Monday, August 31, 2009

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

From http://www.reformata.org - Internet Monk is the personal web space of writer and communicator Michael Spencer. You can learn all about him here.

While I don’t like all of his opinions or what he writes, it’s hard to deny that his articles are often times compelling. It’s that shiny object syndrome. You just can’t look away.

The following article is one that he posted as a commentary at the Christian Science Monitor, not a place I would recommend for Christians to spend any amount of time. But, that’s where I found this article while looking for something completely different.

The piece caused quite a stir among blogging evangelicals which prompted Spencer to post the original three-part more and in depth article.

Read the rest of the article posted on reformata.org here:
Introduction to Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Other’s May You Cannot By G.D. Watson

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. -Galatians 2:20

If God has called you to be really like Christ in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility and put on you such demands of obedience, that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others can brag on themselves, and their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all you good works.

The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hid away in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His glory, which can be produced only in the shade.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making money, but it is likely God will keep you poor because he wants you to have something far better than gold and that is a helpless dependence on Him; that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day - out of an unseen treasury.

God will let others be great, but He will keep you small. He will let others do a great work for Him and get credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work you have done, and this will make your reward ten times greater when He comes.

The Holy Spirit will put strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do what He pleases with His own, and He will not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealing with you. He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and let other people say and do many things that you cannot do or say.

Settle it forever, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that others are not dealt with.

Now, when you are so possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this particular personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven.

HT: http://www.braveheartedgospel.com

Friday, August 28, 2009

A CALL TO ANGUISH - WILKERSON

David Wilkerson's soul-stirring sermon on the necessity of anguish - to bear God's heart, passion, and burden within our lives.



Source: http://www.braveheartedgospel.com/

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology

This message was given by Mark Dever at the 2008 Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference. T4G is a bi-annual conference that encourages pastors to take their stand together for the gospel.



Source: http://www.t4g.org/

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are We a Nation of Hindus? by Al Mohler

Those who argue that all religions are essentially the same reveal the fact that they know little about these very different belief systems. The worldview of Christianity is, for example, radically different from the belief structure of Buddhism (some forms of which may actually claim to resist the very idea of beliefs).

These differences in belief systems are apparent in Lisa Miller's recent article for Newsweek. As she explains, "A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity."

Many Christians will flinch when reading this. Does this mean that Hindu temples are appearing across the American landscape? Not hardly. What Miller describes is the transformation of the belief system in ways that resemble Hinduism. Her argument deserves a fair hearing.

She begins by quoting a Hindu writing, the Rig Veda: "Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names." The idea of one truth known by many names is not new. Indeed, it is central to polytheism and the syncretistic beliefs of several historic and current worldviews. Hinduism is radically polytheistic and syncretistic. According to Hindu belief, the many gods and goddesses of their veneration all represent one fundamental divine reality. The idea of a singular and exclusive truth is antithetical to classical Hinduism.

So what is Lisa Miller's point? She suggests that contemporary Americans, including many who consider themselves Christians, are abandoning the exclusive truth claims of Christianity for a form of theological pluralism or relativism.

"A Hindu believes there are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Qur'an is another, yoga practice is a third. None is better than any other; all are equal," she asserts. Christianity, on the other hand, has affirmed that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and that the only way of salvation is through faith in Him.

"Americans are no longer buying it," she insists, and by this she means many American Christians. She cites a 2008 Pew Forum survey that indicated major slippage in terms of Christian conviction. According to the Pew Forum survey, 65 percent of Americans believe that "many religions can lead to eternal life." More tellingly, 37 percent of those identified as white evangelicals shared this belief.

Miller cites Stephen Prothero, a leading researcher on American religion, who defined this "divine-deli-cafeteria religion" as "very much in the spirit of Hinduism." As he added, "You're not picking and choosing from different religions, because they're all the same." This is not exactly like traditional Hinduism, of course, but it works in much the same way. As he explains, "It isn't about orthodoxy. It's about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that's great, too."

There is every reason to believe that Lisa Miller and Stephen Prothero are correct in these assessments. Without doubt, Americans have been growing more and more accepting of plural and relative understandings of truth. A tragically large number of those who identify as Christians have been drinking from the same wells of thought.

The exclusivity of the Gospel is not merely a facet of the church's message. Indeed, a Gospel that does not affirm that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone is not the Gospel of Christ, but a false gospel. As Lisa Miller correctly recites, Jesus did say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." [John 14:6]

Another aspect of the story is this: Many Americans have such a doctrineless understanding of Christianity that they do not even know what the Gospel is -- not even remotely. A greater tragedy is that so many who consider themselves Christians seem to share in this confusion.

Many observers who trace these trends see this doctrinal shift among Christians as a good development. After all, if you hold to nothing more than a functional view of religion, this might seem to promise less conflict among religious believers. But, if you believe that truth is essential to Christian faith, there is every reason to see these trends as nothing less than catastrophic. Nothing less than our witness to the Gospel of Christ is at stake.

Are we becoming a nation of Hindus? Well, in this sense it appears perhaps we are. The really urgent question is whether the Church will regain its theological sanity and evangelistic courage to resist this trend. If not, being described as a nation of Hindus will be the least of our problems.

Source: http://albertmohler.com/

Monday, August 24, 2009

Healed For The Sake of Holiness - John Piper

John 5:1-18
Preached on August 23, 2009
Miracles should motivate us to look past the miracle to Jesus and move away from sin.



Full video here

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Error of Spiritual Formation

Roger OaklandBy Roger Oakland


When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term "Spiritual Formation" was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction. - Richard Foster 1
A move away from the truth of God's Word to a mystical form of Christianity has infiltrated, to some degree, nearly all evangelical denominations. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, most do not realize it has even happened.

The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the forbidden book. Until the reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common people, the great masses were in darkness. When the light of God's Word became available, the Gospel was once again understood.

I believe history is repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering spiritual formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate Him. Thus the idea that if you do certain practices, you can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite. In a DVD called Be Still, which promotes contemplative prayer, Richard Foster says that contemplative prayer is for anyone and that by practicing it, one becomes "a portable sanctuary" for "the presence of God." 2

Rather than having the indwelling of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines supposedly transforms the seeker by his or her entering an altered realm of consciousness.

The spiritual formation movement is widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader. It teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with long-standing reputations of teaching God's Word seem to be succumbing. In so doing, many Christian leaders are frivolously playing with fire, and the result will be thousands, probably millions, getting burned.

