Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beware of Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

I was recently given the Logos Bible study program.  It is a great tool and I am very thankful to have it.  One of the things it does each day is to give you news that Faithlife, who owns Logos, finds pertinent for Evangelical Christians.  Today, for instance, I read Joel Osteen tell us why he doesn’t apologize for not preaching about Hell.  He explains that people are beaten down enough and he wants to lift them up.  Evidently he knows what sinners need better than Jesus and the Apostles did. 

But what is sad about such an article is that there are those Christians who actually think this has something to do with Christianity.  If this article was in a “cult” section it would be one thing, but to pass it off as a legitimate biblical and edifying article explains why there is so much confusion in churches today.

Even before I read about Joel Osteen today I had read a couple of articles earlier in the week that irritated me enough to decide to include them in my blog.  One was from Rick Warren and the other was from Perry Noble who pastors a mega church down in South Carolina. 

On the surface Rick Warren’s article might not have seemed too bad.  It is entitled, “Christians must accept Jesus, not just hope they will go to Heaven”.  But usually when someone uses the words “accept Jesus” instead of trust or believe you know where they are coming from and Rick made it quite apparent what he meant by that.

Here is a quote: "God nailed everything that separated you from himself to the cross. But God won't force you to make the most important decision of your life. It's in your hands," Warren writes, noting that it's "time" for Christians to choose.”  Of course, this is blatantly unbiblical because it gives man the ability to choose on his own without the power of God.  If Romans 3 is true then we know that no man seeks after God or does any good thing.  Romans 8 says Rom 8:7  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Rom 8:8  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  It always amazes me that so many Christians find it so offensive to admit that no one gets saved unless God first changes their heart so that they will believe and he only regenerates the elect.  Eph 1:18  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Eph 1:19  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.

The other article by Rick Perry is worse, if one can even rate them.  He promises to refund tithes if God doesn’t bless you in 90 days.  You can sign up for this and it appears others churches have done the same thing.  It is even described as a “money back guarantee by some! 

The problem is that all this assumes that God’s blessings are temporal, physical and for the most part monetary or at least things that make us happy.  Nowhere in the NT do we read that money and ease and heath are the only blessings or are blessings at all in some ways; but blessings are whatever makes you a better servant of the Lord.  And for the most part we are told to expect suffering and trials.  James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials.  He doesn’t say count it as a blessing when you escape all manner of trials.  Timothy reminds us, 1Ti 6:9  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.  Often ease is detrimental to our spiritual health. 

One poor woman admitted that God’s blessing won’t always be monetary but then describes them as other things that come with what money brings.  She said,  "Everyone thinks it's a financial change that He's gonna bless you with but it might not be monetary. I didn't imagine how it would change me. A promotion at my job, being recognized for the work I've done for patients at work. I just don't worry about finances anymore. I just give to Him and say You'll provide and I'll never fail. He always does (provide)," she said.  So evidently God blessed her by giving her recognition from her peers for her good works and a promotion to boot.

Well, we don’t bargain with God.  We give to his work because we love him and his work and out of hearts full of thankfulness.  Whether he gives it back to me or not is neither here nor there.  This is the worst kind of selfishness and it is no wonder the world has lost all respect for much of what passes as Christianity today.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Observing the Lord's Table

The following is from our Good Friday Service:

The Lord’s Table

There is a connection between the OC Passover and the NC Lord’s Table.  The Passover was an animal sacrifice that looked forward to the time when it would no longer be needed; it was a prophecy that looked forward to its fulfillment.  That fulfillment was Christ, the Lamb of God being slain for us.  As the OT believer ate it in faith they looked forward to the time in which the true Lamb would be slain for the forgiveness of their sins.  The Passover also looked back at their deliverance from Egypt, but the danger for the Jew was to not realize that it primarily looked forward to true deliverance from sin.

As Christ prepares to fulfill that type, he institutes a new observance that causes us to look backward but also look at the present and to look forward as well.  Like the Passover it anticipates a time in which it will no longer be needed.  There are two basic truths that each NT account mentions. 

