Search This Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Gift of the Spirit Opens the Door To the Forever-Pleasures of God

One of the greatest pleasures the disciple of Jesus can know and literally experience with daily regularity comes from  hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, His written word and the fellowship of His saints. And there is so much more available to us. If we will just submit to Him and pray in faith His word tells us that we haven't begun to see what He can do, will do, and wants to do for us, in us, and through us.

The Holy Spirit is not given to the church for our personal pleasure and edification alone, but that we might know God deeper, glorify Him in all of life, build up one another, and enjoy Him forever.

And He does give me immense pleasure. "Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever" Psalm 16:11.

The pleasure I experience comes chiefly from the promises fulfilled in Jesus and the peace and purpose and power He gives me as I fellowship with Him daily and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the Spirit moving me "both to will and to work for His good pleasure," I am acutely aware of His presence and His purpose and His power, enlightening me through His word to grow in the grace and knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. This world knows no such joy.

I get excited every time I go to Him in prayer and praise and open His written word to equip myself and others for His glory and our edification. His word encourages me to strive toward that upward call that I might be filled with all the fullness of God. The possibilities are endless in the kingdom of my God. Meditate on the following Scripture noting especially 3:20:

Ephesians 1:15-23 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3:14   14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. 


 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The law of God makes me break the law?" 1 Corinthians 15:56

For most of us who drive, posted speed limits just don't matter, not really. If I want to do 55 in a 45 mph zone, I'm going to do 55. I'll keep my eyes open for law enforcement officers and even then I'll "push the envelope." The fact is for most of us the speed limit is just never high enough.

I'm seldom in "a hurry." Occasionally I find myself running late for lunch with friends or a movie with my family and other occasions. Getting off to work in the morning and running a little behind does the trick. But in a hurry? Seldom.

Something mysterious happens to most drivers once they get behind "the wheel." Suddenly, regardless of where we're going and how much time we have to get there, we're in a hurry. If it's just a trip to the grocery store to "pick up a few things," I need to be there NOW! And my grocery store is open 24/7. Go figure. I have a theory that it has something to do with the steering wheel. But that's another post.

The day I turned 16 I was at the DMV getting my license. I read the driver's manual thoroughly and knew the laws governing drivers in my state like the back of my hand. I knew the law. I made 100 on the written test and passed the driving portion with flying colors. I was then free to drive. I was also without excuse as far as the law was concerned. I knew the law and was responsible for what I knew and even what I didn't know ("Ignorance of the law is no excuse."). I was free to drive responsibly.

My problem was I wasn't very responsible. I broke almost every traffic law on the books within just a few months. And everytime I did I knew full well what I was doing. It was fun, breaking the law and raisin' hell. Oddly enough, I never got pulled and never got a ticket, not until I was in my 60's. I was pulled for doing 67 in a 45 and but by the grace and mercy of God, I would have lost points and my auto insurance would have gone up. But kind Highway Patrol Officers and judges having mercy on me didn't change my nature one bit. I still find (yeah, like I don't mean to do it) myself breaking the law.

Why am I like this? Why is all of humanity like this? The answer speaks volumes about the nature of man and the nature of the law.

Every human being is born "corrupt" and "corruptible," "dead in trespasses and sins" (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Eph. 2:1-3). Being "born again" doesn't remove our corrupted and corruptible natures. That's the lesson of Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-56. We will live out the rest of our born again lives in these mortal bodies with what the Reformers called "remaining corruption." The washing and sanctification and justification Paul applies to us in 1 Cor. 6:11 doesn't rid us of this remaining sinfulness, this remaining corruption.

When God gave the law to the Jews through Moses He gave it to people who were dead in their trespasses and sins. That has been the state of the human race since Adam and Eve died in the Garden. The law wasn't going to do the Jews any good. Other than the fact that the Jews now knew what sin is, it was of no benefit to them. Obedience to the law by those who are spiritually dead can't make them alive. The law can't do that and wasn't designed to do so. In fact, the law has the opposite effect upon the dead. And for those of us who by the grace of God have been made alive and forgiven, the law still has that effect. The law aggravates the lost and the found. It strengthens our remaining corruption.

If we believe that obedience to the law earns us forgiveness and righteousness, we are in serious error. And if we, like some of the Galatians, believe that keeping the law makes us right with God, then we have turned from the grace offered us in Christ to the very thing that Christ died to liberate us from, the law and its demands of perfection.

There is no strength to be found in the law for overcoming sin and temptations. The more one relies on the law for deliverance from one's sins the more that one will sin. It's Paul's illustrative struggle in Romans 7. The law exacerbates sin and our sinfulness.

If we want to be done with sin in this life we will live lives of depression and defeat rather than the victory that belongs to all who are in Christ. We can be "in Christ" and live lives of defeat and depression even though the victory is already ours. Until we understand that the work of the Lord on the cross didn't end our sinfulness but gave us new life and His righteousness and sanctification, we will live as those who live under the law, always striving to earn righteousness by our vain efforts.

Paul wrote this to us, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56). We have all sinned, haven't we? So if we have all sinned, then we are all dead, right? Death is not portrayed in the word as something we can avoid but a spiritual state that we must be delivered from. That's what God did for us and to us in Jesus. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.57).

Our frustration comes when we take it upon ourselves to do something God hasn't done for us. Sure we're to be obedient. But our obedience comes as those who are under grace, not under the law. Our obedience will gain treasure for us in the kingdom, not an entrance into the kingdom. That is done only by the grace of God who saves us through faith in Jesus.

The answer to our sin problem clearly isn't the law, it is faith in the finished work of Christ and in His on-going ministry on our behalf. Have the faith of Abraham. Believe that God has fulfilled His promises for all who are in Christ and look unto Him, not your mortal flesh (Rom. 4). Have faith in the finished work of Jesus, not in your unfinished flesh and blood bodies.




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Are you listening to the wrong ghost?

What a fun movie, "Ghost." Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg and a cast of dozens of ghosts waiting to talk to their living loved ones. What a hoot when Goldberg's character actually connects with a real ghost in her phony psychic business. But for the murderers of Swayze's character who soon realize that his ghost has come back for vengeance, they pick a fight with the wrong ghost. Fun and suspense ensue. Do ya see where I'm going with this? Not really? It's kinda like my experience in the Charismatic Movement back in the '70's.

To this day I am eternally thankful that my intro to the movement came after God graciously saved me through a clear presentation of the gospel and not before. God chose me before the foundation of the world; He saved me before time began, thus assuring that I am one of His sheep who hear His voice and guaranteeing that I will not follow the voice (teachings, doctrine) of false shepherds (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Jn. 10). So while my excursion into the world of the charismatics and Pentecostals was fun, exciting and very interesting, I went through those years with "the red flags of discernment" constantly signaling me to walk this way and not that, turning me to the written word of God and prayer in order to avoid the heresies so many of my friends had embraced.

The infamous and Pentecostal friendly PTL Club had just been born in my hometown of Charlotte, N.C., with Jim Bakker at the helm. Charismatic congregations were popping up everywhere in our area. Most of these congregations were an inharmonious blend of traditional and charismatic folk. And the almost singular emphasis was on the work and Person of the Holy Spirit. At least it was said to be about the Holy Spirit. However, what I saw in the word of God, the same Bible my charismatic friends were supposed to be reading, was a vastly different description of the Holy Spirit from what they were teaching and the teachings of their favorite media teachers. And the extreme heresies of the Word Faith Movement hadn't even sprung up yet.

