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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pentecostal Praise Versus Preaching the Word of God

Having come to faith in Jesus Christ at what I call the height of the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic Movement (March, '74), and having fallen in love with both the Living Word of God and the written word of God, I soon found myself at odds with most of my new Charismatic friends. My new and immature Christian brethren were clearly misinformed about what the word of God actually said about certain matters, e.g., the gift of tongues, sexual immorality, etc.. And being a "new born babe" in Christ myself, I was tentative about saying anything in way of correction to anyone unless their error was egregious. Now, 40 years later I find myself having to face the same mishandling of the word of God or worse, an apparent disdain for what is written and its preaching.

This egregious lack of love and reverence for God's written word and the preaching of that word is the direct result of what transpired during the rise of Pentecostalism and Charismaticism beginning as far back as the turn of the 20th century (*I am addressing these two groups only because of the recent experience I had with them). Feelings and opinions replaced the truth of God's word and the work of the Holy Spirit. These feelings springing up from within the flesh appeared to many as nothing less than the voice of the Spirit, "if it feels good it must be of God." The gift of discernment of spirits and common sense discernment based on the word of God went the way of the horse and buggy, rejected as archaic and no longer wanted.

This past weekend, Feb. 23, 2014, I had a conversation with a Pentecostal man (brother) over a cup of coffee where he began a low-key rant against the written word of God and the preaching of God's word. I have gone through this with this man before, hoping I could persuade him to see the error of his ways apparently to no avail. His reasoning is that while preaching is only ok it is through singing and "praise" that most people are "touched by the gospel." While I love singing hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord with the brethren as the Bible commands (Eph. 5:18ff; Col. 3:16ff), I also strongly emphasize the preaching and teaching of the word as the Bible commands (Acts 10:42; Rom. 1:15-17; 10:9-17; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:5). Singing is great for the uplifting of one another in corporate worship but is ineffective in guarding the flock of God from "savage wolves" as only the spoken word of God can do (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).

After our coffee talk, I and my brother gathered with a small group of folk for an evening of praise and worship. As we were preparing to leave after the service, I overheard this man talking with a Pentecostal brother about our earlier conversation. It was funny to them. The other man told a little story that he said had happened to him when this notion of singing over preaching had come up at another meeting. "I once asked a man how many sermons he had memorized or could even remember and how many songs did he know. He said he couldn't remember many sermons but he had memorized many hymns and gospel songs. I told him, that's my point." And that is supposed to be godly and spiritual reasoning? Spirit-filled Pentecostal/Charismatic men find preaching boring and a waste of time?

The conclusion drawn by these two men is that singing trumps preaching, feelings trump truth, songs memorized after much repetition (and these men know hundreds of gospel songs) trump the life-changing, life-giving and devil defeating preached word of God, and pleasing the ears of the hearers trumps preaching the uncompromised word of God. Why, according to these men (and they in fact said so), a true man of God doesn't need to prepare sermons, he can just stand up and trust the Spirit to give him a message week in, week out. That is pure irony. Apart from a working knowledge of the written word the Spirit cannot and will not give a message. Check out 2 Timothy 2:15 and 3:14-4:5.

"Preach the word!" The Holy Spirit can and does give His people spontaneous messages, at-the-moment kind of words often. But the proclamation of the word after the man of God has studied it diligently is the norm.

The danger of such error is apparent.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our war with our "old man" begins with victory in Jesus. Part 1

Do you remember when kids referred to their fathers as "my old man?" Or you may have heard a wife refer to her husband as "my old man." Biker chicks still refer to their husbands and/or boyfriends as "my old man." Now as a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Christian, we meet another "old man" and it is us. Well, it's a part of us.

It's this old man that every believer can and must learn to deal with and to work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in order to keep him in his place, at least keep him from running around out of control. We will never be rid of him in this life and he will always raise his ugly head and cause misery for the believer. But through the finished work of Jesus, the application of that work to our inner man, the liberating power of the truth and the Holy Spirit, we find the source of joy and victory and peace with God. And isn't it peace with God experienced in a clear conscience that we all want? So how do we get this peace and a clear conscience?

We begin by focusing our hearts and minds and spirits on that finished work of Jesus Christ and its application to our lives by the grace of God. He is the One who is victorious; He is our Victory. Lets look at one particular aspect of the application of this victory to our lives. The word/act I will concentrate on just may be the most important word in all of Scripture when it comes to our being right with God and our being able to experience a modicum of a clear conscience. And it's all God's doing.

