Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gospel

Wood Chippers and Heartfelt Desire:

Instead of my writing a post,I want to share a chapter of a book that I have been afraid to read lately. Since beginning to read this chapter today, I have ordered the book. I feel as if my heart is being pushed through a wood chipper, yet simultaneously I am craving to be what this book challenges me to be – a true disciple of Jesus!

Please, at least read this chapter!
http://www.radicalthebook.com/


Sola Fide Gone Wrong:

The power of faith - "I believe there were no gas chambers."

Sola Fide is a doctrine that the church was brought back to during the reformation. It has been said that it is the hinge upon which the door of salvation turns. It is Latin for “Faith Alone” and is the doctrine that teaches that God’s pardon of guilty sinners is received through faith alone (all works excluded). But it is my contention today that many in the church have taken this vital biblical principle and really “booger-ed it up”.

It seems that today, faith has become the anchor for our souls. People find their assurance of their salvation by looking at their faith – they’re told to do this by the leaders in the church. When doubts arise and they need something to cling to they are told to look introspectively and cling to their faith. This is like a man who’s falling, looking for something to hang on to, grasps his other hand tightly and expecting that to support him. The passages we pull out of context to support this are ones that say something like this: “Believe on The LORD Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!” or “if you confess with your mouth The LORD Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from that dead you shall be saved”. What happens is a twisted doctrine of Sola Fide. Somehow we have come to believe that our faith alone saves us. We put our faith in faith. Jesus becomes more abstract – a thing to give mental assent to so we can check that box in our list of things to believe. When doubts come we get our checklist out and say:

“Jesus is God’s Son” – CHECK!

“Jesus died on the cross” – CHECK!

“Jesus rose from the dead” – CHECK!

“Jesus is coming back” – CHECK!

We then turn to Satan, or maybe one of his lesser demons if we are more humble, and say “See there?! I’m saved! I got it all checked. I believe!” Or we tell God, “God, you have to save me. You can’t let me go to hell. You said if I believed then I wouldn’t go to hell. I believe these things, so there!” And rest on our faith.

We’re fine until we come across Matt 7 in our devotional time: “Many will say unto Me in that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and do many wondrous works in Your name?’ and I will say to them, ‘ Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you!’ ” And the doubts flood in again. These guys had all the boxes checked! The confessed with their mouth! They called Him “LORD” twice for crying out loud! What more could you do? Like the man falling into the abyss, we cling all the more tightly to our own sweaty palm trying to convince ourselves we aren’t really falling.

Where did it go wrong? Doesn’t “Sola Fide” mean faith alone? I believe it has gone wrong with the fundamental way today’s church views the gospel. We have stripped it of it’s efficacy in attempts to give it efficacy. In striving to “recruit” men and women into the faith, we have bled the power out of it. God justifies men/women, and He has done so through the life of Jesus (I speak of His life, death, and resurrection). We are telling people that Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that (and we fill the blank with multiple options)

      1. You would see how much God loves you
      2. Because He couldn’t bear to live without you
      3. So that God could forgive you if you ask Him to (just to name a few)

The fundamental message we give is the same regardless of how we fill in the blank – “Jesus did what He did as an attempt to get you to do what you need to do so you won’t go to hell.” It’s like telling a man to sit where there is no chair but once he sits the chair will magically appear. As good as this may sound, and as well intentioned as the people are who speak it, it is hideously wrong. Having bled Jesus’ work of all real efficacy, we promise the individual that it will really work if he only believes in it. It is His work that saves me, not my faith in His work. I am not saying that men/women are saved regardless of whether they believe or not. I am not excluding faith and the means by which we receive justification. I am saying it is not the grounds of my justification. This is where we have gone wrong with the necessarily wonderful doctrine of “Faith Alone”. Faith is powerless in itself. Stripped naked, it is pure trust – belief. It is incapable of making a thing true or false. It doesn’t give life to the dead. It won’t crank a car with no motor – it won’t even crank a car with a motor. It is absolutely powerless to make things other than they already are, and it can’t make a chair appear if there isn’t one there already. This is the problem. After offering people an atonement that has not atoned we tell them that it can become a real atonement if they believe in it. Then when doubts come, where have we conditioned them to seek solace? Jesus? Not on their life. They were convinced that their faith made the difference so the go check to make sure they’re still saying “yes” to all the right things. Ask them why they know they’re going to heaven and the general reply is “Because I’ve placed my faith in Jesus Christ!” Not a bad answer if they mean God has promised that He justified sinners through His Son and we can rest on that; but it has been my experience that they don’t mean that. They mean exactly how it’s worded, “Because I did X”.

