≡ Menu

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

 

{ 0 comments }

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!

 

{ 0 comments }

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

 

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

The Need for Precision | Crisis of Faith Excerpt

Precision is an important virtue in many areas of life. For the marksman, precision is the only thing on his mind. For the surgeon, it could be the difference between life and death. For the orator or teacher, it could be the difference in understanding and confusion, and that, related to eternal life, could contrast between purveying a truth or a lie. Defining terms for an audience is one thing, but recently I’ve noticed that a lack of precision in wording can create a deep misunderstanding. Language is a funny beast. It is as unique to people as is DNA and even among its own, it can often be convoluted. I’ve noticed in the last year how so many things I say may indeed make sense to me in my understanding of them, but in reality, they can sound like something else to the hearers. Oft what I say may even be offensive or even heretical.  Years ago I was preaching, and a comment that I made birthed controversy. I said simply, “don’t let the devil dupe you, don’t be a sucker.”  A few days later the request to have my sermon pulled from the church website caught me off guard. The brother really thought that the word “sucker” was a profane reference and for several days he had lost a great deal of respect for me.

Other things have caused me to consider my language and to pray that the Lord would grant me the grace to be aware of the need. Recently a church member brought to my attention the difference in a wording related to the ‘illumination’ of the Spirit of God versus His revelation. Someone has even suggested I should be sparing with the usage of the word “brother” when speaking on social media. Another person brought to my attention that the usage of words like faith, trust, believe, etc. are confusing in context at times.

Looking back twenty years ago, I would describe myself as a conservative, Baptist, orthodox, Americanized Pastor who pressed daily to see the church grow in depth and number. The problem was that my “Americanized” training and examples had surely removed a lot of actual truth from my arsenal of ministry. The language of my teaching centered on the actions of men, the thinking of men, the emotions of men, the dedication of men as the “gospel” remained at the center as a gracious offer. The gospel was an opportunity evidenced by the continued invitation to “receive” Jesus, or “pray for salvation.” These practices birthed out of generations of ill-informed and ignorant men who just replicated what they observed and labored through it any way they knew how. I’ll discuss these things at a later time.

Because of this long history, it is even more important now that I utilize wording that is not ‘mainstream’ and expected everyone to grasp it. In a conversation with a gentleman two nights ago I asked the question, “How do you know you have eternal life?” He began a barrage of answers beginning with, “You must ask Jesus into your heart.” He concluded with these “steps” of salvation: “One must then repent of sin, study the Bible, obey Jesus, and begin to grow and do things for others… all in love.”  While all of these things are good experiences, attitudes, actions and efforts, none of them, even the first, are effectual in salvation. Precision needs to be understood as vital in preaching and teaching the Bible. The simplicity of scripture and the gospel message is such that a child can hear the word and be saved.

Jesus says that He is THE TRUTH, THE WAY, and THE LIFE. I use capital letters for emphasis on the definite article, THE, and the object of what and who Jesus is. So a relationship with Jesus Christ is one that agrees with what He says about Himself. Faith is believing on what Jesus says, not finding another way of experiencing Jesus. In reality, there is no other way to know Jesus without reading or hearing the language of Scripture. Jesus is “the eternal life” manifested to us, He is the “image of the invisible God” and no one can come to the Father “except through Him.” The Apostles wrote the words of Christ’s teaching and through them alone can one find faith. Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ is faith in the words of Christ, I believe this is clearly stated by Paul in Romans 10:17, right after he says that no one can believe if someone doesn’t go to them and speak the simple language of the Bible.

The point of this is not to debate the aforementioned truths, but to show that because it is true, and because eternity is in the balance, precision is vital. Being exact goes together with exclusivity and explicitly. Jesus is the exclusive and explicit truth of God. Believing in Jesus Christ is believing in what He says and what His Word says about Him. Trusting in Him is exactly the same. It is holding as truth to the written word of God and its propositions about who Christ is and what He has done. This is something that needs to be understood as the reason so many people are falsely converted to an illogical and invisible faith in an ambiguous and caricatured Christ. That ‘christ’ cannot save anyone. That faith is not saving faith. And no matter how transformative one becomes in their lives, Jesus said that if our righteousness is not greater than that of the Pharisees that we could not have eternal life. So, complete obedience to all things plus some. This is bad, bad news.

