Friday, April 30, 2010

Today's Predestination Paranoia is Unwarranted

 Quoting J.C. Ryle

First of all let me entreat every reader of this paper not to refuse this doctrine of Election, merely because it is high, mysterious, and hard to be understood. Is it reverent to do so? Is it treating God's Word with the respect due to revelation? Is it right to reject anything written for our learning, and to give it hard names, merely because some misguided men have misused it, and turned it to a bad purpose? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. If men begin rejecting it, they are on slippery ground. There is no saying how far they may fall. 

What after all do men gain by refusing the doctrine of Election? Does the system of those who deny Election save one soul more than of those who hold it? Certainly not. Do those who hold Election narrow the way to heaven, and make salvation more difficult than those who deny it? Certainly not.
The opponents of Election maintain that none will be saved except those who repent and believe. Well: the advocates of Election say just the same! The opponents of Election proclaim loudly that none but holy people go to heaven. Well: the advocates of Election proclaim the same doctrine just as loudly!
What, then, I ask once more, is gained by denying the truth of Election? I answer, Nothing whatever. And yet, while nothing is gained, a great deal of comfort seems to be lost. It is cold comfort to be told that God never thought of me before I repented and believed. But to know and feel that God had purposes of mercy toward me before the foundation of the world, and that all the work of grace in my heart is the result of an everlasting covenant and an eternal Election, is a thought full of sweet and unspeakable consolation. A work that was planned before the foundation of the world, by an Architect of almighty power and perfect wisdom, is a work which will never be allowed to fail or be overthrown. 

HT: Timmy Brister)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hitler and Mother Teresa

 by Gregory Koukl

What kind of God would allow a Hitler to go to heaven if he believed in Jesus and a Mother Teresa to go to hell if she didn't?

"You're saying that Hitler and Mother Teresa would both suffer the same fate before God if they didn't believe in Jesus?" 

The words echoed over the radio airwaves as the host of "Religion on the Line" on ABC's L.A. affiliate station patiently waited for me to answer. I knew the question was coming, but I had no tidy theological retort that would put the ball back into his court. 

Someone once said that if you word the question right, you can win any debate. The question that evening was a classic case in point. The host might as well have asked, "Do you still beat your wife?" Simply answering "yes" or "no" wouldn't do. 

At the root of this discussion is the issue of Jesus as the only way to salvation. It is one of the biggest stumbling blocks of Christianity to those who are sincerely interested in leading moral lives and working hard to mitigate the impact of evil in the world. To make Jesus the sole issue of salvation seems to ignore the obvious difference between people of conscience and others who are entirely without scruples. Does that make sense?
Radical Surgery Required
Let me give an analogy that may add perspective. All things being equal, it's good to practice healthy living. People who eat their vegetables, get proper rest, exercise sensibly, and don't smoke or drink to excess, generally reap the benefits of longevity and vitality. Those who don't, get sick. 

But what if all things aren't equal? What if there's a hidden element, a terminal disease quietly sucking life out of the body? Healthy living does nothing to avert the underlying disease. In that case, the undisciplined junk food addict and the diligent athlete suffer the same fate. The silent tumor breaks its silence; the grave claims them both. 

There's a parallel to this in the spiritual realm. On the one hand, it's good to live righteously. Holy living contributes to spiritual health. Those who continually practice sin eventually suffer its consequences.
There's another side to the equation, however, a crucial element too often ignored. Our most valiant attempts at goodness are met with failure because a deep-seated malignancy sucks the life from our efforts. No matter how hard we try, each of us is dying from a spiritual disease no amount of righteous living can heal.
The sad truth is this: Ultimately, no person lives completely right. Sure, they're capable of doing good things, sometimes phenomenal things. Even a dying patient can have healthy eating habits. But good works, like good meals, cannot restore vitality to a diseased patient; they can only maintain it. Restoration must come through surgery. 

At first glance, it seems unfair that God wouldn't consider all the good we've done. Think about it, though. When was the last time you received a letter from the D.A. congratulating you for not holding up a bank or shooting your neighbor? 

Obedience to the law is expected. A year of good behavior doesn't cancel out a year of lawbreaking, evening up the record. Every person, from the greatest to the least, has broken God's law. That makes them guilty, and guilty people must seek God's surgery: forgiveness. Agreed, some need more forgiveness than others--sometimes much more, just as a disease can ravage one body more violently than another. But every person is fatally stricken, nonetheless.
Ever Heard of the Ten Commandments?
Have you read the Ten Commandments recently? Take a quick inventory by asking yourself these questions.
Have you ever given allegiance to anything else over God in your life or used anything as an object of worship or veneration? Have you ever used God's name in a vain or vulgar fashion? Have you worshipped God on a regular basis? Have you even once disobeyed or dishonored your parents? Have you murdered anyone, or even had harsh thoughts about someone (see Matthew 5:22)? Have you had sex with someone other than your spouse, or even thought about it (see Matthew 5:28)? Have you taken something that wasn't yours? Have you lied? Have you simply wanted something that wasn't yours? 

