Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Church

107 Theses Part 1:1

Steve Camp has drawn up a document titled “The 107 Theses – reclaiming a reverence for God in ministry.” The document can be read in total here
http://www.a1m.org/page.php?page=template10.php&pageid=fcf54d19dd342ec4d0b163b23018f777

My aim is to work through each of these theses statements, addressing at least one a week, interacting with the Scripture texts as well as the truth stated in order to challenge myself as well as those who read.

1. “All our works, both musical and written, must produce a high view of God-with our chief aim being to glorify God and worship Him forever. (Job 40:6-41:34; Psalm 29:1-2; Jeremiah 9: 23-24) “

This is a powerful statement to make initially, and I believe is the summation of what is to follow. Just reading the Job passage is sobering. God challenges Job and by the end we (Job and the reader) realize that man’s not as big and bad and we think we are. Part of our problem is we fail to really see ourselves in light of God and His greatness. We tend to think ourselves pretty highly when it comes to our worth. We (Christians) give lip service to God’s being God, but when it comes down to it, we have to side with Job in saying “I have heard of you with my ear…” We have heard of Him, but not really experienced HIM in the way Job was being confronted. When questioned by God, Job was left speechless. The questions God posed to Job were questions prompting Job to compare himself to the Almighty. Just the sheer power of God ought to cause us to see that we are nothing and that He is everything and to be regarded as such.
The Psalmist tells us in chapter 29 of the Psalms that we are to ascribe unto The LORD to glory due Him. Jeremiah tells us that the one thing we have God’s permission to boast in is not our wisdom or strength, but in knowing HIM. We were created for His glory, and it’s in knowing Him and reveling in that knowledge that we glorify Him. It is in realizing this purpose and in living it out that we should do all we do to glorify Him and to also produce a high view of God in the hearts and minds of others. In short – all we do is worship of The Almighty.

What I see indicative of the “church” today is just the opposite. Ministry is man-centered. Whether it be the pastor trying to generate revenue so as to build his ministerial dream, or whether he’s in the ministry “just ‘cause I love people”. The books written are intent on convincing man that God thinks him special and really wants to make great things out of him, if man will only recognize the hidden potential that is clear as the sun to God. The music becomes shallow, the Sunday sermons become dry, God is not to be found anywhere near our social clubs we call church; yet we don’t realize it because we’re to busy dancing our golden calf as our preacher yells “behold your god!”. Ministry isn’t done in worship of Jehovah, nor with the aim to generate more worship of Him. Humanity is the god most worship today, so much that we even have god bowing down to man. We love this god because He so worships us, how could we not love someone who so prizes us above all else?!

But ministry is not primarily to help people, rather ministry is to exalt God. The main purpose of Sunday morning church isn’t to evangelize the lost, the reason for worship music isn’t to try to draw the youth in hopes to keep them drug-less and pure, and the primary motivator for mission work is not because we just love people and can’t stand the thought of them not going to heave. Yes, we long to see the lost saved and thank God for each new profession on a Sunday morning. Yes, we are thrilled when youth come to worship The LORD! And Yes, we long to see God save men from hell. But these are not the primary reason we do these things. If so then we are guilty of idolatry, for we serve who we worship. Paul admonished us that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we are to do it for the glory of God.
May God have mercy on us and grant us repentance that we may return to true worship. May the songs we sing, books we write, and ministries we develop have this as their primary aim – to glorify God and worship Him forever.


Marriage = Losing Your Life

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Colossians 3:4 “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Phil. 1:21 “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

It’s been a week since my sister and Brandon Cook were wed. There is a thought that has been on my mind throughout the week that I have been itching to share. It’s not just illustrated in their wedding, but in the wedding of any man and woman who are lovers of each other and lovers of God. When my brother-in-law, Brandon, said “I do” to my sister he forsook all others and committed himself to her alone. We joke about it being “game over” or him being locked up to a ball-and-chain, but he seriously did lose his freedom. He no longer may come and go as he pleases, but must give his concerns and thoughts to my sister (as well as his paycheck! LOL!). Her well being precedes his own. There will be items that he will have to fore go obtain so that my sister may have something she needs or maybe just desires to have. In short, Brandon has lost his life for my sister. This, although not perfect, is an illustrative reminder (or a pointer) to the infinitely greater reality of what Jesus Christ has done for His bride – His Church. He considered His being God not a thing to be exploited and took upon Himself the form of a servant, a human, and was obedient unto the death of the cross. He gave His life so as to obtain His chosen people – His Bride! A definite price paid for a definite object, the object of His affection.

