For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Standard of Scripture

In response to a previous post about Declaring the Whole Gospel, a well meant comment was left about not wanting to call anyone a heretic. The argument is that we can’t be dogmatic about interpretation, and so we have to leave things open to the interpretation of each individual in what this comment called the “unique relationship to both God and the Bible.”

The person leaving the comment mentioned that this was offered in a gracious manner and asked for any response to be gracious as well. I did offer a quick response there, and I do hope I was gracious while still doing my best to put forth the truth in such a brief space. You can read it on the link if you really want.

The point here is that Dan Phillips over at the Pyromaniacs site just posted a tremendous article regarding this very issue. He likens Scripture to a teacher’s guide for a school curriculum. His overall point is that God has declared His truth, and if we have any thought, any theory, any idea, it must line up with that revealed Word. If it doesn’t, then our human, sin-limited, minds are the obvious ones at fault, and our idea, thought, theory is the one that needs to be altered to match the teacher’s guide, not the other way around.

Dan does a great job, and I’ll just bungle the attempt to repeat it here, so I urge you to go the Pyro site and read for yourself. This is good stuff. God’s Word is the standard. The Gospel is the message. We have no other.

As Martin Luther so famously stated: "Unless I am convinced by Scriptures and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything. Here I stand, I can do no other!" Preach the Word, in season and out, my friends; not your ideas. Preach the Word.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Passion vs. Popularity

“If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave His church to attend mine because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around. Jesus was never really good at that. . . I’m much more popular than Jesus.”

If that had been said by some raving heretic, I wouldn’t have even looked twice, because it would simply show what I’ve known all along, and that’s that most mega ministers (and some of us mini ones two) are more concerned with being Culturally Relevant and popular than Biblically Faithful and pure.

However, this didn’t come from a raving heretic. It came from an article by Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love. Not everyone may like him, but he’s certainly not anywhere close to the raving heretic category. Which is why the statement shocked me, and caused me to re-read the article.

Essentially, he’s talking about having a genuine passion and love for Christ, something that is often missing in our churches today. He was commenting on the fact that we are often more interested in keeping folks around than we are calling them to the passionate commitment Christ requires. Specifically, he was remarking on the issue of public piety vs. public passion; the fact that we often lead without a genuine passion ourselves, hence our churches are no better.

He says in that article: “God calls us to give people what they need. Based on His word, regardless of whether they stick around. Jesus led. Few followed, but He kept leading.”

This fits quite well with a study my SS Class has been doing. We’ve been going through Thomas Vincent’s The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ. Largely, Vincent is making some of the same points, showing that genuine passionate love for Christ is the required norm, and is sadly lacking in the majority of our churches. And he wrote that over 350 years ago. I don’t think it’s gotten any better.

Whether we’re talking about leaders leading in love, or the average church member living in love, the truth is, we have been called to all out love and devotion to Christ.

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. . . So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, 33; ESV)

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30, ESV)

Total commitment. Total passion. Renounce everything and follow him. Doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Doesn’t even matter what the church thinks to a degree. We are called to love Christ supremely and to call others to the same passionate devotion whether it’s popular or not; whether the crowds stay or not. God will tolerate no rivals. He is everything or He is nothing. And our commitment to Him, His supremacy in our lives, will be seen in our all out passionate love for Him.

As Vincent wrote: “Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life.” He says: “Christ knows the command and influence which love to Him, in the truth and strength of it, has; how it will engage all the other affections of his disciples for Him; that if He has their love, their desires will be chiefly after Him. Their delights will be chiefly in Him; their hope and expectations will be chiefly from Him.”

If our commitment is to Christ first and foremost, if He is the center of our love and our passionate pursuit; the quest for popularity will cease; the focus on drawing crowds for pride’s sake will disappear; and our commitment to proclaiming His truth, no matter how unpopular, will consume us.

May it be so in my life, in my family, in my church family, all for the Glory of God.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Declaring the Whole Gospel

Years ago, a man named Finley Peter Dunn made the assertion that “the job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” And in the hundred or so years since he said that, the same description has been applied to the work of the church in presenting the gospel and to the work of preachers in particular. In presenting the truth of God’s Word, it’s not all fluff and fun; we need to both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Most folks want to water the gospel down to this mild mannered, warm fuzzy, non-offensive idea of nothing more than “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Now, don’t misunderstand me. God does love you, and He does have a wonderful plan for your life. But that’s not the whole gospel, is it?

There is a time and a place to talk about the warm fuzzy side of the gospel, but there is also a time and a place for the hard reality of talking about sin and judgment, depravity and destruction, and so on. We see both sides in the life of Jesus Himself, as well as in the record of the early church.