It isn't going into the silence that transforms a person's life. It is in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and allowing Him to change us that transformation occurs.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:21-23).
We are reconciled to God only through Christ's death (the atonement for sin), and we are presented "holy and unblamable and unreproveable" when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ's life in the converted believer that transforms him.

Notes

1. Richard Foster, "Spiritual Formation: A Pastoral Letter" (January 18, 2004, http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=744).
2. Richard Foster, Be Still DVD (Fox Home Entertainment, 2006), section titled "Contemplative Prayer."



HT: http://bible-prophecy-today.blogspot.com/

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Everything By Prayer by A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer was "a 20th-century prophet" they called him even in his lifetime. For 31 years he was pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago, where his reputation as a man of God was citywide. Concurrently he became editor of Alliance Life, a responsibility he fulfilled until his death in 1963. His greatest legacy to the Christian world has been his 30 books. Because A.W. Tozer lived in the presence of God he saw clearly and he spoke as a prophet to the church. He sought for God's honor with the zeal of Elijah and mourned with Jeremiah at the apostasy of God's people. But he was not a prophet of despair. His writings are messages of concern. They expose the weaknesses of the church and denounce compromise. They warn and exhort. But they are messages of hope as well, for God is always there, ever faithful to restore and to fulfill His Word to those who hear and obey.

What Is Salvation? (In 2 Minutes) - Paul Washer



HT: http://www.reformata.org/

Friday, August 21, 2009

WHAT MAKES MUSIC... CHRISTIANLY? ...contending for biblical theology in CCM

Steve Camp gives a passionate plea to keep good biblical doctrine and worship in Christian music. This is a must read!

"Music is powerful and must be used wisely not frivolously. No one ever buys a book, takes it home and memorizes it, but with music just after a few listens, it can be imbedded in your thoughts for a lifetime. That is why biblical truth needs to permeate the very fabric of our music" -Steve Camp

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message

By John MacArthur

Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.

Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. These messages are lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.

Some time ago I hosted a discussion at the Expositors’ Institute, an annual small-group colloquium on preaching held at our church. In preparation for that seminar, I took a yellow legal pad and a pen and began listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism.

I initially thought I might be able to identify about ten, but in the end I had jotted down a list of sixty-one devastating consequences. I’ve distilled them to fifteen by combining and eliminating all but the most crucial ones. I offer them as a warning against superficial, marginally biblical preaching—both to those who stand behind the pulpit and to those who sit in the pew.

1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul. Whether a preacher boldly proclaims the Word of God or not is ultimately a question of authority. Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do! In fact, it is hard to conceive of anything more insolent that could be done by a man who is called by God to preach.

2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church. Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? If so, then why are there so many churches where His Word is not being faithfully proclaimed? When we look at contemporary ministry, we see programs and methods that are the fruit of human invention, the offspring of opinion polls and neighborhood surveys, and other pragmatic artifices. Church-growth experts have in essence wrested control of the church’s agenda from her true Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Puritan forefathers resisted the imposition of government-imposed liturgies for precisely this reason: They saw it as a direct attack on the headship of Christ over His own church. Modern preachers who neglect the Word of God have yielded the ground those men fought and sometimes died for. When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.

3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17). So when preachers neglect God’s Word, they undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, producing shallow conversions and spiritually lame Christians—if not utterly spurious ones.

4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission. In the modern approach to "ministry," the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and "worship" is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church. The effrontery of ministers who pursue such a course is, to me, frightening.

5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture. The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s Day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise. If for no other reason, I would never abandon biblical preaching. The enemy of our souls is after preachers in particular, and the sanctifying grace of the Word of God is critical to our protection.

6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship. What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.

By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.

7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ. Pastors are supposed to be under-shepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. Frankly, the nuances of worldly culture are virtually irrelevant to me. I want to know the mind of Christ and bring that to bear on the culture, no matter what culture I may be ministering to. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural "relevancy" is that they become worldly, not godly.

8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study. Is personal Bible study important? Of course. But what example does the preacher set when he neglects the Bible in his own preaching? Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons? There is now a movement among some in ministry to trim, as much as possible, all explicit references to the Bible from the sermon—and above all, don’t ever ask your people to turn to a specific Bible passage because that kind of thing makes "seekers" uncomfortable. Some churches actively discourage their people from bringing Bibles to church lest the sight of so many Bibles intimidate the "seekers." As if it were dangerous to give your people the impression that the Bible might be important!

9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time. Jeremiah 8:9 says, "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?" When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say. If we preach as Scripture commands us, there should be no ambiguity about whose message is coming from the pulpit.

10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is. Such preaching fosters people who are consumed with their own well-being. When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.

11. It robs people of their only true source of help. People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. When preachers punctuate their sermons with laser lights and smoke, video clips and live drama, the message they send is that there isn’t a prayer the people in the pew could ever extract such profound material on their own. Such gimmicks create a kind of dispensing mechanism that people can’t use to serve themselves. So they become spiritual couch potatoes who just come in to be entertained, and whatever superficial spiritual content they get from the preacher’s weekly performance is all they will get. They have no particular interest in the Bible because the sermons they hear don’t cultivate that. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.

12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority. Predictably, in a church where the preaching of Scripture is neglected, it becomes impossible to get people to submit to the authority of Scripture. The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. The man will say, "You don’t understand what I feel. I came here because you promised to meet my felt needs. And I’m telling you, I don’t feel like I want to live with this woman anymore." You can’t inject biblical authority into that. You certainly wouldn’t have an easy time pursuing church discipline. That is the monster that superficial preaching creates. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.

13. It lies to people about what they really need. In Jeremiah 8:11, God condemns the prophets who treated people’s wounds superficially. That verse applies powerfully to the preachers who populate so many prominent evangelical pulpits today. They omit the hard truths about sin and judgment. They tone down the offensive parts of Christ’s message. They lie to people about what they really need, promising them "fulfillment" and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.

14. It strips the pulpit of power. "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.

15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness. Preachers who pursue the modern approach to ministry must think they have the power to change people. That, too, is a frightening expression of pride. We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.

So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).

Source: http://www.gty.org/

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why call Me Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?

Many who profess Christ will be told by our Lord on Judgement Day: "I never knew you; depart from me". Perhaps this is the most tragic text in all the Bible.

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -Matthew 7:21-23

Why call Me Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?
You call Me the Way and walk Me not!
You call Me the Life and live Me not!
You call Me Master and obey Me not!
If I condemn you blame Me not.
You call Me Bread and eat Me not!
You call Me Truth and believe Me not!
You call Me Lord and serve Me not!
If I condemn you blame Me not.