Sound tough? It is. This is God's Law. These are God's requirements. Even in grammar school, 60% is a flunking grade, yet who among us has not violated each of these commandments many times? 

Reducing the Ten Commandments to only two doesn't help. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). Even the best of us violate these two laws daily. 

Whenever you're tempted to trust in your own ability to please God, take a good look at the standard, God's Law, then look at your own score card. To use Paul's words, each of us is "shut up under sin" (Gal. 3:22). Our mouths have been closed, and we all have become accountable to God (Romans 3:19). Saved by our own goodness? The Law gives us no hope. 

Try this calculation. If you sinned only ten times a day from your tenth birthday to your sixtieth--and keep in mind we're not just talking about rape, pillage, and murder, but the full range of human moral failing, including heart attitudes and motives--what would your rap sheet look like? You would have amassed 182,500 infractions of the law. What judge in his right mind would turn you loose with a record like that? 

Ghandi vs. Al Capone 
The worst of us tend to whitewash our own contribution to evil. Al Capone said, "I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man." [1] 
By contrast, Ghandi--a man utterly committed to a life of virtue--was not so optimistic. Towards the end of his life he lamented, "It is an unbroken torture to me that I am still so far from him whom I know governs every breath of my life and whose offspring I am. I know it is because of the evil passions within me that keep me so far from him; yet I can't get away from them." 

C.S. Lewis captured this contrast with these words: "When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less....Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either." [2] 
If Lewis is right, then the One who is most holy sees sin most clearly. The One who is perfectly righteous understands the full tragedy of even the most "trivial" breach of goodness. God's purity is without flaw, so He sees sin as it really is. That's why He is not so inclined to dismiss our moral imperfections with a "boys will be boys" mentality.
Hitler and Mother Teresa 
Could Adolph Hitler and Mother Teresa suffer the same fate? No and yes. 

No, because they'd answer for different crimes and, as such, their judgment would be different. Just as there are degrees of sin (see John 19:11), there are degrees of punishment. Jesus said Sodom would fare better than Capernaum in the day of judgment (Matthew 11:24), though each would be condemned. 

Yes, because each person must ultimately answer for his own sins--Hitler for his, Mother Teresa for hers, you and I for ours. Unless, of course, Jesus is allowed to answer for them. 

That is the good news: Jesus, though rich, for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). 

To stay alive physically, first cure the disease, then keep fit to maintain your health. To experience spiritual well-being, God must do surgery on the root problem, sin. Living righteously afterwards secures our spiritual vitality, but it can never cure our disease. Only Jesus can do that.

[1] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936), p. 20.
[2] Clive Staples Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 73.
Euthyphro's Dilemma
This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©2003 Gregory Koukl
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Very First Service

The very first service which my youthful heart rendered to Christ was the placing of tracts in envelopes, and then sending them up, that I might send them, with the hope that by choosing pertinent tracts, applicable to persons I knew, God would bless them. And I well remember taking other tracts, and distributing them in certain districts in the town of Newmarket, going from house to house, and telling, in humble language, the things of the Kingdom of God. I might have done nothing for Christ if I had not been encouraged by finding myself able to do a little.
 Then I sought to do something more, and from that something more, and I do not doubt that many of the servants of God have been led on to higher and nobler labors for their Lord, because they began to serve Him in the right spirit and manner. I look upon the giving away of a religious tract as only for Christ; but: were it not for the first step, we: might never reach to the second; but that being attained, we are encouraged to take the next, and so, at the last, God helping us, we may be made extensively useful.
I think I never felt so much earnestness after the souls of my fellow creatures as when I first loved the Savior’s name, and though I could not preach, and never thought I should be able to testify to the multitude, I used to write texts on little scraps of paper, and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as messages of mercy to their souls. I could scarcely content myself even for five minutes without trying to do something for Christ. If I walked along the street, I must have a few tracts with me; If I went into a railway carriage, I must drop a tract out of the window; if I had a moment’s leisure, I must upon my knees or at my Bible; if I were in company, I must turn the subject of conversation to Christ, that I might serve my Master.
It may be that, in the young dawn of my Christian life, I did imprudent things in order to serve the cause of Christ; but I still say, give me back that time again, with all its imprudence and with all its hastiness, if I may but have the same love to my Master, the same overwhelming influence in my spirit, making me obey my Lord’s commands because it was a pleasure to me to do anything to serve my God.
From C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Volume 1 pages 179-81

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bob Botsford on Jennifer Knapp

Pastor Bob has a sincere love and appreciation for Jennifer Knapp, a Dove Award-winning singer-composer. Last week, Jennifer announced she has been part of a same-sex lifestyle for much of her adult life. Pastor Bob’s response to this news was swift but tender. “Speaking the truth .. in love”, his blog entry (click here to read) outlined the details of Jennifer’s admission in interviews with Christianity Today and ABC News, and his reaction, given the obvious disconnect from the Biblical perspective on homosexuality.

