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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Hollywood Template of Faith: Orange Is The New Black Star Explains It

According to millions of folks on this little planet, Jesus was a wimp, a pansy who "never judged anybody" and never said or did anything that would offend anyone. Read "Orange is the new black" star Harney's thoughts on his "faith" and his version of Jesus here. This is important because Harney's thoughts are typical of the inhabitants of planet earth.

Apparently few people who claim to "follow" Jesus or to "love" Him have read His book. His book was written long before the movies came out, ya know. And those who have read it have clearly only read select parts of it, none of which included Matthew 23 or John 8:44. There are many, many other passages in the gospels that report Jesus judging hypocrites and deceivers and the willfully ignorant. He wasn't the "sweet" Caucasian portrayed in movies and modern paintings that we have come to love. He was and is the Son of God, God the Son, the Christ, Messiah, merciful and mighty, and soon-to-return Lord and Judge of all the earth.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The dangers around us. And why God-called pastors must be diligent

For thousands of years now, the world has been exposed to the damnable heresies spawned by the devil himself. Corrupt Hebrews denying their God and His revelations and love and mercy and patience and kindness so perverted their Savior's words til now they are firmly established in their apostasy. And it began in the beginning when Satan deceived Adam and Eve.

The enemies of Yahweh surrounded God's elect during their early years on through their settlement in the "promised land" and enticed them into conforming to them rather than to God's will for them. Judaism quickly became a man-centered religion. Today, the relatively few who still believe in God or a god, worship a god of their own making.

Behind the obvious, the way life appears on the surface and the direction history has taken, God has been and still is working out His plan of redemption, justification through faith in Christ, reconciliation and wrath. Neither major worldly events nor minor worldly events fall outside of God's economy. Behind every major headline is God.

False prophets abound...and always have (2 Pet. 2:1-3). False religions including many that profess the name of Jesus Christ, have used the media to their advantage and are deceiving millions of lost souls in our time. But by far, unbelievers, atheists and agnostics, outnumber those who adhere to some particular religious creed. Of the 7+ billion inhabitants of this planet, 1.5 billion are Roman Catholic, 1.5 billion are Muslim, 2+billion are non-Roman Christians, 1+billion are Hindu, and several million follow some pagan religious systems. (Don't hold me to those figures; they aren't exact or the latest figures).

The folks who sit in the pews of the world's so-called "churches" have been sold a bill of goods that has little resemblance to the gospel of Jesus Christ or the true body of Christ. Extreme teachings on tolerance and all-things politically correct have moved church leaders and their dupes into kicking the Bible out the door. This is evident in the debates over same-sex marriage, homosexuality in general, the reality of hell and God's wrath, and the exclusivity of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

There are exceptions. There are many men and women of God, God-called men and women, who preach the unadulterated word of God, some well-known, but most unknown. They are, however, being overshadowed by the likes of the Osteens, the Copelands, the Hinns of our day, Joyce Meyer and a thousand other lesser known Pentecostals, Word of Faith heretics and mega-church, multi-site pastors. And the danger is that many of the folks who occupy otherwise godly assemblies have bought what these liars and deceivers are selling. Many of the people who attend the church where I'm a member love Joel and Victoria Osteen and Joyce Meyer. A man of God who pastored a church near my home was fired mainly because he spoke out against (and named names) the false teachers/prophets/bishops/apostles who appear on our televisions.

God is clearly going to hold us accountable for compromising the gospel in accordance with what is popular in our time (2 Cor.2:14-17;  James 3:1ff). God-called pastors as well as false shepherds are given the command to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We are also commanded to be diligent in our study and delivery of God's word (2 Tim. 2:15).

Ear-scratching preachers/teachers give all too clear evidence that they are not God-called men and women. They who please man as an end cannot please God. And, those who fail to guard their flocks against heresy will give account to God.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ferguson and the nature of man

At this point, we don't have all the facts about what happened when the black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. News reporting, like history, is an inexact science. Some will never believe that all the facts have been reported in this incident. Human beings, after all, tend to be subjective when recording history as well as when reporting the news. And to exacerbate matters, we also tend to be subjective and biased when receiving news reports. But that's not my concern in this post.

I hear people saying and I read what some write about the obvious, "This is the 21st century." The implication is that one would expect better behavior of 21st century human beings. My response is "why?" Why would one expect better human beings just because we human beings have now been on this earth for who knows how long? I tend to think this way occasionally myself. But then I'm gently nudged by God to call to mind who we really are.

Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-18 describes the vast majority of mankind. Galatians 5:19-21, describes what man is like apart from and before the grace of God, as does Ephesians 2:1-3. And Romans 7 informs the Christian that we are not perfect. If not for the grace and kindness of God working in us by the Holy Spirit and through the written word of God and the fellowship of the saints, we, too, would give in to the evil propensity toward wickedness that the rest of mankind lives in and too often embraces.

The black Americans in Ferguson as well as their fellow Americans of all color in that city are merely the latest in an eternal (almost) line of fallen human beings to manifest our separation from our loving, kind, and patient Creator. The only hope anyone has is reconciliation to our Creator through faith in Jesus Christ. The nature of man must be and can be changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Paul Blart Wannabe Mall Cop Stops Christians Praying In Dublin, Georgia"...this century.

In the apostle Paul's God-given description of fallen mankind, he says of us "there is no fear of God in their eyes." (Romans 3:18). Clearly that is a timeless, universal truth. Millions in our world have no fear of God.