I recently read through the latest John MacArthur book called The Jesus You Can’t Ignore. It’s a response to those who are saying that Christians should be less confrontational with those who promote false teaching and so on. They suggest that we should enter into dialogue with those who disagree with us and find points of commonality; affirming one another, and so on.

MacArthur points out that while this might sound nice, it’s not the way Jesus confronted those who taught falsely in His day. He was very confrontational, very bold, very harsh even when it came to defending the truth, standing up for God’s Word, and so on. In fact, Jesus reserved His harshest words not for the Roman oppressors, but for the religious elite of His day; the scribes and elders; Pharisees and Sadducees; those who had corrupted God’s law and turned into something for their own profit.

As MacArthur points out in that book that when it came to broken sinners, Jesus was mild and gracious. But when it came to the proud self-righteous, He was anything but that. Someone once put it like this: we give law to the proud and grace to the humble and broken. Just as Scripture says that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Or put another way, the gospel is intended to both refresh and rebuke.

As our church continues through the book of Acts, we were given an illustration of the less popular side of presenting God’s Word as Paul confronts Governor Felix and his wife Drusilla with the gospel message. He doesn’t give the gentle, un-offensive “God loves you” speech. In fact, he does quite the opposite.

“After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’" (Acts 24:24-25, ESV)

I’m sure that modern evangelism teachers would cringe at that description of what Paul talks about. It’s much more confrontational than some think Christians ought to be isn’t it? Paul’s not looking for areas of agreement with Felix. He’s not trying to water things down so that Felix will listen. He gives Felix the truth of God’s Word so that the governor can see his genuine need for the faith in Christ he speaks of in verse 24.

First, he reasons with him about RIGHTEOUSNESS, and he probably began with the righteousness of God. He would have spoken of the character of God; His holiness and His perfection. God is holy. He is completely other, separate. And part of the complete otherness is the fact that God is perfect in righteousness; His moral character is without blemish. And because of that, His actions are completely holy and righteous, without blemish.

And the point is that because God is so holy and righteous, He cannot even look upon sin. Man, who is altogether sinful, cannot even enter into His presence in his own goodness or upon his own merit! God is righteous! And Felix isn’t the only one who needs to hear that.

We all need to be reminded of God’s righteousness so that we can see our desperate need for the righteousness of Christ, which is ours by faith in Jesus and His sacrifice. So though it might seem too confrontational, like Paul we need to reason with folks about righteousness.

Secondly, Paul addresses the issue of SELF-CONTROL. History says Drusilla was a very beautiful Jewish woman, and Felix, having no self-control, actually hired a sorcerer to help him lure her away from the man she was currently married to. And because Drusilla obviously had self-control of her own, she gave in to the promise of a life of ease with the Roman Governor and left her husband and married Felix while still officially married to her first husband.

I mention all of that because when Luke tells us that Paul reasoned with these two about the issue of self-control, he was obviously making some very personal applications of man’s depravity to these folks. It’s not just that man in general is depraved and unrighteous, especially in light of the righteousness of God. It’s not just that man in general needs salvation by faith in Christ. But Paul wanted it to be very clear that Felix and Drusilla were in need of that salvation, so he brings them to the very heart of their own sinfulness.

Now that’s not a very user friendly way to present the gospel, is it? It’s no wonder they reacted the way they did. And folks today have the same reaction. You see, it’s not necessarily sin and unrighteousness that we have a problem with; just don’t go talking about my sin. Sometimes, we need to be bold when presenting the Gospel, helping people not just see God’s righteousness and man’s sin, but their own sin lack of self-control, stemming from their own personal unrighteousness.

And when they understand that, then Paul’s next topic becomes especially meaningful, as he reasons with Felix about COMING JUDGMENT. Basically Paul says, here is the righteousness of God; His holy perfection. Here is the sin of man, and in particular your sin. And because of that sin, a holy and perfect God must punish sinful man. And one day, Christ is returning, and He’s returning not only as king, but as judge. And as judge, he will punish sin; not just sin in general, but your sin.

Unfortunately, in our desire to be more user friendly and seeker sensitive and whatever other catch word you want to throw at it, we don’t want to talk about judgment at all. Again, it’s just the God loves you and has a wonderful plan. And as I said, that’s true. But we also have to be faithful to share with folks that this God we’re talking about is a righteous God, who condemns sin, and we will stand before Him in judgment one day. If we truly love folks, we’ll warn them of that impending judgment and tell them that the only hope they have of standing in that day is to run to the cross.

The cross is the answer; Christ’s atoning work is the answer because in that sacrifice, He satisfied the wrath of God for those who will believe. It’s not just that God loves you and will forget about your sin. It’s that His loved caused Him to send His own Son to die in our place, to take our sin on His shoulders that we might have His perfect righteousness instead.

