Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Parable of the Lawless Judge

"Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'" John 18:39.

     There was a murderer who stood trial before the chief of judges.  During the case, it was proven that the murderer had continually lied.  He had lied before the murder, to lure his victim.  He had lied during the investigation and he changed his story, back and forth during the trial.  After all the testimony the chief judge deliberated and came back with his verdict.
     He quickly announced that the defense was incompetent and that the murderers alibi and story were not believable.  The family of the victim jumped for joy as their hearts yearned righteously for the justice soon to be delivered upon the evil doer.  As their feet hit the ground their faces fell even lower as they heard the chief judge announce, "Your alibi does not work, here is one that does though.  The chief judge explained the new alibi and told the murderer, "Be on your way."
     This is reminiscent of what happened to Jesus before Pilate.  The chief priests had no case against the Son of God.  What is more, Jesus' testimony was flawless.  Pilate admitted that he found no fault whatsoever in Jesus Christ.  The story ends the same.  Both corrupt judges freed a murderer and spit upon truth and the rule of law.
     Praise be to God, that what happened to Jesus was for our salvation.  His death brings our life as we surrender to Him, confessing we are sinners incapable of pleasing a Holy God apart from the atoning death of His perfect Son.  Truth was crucified by a corrupt judge, who feared the mob and despised God.  As Christians, in this dark day where the rule of law is a thing of the past, we must remember that truth is a man, the God man, Jesus Christ.  In Him we have no condemnation no matter what court or corrupt judge on this earth passes down.  The world is blinded today and truth, little t, is dead.  All praise to God that Truth, with a big T, rose from the grave on the 3rd day and he will one day judge those who passed down lawless decrees.
    God bless you and live, learn and love the gospel!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review of Francis Schaeffer, "The God Who Is There"

     "And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM..."

     Francis A. Schaeffer lived in a tumultuous day and time.  He has been dead now for almost 30 years yet his prophetic witness lives on.  A prophet is one who boldly proclaims the word of God, regardless of circumstance and Schaeffer certainly fit that bill.  Imagine the joy I had when I discovered that I could order The Francis Schaeffer Trilogy, free of charge.  Well, I read the first book of the trilogy, "The God Who Is There" and this is a book I should have read many years ago.
     Schaeffer explains the modern mans dilemma and how Christianity is the only unified system of belief and life that can make any sense out of any of our problems.  Schaeffer states that the elites of modern society (cultural leaders in the arts, music, theology etc.) have come to a presupposition, basic understanding, that is unlivable and destructive.  This unlivable system of thought(presupposition) was arrived at by synthesizing various contradictory beliefs and building an untenable philosophy.  One prominent example Schaeffer sites is that of the composer John Cage.  Cage believed that blind chance was the motivating factor in all of life so he composed his music with a flip of a coin and what emerged was a cacophonous din.  Sometimes he tossed the coin thousands of times for a piece of music, Schaeffer reported.  Yet the contradiction in Cages presupposition occurs when it came to his favorite hobby: mushrooms.  Mushrooms can be deadly poisonous if someone does not know which one to pick.  Cage did not leave this to chance.  In fact, this is what he said, "I became aware that if I approached mushrooms in the spirit of my chance operations, I would die shortly.  So I decided that I would not approach them in this way!"
     Schaeffer proposes that when we are in a discussion with people, we must force them to own up to their presuppositions and their fatal implications.  We must make them eat their own mushrooms so to speak and then we can share the truth of the gospel with them.  Only Jesus Christ, the God who is there in time and space for all eternity can make any sense of our world.  Schaeffer stresses that Christianity is the only faith that really exists in history and in time and makes sense of the tragedies and suffering in this world.
     I'll end this brief review of Schaeffer's excellent book in his own words.  "The Christian system is consistent as no other system that has ever been.  It is beautiful beyond words, because it has that quality that no other system completely has-you begin at the beginning , and you can go to the end.  It is as simple as that.  And every part and portion of the system can be related back to the beginning."
     God bless you and live, learn and love the gospel of our blessed Savior.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cool Is Stupid and So Am I

"Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1John 2:15.

