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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.

Not Charismatic; Not Pentecostal: Christian ... and utterly Scriptural.

The Charismatic Movement was fun. But that's about all it was.

I made some good friends during my years in the CM and I'm still in touch with some of them. However, I came to see the shallowness, the phoniness, and the false teachings in that movement as I got more involved in it. I knew from day one that much of what was going on was way off base. People feigning "tongues" and "prophesying" and "being slain in the Spirit" finally forced me to make a decision. And so I left the movement after 9 years. But my love for the people and above all for my Lord and Savior Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the written word have only grown stronger and deeper since leaving.

I have come to a more mature understanding of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit and it's summed up by "let Him do what He wants to do in you." His work will always be in accordance and certainly not contrary to the written word. However, He will do works in the believer that are personal "words" to that individual as He wills for any given moment.

For instance, I once saw a dear brother in the Lord with whom I was supposed to have lunch that day talking to a young lady outside the restaurant. I walked up just close enough to be able to hear yet not so close as to distract either of them. When I heard them say something about the Lord I discerned the problem that my brother hadn't seen yet. I moved closer til I was standing there with them and I asked David if I could ask the girl a question. While she was professing to be a Christian the Holy Spirit told me that she was not. I asked her, "Do you believe that Jesus is Lord, raised from the dead?" She said, "No, I just can't believe that." David was stunned. He said, "Oooh, that's what's wrong." Call it what you will, a "word of knowledge" or the "discerning of spirits," it was a work of the Holy Spirit given directly to me. It happens. The Lord speaks to His people. (1 Cor. 12:4-13)

The Spirit filled and Spirit led believer is not Charismatic or Pentecostal, he or she is living according to the word of God and the will of the Father and the Son.

There is no reason, absolutely no reason to believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of God, the gifts of the Lord have ceased. Are they abused and faked? Yes, they are. But are the gifts themselves real and relevant? Yes, they are.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"The Lord told me." And other possibilities for the believer.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times in my 39 plus years as a Christian. A brother or sister in Christ (they profess faith in Christ) tells me "The Lord told me that I'm to..." and who am I to say He didn't? I do have my doubts about most of what I hear as "a word from the Lord," especially when it involves trite things as a parking space or where to sit in the mall food court. However, when someone tells me or a media audience that the Lord told them something about the near future I pay attention. Not because I believe them but because I'm going to wait for this event to take place ... or not.

By far, most of what I've heard has been innocuous little things like the Lord told someone to read a certain passage in the Bible this morning. Or the Lord told someone to get busy doing something or a rather. These words are generally rather vague and harmless even when the brother or sister says the Lord told them whatever it was they were impressed to do or say and it doesn't happen. I don't see these folks as false prophets, just as immature and needy. If it is a habit to hear false words then I get concerned.

But, at the same time it is true that the Lord does indeed speak to us in our hearts, our minds, our spirits, whatever interchangeable term one prefers. And He has always worked this way, both in His children as well as in unbelievers through whom He chooses to manifest and glorify Himself.

In the book of Acts, chapter 11, v.51, speaking of Caiaphas, the Holy Spirit spoke through this high priest and prophesied of the death of Christ. These Jewish leaders were plotting how best to kill Jesus at the time of his prophesy and God spoke to him and through him for His purpose and glory.

Again, in Acts 11, a prophet named Agabus spoke a word from the Lord concerning a soon to come famine. And time would fail me to tell about the other prophets who brought a word to Paul and the church and the vision of Peter on the house top.

The Holy Spirit does indeed put things "on our hearts" He wants us to do or say, and many times we have no Scripture to quote at the time, we just know. Remember how God put work on the heart of Ezra and Nehemiah?

Once when my wife and I were preparing to move to Bible college in the '80's, we were financially strapped, which became a way of life for us in college and seminary. Anyway, on a particular Sunday evening as we were about to walk out the door to go to church, my wife let me know how stressed out she was because we needed a certain amount of money to make ends meet that week. It wasn't much. But we needed it.

I said "Lets pray for it, then." And we did. We had no more gotten on our knees than I received peace and assurance that the Lord was going to meet that need that night. I said, "That's it. Lets go." She was puzzled and wondered why I hadn't spent more time on my knees. And I told her.

Without having said a word to a soul at church, a woman came over to my wife and told her that the Lord had told her to give us a check. And, that's right, it was for the exact amount we had prayed for. That's a true story from our lives.