How else can one explain our nation's bowing to the demands of one woman, Madeline Murray O'Hare, to get God, any god, every god, out of our public schools? Or to the demands of feminists demands for the right to murder their unborn children? Or to the demands of liberals and homosexuals to legalize same-sex marriage? The powers-that-be acquiesce to the squeaking wheel with little or no regard for the other 3. The owners of a mall in Dublin, Georgia, USA, have decreed that private property, "their" property, is off limits to those who practice thanking God over their meals or before they power-walk through "their" mall. You can read it here.

 Can mall owners do this? Can a privately owned secular establishment open to the public and dependent on that same public legally prohibit prayer by citizens on its premises? I guess they can. Seriously. I would say they have that right. But I don't know. I am against loud obnoxious praying anywhere. But over a meal? Come on.

Do they have the right to not fear God? Of course they do. Is it wise? Hell no.

For a different take, check this out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God is for us, He is not against us...ever!

At times it's really hard to believe. It boggles my mind that infinite, holy, Almighty God is always for me. I know me well enough to know what I'm like when I'm alone and what I'm like in my thought life and it's enough to make me disgusted with myself at times. Not always, but more often than I like. But it's always true for all who are in Christ Jesus, God is for us.

In my flesh I wasn't brought up to think this way. I knew there were people who were supposed to love me unconditionally who didn't; they were not always for me. And to this day I carry that transferred insecurity with me in my walk with my heavenly Father. However, I'm much, much better than I was just a couple of years ago. And here is where the Holy Spirit took me years ago when I was kicking myself for losing my temper in traffic and letting a rude driver know just how I felt about her driving:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? The Holy Spirit brought to my mind so clearly, "Johnny, I'm not against you, I'm for you."

We will always be able to find people who are against us in some form or fashion for any number of reasons. But we can never say that about God. God stands alone. After all, He is nothing like us.

 Paul asks the question, "What then shall we say to these things?" And he answers, "This is what we shall say to these things, If God is for us, and He is, who is against us?" The wording of "if God is for us" is in the form of a "first class condition" that can be and should be read thusly, "If God is for us, and He is...," or, "Since God is for us," any of the three readings is correct if we understand what is going on in the text. But it only makes sense when we ask the question, "what are 'these things?'" In other words, it only makes sense in context. So, what are these things? And how do they add up to Paul's concluding that God is for us?

I'm not about to bore you with the complete list of these things like I would like to, but I'm going to summarize them in a way that should be helpful to you right now. I want to give you enough to build your faith and encourage you in your everyday walk.

First, "God fulfilled His promise to give His Son to save us from our sins." 1:1-4

Second, "God was kind to the ungodly and brought us to repentance." 2:4

Third, "God manifested His way to righteousness to the ungodly through His Son apart from the Law" 3:10-23

Fourth, "God proclaims the ungodly justified through faith and not works." 4-5

Fifth, "The Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection that we might have new life, no longer under the Law but under grace, free from the dominion of sin." 6:1-23

Sixth, "Every child of God is alive in his inner man even while our outer man perishes and we will never be condemned. God has ordained it so for His glory and our eternal good." 7-8.

8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
 Our heavenly Father, and don't forget He is our "heavenly" Father, not of this earth, not of flesh and blood, but pure and just and holy, never changing, is always for us. "How will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" It is not possible that He will not.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Amazing Grace of God At Corinth...and In Every Saint

"In the beginning, God..." After the beginning, God. It's all about what God did for us in Christ Jesus, not about what we have done, are doing, who we were when He called us, or what we had when He called us. He called us...period. He started it...He will finish it (1 Cor. 1:26-31; Phil. 1:6).

Everyone who is "in Christ" is there solely because God chose them, predestined them, foreknew them, sanctified them by the Holy Spirit, justified them and glorified them, even while being ungodly people, dead in their trespasses and sins, enemies of God (Rom. 8:28-30; 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 1:3-14). Dead people can't do anything to make themselves right with God. That takes an act of God, a genuine miracle where God intervenes in human nature and makes alive that which was dead and repulsive to Him. That miracle actually changes us from children of wrath to children of God (Eph. 2:1-10).

And after all that? God loves us and lovingly brings us into His family. He (yes, "He") doesn't make us perfect after adopting us. Go figure. He doesn't make us perfect. And we sure don't make ourselves perfect after becoming God's children.

When I got up this morning, I went to 1 Corinthians, chapter 1 and verse 1. I've read this a gazillion times and it continually lifts my spirit and builds up my faith in the finished work of Jesus. Paul describe the Corinthians the same way he described himself, "called," "by the will of God," and "saints," the "holy ones of God." Considering what the apostle knew about the mess that was the church in Corinth, I am so very encouraged by the Holy Spirit's encouragement, exhortations, rebukes, corrections, commandments and assurances given to these confused and even rebellious believers (this letter was written by a Spirit filled man).

This letter is for the true church (and those who do not seem to be the "true" church) universal. For the church in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Sudan, the UK, the west, the east, the south and the north.

So take heart, beloved around the world. God is with you; God is in you; and God is for you.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"My 'Old Lady,' My 'Old Man'": Part Two

Not a day goes by except I long for my new man, my inner man, the new creature that I am, to exercise control over my really annoying outer man, my old man. But I don't lose heart. And here's why:

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Another translation says, "...though our outer man is wasting away." "Decaying," "wasting away," you get the picture. And that's what we have to live with until our "corruption puts on incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50-56, one of my favorite passages, btw). I know that my inner man, that part of me that is "born again," "born of the Spirit," "born from above," that part where the "seed" of God abides, is in God's hands and He's renewing me day by day, faithfully renewing me day by day. What sweet words; what an amazing fact of this new life in Christ.