The precise good news though is clearly seen in the writing of and about Jesus Christ. And certainly, this information is ONLY found in the Bible. Period. No exceptions. The Bible reveals Jesus as the Image of God, He is the knowledge and wisdom of God. He is the creator of the world. Jesus Christ is the one whom God the Father has sent, as a man, and as God, both equally true at the same time. Scripture teaches that God is holy and just, therefore, He must punish evil. Sin is evil, men are sinners. Therefore, it is good and loving for God to destroy sinners and cast them into eternal damnation. God, however, before the foundation of the world, decreed not a plan, but a promise. A covenant to save His people from their sin and from His just wrath. This is done through Jesus Christ. He was born, he lived a perfectly obedient life as a human being, thus satisfying all the righteous requirements of the law. Then God put Him on the cross to destroy Him. See, God cannot forgive sin, he must punish it. So, because God has decreed to save sinners, Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself, then we can be forgiven because Christ has paid the debt with His blood.

Precision matters. Words matter. Theology matters. If you are reading this and your faith is not in what Scripture says about Jesus, then you, my friend are not found in Jesus Christ. If your faith is in any other thing, place, function, action, thought, determination, experience, attitude, fruitfulness or association, you are desperately in need of seeing the truth of Christ from Scripture and need to believe on Him, the living LOGOS – Word – His speaking about Himself. Because Scripture has taken such a low place of authority and has been replaced by humanism, philosophy, professional ministry and the like, the Gospel has been hidden. Now is the time to see. Now is the day of truth. Today is the day of Salvation. Hear the word of the Lord.

If you don’t believe me, please believe God.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. [8] Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [9] For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. [11] Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

For His Glory by His Grace

Pastor James

{ 0 comments }

Are My Sermons Helpful?

People are always in need of help. It’s a fact of life. Finding the right type of help can be difficult for most. It’s difficult to choose from all the noise offering to change lives for the better. What form of ‘help’ is the right form? Should one seek some counseling? If so, then what type? Even counseling is vast in its practice. There is biblical counseling, therapeutic, psychological, psychiatric, self-motivating and there are a million divisions of these types of help. For many Christians, they look to the church hoping to find help through their pastor or a small group or even a friend. The trend in preaching has taken this approach as well and is viewed by many as just another arm of help in a time of need. If people in large number are seeking to be helped by preaching, then what constitutes a sermon that helps? How should pastors focus their teaching for the sake of their congregation?

A Helpful Sermon Carries Great Assumptions

Visions of grandeur often accompany many well-meaning pastors. They think that if they don’t say the right thing or if they are not creative enough, then church members are going to be lacking. It should be understood that God is supreme over all circumstances and when it comes to His own, He uses all things, good and bad, for their good. So, there is nothing that takes place in this life that is outside the eternal decrees of God. Preaching then must assume this reality, speak from this authority and provide exactly what God has chosen as an answer. Preaching that changes in content depending on the seasons or culture is not preaching. The preacher has become the pundit and no longer has any power to offer help. God alone helps. His word alone is all counsel for good and profit.  (2 Timothy 3:16) Another assumption that the scripture offers is its audience. Not one point of the Holy Writ was composed or sent to unbelieving people. The Scripture is for the church and it only useful for the people of God, those who are in Jesus Christ.