Beloved, God does speak to us. God does give us a word. God does give us faith to do and say things for His glory and our good. They aren't straight from the Bible but they don't contradict it. And when they come to pass we can rest assured that we have heard from the Lord.

We must remember, however, to exercise discernment and test all things. "Do not despise prophesying."
 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Holy Spirit then and now?

There is no difference.

In fact, the question may be an oxymoron. The Holy Spirit is eternal by His very nature and essence. To propose that there is legitimately a "then and now" with the Holy Spirit is to inject a false dichotomy into the conversation. Or, at best, to ask such a question might plant such dichotomous seeds in the minds of our hearers.


The Holy Spirit who "hovered" above the land in Genesis 1:1 lives in everyone who has by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus Christ.

He is as powerful a creative and change agent today as He was then. God is never diminished. Never.

He is free to work among both the unregenerate as well as the regenerate. He doesn't have to line up with any man-made theology, even really good theology. But good theology will always line up with Him. That's what makes good theology good.


Liberal unbelieving theologians in "enlightened" Europe were the ones who proposed the theory of the "closed universe," the ridiculous notion that God basically cannot do anything in the earth now; it is closed off from Him by His doing. Therefore He no longer works miracles. And the gifts of the Spirit are relegated to the first century. Liberal theologians lived and died in this heresy.
 
Practically no one believes that anymore. However, cessationists come very close. And by teaching that the gifts of the Spirit are not for our time they are inadvertently, or, in some instances, advertently encouraging their listeners/readers to practice closed universe theology. I've seen this fleshed out many, many times in certain circles.
 
By denying the active and continuing ministry of the Spirit, the visible church has been reduced to a mere shadow of what it is supposed to be. Sunday morning worship is for millions all there is to it in the Christian life. And daily living in a manner worthy of our calling is to raise the bar too high.
 
 
The Holy Spirit still speaks to men and women of God not only through His written word but directly into the hearts and minds of these servants, never going against what is revealed in Holy Scripture. If we can no longer expect to speak words inspired by the Spirit from the pulpit and on the street, how can there be any life-changing words found in this fallen world? Where then is the hope for redemption among those who are living sad and pitiable lives?

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Problem With Joel Osteen

For 27 years I lived without hope, separated from God without even realizing the state of my soul. That's the way dead people live. The spiritually dead, those separated from God, may love religion but that is the extent of their spiritual experience.

After years and years of drinking and getting drunk beginning in the 9th grade, and after years of living a life of promiscuity and drug abuse, God Himself brought me to my divine appointment with the gospel. The Holy Spirit gave me life and light and faith on that day and changed my mind about who Jesus is and how I was to live my life.

I knew then that Jesus is the Son of God. I knew in that glorious moment that Jesus had died for me, Johnny T. Helms, and I was overwhelmed with His love and mercy and grace. I experienced true peace on that day, something I had never known before.

I was acutely aware that day that God the Father knew me perfectly and yet saved me anyway. I was ashamed but at the same time aware that God loved me anyway. And I knew that I was actually going to go to heaven when I died because I was now a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. And I knew on that day that until the day of my death came I was going to walk with the Lord Jesus, centering my life on Him, seeking to glorify Him and save those who were yet in the spiritual state I had been in for 27 years.

I knew without anyone explaining to me that all that had just happened on that day was of grace and nothing more. It is all of God and all of grace.

My theology was "baby theology." I knew only what I had experienced. And I began desiring "the sincere milk of the word" in order to be spiritually nourished with baby Christian food.

That was over 39 years ago. Since that day in March of '74 I have grown in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and to this day feed on the meat of the word of God. And beginning on that day in '74, I have been telling others the good news that changed my life and set me free.

The gospel is not about us, it involves us but it is about Jesus Christ and the grace and mercy of God the Father. We are to exalt Him, not ourselves or those around us. And that's my problem with Joel Osteen. He exalts in himself and man.

Osteen offers, not a gospel that saves souls and glorifies God, but a false gospel that trivializes the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the sinfulness of man. He has deceived and is deceiving millions of people who either attend his "church" or watch him on television or read his books by preaching a man-centered message that says that fallen man can do all that needs to be done without God. If anyone can "prophesy" his future and "create" material things just by speaking them into existence, who needs God? Have you read "I Declare"?