Read this:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;

"Earthen vessels." That's just another way of saying our "old man," our "flesh." That's where "nothing good inside me" dwells. That's the part of us that is corrupt, corrupted, corruptible and wasting away. With our old man so weak and dying, one would expect the new man, our inner man, to be more consistent in his victories over him. And we can be.

We will never know sinless perfection in this life. But we can know a life lived in a manner that glorifies our risen Lord and Savior. We can live in a manner worthy of our calling and worthy of the name by which we are called. And that is precisely what 2 Corinthians 4:7 makes clear to us. God has designed the new life in such a way that He gets the first glory and shares His glory with us now with our final glorification awaiting us in our eternal home.

Next: Our old man delivered out of darkness.



"My 'Old Lady;' My 'Old Man:'" Part One

No, I never had an "old lady," but I know several real life hard core Harley ridin' bikers who do. And no one, no girl or woman, ever called me her "old man," at least not that I know of.

My hawg ridin' acquaintances were bad news. They did all the stuff you've heard about bikers doing. Drugs, sexual immorality, etc., etc. And I shared the gospel with each of them to no avail. One of them, a new employee where I once worked, was a recent biker convert. His new "friends" talked him into buying a hawg one of their buddies had for sale and he bought it. They also persuaded him to leave his wife. And one night just a couple of weeks after he started riding (he had never been on a motorcycle in his life until his conversion) and shortly after leaving his wife, his old lady, he went to a beer joint north of Charlotte, got plastered and jumped on his bike and promptly ran a stop sign, crossed the road and hit the woods going pretty fast. He was killed instantly. I was heart-broken at the news that following Monday morning.

I had made some headway with this man who was hurting and heartbroken over his life situation. He didn't want to leave his wife, he wanted help. I was giving him some good counsel and he was interested. He was listening; he loved his wife. Whether he intentionally ran that stop sign or not, we shall never know. But he's dead regardless. That old man left his old lady for a way that brought him only heartache, misery and death.

Darkness and death is all those who live in darkness know. I know, I lived there for 27 years. But in March of 1974, by the grace of God, I heard the sweetest words I have ever heard, I heard and believed the gospel.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in 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 as a result of works, that no one 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. 11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision " by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Billions of people are at this very moment "far off." And it may be that they will and can by the grace of God be delivered out of their present darkness and be "brought near by the blood of Christ." God only knows what will become of them. It may be that we will proclaim the good news to them and the Holy Spirit will open their ears and eyes to see and hear it. We can sow and water and perhaps witness God giving the lost life. We have the sweetest words they can ever possibly hear. Whether or not they come to faith is in God's hands, the sharing of those sweet life-giving words is in ours.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Conclusion

The answer to Dr. Brown's questions are pretty obvious; they are worded in such a way that they are self-explanatory, and that's good. Dr. Brown has Scripture and common sense on his side as far as this particular issue goes. For that reason I'm once again closing this series. And after listening to Dr. Brown's debate with the advocate for gay rights claiming to be a Christian, I'm siding with Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is a superb debator.

I am very much anti Word of Faith theology; I think for the most part it is a heresy that is both subtly deceptive and damnable. This is where I part ways with Dr. Michael Brown. His fellowship with the likes of Benny Hinn puts up a wall between us. I would like to know more about his involvement with Word of Faith teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I'm simply curious; I don't plan on getting on board with him.

"We are children of God, the Spirit Himself bearing witness"

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...

Otherwise how would we ever know?
Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a remarkable experience that most of us seldom enjoy or appreciate. We have become calloused by the cares of this life so that one would never know that we are indwelt by Him. Our pleasures are earthly and this-worldly, sensual, finding what passes for happiness through our five senses rather than through the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus. Capitulating to temptations is the rule rather than the exception, it is "normal" and "natural" and all that the Christian should expect. After all, we're only human.
But we are not. We are more than mere human beings. We are children of God, spiritually alive creatures, created new through the indwelling Holy Spirit and united with Jesus Christ so that we are now one with Him.
We are spiritual adoptees. Those adopted by God the Father are necessarily adapted for the family of God. God is Spirit, our spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit and made compatible with life in God's kingdom and with God Himself. The excuse of our humanness cannot stand before the throne of grace and claim an out. God only deals with us according to truth and reality and grace and righteousness. And He desires our presence before His throne of grace.
Only those born of the Spirit by the grace of God can know that inner witness that cries "Abba, Father." Only the made-alive spirit receives the witness of the Spirit that assures us that we are indeed His children.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Four

If God has pronounced your future sins forgiven in the same way he has pronounced your past sins forgiven, why do Paul and other New Testament writers address these very sins in their letters, and why does Jesus address them in Revelation 2-3? We know that God doesn’t bring our past sins up to us, since he has forgiven and “forgotten” them. Why then does he bring our present sins up to us in the New Testament, even warning us about the dangers of walking in those sins, if they have also been forgiven and forgotten in advance?

This question, question #4 in Dr. Brown's list, is very much like his question #13, Do you see any possible danger in emphasizing that it is impossible for a believer to lose his or her salvation? Of course, we could debate whether the Bible teaches this at all, but simply as a matter of experience, many of us have encountered very lost people – drunkards, fornicators, without the slightest interest in God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – who have then assured us that they were saved because it was impossible for them to lose their salvation. So, on a practical level, do you feel it’s important to add any scriptural caveats to your teaching of eternal security and, if so, how can you do this without putting an emphasis on “performance”?

Here is why I see a similarity. God has not pronounced my future sins or my past or present sins forgiven apart from His forgiving "me" as though my sins are living beings that need to be forgiven and need His grace. I am forgiven. I am forgiven. He has forgiven me and delivered me from all my trespasses. I am not my trespasses or my sins. My sins are what I do, not what I am.

