Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A word from Charles Hodge on imputation of righteousness:

It seems unnecessary to remark that this does not, and cannot mean that the righteousness of Christ is infused into the believer, or in any way so imparted to him as to change, or constitute his moral character. Imputation never changes the inward, subjective state of the person to whom the imputation is made. When sin is imputed to a man he is not made sinful; when the zeal of Phinehas was imputed to him, he was not made zealous. When you impute theft to a man, you do not make him a thief. When you impute goodness to a man, you do not make him good. So when righteousness is imputed to the believer, he does not thereby become subjectively righteous. If the righteousness be adequate, and if the imputation be made on adequate grounds and by competent authority, the person to whom the imputation is made has the right to be treated as righteous. And, therefore, in the forensic, although not in the moral or subjective sense, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does make the sinner righteous. That is, it gives him a right to the full pardon of all his sins and a claim in justice to eternal life.

what must i do to be saved

Jared Toten posts this excellent piece answering "what must I do to be saved?":

This was the question of the Philippian jailer, and it seems like the simplest question. Ask any child in your average Sunday School class and they'll probably get the answer right.

Yet there are also a lot of people out there who would confuse and complicate the answer (some intentionally, others not so). But with lives literally hanging in the balance, clarity on answering this question cannot be overemphasized. 

Recently I received this very question in response to a video I recorded last year for my church addressing the question, "How were people saved before Jesus died for our sins?" 

He asked,
What exactly does the Bible say that a person absolutely must do in order to achieve salvation. And could you cite the verses that confirm this?

( I can't figure out if a person needs to be baptized, or if he must believe that God in the body of a man was executed as payment for our sins, or of you just have to believe in God, or if you just have to try to be a good person.)
This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but these are the most explicit verses I've found declaring what you must do to be saved. (Feel free to comment below with any I've missed!)
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV) 
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13 ESV) 
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV) 
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38 ESV) 
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV) 
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31 ESV)
It seems to me the harmony of these verses is this: 

Believe Jesus was who he said he was and is (God) and receive (or trust in, which means you repent and turn from trusting in yourself) what he said he would do (die for your sins, rise again, give us his Spirit) to be saved, and consequently some of your first acts of obedience should be baptism and professing (confessing) with your mouth that "Jesus is Lord".

Or to be less wordy: Believe Jesus was who he said he was (God) and receive what he said he would do (die for our sins, rise again, give us His Spirit) to be saved. 

Feedback: How would you answer this question? What words or phrases would you add or omit to my answer? What verses might you add to my list?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

glorifying god

Thomas Watson in A Body of Divinity:

We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together his glory and our good. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory.

Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, You will honour and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away? So, for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

new ideas

When hearing new ideas, take great care. Do not be closed - no one has fully considered all that should be considered. But take great care.

"Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that." - C. S. Lewis

Sunday, April 27, 2014

kingdom characteristics

Craig Blaising writes:
The theology of Luke-Acts teaches that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he was enthroned with kingdom authority. Paul teaches that Jesus is presently seated at the right hand of God with all things in subjection under his feet (Eph. 1:19-23; Col. 1:13-18; cf. 1 Peter 3:22). New covenant blessings have been inaugurated through the cross and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:2-6). These blessings institute features of the promised eschatological kingdom. Jews and Gentiles who have been reconciled in Christ have received the Holy Spirit as a down payment on their future redemption and form a body of peoples united in peace by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating the new humanity of the eschatological kingdom (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:12-22). They have been transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col. 1:13) and have been made a kingdom and priests to serve the God and Father of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:6). But these are only inaugural aspects. The fullness of the eschatological kingdom is yet to come. (Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond)
Blaising, a progressive dispensationalist, sounds a lot like Ladd here. Times sure have changed since the days of Walvoord!

penal substitution

From chapter 6 of It is Well, written by Michael Lawrence: 

Penal substitution does not turn God into a cosmic child abuser. It does not reduce Christ to the passive victim of some divine injustice. It does not put the Trinity against itself. No, in the God-forsakenness of Christ on the cross, the love of God and the justice of God are revealed on our behalf. United in purpose, Father and Son act in concert to save God's people. The sinless Son of God bears our sin, and then God pours out the wrath that our sin deserves, and Jesus the Son endures it so that we, who deserve the wrath, might never encounter it. This is the gospel, the good news of the cross, and it calls is to forsake our sin, to turn away from it and embrace Christ, the forsaken one, so that we may not be forsaken.