Romans 5 is as good a place as any to turn to. Lets begin with v.1. I'll certainly deal with context as I go through this lesson. I'll begin reading with v.1 and I'm going to read through to v.9.

Romans 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

In this passage I have selected, the words "justified" (v.1 and v.9) serve as bookends for the finished work of Christ that is published in the various "books" between the bookends, i.e., peace with God, the Person of Jesus Christ, the gift of faith, grace, hope, exaltation in tribulations, perseverance, proven character, hope, the love of God in our hearts, the Holy Spirit, Christ's death for us the ungodly, Christ's blood, and our salvation from God's wrath. If you ever thought you were even partially involved in your justification I hope this passage will lay that to rest once and for all. It's all of God, beloved.




Sunday, February 9, 2014

"And this truth will make you free; I am wretched." Part...whatever. Romans 7:7-8:4

I don't know that I've ever knowingly lied about the fact that I have sinned, that I have sin, that I do sin (1 John 1:5-10) with the possible exception of the first few days after my conversion. The awareness that I still sin as a disciple of Christ was one of the most devastating moments of my life. I thought becoming a Christian and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit had put an end to my ability to sin. Boy, was I wrong. *Forgive me for posting on this again...and again and again. Apparently this is a part of my journey into the freedom and joy that belongs to all who are in Christ and my readers are hopefully putting up with it.

I'm ashamed (that pride thing, you know) to admit that during my 40 years as a Christian I have tried to deny my wretchedness. I have misinterpreted Romans 7:24 and misapplied it thinking that it simply couldn't mean what it says. "We're not really wretched." (and neither was the great apostle Paul) I told myself over all these years as a student of the word of God. And even when this denial of my wretchedness (and Paul's) confused me with my contradictory interpretation of Romans 7 as addressing Paul as a Christian, I stuck with it. It just seemed "un-Christian" to say that I was wretched. Denying my present wretchedness has been a burden too heavy to bear. Realizing that I am wretched as a believer and that wretchedness is a part of the Christian life has been so liberating.

I have in my ignorance and denial denied my sinfulness, my wretchedness (I have been guilty of denying that I sin; I confess it now). I have by the Holy Spirit's "spirit of revelation" been enlightened to see the truth that sets us free. I am wretched and as long as I'm in this body that is dead because of sin I will be wretched. As long as we experience that battle between the flesh and the spirit we will experience this wretchedness.

"O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"It is finished." It is finished for everyone in Christ, even in our wretchedness. We have the Holy Spirit, we are justified, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled to our Creator, sanctified, and gifted. And with all that there will never ever be a time on this earth in this life when we can say we don't sin. We are victorious over sin because we are in Christ but that does not mean that we do not and cannot sin. It does mean that through the power of the finished work of Christ and the Holy Spirit's very presence we are no longer slaves to sin as we once were but are free in Christ by God's declaration, not mine or yours. Receive it; believe it and rest in His finished work.

Stop trying to win God's approval through your filthy-rag-self-righteousness. If you are in Christ you have God's approval, wretched creature that you are, you saint. Wretched and righteous, that's us.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The paranoid/schizophrenic "inner man" and "outer man" of the Christian life.


"I am not schizo! Yes, I am!"

Seriously. If one isn't careful one could conclude that the believer is spiritually schizophrenic. And that could drive one crazy. But the fact is there is an on-going life-long struggle between the Christian's inner man and his/her outer man. Learning to live with this truth and learning how to tell the difference between the inner and the outer is a giant step in any believer's life. There is much to be gained, spiritually speaking, by way of peace with God and the peace of mind that comes with this knowledge. Paul's declaration in Romans 7:24 is a truly liberating piece of theology, "O wretched man that I am!"

Lets face it, beloved, we all sin... and we don't want to...and we want to...and we just can't seem to help ourselves. "Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me" (7:17, 20-25). Beloved, that's a fact of the Christian life. None have escaped this dilemma in this life in this world in this age.

Paul wasn't alone, of course, when he bared his soul for our benefit in Romans 7. That's why he bared his soul and made himself so transparent and vulnerable. The whole of this chapter in Romans is Paul using himself as an object lesson that the body of Christ throughout time might not give up on account of its continuing propensity to sin after regeneration and justification. I mean, if this was true for the great apostle then it's true for us. And we must admit, we live it out every day.

