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168 Hours, There is Plenty of Time

With today’s culture of constant interaction, information, and interruption, getting ‘away’ from it all has taken many forms. It appears as if instead of scheduling time away through short trips or vacations periodically, most people feel the need to ‘vacate’ every day. With every week containing 168 hours, most people spend 40 laboring to live. That leaves 128 hours of time that has to encompass sleep, eating, restroom breaks, bathing, preparation, and relationships. Let’s take 56 out for sleeping 8 hours per day leaving 72 hours every single week for necessities and obligations. For the Christian, there should be a minimum of 3 to 4 hours a week in fellowship, if we never make excuses to miss work, we should not make excuses to miss fellowship with the saints, it’s actually stupid to do so.

So now we’re down to 68 hours.  That’s time enough to take on another FULL-TIME job still leaving 28 hours to spare.  Where does the time go? Well, I could write for ages on the wasters of time in the name of profitable things. How many of us have one full book of the bible memorized? OK, how about one chapter? Maybe one portion, let’s say the introduction to the Gospel of John? That’s 18 verses… I know for a fact there are several people recently who know each lyric of each song on their iPhone. That equates to five verses of music times 400 to 600.  Why?  I know many people who know the lines out of movies verbatim. But can’t tell a clear story of Jesus life and ministry.  A movie that takes two hours vs. a story that takes 25 minutes? The problem here is not time, it’s idolatry. But that’s not the point of my writing.

Out of all this waste of time, it seems that people want to meddle in worthless areas of life while professing that Christ is enough. See, the scripture shows us what to do when we feel overwhelmed, broken, fearful, worried, angry, forgotten, martyred, etc.  We are to “think on the things that are eternal….”  The matter is simple. When we want to “escape” we often pray that God would help us get out of the matter at hand or change our circumstances, our hearts, or our minds. The conflict arises out of a misunderstanding of how to pray and how to listen to the scripture. See, getting away from everything can be found in books, media, movies, sports, vacations, games, etc., but those things are just temporary deflections. They do not actually set us in any real place or give us any real benefit at all. Without quoting myriads of research on the matter, psychologists have long known the effects of constant avoidance of life through natural or ‘artificial’ means. They have a word for it, addiction.

Addiction to stuff, feelings, thoughts, stories, interaction, social media, phones, games, sports, solitude, or whatever robs us as believers of the core of God’s presence which is found in the Bible. Some argue, “well, I read other books and the bible, can’t I just enjoy escape in reading, after-all, the bible is a book right?” No, is my answer. NO! The Bible, while a book in its form, is not a book. It is God’s word, thus it is the utterance of God speaking to us. Scripture teaches that the basics of salvation come through hearing the Bible (Rom 10:17) and that comfort comes from putting our minds on the scriptures. The error rests in the attitude of approach. That is that so many times we just peek into the bible for answers rather than digest the scripture in order to be intimate with Jesus Christ. Scripture reading is intimacy. So putting our minds on eternity is to literally put our minds on the teaching of the truth of Jesus. Who He is and what He’s done. We don’t run after Jesus in the biblical texts to find His “message” about our problems, we run into Jesus through the Holy Writ because while we read God the Spirit interacts with us. So, reading Scripture puts our mind on the very thing that we will ETERNALLY be focused on: Jesus Christ and HIS GLORY!

So here’s the point: Read Scripture for your escape. It will not rob you of glory and power but will put you in an intimate place with God. Through scripture, God will speak, settle us, and give us the ability to rest in His promises as He comforts us. Our relationship with God is only found in His word. And for those who are constantly reading, listening, gleaning, and hounding after other “theological” arguments, stop that also. Find more time in the word so that your joy will be full.  “These things are written…”  This is found many times in Scripture to the following end: that you may BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and so have ETERNAL LIFE. This life beloved is NOT eternal and I think it’s time that we as the church spend out time thinking on better things.

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Self Worship, Not a New Idea

“He Is a Self-Made Man.” “Yes, And He Worships His Creator.”

Said historically of Horace Greeley, attributed to William Allen Butler and Benjamin Disraeli, this quote, no matter how it came about or whose voice from which it originated, it is surely a truth of men in our contemporary times. Conversing of our culture the main idea of self-worship as a Western invention birthed from liberty and myopic interest. The annals of history beg to differ. Even the narrative of the New Testament teaches that men have long loved the glory of their own interests and if we see the rulers and ‘success’ stories of yesterday, finding self-love is not far behind. As a matter of fact, it was self-worship, in a sense, that caused the fall of the first humans. Satan tempted them to “be like God” and this sounded grand in their ears and minds. To be powerful, to be successful, to be independent is the core of the heart of humanity and one could argue that it is the essence of sinfulness and depravity. The ancient connections of self-worship though are not the point of this writing.

The central essence of “self” is fired in the kiln of self-worth and self-glory. Man has always considered himself the central figure in his life and each person, at some time or another, has considered themselves the point of the world. At least the world in which they live. This is evident in calling, vocation, values, affections, material possessions, image, esteem, and a plethora of other areas and ideas. This type of attitude and delusion touches every wall, corner, floor and ceiling of life, even one’s own theology. Such is the case for self-willed, free-willed, soteriology.

FIGHTING AGAINST GRACE

“While I see the truth of what you’ve just preached, the Grace of God is the most offensive to my people and especially to my family, parents, and grandparents.”  Said to me at First Newark after a sermon by a Messianic Jew speaking of his family. Logic shows man that grace is not earned, affected, or pursued by the recipient. By definition, grace is unmerited and unconditional. While others will argue these terms, let the fools be fools. Don’t put God’s grace on trial. The human mind hates the Lord of Heaven. And thus, he hates the work of God, the grace of God, and anything that God holds over his head without his permission, approval, or acceptance. This type of self-worship is damnable. Scripture teaches that a man who controls his life, goes his own way, rests in his own choices, sits in his own wisdom is a man who is utterly lost and condemned. One primary work of God’s grace is repentance of mind whereby the dead, blind man sees his inability, his need, his deadness and he hates it.