-Jeff O'Hara

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Minimal Morality? Just go back to the world! - Tim Conway

How close to the world can you live and still be a Christian?

Monday, August 17, 2009

John Piper - God's Glory in his Creation

Psalm 104:24-35
"How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works-
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!"

Isaiah 40:26-31
"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. "

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Nation Abandoned by God

This message was given on National Day of Prayer in Colorado Springs, May 3, 2007, at Woodmen Valley Chapel

"Now I'm going to say something, you're going to have to hold on to your seat a little bit. I'm convinced beyond doubt that in this same sense, God has abandoned America. I know that's a strong thing to say and I'm going to show you why I believe you can see that clearly in Scripture." -John MacArthur



Read, listen or download the full message here.
Source: http://www.gty.org/

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gospel of Jesus Christ - Paul Washer

A revised version of the sermon jam video from Paul Washer's "Shocking Youth Message".

Read the Gospels: JC is not PC

By John MacArthur

Pastor, author

Let's be brutally honest: most of Jesus' teaching is completely out of sync with the mores that dominate our culture.

I'm talking, of course, about the Jesus we encounter in Scripture, not the always-gentle, never-stern, über-lenient coloring-book character who exists only in the popular imagination. The real Jesus was no domesticated clergyman with a starched collar and genteel manners; he was a bold, uncompromising Prophet who regularly challenged the canons of political correctness.

Consider the account of Jesus' public ministry given in the New Testament. The first word of his first sermon was "Repent!"--a theme that was no more welcome and no less strident-sounding than it is today. The first act of his public ministry touched off a small riot. He made a whip of cords and chased money-changers and animal merchants off the Temple grounds. That initiated a three-year-long conflict with society's most distinguished religious leaders. They ultimately handed him over to Roman authorities for crucifixion while crowds of lay people cheered them on.

Jesus was pointedly, deliberately, and dogmatically counter-cultural in almost every way. No wonder the religious and academic aristocracy of his generation were so hostile to him.

Would Jesus receive a warmer welcome from world religious leaders, the media elite, or the political gentry today? Anyone who has seriously considered the New Testament knows very well that he would not. Our culture is devoted to pluralism and tolerance; contemptuous of all absolute or exclusive truth-claims; convinced that self-love is the greatest love of all; satisfied that most people are fundamentally good; and desperately wanting to believe that each of us is endowed with a spark of divinity.

Against such a culture Jesus' message strikes every discordant note.

Check the biblical record. Jesus' words were full of hard demands and stern warnings. He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" (Luke 9:23-25). "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).

At one point an unthinkable Roman atrocity took the lives of many Galilean pilgrims who had come to worship in Jerusalem. Pilate, the Roman governor, ordered his men to murder some worshipers and then mingled their blood with the sacrifices they were offering. While the city was still reeling from that awful disaster, a tower fell in the nearby district of Siloam and instantly snuffed out eighteen more lives.

Asked about these back-to-back tragedies, Jesus said, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; 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 sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-5).

Ignoring the normal rules of taste, tact, and diplomacy, Jesus in effect declared that all his listeners were sinners in need of redemption. Then, as now, that message was virtually guaranteed to offend many--perhaps most--of Jesus' audience.

Those with no sense of personal guilt--including the vast majority of religious leaders--were of course immediately offended. They were convinced they were good enough to merit God's favor. Who was this man to summon them to repentance? They turned away in angry unbelief.

The only ones not offended were those who already sensed their guilt and were crushed under the weight of its burden. Unhindered by indignation or self-righteousness, they could hear the hope implicit in Jesus' words. For them, the repeated phrase "unless you repent" pointed the way to redemption.

Elsewhere, Jesus made the promise of life and forgiveness explicit: "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).

That, of course, is the glorious message of the gospel, just as potent and just as relevant today as it was then. But the promise is for those who are weary of sin; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6); those who come to Christ with repentant heartsCnot those who are convinced they are fundamentally good.

Proud people, including lots of religious people who call themselves Christians, don't really believe Christ's message at all. He said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Mark 2:17).

So what would Jesus say to a pluralistic, tolerant, self-indulgent society like ours? I'm convinced his approach today would be the very same strategy we see in the New Testament. To smug, self-satisfied, arrogant sinners (including multitudes on church rolls) his words would sound harsh, shocking, provocative. But to "the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3)--those who are exhausted and spent by the ravages of sin; desperate for forgiveness and without any hope of atoning for their own sin--Jesus' call to repentant faith remains the very gateway to eternal life.

This is a particularly hard message in cultures like ours that elevate self-love, self-esteem, or self-righteousness, but Jesus was absolutely clear, and these words do still speak to us: "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

HT: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

F.F. BRUCE: JESUS WAS OFFENSIVE

Our Lord’s sayings were all of a piece with His actions and His way of life in general. The fewer preconceptions we bring from the outside to the reading of the Gospels, the more clearly shall we see Him as He really was. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus Who is largely a construction of our own imagination—an inoffensive Person Whom no one would really trouble to crucify.

But the Jesus we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive Person, gave offense right and left. Even His loyal followers found Him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. (Hard Sayings of the Bible, 18, 19)

F.F. Bruce

HT: http://apprising.org/

Why Do They Hate It So? The Doctrine of Substitution

Why Do They Hate It So? The Doctrine of Substitution. This message was given by Albert Mohler at the 2008 Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference. T4G is a bi-annual conference that encourages pastors to take their stand together for the gospel.



HT: http://www.t4g.org/

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

John Newton: Were I To Define A Christian

“Were I to define a Christian, or rather to describe him at large, I know of no text I would choose, sooner than Galatians 5:17, "The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other—so that you do not do what you want.

A Christian has noble aims—which distinguish him from the bulk of mankind. His leading principles, motives, and desires—are all supernatural and divine. Could he do as he desires—there is not a angel before the Eternal Throne, that would excel him in holiness, love, and obedience! He would tread in the very footsteps of his Savior, fill up every moment of time in His service, and employ every breath in His praise!

This he would do—but, alas! he cannot! Against these spiritual desires, there is a contrary desire and working of a corrupt nature, which meets him at every turn! He has a beautiful copy set before him in the Scriptures—he is enamored with it, and though he does not expect to equal it, he writes carefully after it, and longs to attain to the nearest possible imitation. But indwelling sin and Satan continually jog his hand, and spoil his strokes!