Christian, what sin are you cherishing these days that you should not be? What sin do you feel like you just can't forsake? What obedience do you feel like you just can't make? Oh, Christian, remember that Christ was forsaken for you. In light of that, what can you not forsake? Friend, if you're not a Christian, consider what small thing it is to forsake your sin, to forsake the whole world even, in exchange for never being forsaken by God.

Friday, April 18, 2014

maundy thursday everyday

Great post by Ray Ortlund:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Three things here. One, the command of Christ, that we love one another. Two, the example of Christ, that we are to love one another as he loved us. Three, the promise of Christ, that all kinds of people will see we are real disciples of Christ, when we love one another his way.

Francis Schaeffer proposed two powerful things we can do, to display observable love for one another in response to these verses and also John 17:23:

One, “When I have failed to love my Christian brother, I go to him and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That is first. It may seem a letdown — that the first thing we speak of should be so simple. But if you think it is easy, you have never tried to practice it. . . .”

Two, “There must also be open forgiveness. And though it’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry,’ it’s even harder to forgive. The Bible, however, makes plain that the world must observe a forgiving spirit in the midst of God’s people. . . .”

“[Does the world] observe that we say ‘I’m sorry,’ and do they observe a forgiving heart? Let me repeat: Our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe it, or it does not fit into the structure of John 13 and 17. And if the world does not observe this among true Christians, the world has a right to make the two awful judgments which these verses indicate: that we are not Christians, and that Christ was not sent by the Father.”

Francis Schaeffer, “The Mark of the Christian,” in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, 1970), pages 143-146.

The primary barrier to the advance of the gospel in our generation is not out in the world. The primary barrier is us Christians who do not practice Christianity as it was defined originally by Christ. We have our Christianity, with layers of historical accretions separating us from the real thing. Christ had his Christianity, and we need to peel away our layers and go back and recover Christ’s Christianity. In other words, what is needed in our time is nothing less than the re-Christianization of us Christians. Isn’t it obvious that we who say we are Christians should understand Christianity? Its greatest mark is our observable love for one another. Christ himself said so.

what is heaven like

Want to know about heaven? Read the Bible. I'm ready to go.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

fires and fireplaces

For your thinking caps:

“The fire of evangelical conviction, when scripturally governed, cries out for a fireplace to burn in. A well-designed fireplace, put together by biblically-minded craftsmen, cries out for a fire to go in it. A fireplace without a fire is cold and dead. A fire without a fireplace is fierce and destructive. Shouldn’t we be able to work something out? . . . The Bible brings the fire, and the Bible contains drawing for the fireplace” (Doug Wilson in Against the Church, p. 77).

Monday, April 14, 2014

god's grace in truth

John M. Frame in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God:

Truth is used in various senses in Scripture. We may distinguish a "metaphysical" sense (the true is the absolute, the complete, as opposed to the relative, the partial, etc.-John 6:32, 35; 15:1; 17:3; Heb. 8:21; 1 John 5:20), an "epistemological" sense (the true is the correct-Deut. 17:4; 1 Kings 10:6; Eph. 4:24-i.e., "propositional truth"), and an "ethical" sense ("walking in" truth, i.e., doing right-Neh. 9:33; Pss. 15:2; 25:5; 26:3; 51:6 [note the parallel with wisdom]; 86:11; Ezek. 18:9; Hos. 4:1; John 3:20f.; Gal. 5:7; 1 John 1:6).48 Truth, like knowledge and wisdom, comes by grace, by trinitarian communication, by Word and by Spirit (Dan. 10:21; John 8:31f.; 14:6; 17:17 [cf. vv. 6, 8; 2 Sam. 7:28; Ps. 119:142, 160]; Rom. 2:8; 2 Cor. 4:2; 6:7; Gal. 2:5; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Thess. 2:12; 1 Tim. 3:15; Jas. 3:14; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 2:2; Rev. 6:10; 15:3; 16:7).

... Being "wise" or "knowing the truth" in the fullest biblical sense is not merely knowing facts about theology (nor is it a kind of mystical knowledge devoid of propositional content). Wisdom and truth, like knowledge, are given by God's grace and in the deepest senses of the terms, involve obedience and intimate, personal involvement between Creator and creature.