Fighting against grace, in essence, is fighting for one’s own rights. The right to be in control, the right to govern, the right to be right and in some small way, be like God. Arguments against such statements in reality actually prove them to be true, as only a self-righteous person would afford the time to measure the volition of man against the sovereignty of God. The freedom of the will is not on trial, for God has stated that all men are guilty before him and that no one is righteous, not even one. So, approaching the Lord’s mercy with autonomy is a stupid and damnable debate for which one will claim to see, claim to believe and claim to be right while they ease themselves into a satisfaction interrupted only by the bold and fierce fury of God’s holiness on the day of Judgment.

While much more could be said, this “self-made” theology of man must continually be uprooted and purged from our midst. It has no place on the table of the Christian landscape and especially has no place inside the assembly of God’s redeemed. We are to call out the attitude that seems to fight for one’s “right” to free grace or free will. Many seem to be fighting for God’s glory or proving His innocence when Scripture securely seals God’s holiness perfectly in all things. Isaiah 46 comes to mind. At the least some who argue this considers that “fairness” must be upheld, but we know according to Scripture that if God were fair, we wouldn’t be here to engage His mercy.

I leave this article unfinished… may the Lord have mercy.

 

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What is the Purpose of Man?

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?”

The Answer stated is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

If we look at these two answers one could argue, “That’s just one man’s opinion” but the Word of God, our great standard of truth, gives us the meaning behind these derivatives. Thomas Watson, a Puritan theologian articulated these answers very well. Take a peek at the glorious Scripture and how it answers that age-old question.

First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. “That God in all things may be glorified.” The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth asserted is that the end of every man’s living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.

When we speak of God’s glory, the question will be moved, What are to understand by God’s glory?

Answer. There is a twofold glory: 1. The glory that God has in himself, his intrinsic glory. Glory is essential to the Godhead, as light is to the sun: he is called the “God of glory.” Acts 7:2. Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it. The creature’s honour is not essential to his being. A king is a man without his regal ornaments, when his crown and royal robes are taken away; but God’s glory is such an essential part of his being, that he cannot be God without it. God’s very life lies in his glory. This glory can receive no addition, because it is infinite; it is that which God is most tender of, and which he will not part with. Isa. 48:11, “My glory I will not give to another.” God will give temporal blessings to his children, such as wisdom, riches, honour; he will give them spiritual blessings, he will give them grace, he will give them his love, he will give them heaven; but his essential glory he will not give to another. King Pharaoh parted with a ring off his finger to Joseph, and a gold chain, but he would not part with his throne. Gen. 41:40. “Only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” So God will do much for his people; he will give them the inheritance; he will put some of Christ’s glory, as mediator upon them; but his essential glory he will not part with; “in the throne he will be greater.”

2. The glory which is ascribed to God, or which his creatures labour to bring to him. 1 Chron. 16:29, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” And, 1 Cor. 6:20, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit.” The glory we give God is nothing else but our lifting up his name in the world, and magnifying him in the eyes of others. Phil. 1:20, “Christ shall be magnified in my body.”

Q. What is it to glorify God?

A. Glorifying God consists in four things: 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection. This is the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.

1. Appreciation. To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and, to have a venerable esteem of him. Psalm 92:8. “Thou, Lord, art most high for evermore.” Psalm 97:9, “Thou art exalted far above all gods.” There is in God all that may draw forth both wonder and delight; there is a constellation of all beauties; he is prima causa [the first cause], the original and spring-head of being, who sheds a glory upon the creature. We glorify God when we are God-admirers; admire his attributes, which are the glistening beams by which the divine nature shines forth; his promises which are the charter of free grace, and the spiritual cabinet where the pearl of price is hid; the noble effects of his power and wisdom in making the world, which is called “the work of his fingers.” Psalm 8:3. To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and search for diamonds in this rock only.

2. Glorifying God consists in adoration, or worship. Psalm 29:2. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” There is a twofold worship: 1. A civil reverence which we give to persons of honour. Gen. 23:7, “Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the children of Heth.” Piety is no enemy to courtesy. 2. A divine worship which we give to God as his royal prerogative. Neh. 8:6,”they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces towards the ground.” This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of his eye, the pearl of his crown; which he guards, as he did the tree of life, with cherubims and a flaming sword, that no man may come near it to violate it. Divine worship must be such as God himself has appointed, otherwise it is offering strange fire, Lev. 10:1. The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, “according to the pattern in the mount.” Exod. 25:40. He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and curious about the place of worship, how exact will he be about the matter of his worship! Surely here every thing must be according to the pattern prescribed in his word.

3. Affection. This is part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved. Deut. 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” There is a twofold love: 1. Amor concupiscentiae, a love of concupiscence, which is self-love; as when we love another because he does us a good turn. A wicked man may be said to love God, because he has given him a good harvest, or filled his cup with wine. This is rather to love God’s blessing than to love God. 2. Amor amicitiae, a love of delight, as a man takes delight in a friend. This is to love God indeed; the heart is set upon God, as a man’s heart is set upon his treasure. This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. It is superlative; we give God the best of our love, the cream of it. Cant. 8:2,”I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.” If the spouse had a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ must drink of it. It is intense and ardent. True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God [from the Hebrew word saruph, to be burned up]. The spouse was amore perculsa, [an overwhelming love], in fainting fits, “sick of love,” Cant. 2:5. Thus to love God is to glorify him. He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.

4. Subjection. This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service. Thus the angels in heaven glorify him; they wait on his throne, and are ready to take a commission from him; therefore they are represented by the cherubims with wings displayed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to his service; our head studies for him, our tongue pleads for him, and our hands relieve his members. The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to him, but presented him with gold and myrrh. Matt. 2:11. So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we falter at no service, when we fight under the banner of his gospel against an enemy, and say to him as David to King Saul, “Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine,” 1 Sam. 17:32.

A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat, but goes its circuit round the world. Thus, he who glorifies God has not only his affections heated with love to God, but he goes his circuit too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.