Therefore, the most spiritual and gracious people confess themselves as vile and worthless! One eminent branch of our holiness, is a sense of shame and humiliation for those evils which are only known to ourselves, and to Him who searches our hearts!

In proportion as the Lord enables you to live more simply upon the blood, righteousness, and grace of the Mediator—you will possess a more stable peace. The nearer you are brought to Him—the more lively sense you will have of your vileness and worthlessness; and your continual need of Him. Thereby your admiration of His power, love, and compassion, will increase from year to year.”

-John Newton’s Letters (1725-1807)

HT: http://5ptsalt.com/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How would you share a reformed understanding of the Gospel?

John Piper gives an impassioned answer to this question!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Cross Preachers Ignore by Paul Washer

What was in the cup? Paul Washer answers the question and preaches on the cross of Christ and it's meaning!

Polyamory -- The Perfectly Plural Postmodern Condition

Our SSS (Sin Sick Society) is on a rapid downhill path to oblivion. Read this article by Albert Mohler on Polyamory. He writes: "Once a sexual revolution is set loose, it inevitably runs its course through the culture. While the current flashpoints of cultural conflict are focused on same-sex marriage and gender issues, others are biding their time. As Newsweek magazine makes clear, some new flashpoints are getting restless."

Read the rest of the article here

Saving Children from Depravity - by Rebecca Hagelin

Ingrid Schlueter comments: "In this piece by Rebecca Hagelin, the issue of raising our children in this culture is addressed. A passive response by Christian parents will result in the destruction of their children. It takes active, purposeful and prayer-drenched child-rearing to protect our children from the moral minefield the enemy has set up in our culture today."

Read Ingrid's post and Rebecca Hagelin's article here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Are we willing to be courageous for Christ?

By Pastor Ron Bridge

The black-clad Khmer Rouge soldiers had visited the village of Siem Riep before. Haim, a teacher, knew this time they were coming for him and his family. They were “the old dandruff!”, “enemies of the revolution!”, “bad blood!” They were Christians. The soldiers rounded up the entire family, tied them up and left them to spend the night on the wet grass under a stand of trees. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, they prayed all night.

In the morning they were led to the killing fields and ordered to dig a large single grave. The killers gave Haim permission to ready his family and father, mother and children knelt, linked hands and prayed. Haim began to exhort the Khmer Rouge and those looking on from a distance to repent and believe the gospel. In a moment of panic one of the youngest sons leaped to his feet and bolted into the surrounding bush and disappeared. With amazing coolness Haim convinced the soldiers not to pursue the boy but allow him to call him back.

To the astonishment of the Khmer Rouge, the onlookers and the rest of the family kneeling by the grave Haim called to his son: “What comparison my son,” he said, “stealing a few more days of life in the wilderness, a fugitive, wretched, and alone, to joining your family here momentarily around this grave but soon around the throne of God, forever free in Paradise?” After a few tense minutes, the lad returned, weeping, and walked slowly back to the grave and took his place with the kneeling family. “Now we are ready to go” Haim told the Khmer Rouge.

Few of those watching doubted that as each of these Christians’ bodies dropped silently into the grave they had prepared with their own hands, that their souls soared heavenward to a place prepared for them by the Lord. (Don Cormack, Killing Fields, Living Fields: An Unfinished Portrait of the Cambodian Church - the Church That Would Not Die [Crowborough, England, Monarch Publications, 1997], in Taste and See, by John Piper, Multnomah, 2005).

Few, if any, of us will ever be called to martyrdom. Fewer still entreated by their father to come and die. And yet, that is what Jesus’ calls each of his disciples to do (Mark 8:34-38). Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him, ‘come and die.’” We may not suffer physical death or torture because we are Christians, but we must ask ourselves if we are willing to suffer any kind of loss at all? It would seem by the state of apathy in the typical Evangelical church in America that few are.

What kind of thinking is it that justifies a person into believing that in heaven they will stand next to people like Haim and his family, when they themselves never say a word for Christ because it makes them feel uncomfortable? What kind of distorted message are they preaching to themselves that allows them to think they will be safe in eternity, when worshipping, praying and studying with the saints is not their first priority, or second, or third? Does our brand of Christianity really cost us anything? Are the boundaries of our Christianity set by the word of God, or by our own comforts, safety and pleasures?

In his hymn: Am I a Soldier of the Cross, Isaac Watts asks a question of Christians everywhere: Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name? Must I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas? Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God? Sure I must fight if I would reign -Increase my courage Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy word.

Probably none of us is so naturally courageous as to be able to face the loss of life or even all our possessions for the cause of Christianity. The great news is that should we be called to suffer for Christ, He will give us the courage to do so: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be afraid...for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you” (Deut.31:6), “...for He Himself has said: I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5b). We can be certain that the Lord was very much in attendance and supplying each with courage when Haim and his family knelt by their own grave. We can be equally certain that He will be with us should the time come when we are called to pay the price of being identified with Him.

The Psalmist wrote:

“Thy people will be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psalm 110:3).

With such a promise, are we willing to be courageous for Christ?

More about Pastor Bridge and Rehoboth Baptist Church

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing

The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing:
The Doctrine of Absolute Inability
This message was given by John MacArthur at the 2008 Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference. T4G is a bi-annual conference that encourages pastors to take their stand together for the gospel.
Listen here: http://www.t4g.org/

"They weave the spider's web." — Isaiah 59:5

By C.H. Spurgeon

See the spider's web, and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite's religion. It is meant to catch his prey: the spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has his reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape. Philip baptized Simon Magus, whose guileful declaration of faith was so soon exploded by the stern rebuke of Peter. Custom, reputation, praise, advancement, and other flies, are the small game which hypocrites take in their nets. A spider's web is a marvel of skill: look at it and admire the cunning hunter's wiles. Is not a deceiver's religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth? How can he make his tinsel answer so well the purpose of gold? A spider's web comes all from the creature's own bowels. The bee gathers her wax from flowers, the spider sucks no flowers, and yet she spins out her material to any length. Even so hypocrites find their trust and hope within themselves; their anchor was forged on their own anvil, and their cable twisted by their own hands. They lay their own foundation, and hew out the pillars of their own house, disdaining to be debtors to the sovereign grace of God. But a spider's web is very frail. It is curiously wrought, but not enduringly manufactured. It is no match for the servant's broom, or the traveller's staff. The hypocrite needs no battery of Armstrongs to blow his hope to pieces, a mere puff of wind will do it. Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the besom of destruction begins its purifying work. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz., that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord's house: He will see to it that they and those who spin them shall be destroyed for ever. O my soul, be thou resting on something better than a spider's web. Be the Lord Jesus thine eternal hiding-place.