I wondered many times in those days why the brethren I hung with gravitated toward the absurd and patently false teachings and prophecies of such men as E.W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts and a couple of years later the Copelands, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, and then the king of all heretics, Benny Hinn. These false shepherds/prophets/teachers are contemporary examples of the "strangers" Jesus said His sheep would never follow. We know almost from day one that these people do not speak the words of the Shepherd.

The Holy Spirit will indeed teach us about Himself because He is in the word of God as one of the essential matters involved in our faith. But that is not His ordained function in the Trinity. He leads us to Jesus and then He proceeds to reveal Jesus to us through inspiring us as we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). The Holy Spirit will exalt Jesus first and foremost as the disciples of Jesus mature in their faith. Then through the life-long process of sanctification He grows us in holiness and love and grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To have the Holy Spirit is to be His sheep. To have the Holy Spirit then means that we will know the voice of strangers and we will not follow them. It means we will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and not the voice of the health and wealth deceivers.

Which ghost are you listening to? The Holy Ghost? Or the ghost of the minds of the deceivers? And the sad thing is, those listening to the false leaders won't know if they are. That's why we are to warn them.

Lost and Found: The Glory of God In the Christmas Event

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

BYZ Romans 3:23 pa,ntej ga.r h[marton kai. u`sterou/ntai th/j do,xhj tou/ qeou/(

"For all have sinned." This is the universal reality/truth that explains why and how mankind falls short of God's glory. The verb "fall short" is present passive, informing us that our falling short of God's glory is what our sin did to us, the effect of which remains with us.

THE REST OF THE STORY
But note this, beloved, this verse is followed by 5 powerful chapters of encouragement and enlightenment and joy and peace, providing us with the good news that by the grace and love and mercy of God He has restored that lost glory to all who are in Christ.

The sin and death of Adam and Eve is passed on to all humanity and has this effect on us, we fall short of all that is necessary for a relationship with our Creator Lord (Rom. 5; Eph. 2:1-3). This "glory" was ours until our original parents rebelled against God (all of mankind was in Adam). This glory was the essential ingredient in our being created in the image of God.

God's glory realized in man has to do with man's relationship with his Creator God. When man fell in the Garden God's glory in man was destroyed. Glory and death and sin cannot co-exist any more than sin and death can exist in the kingdom of God. There is no sin and death in God's kingdom thus the necessity of the new birth for fallen man if we are to inherit the kingdom. For all and in all who by God's grace see and enter His kingdom, the glory of God is restored.

Colossians 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Romans 8:28-30 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14   But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE "NOW" AND THE "NOT YET" OF OUR RESTORED GLORY

For all who are "in Christ," there is now the bud of God's glory. It's more than a seed. It is the fresh bud growing out of that seed. What we see now is but a mere shadow of the glory that is to be ours on our Day before the Lord. But it is God's glory nonetheless. Christ in us is that bud, "the hope of glory." God has already sealed our future and final glory by the Holy Spirit and that glory is ours though not in its fullness (Eph. 1:13-14). That is our inheritance, signed, sealed and delivered in the One born in Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas! Rejoice in the knowledge that the blood of the child born unto us has cleansed us of all sins and recovered the glory that was lost.



 





 
 

Friday, December 20, 2013

How Can I Get Into Heaven and What Can Keep Me Out? Conclusion.

The Bible teaches that sin is rebellion against our Creator and that the result of sin is death, physical as well as spiritual death. Death is "separation from God." Being both physically dead and spiritually dead means being separated from God in every way possible. Being separated from God in this all-inclusive state has rendered all "by nature children of wrath," which designation, "children," translates into our being born separated from God (Eph. 2:1-3). We are born separated from God; we are born "dead in our trespasses and sins."

This is where we all begin. We are already "out" when we're born. It isn't what can keep us out of heaven, that's where we're born. We are "naturally" children of God's wrath and outside His kingdom. And being dead, there is absolutely nothing we can do to get into heaven, or, inherit eternal life. Inheriting eternal life takes an act of God. The dead can do nothing.

This "act of God" that is absolutely necessary in order for the dead to inherit eternal life, happens when God the Spirit working in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel, gives the dead life and light and faith. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, "No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44-45, 63). This is why He said, "You must be born again." Before the dead can enter or see the kingdom of heaven, they must ( dei/ "it is necessary") be born again, or, "born from above" (3:3-8). The new birth is the act of God necessary for eternal life.

This act of God begins with God's sovereignty, not fallen man's (Rom. 9:14-18). God's sovereign will is applied to the ungodly via the gospel and the Holy Spirit who gives the ungodly, the sinner, the dead in trespasses and sins, the lifeless, the unregenerate, the child of wrath, the life and the light necessary in order that they might freely choose to call upon the name of the Lord thereby entering the kingdom. Only the sovereign act of God can command "light to shine out of darkness" into the formerly darkened hearts of the spiritually dead (2 Cor. 4:1-6; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Note the 3 passive verbs in v.11, "...you were..."). That's the only way the dead are enabled to see and enter the kingdom.

All who hear a proclamation of the gospel are offered the opportunity to "believe" and "come to the light" (Jn. 3:18-20). It is the love of darkness by those who are in the kingdom of darkness that turns many away from "the light." Those who finally perish after having heard the gospel do so of their own volition. Those who finally perish do so in accordance with their own choosing, the only choice any of us (the dead) could have made but for the grace of God.  If not for the grace and mercy and love of God, we would all perish.

We all deserve condemnation. Those who die and go to an eternal darkness are simply getting what we all deserve. If not for the grace of God that would be every man's end. Those who perish without ever having heard the gospel perish in the same manner as those who hear and reject; their end is to continue separated from God eternally.

Man's spiritual state keeps him out or ushers him in. The dead either remain dead and continue in their state of separation from God forever or, God sovereignly intervenes for millions of the dead and has mercy upon them. Ultimately, man's end is determined by God. It is not "double predestination." It is either the ungodly get what we all deserve or God sovereignly has mercy on those who are finally saved.

"But God..." (Eph. 2:1-4).
 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How can I get into heaven and what can keep me out? Part 1

Do you believe in life after death? Would you say that there is a "place" where one goes after dying? For arguments sake, lets call this place "heaven." It could just as easily be called "paradise." But to simplify matters I will refer to this place as heaven.

What do you think you have to do to get to heaven? Be good? Well, do you have to be absolutely good or just good enough? And to complicate this line of thinking, can you ever know that when you die you will have been good enough and can die in peace with the assurance that you're goinna make it? Can you ever know when you have been good enough?

What do you mean by "good?" What do you mean by "being good?" Who defines good? Is there a standard that determines what is good?

By being good do you include a lifetime of good thoughts, good deeds, and being good to those around you?

When should one begin being good? What do you need to do to keep being good through your entire life?

Do you believe that God sees you as "a good person?"

Do you believe that how you live will be the determinate factor in where you go after you die?

Are you ultimately the one who determines your eternal fate? Can you make the "decision" that determines where you will spend eternity?

Do you believe that you have "sinned?" What is sin? Where does the word sin come from? Is it a ubiquitous concept?

Is sin important in your belief system? Do you ever define the bad things you do as sin? Why? Is there another word you would prefer to use? Is the word sin archaic? Is it too negative in your way of thinking?

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Are you finished yet?" A word from the Cross.

I remember my little girls yelling at whoever was in the bathroom to hurry up, asking, "Are you finished yet?" If the answer came, "No!", the reply would be, "Hurry up! I gotta go."

Jesus answered the question for all of us when He said from the Cross, "It is finished." "I have finished the work that my Father sent me to do. I have lived a sinless life. I have fulfilled the law perfectly. I have done my Father's will perfectly. I have saved my people from their sins. I have done for the ungodly what they could not do for themselves and that is please the Father perfectly. No one else could do this. No one else could've done this. I did it and it is finished. And from this day forward all people, Jew and Gentile, who believe in Me, will be declared by my Father to be right with Him just as I am. It is finished. There is nothing else to be done by anyone."