Below is a video response from Pastor Bob.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Compromise Sometimes Subtle, Always Significant

Much like the philosophical and moral chaos that results from naturalism, all sorts of theological mischief ensues when we reject or compromise the literal truth of the biblical account of creation and the fall of Adam.

I realize, of course, that some old-earth creationists do hold to the literal creation of Adam and affirm that Adam was a historical figure. But their decision to accept the creation of Adam as literal involves an arbitrary hermeneutical shift at Genesis 1:26-27 and then again at Genesis 2:7. If everything around these verses is handled allegorically or symbolically, it is unjustifiable to take those verses in a literal and historical sense. Therefore, the old-earth creationists' method of interpreting the Genesis text actually undermines the historicity of Adam. Having already decided to treat the creation account itself as myth or allegory, they have no grounds to insist (suddenly and arbitrarily, it seems) that the creation of Adam is literal history. Their belief in a historical Adam is simply inconsistent with their own exegesis of the rest of the text.

[That hermeneutical shift is clearly illustrated in this post. Bruce Waltke is willing to dialogue about an evolutionary view of Genesis 1-2; Tremper Longman IIIis comfortable questioning the historicity of Adam and Eve.)

But it is a necessary inconsistency if one is to affirm an old earth and remain evangelical. Because if Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible's explanation of how sin entered the world is impossible to make sense of. Moreover, if we didn't fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ's position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam's position as the head of the fallen race: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
 "Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19). "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13-14; Jude 14).

So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1-3 teaches about Adam's creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.

What "old-earth creationists" (including, to a large degree, even the evangelical ones) are doing with Genesis 1-3 is precisely what religious liberals have always done with all of Scripture—spiritualizing and reinterpreting the text allegorically to make it mean what they want it to mean. It is a dangerous way to handle Scripture. And it involves a perilous and unnecessary capitulation to the religious presuppositions of naturalism—not to mention a serious dishonor to God.

Evangelicals who accept an old-earth interpretation of Genesis have embraced a hermeneutic that is hostile to a high view of Scripture. They are bringing to the opening chapters of Scripture a method of biblical interpretation that has built-in anti-evangelical presuppositions. Those who adopt this approach have already embarked on a process that invariably overthrows faith. Churches and colleges that embrace this view will not remain evangelical long.

HT: Grace To You Blog

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Evidence Stalls Murder Trial in Malatya, Turkey

Defense lawyers’ absence also prolongs case that court wants closed 

On the eve of three-year commemorations of the murders of three Christians in southeast Turkey, defense lawyers’ absence and new evidence kept a Malatya court from concluding the case here on Thursday (April 15).

Two defense lawyers excused themselves from the hearing, rendering the judges unable to issue a verdict to the five defendants charged with the murders of three Christians in Malatya on April 18, 2007. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske, who worked at a publishing house that distributed Christian material in this southeastern Turkish city, were found murdered three years ago.

At Thursday’s hearing, prosecuting lawyers presented a 28-page detailed request that the Malatya case be joined to a plot called Cage Plan, believed to be part of Ergenekon, a “deep state” operation to destabilize the government led by a cabal of retired generals, politicians and other key figures.

The Cage Plan centers on a compact disc found a year ago in the house of a retired naval officer. The plan, to be carried out by 41 named naval officers, termed as “operations” the murders of the three Christians in Malatya, the 2006 assassination of Catholic priest Andreas Santoro and the 2007 slaying of Hrant Dink, Armenian editor-in-chief of the weekly Agos. The aim of the Cage Plan was to destabilize the government by showing its inability to protect Turkey’s minority groups.

Last week newspapers reported that the Cage Plan, aimed at Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, not only contained a list of names of Protestant Christians who would be targeted, but also named some of their children. 

Continue reading.....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buddhist Extremists in Bangladesh Beat, Take Christians Captive

Pastor, two others held in pagoda in attempt to force them back to Buddhism.
Buddhist members of an armed rebel group and their sympathizers are holding three tribal Christians captive in a pagoda in southeastern Bangladesh after severely beating them in an attempt to force them to return to Buddhism, Christian sources said.

Held captive since April 16 are Pastor Shushil Jibon Talukder, 55; Bimol Kanti Chakma, 50; and Laksmi Bilas Chakma, 40, of Maddha Lemuchari Baptist Church in Lemuchari village, in Mohalchari sub-district of the mountainous Khagrachari district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Dhaka. They are to be kept in the pagoda for 15 to 20 days as punishment for having left the Buddhist religion, the sources said.

