Monday, March 28, 2011

What Reformed Theology is Not

     There is a lot of confusion in the evangelical world concerning Reformed Theology.  In this brief article by Westminster Seminary professor Dr. Michael Horton, he helps clear up some of the fog by giving us clarification on what Reformed Theology/Calvinism is not.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Gospel is the Power of God Everyday!

     Here is another wonderful post by pastor Tullian Tchividjian on the power of the gospel for daily living in Christ.  This brother has a way of saying what I am believing and experiencing (at least on some level) in a way far better than I.  His blog, On Earth As It Is In Heaven, is required reading.

     The wonder of the gospel is so multidimensional, but what I have been meditating upon lately is God's ability in the gospel to afflict us in our pride/self-sufficiency and at the same time encourage us in our many sins of disobedience.  The sin of pride is taken care of at the cross of Christ for no matter how obedient, righteous, or well we may think we are doing, the cross bears witness that God laid our sin on His Son.  No acts of worship or obedience from us are good enough, but only the righteousness of Christ.  As the hymn proclaims,
I dare not trust my sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name
    Pastor Tullian further explains that a preoccupation with our own righteousness often undermines the work of God in sanctification,
The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of me and my performance and more of Jesus and his performance for me. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my effort over God’s effort for me makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
     Sins of disobedience to God's law (with an accompanying guilty conscience) are also dealt a death blow at Calvary "by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:14).  Christ became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13) as He bore our sin and ransomed us with His precious blood and there is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom. 8:1).  In the New Covenant, God will remember our sins no more because Christ has fulfilled every duty and penalty of the law on our behalf!  There is comfort when we sin that "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).  In order to grow spiritually, we need to remember that our every sin and debt has already been canceled through the work of our Lord Jesus.  Elyse Fitzpatrick explains,
One reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we are cleansed from our sins. In other words, ongoing failure in sanctification (the slow process of change into Christlikeness) is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel. If we lack the comfort and assurance that his love and cleansing are meant to supply, our failures will handcuff us to yesterday’s sins, and we won’t have faith or courage to fight against them, or the love for God that’s meant to empower this war. If we fail to remember our justification, redemption, and reconciliation, we’ll struggle in our sanctification.
     These truths of the gospel apply to our Christian sanctification every day.  They free us from attempting to find our standing with God through our own puny, insufficient efforts, and also allow us to be assured that when we sin, we have forgiveness through our Mediator!  If God finds us to be particularly self-sufficient, let us go in faith to the cross where the Prince of Glory died and let our own supposed goodness fade to nothing.  If we are overwhelmed with the guilt of our sin, let us remember the cross of Christ and be washed anew in the cleansing blood of our Savior.  The power of Christ through the gospel is what saves us, sanctifies us, and will ultimately see us safely into the glory of the Father's kingdom!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Church Leaders Rebuke Joel Osteen

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." (Titus 1:9)

     Few evangelical Christians are unfamiliar with Houston pastor Joel Osteen.  Sadly, even with Osteen's popularity, he still seems to be flying under the radar in the sense that many still consider him orthodox (e.g. his books are still selling big in 'Christian' retail outlets and Lakeside Church in Houston is one of the biggest in the country).  Interestingly, when we lived in Orange County, California our next door neighbor (from Lebanon and a committed Muslim) loved to listen to Osteen's weekly television broadcast.  Though we tried to share the gospel with her, this Muslim's view of Christianity was found in the message of Joel Osteen.  Similarly, one of my co-workers was a big fan of Osteen, but not a fan of biblical Christianity.  Didn't Jesus say something about the world loving it's own?! 
     As John MacArthur points out so well in this short video, Osteen's message is one that appeals to everything the carnal heart desires and is, therefore, nothing short of Satanic.  In the next short video, pastor Steven Lawson rebukes Osteen for his cowardly denial of the gospel on Larry King live.  Lastly, Way of the Master Radio, has produced a short video contrasting the preaching of Paul Washer with Osteen.  The contrast between Washer and Osteen is stark to say the least (especially as it relates to the nature and needs of man).
     As long as Osteen remains a hot commodity in the evangelical world, his public false teaching needs to be publicly rebuked as pastor's MacArthur, Lawson, Washer, and others have done.  Osteen attracts many with his positivity, charm, and unassuming style . . . but this is also what makes him especially dangerous since his message cannot be found in the pages of Scripture (unless he strips verses out of context of course, which he often does).  With Osteen's vast influence we need to pray he will repent of his false teaching, begin to preach the Word of God accurately, and preach the cross of our Lord Jesus.  His errors as a supposed pastor are egregious, which makes his popularity all the more disturbing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Works Flow from God's Grace