"It is finished!" The works of redemption, sanctification, reconciliation and justification are finished. The promised Person, the Holy Spirit, has come and is doing what He was sent to do. He draws the ungodly to the Lord Jesus Christ, gives them light and life and faith and love and knowledge that they by their own truly free will might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Jn. 6:44-45, 63; 7:38-39; Rom. 4:23-5:2, 5;10:9-13; 1 Cor. 2:9-16).

"It is finished." The "now and the not yet" of this life in Christ.

"It can't be finished. I still sin." Ah ha! Here's the rest of the story.

"For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The light that has shone out of darkness is the Person of Jesus Christ. Now we have salvation/justification and the Holy Spirit, the finished work of Jesus. "But...we have this treasure (the finished and applied work of Jesus) in earthen vessels (that's why we still sin), that...the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:5-7). And God ordained it so. It really is finished.

It is finished God's way, not ours. It is finished in such a way that all the glory for our salvation goes to God and God alone. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and be reminded of our humble estate. Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-56 to be reminded of our remaining corruption and the "not yet" state of every believer, the end of corruption. And rejoice that God gets all the glory yet has glorified us through our union with Jesus with a glory that will not be finally realized until we are in His blessed presence (Rom. 8:28-31; 1 Cor. 6:17; Col. 1:27).

I stand amazed in His presence because it is finished.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Once Justified, Always Justified: Justification Is All of God

Once Justified, Always Justified

If a true believer can lose his or her salvation, then the New Covenant is no different than the Old Covenant. Calvary is no better or any more redemptive than Sinai and Jesus is no more a savior than Moses.

While salvation is obtained only by God's grace through faith, it can be lost by disobedience? Works can not save us but lack of them after we are saved can make us lose our salvation? THIS MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER! We have obviously been misled from one set of laws to another. This renders Christianity the dumbest religion on the face of this earth.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to live in unbelief, not faith, fear and not faith.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to live under the law, not grace.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to believe another gospel. And those who preach such a gospel are anathema.

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Be Zealous For The Spiritual Gifts


“Be Zealous For the Spiritual Gifts”

1 Cor. 14:1

I have often said that the Christian life is nothing if not life in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins this life and perfects it (Gal. 3:3; Jn. 6:63).

The first-work of the Holy Spirit, the “Third Person of the Trinity,” is to set the chosen aside “for salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). Every verse in the New Testament that refers to our having been elected or chosen or predestined includes this work of the Spirit.

The second work of the Spirit is when He baptizes us into the body of Christ, the church. It is during this promised baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are gifted with spiritual gifts as determined by the Trinity (1Cor. 12:3-13). The manifestation of spiritual gifts is given to us for the profit of all. They bring pleasure and edification to us when used as proscribed by Scripture.

The third work of the Spirit is to begin the life-long processes of sanctification and teaching into the lives of the babes in Christ. He is sent in part to teach us about Jesus Christ after having brought us to faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit's work, if you will, is to lead us through this life in such a way that we will glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and bear witness of Him to this dark and perishing age. All that we have as those who have been reconciled to our Creator is ours precisely because the Holy Spirit has applied the finished work of redemption and reconciliation and sanctification of Jesus to our souls. That is the chief work of the Holy Spirit and the primary purpose of His gifts.

In the passage that is on my heart this morning, 1 Corinthians 14:1, I find two imperatives, one telling us to “pursue love,” the other telling us to “be zealous for spiritual gifts.” Both verbs are present tense verbs, letting us know that we are to be continually pursuing love and continually zealous for the spiritual gifts He has given us as the church and as individual believers through all ages. This would be impossible to obey if it were true that the giving of spiritual gifts and therefore the gifts themselves ceased after the deaths of the apostles and after “that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:8ff). If that interpretation were correct, it must be then, that 1) the gifts have ceased and, 2) that which is perfect is come, both of which necessarily negate the second of Paul's two imperatives in our verse. So if you are reading 1 Corinthians 12-14 when the gifts have ceased and that which is perfect is come, you must ignore this imperative and all that Paul says about at least certain gifts in these 3 chapters.

Here, for your consideration, is a list I have compiled off the top of my head of the blessings of the Holy Spirit preceded by every occurrence of the Greek word translated “spiritual” (at times it is just “spiritual,” at other times it is “spiritual gifts.” The context determines the usage) pneumatiko.j

Rom 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1 Cor 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3f; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46; Gal 6:1; Eph 1:3; 5:19; 6:12; Col 1:9; 3:16; 1 Pet 2:5
 

      1. We were prepared by the Holy Spirit for faith in Jesus. Jn. 6:44-45; 2 Thess. 2:13-14
      2. We are born again by the coming of the Holy Spirit into our inner man. Jn. 3:3-7
      3. We are gifted by the Holy Spirit that we might be edified and that we might edify the church. 1 Cor. 12-14
      4. The Holy Spirit is our source of assurance when He moves us to cry “Abba, Father.”
      5. We are led by the Spirit. Rom. 8:15; Gal.4:6)
      6. We put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. Rom. 8:13
      7. We understand the deep things of God because we have the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:16
      8. We can be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18ff
      9. We can live by the Spirit, thereby not fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Gal. 5:16
      10. We are the recipients of the gift of the Holy Spirit as part of the New Covenant promise that fulfills the covenant God made with Abraham. Gal. 3:7-14
      11. We were sealed by the Holy Spirit the very moment we were saved. Eph. 1:13
      12. We know Jesus Christ as Lord solely by the grace of God through His working in us by the Holy Spirit. Mt. 16:17
      13. We are no longer under the law but under grace precisely because of the finished work of Jesus being applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. Gal. 5:16-18
      14. We “both will and work for His good pleasure” because the Spirit is working in us. (Phil. 2:13).

As wonderful is our being indwelt and gifted by the Holy Spirit, we must never misread His presence as blessing us simply for our sensual pleasures, the very serious error practiced by many Pentecostals and charismatics. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God by His grace through faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not a spiritual “Toys R Us.” I have times when being filled with the Spirit is for me fun, enjoyable, emotional, pleasurable, and so exciting I feel like I will burst if I don't praise my Father immediately. So rather than bursting, I praise Him. But His redemptive work and His enabling and empowering and teaching and His sanctifying work and His glorifying Jesus work are His chief reasons for indwelling us as directed by our Father.

DOES GOD YET SPEAK?

Does God still speak to the spirits or the “minds” (Rom. 7:22, 25; 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16

the “inner man”) of those who have by His grace (and even some who have not) come to saving faith in Jesus? Well, let me ask this, is God mute? Has He for some reason gone “dumb,” unable to speak?

Of course He still speaks to His children by His Spirit who teaches us and guides us and rebukes us and corrects us and works in us “to both will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13; 1 Cor. 2:8-16). These are not “extra biblical revelations” spoken by so many present day false teachers and false prophets. But they are words of understanding and wisdom and knowledge and insight inspired by the Spirit in the minds of believers in accordance with the revealed will of God, revealed in the written word of God.

This means that God through the Holy Spirit speaks to us in accordance with His written word . We are hearing from Him when we discern spirits or when we are given a “word of wisdom” or a “word of knowledge” or when we are praying for the sick (that's what “the prayer of faith” is, the assurance from God that He is going to heal someone). The Holy Spirit is conversing with us when we suddenly come to see something in the written word that we've never seen before. He converses with us when we know something that could only be made known to us by divine intervention. He converses through the gift of prophecy when someone opens up Scripture to us. He converses with us when one speaks in tongues and another gives the interpretation (and even privately when there is no one to interpret).