Local Buddhists are considered powerful as they have ties with the United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF), an armed group in the hill districts.

After taking the Christians captive on April 16, the sources said, the next day the armed Buddhist extremists forced other Christians of Maddha Lemuchari Baptist Church to demolish their church building by their own hands. The extremists first seized all blankets, Bibles and song books from the church building.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Common Errors of False Teachers

 by Mike Gendron
Since we are now living in the age of religious tolerance and ecumenical unity, there are some people who will immediately call this article unloving and divisive. Others will ask, "What right do you have to judge another religion?" The answer is given in Scripture. All God-fearing people are called to make right judgments, judgments that have already been established by the objective principles of God's Word (John 7:24). There may be nothing more important than warning people who are being deceived about their eternal destiny. If we do not lovingly confront them with God's Gospel, they may never know how to escape the eternal fire of God's punishment. Clearly, the most unloving thing we can do is to ignore them and let them continue down the road to destruction. For this reason, I am always willing to offend people with the   offense and exclusivity of the Gospel in the hopes that God may grant some of them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2: 25). Let us look at three fatal errors of false prophets and how to handle them.

 False Teachers Usurp the Authority of God
The supreme authority of the Bible is established both by its divine origin and inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21). It is the infallible Word of God, and it will accomplish God's purpose (Isaiah 55:11). It is the very foundation upon which all Christian truths rest. For followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible is the final court of appeal in all matters pertaining to faith and godliness. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The divine authority of Scripture corrects and rebukes all false teaching because there is no higher authority or infallible source in which to appeal. It is the Word of God, and God cannot lie, cannot break His promise and cannot deceive.
People fall into serious error and sin when they exalt their own authority over God’s authority or when they suppress the truth of God’s Word to promote their own self-serving agendas. The Roman Catholic religion has done this by establishing its traditions and teachings to be equal in authority with Scripture (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] par. 82). In doing so, it has usurped the supreme authority of our sovereign God who alone has the right to rule and determine the eternal destinies of men. This fatal error has opened the flood gates to numerous other deadly heresies including: the preaching of another gospel, the worship of a counterfeit Jesus, the buying and selling of God's grace through indulgences, the creation of a fictitious place called purgatory, the establishment of other mediators and praying to and for the dead. These errors are fatal because anyone who is embracing them when they take their last breath will experience eternal death.
Catholics who are being deceived by these fatal errors must be told that the world has known only one infallible teacher. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the personification of truth and every word He spoke was truth (John 14:6, 17:17). Those who are seeking the truth need to look only to Christ and His Word. The Catholic religion has become corrupt the same way Judaism became corrupt - by following the traditions of men instead of the Word of God (Mark 7:13). The Pharisees taught much truth, but by mixing it with error, they "made the word of God of no effect." We must never forget that the Bible is what God says and religion is what man says God says. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Michael Horton On John Piper's Invitation To Rick Warren

Today I am posting Michael Horton's comments concerning John Piper's invitation to Rick Warren as a keynote speaker at the 2010 Desiring God conference. Dr Horton's article is balanced, gracious, and insightful without being weighed down with vitriol. It is not meant as a renunciation of John Piper but rather an honest asessment of Rick Warren's track record compared with the theology he professed to John Piper. If you haven't already read this it is well worth the read . . .  -Cameron Buettel

It is not our usual course at Modern Reformation or White Horse Inn to comment on the invitations of other organizations for their conferences. However, we’re starting to receive questions about our views of Rick Warren’s professed adherence to Reformational theology because an interview in Modern Reformation was posted by Justin Taylor and cited in the comments of his blog as supporters of John Piper wrestle with his recent decision to invite Rick Warren to an upcoming Desiring God conference. So our team felt that some clarification was needed.

In 2004, Rick Warren graciously accepted our invitation to respond to some Modern Reformation questions in our “Free Space” section, where we engage with various voices, often outside of our usual circles. We do interviews like this regularly, encouraging conversation, asking questions that we know our readers are wondering. It’s in our feature articles where we analyze trends and arguments, and I among others have challenged Pastor Warren from time to time. Our magazine is not just a platform for a few voices or churches. We’re trying to spark conversation—and, yes, to guide conversation toward a modern Reformation. Part of that means that we let others speak for themselves. Yet I think it’s pretty clear to everybody where we land on the main issues.

Speaking first for myself, I admire Rick Warren’s zeal for reaching non-Christians and concern for global challenges. I respect him for giving away much of his income for charitable purposes.

At the same time, I believe that his message distorts the gospel and that he is contributing to the human-centered pragmatism that is eroding the proper ministry and mission of the church. Judging by The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Warren’s theology seems to reflect run-of-the-mill evangelical Arminianism, especially with its emphasis on the new birth as the result of human decision and cooperation with grace. There are also heavy traces of Keswick “higher life” teaching throughout the book. None of this disqualifies him from being an evangelical statesman. After all, much the same can be said of Billy Graham. After pointing out how difficult it is to define an evangelical theologically, historian George Marsden famously surmised that it’s “anyone who likes Billy Graham.” Today, perhaps, it’s anyone who likes Rick Warren.