I am forgiven/delivered now of all my trespasses (Col. 2:13). "There is therefore NOW no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).  "Now" means now. It comes from the Greek adverb of time and means now, right now. It will mean now tomorrow and the next day and next week and next year and on the day I die. I am in Christ Jesus by the grace of God and will remain in Christ Jesus by the grace of God. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man boast." And God will not "recall" either my gift of eternal life or His calling upon my life (Rom. 11:29).

In my early years of ministry I made the decision to never assume everyone in any group or church where I "shared" or preached was saved. That was a good decision. The apostles new this to be the case in gatherings where they ministered. Paul's letters to the Corinthians and the churches in Galatia reveal that he knew there to be lost folk gathering with the justified. The author of Hebrews and John the apostle recognized the presence of the unregenerate among their readers and those of the "spirit of the antichrist." I have met people as Dr. Brown describes who were drunkards and sexually immoral who told me to my face that they "got saved" when they were children and knew they were still saved. But they were clearly not. "You will know a tree by its fruit." A false gospel produces false disciples. And a false gospel is what many people hear. Walk the aisle; sign a card and "yer saved, sister."

There is not a genuine Christian on planet earth who needs no instructions on how to live in a manner worthy of their calling. We need to be admonished, rebuked, corrected and encouraged in the faith. That's why the Lord Jesus and the New Testament authors all addressed the remaining corruption of the new disciples. That's why Paul pointed out that there is an on-going, life-long struggle between our old man and our new man, between our outer man and our inner man, between our new creation and our flesh.

Our "performance" is not a justification-meriting-performance but a because-we-are-justified way of life that is not and never will be perfect. An essential work of the written word of God and the Holy Spirit is to direct us in our walk during our time on this earth in this body (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 5:5; 8:12-14). Our performance doesn't save us, "dead people cannot perform" (Eph. 2:1-3). But our performance after our conversion does build up treasures in heaven...or not (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

The apostle John recorded the "revelation of Jesus Christ" given to him to give to the church throughout the ages. In the letters to the 7 churches nothing new is said, everything in those 7 letters is said in the New Testament epistles. Warnings are given to those who wrongly assume themselves saved; warnings are given to those who are saved but not living in a manner that glorifies their Savior. And the warnings to the true church are acts of discipline, not condemnation (3:19).

By the act and decree of God the Father, we have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 1:8; John 14-16). Our being baptized by the Spirit doesn't make us perfect, it wasn't intended to. But our having the Spirit, our union with Christ, our having "the mind of Christ," and our having God's written word assures us that we do indeed belong to Him and have eternal life. Are there those who profess but don't possess? Sure there are. Are we to continually admonish and receive admonition and rebuke and correction? Yes, indeed. God has never and will never give anyone permission to sin. But He has made gracious provision for our sins in Christ Jesus.

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Three

Question #3. "Is there anything you can do to disappoint the Lord? If the Lord always sees you as perfect in his sight, as is commonly taught in the hyper-grace gospel, is there any way for you to disappoint him? I’ve heard it said that we can only grieve or disappoint him by not trusting his grace, but according to your message, hasn’t that sin been forgiven as well?"

Attempting to balance God's grace is an exercise in futility. One can abuse grace and some will reject it, but there is no balancing the gift of God because it can't be done, it doesn't need to be done. We cannot fix what ain't broke. The title of my blog series is "Scripturally Balancing Grace," but that's simply a dig at those who practice "gracebut," those who insist that they believe in grace, but...

My answer to Dr. Brown's third question is an unequivocal "no, we cannot disappoint God." First, disappointment implies surprise on God's part. It implies that we have done something, committed some sin that caught God off guard. That cannot happen. God is not a man that He could be disappointed. Nor is His knowledge of us limited by time or space.

Second, to say that a believer can disappoint God would imply that God has a higher view of man than He actually does. "I thought better of you than that" said God never.

And third, "nobody's perfect." Seriously. No believer, including Paul the apostle, was or is perfect. We are "complete" in Christ but not yet perfect ( Phil. 3:12; Col. 2:10). God sees us in Christ but He's not blind to the truth of our remaining sinfulness and corruption (1 Cor. 15:50-56). If hyper grace teachers teach that we are now perfect, that is cultish, not Christian.

"I’ve heard it said that we can only grieve or disappoint him by not trusting his grace, but according to your message, hasn’t that sin been forgiven as well?" I have been guilty of not "trusting his grace" on occasion when I have figuratively flogged myself for some sin, trying to pay for my sin by punishing myself rather than receiving the punishment He took on Himself on my behalf. I'm sure I grieve the Holy Spirit at such times but it is impossible to disappoint Him as I have already suggested. Thankfully, every believer is "in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Two