HT: http://www.sermonaudio.com/daily.asp

Friday, August 7, 2009

Empowered by the Holy Spirit – Paul Washer

Clip from his trip to Denmark, July 14-16, 2009



Watch the full message "Where are the Men?"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

By: Mark Dever - 10/5/2003

Mark Dever preaches Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, originally preached in Enfield, Connecticut July 8, 1741.

Fostering Fear of God by R.C. Sproul

Something that is lost today "The fear of the Lord". Worth thinking about!

"I recently heard a young Christian remark, "I have no fear of dying." When I heard this comment I thought to myself, "I wish I could say that." I am not afraid of death. I believe that death for the Christian is a glorious transition to heaven. I am not afraid of going to heaven. It's the process that frightens me. I don't know by what means I will die. It may be via a process of suffering, and that frightens me. I know that even this shouldn't frighten me. There are lots of things that frighten me that I shouldn't let frighten me. The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.

There is one fear, however, that many of us do not have that we should have. It is the fear of God. Not only are we allowed to fear God, we are commanded to fear Him. A mark of reprobation is to have no fear of God before our eyes.

Martin Luther made an important distinction concerning the fear of God. He distinguished between servile fear and filial fear. He described servile fear as that kind of fear a prisoner has for his torturer. Filial fear is the fear of a son who loves his father and does not want to offend him or let him down. It is a fear born of respect. When the Bible calls us to fear God, it is issuing a call to a fear born of reverence, awe, and adoration. It is a respect of the highest magnitude.

Coram Deo: Ask God to give you filial fear for Him, an attitude of reverence, awe, and adoration."

Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Proverbs 10:27: "The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened."

Proverbs 16:6: "In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil."

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2009/07/fostering-fear-of-god.html

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Heaven and Hell - Matthew 8:11-12

This sermon was preached on Tuesday Evening, September 4, 1855, by C. H. Spurgeon in a field on King Edward's Road, Hackney.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church (formerly pastored by the famous Baptist theologian John Gill). The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the new Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting John 1:12 Right: Should You Invite Jesus Into Your Heart?

by Jim Elliff

Is it useful to critique any person’s or ministry’s method of evangelism? For one thing, there are not enough people calling on others to follow Christ. Should I attempt to cripple their efforts in the slightest way, even for the few who might listen to me? I hope I will not. I would rather think that I’m improving our evangelism. And it does need improving.

The apparent results of the method of evangelistic appeal built upon the verse in question (John 1:12, along with Rev. 3:20) surely cannot be argued with. I think I could say with ease that almost all the evangelistic results coming out of America are rooted in a method that emerges from the problematic view of John 1:12 which I will unfold. One campus organization whose workers almost always use this verse, with what I believe is an errant understanding of it, claims that tens of thousands are won to Christ each year through their multiple worldwide ministries. I’ve known many involved in this ministry, and can attest to the sincerity of these workers, and their willingness to be bold for Christ. Surely the majority of evangelistic workers cannot be wrong. Surely pastors who have taught this particular view cannot be in error. At least from the ad hominem side of the argument, I’m going to look pretty silly if I’m opposing such faithful people and am in error myself. So, I’ll tread gently. I’m talking to friends who care as strongly as I do about good evangelism.

Since I have, in the past, made much use of John 1:12 with what I consider a wrong interpretation of it, I think I have the right to speak openly about how I see it now. I have watched as scores of people have responded positively to my wrong use of this verse over several years of my earlier ministry. There is something haunting about that. I asked them to do what I assumed this verse was calling for, and they did it. In earlier days, one motivation for abandoning this concept had to do with observing that so many of my converts coming through the wrong use of John 1:12 appeared to be false converts. I could not live comfortably with that.

I hope you understand me when I say that I also “miss” this verse as a mainstay evangelistic tool. The old way was easier, produced what appeared to be more instant results, received the approbation of almost all my friends, and called forth many colorful illustrations to support it. As soon as I understood the verse in another light, I lost my main conceptual weapon. It took some time to work out how I was going to present the gospel from then on.

A Look at the Verse in Context

I haven’t told you the concept many wrongly derive from this verse. I’ll do so after I quote the verse in its context (1:11-13).

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

What is the wrong use of John 1:12 that I’ve been alluding to? It has to do with the use of the word “receive” which is taken to mean that an unconverted person is to “ask Jesus into his heart” as the invitation of the gospel. The wrong use of this word, in tandem with Revelation 3:20 (“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man opens the door . . .”) has shaped Western evangelism (and beyond), making our evangelism look a lot different than the apostles.

What then is this verse, with its surrounding context, actually saying?

1. First, it declares that the world, and Jews in particular, were blind to Jesus. They did not understand who He was. They did not know Him even though He created them all. On their own, they were incapable of perceiving who Christ was. They did not “receive” or “welcome” or “accept” or “properly acknowledge” Him. Although a full blown doctrine of depravity is not taught here, it is implied because of the universality of their rejection of Christ apart from the special case John will mention.

2. Second, it teaches us that some people, regardless of the general blindness, do have the power (or actual right) to become children of God. It is those who receive Him. That is, it is those who welcome, accept, or favorably acknowledge Him. So, in the midst of general rejection there are some who receive. This word “receive” does not mean “those who invite Christ into their hearts” but rather those who welcome Him for who He is, truly God. A simple comparison with the word “receive” in verse 11 and in verse 12 will yield that this word could not possibly have the meaning of inviting Christ in, as is commonly used by Western evangelism. Here is the error that has spawned much confusion in evangelism.

3. Third, it teaches that reception of Jesus must be qualified further. In other words, not mere welcoming of Christ is enough, but those who receive must believe, “even to those who believe in His name.” There are two ways to take this. John might mean that this “receiving” is the same as “believing.” In other words, the two words could be used interchangeably. Or, John may be saying that reception of Christ must include faith. It would be as if John is saying, “Those who receive him have the right to become his children, but I mean receiving plus true believing or faith.” Either nuance leads us ultimately to faith. We know that faith is more than the mere reception of Christ in truth, or as He is actually. That is its beginning. But it is more. It is reliance upon the Christ who came into the world on His intended mission, to die for us. Those who believe (which starts with their welcoming of Him) have the right of sonship.