Obviously, Rick Warren believes that he is simply translating the gospel in terms that the unchurched can understand. However, the radical condition of sin is reduced to negative attitudes and behaviors and the radical redemption secured by Christ’s propitiatory death and resurrection are reduced to general and vague statements about God giving us another chance. His central message seems to be that you were created for a purpose and you just need to fulfill it. Even at Easter he can say, “…And of course, that purpose now becomes greater — and in fact, I think that’s really what the message this week of Easter is, is that God can bring good out of bad. That he turns crucifixions into resurrections. That he takes the mess of our life, and when we give him all the pieces, he can — God can put it together in a new way” (”Larry King Live,” CNN, March 22, 2005). I heard him say on a network morning program last Christmas that Jesus came to give us a mulligan, like in golf—a chance for a “do-over” in life.

While I applaud his concern for social justice, I am concerned that he confuses the law with the gospel and the work of Christians in their vocations (obeying the Great Commandment) with the work of Christ through his church in its ministry of Word and sacrament (the Great Commission).

His best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, begins by announcing that it’s not about you, but about God, and then the rest of the book is about you. There seems to be a contradiction between the God-centered theology that is professed and the basically human-centered orientation that dominates much of his message and methods. Some time ago, my wife discovered a letter that Rick Warren wrote to me way back in 1998, in which Pastor Warren mentioned the impact of my first book, Mission Accomplished, and his intention to write a book that highlighted the point that God made us for his purposes, rather than the other way around. Since then, we have corresponded periodically, but that has not kept either of us from offering occasional critiques of each other’s views. In fact, we will be together for a panel discussion at Saddleback in June, sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the “solas” of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, “I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams - speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?…What advice would you give to a brand new minister?…Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?” (“Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,” In a June 2006 article in, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. “Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.” When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?

The first Reformation was about God and the gospel of his Son. It centered on the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Robert Schuller wrote Self-Esteem: The New Reformation in the 1990s. And in 2005 Rick Warren announced at the Baptist World Alliance meeting a new Reformation based on “deeds, not creeds.” As he explained in an interview,

I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing (

He has also said he is working toward a Third Great Awakening, which seems like the better comparison, since the basic message is more in step with Charles Finney and the Second Great Awakening than it is with the Reformation.

I agree wholeheartedly when Pastor Warren argues that Christians can work with non-Christians—even agnostics and atheists—on the global challenges of poverty, racism, corrupt leadership, injustice, and disease. However, this is precisely why his confusion of the Christian’s calling to love of neighbor with the gospel is so dangerous. Working toward the common good is the calling of every person, believer and unbeliever alike, but it is not the Great Commission. It is the law of love that obliges us all, but it is not the gospel.

Long ago, the evangelist D. L. Moody responded to criticisms of his message and pragmatic methods with the quip, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.” We can be so proud of getting the gospel right while we don’t bother to get the gospel out to those who need it. Furthermore, we can be self-confident in our theological integrity while ignoring the Word of God when it impinges on questions of social concern. Yet the answer is not “deeds over creeds,” but to be re-introduced to the creeds that generate the deeds that are the fruit of genuine faith. Getting the gospel right and getting the gospel out, as well as loving and serving our neighbors, comprise the callings of the church and of Christians in the world. However, confusing these is always disastrous for our message and mission.

HT: The Bottom Line

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If You Have Been Hurt

Interesting that Todd Friel wrote on this subject. This is exactly why my family left our former mega-church.  It was the 40 Days of Purpose book and program that the church had encouraged that finally opened my eyes to the market driven, man centered church model. Looking back, I guess I'm actually thankful that things went the way they did.

by Todd Friel

How many people have been deeply wounded because of “The Purpose Driven Church”? If I were a betting man, I would guess millions have been driven from their beloved church because of the writings of Rick Warren
That is the second reason I absolutely hate the decision made by a man I love to invite Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God Conference in the fall of this year.

As Purpose has seduced over 300,000 pastors (that is not a guess) to leave the Jesus Model and follow the Rick Model, faithful sheep have been forced out of their church by their shepherd to make room for the goats. Devastating.

If you are one of those people, I am very, very sorry that one of the men who probably served as an anchor during your storm has seen fit to use his national conference to figure out how Rick Warren ticks. Frankly, we know how Rick Warren ticks. He may have file cabinet orthodoxy, but his public works are nothing short of lethal.

Perhaps you have suffered the effects of purpose poison and now your almost-healed scars have been ripped open. Many of us feel bad for you. Please heal fast knowing that you were not wrong, you were wronged.
You were not the bad guy when you left your church whimpering and scalded. You were right. Rick Warren’s pragmatic methodology is not Biblical. His use of Scripture is worse than a self-proclaimed “bishop” on prosperity TV. Rick Warren’s Gospel is no Gospel at all.