No one is saved or can be saved apart from the true gospel. Joel Osteen's entire ministry is apart from the gospel. How many millions think they are right with God but are on the broadway because they have been deceived with the help of Joel Osteen? He is leading them to eternal damnation with his bank account full and a big smile on his face.

And that's my problem with Joel Osteen.
 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Amazing (and a bit disconcerting) Grace:" Romans 7:24-8:4. Conclusion

Everything that God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit has done for the glory and pleasure of God centers on the perfect work of the Son.

Everything God has done and is doing for His glory and pleasure is done for the eternal good, glory, and pleasure of His children. We are to delight ourselves in Him. "At His right hand there are pleasures evermore." God has raised us up with Jesus and made us to sit in Him at His right hand.

There is no pleasure in God's children when we live defeated lives because of our sins and our remaining sinfulness. If that describes you then you are missing the pleasures that God has instore for all of His elect. He has given us richly all things to enjoy. Lets enjoy them.

THE lesson of Paul's letters to the Romans and the Galatians is simple yet profound, "justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, through hearing the gospel alone, for God's glory alone." Anything else man does trying to justify himself is vain and damnable. To seek self-justification is to spit in the face of the Crucified One, to crucify Him over again, and to trample under foot the precious blood of the Lamb.

Self-justification is to exalt man and not God.

The blessings for those who by God's grace have come to faith in Jesus Christ are innumerable (Eph. 1:3). And one of those blessings is our glorification. Our glorification is one of the chief "now and not yet" kind of blessings. Rom. 5:2; 8:*18, 21, 30; Col. 1:27, to cite just a few. What was lost in the Garden was regained on the Cross. We no longer "fall short of the glory of God" on account of our being baptized into His body by the Holy Spirit.

Another tremendous blessing that we ignore to our hurt is the "liberty" we have in Christ Jesus because we are under grace and not the law. This wonderful truth is inseparable from and part and parcel with our verses in Romans 7:24-8:4. It's part of the truth that Paul drives home emphatically to the churches in Galatia who were being seduced by the notorious and damnable Judaizers (Gal. 5:1).

His word to the churches is God's word to us today, "It Is Finished!" There is nothing left for us to do concerning our former sinfulness or our remaining sinfulness. Confess that we sin, that we have sin, that we have sinned and be done with it.

Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh that tries to convince you that you must pay for your sins by keeping the law or punishing yourself. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."




 

"Amazing (and a bit disconcerting) Grace:" Romans 7:24-8:4: Part 2

Grace is so utterly amazing that at times it seems that God doesn't care if we sin.

But we know He does. Under grace, however, God's concern over our sins is no longer focused on how we handle our sins but on how He has handled our sins. And He has handled them on our behalf by paying for them on our behalf once and for all through the life, obedience, suffering, death and resurrection of His Son. God is absolutely satisfied.

Sure there is a right way and a wrong way for Christians to handle their sins. The right way is to confess them and rest in His cleansing and forgiveness. The wrong way is to either deny that we have sinned or to try to pay for them ourselves. The wrong way is the way of the flesh and may reveal that one who denies or tries is yet unregenerate (1 Jn. 1:5-10). The right way agrees with what God says about our sins. That's what the word "confess" means in the 1 John context, "to say the same thing about our sins that God says about our sins."

This is why I have titled this series "Amazing (and a bit disconcerting) Grace:" God designed the Christian life to be one of "the now and the not yet" as He intentionally leaves us in such a state that we are at the same time "born again" and yet occupants of dead, flesh and blood mortal bodies that are corrupt and corruptible and under the sway of sin and temptation. That is Romans chapters 6 through 7 in a nutshell.

Read along with me very carefully and prayerfully from Romans 7:24-8:4:

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh (I myself serve) the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what  the law could not do in that is was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

By the apostle's words we can see that a deliverance has taken place. He asks "who will deliver me from (literally) the body of this death?" And he answers in such a way that we must not miss the truth that his prayers, and ours, have been answered by God through His finished work in Jesus Christ our Lord. We have been delivered from "this body of death," or, "from the body of this death," this death referring to our former lives in the flesh with its all encompassing separation from God and its consequences and the very annoying present state we all still experience because of our flesh.

Note this essential truth that we may have missed all together: Because we have in truth been delivered from the body of this death with our deliverance being a perfect deliverance, we are now free from any former threat of God's wrath and condemnation. That is God's word to us.