Question #2 "The New Testament writers often exhort us to live in ways that please the Lord. Does that mean that it is possible to displease him? We agree that he relates to us as his beloved children, but is he always pleased with us? And since Paul urges us not to grieve the Spirit, does that mean that we can, in fact, grieve him?"
Yes, I would say that it is not only possible to displease God but we in fact often do. Paul,  John and James use some pretty strong language warning those who profess faith in Christ about this very thing (1 Cor. 3:1-4; 11:17-22; pretty much all of Galatians and James; 1 Jn. 1:6-10; 2:9).
If my Greek grammar classes mean anything then I must say "Yes, we can indeed grieve the Holy Spirit."
There is a grammatical construction known in Greek grammar as a "negated present imperative" which means that the reader is being told to stop doing something that he or she or they (is) (are) currently doing. That employment of this imperative says that the audience to whom this imperative was applied was at the time they received this letter practicing what was being forbidden by the negated imperative. In chapter 4 of Paul's letter to the Ephesians he employs that negated imperative several times.
It is clear that the Ephesians were young in the Lord, immature and unaware yet that they could not just keep on stealing and lying to one another (4:17, 27, 28, 30 are examples of the negated present imperative. But this entire section of this chapter reveals that believers can and do live in ways that should be and can be put aside and that we need to be told to stop or reminded to stop such behavior).
It's amazing, isn't it, that the Ephesians were at the time of the writing of this epistle somehow grieving the Holy Spirit? Paul says, "Stop it! And stop it now." Chapter 4 gives us a clue as to how they were grieving the Spirit but we don't have the whole picture; we don't need anymore. You will find the same negated present imperative in 1 Corinthians 6:9 where Paul tells the Corinthian church to "stop being deceived."
So, yes we can grieve the Holy Spirit. And, yes, that means clearly that we can and do displease the Lord who sealed us with the Spirit until the day of redemption. If hyper grace teachers say otherwise they have badly missed it.
Ephesians 4:30 Kai. mh. lupei/te to. pneu/ma to. a[gion tou/ qeou/( evn w-| evsfragi,sqhte eivj h`me,ran avpolutrw,sewjÅ


Friday, July 4, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions

Dr. Michael Brown is offering his book "Hyper Grace" once again to the public and once again I have read his blog ("Ask Dr. Brown") addressing the issue of what is being labeled "hyper grace." I find his questions completely reasonable and much needed, unlike how I felt when I first read them and took them personally. I still question his motives (I'm a sinner saved by grace, so please forgive that motive-questioning on my part) when he says he's not trying to pick a fight (my words, not his). There is a definite attitude that comes across in his preface to his questions and in the questions themselves. Over the next few days or less, I'm going to attempt to answer from my perspective and as objectively as I can, his questions. I am not a hyper gracer, btw. Biblical grace, yes indeed, just not hyper. It is Dr. Brown's thoughts on grace that prompts me to return to this issue.

Question #1 Does God require anything from you as his child? Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace? If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?

Dr. Brown is kind in assuming that he is addressing a "child" of God. And in asking "Does God require anything from you as his child?", one knows that the answer must be "yes, of course He does." Dr. Brown is wondering if a hyper grace teacher will answer "No. He requires nothing of us." And it may be (I haven't read every book written by those teachers) that some have indeed answered no.

Having been saved by grace and now living "under grace" and not "under the law," does not imply nor does it translate into "now I can live life as I see fit," much less does it translate into, "now I can sin with impunity." And it certainly can't mean that from now on God does not and will not require anything of me. That would mean I do not need the written word of God for guidance or wisdom or anything. It could imply that one doesn't need God involved that much in my life now that I'm His. Hyper grace teachers certainly do not go that far. But they do possibly come close. Hyper grace could easily discourage the study and reading of the word of God.

The second part of his first question is confusing, "Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace?" The "must do" question in this question followed by "as his child other than receive his grace" begs the question, "Is Dr. Brown asking about our lives before our justification or life after justification/salvation?" Is he asking if we must do something in order to become His child since he mentions the requirement of our receiving God's grace? Or is he asking must we do stuff to fulfill God's requirements after being saved?

"Does God require anything from you as his child other than receive his grace?" Are we in fact required to receive His grace at anytime? That is poorly worded if not worse. One does not receive a required grace. If grace is required it is no longer grace. The way the question is worded presents an oxymoron. I think the question just should've been stated better. Unless Dr. Brown meant it the way it is.

My objection to this question is that grace isn't something required of one but is something one receives by grace; it is the "gift" of God.

"If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?"

 "Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace?" I must return to this earlier question in order to keep the last one, "If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?" in context,. I will address only the part of this question up to the words "as his child," since I have made it clear how I feel about the grace part.

There are hundreds of imperatives in the New Testament epistles alone, more than I ever imagined. But none of these imperatives or "commands" are of the "do this and live or do not do them and die" kind, with the exception of those pointing out in one fashion or another that there is only one way one is justified. This is, after all, the New Covenant, not the Old. So, in the matter of how one is justified, no, there are no requirements that must be met in order to be saved/justified. But afterward? Lets just take one example that could be the template for things required that have a reward if followed and the clear removal of spiritual benefits when not.

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

There ya go. And do not miss the context of this passage, to whom was it written and what did the apostle have to say to them? Yet with all their "sins," he could still affirm them as belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ:

3:21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Really Free On the Fourth

I love my country. I even appreciate the laws of the land (and keep them often). NO other form of government affords its people freedom like ours; we're unique and exceptional. No other country allows its people the freedom we live in; our government is actually still "government for, by and of the people." We are not really "allowed," we pretty much call the shots. We don't always call the shots well, but if we've a mind too, we can change what we don't like. "When in the course of human events..."

The lives of many millions have been intimately involved in keeping our freedom and the way of life that goes with it. Millions of our people have died since its founding, fighting for what they believed in and sometimes for what they didn't believe in.

The fighting wasn't on the world's battlefields alone. Much of it was done on our streets by our people fighting against egregious injustices; much of it was done in our Capital by our elected and America-loving officials. And much of it was done by divinely inspired church leaders who followed in the footsteps of our founding fathers. In America, finding liberty in God through faith in Christ Jesus moved many Christians to fight for the liberty of all men, even while many ignorant and hateful fought to keep their fellow man enslaved. And the ignorant and hateful of every creed and color live freely among us today even though they protest otherwise.