But there is another part to the “I do”’s, and that’s my sister, the bride. When she said “I do!” she lost her life as well; although not the same way as her new husband. Brandon lost his life for her, but Kristan lost her life IN him. You see he becomes her life, she forsakes her previous last name and adopts his. She is no longer a Pulliam, but a Cook. He is now her head as opposed to our Dad. She is concerned with pleasing him, adoring him as a wife should adore her husband. She looks to him for protection and guidance. Colossians 3:4 and Philippians 1:21 are two verses of God’s Word that their marriage reminded me of.

A marriage is to illustrate gospel truths to other. One of the ways we image our maker is through marriage. One of the ways we communicate the gospel is through marriage. I do pray The LORD to work mightily in the lives of my sister and her husband. I thank Him for His grace, and that He has given us reminders and illustrations of the gospel in various areas of life.

Are you His Bride? “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26


Camp on God’s Sovereignty

I have much to share regarding my sister’s wedding, but I was reading this article by Steve Camp and thought I’d share it as I will not be able to blog until the 1st of July.
Here is the link to the site if you wish to read more of his thoughts on topics.

http://www.a1m.org/

May God be glorified.

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
…salvation is not your choice – it is His
October 29th 2009 –
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
-1 Corinthians 1:18

One of the damnable lies that has crept into evangelicalism over the last fifty years (via a return to Finneyism) is that salvation is the result of your free will enacted by your own volition to decide to follow Jesus Christ so that you can gain eternal life. Rubbish! Salvation is the result of His sovereign election of His own from all eternity past in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:1-2). Salvation is not the result of you mumbling some little sinners prayer, walking an aisle, raising a hand, or signing a decision card. “The only thing,” as Jonathan Edwards has said, “that you bring to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.”

So read the following words by brother C.H. Spurgeon and consider the greatness of your salvation – that it is all of grace, all of God, all of Christ Jesus the Lord, all of the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). Any boasting in and of ourselves is excluded; any attribution in the smallest degree to man’s free will is a gospel worthy of the dung hill (Roms. 3:21-31; Phil. 3:1-12). All our boasting and glory is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (1 Cor. 1:27-31)!

Amen?

We stand in grace,
Steve

“I feel persuaded that false doctrine, inasmuch as it touches God’s sovereignty, is always an object of divine jealousy. Let me indicate especially the doctrines of free-will. I know there are some good men who hold and preach them, but I am persuaded that the Lord must be grieved with their doctrine though he forgives them their sin of ignorance. Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man’s own will, thus making the atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy. Those sentiments dilute the scriptural description of man’s depravity, and by imputing strength to fallen humanity, rob the Spirit of the glory of his effectual grace: this theory says in effect that it is of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God that showeth mercy.

Any doctrine, my brethren, which stands in opposition to this truth—”I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” provokes God’s jealousy. I often tremble in this pulpit lest I should utter anything which should oppose the sovereignty of my God; and though you know I am not ashamed to preach the responsibility of man to God—if God be a sovereign, man must be bound to obey him—on the other hand, I am equally bold to preach that God has a right to do what he wills with his own, that he giveth no account of his matters and none may stay his hand, or say unto him, “What doest thou?” I believe that the free-will heresy assails the sovereignty of God, and mars the glory of his dominion. In all faithfulness, mingled with sorrow, I persuade you who have been deluded by it, to see well to your ways and receive the truth which sets God on high, and lays the creature in the dust.” — C. H. Spurgeon


A few KJV Facts:

– The KJV is based on the TR. The TR was compiled by Erasmus who died a faithful catholic priest, and dedicated his compilation to Pope Leo the X. He wrote of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “my salvation” and “my refuge”; he even thought of salvation as “through Jesus, but not without His mother”. This is important for at least two reasons: 1. KJV-only advocates attempt to denigrate other versions based on the personal beliefs of those who are on the translation committee. It should also be noted that Richard Thompson, one of the translators of the 1611 KJV was a known drunkard, and was permitted to remain on the committee. and 2. when we understand the implications of what it means that Erasmus compiled it (meaning it didn’t exist in it’s fullness ever before that) and what he added to it.