"For by grace you have been saved though faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that not one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Tim Keller pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church explains the difference between all world religions and Christianity, 

At the end of The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis demonstrates how the major religions agree on certain moral absolutes.  Christians find that in today's culture wars, they often are on the same side with believing Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.  The Christian preacher seems to be saying, "Be moral," along with exponents of other philosophies.
But  when we ask, "Why be moral?" the other systems say, "In order to find God," while Christianity says, "Because God has found you."  The Christian gospel is that we are not saved by moral living, we are saved for it.  We are saved by grace alone, but that grace will inevitably issue a moral life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What is the Gospel? Fridays

     In J. I. Packer's classic book, Knowing God, he gives the most succinct description of the gospel that I have ever heard.  Packer said on p. 214,
Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation.  (Emphasis mine)
     Can anyone do any better than this?  I suppose John Piper may do 2 words better with the title of his book, God is the Gospel!  "Jesus" or "Christ" as the gospel also trumps Packer in brevity, but Packer hits the heart of the gospel with the 2 words adoption and propitiation.  The 1689 London Baptist Confession (LBC) (12:1) says the following about adoption,
All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have His name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.  (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4-5; John 1:12; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 3:12; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18; Psalms 103:13; Proverbs 14:26; 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 12:6; Isaiah 54:8-9; Lamentations 3:31; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 6:12).
     The immeasurable promises given to us in adoption are made possible only through the propitiation of God's holy and righteous wrath by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Packer explains on p. 185 through a John Murray (The Atonement p. 15), quote,
The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath.  It was Christ's so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God's good pleasure.
     Adoption and propitiation are at the heart of the gospel message!  These words are used scarcely in the NT (adoption 5x) and propitiation (4x), but these gospel doctrines are woven through God's Word with Christ being the focal point and the grace of God for sinners on display!  What a blessing it is to be God's son or daughter through the blood of Jesus our Lord!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Redemptive-Historical Preaching

Then He said to them, "These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47)  

     In this 2-minute video clip Dr. Dennis Johnson of Westminster Seminary California explains the Christ-centered approach of redemptive-historical preaching.  This next short clip also illustrates how OT narratives and characters are meant to point to Christ, rather than merely provide moral object lessons for us.  In the above passage in Luke's gospel, and immediately prior to the Ascension of Jesus, our Lord says the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible bears witness to Him.  Why does so much modern preaching and worship services fail to clearly point to the Lord?  I'm afraid it is because we tend to see the Bible as moral instruction rather than see the glory of the Lord Jesus in every book.  
     In our search for a church home in Central Oregon, my wife and I visited a local Baptist church in which Christ was glorified through songs and hymns of worship, but the sermons were not much more than a moral lesson from week to week.  You know, the kind where you fill in the blanks on a sheet so you can "apply" the sermon during the week (e.g. we need to be like David this week and slay our own Goliath's, be men and woman after God's heart, etc. etc.).  While I am all for application in a sermon, if Christ and His redemptive work are missing I find myself restless and agitated.  Especially if this goes on for an extended period of time . . . week after week . . . series after series.
     One of the things that makes most Reformed worship stand out today is her focus on the centrality of preaching Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.  In churches like these, everything in the worship service points toward Christ and, especially, in the expository preaching of Scripture concerning His redemptive work.  Regardless of what church you attend, Christ and His gospel should be the central focus week in and week out.  It is sad that I must ask, but are you getting Christ at your church or merely moralistic object lessons?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spurgeon On Amusement in the Church

     In the 1800's Charles Spurgeon fought what he dubbed the Down-Grade of the church in Europe.  In this excerpt and reading of a Spurgeon sermon (beware of the monotone voice), the Prince of Preachers speaks candidly about the role of amusement in the church.  I often find it amazing that history has so often dealt with the contemporary problems in the church.  Much of what is going on in the name of "emergent," "seeker-sensitive," "purpose-driven," etc. etc. has actually been around a long time though in different forms.  There truly is "nothing new under the sun."