It is the nature of man, not his color, that sees aggressions and war and hatred and greed and racial supremacy and racism as the way to personal and selfish fulfillment. Only when that nature is truly changed will any of us realize the peace and equality and liberty that somewhere deep inside of us we all long for. It is through the renewing of the "inner man" that one can find peace and liberty in the midst of aggressions and war and hatred and greed and racial injustices. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. exemplified that truth and taught many others, black, white, Asians and Latino to strive for that inner renewal, that inner peace.

This nation has never been "Christian," not in the way it believes or behaves. But the seed of the Christian faith has always been here. The church of Jesus Christ hasn't always behaved like the church of Jesus Christ, the "visible" church, that is. But an element of the real thing has always been here. And for many, that church has made a difference, temporal and eternal.

The true liberty that sets men free begins and can only begin with the transformation of the soul and spirit that comes only through the "new birth" that is experienced by the grace of Almighty God through faith in Jesus Christ. We who have been the recipients of that grace are far from perfect. But we know the answer and we seek to set others free into the glorious liberty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Provision, Not Permission: Concerning the Believer's Remaining Corruption

Grace is the most amazing aspect of any believer's life. Think about it.

Every one who has ever been saved or ever will be saved has been saved from the wrath of God that is surely coming (1 Thess. 1:10). And, to make this life even sweeter, we know that we were saved and delivered from death solely by the grace of God; dead people can't save themselves, that takes an act of God (Eph. 2:1-10). And it just gets better. God has given us (and this is how we were made alive and given faith and light [Jn. 6:44, 63; Rom. 5:5; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Cor. 2:1-16]) the Person of the Holy  Spirit.

After arguing for the grace of God that saves through the gift of God, faith, Paul concludes that we will experience an on-going battle with our flesh, our remaining sinfulness and corruption (Rom. 7:24-8:4; 1 Cor. 15:50-56). It makes sense to those of us who care about living in a manner worthy of our calling; it explains why we continue to sin and at the same time how God works in our inner man, our minds (Rom. 1-8, note 7:22, 25 for the synonymous "inner man" and our "minds"; Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:11-12). And Philippians explains why we have that desire to please God and to live in a manner worthy of the name by which we have been called even while we occupy these dead-because-of-sin bodies (2:12-13; Rom. 8:10)

What do we now do when we sin? We confess them and exercise the faith of Abraham. Abraham, whose body was as good as dead, did not consider the deadness of his body or of Sara's womb, but believed the promise of God considering God's word as good as fulfilled for him and his coming children who are of the faith of Abraham. That's why God proclaimed Abraham righteous. And amazingly, God has proclaimed us righteous, justified, right with Him, through our faith in His Son. That's what we do. We do not consider our dead-in-sins-bodies when we sin but look unto the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. We confess that the promise of God to Abraham was and is fulfilled by Abraham's "Seed" and we are right with God because of it.

What a provision! "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all sins" (1 Jn. 1:5).

It is blasphemy and a horror to take sin lightly (forgivable, but horrible). It is just as blasphemous to think that we must do something to earn God's forgiveness and favor.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

"To Judge, or not to Judge?" That is a question.

That is a question. And one that many, many Christians frequently ask. So why does this question come up so often in our circles? Here's the answer: We have so much sin in the camp.


Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge lest you be judged. 2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

This anti-judging advice was given by the Lord Jesus to a group He Himself identified as "you hypocrite." I would say it is safe to assume that when it comes to one sinner judging another sinner, one Jewish sinner judging another Jewish sinner or one Gentile sinner judging another Gentile sinner (don't forget, the Lord was preaching to Jews at the time), we all must exercise discernment and maturity. However, if we misapply this teaching we will find logs and splinters running amok in the body of Christ.

The context of this much abused commandment is the Sermon On the Mount, where the Lord Jesus laid down the law in terms that could not be misinterpreted by the Jewish hypocrites any longer. You think lust is bad? You don't know the half of it. You think hating your brother is bad? It's much worse than you think. You think you can judge your Jewish brother for every little thing while you're as guilty or worse? Let me show you just how sinful you are. But that is not the end of the story.


What is the one sure evidence that one is a disciple of Christ? Speaking in tongues? No, absolutely not! Prophesying? No sir ree Bob! Perfect obedience to the Law of Moses? That ain't happening. It is that His disciples manifest love for one another to one another and before the eyes of the world.

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

If we genuinely love one another it will show. If we don't, that will show. Tongues can be and usually are faked. Prophesying is the least trustworthy manifestation of a true disciple of all the gifts. Healings seldom happen even when the "healing evangelists" claim to have healed thousands (ever heard of Benny Hinn?). Christian love, a gift of God, cannot be easily anyway. We are told, after all, to work toward a genuine love (1 Jn. 4:19; Rom. 5:5; Rom. 12:9). And we are commanded to judge those in our numbers who are living in open sin; this is what godly love for one another does; it is what godly love of the body of Christ and the gospel does.

Godly love can stop the cancer-like spread of sin in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Lets say we belong to a local church ("we belong to a local church") and a young man and a young woman are living together without marriage (that's "fornication") who are "members" of our congregation. What do we do? Wink at that sin and tell ourselves, "Well, they're so sweet and cute and in love. What's the harm? Besides his father is a deacon in our church." No, we don't (or actually, we do. That's what usually happens these days, isn't it?). For the sake of the body of Christ and in love, love for the body and love for those who are openly living in sexual immorality, we are commanded to confront them, gently, not abrasively, and discipline them, explaining why we must do what we are doing. If they profess faith in Christ, we must judge them and deal appropriately with them. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and restore such ones; that is our goal.