     Has your pastor, er, the guy who says stuff from the pulpit, er podium on Sunday, opened up a can of 'whoop bass' on you, had a porn star as the guest of honor or spoke a series of messages based on the latest craze at the box office?  Hopefully not, but it is the latest craze in our celebrified version of consumer driven American Christianity.  It is all done in the name of reaching the lost.  But does it lose or, more likely, confuse the found?  It is all about reaching the lost by being cool.
     Well, I'll restate the title: cool is stupid.  Don't do it.  "For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" both the Psalmist and Solomon teach us.  Do pastors fear that preaching the fear of the Lord will not be cool and people will not attend?  Yes, that is more than likely the issue and what is more, they are probably right to a large degree.  Yet, the Apostle John makes it clear, if people love this world, God is not in them and has nothing to do with them.  The problem is, we have bought into the purposeful lie that church is for the unbeliever.  Now make no mistake, when the unbeliever goes to church and the word of God is preached, He will save those whom He will.  His word does not return void and the dead will rise from their grave as they sit in the pew.  Church is not the place where we invite unbelievers to be entertained or enticed by our hipness.  The Bible is emphatic that church is the place where we corporately glorify the Lord and the pastor is supposed to preach the word, in and out of season, and edify the saints of God.  This is the main focus of corporate worship, church, the preaching of the word.  This preaching is to glorify God and teach us about Him and all His perfections and how we are to surrender to Him in everything we do and think.  The Bible from beginning to end tells us how men instinctively hate God and the Church is the place, school, where we learn how to love God with all of our hearts.  Paul taught that our teaching is foolishness to the world, especially as we focus on the most offensive doctrine ever taught: that Christ died for us, wicked sinners who deserve Hell.  I don't know how we ever can make that cool.  I do know we have to quit trying to impress men and we need to continually humble ourselves under God's mighty hand.  As we do this, we will grow to love our fellow man more, even as they think we are less and less cool.
     We need to quit drinking in every fad brothers and sisters.  We drink in this poison and as we become cool to the world, God turns His back on us.  We must examine ourselves in this light.  If we desire to please man above God, is He in us?  We need to heed the John's word and repent of our worldliness.  God bless you and learn, love and live the glorious gospel of our risen Savior!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: R.C. Sproul commentary on Mark, He Taught Them as One Who Had Authority

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," Mark 1:1.

     It has been a long strange trip for me, for the last two years or so.  I was an interim pastor of a small, Southern Baptist Church for a year and a half and I was determined to preach through my favorite Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  It was an incredibly exciting, exhausting and exhilarating experience preaching through Mark from week to week and I learned so much in that time.  One thing really disheartened me though: I could not find a good commentary on Mark.   The most prevalent problem was that most commentators were spending so much time explaining what a passage didn't mean, what the novel interpretation of the moment is or how this all fits into the so called "synoptic problem".  Now, understand that I was only reading conservative evangelical commentaries but I was repeatedly frustrated by what I call, "the hedgers".  They spent so much time discussing everything except the most obvious and edifying understanding of the passage. 
     Well, I am preparing to teach the Gospel of Mark again and lo and behold, I found that R.C. Sproul had preached through Mark at his church and had just finished his commentary and I eagerly sopped it up.  You can probably tell, by my use of the past tense in the first paragraph, what I think of Sproul's new commentary.  It is everything I've been looking for.  It is fantastic.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.
     Sproul is well known for his scholarly and academic approach to theology and apologetic's and I was not sure how this would translate into a useable and practical commentary on Mark.  My suspicions were completely unfounded and this commentary is truly a wonderful, thoughtful and informative description of Mark's account of Jesus' ministry.  R.C. Sproul has truly transformed into a fantastic preacher with a pastor's concern right before our eyes.  Not that he wasn't a loving and caring Christian before but you can just feel his pastoral concern for those who are under his teaching and for those who want to learn more about Jesus Christ and His holy word.  There a couple of occasions where you can feel the tension between the academic and pastoral Sproul, yet R.C. does not veer off and he stays focused on the passage at hand and its immediate understanding.  You can sense that he wants to take several pages to discuss a particular point of doctrine but he keeps a laser focus on his task and after all the subterfuge I've read concerning Mark, I was grateful for that!
     That is not to say I agree with everything Dr. Sproul wrote or believes.  Sproul holds to the concept of Markan priority which I do not agree with.  This is the belief that Mark was the first Gospel written and Matthew and Luke used Mark to write their Gospels.  There is evidence which supports this but it is not irrefutable and I choose to believe the original arrangement of the Gospels and there is much good evidence for that approach as well.  What I do appreciate about Dr. Sproul though is that he does not make a big deal about this except briefly, at the outset of his commentary.  I also disagree with much of what Dr. Sproul wrote concerning the Olivet Discourse.  Dr. Sproul is a partial preterist.  This is the belief that most if not all things concerning the end times have happened except for the physical second coming of Christ.  I am not of this persuasion but I still found much to agree with even in his chapters concerning this great discourse.
     Finally, I appreciate Dr. Sproul's submission to the word of God.  There were at least two occasions where you could tell he was apprehensive about a particular interpretation, yet the Bible was clear and he submitted to its authority.  Dr. Sproul maintains and expounds the highest view of scripture possible and does not acquiesce to the whims of modern scholarship and political correctness.  I would recommend this commentary to anyone who wants to benefit from one of the great theological minds of this generation.  It will be my go to commentary as I prepare to teach on Mark.
     God bless you and learn, live and love the gospel of our glorious Savior!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Al Mohler was right! The Mega Church is Regurgitated Liberalism

"Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching," 2Tim. 4:2.

     Spurgeon wrote years ago during the Downgrade Controversy in England that many pastors affirmed all the right things when they were alive and professed orthodoxy.  They did not explicitly teach against core doctrines of the faith but they did not teach them explicitly either. Make no mistake, they were sowing the seeds of unbelief, but it was difficult to pin them down.   Spurgeon commented that only after these men passed was their apostasy revealed in their private writings.
     Recently, Dr. Al Mohler heralded a battle cry against the encroaching liberalism in the American evangelical church.  He wrote a piece on Tuesday, May 1st titled, "Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?"  This was an insightful piece and a shot across the bow of the American evangelical church.  Mohler gave praise to the Megachurch where he saw its faithfulness, particularly as it related to his beloved Southern Baptist Convention.  He points out that it was largely prominent mega church pastors who helped bring the SBC back from the abyss of liberalism.
     Mohler did not stay in the complementary mood long and focused his attention on the issue of homosexuality and its affirmation and acceptance in mega church circles and he lowered the boom, in particular, on Pastor Andy Stanley of North Pointe Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  Stanley taught in a service in mid April and offered no biblical admonishment to a homosexual couple who were serving in one of his satellite churches.  Stanley took a firm stance against adultery(he seemed to waver later) and the need for one of the gay men to step down from serving until his divorce was final.  He offered no counsel it seems though concerning the sin of homosexuality.  The men were not rebuked for the sin that broke up both of their marriages.  The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin and Mr. Stanley made it clear that he saw adultery as the problem and not homosexuality.  In effect, Mr. Stanley is sanctifying the sin of homosexuality above any other sin.  This is the problem with the gay rights movement as it seeks to influence the church.  They demand that we accept and affirm their sin above the word of God and against all other sins.  This is classic liberalism and is a different religion altogether.  In fact, as Dr. Mohler pointed out, Mr Stanley mentioned the forgiveness we have through the cross of Christ but left out the need for faith and repentance. 
     As I listened and watched Mr. Stanley's talk, I noticed how he seemed compelled to mention, over and over, his kingdom of churches.  Mr. Stanley not only is in charge of North Pointe but he has his head piped into many other churches around Atlanta and the U.S.  He in fact, is a Pope.  But that is another matter that I have written about before.  I just refuse to call these men with their little kingdoms, pastor.  It seems a slander to the good men who toil at churches all over the world with little fanfare but who truly pastor a flock that they know personally by name, each and every one.  I remember Jesus telling Peter, "Feed My sheep...tend My sheep."  A Pope with his own kingdom cannot do that.  This is not a liberal tendency, but a meglomaniacal tendency.  How it promotes liberalism though is that it makes it easier for a false gospel to travel further, faster and with more authority.
     One other thing struck me as I listened to Mr. Stanley.  He commented that homosexuals attending his church liked it because he wasn't hung up on affirming homosexuality and he taught the Bible more than the gay affirming churches they were used to.  Yet, the Bible was little on display in his speech and he took a full ten minutes(in a forty minute speech) to tell the extra biblical story that Mohler's piece was about.  The Apostle Paul was emphatic when he told Timothy, "Preach the word!"  It is the word of life.  It alone has the power to change hearts and lives and turn back people from the precipice of Hell.  Liberalism always strays far from God's word.  It has to because of its ability to "discern the thoughts and intents of the heart".  The modern liberal, even if dressed up in evangelical garb, believes that psychology and man's wisdom is best able to discern and rehabilitate the thoughts and the heart.  They truly follow what Paul taught that "they have a form of godliness but denying its power."  They believe man has the power and he can work to overcome his problems, if in fact, they acknowledge sin at all.
     Dr. Mohler is correct in his assessment of  the modern mega church.  It often is a vehicle for doctrinal liberalism.  In fact, Rick Warren sent Dr. Mohler a nasty tweet asking Dr. Mohler to apologize.  This is interesting because Warren is a protegee of the liberal practioneer Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame.  In fact, to bring this to a tidy close, Kay Warren, Rick's wife, just preached(if you can call it that) at the Crystal Cathedral.  That is all the proof a discerning christian should need of the bankruptcy of the modern mega church movement.
     Friends, "earnestly contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints."  Do not be mislead by men with large churches as if that means anything.  Don't be fooled by the wisdom of this world.  Build your life on the rock, God's word.  Let His Spirit fully illuminate you with all truth.  Remember that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  Do not allow the world to grab a foothold in your mind.  Be washed with the word and learn, love and live the glorious gospel of our beloved Lord.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Self Esteem: The Devils Doctrine