Note this essential truth that we find almost impossible to accept: We ourselves still serve with the flesh the law of sin. Pride and the flesh make this truth hard to think about, much less accept as fact. And it is only after saying "So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" that Paul then says "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." We are delivered, fact! We now, under God's grace and in the Spirit, serve the law of God with our renewed minds. But with our flesh we still serve the law of sin. And God ordained it so.

Beloved, our deliverance from this body of death is finished, a done deal. And now even though our flesh and blood, mortal, corrupted and corruptible bodies still serve the law of sin, because of our deliverance from them is final, we are free from condemnation. This makes perfect sense in light of the fact, the essential truth, that we have been delivered from the body of this death once and for all. Now take a minute to check out Romans 8:28-39.
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Amazing (and a bit disconcerting) Grace" Romans 7:24-8:4: Part 1

Like many other Christians, since shortly after my conversion I've wanted to be "sin free;" I've wanted to experience what some of the early American evangelists erroneously taught and called "sinless perfection." Needless to say, that desire has never come to fruition. And it never will as long as we occupy these mortal, dead, flesh and blood bodies. And that is according to Scripture.

Those of us who want to be sin free in this life (and I still carry that burden after 39 years) aren't evil for desiring that, just woefully and painfully ignorant. If anything, we desire something that is contrary to the will, design, and plan of our Creator and Redeemer.

If we were supposed to be sin free after our conversion, we would be. That is not how God meant it to be.

If we had become sin free after conversion, based on what I read in the word of God, we would have taken the glory that is exclusively God's for ourselves. Which would mean that we were never sin free in the first place. We would be like Adam and Eve before the fall. Before they sinned they were sin free only to a point; they had the capacity to sin even when they had not yet sinned. Do we still think that "free will" is a good thing? It was precisely because they had free will that they were able to choose to rebel against God.

Free will was the seed of sin and death.

Free will is never as liberating as we imagine. Nor is it as free as we imagine. Our wills are only as free as the spiritual state we are in. Both in Christ and apart from Christ our wills are limited according to our spiritual state, our spiritual condition. We are either "dead in trespasses and sins" or "alive in Him." In both instances we occupy a flesh and blood body. That in and of itself limits our wills to only doing those things possible in our mortal flesh and whatever Sovereign God determines.

Those who are apart from Christ can and do exercise free will. But it is an exercise that is limited by their being spiritually dead and living in fallen, mortal bodies. One's will can never be exercised outside one's spiritual realm. The dead can only exercise free will within their realm of spiritual deadness. God Himself and only God Himself gives life and light and faith to the dead by His grace upon the elect dead hearing the gospel, repenting, and calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

It takes an act of God to give eternal life to the spiritually dead.

*Who are the "elect?" All who are truly saved. All who are saved are the elect. And God has determined who they (we) are. Here is a great article by John Piper on election.

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Joel Osteen's "I Declare:" A book review: Conclusion

This book, "I Declare," sums up Joel Osteen's philosophy and theology. It is his definitive work. In the 31 meditations contained within plus his introduction and conclusion, we see his heart and soul (Matthew 15:16-20; 16:21-23). We can see his deceptive teachings as well as the fact that he has been sadly deceived himself. Osteen is so blatantly man-centered and so blatantly "me" centered that it boggles the mind how so many people can be fooled by his nonsense.

Jeremiah the prophet wrote this by the Holy Spirit, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" This was spoken in the context of the Lord cursing Judah (Jer. 17:1-11) for his idolatries. Note this in v.5, "Thus says the Lord, 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.'" This should put the fear of the Lord in all who heed Joel Osteen's emphasis on the heart. For Osteen and his dupes, anything they interpret to be a promise of the Lord simply because it is the desire of their hearts is from God. And since Osteen says God gave these dreams and promises He is thereby bound to bring them to pass in their lives exactly as they see it and declare it to be.

On Day Four of Osteen's book, the declaration includes "I declare it is not too late to accomplish everything God has placed in my heart." "Everything God has placed in my heart" means "anything" God has supposedly placed in my heart. Everything/anything I want and everything/anything I want to do has been placed in my heart by God Himself. Take that way of thinking to its logical conclusion and one can understand how false apostles and false teachers and false prophets have declared that the desire of their hearts is for a new, young, and voluptuous wife. Just ask Bishop McLendon and Richard Roberts. It seems that Jeremiah was spot on about the human heart.