Monday, March 14, 2011

God and Calamity

There were some present at that very time who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And He answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them:  do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."  (Luke 13:1-5)

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.  (Psalm 135:6)

Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?  (Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.  (Isaiah 45:7)

"Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary." Chapter 15:5 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
(Romans 6:23; Isaiah 1:16-18; Isaiah 55:7)

     These last several days have obviously been incredibly difficult for the Japanese people and we need to continue to pray for them.  Indeed we should weep with them, help them financially, and some should travel to assist them in the aftermath of their suffering and hardship.  Beyond the indescribable helplessness that we all feel at times like this are questions like:  What, if anything, does God have to do with such calamities?  Are the Japanese people particularly evil that God would judge them more severely than others (e.g. some Japanese leaders have pointed to their greed as the reason 'the gods' have judged them)?  Is Satan behind the earth's disturbances?  If so, why doesn't God stop him?  If God has caused this, or allowed this tragedy, what are His reasons for doing so?  Do these earthquakes and tsunami's project to us predictable Bible prophecy?  These are honest, if not valid, questions that many are asking during times like these.
     In times of earthly calamity it is important to consider what we must not do or think:
  1. We must not put God on trial or expect specific answers during calamity.  Be reminded of Job.  Though he lost his family, possessions, health, friends, and his dignity God did not give him answers.  Does the Lord have reasons for calamity?  Yes, but they are His reasons and He in no way owes to man every answer for His sovereign dealings with His universe.  Does God remain good?  Absolutely!  Does He remain loving?  Of course!  God's infinite attributes are eternally immutable (unchanging) no matter what occurs on earth.  Unsearchable are His ways in most times of calamity.  We do know this planet will experience the results and judgments that sin evoke (and it has since the Fall), but God has been merciful to all in this world.  
  2. We must not defend God or make excuses for Him during calamity.  Some have suggested God is not able to stop these types of things or He would.  Or that a loving God could have nothing to do with such human suffering.  As the above Scriptures (and we could look to many more) suggest, we do not have this option lest we fall into idolatry.  A 'god' who was powerless to stop the earthquakes/tsunami's is not the God of the Bible.  If Satan causes cataclysmic activity on earth he does so only as he is allowed by God.  Read Job Chapter 1 again.  Jesus demonstrated His control over nature while here on earth, certainly He continues to exercise sovereign rule over the earth as He currently reigns at the right hand of God (see Col. 1:16-17)!   
  3. We must not think the Japanese people are more deserving of judgement than us collectively or individually because of their calamity.  Both the righteous and unrighteous suffer unimaginably in this world at times.  In Luke 13, our Lord describes 2 disturbing events in ancient Israel:  He describes the ruthless activity of Pilate who killed Galileans and mixed their blood with animal sacrifices.  He then describes a tragic event in Siloam in which a tower fell and killed 18 people.  In both disasters, Jesus' taught that it wasn't the particular evil of these Galileans or inhabitants of Jerusalem that led to these events.  Similarly, we must not think the Japanese people are especially evil as being the cause of the recent events there.  Even if they are being judged for their greedy materialism, they have learned much of this from imitating America!
  4. We must not attempt to tie specific Bible prophecy into every earthly calamity.  Will earthquakes, famines, pestilences, wars, etc. increase in the time before Jesus returns?  Yes they will, and they are but we are not instructed to try to make specific sense of these earthly troubles.  Instead, we are reminded to watch and pray for the Lord to return in His glory.  Some misguided folks try to tie supposed Bible 'prophecies' together with every world event (e.g. take a verse out of context and you can make sense of everything that happens in the world, right?!).  This is lacking in wisdom at best and deceitful at worst.  Though the current scenes of Japan indeed appear apocalyptic, we must watch and pray for Christ's return as the world's birth pangs increase.  He is our blessed Hope and will soon return in power and glory!  Calamity reminds us again the present world is not our home.  
     As horrific as this recent calamity in Japan is, it pales in comparison to the reality of the eternal suffering in the lake of fire for the unrepentant.  Just as Jesus' disciples in Luke 13, we who have been given time to listen and reflect should heed the advice of the Lord and live a life of continual repentance before the Lord.  This is Jesus' primary teaching in Luke 13:  calamity especially teaches us repentance toward God and faith in Christ.  We must take our Lord's teaching to heart and encourage others to do likewise.  He will abundantly pardon all who come to Him in faith!
     Let us continue to pray for the physical, emotional, and especially spiritual needs of the people of Japan.  May the Gospel of Christ bring healing to this land.  May God's people be the means.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What is the Gospel? Fridays