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it(the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil," Genesis 3:5.
     We hear it everywhere.  Our kids are taught it the moment they get to the government education camp(school).  Oprah peddles it like she got it from Mt. Sinai.  Worse yet, churches and Christian organizations weave it seamlessly in their sermons and teaching as if it were the very gospel itself.  It is unseemly and unbiblical and something that enslaves people in the worst possible way: the clanging chains of self importance.  This Hellish doctrine is none other than self-esteem.
     I'm not one for studies, but when a secular study torpedoes secular gospel, it must be noticed.  One study showed that one particular group had the highest self esteem of them all.  One group had drunken deepest from the well of secular doctrine and had applied it to their lives above all others.  That group is: gang members.  They do think highly of their criminality and that may well explain why they repeat their behavior over and over again.  The Bible teaches that "we are to esteem others more highly than ourselves," according to Paul.  What made Moses so great?  Was he a towering intellect who basked in his genius?  Was he a type A personality who wouldn't accept defeat or take no for an answer?  Did he have an inflated self image that allowed him to dominate others?  No.  He was humbled under the mighty hand of God.  The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man who ever lived.  His greatest stumbling block was his anger.  His anger got him in trouble and drew God's righteous chastisement.  Gang members would do well to head the lesson of Moses, both good and bad.
     It seems that self esteem is the oldest heresy.  Go back to the garden where a slippery serpent has slithered next to Eve.  Listen to what he says to her, "You will not surely die."  He directly refuted God's own word and called Him a liar.  Eve should have stopped him right there.  Better yet, Adam should have stepped forward and rebuked the Devil right there.  But the serpent continued, "For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  There is much to discuss in this verse but we will concentrate on one part, "you will be like God."  Satan's temptation is the same our elites are tempting us with today.  They are saying, "you are special, wonderful and just need to believe in yourself.  If you fail, that is ok, we won't discipline you.  You can determine what is right and wrong for yourself.  You will know what is good and what is evil for yourself."  Eve gave in to Satan's temptation and the world fell into sin, death and disease.  Self esteem had done its dirty work.  Self esteem is rebellion against God, plain and simple and can never bring joy and fulfillment to an individuals life.  In fact, one man demonstrated how to find life's greatest treasure, "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he looked to the reward," Hebrews 11:26.  Our friend Moses found his esteem in something far more precious than himself or even life most licentious riches: in Jesus Christ, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  His self esteem was no doubt, driven into the dirt by Pharaohs and the evils of this world, but he kept the faith, even without ever having seen Jesus Christ.
     Dear friends, we are on the other side of Christ's life, death and resurrection.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit coursing through our members as we surrender to Him.  "Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God."  What was invisible to Moses, we can see more clearly and let us "Keep our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and now sits at the right hand of the Father," Hebrews 12:2.  Finally, brothers and sisters, let us learn, live and love the blessed gospel of our great God and Savior.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Battle for the Beginning by John MacArthur