A Helpful Sermon is Contextual

If the above assumptions are cemented helpful preaching should flow naturally from the text of Scripture. Often pastors feel the need to ‘invent’ something that is not seen in the text or even ‘expound’ philosophically on items related to the text. While this is good practice as needed (if the text speaks to the matter), it should be very minimal. What God’s word says has the power to change, not what we are thinking about what God’s word says. Contextual preaching then is the means through which the pastor will most benefit the church. A helpful sermon is one that stands within the text of Scripture and never pulls away from the original meaning. God alone shows what He is saying, He doesn’t need us to break into His mind and offer assistance to Him. Using a sentence out of context is not only ‘unhelpful’ but it is a very prideful engagement. It often shows either a lack of maturity on the part of a pastor, a lack of esteem for the Word of God, or a lack of discernment. Either way, it should be corrected and God’s word should be allowed to do what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12)

A Helpful Sermon Brings Maturity

Most circumstances in life are out of the control of the ones experiencing them. So, to teach people to do something that is out of their control is a waste of time. It also brings the hearer to a place of despair or worse, a place of false hope. Paul teaches the Ephesian church to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and the church will mature. What is the truth? The truth is spoken when each believer teaches the word of God to each other. It is spoken when it is ‘out of season’ and not received very well for the benefit and joy of another. It is spoken when preaching centers on the purpose of growing the church, which is inclusive of being able to ‘endure’ problems and ‘overcome’ circumstances that are out of their control. It often appears that pastors want to change people’s lives by changing the way they act or think. Scripture changes people’s lives, actions, and thoughts by showing them the power of God and His purposes in all things, even bad ones. True help is growth in grace, growth in Christ, growth in joy and all of these come through God’s word being taught as it is written. A helpful sermon can never point to what man can do or change in order to create the environment or circumstances for help. It must always point to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His power, purpose, and provision in all things.

A Helpful sermon continually focuses on the person of Christ and His work of atonement. God alone purposes the assembly and preaching for one reason, that He is glorified in His people. While the Scripture is used to preach Christ unto Salvation, that is done through right teaching of Christ, not through placating to felt-needs and ‘helps’ that have no eternal interests or glory in them. God’s word is the ONLY authority on all matters related to the church. God can do more in one second than all the helpful quippy and creative pep-talks combined in the world over a million years. Teaching God’s word not only helps, it teaches the church to hear the Lord, eat on their own, and to also help others with Scripture. Preaching out of context robs the body of Christ of all the blessings that Scripture brings.

Colossians 3:16-17

[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

God alone speaks with authority. He is the Helper. He uses finite men to open their mouths and proclaim His word through which He brings the message of hope and life!

Preach hard, pray with peace, and exalt the Christ brethren.

Pastor James

{ 0 comments }

Be At Rest in Your Mind, Trust the Scriptures

Some of the most engaging fodder of man center on what Scripture has not revealed.  My entire life I have always been a philosopher, thinking more than anything else I do. I remember vividly daydreaming as a boy where my mind would contemplate deep things while becoming lost in the plethora of endless introspections. Many people today, while they may not expressly waste countless hours as I have in thought, do spend a great deal of time placing faith and hope in theological thinking instead of biblical teaching.

There is always room for thinking. We are required to think, to hold every thought captive, to meditate on the Word of the Lord, and to have wisdom and discernment. This isn’t the point of my premise. The point is that often times we land our theological plane on the runway that isn’t paved and quite honestly, doesn’t exist within the pages of Holy Writ. For example, many of us have a humanistic view of Lucifer, the Devil. He’s often thought of in caricatures of the ghastly and demonic (as portrayed by literature and film) when in reality, he is the angel of light and his beauty is grand. He is a deciever, so he purposes to disguise himself to be “like God.” Hell is another area of grand extra-biblical thought. Some people feel that the Devil is in hell and runs the place, when Scripture teaches that God has exiled Satan to the Earth and at the Day of Judgement, Satan will be assigned to hell.

What causes these types of controversies? Or worse, what causes this type of teaching. It’s one thing to posit, it’s a whole other conversation when what is not clearly taught in scripture is presented as fact. Well, several things are at play here.