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

 And just who among you is fit for such a task? Not everyone...but some are:

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.

There is sin in the camp and there always will be. The solution will never be to stop sinning, but to confess our sins one to another. The solution is not for us to suddenly begin running around judging every little sin we know of. That is the hypocritical kind of judging the Lord forbids. But to judge those who are living openly and flagrantly in sin as Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 5 that can spread in the body of Christ like cancerous leaven. That's what love does. And sometimes, like truth, love hurts.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Lets take this verse (word) and run with it. Who cares about context!"

How many times have you heard Philippians 4:13 quoted? I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Or, Philippians 4:19? And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Well, have you ever heard someone talk about "now faith?" It's supposedly found in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." See, there it is. We're supposed to have "now faith," whatever that means. But the missing ingredient in the application of all three verses is the absolutely essential ingredient of context. Without context one has a pretext, or worse, a proof text. The missing ingredient of context makes for poisoned food.

Now I'll admit that taking Scripture out of context can be fun and exciting for many folks. I'll never forget how excited my charismatic friends were in 1975 when someone first pointed out the "now" in Hebrews 11:1. But it betrays a lack of love for the veracity of Scripture and its integrity. Taking, quoting, and applying Scripture out of context is the stuff of babes in Christ, the cults and heresies, not the faith once delivered to the saints.

So how is it that Philippians 4:13 and 4:19 are taken out of context? And how can we tell when they're being taken out of context? I'm glad you asked those questions.

That's easy. Have those quoting 4:13 learned how to be content in both abundance and lack? Have they actually learned through life experience the way the apostle learned contentment? No one can "claim" 4:13 who hasn't learned 4:11-12. Notice that Paul does not say "and you can do all things."
 Of course you can do all things through Him who strengthens you if it is true that you have learned either through experience or by "owning" the truth revealed in the written word to be content in all circumstances. But the truth is, most of us haven't learned.

And second, Paul isn't speaking exclusively of future trials and blessings, but he is telling us that he himself went through a lot of bad experiences and through them all he learned that he can indeed trust His Savior and now he can do all things through the One who strengthened him in the midst of those trials and blessings (blessings of abundance can trip one up with pride).

That's what the context of 4:13 teaches us.

What about 4:19? How is that commonly taken out of context? That's easy as well.

What is the context of 4:19? It is that the Philippians had sent Paul monetary support. Read the context:

4:14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. 15 And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Those who "claim" 4:19 (as many erroneously do) cannot legitimately do so if they have not supported the work of the ministry somewhere with their monetary gifts. This is what one of my former pastors referred to when he said "some are waiting for their ship to come in when they have never sent one out." That is the lesson of context for 4:19.

Ignoring the context of Scripture can and does bring disillusionment to many genuine believers while grasping the necessity of context has blessed many a believer. So while it may be fun and exciting to take Scripture out of context, it is beneficial to keep it in its proper context.


"The god of this world (age)": The "spirit" behind the "spirit of the antichrist"

NAS 2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

It's as simple and as profound as that. The word of God declares it to be so. And as this physical world goes through this evil "age," we will see remarkable occurrences of incredible demonstrations of spiritual blindness, e.g., the masses believing doctrines of devils that stun those who are "in Christ" because of the ridiculous nature of those doctrines. How can anyone professing faith in Christ listen to and believe Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar when they openly and so brazenly deny the deity of Jesus Christ? The only way to explain that is by taking God at His word when He lays out for us just how the devil works in this present age and time.

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

Every God-called gospel preacher worth his salt finds himself having to defend himself and his calling before his audience more often than he would wish. Sometimes the preacher must defend himself and his God-given word before his own congregation, sometimes before outsiders. Paul the apostle was no exception.

In my first pastorate, I was "called on the carpet" by the power man of our little congregation, not once but several times after he accused me of teaching error that I never taught. This particular man was an unregenerate according to his wife, and knew no Bible at all except for the little bit he picked up as a child in Sunday School. Yet, he would bring in to my study a legal pad with what he saw as error. After inviting him to listen to the tape of the sermons he criticized, he declined. The unfortunate part of my little tale is he managed to sway his loyal friends and after five and a half years, I let him win. In my last sermon I let the congregation know that I had faithfully preached to them the "whole counsel of God" without compromise, never "adulterating the word of God" and my hands were clean of the blood of all of them.

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

They are in every local church, "those who are perishing." They are the ones who have rejected Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and God Incarnate and Son of God and Son of Man. These are the ones who like life as it is and wouldn't change a thing. After all, if they come to the light, their evil deeds and intentions would be exposed by the Holy Spirit Himself, and that would hurt (John 3:16-21). These have believed the lie instead of the truth; they love the lie and hate the truth (2 Thess. 2:1-12). God has turned such over to the jailor that their sentence might begin even while they walk on this earth. He has given them over to do whatever it is that their evil hearts desire that they might be justly condemned on that Day.

"Those who are perishing" do not see that they're perishing. They do not see and cannot see the "veil" of "the god of this age" that is blinding them from seeing the "light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." They deny even the Master who bought them (2 Pet. 2:1-3). By denying the deity of Christ Jesus they "do not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh," and are "of the spirit of the antichrist" (1 Jn. 2:18-19; 4:1-3) and have therefore denied the One who bought them, "who is the image of God." This damnable heresy is rampant among those in the Word of Faith Movement, the greatest threat to the gospel in church history. I write this article and others that "the gospel might remain" with us (Gal. 2:5).

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake."