Q. Why must we glorify God? (This states that we do owe God glory because he gives us life and has created us.)

A. 1. Because he gives us our being. Psalm 100:3, “It is he that made us.” We think it a great kindness in a man to spare our life, but what kindness is it in God to give us our life! We draw our breath from him; and as life, so all the comforts of life are from him. He gives us health, which is the sauce to sweeten our life; and food, which is the oil that nourishes the lamp of life. If all we receive is from his bounty, is it not reasonable we should glorify him? Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him? Rom. 11:36, “For of him, and through him, are all things.” All we have is of his fulness, all we have is through his free grace; and therefore to him should be all. It follows, therefore, “To him be glory for ever.” God is not our benefactor only, but our founder, as rivers that come from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again.

2. Because God has made all things for his own glory. Prov. 16:4. “The Lord hath made all things for himself:” that is, “for his glory.” As a king has excise out of commodities, so God will have glory out of everything. He will have glory out of the wicked. If they will not give him glory, he will get glory upon them. Exod. 14:17. “I will get me honour upon Pharaoh.” But especially has he made the godly for his glory; they are the lively organs of his praise. Isa. 43:21, “This people have I formed for myself, and they shall shew forth my praise.” It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here. God has adopted the saints into his family, and made them a royal priesthood, that they should show forth the praise of him who hath called them, I Pet. 2:9.

3. Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence; it transcends the thoughts of men, and the tongues of angels. His glory is his treasure, all his riches lie here; as Micah said. Judges 18:24, “What have I more?” So, what has God more? God’s glory is worth more than heaven, and worth more than the salvation of all men’s souls. Better kingdoms be thrown down, better men and angels be annihilated, than God should lose one jewel of his crown, one beam of his glory.

4. Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and do we think to sit rent free? Shall everything glorify God but man? It would be a pity then that man was ever made. (1.) Creatures below us glorify God, the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Psalm 19:1. The curious workmanship of heaven sets forth the glory of its Maker; the firmament is beautified and pencilled out in blue and azure colours, where the power and wisdom of God may be clearly seen. “The heavens declare his glory:” we may see the glory of God blazing in the sun, and twinkling in the stars. Look into the air, the birds, with their chirping music, sing hymns of praise to God. Every beast in its kind glorifies God. Isa. 43:20, “The beasts of the field shall honour me.” (2.) Creatures above us glorify God: “the angels are ministering spirits.” Heb. 1:14. They are still waiting on God’s throne, and bring some revenues of glory into the exchequer of heaven. Surely man should be much more studious of God’s glory than the angels; for God has honoured him more than the angels, in that Christ took man’s nature upon him, and not the angels. Though, in regard of creation, God made man “a little lower than the angels,” Heb. 2:7, yet, in regard of redemption, God has set him higher than the angels. He has married mankind to himself; the angels are Christ’s friends, not his spouse. He has covered us with the purple robe of righteousness, which is a better righteousness than the angels have, 2 Cor. 5:20. If then the angels bring glory to God, much more should we, being dignified with honour above angelic spirits.

5. We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him. Psalm 39:7. “My hope is in thee.” And Psalm 62:5. “My expectation is from him;” I expect a kingdom from him. A child that is good-natured will honour his parent, by expecting all he needs from him. Psalm 87:7. “All my springs are in thee.” The silver springs of grace, and the golden springs of glory are in him.

May it rest well in your soul! Amen.

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By Any Other Name, It’s Still Unbelief…

There is never a short supply of opinions. If the US Treasury could tax them, the country would be trillions in the black. These pesky little opinions are ever so frisky and they have a tendency to move about and change rapidly causing frustration, confusion, and sometimes anger. Theological discussions are not immune to such fodder and in fact, if anyone is ever in short supply of a sack of opinions, let them come down to the nearest social hangout, denominational office, men’s breakfast or their own household and it is assured they will find the plethora of mixed thoughts and logic drowning the passers-by. To the point: while there is always room for us all to have our feelings and thoughts about matters, we cannot think in contradiction to the sound truth taught in Scripture. There is no room for the thoughts, freedom, will and wisdom of human beings to stand in contradiction and question God or His actions.

While I’m not naming names or pointing out labels, consider the fact that each person in the realm of theology/biblical studies carries a label and each of those labels exists to define their position on some section or ‘point’ of doctrine. These labels can be helpful, for example, being a baptist identifies someone who holds to the belief that baptism is supposed to be for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as to the belief that the proper mode is to be submerged under the water. Now, Baptist doctrinal statements have changed through the years, but that particular matter has stayed unscathed. In contrast, Presbyterians consider baptism more a sign of a covenant than the outer sign of profession. Therefore, they baptize their children as a sign of covenant and those that hold to this position are well suited for the Presbyterian doctrine of baptism. Now back to opinions. When it comes to whether the mode or expression of baptism, people can hold differentiating opinions and in good conscience, still be considered brothers in the Lord through faith alone in Jesus Christ. However, when the opinion becomes a matter of biblical contradiction, there is a problem. Some people hold to the teaching that without water baptism, one will remain in a state of condemnation. We call that contradiction a matter of urgency because it directly relates to the biblical teaching of salvation or soteriology. When opinions become biblical contradictions they are called heresies and when heresies undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damnable.

No matter how many people have held to such belief, it doesn’t change the error to truth. Paul teaches the Christians of Galatia that if they were to adopt the idea that circumcision would better secure their salvation they would forever be cut off from Christ. How? Because to believe in Jesus Christ Alone, plus something else is “no gospel” according to the Bible. In our example, if one believes baptism is a requirement in addition to grace and faith, then it is “no gospel”. This is problematic. Because the one trusting by faith in something that they do in order to secure or merit salvation is condemned like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. They are condemned because they are not believing in Jesus Christ and His work, but their own. Jesus called this type of thing, “darkness.” Now let’s move to the theological circles of other doctrines. Such as a works salvation.