WE ARE TO BE ZEALOUS FOR THE GIFT HE HAS GIVEN US

The Greek word behind our English word found in many of our translations as “seek,” is actually the word where we get our word “zeal,” or to fit with the verb in our text, “to be zealous.” We are not being told to seek spiritual gifts but rather to be zealous for the gift that we possess. We have already seen in chapter 12 that we have been gifted by the Spirit as He wills. Now we are to be zealous for our gift and to use it for the glory of God and the good of the body of Christ. Or, if you like, we are to be zealously seeking to master the God-glorifying gift(s) we have been given.

FOR THOSE WHO DISAGREE, A QUESTION OR TWO

We (I read 1 Corinthians 14:1 to be written for us in the 21st century as well as those in the 1st) are commanded to “pursue love and desire (be zealous for) spiritual gifts.” Here are my thoughts on those commands, especially the second one: This was written by a man filled with the Holy Spirit. The same man who would in just a few breathes write the famous “love chapter” where He would pen the “when that which is perfect is come” verse. It flies in the face of logic and the context of this verse in the word of God that Paul is telling the church universal to be zealous for something they will not be able to be zealous for and ever expect to receive, the spiritual gifts, if your interpretation of this chapter is correct.

If you are correct, then this is what is implied, “Be zealous for spiritual gifts, unless of course, you are reading this portion of the inspired word of God when the perfect is come and the giving of the gifts and the gifts themselves have ceased. Once the perfect is come and the sign gifts have ceased you may ignore this verse and most of what you know as chapters 12 through 14. Once that which is perfect is come, the Bible, which oddly enough retained these words of the apostle, then the sign gifts have ceased and you seek them in vain because they, in fact, have ceased. Never mind the fact that all that I wrote concerning the gifts and your being zealous for them is still there, in that which is perfect. Confusing and rather cruel, wouldn't you say!”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Strange Fire Conference blog series addendum: Acts 2:38-39

The Day of Pentecost had fully come (Acts 2:1) and Peter and John, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up with the others who had gathered in the upper room and preached to the thousands of Jews who had gathered outside on the street who heard the strange sounds coming from the disciples of the crucified Jesus. There in that upper room were these Jews who had followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry (until He was betrayed, then only John remained) "speaking in tongues and prophesying" to the glory of the risen Man Jesus and the heavenly Father. The convicting ministry of this same Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8ff) now did His work in the hearts of the recalcitrant Jews, opening up their hearts with the light of God that they might see and enter the kingdom, calling upon the name of the One whom they had just murdered (2 Cor. 4:6; Jn. 6:44, 63; 3:3-7; Acts 2:40-41).

The same Holy Spirit (there is, after all, only one Holy Spirit) who convicted and persuaded the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, convicts and persuades to this day. He Himself is the "gift" promised to the Jews and all whom God would ever call to Himself. The promise of this gift is timeless and universal.

Acts 2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." This is not a promise to all whom God calls that they too will speak in tongues and prophesy. That issue is clearly addressed in Paul's letter to the confused Corinthians (1 Cor. 12-14). It is a promise that all whom God calls to Himself will receive the Person of the Holy Spirit. And this promise is timeless and universal.

As a new Christian in 1974, I soaked up the written word of God. Never once in my reading did I see dispensationalism in the word. I certainly saw different covenants in both the Old and New Testaments. Observing covenants in the Bible did not, however, lead me to the notion of "covenant theology." To this day I do not see either school of theology in the Bible.

Furthermore, the idea of cessationalism never ever entered my nascent theology. Nothing in the word even hinted to me that the giving of the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the deaths of the apostles. I still don't see it. As I blogged in an earlier post on Strange Fire, I believe there is a better theory on what happened in the church when the gifts no longer flourished among the believers then MacArthur's "faded away" statement. And while I never spoke in tongues in those early days and months after my conversion and exposure to the "Jesus Movement" and the Charismatic Movement, I didn't feel the least bit slighted; I knew that I been graciously saved through Spirit-given faith in Jesus Christ. It wasn't until later that I would be pressured to speak in tongues.

My first experience with someone who spoke in tongues happened when I visited a "Spirit filled" assembly that met in an early morning service in a Lutheran church in my city. I was thrilled to the bone. I heard someone speak in tongues and someone give the interpretation. Whether either the tongue or the interpretation were genuine I don't know. But at the time in my naivete I was beside myself with excitement. I had never heard of the controversy concerning the gift of tongues.

The supposed gift of tongues was and still is the chief culprit in the conversation between those who believe in continuationalism and cessationalism. The continuationists have through their dismissal of essential contextual matters of Scriptural interpretation twisted Scripture and have made it say what it clearly does not say. Tongues is nowhere in Scripture taught as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of that baptism is love for the brethren. The result of this abuse of the gifts and Scripture is what I refer to as the "Corinthian Confusion."

It is this "Corinthian Confusion" that was introduced to the world through the Azuza Street Revival at the turn of the 20th century and furthered by the Charismatic Movement which came to America in the late 1950's but gained its largest following during the '70's. Pentecostals and charismatics relied heavily on the spectacular manifestations they identified as gifts of the Spirit, tongues, prophecies, and healings.

The confusion was exacerbated by Pentecostals and charismatics who insisted that "tongues" was the evidence of the "baptism in the Holy Spirit." This perversion of the word of God and the gifts of the Spirit was spread largely through the coming of so-called "Christian television" and the proliferation of Christian books by leaders within the Charismatic Movement. The likes of Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Paul Crouch, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, and Jimmy Swaggart stated dogmatically on the air and in print that if you didn't speak in tongues you weren't saved. At best you couldn't know if you were baptized in the Spirit without the gift of tongues. This gave birth to the furtherance of false tongues and false prophecies by those who knew they were faking it because they were pressured to fit in. I still witness this today. As a matter of fact, I do not think I have ever heard the genuine gift of tongues.

The conversation re-introduced by John MacArthur isn't focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit as much as on the heresies introduced into the visible church by the Charismatic Movement and its bastard child, the Word Faith Movement with its "name it and claim it," "health and wealth" gospel that is no gospel at all. These movements are symptomatic of the apostasy that is encroaching rapidly through "your best life now" deceptions. The leaven of the Charismatic Movement must be removed from the body of Christ with as little damage to the body of Christ that is caught up in that movement, with the sole idea of restoring such ones to that blood bought body. We are to guard the truth through the preaching and teaching and living out the word of truth.


 

Friday, October 18, 2013

An Alternative Theory To The "Fade Away" Theory of John MacArthur: Conclusion

When the Charismatic Movement began to catch on in mainline denominations and in Southern Baptist congregations, the powers that be in those assemblies saw it as a great and dark threat to their theology and traditions and membership; and rightly so. However, for several decades these non-charismatic denominations reacted in the extreme, almost to the point of pushing the Holy Spirit out the back door.

Presbyterian pastors who embraced all things charismatic (I sat under two charismatic pastors when I was a Presby) were given grief by their members and some were forced to resign. The same held true for SBC pastors who were voted out and who (I knew one who was fired and planted a church of his liking with some success) lost their living and their homes on account of their embracing charismata. And now one seldom hears of the Charismatic Movement in any denomination. Talk about fading away.