"For in six days the LORD created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it," Exodus 20:11.
     We live in a day where the Church is being swallowed up by the culture at large.  We are losing our saltiness, as we are to be the salt of the earth and if we lose that saltiness, our only good use is to be thrown down and trampled on.  We are losing our preserving influence in the world and this can be seen especially as the American Evangelical church seeks to prove its relevance through a reinterpretation of creation, especially the first couple chapters of Genesis.  It was with this in mind that I read Pastor John MacArthur's book, The Battle for the Beginning.
     In the introduction to the book, MacArthur states plainly the perilous state of the evangelical church in the world today, "So in an important sense, everything scripture says about our salvation in Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Jesus teaches in Genesis 1-3 about Adam's creation and fall.  There is no more pivotal passage of scripture," pg. 19.
    MacArthur explains well, with a pastors concern, the danger of the liberal hermeneutic(interpretive method), used by those who try to harmonize scripture and science.  The Bible states, "Let God be true and all men liars."  Pastor John seems to have this in mind as he skillfully exegetes Genesis 1-3, explaining the incontrovertible truth of a literal six day creation.  Pastor Mac states, "The simple, rather obvious fact is that no one would ever think the time frame for creation was anything other than a normal week of seven days from reading the Bible and allowing it to interpret itself.  The forth commandment makes no sense whatsoever apart from an understanding that the days of God's creative work parallel a normal human work week," pg. 21.  Pastor John's well founded criticism is that too many "evangelical" Christians use a scientific hermeneutic to interpret scripture.  He especially takes on scientist/evangelical Christian Hugh Ross and his approach to creation.  Now, Dr. MacArthur is careful to note that many old earth creationists believe in a literal Adam and Eve and the innerrancy of scripture.  He also points out that they carefully cage up their destructive interpretive method outside of the first few chapters of Genesis.  They switch methods so to speak.
     Dr. MacArthur does a wonderful job explaining the intricacies of God's creation and how evolution is an ineffective method of explaining these intricate systems and creatures.  His book is a refreshing and important  polemic affirming the authority of scripture against even science.  It is interesting that only because of a true understanding of Christian doctrine was modern science able to arise and it is now turning its attack on the very belief system that birthed it.
    I leave you with this quote from the book, as it so aptly explains how this discussion effects the gospel itself, "Paul's presentation of the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends upon a historical Adam and a literal interpretation of the account of Genesis and how he fell.  Furthermore, everything Paul has to say about the doctrine of justification by faith depends on that.  "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive," 1Cor. 15:22.  Clearly, Paul regarded both the creation and the fall of Adam as history, not allegory.  Jesus himself regarded the creation of Adam and Eve a historical event, Mark 10:6.  To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine," pg. 23.
     Dr. MacArthur is not over stating things here.  An incorrect view of creation has horrific ripple effects through out the rest of scripture and even can do great violence to the gospel itself.  We must be careful not to let vain philosophies guide our understanding of God's word and we must not be worried if people think we are ignorant for upholding the absolute authority of God's word, even over science.
     God bless you, learn, live and love the precious gospel of Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pain and Suffering: Only Answered by the Suffering Savior

"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin," Hebrews 12:2-4.

     There I was, in small town Nebraska, screaming at the top of my lungs, "the cross, the cross" as Dinesh D'souza was struggling to explain the meaning of suffering.  Why he had been invited to present his new book on an evangelical radio show, I do not know, but he promised that this was the most difficult question for the Christian to answer and it was not a problem that other religions had to deal with.  Eventually, he settled on a little Mother Teresa theology by pointing to God's eternality and the blessedness of our suffering.  He stated, for example, that Job would be recompensed for his suffering by an eternity of blessedness in God's presence.  Finally, the talk show host, threw him a life preserver and mentioned the cross.  Dinesh jumped on it and mercifully that segment of the show was over.
     When you read Hebrews 10 through 12, it is hard to imagine how a Christian would be confused about suffering.  We worship a crucified Savior.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews seems to be chastising his readers(including us) for thinking that they will escape suffering.  In fact, God uses our suffering to grow our faith.  Now, we do not go out and look to suffer, as Mother Teresa(and other false teachers) promoted.  What we do is preach and live the gospel, no matter the circumstance.  If that means that we will be persecuted, we will be persecuted.  Just two pages over in my Bible, James writes this, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials."  James seems to echo his half brothers(Jesus) sentiments by exhorting us to have joy in our suffering.  A suffering that we fall into, not seek for ourselves.  James agrees Hebrews about the benefit of our suffering and the perseverance it produces.
     Interestingly, believers in countries that are suffering greatly, rarely if ever question why they suffer.  It is the coddled, fat and sassy western Christians who think that God owes them a comfy life that never so much as stubs a toe.  This kind of "faith" is no faith at all and will be exposed for its hypocrisy when pain and suffering afflict the western world.  Those who follow in seeker sensitive churches, health and wealth prosperity churches and many other professing Christians will quickly abandon the faith of the suffering Savior when the slightest inconvenience happens let alone a vicious persecution. 
     I will end this post where I started, on the same Christian radio show, a couple of days later.  Another writer was on, this one had a different perspective.  He stated, paraphrasing, "What a stupid question(why pain and suffering), the real question is, why does God bless us so much."  Friends, we need to, as Hebrews 12 exhorts us, remember our loving and great crucified Savior and learn, love and live His gospel.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent: A Biblical Response