– It was not received from the original NT churches. Contrary to what many claim, the TR was not passed down from Paul, to the NT church, to the next century church, and so on, all the way to us. (Yes, this is taught in some KJV-only circles.) It was compiled by Erasmus, a catholic priest. The name “Received Text” was first applied to a printed Greek text only as late as 1633, or almost 120 years after Erasmus’ first published Greek New Testament appeared in 1516. It wasIn 1633 a publication of a Greek text contained the publisher’s “blurb”: textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, or, “therefore you have the text now received by all,” from which the term textus receptus, or received text was taken. This was retroactively applied to the published Greek New Testaments extending from 1516 to 1633 and beyond.

– The TR (the source of the KJV) contains verses, or changes to verses, that have absolutely no Greek manuscript support. One of these “altered” texts is the reading “book of life” in Revelation 22:19. All known Greek manuscripts here read “tree of life” instead of “book of life” as in the textus receptus. Where did Erasmus get the reading “book of life”? When Erasmus was compiling his text, he had access to only one manuscript of Revelation, and it lacked the last six verses, so he took the Latin Vulgate and back-translated from Latin to Greek. Unfortunately, the copy of the Vulgate he used read “book of life,” unlike any Greek manuscript of the passage, and so Erasmus introduced a “unique” Greek reading into his text. Another is I John 5:7, which Erasmus added even though he believed it was a forged verse, just because of a commitment he had made to someone who thought a verse of that nature should be included in the text.

– The Textus Receptus (TR or Received Test) and Majority Text (MT) are NOT the same. Although the terms textus receptus and majority text are frequently used as though they were synonymous, they by no means mean the same thing. The majority text was compiled by Hodges and Farstad, their text varies from the TR in 1,838 instances. (it is worthy of note that in many of these places, the text of Westcott and Hort agrees with the majority of manuscripts against the textus receptus. A list of some of these discrepancies between the majority text and the TR are: the majority text excludes Luke 17:36; Acts 8:37; and I John 5:7 from the New Testament, as well as concurring in numerous other readings (such as “tree of life” in Revelation 22:19).

– The KJV originally included the Apocrypha (which contained Heresies). For example, in Tobit 12:8,9, 1611 KJV we read:
“For almes doth deliuer from death, and shall purge away all sinne. Those that exercise almes, and righteousness, shall be filled with life.” If the translators produced THE BIBLE for the English speaking world (some would say for all the world), then why do the KJV-only people not still read and teach from the apocrypha? It was included in the original.

– The translators of the KJV did not claim to be inspired, nor did they believe themselves to be penning an “official” translation of God’s Word, never to be attempted again. They said their work was merely a translation, just as any other.

– The KJV was not the first English Bible, nor is it the same edition of KJV we have today.

– The KJV is not the only “Authorized” Version. It was the 3rd authorized Bible of the English church. The first was the Great Bible of 1539, second Bishop’s Bible of 1568, and thirdly the King James. “Authorized” doesn’t mean “God approved” it was simply a label used for those translations the church of England recognized as the norm for use in public worship.

Post Scripts – I am not advocating the KJV as a translation that should be thrown out. I state these things to show that the KJV is not a perfect translation, nor is it superior to all other translations. It was an effort of the English to produce a bible that could be understood in their common vernacular in their day and time. They encourage us to continue to do the same in our translation work as we use the manuscripts we have at our disposal. Fighting over which text is superior, or which text is authorized by satan in attempts to break apart the church is pure foolishness. It seems those in the KJV-only camp who are causing division (not every KJV-O advocate, but the devisive ones) are the instruments of satan.
May we stick to the facts and be used of God to build His church, not destroy it over Elizabethan English and intellectual slothfulness.


Pervert Hating Perverts

(Note: The Random House Dictionary give a definition of a pervert as “a person who has been perverted, esp. to a religious belief regarded as erroneous.” It is this definition I am using in this post, not one of sexual perversion.)