First of all, they all tell us that the bread and the cup are symbols of his body and blood that were given for the remission of sins.  In the original each one says consistently that the body was given and the blood was poured out.  This is tied to how our sins are forgiven by his death and that this is the essence of the NC.  And so the first thing the observance of this table does is to connect us to the past, to the day in which a suitable substitute was lifted up and took our place.  He is the reason we are at peace with God because he took away the guilt of our sin.  This is why Jesus said to do this in remembrance of me.   We remember his death, we do not re-crucify him, and we thank God that he died once for all time for the sins of his people.  Heb 10:12  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, Heb 10:14  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Secondly, we don’t just remember but we eat the symbols.  We acknowledge that Christ hasn’t just done something in the past but indwells us now and gives us life and light and joy and peace.  He satisfies us with good things now and he has united us to his body and we share communion with God’s people now.  We are growing in our knowledge and fellowship of him.  He indwells us with his Spirit and has sealed us until the day of his return.  Perhaps it is this last thing that we are to especially consider at the present.  We have been united to his death so that it is a present reality and assurance to us.

Thirdly, this allows us to look forward to the day when we shall no longer observe a rite that reminds and anticipates because we will be safe in the eternal presence of God and in complete and unbroken fellowship with him.  Sin will no longer cause us to forget and ignore our Savior but we will enjoy him perfectly. 

In each of the gospel accounts Jesus makes it a point to say that he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until he does so in the kingdom of God.  A lot could be said about this but I think Paul sums it up in his account where he says, 1Co 11:26  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  Once he comes we won’t have to have this observance because we will be enjoying the fullness of the kingdom. 

Bread and wine in the Bible also speak of our needs being met and the fullness of joy.  Christ was saying that he is going away but when he comes back we will once again sit down with him and enjoy true fulfillment and true joy in the day in which all our enemies have been destroyed. 

So this table unites our past and our present and our future.  Because it is a celebration of Christ and he is our perfect salvation, our abundant life now and our glorious hope that awaits.  Let us use it as time of worship; to thank him for being a perfect savior and to commit our present life to him and to be faithful until the day that he comes back for us to receive him unto himself.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Test of Saving Faith

2Co 13:5  Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2Co 13:6  I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

In Church we have spent a couple of weeks speaking on how we can examine ourselves to make sure we are of the Faith.  While our salvation is as sure as the righteousness of Christ because it is based on his work, not ours; yet the Bible constantly tells Christians that taking it for granted can be an eternal mistake.  So we are told to make our calling and election sure.  Briefly, I think this is done primarily in making sure there is fruit in your life that gives evidence of a regenerated heart and I believe the way this is seen is two-fold.  Both of these fruits for the most part involve an inward look at the heart before an outward look at one’s life. 

Firstly, only I can see my heart and only I know if I am trusting solely on the finished work of Christ on the cross.  Obviously many false professors have walked an aisle and made a public profession of Christ.  So the only way for anyone to know if it was real or not is to first be honest with yourself.  True, saving faith looks to no other righteousness than that of the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you are holding on to some work or some religious system, some earthly priest, etc. in addition to Christ then you are not a biblical believer in Christ.

A second test also involves the heart before looking at the life.  It is to determine whether you love Christ more than any other thing or person.  Salvation isn’t just an act of faith, it is the Holy Spirit giving you a new nature not only so you can trust in Christ but also so that you might have light and life and submit to Christ as Lord.  Again, only I know if I love Christ and want to glorify him in everything I do.  It is obvious that the churches are full of people who have outwardly “accepted” Christ Jesus but inwardly they still put their wants above his.  This is not bringing forth “fruit meet for repentance”. 

If we seem to pass these two tests then they will be evidenced by a lifestyle that obeys the Lord.  There will be a constant and genuine sorrow over sin which leads to repentance and an effort to put exposed sin out of our lives.  There will be humility as we recognize Christ as our only wisdom and righteousness.  There will be contentment in all situations because we trust the Lord to keep his word when he says, “All things work together for the good of those that love him”.  It isn’t that these things will be constant and perfect but we live according to our heart’s love and desires.  If we are by nature lovers of Christ, we can’t live lives that looks like lovers of sin.