Friday, April 11, 2014

concise christianity


Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics (Vol 1):

The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.

two travelers and the farmer

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

"What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."

"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.

"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."

"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."

So what should our attitude be? How do we think about friends? Some thoughts here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

defending the seeker church

David Rudd has an uncanny ability to find good and right in places where most of us see nothing but error and failure. I hope he doesn't mind my reposting of his recent pearl, In Defense of the Seeker Church Movement. This is not an invitation for anyone to pile on with all that is wrong with the movement, it's an invitation to benefit from some positive, and I think Biblical, insight.

1 Corinthians 14:20-26 is about tongues and prophesy. It's part of Paul's exhortation to do things decently and in order when the church gathers. His argument in these specific verses revolves around whether tongues and prophesy are for believers and unbelievers; and to make his point he quotes an old testament passage.

This topic is difficult and complicated. The context into which Paul was writing was unique and means we cannot make an exact transfer of Paul's instructions from Corinth to now.

However... I think there is a secondary principle in Paul's words that is at least worth a mention.

As I read these instructions, I notice three assumptions Paul has about the Corinthian worship gatherings. These assumptions seem to be somewhat universal in nature, and therefore are worth noting:

1. Nonbelievers were present at the worship gatherings and this was expected.

2. The presence of the nonbelievers at the worship gatherings warranted the Corinthian's attention and in Paul's opinion should have impacted what happened at the gatherings.

3. The salvation of the nonbelievers because of what happened at the worship gatherings was a desired outcome.

In the past few decades of the American church, much has been said (good and bad) about the "seeker" movement. I am one who prefers to change bathwater without changing babies, so I would suggest there is some good in the seeker movement, but as in any movement, there are always elements to be reformed.

From these short verses in 1 Corinthians, I think we can develop a basic understanding of some Biblical principles which encourage a seeker-type church:

1. We should expect and encourage nonbelievers to join us in worship.

2. We should give consideration to the presence of nonbelievers when planning our worship gatherings.

3. One important outcome of our worship gatherings should be the salvation of nonbelievers. 

What could be better than seeing people who were once at odds with God worshiping Him and declaring that "He is really among you!"

expository preaching

“One great reason why many ministers find expository preaching difficult is, that they have not been sufficiently accustomed to study the Bible” (Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 308).

creating community

I find the following to be true:
The biggest problem people have in searching for community is just that. You don't find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room full of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, "Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?" There's nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, "Who can I love? Who is left out?" 
Here are two different formulas for community formation: 
1. Search for community where I am loved: become disappointed with community
2. Show hesed love: create community
--Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships

rude talk

For me, I am good with Wilson's explanation:

Looking over the comments below Gaywalkers, Gaytards, and the Gaystapo, I can see that it is time for a refresher course in why we talk here the way we do. To write the same thing for me is not grievous, and for you it is safe (Phil. 3:1). But, alongside the refresher course, a hearty well-done for those of you who clearly do get it.

First, we must recognize the utter lack of proportion that this kind of thing represents. The strategy of pc-correctness is calculated to silence any form of effective opposition to their despotic agenda, and it does this by inverting the proportions. So what we see is an ever-expanding circle of taking offense at trifles, coupled with an ever-increasing pile of “acceptable” outrages. It is demanded that we never use any language that might, under some circumstances, considered in the right light, hurt a fly, while at the same time insisting that the savage butchering of millions of children be considered a women’s health issue. We have a professional class of feminist offendees agonizing over “micro-aggressions” against women, for example, while simultaneously demanding their right to continue unabated their macro-aggressions against the unborn. We demand groveling apologies from the fellows who fail to strain out a gnat, and give Medals of Freedom to those public-spirited figures who managed to choke down the camel. We are a generation that, in the words of Dabney, are simultaneously sentimental and inhumane. The only way we react with moral outrage anymore is if someone insults our bizarre and disjointed sentimentalist taboos.

But this is not mindless behavior on their part; it is a play they are running. They are running it very successfully. They arbitrarily make more and more things offensive to say, and then well-meaning Christians who want to “maintain a good witness” volunteer to police the boundaries of their new prohibitions. Orwellian double-speak abounds, with Christians who really should know better serving as the double-speak cops. They do this, thinking it our duty for the sake of the witness, when our real duty is to put our foot through the side of every double-painted lie.