The problems with the Charismatic Movement the Strange Fire conference addresses are real. The heresies that creeped into the visible church via the multitude of false teachers/prophets/apostles/pastors are damnable, "even denying the Lord who bought them." But some of the cessationists now on the platform at MacArthur's church during his Strange Fire conference are (in my humble opinion...and I believe I too have the Holy Spirit) going to great extremes, condemning 500,000 charismatics (not too strong a word for what some speakers have said about this movement), saying that charismatics have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. There are serious problems with the Charismatic Movement. But there are serious problems with some who are using their interpretation of the word of God, their personal and subjective feelings about the Charismatic Movement, and their personal agendas, to call down fire on charismatics and Pentecostals.

John MacArthur is walking on the cutting edge of Christianity. I'm waiting to see where he goes with this conference. I've always trusted this man and have many of his books and commentaries. I've listened to him on the radio for many, many years and went to a weekend conference to hear him at The Cove. While I stand behind my belief that this conference could be exactly what has been needed for decades (why didn't someone do this in the beginning of the Charismatic Movement? Why wait till now when the Charismatic Movement is so passe?), it just might be a divisive step instead of one that guards the gospel as MacArthur hopes to do. It has definitely started a conversation...and I like it.

My theory versus Mac's theory

I call MacArthur's theory of the cessation of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, the "Fade Away Theory." He said, and I will try to quote him accurately from memory, "After the deaths of the original apostles and those who heard them, the miraculous gifts just faded away." And ya know something, he is right. But not for his dispensationalist interpretation reasons.

Something did happen after the apostles died off. But we're not left completely in the dark as to what that something was. We see this something developing early in the letters of Paul, Peter, and John.

In his letter to the Galatians we witness by the hand of Paul and the hand of the Holy Spirit just how quickly the denial of the Holy Spirit and His gifts arose. And the churches in Galatia were certainly not by themselves as the apostles of the apostasy sowed the seeds of deceit and damnation. Listen to these select verses from Paul's letter to the Galatians: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ..."(1:6). "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain, if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (3:2-5).

The apostle was shocked by the almost immediate apostasy of some of the Galatian church members who had rejected the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ and had turned to the law of Moses and works of the law rather than the grace of God (5:4). They had heard as clear as anyone could hear the true gospel of God.This very thing has happened in every local church since the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who believe.

Our day is no exception. And the further in time and geograhy the visible church moves away from Pentecost, the more we see a reliance on works and less on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. And likewise, the further away from the written word of God some move, the deeper into error, and worse, do they find themselves. And that's precisely what the folks in the Charismatic Movement have done; and that's why it morphed into the damnable Word Faith Movement with its abundance of false teachers and false prophets and false apostles and false bishops.

By the 2nd centruy church leaders and even church fathers had turned to scholasticism and their "gray matter" rather than the Holy Spirit. It didn't take long for heresies to reign in the visible universal church as man exalted himself, boasting in themselves for their own justification, sanctification, righteousness, and wisdom (1 Cor. 1:26-2:5). Even those who fought the heresies of Arias and Marcion and Pelagius denied the gifts of the Spirit as they won their fight for the truth of the gospel. From Tertullian to Augustine to Calvin and Luther, those who believed in the gifts of the Spirit were called silly and ridiculous by these outstanding church theologians. Now the church fathers and the Reformers are given the final say by many of our 21st century theologians who seem to rely on their intellect, their particular schools of theology, and hermeneutical skills rather than the Holy Spirit.

I'm not ready to deny what Scripture does not. And nowhere in the word of God do I find any allusion to what the cessationists and dispensationalists claim. But, I am teachable.

 

An Alternative Theory To The "Fade Away" Theory of John MacArthur: Part 1

On October 16, 2013, Dr. John MacArthur opened his conference exposing the heresies of the Charismatic Movement which he entitled "Strange Fire." This expose is long overdue. I have said for many years to those in my little circle that if the false teachers/apostles/prophets/pastors of our day who have twisted and perverted the word of God and deceived millions through the doctrines and practices of those who lead and those who follow in the Charismatic Movement had done so to such a grand scale as we witness everyday, the "church fathers" of centuries ago would have sounded the alarm by assembling and declaring the heresies of such deceivers, enumerating their heresies and calling their names in what they would have called a "Church Council." Dr. MacArthur's conference is the closest meeting we have seen to such a much needed council.

I was "in" the Charismatic Movement for 9 years, from March of '74 to sometime in 1983. I never spoke in tongues. It was my understanding from the Bible that all the gifts of the Spirit were determined and distributed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If the Lord had wanted me to speak in tongues at any time He would have so equipped me; He never did, though I sought that gift with tears.

The pressure to speak in tongues was pretty heavy upon me. I had precious brothers who "spoke in tongues" into my ears (and I do mean "into my ears") hoping I would hear them and at least imitate the sounds I was hearing. After a while they gave up. They still loved me. But they never again prayed for me to receive/feign that gift. *I did learn to fake it and it sounded really good and authentic. I repeated my "tongue" for years in my little circle of charismatic friends. I can do it to this day. My tongue was based on Shoney's restaurant...seriously. I wanted desparately to fit in.

I survived my years in the Charismatic Movement by the grace of God who had indeed gifted me with an overwhelming and consuming love of His Son, His people, the lost, and His written word. I consumed the word. I was blessed in the Bible and memorized many, many verses for my personal edification and the building up of the faith of my friends and many others. My charismatic friends were at least impressed with my growing knowledge of Scripture and my nascent theology. I was pretty satisfied myself.

I was used of the Spirit to participate in the evangelizing of many with whom I came in contact. My heart longed to see people saved. But this wasn't listed (in the minds of the charismatics) as one of the spectacular gifts that they deemed necessary as proof of my being "filled with the Spirit." My calling wasn't to see unbelievers, or believers for that matter, "baptized in the Holy Ghost." My heart was set on knowing Him and making Him known (with apologies to my Alma Mater, Columbia Bible College) and enjoying Him forever. And I in no way ever felt superior to my charismatic friends. In fact, during those 9 years I felt inferior to them because I didn't speak in tongues publicly and never quite fit in.

During the mid to late '70's the Charismatic Movement gave birth to what came to be known as the "Word Faith Movement" and the likes of Jim Bakker, Kenneth Hagen, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Their acceptance by charismatics was the beginning of my separation from the Charismatic Movement. These people were clearly false teachers and false prophets focused on their own wealth and fame and I could not for the life of me understand how my friends and brothers and sisters at church couldn't see it. I told my pastor that the folks at PTL were playing games and twisting the word of God but he defended them. I cautioned others about the Word Faith Movement and this brought about a rift that exists to this day.

Through the influence of a good friend, I had been introduced to the writings of E.W. Kenyon and found them to be interesting but questionable. I read 3 or 4 of his books and threw them away. When Copeland came on the scene I heard the voice of Kenyon in Kenneth Copeland's teachings; it was nothing less than plagiarism.

These were the days of the "big guns" of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Oral Roberts, Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, etc., etc. It was actually a pretty exciting time to be a Christian with all the new stuff that was popping up everday. I examined much of what was going on, listening to new ideas over the radio and watching the popular teachers of that time on television. But my excitement was tempered and quenched by what was clearly blatantly false teachings and false prophecies. It was during these days that "being slain in the spirit" came into vogue. And it was this phenomenon that caused me to finally say enough is too much. I left the movement (I was never really a part of it) in 1983 after participating in a Sunday morning "come get your miracle" service in the mountains of North Carolina.





 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is faith in Jesus a gift? Or is it simply a choice?

It's both.

The real question, for me at least, is "which comes first, the gift or the choice?"

We do in fact "choose" to "call upon the name of the Lord" that we might be saved. And we call upon the name of the Lord Jesus because we have heard the gospel, by the grace of God, and we have believed the gospel, by the grace of God. So before we call we believe (Romans 10:1-17; Eph. 2:1-10).