Do you see the difference? One grounds the basis of their salvation in their faith, the other grounds the basis of their salvation in God. This self-centered sola fide is shaky stuff. How do I know I have enough faith? What if I think I believe, but I really don’t believe and I’m just fooling myself? How do I really know I believe? And then we set out to prove to ourselves we believe: vow to spend no less than 5 minutes a day reading the Bible, go to church every time the doors are open, pass out tracts, tithe, the list is endless. Nothing is wrong with these things, but when they are done to prop up our failing faith then it’s nothing short of legalism (which is a whole other issue). These actions, and others like it, aren’t props for our faith, but outgrowths of it. I attend a local assembly of believers BECAUSE I believe the gospel, not because somehow it a way of showing myself, or others, that I still believe.

Whenever we put man at the center then we get all sorts of poor doctrine. And doctrine directly affects us in the everyday practicalities of life. So, by God’s grace, let’s stop offering men a saving machine that has the power to save them if they just make it run by using their faith to operate it and give them a Savior Who really saves. If I can do nothing to redeem myself from sin, don’t offer me an impotent redemption that can’t actually redeem me without my doing something. I need a Savior!

I hear it all depends on my faith
So I’m feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they’re so mysterious

And like a consumer I’ve been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith,
Then I’d be secure

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

(lyrics from “Shifting Sand” by Caedmon’s Call)


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.


That was then… this is Now:

A young seminary student was shown a passage in the Old Testament that depicted an characteristic of God that he could not reconcile with his preconceived, man-centered notions of how God relates to men. He explained the passage away by saying that the passage was written under law, while we (meaning every human being) are now under grace. His point was that God acted one way towards men in the Old Testament, but now is different. He doesn’t hate workers of iniquity as He use to. God’s has somehow changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Yet if God is immutable (as this young man would attest) then He must be the same yesterday, today, and forever – so what He hates in the OT (Old Testament), He also hates in the NT (New Testament).

A young, aspiring college student is confronted by a brother in Christ concerning some activity that he should not be involved in. His concerned brother shows him some passages from the OT where caution should be taken when being around the opposite sex, and there are certain boundaries we are not to cross. The bible college student looks his friend in the eye and says, “They were under law, we are under grace. Those rules don’t apply to me.”

A layman was questioned concerning the way of salvation of those in the OT and those in the NT. His response was that those in the OT were saved by keeping the law and those in the NT are saved by grace. His reasoning was “we are no longer under the law, but under grace”.

The main characters in each of these examples are all guilty of the same error – misunderstanding law and grace. They have an extreme “That was then…this is now” mentality. If their interpretation were to be biblical, then we have a God who changes His moral standards, Christians who can live however they want and God doesn’t care, and some men who are saved by their own works which means Jesus wasn’t really needed. Due to their inconsistency, most of those who ascribe to this view would deny that they believe the things I just mentioned. But a Christian should strive to be biblically consistent. Paul uses biblically consistent argumentation all through his epistles to show the church where they are in danger of embracing erroneous beliefs.

So what exactly does Paul mean when he says in Romans 6:14 “you are not under law but under grace”?

Whatever he is saying by not being under law but under grace, he directly relates it to the reason he emphatically knows that sin will no longer have the dominion over them. So when sin did have dominion over them, they were under law, not grace. He is not contrasting the Mosaic Law with grace as he is not speaking to only Jews (those who were raised under the mosaic covenant). The Roman believers were primarily Gentiles and were never under the Mosaic Law to begin with. So to attempt to tell them that they are not under the Mosaic Law anymore as to the reason for their being freed from the dominion of sin makes no sense at all. Paul is not contrasting a supposed way of salvation in the OT with that of the NT. He is telling these gentile believers that at one point in their life they were under the law, and thus sin reigned; but now they are under grace and sins dominion is no more over them. So what law is it if not the Mosaic Law? It is the law that is written in every man’s heart, the law every man is under. Paul made the case earlier that death reined from Adam to Moses (before the Mosaic Law). Men were still guilty of sin as they had the work of the law written in their hearts (Romans 2:14-16). The freedom from the law Paul is speaking about is that they are no longer under law in order to earn their salvation by perfection (no one could ever do that as the law only serves to make the transgression abound). They are now freed by grace to keep the law unto God – not in order to earn any merit at all, but out of a repentant heart. Those who are not in Christ are still under law. Paul does not make the statement that since Jesus has died every single human being is no longer under law but grace. Jesus Christ has perfectly kept the law for transgressors. It is by God’s grace through faith that we are in Jesus and no longer under the law; but until we are brought to faith in Christ we are under the law and sin does have dominion over us.