I was told a story of an elderly woman who was raised in a denomination that taught one could lose their salvation if they did not keep certain rules. She began attending a church where the pastor taught a biblical eternal security that was not based upon our works, but Christ’s work. The woman sat under the teaching for a while, examining it in light of Scripture. In time, she came to the pastor, and checking behind her as if she thought she may be followed or was being watch by some spy, whispered to the pastor “I believe what you’re teaching is true.” Then she added, “But don’t you think it’s dangerous?”

She’s correct! This is a real danger. There are some who realize this danger – they realize that people are prone to take a teaching, no matter how true it may be, and pervert it. To remedy this problem, they decide to pervert the truth in the other direction. An example is on the biblical doctrine of grace. Realizing that some could hear what Paul is really saying about grace and conclude that we can live however we want as long as we have confessed Jesus Christ, they attach a works based foundation to the “real Christian” life. They tell people that they must perform certain actions in order to be a good Christian. This is done to keep others out of immorality, or some other sin, that they may be prone to fall into if they twisted what Paul said about not being under the law but under grace. Rather than proclaim truth, as Paul did, and deal with those who would pervert it, they pervert it in order to beat the opposing pervert to the punch. This is the primary method that I have observed in legalism. Men will stand in the pulpit and use fear to control people, and get them to submit to their yoke of legalism. These men use fear as that is what motivate them. They are afraid that people will twist truth, so they pass this fear down to those who are under them. People are told they have to draw the line somewhere or their children will go wild. They’re not satisfied with the biblical lines, as they fear the children will cross them so they set extra-biblical laws in the name of protection and pass them off as biblical. If the Scripture says, “Don’t play in the road.”; they would say, “If you play in the front yard, you’re disobeying God!” These leaders have a fear that people may not read their Bible as they should, so they tell them a “5 star” Christian does that daily, and if they want to be a top notch Christian then they should do the same. The list is endless, anything from style of dress, to forms of entertainment, to “brand” of Bible. I’m not saying that these men do not have good intentions; but to quote something one of them told me “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

My question is this: If one man perverts truth in order to keep another man from perverting the truth, who is a pervert?


The FORCE (or Star Wars Christianity):

I’ve noticed an epidemic among Christians today, they seem to think that the story of a galaxy far, far away is a parable of their life. Their midichlorian faith is their link to great things. They think if they can just have a high enough concentration of faith then God (the FORCE) will bring about the desired result. These Christian Jedi’s think that they can use the FORCE to stop bad things if they only believe. Whether cancer, a rebellious teen, a failing marriage, or a check book that’s always in the red – if they have enough faith then the FORCE will act in their favor. They even interpret the Christian “God bless you” to mean essentially the same as the Jedi Counsel parting of “May the force be with you!”

This breed of Christianity has elevated faith above its object. The Christians’ faith becomes placed in his faith or in himself as it’s essentially his ability to generate enough faith; and God become the means to an ends, a FORCE that they can wield for their benefit and ease of life if they only believe.

Although it may sound super spiritual to attempt great things, or hang on when there is nothing to hang on to, and claim that one must have faith; there is no biblical warrant for this twisted use of spiritual jargon. The faith of many young apprentices quickly collapses as they have no foundation for it. They become disillusioned, or angry at God for not responding as they anticipated He would. Some walk away from Christianity as a whole, with the reasoning that if their midichlorian faith was futile then there is nothing but naturalistic laws and blind chance that reigns supreme in the end.

In Scripture, we are told to believe God. Faith is firmly rooted in the character and nature of Jehovah and His promises. We are never asked to just believe for the sake of belief. Take the account of the 3 Hebrew men who would not bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. In refusing to bow, even upon the threat of their being thrown into the fiery furnace, they exclaimed that God is able to deliver them from the furnace, BUT if He doesn’t then they will burn – regardless of what The Almighty has chosen, they would not bow.