This is subjective thinking to the absolute and the absurd. If I want something then I can take it. After all, my "I want's" are from God and translate to a promise of God. And who are you to say they are not? If I want something, anything, I need but declare it, claim it as God's promise to me, and God can then and will then give it to me. And who are you to refute me?

Joel Osteen has so trivialized the word of God (*note how Osteen consistently takes Scripture out of context) and God Himself by making God man-centered by his reduction of God to a mere dream maker till their is no resemblance between Osteen's god and the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible. Osteen's god can only act in our lives (and this is presented in his book in contradictory sayings) when we have internalized our wants, our dreams.

Joel Osteen has to strain to convince his readers that what he says is Biblical. He throws in a Scripture verse here and there, taking them all out of context, making his thoughts sound orthodox. But his followers are too easily convinced; they are willing dupes. No amount of my declaring something to be true makes it true. I do not have that authority or power. And neither does Joel Osteen. This is bumper sticker religion at its worst, "I declare it, God must do it, and that settles it."

Osteen, in each chapter, has put his words in the place of God's word. He puts words in God's mouth. Clearly he does not have God's word in his mouth. His disciples will take his words as gospel truth and memorize them rather than testing them against the real word of God. We have few Bereans these days.

Osteen paints God as a very busy "step 'n fetch it." "What I could not make happen on my own, God will make happen for me" (Day Twenty-One). God will take up my slack?

Day Twenty-Two, pp. 117-118, "I like that saying, 'You've got to fake it until you make it." You may not believe what you declare but you can pretend you do, you can fake it until you make it.

Finally. No where in his book does Pastor Joel Osteen differentiate between those who believe and those who do not believe in Christ. No where in his book does Osteen exalt Jesus Christ the Son of God. No where in this book does Osteen present the gospel in any shape or form. And all through this book Osteen exalts man and man's innate ability to fend for himself if he or she will just declare their wants and needs and dreams. All through this book Osteen portrays God as a divine being who exists not to save sinners from eternal damnation but to meet their every beck and call.

But this is what 21st century man wants to hear. And this is what they're getting.


 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Joel Osteen's "I Declare:" A book review: Part 2

He is without a doubt the most likeable and lovable pastor to ever grace the screens of the world's televisions. He potentially can reach billions of viewers around the planet with his positive talks on how we can all live absolutely amazing and wonderfully blessed lives now. We are, after all, in control of our destinies. That is, according to Joel Osteen we are. What god isn't?

"I DECLARE; I AM"

Years ago after hearing about this young man on tv, I decided to watch him and see what all the buzz was about. The emotions his message evoked within me were very much like those I experienced while watching a poorly made and extremely gory horror movie. I was sickened to my stomach. But, I watched him the next week and for two more weeks after that. It was a very unhealthy time for me, seriously. When he just came right out and said "your words prophesy your future" I turned him off and refrained from watching him for years.

I watched him again recently. He hasn't changed. And I haven't changed.

During an appearance on Oprah's new network, Joel led her audience to stand and declare several "I am" statements from his latest book, "I Declare," at Oprah's behest. You can see that here. Even with a nod to God, one cannot help but notice the man-centeredness of these "great I am's."

 The "Great I Am's" of the Lord Jesus Christ are all emphatic, holy, true, God-centered, and absolute. "I AM the door;" "I AM the Good Shepherd;" "I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." I'm sure Joel didn't mean for his I am's to be those things. I must say, however, I don't know how to take Osteen's "I am's" other than as emphatic absolutes. According to Osteen's own words, those who spoke along with him on the Oprah show are prophesying their futures. I would assume they are doing so emphatically and absolutely. He wouldn't have them do it any other way.

Now to the book.

The Introduction

This is Joel Osteen's thesis statement; he's telling us what he's about to tell us. And he begins with this, "our words have creative power" (p.v). But don't be fooled into thinking that he's speaking of being creative the way artists are, or great speakers are, or the way movie producers and writers are. No, he's actually telling us that like God, we can literally create stuff just by speaking stuff into existence. Good health, for instance.

On p.x of the introduction Osteen tells about "a doctor in Europe" he "read about...who had some very sick patients." Nothing worked on these particular patients so the doctor told them to repeat these words, "I am getting better and better, every day, in every way." And Osteen's understanding of what happened and how it happened: "Over the next few months...all of the sudden, they began to feel better and better. Those words began to create a new image on the inside. Before long, they started seeing themselves strong, healthy, and whole. Once you get a picture of it on the inside God can bring it to pass on the outside."