  • Oral Tradition – Many people hold to unbiblical views on matters because their view has just been handed down for ages. It’s what they’ve always thought and heard and therefore, they have never really questioned it.
  • Obtuse Teaching – To think that pastors and bible teachers are exempt from their own presupposed traditions would be an error in judgment. Many who teach just restate what they think and have heard. While some of these matters are not grievous heresies, this type of teaching – lazy and thick-headedness – produces a vast ignorance among the church.
  • Organic Thinking – Our minds actually come up with really creative ideas. Some of the things that I have pondered, while not found in scripture, are absolutely worthy of a screen play! Well, maybe not, but they are at least within the confines of human imagination. And often times, they are very logical. Our minds come to the table with many “what if it is like this?” To which we have to answer, “What does Scripture teach?”
  • Obstinate Toughness – This is just being hard headed. We just do not like to be wrong and when we see something different that what we ‘know’, we tend to refuse it. The good thing is that God can overcome the hardest of hearts through the blood of the lamb. This unwillingness to learn is a bad sign because it reveals a refusal to know the truth of Scripture, which is to know the One True God.

We should be like the Bereans who inquired the Scriptures when they heard Paul teach. We should be students of the word and study to show ourselves an approved worker. Imagine learning something from someone who never learned what they were teaching, but rather they just repeated what they had heard. Are they a student? Are they qualified to teach?  Being that we worship God from how He is revealed in Scripture, it is vital that we know Him rightly. We should test every idea that comes into our heads and our ears. And when what we ‘know’ conflicts with what God teaches, we should rest in what we see from the Bible. We know that God is always good. We can rest securely in everything that is taught in Scripture and better, we can rest securely in those things that are not explicitly taught, knowing that these things are settled as the mysteries of God.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

{ 0 comments }

Your Place Among the Church

In a men’s gathering this past Saturday, one of our elders taught from the Scriptures on God’s provision for His people. The truth of God’s provision and its certainty is irrespective of the people’s obedience, heart, or faith. God provided for Adam and Eve in their wickedness and provided for Cain in his murderous exile. God provided for the Israelites even when they grumbled and provided for the Apostles, even in death. Today, God provides for us all that we need for life, most certainly on the Earth, but most gloriously, He provides eternal life in Jesus Christ. The truth taught opened the floor for the brethren to discuss and share their thoughts and quickly the ‘provision’ of God went to the matter of need vs. want. After about 30 minutes there had been great dialog ranging from those in history who had nothing but were able to be used by God to those who had everything and provided for many through the resources God provided. The discussion also sparked an interesting array of other “provisions” given by the Lord when a young brother read out of the book of James on how those who teach are the Lord’s provision for the sake of the church and how the Lord provides an understanding of the Word by the Spirit. All in all the time was a rich blessing.

While the conversation was broad and the testimonies were plenty, the matter of financial gain and the love of money had deep and dogmatic thoughts associated with it. We were all reminded of the lures of such things and were exhorted and admonished to know how quickly idols come into our lives. We remembered the men of history such as George Mueller who had such a grace from the Lord, he was able to trust that the Lord would send financial assistance through the mail as it was needed. As a result, he operated his orphanage in extreme peace. By the end of a couple of hours, we all departed, and some of us talked further in the foyer and later through lunch. I was amazed at all the different takeaways from the meeting. Some brothers felt conviction for having a weak faith, others were encouraged by the Word of God, while others seemed to be concerned they weren’t doing enough for the sake of Christ. Afterward, I prayed and contemplated the morning and thought about the greatness of God’s plan for His church, and marvel how He is in growing and providing for us in all ways. Here are a few thoughts.

God is Mighty in Provision

There is no doubt about it that I was encouraged to remember that God is the ONE who makes all things work. He is the giver of life, the giver of faith, the creator and lover of my soul. God is always working for my good, my sanctification and has sealed my redemption. Therefore I am pleased, at ease and my soul rests. There is nothing in my life that God has not sovereignly decreed. This is a place of rest.  NO matter how difficult things may be. No matter the worry or doubt, God is the provider. He provides when it seems as if there is no hope for tomorrow. He is always ready and always prepared and for that, we are always thankful. God provides for the birds of the air and the grass of the fields, He will surely give us our daily bread. God is most glorious in the provision of Jesus Christ, His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen.