I cannot merely and easily dismiss my sins or that annoying law-of-the-evil-present. I hate it when I knowingly and willingly sin (at least I hate it afterward), "For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do" (v.15b).

I don't know about you, but I have always had really, really high expectations of myself when it comes to living a holy life. As you can imagine, I have been really, really disappointed with myself, at times to the point of wanting to throw in the proverbial towel. If not for the grace of God working in me through the Person of the Holy Spirit and certain brethren through whom I have been greatly encouraged, I would have chunked it all.

"I am not a spiritual schizo!"


Accept this fact: "You are a wretched man/woman!" No, this does not give you permission to sin, it does, however, explain why you sin. Thus, chapters 3-8 of Romans and chapter 15, verses 50-56, of 1 Corinthians. You and I occupy corrupt and corruptible bodies. We live in bodies that are dead because of sin. In fact, we are wretched precisely because we live in "the body of this death," the source of our wretchedness (Rom. 7:24, "who will deliver me from the body of this death?").

Do you sin? Of course you do. All God's children sin. The righteous justified sin (Ecc. 7:20). We just hate to have to admit it, especially the part where we have to face the truth that we always will until we're "in glory." Yet at the same time we find (I know I do) a modicum of comfort in the truth that sinning is a part of the believer's life and that this life with its warts is ordained of God. Yes, I said this life, warts and all, sin and all, is ordained of God else this life would be otherwise. Check out 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. I am not a freak in the kingdom of God because I sin. God never approves of our sin, rather He has covered it and forgiven it, all of it (Col. 2:13-15) and given us the one resource for dealing with our sinfulness, the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13).

Accept this fact: The wretched cannot deliver themselves from their wretchedness. That can be done only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. And that deliverance, that "rescue," is assured by the apostle when he answers his plea for deliverance by saying "I thank God through Jesus Christ." It is a future deliverance, but it is an assured future deliverance (Rom. 8:18-25). I rest in that hope, in that blessed assurance.

Accept this fact: "No man can say he is wretched who is not also spiritual" (Luther). Only the eyes of the enlightened are enabled to see their wretchedness and their remaining corruption.

Accept this fact: Conclude with the apostle Paul that this is indeed life as ordained of God. I will conclude with the apostle's conclusion, 7:25, "So then (that is saying "I conclude this..."), with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." And it is a logical and completely consistent conclusion, agreeing with his preceding arguments about the nature of the Christian life.

Accept this fact: "We will never be condemned; we will never face the wrath of God." That's how our chapter 8 begins, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who are not walking according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Our future deliverance is assured not because of anything we have done or not done but solely because we are "in Christ Jesus." I find great hope and comfort and encouragement those 3 words. Rest in that hope, beloved.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Long Term Effects of the Grammy Awards broadcast.

The display of fallen humanity's total depravity during the recent broadcast of the Grammy awards supports the word of God's declaration about the wickedness of man's heart (Jer. 17:9). It also demonstrates or illustrates the giving over by God of the obstinately wicked to do what they want to do (Rom. 1:18-32). The effects of that display of darkness that characterizes those who live under the dominion and power of the "prince of the power of the air" will operate in the minds and hearts of the unregenerate for a long, long time, perhaps for many for eternity. I am especially concerned for the young viewers of sanctioned Grammy porn. Here is what I think is going to take place because of the blatant rejection of our cultures mores.

First, homosexuality will be accepted by parents and children alike as God sanctioned, more so now than ever before. "Same Love" will take precedent over the word of God.

Second, children and teens with laptops, ipads, smart phones and home computers will increasingly feel free to visit porn sites and satisfy the urges that come with viewing porn after having watched the Grammies with parental approval.

Third, women will gladly and willingly view themselves as sex objects and "boy toys" and give themselves to more partners. That is something we are already witnessing but it is going to get worse.

Fourth, the already wealthy pornographers are going to have more freedom to peddle their wares and with government approval or with the governments continued practice of looking the other way.

Fifth, STD's are going to become common place and taken lightly.

Sixth, Christianity is going to be compromised in new and destructive ways as the religion is labeled narrow minded and the Bible will be considered mythology. The "one god" and the "same god" theology will find a place in churches, seminaries, and the entertainment industry.

Seventh, The persecution and mocking of Christians who hold to the "faith once delivered to the saints" is going to be tolerated by the intolerant liberal public and media.

Eighth, Christians who are strong in their faith are going to become more vocal and evangelistic as they see the signs of the times and the continuing "great falling away," the apostasy.