4. Fourth, the child of God experiences something beyond (and I contend, before) his faith. God, in other words, is doing something to make him a child of His that could not be done simply on man’s initiative. In fact, these people’s sonship has nothing to do with bloodline, human decision, or the will of others on his behalf. When John says that a person must receive and believe, yet his birth into the family has nothing to do with blood, human decision or the will of another, then he is acknowledging something mysterious and profound. Salvation, as much as we would like to say otherwise, cannot be ultimately attributed to man in any way even in his believing, but is an act of God first of all.

Verse 13 may convey the idea that the order for attaining sonship begins with the birth (“who were born,” emphasis mine) which results in the faith that is said to be necessary for sonship. (“those who believe in His name, who were born . . . of God”). If this order is correct, we can say that regeneration, at least in a kind of philosophical order, precedes faith. If we do not say this, we would have to say John is teaching that it is at least concurrent to a man’s faith. While the man is believing, he is being born; while he is being born, he is believing. But since John asserts that “human decision” could not initiate this birth necessary to be a child, it appears that placing it before the exercise of the will in belief is the right way to view the chronology.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Modern evangelism almost never recognizes verse 11 and verse 13 of the passage, and therefore uses verse 12 persistently and wrongly. By not recognizing verse 11, it fails to understand “receive” correctly, leading to all kinds of problems. Because modern evangelism fails to think of verse 13, we see less than adequate dependence on God and acknowledgment of God as the author of salvation. That may explain, in part, why so much pride can be found in evangelism.

The idea that receiving means “inviting Christ into the heart” causes huge problems for us. It is an easy concept to convey, granted. I used to say that I would never talk to people about believing in Christ, which has difficulties in explanation because of varied levels of meaning, but would only use the idea of “inviting Christ in.” Even a child can get that. But, when the Scriptures as a whole do not support this idea, am I free to make my wrong concept the centerpiece of the response to the gospel? Other than Revelation 3:20, also misunderstood, no place in the Bible appears to promote this idea of “inviting Christ into the heart.” Over 500 times the idea of belief in Christ is expressed, but no mention is made of “inviting Christ in.” Ninety-eight times “belief” and its various forms are used in the evangelistic book of John. We grant that many times the idea of faith is spoken of in the light of the Christian’s walk, but many other times faith is discussed in terms of the initial entrance into God’s family.

When we use the concept of “inviting Christ into the heart” we are robbing faith of its richness. Salvation is reduced to an act more than a life. There is no formulaic prayer (“I now invite you into my heart”) that automatically saves. A man can only be saved through faith. Though we talk about something called “the sinner’s prayer,” it is not found in the Bible. You will have to go to the booklets that promote the idea of “inviting Christ in” to find such a prayer. Think of how much evangelism you have been exposed to rests on the idea that such a prayer be prayed before a person could be saved.

When the Bible speaks of calling on the name of the Lord, it might mean something like evoking Christ’s name in order to be received by God—a sound concept. But regardless what you might think about the wisdom of using a prayer for becoming a child of God, it could not be ultimately necessary. It is certainly only ancillary at best. It is “belief in Christ” that is held out to be the link between the lost man and Christ as seen in so many commands and experiences in the Bible. Paul and Peter did not say, “repeat this prayer after me” at the end of their messages. Rather, people heard and believed, most often during their preaching of the gospel. Granted, some may have prayed as a way to express their faith (though we don’t have records of such outside of Luke 18:13, a prayer unlike the typical “sinner’s prayer”), but such a prayer could not be said to be required by the apostles or God.

Some who doubt their salvation have stated (I have heard this many times myself) that they must surely not be a true Christian because “I did not ask Jesus into my heart.” They would do far better by examining the faith they say they have. They would do better than that by examining for the evidence of life within the soul; and perhaps better than that by looking away from themselves to Christ first, then figuring out when they first believed.

Here is what we should do:

1. We should forever bury the idea of “inviting Christ into the life.” Even if two verses could be interpreted to say that this is a possibility, the sheer number of other verses plainly stating that belief in Christ is the gospel invitation, should lead us to abandon the concept in almost every case. I know that Christ is in the believer, but the believer is also in Christ. The second concept may be mentioned in the New Testament more than the first, but we don’t have people pray to get in Christ? No, we must tell them to believe. We mean a repenting belief and a belief that affects our life from then on.

2. We should abandon the “praying the prayer” method for our appeal. You may pray for people, and even with people, but do not even intimate that praying a certain prayer saves. It does not. No prayer automatically forces God to receive a sinner. God is personal and is sought and talked to, I grant. But when we are asked what He expects, it is to be stated that God demands that we believe. “Do so and live!” Again, by “believe” we are meaning more than just acknowledgment of Christ; no, we mean trust in Christ and what He has done for sinners, a transfer of trust that affects our lives and behavior forever.

3. We should use the biblical terminology of “belief” in Christ. There are other ways of expressing this found in the NT, but “belief” is consistently displayed as the essence of our response. I will not list verses here, but nothing could be easier to find in the New Testament. Read John to see this repeated scores of times. Or read through Acts with this in mind. Ask, “What did the apostles expect people to do in response to their message?” Remember that the booklets give you verse after verse about belief, and then, at the end of the presentation, make a bee-line to John 1:12 and Revelation 3:20, wrongly interpreted. They finalize the deal with a formulaic prayer. Don’t follow that pattern any longer. It is enough to instruct people to believe in Christ, with a sound repenting faith.

4. We should also spend far more time talking about the awfulness of sin and the work of Christ for sinners. Our main work is not so much to explain the sinner’s response to Christ (that is important mainly for pretending believers), but to labor on the gospel itself. When we are brutally honest with people about their sin, and lucid about the only answer being in Christ, His death and resurrection, then we have preached the gospel. We have done what is necessary to cooperate with the Spirit in their conversion. We will actually work against the Spirit when we get caught up in a formulaic approach to the gospel as opposed to a content-filled proclamation. Get the message right and depend on God to convict and convert. You will know someone is saved, not when they “pray the prayer,” but when they repent and believe in Christ, with the evidence of truly following Him. Ask, “Do you believe?”

If We Continue

If we continue with the current pattern of evangelism, we will persist in seeing the results that such a pattern automatically brings. That is, we will see people who sincerely pray a little prayer who have, for the most part, not really believed in Christ. Now, we will always experience fallout on some level even if we are true to the biblical words, for even Jesus had his false converts, as did Paul and the others. This explains why so often the New Testament says, “Do not be deceived.” Yet, when we promote the idea that praying a pray, inviting Christ in, or receiving Christ, is what God requires, we augment the problem, producing massive numbers of unbelieving “believers.” We will continue to have far more tares than wheat. Who would not want to change that sad reality?