Faith is first the gift of God. Just as His grace is a gift; just as the Holy Spirit is a gift (Acts 2:38-39; Rom. 5:4).

Upon hearing the gospel, those who believe do so because the Holy Spirit has quickened them, given them life and understanding of the message of the Cross ("light"), and so moved upon their hearts that they freely and joyfully "choose" to trust Jesus (Jn. 6:44, 63; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). This is nothing less than being raised unto life from the dead (the point Paul makes in Rom. 6:1-11; Eph. 2:1-3 and in 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

We are all born "dead in our trespasses and sins," enslaved to sin and the sin nature and can only pick and choose within that spiritual sphere in which we once lived (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:10-17). The spiritually dead cannot rise to the place where they can break out of their spiritual sphere of existence except by the gracious intervention of God. And even then millions will say no to the Holy Spirit as He works with and in the preaching of the gospel. This is the negative side of what is called "free will." The dead do indeed have free will but it is limited to their spiritual sphere of existence. They are slaves of sin and Satan and are only freed from their deadness by the grace of God. The dead cannot choose life except God gives them life and light and faith (Eph. 2:1-13).

We can plant and water the seed through preaching the gospel but it is ultimately God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:1-11). "Let those who boast, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:30-31).





 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Under the Knife: My Open-Heart Surgery and the Fear of the Lord" Part 1

Over the last few years I have boasted of my "excellent health." I've told many of my friends and acquaintances that I'm in great shape and my blood pressure proves it. I somehow forgot that I've been on blood pressure meds for years now. The only thing I admitted was that "I am a bit overweight." Yeah, right. Try 30 pounds overweight.

Several months ago I began having pains in my upper right chest and in my right arm. At times these pains were so bad they were scary. But I kept telling myself that it was nothing. This was a daily experience for around 3 months. I didn't know that I was knocking on death's door.

While I was on vacation with my family in Jacksonville, Fla., my children became very concerned when I had to sit down after simply walking into the surf. The first Monday we were back home my 2 daughters and my son-in-law called me and demanded that I make an appointment with my doctor. I did that very moment they called. He saw me that day and the rest, as they say is history.

I had an "abnormal" stress test result and was referred to a cardiologist. After a catheter revealed 3 blockages, one very bad, I was set up for surgery almost immediately. I was pretty stunned by all this. After all, I was in excellent health. My pain was probably just a pulled muscle ... or somethin.' It turned out it was "somethin.'" As it turned out, I had to have quadruple by-pass surgery.

By the grace of my heavenly Father, and only by His grace, I never once experienced the fear of dying. He granted me grace of all sorts. Grace for suffering physically, grace for dying, grace for trusting the surgeon and his staff, and grace for future stuff. He also granted me grace in seeing my foolish boasting about everything in my life as though I were the "the Captain of my soul; the Master of my fate." The revelation that came to me through all of this was that I am one prideful little man. And prideful people do not know "the fear of the Lord."

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" Ps. 111:10
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" Pro. 1:7
"The fear of the Lord prolongs life" Pro. 10:27

There are several other occurrences of this wonderful and powerful phrase, "the fear of the Lord," that you should check out. They are all equally important and applicable to every disciple of Jesus.
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right?

It's pretty obvious, isn't it? I disagree with John MacArthur's dispensationalist interpretation of the present work of the Holy Spirit. That's all it is. I just disagree with him on this vital issue.

From my study of the word of God (like Paul, I too think I have the Holy Spirit) I see no Biblical support for the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the last apostle or whomever died. MacArther interprets "perfect" in 1 Corintians 13:8 as a reference to the Canon of Scripture, the Bible. He teaches that once we had the Bible as we now have it there was no longer a need for the spiritual gifts. In fact, I see more Scriptural evidence to the contrary.

Let me provide at this point passages that give us the gifts mentioned in the New Testament as specifically being identified as gifts of the Spirit or simply as gifts given to the church without being referred to as "gifts of the Spirit."

Romans 12:6-9 6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills...1 Corinthians 12:27-30 27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

Ephesians 4:11-13 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10-11 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 3:5 5 Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
The church of Jesus Christ, the church of God, would not exist and cannot function apart from the presence and work of the Person of the Holy Spirit. The true church does indeed have the Holy Spirit.
 
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church which is His body. The Trinity delegated a particular work to the Holy Spirit, that of drawing the ungodly to His Son through the preaching of the gospel, baptizing everyone who by the grace of God comes to faith in Jesus Christ into His body, and then gifting each individual in His body with gifts that glorify God and edify the body and the individual. The works of glorifying God and edifying the body will not cease until God says the time has come, that "great and terrible Day of the Lord."


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right? Part 2

Fads come and fads go. But not God; but not the Holy Spirit.

The "Jesus Movement" of the '60's crossed paths with the Charismatic Movement; they were not the same thing. The Jesus Movement was false Christianity at its best. "God is Love. Love is God." "Make Love, Not War." The '60's culture meshed religion and politics together so well one couldn't tell where one began and the other ended. The hippy anti-war movement loved God as long as they thought love is God; as long as they thought God is love said everything about God.

The Charismatic Movement with its emphasis on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit at least made an attempt to get us focused on Someone other than ourselves. It didn't work. But it certainly got us talking and thinking about the third Person of the Trinity. However, "talking and thinking" about the Spirit is only as sound as is the commitment to the word of God of those who are talking and thinking about the Spirit. Charismatics tended to make things up as they went along.

Songs about the Holy Spirit were popular back then and some of them were great. Songs about the Lord Jesus and "Jehovah" were sung in many churches around the world. And that was good. Those songs were simple and shallow and easy to memorize but in the final analysis they contributed little to the true body of Christ. The churches that identified as charismatic were as full of corruption and error as any of the traditional churches they shunned. I still sing some of those old songs and love them. But that's only because by the grace of God I was justified and graced with a tremendous hunger for the word of God and His Son from day one.

Spiritual songs minister to spiritual people. They simply entertain those in the church who are not.

Back in the day we would visit churches recommended by my charismatic friends because these congregations were "Spirit filled." In most of them there would be a time when dozens of charismatics would be "praying in tongues" aloud. That is very much opposed to what the apostle Paul said was right in the church concerning the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-13, 27-31; 14:1-5, 13-40).

I believe that the gifts of the Spirit continue. They have certainly been abused and misunderstood and feigned, but that does not by any means negate the authentic manifestations of those gifts.

The church of God is supposed to be excited and expectant and eager about all that God has done for us and in us and is still doing today. Else why would Paul pray for the Ephesians (and we can pray for our churches) that they might know the fullness of the Spirit and God? (Eph. 1:15-20 and 3:14-19). Remember, beloved, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That, of course, includes every passage concerning the gifts of the Spirit. We are not free to pick and choose gifts for ourselves and our brethren. That's the Trinity's work.

I hope and pray that John MacArthur's conference, "Strange Fire," is effective in calling out the heretics and the heresies so prevalent in out time. I also pray that God might visit those attending with His overwhelming presence.
 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right?

One of my favorite pastor/theologians, Dr. John MacArthur, has announced and is currently promoting his upcoming conference, "Strange Fire," that will focus on the plethora of heresies currently infecting the visible church and through the infected church the world around it. This is very much like what I have suggested many times needs to be done.

This conference very well could have been in the vein of the councils of the early church fathers where heretics and their damnable heresies were called out and condemned. However, there is a twist to Dr. MacArthur's plan in that his denial of the present working of the Holy Spirit and in particular the more spectacular of His gifts, is almost as heretical as those charismatics he rightly condemns.