Luckily, these three men had not been introduced to the Jedi way. Today, we are more interested in the outcome of our circumstances – we tend towards pragmatism. Romans 8:28 is the favorite verse of many professing believer. As they go through hard times, they repeat the mantra that all things will work out for their good. And their hope is to wait for that more dependable car, or winning lotto ticket to come rolling down the pike. They see their suffering as some sort of down payment for happiness later, possibly in the next couple years or so. Some people even tithe with the idea that tithing will bring God’s blessing and not tithing will bring His curse. (Karma has also cloaked itself in Christianity for many.) Obedience to God is no longer done from a heart of love for God but rather love of self. Things are done to keep God appeased and pleased with us so that all will go well for us. But what of times when things just do not seem to end well for us? Peter was crucified, John beheaded, countless other people martyred for their trust in God. The baby born prematurely does die sometimes, and my Grandmother didn’t win her battle with cancer. Prayers do seem to go unanswered. There are times where life is more like a casket of thorns rather than a bed of roses. When this reality sets in, then many give up. They have built their Christianity on a foundation of humanism. Having been told it’s proper to keep themselves at the center of all things; when all things fall apart so do they.

Romans 8:28, and other passages like it, are not there for our self aggrandizement, rather tells us to trust in God. Even when things don’t seem good, trust Him to work His purposes for our good – remember how we define good is vastly different than God’s definition of good. Have faith in God! Not that He will pull through for you, or make it all easier soon enough; but believe Him when He says He’s in control. Love Him and obey Him regardless of the outcome. We should not serve Him for the expected outcome, but because He is worthy.

Star Wars makes for great movies, but poor Christianity. Thoughts, you have?


Have we forsaken the Great Commission?!

Current circumstance has brought me into contact with a plethora of skeptics. It seems that I have met more, directly or indirectly, in the past 1.5 yrs than ever before. Of the skeptics/atheists that I meet I am getting the impression that most of the other believers they have spoken with were not able to substantiate their (the believer’s) faith. Now I do not think that one’s ability to substantiate his belief is contingent upon convincing the opposition. The opposition may full well look the facts in the face and refuse to accept them – and that happens often. (Unbelief isn’t proof that something is false.) Nor am I claiming that I have “arrived” and am the model for one who can sufficiently substantiate his own (following Jesus is a lifetime pursuit). I am just wondering, “Have we failed to make disciples?” Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but also to make disciples. I know masses of people who were raised in church, and they can’t substantiate their faith. Some are even taught that you shouldn’t!! But as I read the New Testament, I see the apostles claiming that they were eyewitnesses, and that they aren’t duped by some myth or fable (2 Peter 1:16; I John 1:1 for example).

God even tells us in His Word to be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

I believe we have fallen asleep on this issue. The alarm of growing apostasy is sounding, telling us of our failure. We need to wake up!

Here is a post that a friend drew my attention to. I encourage you to read it, and may God grant us repentance for forsaking the Great Commission as we have.

Partial obedience is disobedience.


Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:

I read something the other day written by a layperson of a local congregation I use to attend praising the union of two well known Independent Baptist preachers. That’s not what I wish to address here, but something that was said in the note. He makes the comment that there is no such thing as easy believism. With a metaphorical hand waive, a very real, very intense, very vital, ongoing battle over truth has been dismissed. You see, there are two major tactics men take against truth: 1. is to misrepresent it by building a straw man, and then burn the straw man and declare one’s self the victor.(I believe John R. Rice falls in this category, although I think he unintentionally misunderstood it.) Or 2. Claim the issue isn’t even real and ignore it (the category of our friend who wrote the note mentioned above).

Easy believism is, essentially, the belief that once a person makes a profession of faith, it matters not what their life is like after that profession. They are deemed to be saved on account of their profession, regardless whether they live as if Jesus is their LORD or not. The saying goes, “You can accept Him as Savior without accepting Him as LORD.” They claim that to have Him as LORD is something that may come later, but is not necessary in the life of a Christian. They claim that to tell a lost man to repent and believe is to add works to salvation. (Strong accusation, eh?) But in Scripture, repentance is mentioned along side faith. They are two sides of the same coin. The apostle James made it very clear that faith without anything to back it up is dead. (easy believism isn’t new, this false teaching was around in Jame’s day also.)