That is the number one reason why I continue to be saddened by this decision; the Gospel will suffer and more people will be hurt.

Honestly, I thought Rick Warren’s Purpose kingdom was one to two years away from joining Jabez on the ash heap of church trends. Unfortunately, Purpose has been given new life by a highly esteemed pastor.


HT: Wretched Radio

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Am Repenting, But It's Not Working

HT: I'll Be Honest

Monday, April 19, 2010

Personal Evangelism 101; Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ

by John MacArthur

Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know. Matthew 19:16-22 describes a young man who looked like the hottest evangelistic prospect the Lord had encountered so far. He was ripe. He was eager. There was no way he would get away without receiving eternal life.

But he did. Instead of getting him to make a decision, in a sense Jesus chased him off. He failed to draw the net. He failed to sign the young man up. Should we allow our ideas of evangelism to indict Jesus? I think we need to allow His example to critique contemporary evangelism. Christ's confrontation of this young man gives us much-needed insight into reaching the lost.

Turmoil of the Heart
Though rich and a ruler while still a young man, he was undoubtedly in turmoil. All his religion and wealth had not given him confidence, peace, joy, or settled hope. There was a restlessness in his soul-an absence of assurance in his heart. He was coming on the basis of a deeply felt need. He knew what was missing: eternal life. His motivation in coming to Christ was faultless.

His attitude was right as well. He wasn't haughty or presumptuous; he seemed to feel his need deeply. There are many people who know they don't have eternal life but don't feel any need for it. Not this young man. He was desperate. There's a sense of urgency in his question, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I might have eternal life?" He did not have a prologue; he didn't warm up; he just blurted it out. He even allowed such an outburst in public and risked losing face with all the people who thought he was a spiritual giant already.

A lot of people, in seeking to understand this passage, have taken the young man to task for the question he asked. They say his mistake was in asking "What good thing shall I do?" But he asked a fair question. It wasn't a calculated bid to trap Jesus into condoning self righteousness. It was a simple, honest question asked by one in search of truth: "What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?"

The Issue of Sin
But here's where the story takes an extraordinary turn. Jesus' answer to the young man seems preposterous: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (v. 17). Strictly speaking, Jesus' answer was correct. If a person kept the law all his life and never violated a single part of it, he would have eternal life. But no one can. Since he had come with the right motive to the right source, asking the right question, why didn't Jesus simply tell him the way of salvation?

Because the young man was missing an important quality. He was utterly lacking a sense of his own sinfulness. His desire for salvation was based on a felt need. He had anxiety and frustration. He wanted joy, love, peace, and hope. But that is an incomplete reason for committing oneself to Christ.

Our Lord didn't offer relief for the rich young ruler's felt need. Instead, he gave an answer devised to confront him with his sin and his need of forgiveness. It was imperative that he perceive his sinfulness. People cannot come to Jesus Christ for salvation merely on the basis of psychological needs, anxieties, lack of peace, a sense of hopelessness, an absence of joy, or a yearning for happiness. Salvation is for people who hate their sin and want to turn away from it. It is for individuals who understand that they have lived in rebellion against a holy God and who want to live for His glory.

Jesus' answer took the focus off the young man's felt need and put it back on God: "There is only One who is good." Then He held him against the divine standard so he would see how far short he fell: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." But the young man ignored and rejected the point. He was utterly unwilling to confess his own sinfulness.

Evangelism must take the sinner and measure him against the perfect law of God so he can see his deficiency. A gospel that deals only with human needs, feelings, and problems is superficial and powerless to save since it focuses only on the symptoms rather than sin, the real issue. That's why churches are filled with people whose lives are essentially no different after professing faith in Christ. Many of those people, I'm sad to say, are unregenerate and grievously misled.

 A Call for Repentance
The rich young ruler asked Jesus which commandments he should keep. The Lord responded by giving him the easy half of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother." Then He adds, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (vv. 18 19).

Scripture says, "The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?'" (v. 20). That demonstrates his shallow perception of the law. It's possible that on the surface he did all those things, but God looks for an internal application. There was no way he could honestly say he had always kept that law. He could not have been telling the truth-he was either lying or totally self-deluded.

And so there was no way the rich young ruler could be saved. Salvation is not for people who simply want to avoid hell and gain heaven instead; it is sinners who recognize how unfit they are for heaven and come to God for forgiveness. If you are not ashamed of your sin, you cannot receive salvation.

At this point, Mark 10:21 says, "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him." That statement paints a pathetic picture. The young man was sincere. His spiritual quest was genuine. He was an honestly religious person. And Jesus loved him. However, the Lord Jesus does not take sinners on their own terms. As much as He loved the young man, He nevertheless did not grant him eternal life merely because he requested it.