Works, good works, obedience, sinless perfection, and all sorts of things related to humanity’s ability to cognitively decide and follow after Christ, are in the realm of being “another gospel” and as such, a damnable heresy. There are two matters though that need to be clarified. Some people are born of God and believe on Jesus Christ while later taught that they better work hard to persevere and then they get confused and disturbed, like the Galatians who were called “saints” and “brothers” by Paul. Other people just love the false gospel of working their salvation into existence. They love the ability to stand before God and declare, “I did it! I made the choice, I’ve followed the rules, I am obeying you!” While it may not seem strange, these words are demonic expressions akin to the words of Satan when he said, “I will, I will, I will…” and then God condemned him and threw him out of Heaven. In like manner, Jesus Christ will throw those who stand before Him and say, “Didn’t I do this and do that and say this?”, into the lake of fire. I pray that many who seem to fight for their ‘fair rights’ in the economy of grace DO NOT FIND them. Because the fair right of all people is to be damned by a loving and gracious and holy God.

God, being gracious and loving, has given life through Jesus Christ alone to be received by grace through faith. Let’s not continue to jump into labels that contradict this. Philosophy has no place in the study of God and when the mind of men get tangled into the ineffable glories of God, well, man just finds himself turned over to reprobation, confused, lost and alone. So what label do you like to wear? Is that label honoring to the Lord? Does it fit well with the sound synergistic and supernatural revelation of Scripture? If not, I would consider removing it you as quickly and as far as possible. Because in the end, we could all be wrong, but we cannot all be right and those who are wrong are condemned already and God’s justice and wrath remain. Let us see the light of the good news in the face of Jesus Christ and settle our opinions at the cross where Jesus took our sin after living our obedience so that we are now the righteousness of God! Amen.

Pastor James

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“Perseverance of the Saints”

“Once Saved Always Saved” echoes in the halls of many churches, and while the statement has ‘some’ truth, the language and meaning behind words dictate a false sense of security surrounding so many ‘actions’ or ‘beliefs’ regarding salvation. Scripture does teach a guarantee of hope and a sealing by God the Holy Spirit, but the contemporary doctrine of “eternal security” is far from the biblical doctrine of perseverance. The security of the believer rests fully in the work of Christ which affords a sure grasp of the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness, not man’s, is the objective and subjective adherence to the Lord’s grace. God purposes and prepares a people for His glory in a certain and definite way.

Recent history has relegated salvation to an experience or response rather than a work of God’s mercy and grace and eternal security has become a “pointing” to those actions or experiences. In like manner, the hope of salvation is found in what man does, rather than God’s divine actions, which of course, is a grave mistake. Proclaiming a man saved from the wrath of God while he clearly has not believed in the work of God is no less than a Demonic. It has always been the activity of the Devil to distort the truth toward the natural palate of humanity in order that God is robbed of Glory. Man’s greatest god is himself and one’s self-love gives any false gospels teeth for the unregenerate, who find solace in perpetuating humanistic theology. Man can find salvation only in Jesus Christ who is the good news of God by faith alone.

Security, then, must be found in the right place, or Person; Jesus Christ the Righteous. Because one’s eternal sealing is the work of God, not the work of man, a few quick thoughts should be secured. Faith Alone is the operative platform on which the believer stands, security, likewise, in the mind of the Christian, must proceed from faith in Christ. That is, believing that Christ has secured the believer is surely secure. Security is not found in the works of obedience, works of love, or works that proceed from grace. Yes, God works mightily in His people good works, but many lost people can also illustrate right living and yet have no security. So many think security is found in the following of the command to “put to death” the flesh and its members. While this is rightly found and grounded in the ability of the Christian because of Christ, it is never going to be perfected and it cannot be the blanket of hope in which the doubting believer wraps himself for warmth. The attitude of hope lies in the essence of God’s regenerative power through the Spirit whereby one cries “Have mercy on me, a sinner…” not, “Thank you God for my goodness.”  Salvation doesn’t make one good in person, it imputes the goodness of the only true Good Son, Jesus, to the believer.

Likewise, a disciplined man with all the moral compass of a saint cannot guide the seal of his salvation by his route of discipline. He would be utterly lost, even walking in the right way, if he places security in the path of goodness. Jesus Christ walked the path of Goodness. He secured the hope of the believer because He obeyed in His humanity to the fullest particle of glory: holiness! While the point is not to carry on this Unchained glory by defining terms, consider the teaching of our present day regarding “justification”, “sanctification”, obedience, holiness, progression, etc. The terms themselves according to Scripture are bound to the finished work of Jesus Christ, His ministry, His cross, and His resurrection. The atonement provided the certain salvation of a people and it is by the decree of God that this came to pass a certain and true expiation and propitiation. There is security beloved. No man in Christ is getting more and more holy or becoming more “like” Jesus. While we as believers do mature and are called to follow a pattern of life, as is all the population of the world, that growth can be undone in a minute and even then, it is not counted as righteousness just because we begin to fall in line.

There is no being MORE HOLY or MORE SANCTIFIED because Scripture teaches that our security in holiness relies on the grace of God, not our works. (I am not being antinomian, and if that’s what you read in hearing what Scripture clearly teaches, then just move on. Thanks.)

It is a matter of MATURING and GROWING in Love which produces all sorts of growth indicators. But these are not sufficient as evidence of eternal life for even the pagan can consume himself with right living. In like manner, the soul that is afire with the Spirit of God and sure of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ has a central divine affection for the Lord Jesus and love purposes its good works. (Gal 2:20, Romans 12:1-2) We must look carefully at these points and recognize that the law (works) and grace (faith alone), are mutually exclusive means to redemption. If the works of Jesus’ life were not sufficient to warrant our righteousness, then why did He die and to what end? If all He had to do was die it would have been sufficient for Herrod to have found and beheaded the Christ child early on. No, it was Christ’s obedience in His humanity that satisfied God’s command and expectation of perfection. It was this righteousness that enabled the God Man to take on the penalty of sin for sinners. It was His divine essence that empowered Him to live again and rescue His people from deserved death.

Sometime later we can visit the ideas of apostasy. But for today, let’s focus on the security of our beloved faith that is rooted and affixed forever in Jesus Christ!