"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward," Matt. 6:16.

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ," Colossians 2:16-17.

     "Hey Bob, let's go to McDonald's and get something to eat."  "I can't," said Bob.  "Why not?" His friend asks.  "I gave up fast food for Lent," Bob replies.
    As an evangelical, this situation, or something similar happens regularly this time of year.  This often leads to confusion but brings up some excellent questions.  Most importantly, we need to ask what is Lent and is it Biblical and more importantly is it Biblically mandated.
     Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday, before Resurrection Sunday.  It is, according to Catholic resources, a time of penance.  Penance is the Catholic term for our reparation for our sin.  It is a system of works righteousness for our sins.  This is antithetical to Biblical fasting.  We can in no way impress God with our works, it is only by our submission to His Holy Spirit that we can please Him.  Jesus did expect us to fast, as His words from Matthew 6 demonstrate, yet it is a private matter, between us and Him.  Now, that does not mean that a pastor or church can not fast together to seek God's will on a matter, especially seeking to humble ourselves and seek revival in our lives and to submit our lives more completely to God as we give up our daily substinance, food, to be filled more fully with His Spirit.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline that allows us to more fully understand how awesome God is as we pray and reflect on His amazing works, especially the work that saves us: His Son's death on the cross for ours sins and the hope of His resurrection.
     In the evangelical world, we have more and more pastors seeking to incorporate elements of Catholic faith and tradition into our worship.  The Forty Days of Purpose and many other resources are tying into Catholic tradition in many ways and this is not a helpful influence whatsoever and confuses many people and draws them into false teaching and error.  Observing Lent as a form of penance is unbiblical and must be rejected.  Paul stated clearly in Colossians 2 that we are not bound to festivals as a form of obedience to impress God.  We have the reality of Christ to worship and adore.  He is our Lenten festival, we feast on Him and His word and His perfect work on the cross.  Yes, we can forgo food and fast for a time in fuller devotion to Him.  We do need to take time to leave the noise of this world and fast and pray and concentrate completely on Christ, but it is a matter personal to us that we do not need to force upon others or parade in public to the adoration of man.  Truly, that is its own reward and our only reward if we do that.
     Brothers and sisters, do not be drawn in by the traditions of men, like Lent.  We must "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," as Jesus said.  We need to keep His gospel central in our hearts and minds at all times, not for forty days in the spring.  God bless you all and remember to learn, live and love the gospel.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heretics Not Welcome: Why We Need To Stay Away From False Teachers

"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds," 2John 9-11.
     Jesus taught us that a little leaven works through the whole loaf.  By a little, He meant an amount that is barely visible, yet, left unchecked, would work its way quickly through all the dough and expand it out to an unrecognizable shape if left to its own and with proper conditions.  The modern American evangelical church is a giant loaf of bread and it has expanded beyond recognition.
     This needs to be said in light of the debacle involving many pachyderms at a conference this week.  These over sized mammals invited a particularly obese elephant into their midst.  This fatyderm, a purveyor of all sorts of unbelievable lies, was proclaimed a truth sayer by all the other elephants in the room.  This was proclaimed after the fattest elephant made several blurry comments concerning truths which he had obfuscated before.  His current obfuscation was considered clear enough to anoint him as an obscurer no more and he was roundly applauded by all the elephants and their trumpet blasts could be heard all around.
     Now, all the elephants will go to their own preserves and the little elephants they teach will be introduced to the evil elephant, and they will believe his lies.  Those who do not know King Jesus, will be drawn into Hell and eternal torment.  Their sons and daughters will, more than likely, suffer the same fate.  Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.  Evil triumphs even more when self seeking elephants proclaim that it is good. 
     Brothers and sisters, nothing good can be gained when we openly cavort with false teachers and call them good.  Living in the world means we must fraternize with them but it must never be intimated that their evil doctrine is true.  When we glad hand a false teacher, we are sharing in his evil.  We must not allow this to happen.  False teachers are to be harshly rebuked and called to repentance for their evil words.  It will not take long for the false doctrine of TD Jakes and his friends at the Elephant Room to work its way through the already emaciated American Evangelical church.  We must call them out for their evil doctrine and not be seen among  and with them.
     We must, brothers and sisters, more now than ever, proclaim, live, love and learn the glorious gospel of our triune God!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Six Day Creation is Essential to the Gospel