I’m embarrassed at my paltry manner of explaining what I’m trying to help us see. But perhaps you will be able to take these concepts further. At a minimum, I’m calling for a purer evangelism, regulated by the Bible and not by ease or history or practicality. Do not back down in your fervor, but use the right method. It stands to reason, even if numbers are smaller, that more true converts will come from good methodology. I know that God ultimately saves, and that He can use anything He wishes to do, but surely we are right to continually purify our evangelism for His glory.
http://www.ccwtoday.org/

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Godly Man's Practice

Pastor Bridge from Rehoboth Baptist Church gives a challenging message on Godly living from 1 Timothy 6:11-14a

"...then...once we're committed to personal holiness, and corporate holiness, can we legitimately have a message to say to the world, can we legitimately go before unsaved people and say to them repent and be forgiven of your sins and live a holy life. Because, if we're not doing that, well, we're just windbags aren't we, just windbags."

More about Pastor Bridge and Rehoboth Baptist Church

Love For An Offensive Gospel

rustic_crossby Gary Gilley

Virtually all students of the Scriptures would agree that the church exists for two basic purposes: evangelism and edification. We are called to share the gospel with lost souls (Romans 10:14) and to disciple those who come to Christ (Matthew 28:19). Edification takes place as the local church gathers together to be taught the Word and to minister to one another (Ephesians 4:11-16; I Corinthians 12). Evangelism is to take place in the community as the church scatters (Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 10:14).

In the New Testament the members of a local church are never seen coming together for the purpose of evangelism. Evangelism took place apart from the meetings of the church – in the workplace, at the synagogue, in town squares, among family members and friends. The early Christian went to where the unbelievers were and presented the gospel of Christ. They did not necessarily do this through evangelistic blitzes on Thursday nights – this wasn’t necessary. Everyone had their pool of opportunity through the normal discourse of their lives, just as most of us do today. One thing they did not do was invite unbelievers to their church services in order to evangelize them. The closest we get to any kind of evangelism within the context of church services is 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, If therefore the whole church should assemble together and…all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. The obvious implication is that the Corinthian church had gathered for the purpose of mutual edification – evangelism was not on the stated agenda. No evangelistic sermon was preached; the music was not geared toward the interests of unbelievers; spiritual language was not tempered to keep from offending or confusing the unsaved; absolutely nothing was done with the “seeking” unbeliever in mind. But, if an unbeliever happens to show up and hears the truth of God expounded, and watches the body function, he may very well have his heart opened and be drawn to Christ. This is a wonderful collateral result of the church functioning in a biblical manner, but it is not the reason that the church assembles.

With this New Testament foundation in mind it should give us great concern when we find the philosophy behind the church-growth, or seeker-sensitive, movement ignoring this pattern and developing churches that have structured their regular services for the purpose of evangelizing the lost. This movement has turned the church on its head as the main services of the church have been transformed into evangelistic outreaches. Most churches adopting this philosophy have relegated edification and instructional services for believers to mid-week gatherings or small groups. Yet, these services tend to be basic in nature as well, geared toward keeping the new convert happy and coming. Even Charles Finney, who in many respects is the great-grandfather of the market-driven church, warned way back in the mid 1800s,

“If men enter upon the Christian life only for gain in the line of their hopes and fears, you must keep up the influence of these considerations, and must expect to work upon these only; that is, you must expect to have selfish Christians and a selfish church …. [They will say] we became Christians… only for the sake of promoting our own interest, and we have nothing to do in the Christian life on any other motive.” [1]

In other words, whatever you use to bring them in must be continued or they will leave. [2] If you enticed people to attend your church on Sunday morning through great entertainment, promises of met felt-needs, or material prosperity, you will have a very difficult time “switching horses” on Wednesday night and offering them a solid diet of biblical exposition. They did not come in the front door to learn the Scriptures and worship God. They were drawn by a good show, promises of success, personal fulfillment and happiness. If you are to keep them coming you must give them more of the same.

This is the dilemma that many churches now face. So why do they put themselves in this position? Because they do not believe that people will respond to the gospel unless it is presented in a winsome package that connects positively with their felt needs. D. A. Carson laments:

It is hard, for instance, to deny the influence of pluralism on evangelical preachers who increasingly reconstruct the “gospel” along the lines of felt needs, knowing that such a presentation will be far better appreciated than one that articulates truth with hard edges (i.e., that insists that certain contrary things are false), or that warns of the wrath to come. How far can such reconstruction go before what is preached is no longer the gospel in any historical or biblical sense? [3]

An example

Recently I picked up a bulletin from a local evangelical church that offers a good example of the realization of Carson’s fears. At the bottom of the sermon note’s handout was the plan of salvation which was in essence a watered-down version of the “Four Spiritual Laws.” Here are the supposed four steps to salvation:

God loves you and has a plan for your life.

We make mistakes and decisions that don’t please God.

Jesus died on the cross for all the “bad stuff”

You can accept His forgiveness, follow Jesus and become a Christian through prayer.

There are numerous problems with these steps but the most glaring is the absence of any mention of sin. Sin is sand-blasted out of this statement and replaced with “mistakes,” “decisions that don’t please God,” and “bad stuff.” Why would this evangelical church, one which places evangelism at the top of its priority list, want to shy so far away from using the word “sin?” And why, when it attempts to use synonyms as substitutes for sin, does it chose to use words that do not define sin? Mistakes, decisions that don’t please God and “bad stuff” are lame alternatives for the biblical concept of sin. Rebelliousness, disobedience, transgressions, iniquity, evil or wickedness might have been decent stand-ins, but not mistakes. Christ did not die on the cross because we make bad choices or mistakes. He died because we were helpless, ungodly, sinners who happened to also be the very enemies of God (Romans 5:6-10). And we don’t become Christians by asking God to forgive our mistakes, we become Christians when, after recognizing our lost condition we, by faith, repent and receive Jesus Christ and the gift of God’s saving grace (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:1-10).