Second, when I coined (or so I thought) the word gaytard, I was courteous enough to explain what I thought I meant by it, and that meaning did not include mocking the mentally handicapped. For all anybody knew, I could have been riffing off of leotard. But no, I wasn’t — I actually was combining gay and retarded, and I was describing those people who are being blockheads — whether homosexual or straight — with regard to the sexual propaganda they are being served up. Now while it is offensive to God to taunt a retarded person for being retarded, it is not offensive to tag someone who ought not to be acting that way. For example, Paul does this very thing to the Galatians. “O foolish Galatians . . .” he says. The word for foolish is anoetos — without reason, without sanity or sobriety, stupid. Is Paul walking through a psych ward, making fun of people? Not if you know how to read.

Third, on top of all this, one commenter noted that the word had an entry in the Urban Dictionary, and so I went and took a look see. And in that august place, the meaning given was not the same as mine. There it referred to someone who was simultaneously gay and retarded — obviously scurrilous and offensive, and unnecessarily so. While there, learning one of the names that you street-wise secularists taunt mentally-handicapped homosexuals with, I was helpfully offered the opportunity to “buy ‘gaytard’ mugs and shirts.” So if you would like, all you people who are distressed at my word choices might want to head off to the complaints department of the Urban Dictionary and protest their calloused disregard of civilized discourse, and their merchandizing off the actual misfortunes of actual gaytards. Good luck. I’ll wait here for you. While you are there, you might discover that their gaytard entry is one of their milder offenses.

And last, one observer thought that I was interfering with his ability to spread the message of God’s love, and that is why he wanted me dead. You really can’t make this stuff up. At least he didn’t want me dead because our church sometimes sings imprecatory psalms. That would have made the irony too thick to deal with.

Monday, April 07, 2014

for christians only

In light of the previous post I copied from Matt Walsh, I now post this from Doug Wilson. It is not for non-Christians. This post strikes me as rude, crass, uncaring, etc... yet I post it because woven throughout is truth and far, far too many of my brothers are running scared. Friends, it's time to be emboldened. We have truth and we must stand firm.

Here is Wilson's "Gaywalkers, Gaytards, and the Gaystapo" (read at your own risk):

Let us begin, shall we, with some basic distinctions.

The first has to do with the basic sin issue, with politics not involved. When I was in the Navy, and had evangelistic discussions with whoring drunks, sin was always the issue. I was presenting the gospel to them, and the necessary response to the gospel message is “repent and believe.” I would talk with men who were ashamed of their sin, and also to men who were belligerent about it. I would confront them with their tomcatting ways, and they would confront me for being such a Jesus freak. But, to everyone’s credit, after we would have what the diplomats call a frank exchange of views, nobody ran off to tattle.

Those who are tempted with same sex attractions — both those who are ashamed of it and try to resist it and those who are given over to it — are gaywalkers. God built the road, and it is straight road, and he told us to cross at the intersection. Refusing to do so, or wavering on the point, is a sin issue, not a political issue. Let’s talk about it. As we address this kind of thing, the faithful Christian is dealing with the homosexual on exactly the terms as he deals with adulterers, gamblers, liars, drunks, and so on. Sin is sin, and Jesus is the only way out of that death trap. So let’s talk about it.

But then there are the gaytards. These are the people — homosexual, straight, and whatever Justin Bieber is — who are the ideal receptacle for the cultural propaganda served up by our duly appointed thought managers. They believe in “gay rights” for the same reason that they believe in climate change. The cool kids have decreed what is “in,” and the wannabe cool kids will enforce it on the unconvinced with a ferocity that can scarcely be credited. They do this in the hope that the cool kids will notice them, and promote them to better things. These people amuse themselves by taunting people ten times shrewder than they are as “low information voters.” Low information voters are those who believe that you can’t spend money you don’t have, that climate that doesn’t change isn’t climate change, and that men should marry women.

But then we come to those who are the driving force behind all this. They are in the grip of the libido dominandi, the lust for power, and they have combined it with their lust for flesh just like their own. They are the pink mafia. They are the gaystapo, as one observer put it. They want to establish their sodomite sharia law, starting in Portland, say, and working its way out.