The danger of those who espouse “easy believism”, and many do, is that they are giving false assurance to many who are not saved. They are teaching men that if they give mental assent to some gospel truths then they are saved. It is not the gospel! Getting a man to say “yes” at the proper times doesn’t make him a true convert. Scripture makes it clear that men are called to repent and believe; to not just believe on Jesus as Savior, but as LORD and Savior. Now some men, like John R. Rice, may have mistaken repentance for sanctification. But no one is saying that they must physically cease every sin they have ever engaged in never to lapse again. The book of I John, which clearly denounces easy believism, also refutes sinless perfection while here on this earth. The call to repent is to turn from one’s rebellion and believe the Jesus is LORD as well as seeking refuge in Him. Its a change of heart that results in a change of action. A true believer is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. This will evidence itself in sanctification. As The Holy Spirit manifest areas in the believer’s life that needs to be altered, the believer will joyfully obey.

To compensate for some of the problems, the easy believist then creates the doctrine of “the carnal Christian”. These people are believers, but they don’t live like it. Some even go so far as to say that they can fall out of church, never to return, and live like a hellion, but since he made a profession of faith years ago then they’re saved. “Once saved, always saved!” is the slogan they say (which is a total misunderstanding of eternal security).

The other error that feeds on this is legalism. All these professing believers need to be told how a good Christian lives, and given enough incentive to abide by the rules. The Lordship of Christ isn’t sufficient, as they aren’t living under that. So they turn up the spiritual peer-pressure. Things like “How to be a 5 Star Christian” and the like, are propagated in order to get these people who have prayed a prayer and been baptized to keep living right. Love becomes rule keeping instead of obedience being spurred by love. In some of these churches, if you fail to keep all the rules, then they may label you as a false convert (somehow they realize mental assent isn’t enough in the long run).

I digress.

Easy believism is very real and has infiltrated our churches. I am not blowing this out of proportion. I have a friend who doubted his salvation when we were younger. He went to his pastor and talked to him. The pastor told him that whenever my friend doubts, just ask Jesus to save him again! I interned under a pastor who had a doubting young man in the youth group. This pastor resorted to the normal “did you ask Jesus to save you?” to which the boy replied yes. Then the pastor followed with the next question, “did you mean it?” If the person meant it at the time of asking then he is assured that he is forever saved, because God isn’t a liar. (The synergistic doctrine of “you do your part in salvation and God will do His” is another heresy that cuddles up to this easy believism.) I graduated from a school that sells booklets attempting to refute “Lordship Salvation”. I was raised in a movement that taught this very thing. I struggled with assurance for years (from 8 years old until 23 years of age). I was told to take Satan back to the day I asked Jesus into my heart. I was told to write the date down in my Bible. I was given the reassuring questions of “did I ask and did I mean it” and I dealt with the questions of “How do you know you meant it? Did you mean it enough? Maybe you just think you meant it.” I had another friend who was doubting his salvation and his way of settling it was to tell God that he had asked Jesus to save him so God couldn’t let him go to hell. My friend reminded God that he had done his part and God had to keep His end of the bargain. Per this horrid teaching, my salvation hinges upon whether or not I do something correctly, and earnestly enough. My assurance isn’t grounded in the work of Christ, but in my keeping my end of the bargain. My faith becomes rooted in my faith.

Easy believism avoids the issue of the need for a new heart. It fails to see man’s utter wickedness and inability to submit to God. It was the lack of submission that was entailed in the first sin. But in order to make the gospel more palatable to people, Jesus is offered as a ticket out of hell. Once we get them in the church pew, then we may pound them with a list of rules to live by; or just let them do whatever since they’re glory bound regardless. Jesus, on the other hand, was up front with His invitation and demands. Following Him would cost a man everything, and if he wasn’t willing to forsake all and follow Jesus (in other words repent and believe) then that man was ready, or worthy, to be a disciple of Jesus.

Are you truly believing on Jesus? Have you lost yourself in total abandonment to The LORD of all creation? Or a more telling question – If you knew that if you served Jesus with all your might every minute of every day for your entire life and He would still cast you into hell, would you serve Him?

May God turn our hearts to Him, and by His grace, may we preach the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ.


Music, Morality, and Mistaken Premises – Pt.2

What does Scripture say anyway?