John Piper has recently said in an interview that "the absence of God has become normal." I would add to that; the absence of the Holy Spirit, or rather, the willful ignoring of the Person and continuing work of the Holy Spirit has become normal and preferred. Dr. MacArthur doesn't by any means deny the essential nature and indwelling presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. He does, however, teach an unscriptural view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are genuinely born again.

In our culture the absence of God is simply the manifestation of man's separation from God. To be absent from God or for God to be absent from man is the state of all who are not in Christ. We are all born "dead in our trespasses and sins," separated from our Creator. Life comes only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, that faith itself being a gift of God that is given to us by the Holy Spirit and only by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 2:4-10; Jn. 6:63).

The Charismatic Movement was exciting and fun for those of us who were caught up in it 40+ years ago. It was so much fun that we forgot to check with God to see if what we were witnessing was His doing. Most of it was not.

I became a lover of the word of God upon my conversion in March of '74. I was surrounded by young charismatics, men and women barely out of high school who were woefully ignorant of the word of God.

Speaking in tongues, healings of all kinds (for some reason it became popular to have legs lengthened during these days of carnival like meetings) and prophesying were all the rage in the circles in which I walked. However, I began to see early in my walk that what was going on in the charismatic assemblies I visited didn't "line up" with what I was reading in the Bible. It took me 9 years to finally say enough is too much, but in 1983 I made my break with the Charismatic Movement.

The Charismatic Movement with its scripture twisting leaders, opened the door for the most bizarre and ridiculous teachings and behaviors the visible church has witnessed in its 2,000+ year history (Benny Hinn, the Copelands, Kenneth Hagin, and Jesse Duplantis come to mind). The danger for those of us who love the Lord Jesus, His written word, and the Holy Spirit, as John MacArthur indeed does, is that we will go to great extremes to counter the damnable heresies and abuses we see in the Movement as we attempt to close the door it opened.

Our theological presuppositions must not override our interpretation and application of Scripture or the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
 

Friday, August 9, 2013

"You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." The Christian and temptation: Conclusion

"You're about to do something that you're really going to regret. And you're probably going to do it anyway even while knowing the outcome, guilt and regret." That's why people say to us and others, "You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." We are all train wrecks looking for someplace to happen.

The allurement of certain sins, i.e., temptations, those that have a particular draw for each of us, are like that, they are alluring. They appeal to our remaining corruption, our flesh, our old man. And they are individualized in that not all temptations have the same power in the lives of every believer. What can bring one Christian down will have no effect on another. And should we fail to check ourselves by recognizing the very real threat that stands before us, we will give in.

We are being "overcome" by this particular temptation, sexual lust, gossip about a friend, using your favorite profanity (profanity in the Biblical sense), lying about why you did something or didn't do something you were supposed to do, etc., etc. The mental wrangling over an attractive temptation with its accompanying physical feelings with their deceptive and lying promises of pleasure and satisfaction/fulfillment/vindication, is the factor that clinches the deal. You do it. Then you're sorry you did ... hopefully.

And there's not a righteous man on earth who doesn't sin, who doesn't give in to his or her temptations on a regular basis. The good news is that God provided for every sin, every failure the disciple of Christ has and will face. He knew full well that we were going to sin after being justified through faith in Christ and took that into account "before time began," "before the foundation of the world."

This is the Scriptural way of saying check yourself, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

CONTEXT

Don't you wonder sometimes why so-and-so said what he said? If you stop and give the conversation some thought and check the context of that conversation you can often answer your own question. "What did I say, if anything, that may have triggered his response?" "What is going on in his life that contributed to his rather tort remarks?"

Why did the apostle Paul write these words to the church? Context answers our question. Notice the word "therefore" at the beginning of this verse. That word points us back to v.1 and what follows.

We're being reminded that we're no different than the Hebrews who came out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God; we can succumb to the same temptations that brought them down.

We're blessed of the Holy Spirit? So were they. We walk with God's gifts and guidance and provisions? So did they. We have God's word preached to us by men of God? So did they. However, there is a huge difference between those rebellious Jews and you and me. They fell because of unbelief. Those of us who really do belong to Jesus can never fall into apostasy as they did.

But we can fall into similar sins to the point that God might take us away from here. And that ain't good, beloved. Cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-32; 1 Jn. 5:16-17. This doesn't refer to the loss of one's relationship with God the Father. What is born of God cannot be lost, referring to the inner man. It is a warning about the very real possibility of one losing one's physical life on account of sin.

So lets do it. Lets check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." The Christian and temptations: Part 1

Ok, ok. It's a phrase that came to mind this morning and I thought it would be a great title for a blog post. It's kinda like what my preaching professors warned against, coming across a great illustration and building a sermon around it rather than getting one's sermons from the word of God. "Hey, that's a great story. I'll bet I can find some Scripture to go with it." Sounds good but tends to be a very careless way to construct a sermon.

But that cute little phrase, coined by a black American a decade or so ago, has a good word for every believer in Jesus Christ. And I've found a couple of really good Bible verses to go with it. *Put a smiley face here.

First, James 1:12-16, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives  birth to sin'; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."

That's it. That's the Biblical equivalent of "you betta check yoself before you wreck yoself."

Let me make you aware of just how common it is and always has been to think that we are getting away with sin and it's God's fault.

James concludes this little section with these words of warning, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." That phrase, "do not be deceived," is what we Greek scholars (:)) refer to as a "negated present imperative." It is a command, but not just any command. It is a command to stop doing something you're currently doing. Here James is saying to his beloved brethren, "stop being deceived into believing that you can't help but sin because God is the one tempting you to sin. It's His fault. It can't be so bad if God is behind my temptations." Oh, brethren, you need to check yourselves before you wreck yourselves. The end of this is death, physical death.

Now, verses 17 and 18, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."

The chief of God's good gifts is the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is through our working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the written word of God and other believers in the body of Christ that we are being sanctified following His initial work of sanctification in each of our lives (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11). We are set apart by God for His purposes (initial sanctification) and are in the lifelong process of sanctification. And in this process we are assured that God is for us and not against us. He never ever tempts us, rather He helps us.

In part 2 we will go to 1 Corinthians 10:11-14.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Freedom of Walking in the Spirit: Galatians 5:16 (in context)


In Galatians 5 and verse 16, we find a verse that is too often misinterpreted and misapplied. We make those errors because we fail to consider the context of that powerful and liberating verse. The proper interpretation and application of this verse can liberate the believer from the burden that teachers and preachers and sometimes we ourselves put on us. It simply doesn't say what we think it says.

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."

Doesn't that sound like if we "walk in the Spirit" we will be free from sin? Doesn't that sound like a guarantee that walking in the Spirit can bring us to the place where we will sin no more? Well, it says no such thing. It is not guaranteeing us that we can be free from lust.

First, look at the context. See the word "then?" It keeps us connected to what Paul has been saying up to this point. And what Paul has been saying is that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the hearing of the gospel alone. Our justification, the act of God alone whereby He proclaims us right with Him, righteous, is not based on our keeping the law or on any supposed good works that we may think we have done, but solely on His gracious and finished work of redeeming us by the blood of Christ and His bringing us to faith in Christ (Jn. 6:44; 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

And what was the problem in Galatia? The Galatian believers (and fence straddlers) had been told by those whom we know as the "Judaziers" that if they wanted to be truly justified they must believe in Jesus AND keep the law of Moses; they had to now be circumcised.

Their argument centered around Abraham. Abraham was circumcised. Circumcision was the sign and seal of the covenant. All Jewish males had to be circumcised. Gentiles must become sons of Abraham by following his example in circumcision. It's the only way to be truly justified before God. This teaching amounts to a false gospel, a "different gospel, which is not another" and is a damnable heresy (1:6-9). The remaining words of this letter argue for justification by faith alone.