Submission to Christ
Jesus lovingly tried to help the young man see another essential element of salvation: "Jesus said to Him, 'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me' (v. 21). Challenging him, Jesus was basically saying, "You say you love your neighbor as yourself. OK, give him everything you've got. If you really love him as much as you love yourself, that should be no problem."

Jesus was simply testing whether he was willing to submit himself to Christ. Scripture never records that He demanded anyone else sell everything and give it away. The Lord was exposing the man's true weakness-the sin of covetousness, indulgence, and materialism. He was indifferent to the poor. He loved his possessions. So the Lord challenged that.

Verse 22 says, "When the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property." He wouldn't come to Jesus if it meant giving up his possessions. It's interesting that he went away grieved. He really did want eternal life; he just wasn't willing to pay the price of repenting of sin and submitting to Christ.

The story has a tragic, heartbreaking ending. The rich young ruler came for eternal life, but left without it. He thought he was rich, but walked away from Jesus with nothing. Although salvation is a blessed gift from God, Christ will not give it to a man whose hands are filled with other things. A person who is not willing to turn from his sin, his possessions, his false religion, or his selfishness will find he cannot turn in faith to Christ.

Adapted from The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur. © Copyright 1988 by John F. MacArthur, Jr.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Philippines: Learning to Forgive

“Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry…?’ And he said, ‘It is right for me to be angry, even to death!’” (Jonah 4:9.)
Gracia Burnham was angry. A gang of violent Muslims had kidnapped her. Gracia did not even like to go camping. But the group forced Gracia and her husband Martin to live with them in the jungle. The jungle had no beds, bathrooms, stores, or air conditioning.

Gracia and Martin were missionaries in the Philippines. Before the men kidnapped them, Gracia homeschooled their three kids: Mindy, Zach, and Jeff. Martin, a pilot, flew mail and supplies to other missionaries in hard-to-reach places.

The men who kidnapped the Burnhams belonged to a group that wanted Muslims to have more power in the Philippines. They had the mistaken idea that they could get power by hurting innocent people. The kidnappers took Martin, Gracia, and other innocent people into the jungle. Friends and relatives took care of Mindy, Zach, and Jeff.

Rude Treatment
The kidnappers often behaved rudely to the Burnhams. At Christmastime, they made fun of Martin and Gracia because they would not be at home with their families on Christmas. They kept Martin on a chain like a dog. Martin and Gracia got very little food, even when the kidnappers had a lot to eat.

Gracia felt so angry that she wished bad things would happen to the kidnappers. She told Martin that she wished the men would suffer forever.

Martin was very wise. He reminded her that God does not want us to wish for our enemies to suffer. Gracia remembered that the Bible says, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV).

When Gracia forgave her kidnappers, her anger went away. But it was not easy to forgive. From day to day, their captors forced them to endure new burdens. Gracia had to forgive again and again. After a while, she found it easier to not get as angry when she was mistreated.

About a year after the Burnhams were kidnapped, their struggle ended. Sadly, Martin died in a battle between soldiers from the Philippine military and the kidnappers.

Gracia was shot in the leg, but she was able to get away from the kidnappers and out of the jungle. She joined her children in the United States. Now she teaches others the lessons she learned in the jungle about forgiveness.

Sources include: To Fly Again by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 200
HT:  Kids of Courage

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arrested for Praying

Bhaskar is a Christian in India. He wasn’t always a Christian. But a few years ago, he decided to give his life to Jesus.

Around Christmastime, a friend of Bhaskar’s got sick and had to stay in the hospital. Bhaskar went to the hospital to visit his friend and to pray for him. A few days later, he returned to the hospital and prayed for his friend again.

A radical Hindu at the hospital knew about Bhaskar’s visits. Many Hindus are peaceful, but many radical Hindus persecute Christians and use violence against those who disagree with them.

The Hindu man beat up Bhaskar because of the hospital visits and prayers. The police came. They arrested Bhaskar instead of his attackers!

India has a law against “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion….” That means it is against the law to encourage people of different faiths to be enemies.

Of course Bhaskar did not do that. He was simply praying for his friend. But sometimes the police in India like to help the radical Hindus. So they charged Bhaskar with the crime of “promoting enmity.”

Other Christians heard about the arrest. They helped Bhaskar get out of jail a few days later.

HT: Kids of Courage (Voice of the Martyrs)

Friday, April 16, 2010

What About Penn?

This is a follow up to my earlier post today. Penn Gillette is an unapologetic atheist. However, he was able to see the value and duty of the true believer proclaiming God's truth. Gillette rambles a bit at the beginning but his closing remarks are sobering. What would Jim and Casper say?

Note: Penn Gillette is still an avowed atheist.

Interview with Jim & Casper : Why?