What's wrong with this picture? Here's what's wrong. First, nothing at all is said to indicate that the good doctor in Europe invoked any god in his prescription to his patients. Clearly the doctor wanted to change the mind-set of the sick patients, but that did not include any reference to a god. And second, God apparently can't do anything until "you get a picture" of your healing "on the inside" of you. Once you "start seeing [yourself] strong, healthy and whole" on the inside, "God can bring it to pass on the outside." God in Osteen's theology plays only a reciprocal role, "you draw a picture, I'll color it. Until then I cannot do anything." Don't miss the fact that Osteen says "once you get a picture of it on the inside God can bring it to pass on the outside." I guess like his predecessor, Robert Schuler, "if it's going to be, it's up to me."

CONTEXT ALERT! CONTEXT ALERT!

On p.xii of the introduction, Joel quotes Scripture, "Let the weak say 'I am strong.'" Interestingly, this quote is from the Old Testament book of Joel, 3:10. But it isn't calling for a positive confession that will improve one's self image. Rather it is in the context of God preparing to punish Tyre and Sidon for taking God's people captive and selling them into slavery and worse. The one's who are to say "I am strong" are the warriors of Judah who are called by Yahweh to wage war with those two pagan cities. After being captive and abused by their enemies, God, as He did in days gone by, will strengthen His people to fight in His might. The battle is the Lord's.

A positive mental attitude is indeed good. It beats a negative mind-set any day. But one's mind-set, one's pma is not God.

THE NATURE OF MAN IN OSTEEN'S THOUGHT

"You are one of a kind. You are a masterpiece. You are a prized possession" (p.xii). This comes from a man who obviously has never lived any where but in the lap of luxury around people of means. Osteen's theology was shaped by his father and mother and not by the word of God or by the real world.

I knew a man who named his daughter "I am unique." She isn't. She had been pregnant out of wedlock at least twice by the time she was fifteen when I was around this man. She is anything but unique. Joel Osteen is trying to convince everyone that he or she is unique, "one of a kind." "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" doesn't sound very unique to me.

"You are a masterpiece." Who? Me? Who is a masterpiece? Anyone? Everyone? Yes, that is precisely what Osteen is teaching. It doesn't matter if you're blind, crippled or crazy. If you're a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu or Muslim, you, my unbelieving neighbor, are a masterpiece. But understand that you are not a masterpiece until you have sufficiently said you are. "I am a legend in my own mind. I am a legend in my own mind. I am a legend..." Now God can finally use you.

Joel Osteen has a high view of man and a very low view of God. God can only work when we have finally convinced ourselves that we're special.

If you have ever watched Joel Osteen and paid attention, you may have noticed that he always begins with "somethun' kinda funny" and ends with an invitation to accept Jesus into your heart. It stands to reason then, that those who are in his assembly or watching via television can heed his words that come in between the joke and Jesus and benefit from them whether or not they are Christian. The late Oral Roberts taught this and Kenneth Copeland teaches this nonsense as well. "This works for everyone, believer or not. You can give us your money even if yer not saved and God will bless you, too. Yer a masterpiece, too, just an unsaved masterpiece."

"You are a prized possession." I heard Gloria Copeland say one Sunday morning, "When God got us, He got a real bargain." Yep, that was me. Wallowing in filth and sin of all manner. I was a real bargain alright. Beloved, God only has one prized possession, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And only in Him are we acceptable. I must ask, "who is the 'you' in you are a prized possession?" It is anyone who is listening to Pastor Osteen, saved or not.

You are not unique! You are not a masterpiece! You are not a prized possession! You and I were born "dead in our trespasses and sins." We were born separated from our Creator because of our utter depravity. And we still sin. Not very unique. Not much of a masterpiece. Not much of a prize.

All my worth is in Christ, not apart from Him. All my worth is due solely to His grace, not any pretend intrinsic worth. While Osteen stresses man and not His maker by constantly pointing us inward, "you are...you are...you are," the Holy Spirit stresses Jesus and points us upward, "He is, He is, He is!" We are God's beloved children. But only because we are in His Beloved.


