Sunday, October 27, 2013

Open letter to the CoC Oldsters

While my kids are at the local CoC halloween kids candy festival, I thought to write you a letter.
I hope it finds you well, although I suspect it will not. Your "denomination" has been falling apart for awhile now, which grieves me. If that characterization was unkind, that I don't mean it to be. I know that is going to be tough for you to believe, since I know how you see me- lost, blind, faithless, confused, misguided, and so on. I saw the others who left similarly, believing they traded their faithfulness for licentiousness, they have gone away like Edom, selling their birthright for nothing. Yes, I know how you see me, you are worried I'm headed for hell and taking my kids in tow. But you must see my perspective also. I only walked out of the room once the EKG flatlined and the doctors pronounced the CoC dead. I was called out into the marvelous living grace and I rose to new life, and I love you, even if your message is one of condemnation and warning.

That's enough of the introductions, so let me just get down to it. You're are a faithful member of what is now essentially a bygone era. You hold fast to the truth, and you will serve your savior until the end. I salute you, and love you for it. You will one day hear "well done, good and faithful one, enter into your masters joy" before I do, and it makes my heart glad.
But the church you are attending is not going to endure beyond you. Deep down you know this. The infighting, the dwindling membership, the graciousness at the various levels all show that something is wrong. You shake your head puzzled and can't figure this out, and I would like to tell you what it is: you do not understand salvation. You do not understand what it takes to be saved. If I were a lost soul who came up to you and asked 'how might I be saved' you would answer it wrong.
In the old days, when America was culturally Christian, back in the 1950s and 60s, that was okay, you could do well to love Jesus and know a thing or two about the Scriptures. But those days are gone, and as Christianity has left America so has it left your churches. Back to the problem I mentioned earlier, you're not going to grow because you believe I need to be baptized.
That sets up the key point of argument that we are saved by faith, not works, Galatians 2:16b, 21b "a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified....if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”"
 A man is not justified by his works. The word justification there means "counted righteous." We are not counted, or seen as righteous by God because of something we do, but because of what Christ has done for us, by faith. If we could be counted righteous on the basis of our own works then Christ died in vain, to no effect. It was a waste. Paul goes on, Gal 3:5 "Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”"
Ah. Here it is. Abraham believed God, and that was it, that was all that was required for him to be counted as righteous. Just as Romans 10:9 says "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
It's by belief, and that alone, that we are counted righteous in Christ. Now, since we are counted, or reckoned as righteous, we are not actually righteous. No amount of working or deeds therefore could get us into a state of salvation, since it is required that we be counted as righteous. By faith alone, by God's grace alone, in Christ alone, and not of works, which is why Galatians 3:9 says "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham." We are saved by faith alone. Full stop. Not church attendance, not midweek attendance, not baptism. Faith alone. The end.

You want to say 'but wait a minute, what kind of talk is that? That's not the whole picture!' don't you? You want to protest that I have given only a half truth. I know you want to say that because I used to say that myself.
But that's where your problem is, it's tantamount to trying to earn salvation. That places us under a curse, the curse of failing to keep the law. Galatians 3:10 again, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." And that is why there is no unity, because the curse abides. There is literally no place to rest. That's why the discussion over kitchens, and pews, or colors, or doughnuts on Sunday mornings must necessarily split the church. No disagreement, no matter how trivial, must go unfought, because nothing less than salvation is on the line. The sum of your doctrine is that Salvation is begun by Christ and held onto by us and our works. That's the curse of the law. But what does the Bible say in the very next verse?

"That no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith."

There at last, is the key difference between me, the soft headed Baptist you fear for, and the faithful remnant church of Christers: the just shall live by faith. Baptism is the fruit of faith, it's outpouring, or outworking. Church attendance is the fruit of faith. Patience, gentleness, compassion, love, all these are after effects of faith. Faith first, faith last, and you get works for free. Which is why we council people to seek faith above all, and we ask for nothing more from them than faith. Faith moves mountains, saves souls, faith is the answer to the question how then shall we live. We live by faith. As Romans 1 says it is "by faith, for faith." You have not understood this. You affirm that we are saved by grace, but you don't follow up on the implication of this, that we live by faith, by grace as well. It's the final liberation from sin that is missed here.