Let me close by listing some things that we must be very wary of when examining ourselves and even others.  Such things as praying, walking an aisle, an emotional experience, being baptized, attending church, leading an outwardly moral life, knowing facts about Jesus and even conviction over doing sinful things is not necessarily evidence of a regenerate heart. 

You might think that I just contradicted myself but there is a problem with these things.  Any lost person can do each one.  They don’t require genuine faith and a transformed heart.  If we see ourselves doing them we haven’t really proven anything and this is why we have to look first at the heart and the motive for why we do what we do.  It might be better to say that they only help us examine ourselves in that only their absence proves anything.  Their presence doesn’t prove saving faith but their absence would definitely be a warning sign.  

If a lost person doesn’t do any of this, then we are not surprised.  But if a professing Christian isn’t doing them then they are suspect at best.  Some of them like walking an aisle aren’t going to be the experience of all true saints but my point is that people that love the Lord will look like it outwardly.  And so the absence of holiness and obedience is a failing mark on the test of whether one has been touched by the grace of God.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Will All Israel Be Saved?

Rom 11:25  Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Rom 11:26  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob".

Much of the trouble Christians have had in biblical interpretation has come because they don’t take the time to study the context of a given verse or passage.  If you study cults and those who have gone into serious error you will always find a clear example of this.  Acts 2:38 is an example in which the Church of Christ have set their flag on its hill to live or die claiming it proves baptism is necessary for salvation, Act 2:38  And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The problem, of course, is that the rest of the Bible just won’t allow it.

In the passage above from Romans 11 we have a similar problem it seems to me.  This one isn’t nearly as dangerous but nevertheless it has been used to further the cause of dispensationalism and confusion.  The phrase, “and in this way all Israel will be saved” has been taken to promote a future time in which ethnic Jews will enter into the fulfillment of prophecies as of yet unseen.  The Puritans and many others see this passage as pointing to a time in which the Jewish nation will experience revival before the Lord comes back.  I certainly would welcome that, of course, but I think there are a couple of reasons why that is problematic.

1. First of all, verse 26 is the culmination of his argument that he started in chapter 9, Rom 9:6  But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.  Paul has spent the first eight chapters destroying everything that the Jews were trusting in for salvation; e.i. their favored status and the Law.  He has shown that they are as guilty before God as the Gentiles.  And so chapters 9-11 is Paul pointing out that God’s eternal, saving decrees were never pointed at any one ethnic group but God has always been free to save whom he will.

He makes this point immediately in Rom 9:7  and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."  Rom 9:8  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.  Just because someone was born a Jew never meant they were going to be saved, merely that they were part of the OT covenant God made with the Jews.

Paul makes this point several times in the NT; Rom 2:28  For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. Rom 2:29  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.  Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Gal 3:29  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

So when Paul brings his point home in 11:26, he is not saying that all Jews will be saved but that all elect Israelites would be saved because the true Israel has always been those chosen from eternity.

2. I think another point to be made that is often ignored is that whatever else verse 26 says, it clearly says that all Israel will be saved.  And the problem we have, if this is to apply to all ethnic Jews, is that this can never be fulfilled.  Millions of Jews have died without Christ from Abraham on right up until this present age.  If this points to a future revival and even if there is a time in which all Jews living will be saved, all Israel will not be saved.  How can saving a small number of Jews living at the time of Christ’s return have any bearing on all Israel being saved?

Instead, if Paul is showing in 9-11 that all the elect will be saved and this includes both Gentile and ethnic Israel, then in that way all the elect Israelites will be saved and God has, in fact, kept his promises which were only to save the elect through faith by grace.  So in this way all Israel who were elect from eternity will be saved along with all the Gentiles who were elected as well.  The way Paul is speaking of is to save the elect through the work of the cross of Christ which is being worked out in a partial hardening of the Jews as he brings in Gentiles as well.  It is a partial hardening as God is saving both Jew and Gentile alike.

Gal 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Col 3:11  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Eph 2:11  Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands--
Eph 2:12  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Eph 2:15  by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, Eph 2:16  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

Notice Eph. 2:15 above.  If Gentile and Jew have been made one new man in Christ then it seems that any theological position that keeps them separate has missed the point and deemphasizes the gospel.