross. For there we see the problem of evil "answered" - not in some theoretical sense - but by pointing us to an all-powerful god who works all things for good. Shocking as it sounds, the most heinous act of evil and injustice ever perpetrated on the earth - the murder of the Son of God - took place according to God's gracious and predetermined will (Acts 4.27-28).
Our lives unfold, open and close, according to God's providence. As the crafters of the Heidelberg Catechism put it so eloquently back in the sixteenth century, "Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty - all things, in fact, come to us not by chance, but from his fatherly hand (Psa 139.16).
God knows all things and sovereignly superintends all things. God's will of decree is absolute. It is from before the creation of the world. It is the ultimate determination over all things, and it cannot be overturned (Isa 46.9-10).
Technorati Tags: sovereignty
Some postmodern innovators teach that it matters more that we love like Jesus than that we believe in him. At any rate we should not exclude good people from the kingdom just because they do not believe our Christian faith. Machen wrote that the liberals in his day insisted that “Christianity is a life, not a doctrine,” and that conservatives should focus on “the weightier matters of the law” (Christian ethics) rather than use the “trifling matters” of doctrine to divide the church.
Machen responded that doctrines such as Christ’s “vicarious atonement for sin” is not “trifling” and that Christ is not merely “an example for faith” but is “primarily the object of faith.” He explained: “The religion of Paul did not consist in having faith in God like the faith which Jesus had in God; it consisted rather in having faith in Jesus. …The plain fact is that imitation of Jesus, important though it was for Paul, was swallowed up by something far more important still. Not the example of Jesus, but the redeeming work of Jesus, was the primary thing for Paul.”
- Austin Phelps, quoted by Gordon Keddie in Preacher on the Run: The Message of Jonah
A roadblock for postmodern innovators who think they have discovered many ways to God.