As you consider this, a number of other tangential issues may arise, original sin, predestination, regeneration, those sort of obvious baptist distinctions. I would urge you to ignore them all for now. First start with understanding how the Bible speaks of justification. And then, you will see what I mean about all the rest. Faith first. Faith last. Faith in between. The just shall live by faith.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Somebody please do this

Occasionally I listen to 770AM KCBC, which comes out of Fresno CA. At 5:00 Rick Warren's show Daily Hope, graces out airwaves.
I usually tune in to sharpen my discernment skills, by trying to listen not only to what he's saying, but what he's not saying. I came to the conclusion that he's a gnostic preacher, he's not concerned about the cross of Christ, he's about gaining hidden wisdom to live your best life now.
And I think I've said that before; at any rate that's not my point this post.

My point is, I now call him Chuckles™. His sermons go something like this:
"We're talking today  about the breaking of bread from John 6. When I grew up, all we had was wonderbread. You young people don't realize it, but we do. *Laughter* You know why they called it wonderbread? *Laughter* because you could crumple the whole thing into the size of a marble! *Laughter* And it could bounce! *Laughter* And did you know that the crust is like silly putty *Laughter* No, it's true, you could copy newspaper ink onto it! *Laughter*"

The audience laughs at everything. He's conditioned them to laugh so well that even when they ought not to, they laugh.
This is my request: someone please, take his sermons, and add canned laugh track after every phrase. He speaks in roughly two sentence phrases, so there is a great opportunity to put that canned laughter in without disruption to the sermon.
It's so easy to see how profane his sermons are when you do this, and it would be amazing to listen to. Someone, please take Chuckles™ to the next level.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Because everyone else is posting about Strange Fire

You throw rocks at a hornets nest, and you get the hive stirred up. I was on the cripplegate website and found a man jumping in to defend Benny Hinn as serving Christ and being an example of true worship. How dare that John MacArthur.This got me to thinking (since I'm down sick and have the time) on why the two groups are not even hearing each other. And I think I have it, where the difference lies I mean.

The Charismatic group starts with the Spirit, and the, we'll call it, 'baptist' group, starts with the Scriptures. Just listen to how each frames the debate and you'll see it, because the winning and losing happens within the first three seconds.
The Charismatic calls out the Baptist for not believing in the power of God, in the working of His Spirit, and the functioning of the church. "You don't believe God can heal today?" is the first question right out of the gates, and most people actually mean that. In their mind they cannot conceive of anything else being said by the Baptist. It's a direct challenge to the sovereignty of God. That's terrible unfaithfulness to their ears, those people have no respect for God.
Now pay attention to how the baptist frames the debate, their equally unanswerable question out of the gates is something like "Are the Scriptures insufficient? Do we need Apostles today to write more? Are there two foundations for the church?" To their ears, the attack the Charismatic makes is against the sole rule and authority of the Scriptures. It's the same thing they fought Rome for all those years ago.

Having considered this, I think the Baptist way of setting this discussion is right, and here's why. The Charismatic believes that all the gifts are for today, including the prophetic utterances. This necessarily means that God Himself is speaking. Therefore that same infallible, perfect, life yielding voice that spoke the Scriptures is speaking in the same clear, perfect, undeniable way. In other words, every attributes the Scriptures have must necessarily be present in the vision or prophetic movement.

But it's not, so what that is is an addition to the authority of the Scriptures. The Catholics believe their magisterium is equivalent to Scriptures, the Charismatics believe their feelings and visions are.
The 'fringe' TBN Charismatics understand this, their problem is that they accept it and have no regard for Scripture, I suspect that's why you have such ghastly results globally.