How much more can things get watered down than to ask an atheist what's wrong with the church? 

When did it ever become viable to ask the unregenerate to critique the things of God and then use them to analyze how the church body should behave? Why look to a blind man to ask him to describe color, or the dead man to ask him how to find life?  How much less sense does it make to ask an atheist (many of whom I've encountered in evangelism) what he thinks is wrong with the church and Christians. My experience has been that atheists not only reject the God of the bible, they hate Him. This is most often observed in their cynicism and blasphemous rhetoric. 

So what's different about Matt Casper? Nothing really. Except that his distorted view Christianity has been validated by his co-author (a pastor) Jim Henderson.   Henderson exposes his bias against biblical evangelism at about 5:30 into the video when he disparages the use of Christian apologetics and specifically, the question "if you died tonight, why would God let you into Heaven?" I ask the very question he criticizes, and the overwhelming response  is the opposite of what Henderson says it is. Most people think it's because they're good and that they have something to offer God in and of themselves.

Many modern churches like the one in this video are continuing on in the pragmatic, man centered march toward friendship with the world. Looking to any source that does not line up with God's Word only invites the opinions of fallen man. Worldly ideas work in fallen world. When they start to work in a church, what does that say about the leadership or it's members?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Does God Do The Things That He Does

by Rick Appleton

Why does God do the things that He does? In every activity, every thought , and every desire, God has one chief, overarching motive. This supreme purpose includes and directs all of His other intentions. This one ambition is nothing less than His own glory. Here are some examples:

He created us for His own glory (Isaiah 43:6-7). He rescued Israel from Egypt for His own glory (Psalm 106:7-8). He raised up Pharaoh for His own glory (Romans 9:17). He defeated Pharaoh for His own glory (Exodus 14:4). He spared Israel in the wilderness for His own glory (Ezekiel 20:14). He did God not reject His people when they rejected Him as King for His own glory (1 Samuel 12:20-22). He restored Israel after the exile for His own glory (Ezekiel 36: 22-2, 32). He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for His own glory (John 12:27-28, 17:1). He sent His Holy Spirit sent into the world for His own glory (John 16:14). He forgives our sins for His own glory (Isaiah 43:25). He answers our prayers for His own glory (John 14:13). He is coming again for His own glory (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

The list could go on forever. Indeed it does go on forever, encompassing all of His mighty acts throughout eternity. God does all things for His own glory (Romans 11:36) and if you love Him, this is good for you (8:28)!

God’s glory is the greatest possible goal. There is nothing more valuable. If God valued any other thing more than His own glory, He would be an idolater. If there is a greater end than God’s glory, we should find that being and worship it. But as it is, God’s glory is the most worthy, most certain thing that is, ever was, and ever will be. Therefore, let us seek after His glory in all things, at all times, with all that we have.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Self RighteousAmanda

Twice a month, Clarke (Otter) and I try to make it out to Chandler/Gilbert Community College to distribute gospel tracts and engage in some one on one evangelism. Usually, the students there are willing to speak with us freely, and we end the day discussing how our conversations went. Every once in awhile, we meet someone a little more emotionally charged than most.

This encounter was actually pretty quick, only lasting around five minutes. You can hear both Clarke and me at the beginning, along with the young woman's friend, but it quickly turned to just me and her. I didn't think I was offensive in my questioning, but she had other ideas.

Listen here as I try to share the Gospel with Amanda, who proved to be pretty self-righteous and defensive. Her hope seemed to be in her good works and relationship with her pastor. Please pray that it was The Holy Spirit pricking her conscience and not anything offensive I might have said.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Hall of Church History

Most of you probably are familiar with Phil Johnson's web site The Spurgeon Archive, here is another great site by Johnson that I only recently discovered. It contains a wealth of information about many of the great reformers, creeds and confessions of the past. If you love reformed theology and the history of the church, you'll love this web site. Make it a point to visit The Hall of Church History soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A whole Christ must be received--with the whole heart

(Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life--A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680)

"Yet to all who received Him . . . He gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12

A whole Christ must be received--with the whole heart.

Some in their understanding, assent to the way of salvation--yet do not consent to it with their will. In judgment they are for Christ--but in affection they are for other things. There is only a part of their soul that is for Christ. Others would have the benefits that are from Christ--but have no love for the person of Christ.

Some would have Christ only as a Savior--but not as a Lord. They desire Him only as a Priest to offer a sacrifice for their sins--but not as a Prophet to instruct them, nor as a King to rule over them. So that it is but part of Christ, that they would receive.

But both of these courses are equally dangerous; for, if we would be saved, we must cleave to Christ with all the faculties of the soul--with will, judgment, affection, etc. And so, again, we must cleave to the whole of Christ--Christ in His natures, person, offices, etc. If, therefore, you would rightly receive Christ, see that your whole soul receives a whole Christ.

HT: Grace Gems