Rest well,

Pastor James Tippins

 

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2CV – Violating the Second Commandment

Exodus 20:4-6

[4] “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

YOU SHALL NOT

The language in the Hebrew, lo, prescribes an ABSOLUTE prohibition of any image of God set before men. The commandment here is TWO-FOLD:

  1. You SHALL ABSOLUTELY NOT make an image of GOD for any purpose.
  2. You SHALL ABSOLUTELY NOT worship any image.
    • This means that an image that reflects the nature of the Lord in one’s mind would invade their worship.(fondness, remembrance etc).

For the sake of understanding, the Lord prohibits any use or existence of Him as an image. In Deuteronomy 4:15-16 Moses instructs God’s people to have a fondness of the Lord in the heart and to never paint Him with the eye. God is Spirit and has no form, thus He must be worshiped in Spirit. His self-revelation can be understood through Jesus, who has a body and a form. Jesus’ body though, is no longer in the world, but in the abode of God as Jesus has ascended into Heaven. Paul says that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. So, as God desires to be known, Christ makes Him known. The fulness of God’s glory is revealed in Jesus (John 1:14, Col 1, Heb 1, 2 Cor 4:6) and NO OTHER means of identifying God’s likeness is allowed, period, in any manner. Scripture, the Logos, or word, reveals Jesus perfectly to us. A picture of Jesus on film or canvas can teach something about Jesus contrary to the Scripture, and worse, cause us to consider what we know and love about Jesus to be aroused by what we see, rather than the Truth of Christ’s word.

UNCLE BILLY

The blond blue-eyed man seen adorning the relics of history has no resemblance to the historical Jesus. Or course, Jesus was not caucasian nor was he was not European. These images were birthed in the mid-third century when depictions of the ‘roles’ of Jesus began to arise. (ie. the good shepherd) Once Constantine embraced Christianity, pictures of Jesus became common and were central to worship and adoration. Historians reveal narratives of parishioners bowing down to these images symbolically as a representative of Jesus Christ. Depictions of Jesus originally were clean-shaven and youthful but by the fifth century, these depictions began to portray long hair in relation to the pagan gods of Greece, namely, the sun god Apollo, as a symbol of rule. As time progressed, artists wanted to “capture” and portray the different roles and attributes of Jesus. In doing so, His image changed and continually molded until the embodiment and knowledge of Jesus came from these pictorial attributes. A beard was added later in history to reveal strength like Jupiter and Neptune, eventually, the progressive combination of a slender, effeminate, bearded man with long hair took root. Once European influence captured much of the world’s art, the result is the man most people show today as Jesus. He looks just like a man I once knew who was a hippie named Billy, so that’s what a few us call that picture, “Uncle Billy”.  It is not, in any form, a depiction of Jesus but it is in every form, a direct violation of God’s word to call it Jesus. By the fact that the depiction is recognized by so many as Jesus reveals the idolatry of the image.

SPIRIT & TRUTH

Jesus teaches in John 4 that true worshipers worship in Spirit and Truth. Jesus reduces the precepts of any religious experience as the potential for being idolatrous-such as the temple and speaks strongly that those who worship God will only do so through the Son. God chooses to reveal Himself fully through His Son and because the Son has ascended, the only means of seeing and knowing Jesus is through the Scriptures. To invade the glorious view of what Scripture reveals with a man-made fondness is to rob God of His intended glory. Ultimately people are unable to avoid associating what they see with their eyes as a representation of what they hold fondly in their hearts. For example, when we read a book, we envision the characters in the book, we involve our minds into the fantasy as we read. Then if a movie is released, it never ‘seems’ right…. If we see the movie first, the book reveals itself in relation to the images that we have in our mind’s eye. In a very similar way, but more tragic way, depictions of Jesus can reversely be idolatrous unaware. If you love the Lord Jesus and you’re walking along in town and observe a painting of Jesus through a gallery window, you may feel joyful or emotional. At that moment you have worshiped a graven image and that is why depictions not derived from God’s prescribed revelation are forbidden.

SEEING WHAT IS NOT SEEN

The scripture says that God has shown us the fulness of His glory in the Face of Jesus Christ. Paul says that we hope in what we CANNOT now see but we love Jesus anyway as we peer into the Word of God. One day we will see face to face, until then, we do ourselves a great injustice to recognize Jesus from any portion of man’s caricature, whether in words or depictions. The Apostles teach continually about the hope of what is ‘unseen’ in contrast to that which is seen. John expounds on the reality that they have seen Christ, touched Him, and heard Him in the flesh, but that they now manifest Him to “you” through the writing of Scripture. This writing, proclamation of the eternal life is what brings communion with God, not the description or paintings of their memories. Peter explains to his readers that they do not believe in clever myths when discussing the truth of the resurrected Lord. He continues to say that their eyewitness accounts are not valid proof of their claims, but that the Scriptures stand as the better and sure evidence of the Lord’s coming and return to which his readers would “do well to pay attention.”

Seeing pictures representing Jesus is damaging to the body of Christ because it belittles the glorious and makes it an image of man. I won’t go into how this sits squarely in Romans chapter one, but it would be wise to admonish us from that text. The flesh resolves to find hope, warmth, and adoration in what can be seen but as I’ve already stated, this contradicts what God has established through His commands for our good, and when so often we find ourselves fighting for the rights against the Lord’s commands, it is proof positive that we love our flesh, revealing that we have no hope for eternal life apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The images of Jesus are so affirmed as such that when people cross our paths with beards and long hair the first thing that pops into our minds is, “they look like Jesus.” We are far better served with the words of God from Scripture working through our minds instead of the emotional attachment to the experiences of the sensory. Images of Jesus offer a fleshly assistance to our devotion which is idolatry.

EVEN IF

Even if we are not captured by the aforementioned fodder, we do well by our brethren to be careful of their stumbling. In California, a dear brother brought some pictures of “Jesus” to hang around the property. These images were installed without the knowledge of the elders before service presenting a large picture of “Uncle Billy” at the entrance of the main doors. Just seconds before the service began, a dear sister, who was raised Catholic, ran in exclaiming of her horror to see such a demonic relic hanging near where we would worship the True God of Scripture, not the one made by the hands of men.