That’s the gospel message. That’s what we ought to be sharing. Not just the warm fuzzy parts; but the parts that show people the righteousness of God, the seriousness of their sin, the certainty of judgment, and the truth of the cross and faith in Christ as their most desperate need. And not everyone will like it when we share that.

In Felix’s case, He was alarmed and sent Paul away. According to a lot of our modern evangelistic approaches, that would make Paul a failure. Paul didn’t get Felix to pray the sinners’ prayer, sign on the dotted line so he could give him the “Welcome to God’s family” speech.

But the response to the gospel message is not up to us. Our success is not judged by the number of people we can coax into saying a prayer they don’t even mean, or guilting them into walking an aisle at church. Our success is judged by our faithfulness to proclaiming the whole gospel, however unpopular it might be, and we’ll leave the results to God. It’s His job to bring conviction, His job to bring regeneration, His job to call sinners to salvation. We just need to be bold and faithful, even if the world laughs at us.

Sorry about the longer post. I guess not posting more often causes it to build up a bit. But my prayer is that God’s people will become bolder in proclaiming the whole gospel, that we will be more concerned with faithfulness to the text and less worried about popularity and worldly success, that we will indeed be wiling to both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And may God use His church in mighty ways to expand His Kingdom and Glorify His Son. To God Be the Glory.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year’s Miscellany

Eleven days in is hardly on the cutting edge of the new year and all, but I’ve never been accused of being out in front of anything, except maybe the buffet line. Anyway, here are some stray thoughts about the upcoming year and some of my plans (as I continue under the delusion that anyone really cares…)

Reading List
In the past I had kept a log of all the books I had been reading. I’ve noticed that in the last couple of years since not keeping that log, my reading habits have become decidedly too entertainment oriented.

To get myself back on track a bit, I’m going to start keeping that written log again. Seems like if I see it in writing before me I take it a bit more seriously. First up on that list to tackle are books from Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John MacArthur and the DeYoung and Kluck combo; along with Puritans Thomas Vincent and John Owen.

The Health Issue
I know, I know, everyone does the weight loss thing for New Years. But I’ve become more and more convicted about the issue of my health as it relates to my witness and my family activity. I’m going to team up with an “accountability partner” to start getting that exercise in. We’ll see how that goes.

The D. Min. Thing
I’ve been finished with the course work for my doctoral program for over a year and just need to do the whole project/dissertation thing. Long story, but the end result has been a decided lack of motivation to finish this thing. I don’t want to waste the time and effort put in this far, so I’m asking for prayer to get on top of this and see it through. Get it done, Scott!

Family Vacation
With our oldest preparing to go away to college, this may be the last opportunity we have to take a real family vacation. We seem to always end up doing mission trips and conferences, etc. which we’ve all enjoyed, but this year I’d love for us to do a real live family vacation; just heading out somewhere for fun, etc. Hoping to plan a trip eastward toward the DC area with a stop off at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, something the kids are dying to see. I will plan and complete this, God-willing.

Just A Side Note
Go Cardinals! A long time fan of Kurt Warner, I’m thrilled to see the Cards on their way again this year. The road ahead is steep and daunting, but I know they can do it. Let’s go Big Red!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update From

An update emailed by We can't let the issue die. I urge anyone who hasn't visited the site to do so and get invovled. Here's their recent update:

Somalia to Ratify CRC, US to Stand Alone

UNICEF announced on the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child November 20 that Somalia’s transitional federal government (tfg) plans to ratify the Convention, leaving the United States as the lone hold-out among the UN’s member states. According to BBC reports, the tfg only governs a portion of Mogadishu (the capital of Somalia) while pirates and Muslim militias rule the rest of the nation, but the tfg “is backed by the UN and African Union.” So why would an impotent, geographically-challenged, UN-backed transitional government suddenly announce that it plans to ratify a treaty it is powerless to implement? The UN’s announcement is set to increase pressure on the United States to ratify this dangerous convention.

Somalia as a nation is known for its pirates and its child soldiers. Sometimes, we even hear about its child pirates. The idea that the nation is suddenly joining “the good guys” as a signatory to the CRC is preposterous, but it is being set forth by proponents of the treaty. The BBC writes, “The decision to ratify the agreement will be seen as an important symbolic step.” Read the full story here.

Action Item

We will be contacting Congress again shortly after they return to D.C. Our blitz is just a few weeks away. In preparation, please cut and paste the following message into an email, tweet (you'll have to shorten it!), Facebook or other post and send it to everyone you can think of:

January is a great time to start new things and to get around to things you put off last year. If you haven't checked into the need for a Parental Rights Amendment, there is no better time than right now. Please take a few minutes to visit and sign their petition (join the network) to urge Congress to pass this vital Amendment to preserve all of our freedoms by protecting parental rights.