God is Marvelous in Production

It amazes me just how God produces all things in this world. He causes all things to hold together. He makes the seasons change, the crops grown, the livestock to flourish and the wind to blow for the sake of the rain and harvest. God is a producing God who produces much for His purpose and glory through all He has created. Think about the reality of having no milk. There would be many good and pleasant things that would not exist. What about if there were no eggs or wheat or fruit? How many necessary pieces of this world exist dependent of each other without us ever even considering that reality? Not only is everything good a gift from God, but all that exists is from His hand. Even the local church. He made her, he bought her, he created her through the blood of His Son. This is a marvelous production of God’s Mighty Provision.

God is Manifold in Purpose

Sometimes people seem to esteem their position and calling more than others. This is a mark of immaturity. At the same time, immaturity reveals itself through others feeling less important than others. Think about this for a minute. God has completely and divinely orchestrated the local body of believers and each person is absolutely necessary for the benefit of the whole church. I’m going to spend a few more minutes on this thought in relation to our men’s gathering. Some people in the local church often have these mixed feelings of grandeur and grand-dooo. It is rare that everyone at all times sees the amazing and manifold purpose of God at work in each person. Sadly, though, when we talk about provisions, and then money, the church could even be divided on the purposes of God related to the haves and the have-nots.

God’s purpose in the church is glorious and there are weak and strong people in many facets. For instance, at all times there will be people with great faith and weak faith. Great understanding and no understanding. Visible gifts and invisible gifts. In the end, the body works to function together. If we were all fingernails, that would just be gross and useless. If we were all heads, then we’d be going nowhere, doing nothing and quite honestly, it would be annoying. God has put the church together and inside the church God’s manifold purposes in each individual are seen to fulfill His overarching purpose of the church: It’s perpeturity and praise! (among other things)

Think about how God provides for the church. Now I am not talking about what most congregants would consider “for the church” in that I am not talking about tons of money and professionals who support and engage with great skill magnificent programs and productions that awe the world. We don’t have need of such things and that is not even on my radar with this article. God provides for the church through His power and for His purposes to the praise of His glory. He provides all the necessary parts in order that all parts may be unified, fulfilled, provided for and producing all that He has decreed.

1 Corinthians 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (ESV)

Look at this! God has placed everyone together as He wills. He has done so in order that the body would function properly, take care of itself and display His wisdom before each other, the world, and the Heavens. So, back to the matter of provision. As a pastor, God has called me to lay aside my life, body, mind and talents and in turn, I am to take the life that would have been spent on those things and give it to serve His redeemed. So, for the last 20 years I have not been able to be gainfully paid for anything. (We’ll talk about the idea of “paying” vs. “supporting” a pastor in a later writing). There has been very little opportunity and now, very little usefulness for a man like me in the work force, business world, or anything else. My skill set and education is now permanently limited to the work of the church, the work of the word, the work of depending upon others.

With this in mind, why would it be wrong or worse, less Godly for another man to work hard and earn a living? Not all men are called to be pastors. Not all men are called to forsake the work of their hands for wages. If they were, then who would support those who cannot support themselves? Who would God use to provide for those in need? It’s often easy to see our value when we’re always teaching and working with others, but sometimes we and others look at the teaching/preaching role in the church as the greatest role. In the context of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their continued egotistical and prideful desires. In conversations with the brethren all the time I get two sides of this coin: “I wish I could get a better job so I could give more to help the body.”  Others then say, “I wish I could just quit my job so I could serve more in the body.”

The problem here is not station, it’s persepective. If everyone was a teacher and had no job, then there would be no church. If everyone worked full time and had no time for teaching, praying and shepherding, then there would be no church. It takes all places and stations and God has purposed all of them. Whatever gift we have been given, whether it be money, talent, skill, etc. we are to use it for the benefit of the church. We are to utilized the grace of God in our lives for the sake of others. And while the crux of this conversation is on provision, let’s think about how God’s provision for the church to function is given. It’s not all about finances. It’s not all about service. It’s not all about missionaries or preaching/teaching, prayer or function. It’s about the glory of God. God in His power purposes, provides and produces the work of His plans in and through us! Be at rest in the place God has you, server well and rejoice!