Let us keep ourselves from idols. Including our weak understanding of the severity of those who used to worship them. Images of Jesus lie to us. They teach us to know Christ in a way that we should not know Him, in error and caricature. God understands our need to see and has given us His Spirit that we might see what we cannot see through the pages of Scripture. This isn’t only talking about pictures, but movies, images, caricatures, statues, or books that teach something about Jesus that is not found in Scripture. Be discerning beloved.

LOSING SIGHT BY SEEING

I added this note as I sat in my truck this morning (3/2) while considering the implications of adoring visual representations of a so-called Jesus. Paul teaches that through all the affliction of his ministry he is able to stand firm and see what is unseen. Therefore he doesn’t lose heart. So, the alternative to looking to the unseen is to look at what is seen, even those relics and images that offer help in our time of need are of no help and ultimately cause us to be shaken. We cannot look to the God of scripture by looking at His picture or even a symbol of His work or history. We must be able to see and savor the living God who lives within us through the word He’s left for us. Otherwise, we not only lose heart, we lose hope.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Rest well beloved.

Pastor James

 

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Pilgrim’s Progress Beautiful Edition

I’m a book junkie, I admit it. And I have several titles that I will buy if I see them used or cheap no matter the condition or date. But I am NOT a ‘new’ book lover. If there is an old used hardback of a text that I need I will take it three times over a new printing any day. So, it’s a rare occasion when I see a new publication of an older book that impresses me at all. My current acquisition from Solid Ground Books is phenomenal and I just had to share it.

This edition of Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautiful reprint of the 1891 Edition and will surely be a reader and a treasure for my family for years to come. I grew up reading good and well-made books and the days of such artistry seems to be waning. This is not the case for Mike and his passion not only for well-made books but also for theologically sound books. Visit Solid Ground Books and take a gander and please pick your copy of this amazing edition today at a really good price!

 

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Cremation vs. Burial | Which is Biblical?

Many believers have struggled with the decision to bury a body vs. cremation and burial of remains. Without getting into a whole schpeel of historical paganism or Old Testament practices let’s consider a few practical implications and a few theological consequences of the arguments.

There are some that believe burial more Christian because the body is resurrected. Well, what about the Martyrs or those who die because of fire or have been burned due to disease during the plagues? Have those bodies been disposed of sinfully? I think not. While the Old Testament does reveal a prescription for burial for the Israelites, hopefully, no Christian practices the precepts of Judaism. If you want to know why that would be an offensive option, just read Galatians and then the Book of Hebrews.

Practically, burial is a cultural phenomenon, and because of this, it carries with it religious implications. However, the practice of burial is different among Christians in almost every culture. As Americans, we have “westernized” every detail of our thinking about Biblical study and practice to the point that missionaries feel ‘westernizing’ evangelized people groups is Christ-like. I won’t get into that here, but I argue that it is an abomination to do so. Burial, while carrying religious significance, is a matter of preference, law, economics and culture. While I prefer burial of my body and the bodies of my loved ones, I would be hard pressed to suggest that it is a more Godly manner of disposing of a body. Know I know my use of words seems harsh, but when I die, I am just a body. And better yet, a body worthy of the fire! In other words, I pray that my family won’t worship my corpse but rather remember my legacy, and that, by the Lord’s grace, will be a gospel-centered legacy that points to the worship of Jesus Christ as God, not me as daddy, husband, friend, pastor or philanthropist.

In some places, the law requires bodies to be cremated before burial, and in all places, the laying to rest of human remains is a legal matter and requires a judicial approval as to where they will be kept. Thankfully this is the case lest we all buy a house and find grandpa’s body in the bbq pit. I know in my tenure in California, there was a time limit that a body could be kept for burial without extra storage fees and also that a full burial plot could cost upward of $15,000 for one placement. The additional funeral costs could soar over $45,000 making the death a complete bankruptcy for the widowed spouse or family. Here in our community, a full burial ranges from $15K to $30K while cremation services can be obtained for a mere $1000 or less. I have personally presided over the memorial service of several cremations who were later laid to rest in a cemetery and find the funerals no different than those who use a coffin.

Biblically speaking, the Scripture speaks nothing of how a body should be prepared for burial, disposal, etc. While some well-meaning people like to use the instructions given in Chronicles or Samuel and even Jeremiah (and other places) as proof texts that burning a body is sinful, I would argue that these individuals do not understand basic literary comprehension or they have not read the complete text of those books of the bible and thus are only repeating what they’ve been told over and over again. Some suppose that ‘glorifying’ the Lord Jesus in death means not to be burned, but that is a gross abuse of Scripture to promote one’s agenda. That type of Biblical abuse is a gross sin, and the Bible teaches that it brings with it grave judgment. (James 3:1, Revelation 22:18)

“Let the dead bury the dead.”  This direct quote of Jesus found in Luke chapter 9 is where Jesus uses a “pun” to show spiritual and physical death in the same breath. The man was grief-stricken over his father’s death, but in Jesus’ command to follow Him, this man was rebuked that he would desire to finish the burial preparations of his family first. While this is not a contextual conclusion, those who promote a dishonoring the Lord in improper burials, etc., then Jesus would be guilty of violating this kind of teaching. It is best when people use scripture they say what it intends to portray, not read into it. If I were to employ their line of biblical use I could say, “Here Jesus is saying we out not to bury people at all….” Which is nonsense!  What does the Scripture teach about burial?