     Here is an excellent article entitled The Bible's Answer to the Question:  What is a Christian? by pastor Wayne Mack on monergism. com.  Self-evaluation (i.e. am I trusting in Christ), church-evaluation (i.e. is my church teaching the gospel), and evangelism-evaluation (i.e. how am I presenting the gospel)) are encouraged as we read.  When we consider this most important of topics, are we seeing things according to the Scripture?
     There are many ways to miss the gospel, but in essence it comes down to whom we trust.  I love the section in this article about ultimately being before God (as we all will soon be) and giving an account of why He should allow us into His heavenly bliss for eternity.  In that day are we prepared to reason with Him about our own goodness, works, etc.?  Or are we going to throw ourselves wholly upon His mercy given in His Son?  The answer to this crucial question must occur on this side of the judgment.  Sadly, many will name their efforts before God's tribunal in that day as they are this day.  Let us habitually flee to Christ for mercy and grace in our time of need today and everyday.  This will prepare us for that day!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

J.C. Ryle on the Mercy of God

     As we battle through life in this world, we need to be reminded of the mercy of God for us!  The 19th century giant J. C. Ryle describes God's heart for His children very well in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospel: Mark. p. 86,
The Lord Jesus is very empathetic and full of tender mercy. “As a father pities his children, even so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13.) He does not deal with believers according to their sins, nor reward them according to their iniquities. He sees their weakness. He is aware of their short-comings. He knows all the defects of their faith, and hope, and love, and courage. And yet He will not cast them off. He bears with them continually. He loves them even to the end. He raises them when they fall. He restores them when they err. His patience, like His love, is a patience that passes knowledge. When He sees a heart right, it is His glory to pass over many a short-coming.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pure Gospel in 5 Verses!

     This 22 minute audio message, Christianity in Five Verses, by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is a must-hear!  In a day in which 'Christianity' means all kinds of things to all kinds of people, Dr. Rosenbladt brings the gospel home with power and simplicity.  This message is sure to remind us of the amazing commitment God has made to us through Christ, and will propel us into God-honoring evangelism as well.


Monday, March 7, 2011

21st Century American Evangelicalism

     Some troubling quotes regarding the contemporary evangelical church by David Wells in No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, 
The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world--in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift from God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational. 
What is to be gained if we are so intent in reaching out to the unchurched that we then unchurch the reached? 
In fact, when we listen to the church today, at least in the West, we are often left with impression that Christianity actually has very little to do with truth. Christianity is only about feeling better about ourselves, about leaping over our difficulties, about being more satisfied, about have better relationships, about getting on with our mothers-in-law, about understanding teenage rebellion, about coping with our unreasonable bosses, about finding greater sexual satisfaction, about getting rich, about receiving our own private miracles, and much else besides. It is about everything except truth. And yet this truth, personally embodied in Christ, gives us a place to stand in order to deal with the complexities of life, such as broken relations, teenage rebellion, and job insecurities.   