Scripture doesn’t address music style (this is really the main argument between “traditional” and “contemporary” church music), but there are generally three passages that those who do not accept contemporary church music will submit as biblical footing for their stance.

“Harping” on the wrong thing:

I Samuel 16 records the event where King Saul had an evil spirit that plagued him and was advised to hire a skilled musician to play for him. He hired David, who was skilled at the harp, and when David would play the evil spirit would leave Saul.

Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.

It is apparent that music does have an affect on the individual. That is a point that is agreed upon by both sides of the debate. If music didn’t affect us in some way then there would be no point in employing it in worship, or love sonnets to our spouses, etc. Music can calm and relax us, facilitate in a workout or give us the perfect rhythm to dance around the room with the love of our life. I would not play “Eye of the Tiger” to a room full of 4 year old children if I was trying to get them to lie down and nap. This passage does not address musical styles, simply that music is influential. To use the passage as definitive on style would be the same as trying to say that only music played with the harp is God honoring music.

No… that’s really music, Josh:

Exodus 32:17-18 is another passage, probably the most favorite of the traditionalist.

15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

In this passage, Moses and Joshua go up the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments from The LORD. While away, the people convince Aaron to make them an image of God. They make a golden calf out of their jewelry and as they celebrate and worship their newly made god they employ music. Joshua hears it and thinks it’s war going on. Moses has a more discerning ear and correct Joshua by telling him it is not a victory cry nor cry of defeat, but singing that he hears. The point that is often attempted to be made by this passage by the traditionalist is that Joshua thought their celebration sounded like war. Most contemporary music employs drums and other rhythm instruments differently that classical, baroque, or other westernized styles. The heavy rhythm is equated to war-like sounds and lumped into the genre that Joshua must have thought he heard. It is over looked that Moses corrected Joshua, as well as the fact that since they were on a mountain and the people in the valley below, the distance alone would have distorted the clarity of the music along with the voice of the people.

Again, style of music must be superimposed on the text. If one side wants to employ Joshua for their purposes of saying the music sounded like war, the other side can just as easily side with Moses and say it’s really music. Moses wasn’t enraged with them over the idol they had erected. The text doesn’t even allude to the music tipping him off to their idolatry. It wasn’t until he saw what they were doing that his anger burned hot. It is notable, however, that music is such a vital part of worship, that it is even included in idolatry as if not even idol worship would be “complete” without it.

Music & Glory:

II Chron 5

1 Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. 3 And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. 4 And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. 5 And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. 6 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 7 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. 9 And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. 11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”

the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). When we worship Him in word, prayer, song, or sacrament He is there with us. This passage makes a clear statement, yet with a positive example, that music is most definitely a part of worship. The ark was brought into the Holy Place, the priestly attire was being worn, but it wasn’t until the musicians played and sang that the cloud filled the Lord’s house. Yet we do not have a comment on style. We can imagine what it might have sounded like by familiarizing ourselves with whatever Jewish music we have available to us today, but that is about as close as we can get. We do know that whatever it sounded like, it poured forth from a heart of worship to God.

Music is an outgrowth of our worship. We express our emotions through it, and communicate them to others. But at the end of the day we are not left with anything definitive about music styles. This is when the traditionalist will turn to secular musicians for support. They will quote Mic Jaggar to Frank Zappa. Trying to prove the music controls people. The assumption is that if it makes you want to tap your foot, then you’re under it’s control and it could just as easily make you want to punch your parent in the face. I understand that secular rock musicians use their music to promote rebellion and wickedness. I also understand that it is a swinging away from the previously accepted genre. But this pendulum swing is what has happens in cultures. For example. The classical period, the period lasting about 70 years (1750 to 1820) and cushioned between the Baroque and Romantic periods, is just one example of the same “cultural rebellion”. It wasn’t always called “classical” in it’s own time, it was the contemporary genre of the day. In contrast to it’s predecessor complex harmonies and multiple coexisting melodies, it was more simple with clearly defined melodies as opposed to emphasized harmonies. The new music was a result of the emphasis upon ideals of classical Greek culture. Interestingly enough, in a book I read by one who is opposed to contemporary music, and in support of the classical style, the author quoted Henry David Thoreau saying, “Music… has helped cause the destruction of the Greek and Roman empires and it will sooner or later destroy America and England.” [“Music Matters” by Cary Schmidt pg. 21] I have read Dr. Jack Hyles quoting Plato as saying in his Republic, “The introduction of a new kind of music should be shunned as imperiling the whole state.” [sermon titled “Jesus Had Short Hair!” by Dr. Jack Hyles] But music styles have changed since Plato, and it’s these “new” styles (now become old) that they are wishing to cling to.