It reveals the cultural NORM of the periods and the practices of the Lord’s people in comparison to the worldly practices of their neighbors. We know that Joshua was told by the Lord to burn the possessions and the members of the family of Achan, but this doesn’t give us a prescription for saying that those that are burned are cursed. It does show us though, that for the people of Israel, death was viewed as a temporary state and that preserving the body and laying in the ground was a normative way of showing such things. In the New Testament times, the Romans buried their dead. Burial is a sign of respect and memorializing. But the condition of the body at burial is not necessarily a mandate from God. What I think we all should see here is that it is a matter of conscience. That means that one is justified in his desire to cremate someone as long as his heart is right in the desire and that his convictions are not superstitious. This thinking goes both ways. To do a customary burial because one thing that it makes the Lord happy or makes them more righteous, this too is sin. If burial is a way of worshipping or idolizing a loved one, it too can be sin. Many people choose cremation for that purpose as well, so they can keep the remains close by.

In the end, some of what I’ve read recently closes with the same argument I do. That burial is a culturally honorable practice but that the Spirit of God must be our guide. It is not a sin to practice cremation and there is no need for repentance and forgiveness for the use of cremation. In some sense, I could argue that it is a poor use of resources to spend tens of thousands of dollars on burials, but I would never counsel anyone against the conviction of that unless they were going to be going into debt to do so.

I hope this short article will at least cause us to think about the differences between what Scripture teaches for us to do and what our culture and customs teach us. When those things collide, God’s word wins out, because He is the truth. When Scripture is silent, we must make our own prayerful decision on matters like these. It is much more realistic that in our day, cremation is not only a better option for space, money, and closure, but it eliminates us from having such an idolatrous relationship with a body instead we should use burial as an opportunity to proclaim the promise of the Resurrection of God’s people and to worship our living Lord Jesus.

Just a few thoughts… not a theological treatise.

Pastor James

 

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Jesus Mostly Divides as He Brings Peace

Unity, unity, unity….. 

These words are spilled out of the hearts of many well-purposed individuals who desperately desire to see people “get along” and “love” each other as Christ loves. What does it mean to love each other as Christ loves? The world has been fed a lie and many who are in the proximity of the local assembly of believers (the church) have bought this lie. Beloved, hear this. Jesus Christ did not come to bring unity and peace among fallen human beings. He did not come to stamp out hatred and remove obstacles so that this life would be a pleasant Mecca of good and glorious harmony. The very nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ prohibits such a claim. Jesus came to bring peace by bringing division.

Jesus Taught It

Jesus says, [34] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

When Jesus arrives on the Earth it brought Peace “to” Earth, therefore Peace (Jesus) was on Earth. But peace was far from the result of Jesus’ birth. Herrod desired to have the child killed and a massive hunt and massacre of infants far and wide ensued. What did people think of this child? Did He really bring peace to their lives as they soldiers burst through the doors and cut their children in half? I can only imagine the animosity that arose from the existence of one infant/toddler in the face of tens of thousands. Why couldn’t this family just come forward and give up their son for the sake of others? Little did the world know that is exactly what Jesus would do.

Likewise, Jesus first public teaching in Luke 4 reveals a very divisive outcome. Jesus enters the synagogue and He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and after reading He says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” They marveled at His graciousness! But not for long, because as soon as they esteemed the grace of the Lord’s proclamation was for them, Jesus stated otherwise and said that it was for them in judgment. The masses sneered at Him and the Scripture says they “were filled with wrath.” This surely does not sound like the unity and peace that most people claim Jesus wanted. The matter was so polarizing that the hearers grabbed hold of Jesus and took Him to the edge of a cliff, but miraculously, Jesus escaped.

The public teaching of Jesus continually revealed a very divisive result. In all of John’s gospel, it is clearly seen that everything Jesus taught was contrary to the understanding of the most pious and religious of His day. They hated Jesus for it and schemed to destroy Him and those who followed Him because they could not bear to hear His teaching as it conflicted with their idolatrous and self-glorifying traditions. This reminds me of many church members of this present age.

Peace Comes through Division

True peace surely comes through Christ. But in order to have peace in one area, it is at the cost of the peace that was once known. True peace is found when a sinner is reconciled with Christ. The peace that follows is peace with God whereby the sinner is no longer in fear of the justice of God’s wrath. Peace then also naturally flows to those who are in Christ; as they are now unified in the bonds of love, the love of God, the sealing of the Spirit, etc. So in order to have peace with God, humans will be enemies with the world, which is comprised of sinners who hate the authority of God’s word and the peace that costs them their lives. They would rather gain the world they know, and lose their souls, than to gain peace with God, and lose their lives in this world.

Jesus Christ is our peace. He has come to snatch us out of “the domain of darkness” and has made peace with God through His flesh on the cross. To say that peace is a unilateral harmony amongst all peoples is not just coy and childish, it is overly asinine and stupid. Now before everyone takes offense at that statement, I surely desire to be known for the foolish and stupid message of the cross. It’s how the world views it and it is the foolish things that God uses to bring down the wise. Who, by the way, think they are wise when they are actually fools. (Romans 1) I think that every professing believer needs to consider what he believes and in what his trust has been placed. We have enough people of the world on a fool’s errand of trying to be together with darkness. And most of that darkness is parading around as light when indeed it is dead darkness.

The point: When we have peace with God by Faith Alone in Jesus Christ, we will be at WAR with the world, sin, darkness and everything else. Only those who have intimacy with Jesus Christ (through His Word) are unified and at peace with each other. Disunity among so-called Christians is proof of God’s decree of reprobation at times. He causes them to believe the lie that they are safe in their religion, church membership, professions of faith, and the like. He makes them believe what is untrue, so they will suffer destruction. Don’t take my word for it, just read it in Scripture. (2 Thess 2:10-12)

The Word Divides and is Authoritative

Many who hear preaching and read words like these often take it personally. And for that, I am sorry. My writing is not to any person, but to anyone who cares to know the truth. In the end, ONLY those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ will have eternal life. Those will learn and grow into an understanding of truth and they will not sit in what they “knew” a year ago but they will always be learning and growing. I find many people in the buildings called churches who have no clue of the gospel. They do not know Jesus Christ, even by the statements of the word of God, much less by faith. They take great offense and yell, “division, division… you’re causing division!”  You better believe it brother. Jesus Christ, when He is proclaimed, will divide ALL people against Him if they are not with Him. Scripture is our authority, not the leaders of churches, nor the Baptist heads of state, Jesus Christ as He teaches through His Word is the FINAL court of arbitration, despite what any pastor or denominational leader may say.