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it," Exodus 20:11.
     The creation account of the universe is the foundation of the Bible.  God, in His infinite wisdom, began the account of His word with a non fantastical, straight forward and poetically beautiful account of His great power, knowledge, grace and love proven through His creation of the universe and all that is in it.  Six thousand years later, many Christians sit in judgement of God's word and are embarrassed to cling to the biblical six day account of creation.  This dispute has great bearing on the gospel itself and is critical to a proper understanding of God's word.  I will lay out 3 views of creation briefly and answer them and their implications.
     1) Theistic Evolution: this view claims that God created the universe and its basic primordial matter and then Darwinistic evolution has carried the ball since then.  It is heretical and not compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Since TE's believe in cavemen, they do not believe in God's direct creation of Adam and Eve which Jesus explicitly states happened in the gospels.  Because of this, it is heretical and calls out Jesus Christ as a liar.  Their are other implications also like Paul comparing Adam to Jesus and our inheritance of our sin nature through Adam.  Many TE's deny a literal Adam and Eve at all and others do hermeneutical gymnastics, like Tim Keller, to explain evolution, a literal Adam and Eve and the relationship of Adam to Jesus and our sin.  The main proponents of this heresy are C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller.
     2)  Old Earth Creationism:  There are many variants to this belief but OEC'ers trust in the presupposition of uniformitarianism.  They believe the universe is billions of years old and that things change gradually over time.  This view is seriously misguided, can have fatal effects for the gospel but is generally within the realm of orthodoxy.  OEC'ers put a lot of emphasis on the findings of modern science and often reinterpret much of the first 11 chapters of Genesis to be more secular friendly.  One of their major contrivances is to argue that the Hebrew word yom which, is used in Genesis 1, depicts large epochs of time and not twenty four hour days.  There is no justification for this, especially considering that Exodus 20:11, cited above, explicitly states that God created the world in 6 days as a pattern for us to follow.  This hermeneutic(method of interpretation) has great potential for destruction if consistently applied.  For instance, when Jesus was confronted about giving a sign, he did not say, "For as Jonah was in the belly of the beast for 3 billion days and 3 billion nights, so will the Son of Man be 3 billion days and 3 billion nights in the heart of the earth," Matthew 12:40.  If we consistently use this hermeneutic, it means we are still waiting on our Lord's resurrection!  Furthermore, if we interpret Genesis 1-11 guided primarily according to Ancient Near East customs and wisdom, as so many OEC'ers are apt to do, we can and often do, make a train wreck of the gospel itself.  This may be the prevalent view of evangelicals, especially pastors, in this modern age.  They often create a creation matrix so fantastical it would make a conspiracy theorist blush.  Most often, this view can be laboriously reconciled with orthodoxy.  Those associated with it are many.  B.B. Warfield was its first modern practitioner and John Piper, John Sailhammer are a couple of its proponents today.  It seems to be especially strong in reformed circles.
     3)Young Earth Creationism: This is the biblical view that interprets Genesis 1 most strictly to the historical/grammatical method espoused by evangelicals.  This view believes that what God said in Genesis 1 was both beautifully poetic and absolutely accurate and true.  YEC'ers understand that God's wisdom is foolishness to the world and are willing to look like morons in the eyes of the world.  YEC'ers get their name because they believe the world to be between 6 or 10 thousand years old.  YEC'ers do not have to do any interpretive gymnastics concerning the gospel and creation.  One of the most difficult(perceived) questions that this theory faces is why did God create everything with the appearance of age.  This question implies that God is deceptive for creating mountains and stars that are theoretically millions of years away.  This question presupposes man's superior wisdom and morality and ignores that God created Adam as a full grown adult, with no belly button.
     In a nutshell, and this is a very abbreviated description of these views, theistic evolution is heretical and impugns the gospel because it denies God's direct creation of Adam which causes all sorts of theological conundrums.  Old earth creationism is not heretical but silly and if it is carried out to its logical implications, deforms the gospel.  Young earth creationism upholds the innerancy of God's word and puts no impediments on the gospel whatsoever.  It is foundational that we have a correct view of God's word from verse one through Revelation.  Friends, lets learn, live and love the gospel of our glorious Savior.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God's Injustice and The Scandal of His Grace