Friday, March 4, 2011

What is the Gospel? Fridays

     In Jerry Bridges' book The Gospel for Real Life:  Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross . . . Every Day, he describes a common way that our cultural, consumer mentality has caused many to miss the riches of the the gospel.  In many churches, the false gospel that is taught comes down to little more than seeing the gospel as something that can help us live a 'successful' life.  Does this type of church marketing resonate with anyone?  "Come to __________ Church and experience God's best for your life.  At ___________ Church, we make life happen for you":
  • meet new friends and neighbors
  • hear positive, uplifting, relevant, and practical messages
  • learn how to feel good about yourself without guilt
  • find Jesus' abundant life and personal happiness
  • cast stress aside with Dr. ____________'s system 
  • tips on how to handle your money without it handling you
  • glean the the secrets to a happy and successful family
  • how to win friends and influence people
  • stay positive in a negative world
     Has anyone seen similar things as you drive by your neighborhood churches?  I literally saw a church board this week in our neighborhood that said, "Sunday message:  Cultivate a habit of winning" (yes, seriously).  Does anyone receive church marketing material like this through the mail?  Ever observed this type of message on 'Christian' television?  As a result of the largely sad state of evangelicalism  Bridges says on p. 17,
The reality of present-day Christendom is that most professing Christians actually know very little of the gospel. 
     It sounds unthinkable, but many Christians are simply not exposed to the gospel of Christ inside their churches!  This and other competing interests make many Christians live a life of quiet desperation instead of reveling in the riches of Christ Jesus.  Clarification on what the gospel is can only be found in Christ . . . who He is, what He has done, and why He has done what He has done in living, dying, and raising Himself from the dead.  In short, all of us are trusting in 1 of these 2 outlooks: human performance or divine accomplishment.  Bridges explains on p. 102-103,
There is nothing you will ever do that makes you acceptable to God.  You must be accepted for Christ's sake, not only when you believe, but for all your life.  Regardless of how much you grow in Christ, you will never arrive at a point when your Christian character or conduct will make you acceptable to God.  You will always be dependent on the perfect righteous of Christ.  God will accept nothing else.   
Bridges continues with 3 questions,
Do I have a right relationship with God based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ?  Am I trusting in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation, or am I to some degree relying on my own morality and religious duties?  If I know that I am justified through faith in Christ, do I enjoy the reality of it in my daily experience, or do I look to my own performance for my acceptance with God?
      The Galatian church was tempted by the false teaching Judaizers who taught adding aspects of the Mosaic law to faith in Christ was necessary for salvation (legalism).  Paul's first chronological epistle is a good read to remind us that the gospel of Christ's finished work must not be added to.  The gospel is faith alone in Christ alone . . . trust in His divine accomplishments that secure our salvation.  Christ performed every duty of the law for us in His sinless life, exhausted every penalty of the law for us in His sufferings, and was raised to the right hand of God for our justification.  Oh what a wonderful Savior!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gospel-Powered Sanctification!

I’m Addicted: by Tullian Tchividjian

I’m addicted to the gospel. It burns inside of me. And it seems to get hotter ever day. I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, wrestling with it, reveling in it, standing on it, and thanking God for it. For better or for worse, my focus has become myopic. My passion has become singular. Lesser things don’t distract me as easily. I’m not as anxious as I used to be. I don’t fret over things as much. I’m more relaxed. What others think of me (either good or bad) doesn’t matter as much as it used to. I’m enjoying life more. The pressure’s off. I actually think I’m beginning to understand the length and breadth of the freedom Jesus purchased for me.
Jesus plus nothing equals everything–the gospel– is daily becoming for me more than a theological passion, more than a cognitive reality. It’s becoming my functional lifeline! And it’s this rediscovery of the gospel’s power that is enabling me to see that,
Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.
This is beginning to define my life in brand new, bright, and liberating ways. I believe God wants this liberating truth to define your life as well…and the life of the church corporately. Because I’m telling you right now, when you begin to understand that everything you need and long for, in Christ you already possess—it enables you to live a life of scandalous freedom, unrestrained fearlessness, and unbounded courage. When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free! Nothing in this broken world can beat a man who isn’t afraid to lose! And when you’re not afraid to lose you can say crazy, counterintuitive stuff like, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!” That’s pure, unadulterated freedom.
This is why I tweet as much as I do. I’m processing the  gospel all day long in 140 characters. Therefore, from time to time I post some of my more recent tweets to show you how God is working the gospel deeper into me and what I’m learning. Twitter has become for me an online personal journal. I hope you can benefit from the things God is teaching me.
  • The banner under which Christians live reads “It is finished.”
  • Our security is in Christ’s achievement for us, so now we’re free to admit our weaknesses without feeling like our flesh is bring ripped off our bones
  • Only when you realize that the gospel has nothing to do with your obedience but Christ’s obedience for you, will you start to obey!
  • At no point in time, either before God saves you or after, does your behavior determine God’s love for you.
  • Since a Christian’s value and identity is anchored in Christ and is not anchored in being right, the gospel frees us to admit we’re wrong.
  • The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, prove ourselves to people, and make people think we’re something that we’re not.
  • The gospel transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our transformation but Christ’s substitution.
  • The gospel frees us to realize that while we matter, we’re not the point.
  • “Doing” will become instinctive and spontaneous only when our hearts become deeply gripped by what’s been done!
  • Only the gospel can liberate us from the miserable, unquenchable pursuit to make something of ourselves by using others.
  • Because everything we long for we already possess in Christ, we’re now free to love people, not use them.
  • Our improvement comes from God’s approval; God’s approval does not come from our improvement.
  • Christ fulfilled all of God’s conditions on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be unconditional.
  • The gospel frees you from the pressure of having to make something out of yourself.
  • Christian, the level of passion with which God loves you is not determined by the level of passion with which you love him. The Son’s passion for you secured the Father’s passion for you.
This is from pastor Tullian Tchividjian's blog, On Earth as it Is in Heaven.  The gospel is the power of God from start to finish in the Christian life!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"What Does That Verse Mean to You?"