Those who do not hold the Scripture as the highest authority can be certain of one thing: they will be destroyed in Judgment. Because without Scripture, one cannot be saved. Without salvation, one has no peace. Many hold to a lesser view of Scripture by saying, “Well, I believe the bible, but there are some things in there that need to be considered ‘out of date’ or ‘lacking’.” Goodness, that statement alone is the very practice of Satan in the Garden of Eden as well as his tactics to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. The devil uses the word of God every moment and God purposes his use of Scripture in order to bring deception. In the end, many who use a bible will be found in the end to belong to Satan, whose rule will be the dominant world-view until the Day of the Lord.

[12] Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, [13] while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12-17 ESV)

The word of God divides humanity. It separates those who are still in the world and pulls some out of the darkness into the light. It is the source of peace and points to the one who is our peace and righteousness. When we stand with the Word, despite who may say they love us, if they are not in Christ, they will hate us. We will be persecuted, not for living in morality, for there will always be moral circles, but for standing on the rock of salvation, the gospel of Christ!

Paul continues to teach Timothy of the power of God’s word and charges him, and all pastors, to preach, even when the season is gone. Beloved, the seasons of preaching the true peace of God has long gone in America! Let us herald that truth that He may be glorified in saving souls!

2 Timothy 4:1-5

[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)

Two Groups of People

At the end of time, there are only going to be TWO unified people: Those with a false peace and those with true peace. Unbelievers, self-righteous ones, churchmen, and the wicked will all be unified in their destruction. But for the saints of God, there is eternal peace as we stand in the presence of our Lord, redeemed, beloved, sanctified, glorified, worshipping from a pure heart and exulting with all the saints, the glorious grace of God who is Jesus Christ! God has sent His Son to stand in the place of sinners. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His life by obeying ALL THAT IS REQUIRED OF MEN. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His death by receiving ALL THAT IS DUE SINFUL MEN. This great exchange continues in that the good news is this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us, the ungodly, and we are the righteousness of God because He gave us all the obedience of Christ which is something we could never receive.

Peace comes through Jesus Christ and it is not found in the world. Jesus comes to bring division, the Sword of His mouth, His word, divides us from the darkness, divides our flesh from its wages, and sets us as sons and daugthers of God!

Ephesians 2:11-22

[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—[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. [13] But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [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 [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, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

Amen

Pastor James

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Easy Believism and What It Means

While there are many who claim to understand this phrase, it only applies to the efforts of many evangelistic appeals that accompany a large majority of “evangelical” ministry. Easy believism as a term has been captured by some to mean simply believing the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture. For our conversation here, that is not what is meant. Easy believism is the realm of ‘quick’ and ‘fashioned’ methods or responses that supposedly secure faith. These methods are seen in the practices of the ‘altar call’, ‘sinner’s prayer’, ‘Jesus in the heart’, ‘making a decision for Jesus’, ‘checking the box’, ‘raising the hand’, ‘repeat after me’, and more other aspects of sealing the response to the Gospel command.

Without going into a 250-page history lesson on the Evangelical Church, I’ll just place a few highlights on the history of such practices:

  1. In the 19th century, Charles Finney had a very heretical view of man’s condition after the fall of Adam and Eve and supposed that preachers could overcome obstacles to faith in Christ. Finney is in gross error because scripture teaches that man is inherently depraved and sins because of his nature, sinner.
  2. He produced a series of revival tactics that included having people come forward to receive Christ while also employing multiple tactics like coercion through fear, sadness, music, stories, and mourners who would come forward with others to encourage them to “do something” in response to belief.
  3. Others copied and began to expand the practices of Finney which eventually changed the mission and message of preaching through manipulation and response, instead of the biblical teaching of “bold statement of the truth” and trusting in the Spirit to bring salvation.
  4. DL Moody was a successor of Finney who engaged in an ecumenical effort developing campaigns of ‘mulit-faith’ groups who would utilize music and celebrity appearance to bring hearers to the Finney style responses to a call, not to a clear Gospel message.
  5. The most prominent proponents of ‘decisionism’ is Billy Graham who started his ministry in 1950 and in the same year began a national radio show, “Hour of Decision.” This launched his revivalist efforts and Graham’s tactics and techniques have been normative for the majority of professions of faith for much of the 20th century.
  6. Evangelical churches continue to invest a great deal of time and energy in ‘decisions’ for Jesus while the church of America continually gets weaker and weaker in truth, commitment, sound doctrine, and power. The church answered this over the last 40 years by engaging more and more programs, training and assimilation strategies that further divide the simple and plain teaching of Scripture from the lives of people.

In brief, this type of belief is found in no place in scripture. Some may try to employ the Romans 10:9 card, but by doing so, they twist scripture for their own practices. Ultimately, the continued use of such things is a blatant disregard for the Lord and His word. It’s a refusal to listen to sound teaching and engage in useful and profitable dialog concerning the souls of men. Sadly, it appears that people really do love the glory that comes from men rather than God’s ultimate glory that is revealed in the ‘foolish’ gospel message of Scripture.

If you find yourself trusting in any of the aforementioned methods, I would encourage you to consider your hope and whether or not you really do have security in your eternal life. Maybe your hope really is in Christ Alone, and God pushed through the methods with the message of the cross to your ears. If not, then take a moment and write out your testimony. Describe your salvation, your hope, your security and your exultation in Christ. I will gladly and privately respond to walk you through the gospel of Christ and its absolute power over sin and death!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation first to the Jew then the Gentile. Romans 1:16.  Are you ashamed? Let’s pray not.

In closing, belief in Christ is easy. It is seeing and being persuaded of what God has said about His Son. What Jesus has accomplished in His life, death and resurrection constitute the good news, because, without it, every human being is justly condemned in his sins. Believe ‘simply’ on Christ Alone, if you really think about it, all this other stuff isn’t easy at all, but more and more works that condemn and have no object of hope.

For His Glory,

Pastor James

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