I have heard pastors (modern day Judaizers) say from the pulpit that if you aren't tithing, you aren't saved. It is a common heresy in Protestant and evangelical churches; it is a different gospel. It is no less damnable than telling believers that they must be circumcised. It is preaching justification by works. And those who buy into it are no less culpable (5:1-4).

The unregenerate in the visible church love having something to do in order to assure their salvation. Believers, those who are truly born again but ignorant find the you-must-tithe-in-order-to-be-saved doctrine appealing as well. Both the saved and the unsaved need to hear the message of Galatians lest the gospel be lost (2:1-5).

Second, "then" points us back to verse 14 and a particular word that connects us to all that Paul has been arguing thus far, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." No, it's not the word "love;" it's the word "law."

Love certainly is essential in the Christian's life. And love is the solution to the problem Paul addressed in verses 13-15. But the one central theme of this letter, as I stated above, is how one is justified. "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Remember that this is God's law, not man's. Paul has already said that no man, Jew or Gentile, can be justified by keeping the law (2:11-21). He says here in 5:14 to the members of the churches in Galatia that all the law as one who has been justified by grace through faith is fulfilled by loving your neighbor as yourself. The apostle of grace isn't saying that one is justified by loving one's neighbor, but rather if you really want to do something lawful, then try doing that by serving one another in love.

We who have been justified by the grace of God who brought us to faith in Jesus Christ are to love our neighbors. But our loving our neighbors isn't what makes us right with God, it is the result of our having been justified.


 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Once Justified, Always Justified. God is so amazingly gracious to us.


A STUNNING REVELATION 2: Part 2 “OUR ABSOLUTELY HOLY GOD JUSTIFIES THE ABSOLUTELY UNGODLY”

That absolutely blows my mind! And what's more amazing is that after our justification and we continue to sin, He doesn't take our justification back. And if you honestly think He does or He can, it's because you think that holy God is like you or one or both of your parents or a “friend” you once had who broke off your friendship because of something you did that they didn't like. Beloved, God is soooo not like us.

THINKING ON THE WRONG LEVEL

My relationship with my daddy was based totally on my behavior. Totally. The beatings my brother and I endured during our formative years came solely because daddy didn't like us and found it easy to hit us or kick us or slap us or beat us with his belt over any little thing like getting his hunting boots wet. Seriously. If I thought God was like him I'd end it all right now. Why not!

My daddy was not God. I'm not my daddy. God loves me with an everlasting love that I cannot for the life of me fully understand. It is this beyond-understanding kind of love that God has toward me that lets me know and see through a glass dimly His nature and His mercy and His grace every time I sin as His child. It really does blow my human mind. It goes against everything my old corrupt self thinks is right and fair.

I have, as a pastor, talked with a woman or two who were being physically abused by their unregenerate husbands. I saw first hand what I have heard psychologists say when they addressed abused wives, these women believe that they deserve the beatings.

Do they? Of course not! It's no different now for those who are in Christ when we believe that we deserve to be kicked out of God's family because we sin. And, again, we think that because we are convinced that God is like one of us.

Now to really blow your mind and I pray to seal the deal, lets take a look at just who it is that God so loves and has once and for all justified.

WHAT DID THE UNGODLY LOOK LIKE THE MOMENT PRECEDING THEIR JUSTIFICATION?

What did you look like just before you were saved by the grace of God while you were hearing the gospel?

Were you a “good person” who just didn't know Jesus? Many of the ungodly consider themselves good people. You know, of course, that even the best of us, those who are morally upright, are just as ungodly as the worst of us apart from Christ.

Were you an adulterer? Were you a homosexual? A liar? Lazy? A drunkard? Were you promiscuous (a “fornicator”)? Did you “do” drugs? Were you a greedy person, a covetous person who is an idolator? No matter what you were like before you were justified, God chose to justify you anyway. And He didn't ask you to keep any rules or laws before He could or would do it. We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, through hearing the gospel alone, for God's glory alone.

The moment I was saved the thought of having to do something in order to get saved never entered my mind. I knew it was God's doing. I knew I was saved by the grace and mercy of God as soon as I saw who the Son of God is.

As I sat at the table where God was unbeknownst to me drawing me to faith in His Son, my soul, my mind, my heart, my spirit, my inner man was captivated with the good news that Jesus had done for me what was impossible for me to do.

I had used the lame argument with the young lady who was presenting the gospel to me that I wasn't ready to be saved and go to church. That's pretty lame, isn't it? “I'm not ready yet.” Right. And then speaking by the Holy Spirit, that 19 year old girl said the words that God used to change my life, “Without Jesus you can't be ready.”

With the exception of homosexuality, I committed every sin listed above. I was ungodly to the extreme. But there wasn't a word in the gospel that morning telling me to first stop drinking or drugs or smoking or fornicating before I could get saved. No. It was all of God and all of grace. He justified me after He revealed Himself to me through the gospel. It was all His doing.

Think about it. I was “dead in trespasses and sins.” I was spiritually dead. I couldn't have done anything to get myself ready. Dead people never can. It takes the miracle of God intervening in the nature of man to bring about true repentance and life and faith in Jesus. And that's how God justifies the ungodly, He intervenes by and through the Person of the Holy Spirit who gives us life and light and faith in Jesus. Period.

The Greek word for “ungodly” (avsebh/) should open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds to the amazing grace of God. The meaning and application of this word should instill within every believer more than just a sense of gratitude but a reverential awe of God and a true fear of God. This word will help us understand just how vile humanity is and just how gracious and merciful and patient God is. And if anyone can walk away saying to himself “I'm not vile! I was never such a wicked person!”, then you are calling God a liar and the truth is not in you.

Here is the meaning of this word, “ungodly:”

destitute of reverential awe of God,
profane,
enemies of God,
wicked,
evil,
godless,
contemning God.

I will add this to our definition of ungodly from Scripture:

spiritually dead,
separated from God,
dead in trespasses and sins,
sons of disobedience,
blinded by and led by the devil,
living according to the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air,
living according to the lusts of the flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
by nature children of wrath,
those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

All who by the grace of God have come to faith in Jesus Christ upon hearing the gospel and being made alive by the Holy Spirit have been justified of all things. That is amazing!

STUNNING REVELATION 3: GOD HAS JUSTIFED US OF ALL SIN

That's right, we have been justified of 'ALL SIN.”

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,

Ok, now ask yourself, what would it take for holy God to be able to call the ungodly justified and righteous? What would it take for God to be able to justly declare His enemies, the wicked, the profane, the unrighteous, right with Him without Him compromising His holiness and integrity? Look at this verse from the letter to the Hebrews.

First, the writer reminds the readers that they have heard the gospel, “the things we have heard” (4:1-2). Then he exhorts them to earnestly consider the gospel lest any Jew among them give in to the temptation to return to the law. Then he presents a remarkable truth, “every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” That's why the author pleads with the doubting Jews to think about what they're thinking about doing and consider what has been done on their behalf.

This is what Jesus was saying when He said from the cross, “It is finished.” Every sin, every transgression, every trespass, every disobedience was then paid for. There is absolutely nothing for the ungodly to do in order to be justified; it was all done for us by Jesus. His perfect life, His suffering, His death and resurrection did all that God demanded be done by man. He did it for us because we couldn't.

Now check out the following few verses:

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,...9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Now seriously, do you honestly think God is like us? Are you beginning to understand how Holy God Almighty can justly justify the ungodly? He's God.