 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Joel Osteen's "I Declare:" A book review: Part 1

A SICK, TWISTED KIND OF LOGIC

Joel Osteen is the logical conclusion we should have all seen coming.

With the rise of the most outlandish heretics the visible church has ever witnessed occurring during the early 1950's with men such as Oral Roberts and William Branham, it only made sense that others would jump on the "Heretics R Us" goldwagon and carry their heresies a step further. And the more bizarre these folks become, the greater their following and the larger their offerings. Thus we have the health and wealth and name-it-and-claim-it antics of Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, the Copelands, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Benny Hinn, and Jesse Duplantis, just to name a few.

The development of the "little gods" teachings in the '80's (as best I can tell, that's when this heresy emerged), made even more prominent by the founder of The Trinity Broadcasting Network, Paul Crouch, who embraces and broadcasts every heretic and heresy that has come down the pike, makes complete sense once we realize that name-it-and-claim-it teachings sound better when they are under girded by the notion that we can name-it-and-claim-it since we are, after all, little gods.

Again, the progress of the heresies of the '50's through the '80's is very logical; one heresy logically makes way for the next; false "healing ministries" preceded the "Charismatic Movement" with its aberrant teachings on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. That movement then paved the way for the "word faith" movement where the name-it-and-claim-it, "gab it and grab it," teachings were born. And with the lavish/decadent lifestyles of these heretics seemingly proving that God was behind them and He really does want us to all be rich and healthy, the word faith movement vastly overshadowed the Charismatic Movement. Who wouldn't want a god who could make them rich and healthy just by saying a few words?

I mean, really. The dupes of the false teachers and false prophets were no longer satisfied with "speaking in tongues" or "prophesying" or "healings;" now they could have riches on top of the spiritual gifts. Now they could have things with real substance. Finally people were loving going to Christian conferences and home Bible studies and even church. "Who says church cain't be fun?"

And in comes Joel Osteen. The "smilin' preacher." The time is right for such a man as this.
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

"I am righteous!" (but not self-righteous)

Growing up in the rural south I recall hearing old women referring to other old women as "self-righteous old biddies." I remember feeling that all of these women were ugly and mean; they were all "ol' biddies." The word "righteous" as pertaining to these ladies never entered my mind. It's almost as hard for me to use it in reference to myself today after having come to faith in Jesus Christ. But, nevertheless, I am righteous.

"I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ." And so is everyone who by the grace of God has come to faith in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

It's all of God! From beginning to end our justification/salvation is all of God. And it was all made possible by the perfect and finished work of Jesus Christ. And that perfect work is being taken to its logical conclusion in us on account of our being in Christ (Phil. 1:6).

It is to Christ God the Father looks for perfection, certainly not to fallen man. But now for those who are "in Christ" God proclaims them perfect and will never condemn them. This doesn't mean that we are perfect. It means that those who are in the One who is indeed perfect are declared perfect by God. The work of reconciliation in our lives is finished. We "are complete (perfected, finished) in Him" (Col. 2:10).

Now, notice this, "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." This is what I am saying, "We are now the righteousness of God" because we are "in Him." Own that life-changing truth, brethren. Live in it. Walk it out. Recall it everyday of your lives.

This is who we are, "we are the righteousness of God in Christ."

Those two words "of God" are really, really important. They are telling us two things about this righteousness. First, it is a "God-kind-of -righteousness." We have the same kind of righteousness that God has. Not in our behavior. Not in our mortal, flesh and blood, corruptible bodies, but in our inner man, that part of every believer that is the real and living part of us. Our inner man is who we really are. It is our inner man that has been reconciled to God. It's that part of us that Paul calls a "new creature," or, a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). And even there our righteousness at this phase in our spiritual lives is an "imputed" righteousness.

Second, this prepositional phrase, "of God," tells us that the source of our righteousness is God Himself. Where does our righteousness come from? It comes graciously from God.

God is, of course, perfectly and asbolutely righteous. He is the only Righteous One. The only way anyone, any ungodly human being can be pronounced righteous, is for God to impute it to them. And the only way God imputes righteous to the ungodly is by graciously calling the ungodly to faith in Jesus Christ wherein they are justified, i.e., proclaimed right with God by God. And that's where we are, beloved.

Every believe has been proclaimed right with God by God. And we really are "the righteousness of God in Him."

We are the most blessed of all people, God not imputing our trespasses to us. (Romans 4:5-8)

"To the praise of the glory of His grace!"