Unless you take their tolerance tattoo, either on your right hand or on your forehead, you will not be able to buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-17). Why should such an enemy of humanity be able to buy or sell? But the problem with taking that tolerance tattoo is that the space is reserved. Everyone who serves the living and true God is called to reserve that space on the hand or forehead for the law of God (Deut. 6:8). And the law of God says to confuse male and female is a root confusion. Someone that confused might wind up having sex with someone just exactly like himself, and then calling it “diversity.”

But the collision here is not over whether or not the anus is a sex organ — that is reserved for the first category above. Our controversy here has to do with who defines love and hate for the public square, and what those definitions are. If they hear you witnessing to an apolitical homosexual in the first category above, and they declare you to be guilty of “hate speech,” what are we to say about this and why?

Behind these efforts of the gaystapo is a false view of history. They are marching, or so they think, from Seneca Falls to Selma, and from Selma to Stonewall. They want this battle to be exactly parallel to that which overthrew Jim Crow, in which the “old white guys” go down in ignominious defeat once again.

But — quite apart from my age and color, which some might consider irrelevant in discussions of morality — there is a stark difference between the two scenarios. The ardent defenders of principled segregation were defending sin. The ardent defenders of biblical marriage are opposing sin. “Sin? Sin? What is this babbler trying to say?”

Compare these passages. The first two address the segregationists, and the last one addresses the sodomites.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9–10)

“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:4–11).

What this means, in brief, is that in the civil rights movement, the liberals were trying to accomplish a good thing by a false means. Statist coercion cannot create racial harmony, but racial harmony is at least a good thing. The goal was noble, even though their confidence in the saving power of their compulsions was radically misplaced. And those who opposed them had, in the same moment, the task of opposing the murmurings of their own conscience.

In this instance, the liberals are trying to accomplish an evil thing. And when they start cracking heads in order to compel the corruption, they have fully earned their right to the name of gaystapo, and anyone with a Bible and a willingness to read it submissively can tell what they are up to. Their opponents in this one have a clean conscience, which makes all the difference in the world.

a post on niceness

Matt Walsh posts the below brilliant piece - Jesus didn't care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.

There is no shortage of heresies these days.

If you want to adopt some blasphemous, perverted, fun house mirror reflection of Christianity, you will find a veritable buffet of options. You can sift through all the variants and build your own little pet version of the Faith. It’s Ice Cream Social Christianity: make your own sundae! (Or Sunday, as it were.)

And, of all the heretical choices, probably the most common — and possibly the most damaging — is what I’ve come to call the Nice Doctrine.

The propagators of the Nice Doctrine can be seen and heard from anytime any Christian takes any bold stance on any cultural issue, or uses harsh language of any kind, or condemns any sinful act, or fights against evil with any force or conviction at all. As soon as he or she stands and says ‘This is wrong, and I will not compromise,’ the heretics swoop in with their trusty mantras.

They insist that Jesus was a nice man, and that He never would have done anything to upset people. They say that He came down from Heaven to preach tolerance and acceptance, and He wouldn’t have used words that might lead to hurt feelings. They confidently sermonize about a meek and mild Messiah who was born into this Earthly realm on a mission to spark a constructive dialogue.

The believers in Nice Jesus are usually ignorant of Scripture, but they do know that He was ‘friends with prostitutes,’ and once said something about how, like, we shouldn’t get too ticked off about stuff, or whatever. In their minds, he’s essentially a supernatural Cheech Marin.

Read the comments under my previous post about gay rights militants, and you’ll see this heresy illustrated.

That post prompted an especially noteworthy email from someone concerned that I’m not being ‘Christlike,’ because I ‘call people names.’ He said, in part:

“You aren’t spreading Christianity when you talk like that. The whole message of Jesus was that we should be nice to people because we want them to be nice to us. That’s how we can all be happy. Period. It’s that simple.”

Be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you, and we’ll all be happy. This is the ‘whole message’ of Christianity?


Jesus Christ preached a Truth no deeper or more complex than a slogan on a poster in a Kindergarten classroom?


A provocative claim, to say the least. I decided to investigate the matter, and sure enough, I found this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount:

“We’re best friends like friends should be. With a great big hug, and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?

Actually, wait, sorry, that’s from the original Barney theme song.

God help us. We’ve turned the Son of God into a purple dinosaur puppet.