A good article on the topic at hand:

http://www.founders.org/journal/fj58/article2_fr.html


Opposing Reality with a Make-believe Arsenal:

I was sitting at work and pondering what to post about today. Interestingly enough, as a co-worker was leaving he handed me a book to assist me in passing the time as the phone continued to ring awaiting the individual on the other side to pick up and discuss their current mortgage situation with me. The volume he handed me, which the Chicago Tribune calls “Tantalizing!”, was titled “What if? – Vol. 2” edited by Robert Cowley. A small discussion ensued as he expressed his interest with counter-factual history.  As he spoke, there was a voice in my head yelling so loudly I don’t know why on earth he couldn’t hear it. (Don’t look at me that way, we both know you have them to, just like 16 year old Doogie as he would make his journal entry after a grueling day as a brain surgeon – talk about a plot for a TV series… only in the 90’s right?! )

Anyway, the example he gave in attempts to peak my interest in this theory of “hypothetical history” was that of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (the event that sparked WWI).He spoke of events that surrounded the assasination and how it’s occurence was a vital part in the spawning of WWI. So what was bouncing around in my head while he was talking? God is sovereign! In Isaiah 45:7, The LORD states “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

But there’s something else that caught my attention – chapter 3 of the book – “Pontius Pilate Spares Jesus – Christianity without a crucifixion”. The chapter, written by Carlos M.N. Eire, hypothesizes how history would have been different had Jesus not been crucified. I wish to use this man’s hypothesizing to address the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection to Christianity.

Mr. Eire makes two wrong assumption in thinking that Christianity still would have propagated (although in a slightly different form) had Pilate made a different decision. 1. Is that he fundamentally misunderstands the foundations of Christianity as evidenced by his thinking it would still spread had Jesus not been crucified, and 2. His view of the importance of events leading up to the crucifixion is too narrow; as if it all hinged upon Pilate. Judas did betrayed Jesus, the Pharisees demanded his death as opposed to stoning Him themselves, the 12 disciples didn’t revolt and come to Jesus’ rescue, nor did God The Father send angels to consume Jesus’ accusers with fire. Or what if the man who invented the method of crucifixion to begin with had died in infancy? There’s also Jesus’ claim to be The God of all creation, which is what infuriated the Jews to no end. So there’s more than just Pilate’s decision that affected the cross. There are a multiplicity of factors that played into the act of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Even if Pilate was, in reality, the sole determining factor, there is another wrong assumption made by Mr. Eire. On page 55, he writes “Pontius Pilate did not have to condemn Jesus to death by crucifixion. This is what all the gospel accounts tell us.” The gospels actually paint a drastically different picture as there are multiple instances where Jesus foretold of His own death and resurrection. If we look outside the gospels, back to the Old Testament, we are given a bloody picture of atonement for sin as a pointer to Jesus and His violent death. Lamb after lamb was slaughtered, the blood was spilled out, gathered, sprinkled on the mercy seat, etc. Yet Mr. Eire even hypothesizes of Jesus possibly dying of a brain aneurism (so He still ends up dying in the long run)– which goes against a fundamental belief of Christianity “without the shedding of blood is no forgiveness of sins.” (cf. Hebrews 9:22 as the writer references the Jewish Old Testament law) as well as overlooking the fact that his death was a public display of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:25), not a passing in solitude to be discovered later. If we search beyond the 4 gospel accounts to the epistles, we are also told by Peter, a disciple of Jesus, in Acts 4:27-28 that the events happening to Jesus were predestined by God the Father to occur. This is another fundamental of Christianity – that the crucifixion of Jesus happened precisely as it was foretold in the Old Testament as well as by the very mouth of Jesus. Even the apostle John records in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world.

My point, as I hope is evident,is not to argue with Mr. Eire, but rather state that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not an afterthought, or happenstance. It was planned by God before creation. Per all that had occurred up to that point, and everything recorded in the Jewish Old Testament, if Jesus had not died precisely as He did {as well as resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day as promised – both must be true}, then Christianity would have never spread. You cannot separate Christianity from Jesus Christ and you cannot separate Jesus Christ from His life, death, and resurrection. The very name “Christianity” states this as it was given by those who were not believers to believers who were like Jesus Christ in their way of life. We get our word “Christ” from the Greek “Christos” which is the equivalent to the Hebrew “Messiah” meaning promised One [see Genesis 3 for the first mention of that promise]. Jesus is the promised One. The entire Old Testament is about Him and what He would do, and the New Testament is about Him and what He has done (and the future ramifications of His work). It’s all about Him – the Judge of all the earth, and the only Savior.

“Christianity differs from all other major world religions and philosophies in that the salvation it proclaims is a salvation grounded in history. God does not propose an ahistorical process of redemption whereby all we need to do is grasp some truth that is not really dependent on the persons who taught it or the events that produced it. Instead, the LORD enters into history itself, working through real people, institutions, and events to save His people. The biblical message is indeed timeless, but it is inseparable from the persons, institutions, and events through which God has revealed it.” (TableTalk – March 2010 pg. 29 from Ligonier Ministries)

This post was spurred from a book concerning counter-factual history, which proves the point well. In a book devoted to hypothesizing on the “what if’s”, one that speculates on the outcome if the facts were not the facts, there is a chapter devoted to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – which is a positive proclamation that His crucifixion is, in fact, fact.

May God be pleased to use this feeble attempt at reasoning with men to further His kingdom.