When was the last time (or first, for that matter) you got the impression that a televangelist was "your bond-servant?" Bond-servant, btw, comes from the Greek word meaning the lowest kind of slave. When was the last time you watched a truly humble televangelist who didn't have a huge sing trumpeting his or her "ministry?" The WofF cannot "move" in the "flow" of a lowly slave.
This, from Kenneth Copeland, talks about "this ministry" and he actually brags about being a billionaire and his yearly income. This false messenger has no shame. You may have to scroll through my facebook page to find it.

"For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

The difference between those who are in Christ and those who are not is the difference between light and darkness. Whereas our Creator (that's the reference in Paul's "For God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness") has graciously by His glorious grace "shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." He "is the One" who initiated our justification, our forgiveness, our redemption and regeneration and reconciliation. Our salvation is first and foremost of God, not ourselves. After His gift of "the light" and all that comes with light, we freely and willing came to faith in Christ. "No one can (has the ability) come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44). And that without exception (14:6).

We have the light-giving knowledge of the glory of God that was and is manifested in the incarnate Christ. When Jesus said "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father," that is part of what He revealed. And only by the grace of the Lord Jesus can we see (know) the Father (Mt. 11:27).

There are not two gods ruling over this world or this age, there is only one God. The devil is a defeated foe as far as the kingdom of God is concerned. But in this world flowing in the spirit of this evil age, the devil has his way with his own, not God's beloved. He is a threat and an able foe to us, but he can be turned by our simple act of resistance.

"Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world!" And we are called to go into this dark world with the gospel of light and bring the lost to faith in Jesus and establish them in the faith, i.e., make disciples.



Friday, June 27, 2014

"Jesus is God!" Our times demand a Council to deal with 21st century heresies

After studying church history in college and seminary and the several "councils" that were held to combat the heresies of their times, I have thought it surprising that no such councils are meeting in our day to combat flagrant heresies that are just as damnable as were those of the 3rd and 4th century church. Heretics such as Arius who denied the deity of Christ, Apollinarius who denied the humanity of Christ, and Nestorius who also denied the deity of Christ, were dealt with respectively at the Council of Nicea, the Council of Constantinople, and the Council of Ephesus. Each council had an impact on their world and their times.

Heresies denying the deity of Christ are just as ubiquitous and egregious in our day as were the teachings of any of the above named heretics. And today our charlatans have the advantage of modern media to help spread their word. Multiple millions of the unwary can be reached in the comfort of their homes in our day and age; and they are.

The cults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and The Holy Roman Catholic Church have been thoroughly dealt with over the last 250 years so that the extant materials exposing them for what they are is readily available to anyone interesting in learning all about them. But they have never been addressed in any kind of body universally recognized as authoritative (with the recent ascension of the very much loved Pope Francis to the papal throne, the dangers of that cult reaching millions more has increased). And now, adding to the plethora of damnable heresies other than those I have named, there is the most popular of all heresies, the so-called "Word of Faith Movement."

Joel Osteen (who is to the word of faith movement what the pope is to Catholicism), along with Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, to name but a few out of thousands of popular false teachers, must be called out for what they are.

As they lead us into the apostasy where they themselves will be but minor players if they are allowed to even exist by the big dogs of the apostasy, those who by God's grace know the truth of the gospel and stand for that truth, can and must take it upon themselves to expose these works of eternal darkness. It may be that nothing less than a world-wide council of Biblical men and women of God will be needed to make such an exposure. But however grand the scale of such a council (much larger than John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" conference and better focused on the real problems at hand), it needs to begin forming now. "The days are evil."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Evangelicalism and the Apostasy

The Assemblies of God Pentecostal denomination reports that around 1,400 churches of various denominations close their doors every year. Al Mohler reports this morning that "church" buildings around the globe are being converted to everything from night clubs to mosques without the communities around them so much as blinking an eye. And it isn't because the congregations that once assembled in these structures grew too big to remain in them. No, these churches simply died.

As a college and then seminary student, I supply preached in many small churches in North  and South Carolina and later as pastor of my first church in Virginia I filled in for churches without a pastor. I have seen first-hand what the above reports report; it is true. I think I know why so many congregations have died and made-like-Elvis and "left the building."

First, pastors have turned the word of God into nothing more than a "how-to" instruction manual. "How to have a happy marriage." "How to have a healthy family." "How to have a healthy income." It really is pathetic what we have allowed the Bible to become. Those "How-to's" are fine occasionally. But they are not the main thing. And even the dying know it. The dying want to know "Where can I find life and peace and reconciliation to my Creator?" And the living need to have this question answered, "What does it mean that I should 'walk in a manner worthy of my calling?'"

Second, and this is the most important "thing," the matter that is lacking; the luke warm, the starving, those who are actually born again but dying of hunger and thirst for righteousness, need to be reminded that the gospel is for them, not just the lost. The living need to hear and must hear that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His ascension into heaven and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit are essential matters of this life that we need daily.

We the living are a needy bunch. We sin everyday. We deal with worldly issues everyday. We have problems that can only be resolved by the One who is able to do far exceedingly above and beyond anything we can ask or think. And that is the gospel. The gospel isn't just evangelistic preaching. The gospel is what we preach...period. The gospel is the entirety of the word of God; the word of God is the gospel.

"It is finished" but it's not over yet. It is finished can be applied to every festering sore the Christian has. There's a "how-to-sermon" for ya. And without applying it is finished to the lives of believers and the unregenerate who gather in our churches each week, we cannot be surprised when we find ourselves in the midst of the apostasy. Evangelicalism isn't really evangelicalism without the word of God and the preaching of the gospel.