Now, the principled Charistmatic, like say, Piper, understands the supremacy of Scripture, and subordinates himself to it. He believes that the ongoing charismatic gifts are the best explanation for what Scripture itself says. I can respect that. I'm a fallen man with fallen sensibilities too.
But that's not the Charismatic movement. JMac should have done a better job pointing out that those men are of the "baptist" persuasion, whether they realize it or not.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The land belongs to Christ

I have posted here before, and mentioned elsewhere, that I think the covenants are about Christ. Abraham was given a refresher in Genesis 15 which prominently featured the land. Genesis even promises it as a perpetual possession.
I have also said earlier that Christs presence is what causes Abraham to be blessed. He is blessed because Christ comes through his line. Judah is blessed because Christ descends from them. Likewise David. The Jews as a people are nothing special, there is nothing deserving about them, but they are uniquely blessed. Why? Because Christ came among them, and to them.
Now in the same way the covenant element of the land is held up.
Why Canaan? Because Christ lived there. Why Jerusalem? Because He died there. The land is the place He walked, taught, died, and ascended. In other words, it's special because He was there. For that reason and no other.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

AWANA Trek Aids

If you're anything like me, you were excited to be leading the council time, and let down by the AWANA Trek leaders guide preparation material. If you need a leg up, consider the free following materials to help.

TREK GPS Lesson 1.1 - Why Study the Bible

TREK GPS Lesson 1.3 - How do I know the Bible is True?

TREK GPS Lesson 1.4 - The Torah

TREK GPS Lesson 1.5 - The History

General Advice: Two things I have seen, yes three I have observed:
  1. They look like they are not listening, but they are. 
  2. Don't underestimate them. You may have a tendency to think they are not up to a mental challenge because it's evening, or because they need a game time like kids do, but this is a mistake. Treat them as adults and don't shy away from really hard concepts.
  3. They cannot think for themselves yet, they can't draw connections to other things they have learned, and they have absolutely no perspective to decide what is essential and what is not. But they are amazing learners. They are capable of extraordinarily rapid assimilation of new ideas and can manipulate these ideas quickly once introduced. A solid and proper introduction to Biblical Theology during these next few weeks are going to pay huge dividends for their future. They may not be able to think critically yet, but if you give them the tools now, when they come of age where they can think, they will be very powerful theologians.

TREK GPS Lesson 1.1 - Why Study the Bible



Opening Activity – A Verbal Quiz

 

  • Does the word Bible mean ‘library’ or ‘Book of books?’ Yes
  • Does the Bible contain errors?  Yes. Didn’t expect that? You have to know the truth so when the atheists come along you are not caught off guard.
  • Do we know exactly what they are and where the errors are? Yes.
  •  Do errors in our Bible mean it’s not perfect or trustworthy? No, the Bible is literally breathed out by God. He authored perfect documents because He’s perfect. Copiers may have made mistakes, but no two made the same one, and this has allowed us to almost perfectly reconstruct all the text. This is an ongoing process but the discovery of the dead sea scrolls showed us we have a really solid manuscript before us.
  • Is the Bible written by men? Yes.
  •  Is the Bible only a work of men? No! God wrote the Bible using human instruments.
  •  Is the Bible trustworthy? Yes. God cannot lie.
  • If the OT was originally written in Hebrew, because God wanted it in Hebrew, then is it okay to make a translation into another language? Yes, Jesus used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
  • What is the Bible about? Jesus Christ.

 

The Bible is about Jesus Christ

 

  • All our selfish statements can immediately be resolved by remembering this. Can we trust the Bible becomes can we trust Christ? Do we need the Bible, do we need Christ? Why do we evangelize with the Bible when they don’t believe it? They need Christ. Does the Bible give us everything we need to be saved? Doesn’t Christ?
  • He’s a God unlike other Gods, so His book is unlike other books. It demands answers out of you. It knows you better than you know yourself. It’s wholly unique.
  • In Jerusalem, John 5:39 - “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me
  • On the Road to Emmaus, Luke 24:27 - “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

 

Who is Christ?

 

  • Christ means anointed one. In Greek that’s the word Christ. The Jews would use the word Messiah. It speaks of being set aside for God’s purposes.
  • There were three offices you would pour oil to anoint the man to:
    o  
    priest (Exodus 29:7, Lev 21:10)
    o  
    king (1 Sam 16:13, 2 Kings 9:3)
    o  
    prophet (1 Kings 19:16, Is 61:1)
  • Jesus is therefore a prophet, a priest, and a king.
    o  
    He brings the very words and truths of God to us
    o  
    He intercedes to God on our behalf
    o  
    He rules over us
  •   Christians are anointed, because we are in Christ, and share in His body 1 John 2:20

 

How is the Bible arranged?