There’s no way to be certain, but most theologians believe that, despite popular perception, Christ looked nothing like this.

I don’t recognize this Jesus.

This moderate. This pacifist. This nice guy.

He’s not the Jesus I read about in the Bible. I read of a strong, manly, stern, and bold Savior. Compassionate, yes. Forgiving, of course. Loving, always loving. But not particularly nice.

He condemned. He denounced. He caused trouble. He disrupted the established order.

On one occasion — or at least one recorded occasion — He used violence. This Jesus saw the money changers in the temple and how did He respond? He wasn’t polite about it. I’d even say He was downright intolerant. He fashioned a whip (this is what the lawyers would call ‘premeditation’) and physically drove the merchants away. He turned over tables and shouted. He caused a scene. [John 2:15]

Assault with a deadly weapon. Vandalism. Disturbing the peace. Worse still, intolerance.

In two words: not nice.

Not nice at all.

Can you imagine how some moderate, pious, ‘nice’ Christians of today would react to that spectacle in the Temple? Can you envision the proponents of the Nice Doctrine, with their wagging fingers and their passive aggressive sighs? I’m sure they’d send Jesus a patronizing email, perhaps leave a disapproving comment under the news article about the incident, reminding Jesus that Jesus would never do what Jesus just did.

Personally, I’ve studied the New Testament and found not a single instance of Christ calling for a ‘dialogue’ with evil or seeking the middle ground on an issue. I see an absolutist, unafraid of confrontation. I see a man who did not waver or give credence to the other side. I see someone who never once avoided a dispute by saying that He’ll just ‘agree to disagree.’

I see a Christ who calls the Scribes and Pharisees snakes and vipers. He labels them murderers and blind guides, and ridicules them publicly [Matthew 23:33]. He undermines their authority. He insults them. He castigates them. He’s not very nice to them.

Jesus rebukes and condemns. In Matthew 18, He utilizes morbid and violent imagery, saying that it would be better to drown in the sea with a stone around your neck than to harm a child. Had our modern politicians been around two thousand years ago, I’m sure they’d go on the cable news shows and shake their heads and insist that there’s ‘no place for that kind of language.’

No place for the language of God.

Jesus deliberately did and said things that He knew would upset people. He stirred up division and controversy. He provoked. He didn’t have to break from established customs, but He did. He didn’t have to heal that man’s hand on the Sabbath, knowing how it would disturb others and cause them immense irritation, but He did, and He did so with ‘anger’ [Mark 3:5]. He could have gone with the flow a little bit. He could have chilled out and let bygones be bygones, but He didn’t. He could have been diplomatic, but He wasn’t.

He could have told everyone to relax, but instead He made them uncomfortable. He could have put them at ease, but He chose to put them on edge.

He convinced the mob not to stone the adulterer [John 8], and you’ll notice that He then turned to her and told her to stop sinning. Indeed, never once did He encounter sin and corruption and say: “Hey, do your thang, homies. Just have fun. YOLO!”

The followers of Nice Jesus love to quote the ‘throw the first stone’ verse — and for good reason, it’s a beautiful and compelling story — but you rarely hear mention of the exchange that occurs just a few sentences later, in that very same chapter. In John 8:44, Jesus rebukes unbelieving Jews and calls them ‘sons of the Devil.’


That wasn’t nice, Jesus.

Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can catch more flies with honey, Jesus?

Of course, you’d catch even more flies with a mound of garbage, so maybe ‘catching flies’ isn’t the point.

While we’re often reminded that Jesus said, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword,’ we seem to ignore his other sword references. Like when he told his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword [Luke 22], or when He said that He ‘didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword’ [Matthew 10].

Now, It’s true that He is God and we are not. Jesus can say whatever He wants to say. But we are called to be like Christ, which begs the question: what is Christ like?

Well, He is, among other things, uncompromising. He is intolerant of evil. He is disruptive. He is sometimes harsh. He is sometimes impolite. He is sometimes angry.

He is always loving.

Christ was not and is not a cosmic guidance counselor, and He is not mankind’s best friend, nor did He call us to be. He made dogs for that role — our destiny is more substantial, and our path to it is far more challenging and dangerous.

And nice?

Where does nice factor into this?

Nice: affable, peachy, swell.