God is Magnificent in Power

This powerful display of God’s wisdom in the local church is a grand gesture of divine glory. Only God could produce such a spectacle! To see people from all walks of life, all maturity levels, all stations, all abilities, all passions etc.; to see them live together in unity, love each other, forgive and forbear, provide and protect each other is completely a work of God. This is a powerful display for sure and one of the greatest displays God’s power is how He utilizes small and weak things to do great things. There are some poeple who exist in the local church who have no money to help support the work of the church. They have no strength to build and carry heavy items. They have no expertise to lend a helping hand on many matters. They have no real call or aptitude for teaching the congregation. They may be too young, or in their mind they may be too old to feel useful. They may not see any good at all in their connection with the family of God. I suggest that in all the church, these may be the most powerful people in the world. Let me bullet a few thoughts relating to this:

  • Those who are weak reveal the grace of God as their strength and encourage others to walk in faith.
  • Those who have nothing can patiently and joyfully resolve to be content and call others to a place of worship as an example of God’s provision.
  • Those who are too old have an obligation to prepare the younger generations and teach them from the wisdom that God has granted.
  • Those who cannot do, or be with the body, are most certainly the pinnacle of the glue that holds all things together, as they are able to pray and intercede more than all of us.
  • Those that are broken and unable to see any good are objects of ministry and service and prayer; enabling God to be glorified in the acts of kindness and love given.
  • Those who can’t give money like they want can give of their time and help those in need as God allows.
  • Those who are not teachers still have great opportunity to teach at every turn, encouraging each other in the faith and instructing each other with the word.

1 Corinthians 12:22-26

[22] On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, [23] and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, [24] which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, [25] that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. [26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (ESV)

Look at the wonderful POWER of God!

God is Motherly in Practice

WE learn and He is patient with us. We fall and He is there to carry us. We sin and He reminds us of Christ, our propitiation. When we fail to see the glorious place God has provided for us in HIs church, He is patient. In the same manner, we are to be patient with others. We are to be willing to correct and recive correction. It is a glorious and blessed reality when we learn to live together in true unity. Scripture teaches that God is like a mother who cares for her children. We too should be caring in all our ways. When some of us stuble, when we fail to rejoice, when we think too much or too little of our gifts, we have to remember that we are all in place, providing what God has purposed for us to provide. And let us all remember that ALL that we are and ALL that we do are HIS works in us in the first place.

Rest well beloved.

Pastor James

 

{ 0 comments }

The Traumatic Effects of a Weak Grace and False Gospel

A few weeks ago we considered the biblical overview of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we’ve taken a glimpse at the assurance of salvation. Today I want to share what I believe are the consequences of false or ‘works based’ gospels and show that Scripture teaches that they are not really good news, but a prescription for death and false hope. Before I begin I want to answer the critic who says, “Why do we need to even hear about these ‘false’ gospels?” The reason that we need to hear about them is because they are being preached and shared by a majority of Evangelicals in our local community. This so-called gospel is being published on the television, in the newspapers, on the radio, and on the internet at a breathtaking rate and by a great number of people. Scripture teaches ONE gospel, ONE way to salvation, ONE means of Grace, and ONE savior who is Jesus Christ alone. Anything taught contrary to such things, especially when it interferes and invades the church, has to be called out and shown to be in error. So, I make no apology for doing what God has called us to do, and I implore each of you to be prepared to speak the truth in love when an error in doctrine arises in the lives of those around you. It is a gravely wicked thing to allow another human being to live in perpetual unbelief when we have the truth.

What False Gospel Are We Talking About?

While there are many obvious heretical teachings alive and well in our culture, the primary matter at hand is dealing with a weak and cheap grace or a grace plus works. There are people who believe that salvation is faith alone in Christ and then they will add obedience or baptism or church membership etc. to the pile of requirements for justification. And I will warn you, I am going to rant and chase a rabbit or two against the margins of this article.