     "For it is by grace that we are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast," Ephesians 2:8-9.
     Ted Bundy may well be in heaven and Mother Theresa and Gandhi are probably in Hell.  That, my friends, is a difficult truth to fathom.  Ted Bundy was a serial killer who murdered more than twenty women after falling deeper and deeper into the depths of pornography.  He was an evil man who got true justice at the hands of the state of Florida.  They put him to death for his evil.  Yet, it is claimed that he repented of his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  If this is true, and he truly repented, he is in heaven.  Mother Teresa and Gandhi are two of the best known modern day heroes for peace and justice.  They helped lepers, fought against injustice and have had legions of books written about them.  They did not ever embrace, as far as we know, the Biblical gospel however and that path leads directly to Hell.  This, my friends, is a scandal!  How can this be?
     All of us, scripture assures us, have sinned against a holy God.  We are dead, dead, dead, in our sin.  None of us can go before God and say, "Hey God, look at what I did!  Aren't I wonderful Lord.  I did this, that and the other thing.  You must be impressed with how wonderful I am and what I did."  This is the religion of every man on earth who has not embraced the gospel.  It is the faith of Muhammad, Maharishi Yogi, witches, pagans and even atheists.  It is the religion of the Roman Catholic Church and of Gandhi.  It is not the gospel and it defames our Savior. 
     The other day I was listening to a show that proclaimed that Ted Bundy may have trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and it struck me as the most scandalous thing ever as I thought more and more about it.  How ridiculous it sounds to say that Ted Bundy is in heaven while scores of "good" people every day die in their sins without Christ and are condemned.  How can God save a man like Ted Bundy!  This is unjust and wicked.  No one knows for sure whether Mr. Bundy did repent and is in heaven but just the thought is repulsive to the fleshly mind.  How can I serve a God like this who petulantly sends "good" people to Hell and lets scum like Bundy into His paradise?  This is unjust, uncalled for and unprecedented! 
     Well, no it is not.  "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women  committed them to prison," Acts 8:3.  Saul was a zealous, evil man who scattered the church and then hunted people down.  He was a major instrument in the martyr of Stephen and we have no reason to believe that he was not responsible for other peoples martyrdom.  He did not deserve to be saved and was evil on a par with Muhammad and Ted Bundy.  He was a despicable man.  But he was knocked off his donkey en route to Damascus and Jesus Christ, the crucified one, appeared to Saul and chose him to bring the gospel to the gentiles.  Paul was then born out of the remnants of Saul and he was used of God to bring the gospel farther than any other apostle.  Even more, he lamented his sinfulness and considered himself to be "the chief of sinners."  He did not consider himself worthy of Christ's riches and he partook deeply of Christ's amazing grace as well as enduring torture and persecution and bearing the marks of Christ in his body.  Paul did not deserve God's love.  He was an evil man.
     Friends, God is unjust and for that, we must say Hallelujah!  God is unjust and His grace is ridiculous, unmerited, shocking and just plain...scandalous.  We all deserve Hell, we have all sinned against God and spit in the face of Jesus Christ and on His sacrificial crucifiction for our sins and debt.  We deserve His wrath every bit as much as Ted Bundy.  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5:8.  Romans 3 paints a truthful, painful and bleak picture of our hearts and confronts us with the reality of our depravity.  We are Ted Bundy, we are evil.  Mother Teresa and Gandhi were Ted Bundy too, unless they surrendered their hearts to Christ and repented of their evil.  Friends, we must always remember how evil we are apart from the love of Christ.  We must never assume anyone is righteous, let alone ourselves.  But we know One who is righteous and who unloads all His love on us if we respond to His generous, undeserved offer of salvation.  This should comfort our lives to no end and lead us to learn, live and love the glorious gospel of our awesome Savior.