Nice has nothing to do with Christianity. I’ve got nothing against nice — nice is nice — but even serial killers can be nice to people. They generally are exceptionally affable, except when they’re murdering. That means they’re nice to, like, 97 or 98 percent of everyone they meet.

I guess they’re following Christ almost all of the time, right?

And tolerance?

Tolerance is easy. Any coward can learn to tolerate something. Tolerance is inaction; intolerance is action. We are called to refuse to tolerate evil. We are called to get angry at it and actively work to destroy it.

Who’d have guess it — anger is far more godly than tolerance ever could be.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that anger is automatically, or even usually, justified. Christ exhibited righteous anger; righteous anger is the sort of anger that naturally fills our soul when we confront the depths of depravity and sin. It is wrong to seethe with rage because someone cut us off in traffic or gossips about us behind our back, but it is also wrong to feel no anger when babies are murdered and the institution of the family is undermined and attacked.

Anger is good when it is directed at things that offend not us, but God. Just as Christ’s intolerance, like the intolerance we’re commanded to have, stems from a desire to save souls and defend Truth.

Even when we have righteous anger, we do not have carte blanche to act on it in anyway we please. But, according to the Bible, there are times to use strong language, there aretimes to cause a scene, there are times to hurt people’s feelings, and there are times when we might need to use physical force.

Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when we are personally attacked; He never told us to turn our backs entirely and let lies spread and evil grow.

So, enough with the niceties.

Christians in this country sound too similar to the the Golden Girls song, and not enough like the Battle Hymn of the Republic. There’s too much ‘thank you for being a friend,’ and not enough ‘lightening from His terrible swift sword.’

We’re all hugging and singing Kumbaya, when we should be marching and shouting Hallelujah.

We’re nice Christians with our nice Jesus, and we are trampled on without protest.

Enough, already.

I think it’s time that Christianity regain its fighting spirit; the spirit of Christ.

I think it’s time we ask that question: ‘What would Jesus do?’

And I think it’s time we answer it truthfully: Jesus would flip tables and yell.

Maybe we ought to follow suit.

identifying false teachers

From Denny Burk - How to Identify False Teachers:

The apostle Paul wrote to Titus that pastors must not only preach faithfully but also “refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). The idea is very simple. Pastoral ministry is not merely a building up, but also a tearing down. As Paul would say elsewhere, it involves tearing down every speculation and lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). To fail to do this is ministerial malpractice and harmful to God’s people.

Given this obligation, it becomes all the more imperative to be able to identify false teachers when they emerge. Sometimes false teaching originates from outside of the church. Sometimes such teaching originates from within. The New Testament teaches that a more rigorous response is required when it arises within. Thus faithful pastors must learn how to identify and deal with false teachers. But how do we do that?

For the next two blog posts, I want to address each half of that question. First, how to identify false teachers in the midst of the church. Second, how to deal with them.

The Bible suggests at least six characteristics that commonly identify false teachers. Not every false teachers exhibits all of these characteristics at once, but often times they present some combination of these traits.

1. False teachers contradict sound doctrine.

Even in the first century during the lifetimes of the apostles, there was an authoritative body of truth that functioned as the norm for faith and practice. Jude calls it “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Paul calls it “sound teaching according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10-11). Elsewhere, it’s the “standard of sound words” and “the treasure” (2 Tim. 1:13-14), the “words of faith” and “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). John calls it the “the teaching of Christ” (2 John 9).

In the first century, sound doctrine consisted of the Old Testament plus the apostolic word that Christ assigned to His apostles. The apostolic word was eventually written down as the apostles began to pass on. For us, the standard of sound doctrine–the faith once for all delivered to the saints–is the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. False teaching, therefore, is any teaching that departs from that norm. A false teacher is anyone within the church who stands against what the Bible teaches (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 John 9).

2. False teachers promote immoral living.

Jude shows us that false teachers often sneak into the church and “turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4). Licentiousness means a lack of moral restraint, especially with respect to sexual conduct. It is a total suppression of the moral norms of scripture. It is a life that excuses behavior that the Bible condemns. Peter says that such teachers deny the Lord Jesus by following “sensuality” (2 Pet. 2:2). A person who will not be ruled by God’s word is often being ruled by their own lusts. There is no shortage of charlatans who infiltrate churches with their charisma only to prove themselves lecherous meddlers with the women of the flock.