     How church leaders, congregations, and individuals interpret the Word of God is of great importance.  A co-worker of mine a few months ago boasted that his pastor, "Puts together his sermons during Monday Night Football."  I asked, "Is that a good thing?"  Clearly my co-worker thought this was cool and I didn't get too far in explaining why that was anything but cool!  Another pastor in our area is changing from a biblical model of ministry to the seeker-variety based on a partial verse in Isaiah 42:9, "Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare . . . " (emphasis mine).  You guessed it, the "new things" apparently mean God is instructing the elders to change to a new seeker, purpose-driven church model.  I've read that passage before and I never have seen this as instruction to change church ministry.  Am I missing something?  This kind of stuff also happens in a lot of small groups in evangelical churches.  Instead of having a gifted teacher lead a systematic approach to Bible study each person reads verses "that are particularly meaningful" to them.  "What does that mean to you" has often replaced "what says the Lord" when it comes to interpretation. 
      In tonight's post, John MacArthur helps us from the Truth Proclaimed blog with some basic direction for all of us when it comes to interpretation or hermeneutics.  If we would stop trying to apply the Scriptures to our lives in our own way, we just might see Christ more often.  Jesus said in a post-resurrection appearance to His disciples in Luke 24:44, " . . . everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."  Christ is clearly saying every part of Scripture bears witness to Him.  Why do we so easily attempt to twist it to bear witness to us?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pastoral Malpractice

     I have been talking to a couple of friends over the last few days about the concern we have for family members that are attending churches that simply are not very good.  Sadly, many (not all) of the worst churches from a biblical perspective (is there any other criteria?) are packed-out every Sunday and some even hold services at multi-campuses for thousands.  Though the problems with these particular churches are diverse in nature, there is a common theme and that is the leadership at these churches are not carrying out their pastoral duties faithfully.  The Bible says, "preach the Word," but they opt for self-help psychobabble.  The Word says, "preach Christ crucified and repentance for the forgiveness of sins," but they teach moralism with Jesus functioning as life-coach.  The Scriptures teach that ministers should "teach the whole counsel of God's Word," but these ear-scratchers choose watered-down topical messages/series and twist God's Word by taking verses out of their context.  The Lord says, "feed my sheep," but these leaders attempt to entertain 'seekers.'  Peter referred to church leaders as under-shepherds, but many of today's pastors see themselves as CEO's of a spiritual business.  On and on we could go.
     There is a lot at stake in all of this . . . nothing short of the eternal condition of souls.  The visible evangelical church is very sick and is not receiving the healing words of the Great Physician.  I wonder if medical doctors were as careless and deceitful as these church leaders if they would be able to keep practicing medicine for long?  Certainly the word would get out concerning their medical negligence.  Their patients would be perpetually ill, they would be sued for malpractice, and eventually get stripped of their licenses.  What is perplexing in the spiritual realm is that the malpractice of pastors and elders actually works in growing churches.  In fact, one church growth proponent guarantees his pastoral understudies a 20% increase in growth if they adopt his spiritual marketing approach!
     Today's post on Unashamed Workman has a searching J.C. Ryle quote from the 19th century that  describes well the malpractice of pastors.  In a nutshell they are flatterers rather than ambassadors of the Word and tell sick spiritual patients that they are well when they need to hear about their sin and Christ's redemptive work.  I tremble to think of these spiritual marketers standing before the Head of the church and giving an account of how they handled His truth, kept unbelievers comfortable in their sins, and harmed His precious bride.  If you are in one of these churches, you need to find a Bible-teaching church where the leaders will truly care for your soul by feeding you the Word, warning you of what is false, and preaching Christ every week.