All that has been determined by the Scriptures given thus far, is that music is influential and can be used for good or bad. If the traditionalist is to assert that their style of music is godly and contemporary is ungodly then there will need to be more than an assumed dualism. The topic of musical styles and the morality of them should be founded upon Scripture alone and not a mistaken premise or faulty illustration.


Music, Morality, and Mistaken Premises

My desire is to be thoroughly “Sola Scriptura” in all I do, as I hope
is evident quickly as you read through this. Although I am going to
begin with a premise given to me many times over by those who condemn
contemporary music. I address this mistaken illustration initially
because anything can be proven from a false premise.
The illustration often used to prove the morality of music goes
something like this:
If I write a letter, then that letter has no moral quality. It is
neither good nor bad as it stands alone, but when I put letters
together to form words it then has value as it communicates something.
Color is the same way. Red is neither good or bad, but can be used to
paint pictures that have moral value.

The illustration then says music is the same. A single note is amoral,
but string that not along with other notes and it begins to
communicate, and once communication occurs the it is either good or
bad.

The problem with this illustration is that it is not founded upon an
accurate understanding of any of the forms of communication it uses in
the illustration. It is true that all three forms of communication are
moral, and it is true that a single letter, color, or note does not
have moral value. It is also true that once communication occurs it
carries a moral message. It fails to realize that all three of these
are not just communication forms but art forms as well. This
illustration, in not allowing for variation of style, subtly
encourages one to subjectively place the moral value completely upon
the style instead of the what is being communicated. Let me show you
what I mean by recasting the illustration in a more accurate light:

If I write a letter, that letter has no moral quality, but letters
combined make words. Even still, these words do not have a moral
quality unless they are combined to communicate ideas. It is the
sentence that communicates. I can use the word “God” positively or
negatively. It is not just the word, but the context in which it’s
used. Then there is style. One can employ prose (and in various forms)
essay, etc. Various styles will better carry the message. Even
Scripture employs different writing styles throughout, which will
determine how the words employed are interpreted.
A color, standing alone, is neither good or bad. But when employed to
paint a picture, that picture takes on a moral quality. But this
picture can be painted in the style of Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, or a
myriad of others.
Now let’s move to music. A stand alone note is not good or bad, but to
string them together in a melody begins to communicate. But I can take
the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle” (a Mozart melody) and play that in
various styles.
All factors combine to make a whole, not just the stringing together
of letters to make words, colors to make pictures, or notes to make
melodies; but one must also account for style in the evaluation of
music. Monet was an impressionistic painter, his lines were not as
much defined as Rembrandt’s’ seemingly exasperatingly detailed
portraits, but both have beauty and both can be used to draw
positively and negatively moral things. But style in art enables us to
say things through the combination of all those elements in powerful
ways we otherwise would not be able to say.

Just as there are some forms of art that are truly not art but the
equivalent of setting of a bomb in a paint shop, so every style of
music is not acceptable – but then again it would be agreed that both
in artistry and music those unacceptable styles have no symmetry or
beauty to them but are products of chaos. We must be careful not to
impose our musical preferences as the determining factor of what is
good and what is not.

So, a quick recap before we move on:
1.Music is not just a language, but an art.
2.Art have varying styles in which it communicates
3.The same style can be used for good or evil
4.There are some exceptions to the rule above, but those exceptions
are few (styles rooted in chaos)
5.We must not elevate our preferences as the determiner of good and pad style.

Does this sound complex? If so then you’re beginning to see that the
reductionism taken by those who want to simply dismiss contemporary
music out of hand has skirted the issues. This reductionism fits quite
well when trying to make areas black and white that Scripture doesn’t
address in those terms.

(to be continued…)