Some of them will try to justify their own sexual immorality or the immorality of others. But they often won’t mount a frontal assault on the moral norms of scripture. That is too obvious. Instead, they will redefine the Bible’s terms so that they no longer witness against their evil deeds. Those who redefine the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality fall into this category.

3. False teachers deemphasize sin and judgment.

This is a trait that false teachers share in common with the false prophets of old. Jeremiah describes them this way:
For from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, “Peace, peace,”
But there is not peace (Jeremiah 6:13-14).
False teachers characteristically downplay sin. Instead of naming the people’s “brokenness” as sin, they simply say, “nothing to see here, move along.” The false teachers tell sinners whom God will judge that they are not really that bad and that there’s no need to fear God’s judgement. They divorce God’s love and grace from His holiness. They tell people who should have every reason to fear God’s judgment that they really don’t have anything to worry about. They flee from the confrontation that truth brings, and they tell sinners whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

4. False teachers are motivated by greed or selfish gain.

Peter says that in their “greed” false teachers exploit God’s people with “false words” (2 Pet. 2:3). Indeed their hearts are “trained in greed” (2 Pet. 2:14). Paul says false teachers “suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). Teachers who love money and material gain will often say whatever they have to say in order to increase their bottom line. They are mercenaries, not following the call of God but going after the highest bidder. They will embrace novelty. They will scratch whatever itch sinners want scratched. They turn the ministry into a profit machine because they are motivated by greed. Beware of the pastors who seem to have an appetite for material gain. This is a tell-tale mark of a false teacher.

5. False teachers cause division.

False teachers will try to convince the flock that sound doctrine causes division. But this is a lie. It is actually the false teaching that seeks to divide and conquer God’s people. Jude warns about them in this way:
“In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly- minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 18-20)
Who causes dissension in the ranks? Not those teaching sound doctrine. Christ’s people unite around the truth. They divide over error. False teachers are the ones who draw people away from the standard of divine truth into error.

6. False teachers resemble the flock.

Jesus says to “beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). The false teacher never comes to us with a cardboard sign around his neck saying, “I’m a false teacher.” The false teacher comes to us in the guise of Christianity. He has the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5). If the false teacher looks and sounds like a Christian, then how are we to know if he is a false teacher? Jesus tells us how we know, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). In other words, what they do will often reveal far more about who they are than what they say.

There is probably more that could be said to define false teachers, but these six characteristics are the very least that we might highlight here. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss what a faithful response to false teachers should look like.

Friday, April 04, 2014

giving us more than we can handle

Does God give us more than we can handle? Jon Bloom says yes and I agree.
When we’re confronted with an impossible situation or trial, Gideon’s three hundred preach to us that “salvation… is from the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Psalm 37:39) and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). These are no domesticated platitudes. God really intends for us to cast our all on these massive truths and for them to give us more-than-conquerors confidence and peace (Romans 8:37) no matter what we face.

It is not hyperbole to say that the defeat of our sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross dwarfs Gideon’s victory. Compared to overcoming God’s wrath against our sin, defeating 100,000 Midianites was very small. And if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

God certainly does give us more than we can handle. And he does it “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). If you’re facing some overwhelming adversary or adversity and you wonder how God could possibly deliver and work it for your good (Romans 8:28), then take heart. He is granting you the joy of experiencing the reality of Judges Seven, Romans Eight, and Second Corinthians One.
The full story here


More intolerance from the intolerant - Christian, do not be deceived  and sway by nice sounding words ...

"... they like speech that supports their political views, and they like including people who agree with them, but they also like the way the nice words “free speech” and “inclusive” make people feel, so they like using those words to describe themselves. If they have to redefine the words to mean allowing, supporting, and including only particular political views, so what? Since they’re the good people, they get to use the beautiful words to describe themselves, whether the literal meanings of those terms apply or not."

Read the story here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

concern for the poor

Ron Sider in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:

God's concern for the poor is astonishing and boundless. At the pivotal points of revelation history, Yahweh was at work liberating the oppressed. We can only begin to fathom the depth of his identification with the poor disclosed in the Incarnation ... His passion for justice compels Him to obliterate rich societies and individuals that oppress the poor and neglect the needy. Consequently, God's people - if they are indeed His people - follow in the footsteps of the God of the poor.