What would provoke an evangelical, evangelistic-minded church to so alter the gospel message as to gut it of, as Carson says, “its historical and biblical sense?” Almost certainly their motivation is a noble one – the desire to see people get saved. But they fear that very few will respond to a gospel which calls sin “sin” and identifies unbelievers as ungodly, rebellious enemies of God. With Robert Schuller they apparently suppose, “Once a person believes he is an ‘unworthy sinner,’ it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.” [4] Such Christian leaders simply do not believe the unaltered gospel message, as presented in Scripture, will draw the seeker to Christ. It is too offensive, too degrading, and too foolish to be appetizing. If we are to entice unbelievers to Christ we must somehow make the foolishness of the cross attractive to sinners.

Proclaiming an offensive message

There is nothing new to this approach – it is as old as the New Testament. The apostle Paul apparently was under the same pressure to produce converts. Some at Corinth seemed to be leaning on Paul to preach a gospel-lite, that would incorporate some of the in-vogue wisdom so popular among unbelievers in the first century. At the very least Paul should not be so offensive – he was turning everyone off, Jew and Gentile alike, by insistence on the centrality of the cross. What was Paul to do? I Corinthians 1:18-30 is the answer. Verse eighteen sets the stage, For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Our perspective on the gospel is determined exclusively by our relationship with the Savior. To the lost, the good news is foolish, to the redeemed it is the power of God.

It is of utmost importance that we wrestle with the truth that the unbeliever views the cross as foolish. This being the case, in our attempts to evangelize there appears to be two options. We can present the gospel exactly as Scripture describes, knowing that its message will repulse the unbeliever devoid of the enlightening ministry of the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:17-18; 4:6). Or we can attempt to “unfoolish” the gospel by altering the message enough to make it sound enticing to unregenerate minds. That is, we can make them an offer they can’t refuse. Before we embark too enthusiastically on this second option we might want to examine how Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sought to resolve the dilemma.

In 1 Corinthians 1 verses 22 and 23 Paul affirms what the unsaved person seeks is foreign to the gospel. In the culture of Paul’s lifetime Jews asked for signs, while Greeks searched for wisdom. This being the case a sharp marketer would surely give his audience what they wanted. He would deemphasize the negative and accentuate the positive. For the Jews he would give evidence of the signs they desired. For the Greeks he would reason philosophically, proving that receiving Christ and living for God was the only reasonable choice for wise men. It is interesting that Paul could have legitimately done either one of these things. Christ gave signs of His deity and Messiahship and certainly Christianity makes sense. But Paul saw clearly that the danger lay in the temptation to filter out anything that might offend his audience. To be true to the gospel this temptation would not only have to be resisted, but the actual offensive aspect of the good news would need to be emphasized. This emphasis was not for the purpose of intentionally stepping on toes – Paul would go out of his way not to offend unnecessarily his unsaved audience — as he would say later in this same epistle (9:19-23). But he understood to tamper with the central essence of the gospel, in order to attract a wider audience, was not just to diminish its power but to so alter its message as to create “a different gospel” altogether (Galatians 1:6).

The central piece of the gospel, which was so offensive to the Corinthians, was the cross. This is a bit hard for us to grasp today since we have sentimentalized the cross, making it into a piece of jewelry and decoration for our walls, rather than a symbol of death. The stigma of the cross is largely lost to our generation, but in the first century it bore very different, even disgraceful connotations. The Roman Empire reserved crucifixion for three classes of people: rebellious slaves, the worst of criminals and defeated foes of the empire. [5] Gentiles, therefore, viewed crucified men with disdain and contempt. “This animosity toward crucified men was deeply engraved on the social consciousness of the world to which Paul brought his message about a crucified Savior.” [6] To the Gentiles the crucifixion was pure foolishness, madness, craziness. Who could imagine that God’s Son dying on a cross as a common criminal would be pivotal to God’s redemption plan?

For the Jew things were even worse. “Though Gentiles viewed crucifixion as a punishment reserved for detestable people…the Jews believed the victim was cursed by God (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). Consequently, the stigma went beyond social disgrace to a declaration of God’s spiritual judgment against the victim.” [7] According to the Jewish mindset Jesus not only died a despicable death, He was also cursed of God. How could He be the Messiah, the Savior, and be under the curse of God? The crucifixion would prove to be a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:23) to the Jews. The Greek word translated “stumbling block” is skandalon (from which we get our word “scandal”) and refers to an enticement to apostasy and unbelief. “In other words, the spiritual offense of the cross actually worked to make some Jews go astray. Remarkably, the crucifixion – so essential to eternal life – actually hindered Jews from coming to saving faith. They simply could not overcome their preconceived notions about the significance of crucifixion…. The very content of Paul’s message caused Jews to turn away.” [8]

Paul was not ignorant of the fact that the preaching of a crucified Savior would more than dull the attractiveness of the gospel; it would be a major impediment. Before his audience could get to the good news of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God, they had to first come to the cross, which was abhorrent to them. But this did not deter Paul from preaching the centrality of the cross, for to the “called” the crucified Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The good news is grounded in the cross; to eliminate it, or even to minimize it, would be to rob the gospel of its power to save.

In the twenty-first century this particular debate seems very distant. The cross, as most envision it today, is more likely to elicit warm fuzzies than disgust or revulsion. Still Paul’s point is not lost. The gospel continues to offend; whether it is the crucifixion itself, the insistence on recognizing our sins and repenting, receiving by faith One that we have never seen, or abandoning our self-reliance, denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him (Matthew 16:24). None of these things pander to our ego. The gospel is not a message about how to get ahead in life, or how to find the key to happiness and success. Paul stayed focused on what was true and essential and he would not be moved by the pressures around him. “‘Christ crucified’ was not a ‘seeker-friendly’ message in the first century. It was an absurd obscenity to Gentiles and a scandalous oxymoron to Jews. The gospel guaranteed offense.” [9] Paul’s example should encourage us today to not sellout the gospel for perceived evangelistic success. We need to stand by the message given in the New Testament, proclaim it with authority and let God give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

__________________________________________________________

[1] Charles G. Finney, So Great Salvation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1965), p. 58.

[2] I am purposely avoiding saying that these people are being brought to Christ through these methodologies, for I do not know that is the case. However, they have been brought into membership or attendance of a local church by certain enticements, whether biblical ones or not.

[3] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996), p. 30.

[4] Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, Texas: Word, 1982), p. 64.

[5] Donald E. Green, “The Folly of the Cross,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 15#1, 2004, p. 62.

[6] Ibid., p. 64.

[7] Ibid., p. 65.

[8] Ibid., p. 66.

[9] Ibid., p. 68.

HT: http://5ptsalt.com/