 

  • The Bible is unfolding revelation regarding Jesus
    o  
    Old Testament: Christ predicted
    o  
    Gospels: Christ revealed
    o  
    Epistles: Christ explained
    o  
    Revelation: Christ expected
  •  In this same way that Jesus is prophet, priest, king, the Old Testament is broken up into the stories of the prophets (predominately the books of prophecy), the priests (the Books of Moses), and the Kings (the histories).
  • The New Testament picks this idea up too. For example, Matthew is the gospel very concerned with Jesus Kingship. All of its parables start “the kingdom of heaven is like…” while the book of Hebrews goes on at great lengths about Jesus priesthood.

 

How to read the Bible

 

  • The New Testament explains the Old. The Epistles expand and explain the narrative of the Gospels. You have to work backwards as you read forwards.
  • Read both halves, new and old testament. It’s a two act play, and just like you can’t really start a murder mystery movie half way through, you can’t really just jump into the middle of the Scriptures.
  • Pray before you read, and the Holy Spirit, as promised will give you understanding (2 Tim 2:7).
  • More important than everything else however, the key to unlock all doors: Christ is in the Bible. It’s about Him. 

 

Christ in the Bible

 

  • Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
    Jesus would be born of a woman, not a man (the virgin birth), He would destroy Satan. (See Luke 1:27-34) He's the very first promise.
  •  Genesis 17:6-8 - “And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
    Jesus would be the reason all the nations will be blessed. He is the source of the covenant. See Galatians 3:16
  • That’s pretty big, He’s obviously the center of God’s redemptive work. But He’s at the smallest level. When Abraham went to kill Isaac what happened? Genesis 22:13. Instead of dying, a sheep was killed for Isaac instead. A sheep that was caught in thorns. This is Christ, the lamb of God whom they put a crown of thorns on, who died in our place.
  • He’s the real Passover lamb – Exodus
  • He’s the true sacrificial offering to God to turn away wrath. He’s also the grounds for our salvation, because He is the one who kept the law perfectly. -Leviticus
  • He’s the son of David, the promised King, 2 Samuel 7:12
  •  He’s the kinsmen redeemer who saves us from ruin by wooing us. He took on our real flesh and made us His treasured possession. - Ruth
  •  Sometimes it’s very, very obvious where He is in the Scriptures. Take for example Psalm 2:7 “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Or Psalm 22, which was about Him on the cross.
  •  But He is also in the little passages. He’s the one who ascends the Holy Hill, who may stand in the Holy place, - Ps 24:3.
  • He’s the anointed one whom the Lord hears, - Psalm 20:6
  • He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, - Proverbs 18:24b
  • He will save us through suffering - Job
  • He’s the new and better Job, who intercedes for his friends
  • He’s the savor from a far off country who gives up everything to come and restore truth in us –Ezra
  • He’s the one who intercedes for us to give us a place, then builds us up – Nehemiah
  • The prophets not only predict Him, but demonstrate Him. Jonah for example, lies in a fish for three days to show that Christ in a similar fashion would rise after three days.
  • Yet He’s the new and better Jonah who was cast out into the deep, that the rest of his companions may be saved.
  • His death is shown in the gospels.
  • And what did His death mean? He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness. He died for you. The epistles explain it. They explain all the Old Testament too.

 

Summarize

·        
  •  Next week we will get into deeper waters and we’ll do a more scholarly, or in-depth treatment of why the books are where they are and what it means.
  •   For this week I want you to remember that the Bible is about Jesus Christ. His Kingship, His priesthood, His prophetic work. Prophet, priest, king.

 

Conclude

 

  • Does anyone have any question about anything theological? It’s time for payer and small group.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The judges, the kings

In preparing for AWANA it occurs to me that the judges and the kings together constitute the partial kingdom, or the example kingdom. But in the first half, the judges, God is the King who works through an intermediary, while in the Kings the king rules directly.
Which is just like the old and new testament. In the old God mediated though an agent, in the new He appears Himself in the person of His Son, the King.