The False Gospel of Man-Centered Faith can be heard from many Baptist pulpits. Christ is preached as the redeemer and savior, but afterward comes the list of do’s and don’ts. Don’t hear what I am not saying; God will produce good things in our lives, such as our love for each other, our desire to be in the word, our continued putting to death of our flesh, etc. But all of these things are results of God’s work in us and are a reflection of Christ’s righteousness, they are not a means to salvation and they surely do not offer a display of righteousness or guaranteed proof of one being born again. If we are honest, we have to admit that many unbelievers can pull off the same type of lifestyle. They can act the part, speak the part, do the right stuff, and seem like a genuine believer. But each day when they rest in their beds, their confidence in this gospel says, “I know I have eternal life because look at all I am now. I am living a pretty good life… Thanks, Jesus!” This gospel is not one that saves because one’s hope is what he has become, not what Christ has done for His redemption. We could call this a False Gospel of Fruitful Works. It rears its ugly head and causes a man work even harder after “faith” in order to be right with God when Jesus Christ has already done all the work required. Some folks even take great pride in their lifestyle that seems to be less sinful compared to so many others. This gospel of Piety and self-righteousness places them in the company of the Pharisee that Jesus says went home condemned.

A few more false gospels teach that the bible isn’t the rule of faith or the means to salvation in revelation. These people offer a relationship with Jesus Christ outside of Scripture and some of them even consider their own writing to be a new revelation. Others teach that man’s will determines his eternal destiny and that all he has to do is speak into being his salvation request to God and “poof” he’s saved. I call stuff like this having faith in one’s faith. This means that one knows he is right before God because he did the right thing or said the right prayer. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way a man can be righteous before God. Sinners do not make themselves available for purchase, God has bought them with the blood of Christ.  This type of so-called gospel puts a greater emphasis on man’s decisions and determination rather than the infallible and effectual work of Jesus Christ the Righteous.  The so-called gospel of sloppy grace is where someone claims to be saved by grace alone through faith and even has a right understanding of the gospel per se but they then take the grace of God and consider it a license for living in darkness and rebellion. This makes no sense. That would be like me saying that God has saved me eternally but has done nothing in my life or my heart right now. God gives His people a new heart and He puts His spirit in them. So, His work will produce His fruits: Kindness, gentleness, etc. (Gal 5:22). To say that Grace doesn’t transform a man is to say God is a liar. After all, anyone who claims the name of Jesus but walks in darkness is to be put out of fellowship in a public manner. This includes a false gospel, false testimony, false doctrine and false actions. But, we don’t put hope in the transformation, the transformation is evidence of the claim of faith in Jesus Christ and as we’ve stated above, we hold fast to Jesus, who is our righteousness, not the works. (James 2:15-25)

Saving faith and faith are two different things. Sadly, most people have the latter, just faith in something, but it is displaced. Jesus is the only true object of faith. Do you ‘believe’ on Jesus Christ? Are you believing now?

What about this Trauma?

The trauma comes when the object of hope is non-existent, or worse, existent but ineffectual. What happens when a believer sins? Does he run to the altar of repentance, work a few days in a row without sin and then feel OK with God again? What happens when the sin is not of the action or the affections of the flesh? What happens when a believer gets depressed? For years I clawed at the walls of my emotional depravity while I was being told that I just had to shake it off and enjoy life and ministry. I remember people giving me counsel that if I was neither happy nor having fun, then maybe I wasn’t called to ministry and should quit. If my hope were in my faithfulness to the Lord or the success of ministry or my joy, then I would have died or quit Christ many years ago.  Sometimes our lives are joyless and even then we can have joy that cannot be expressed. (1 Peter 1) When someone is given an ineffectual object of faith, they will never live up the standard of that object. They will never be good enough or holy enough to feel adequate. And if they do, then they have bought into the false gospel of self-righteousness like we’ve mentioned above.  If we gauge our salvation on the measure of our joy and our joy is not to be found, then what?  Where is the anchor that holds the man to Christ?  What anchors the faith of the believer to the Savior? Is it sinlessness?  Is it sacrifice? Is it church work?  Is it repentance? Is it preaching? Is it prayer? NO!  It is only Christ. Christ keeps His people tethered to Him. There is no escape from His grasp. He is faithful, even when we are faithless. Praise the Lord Jesus!

When someone comes to believe in these false gospels they never have any true means of forgiveness. They never feel as if their salvation is effectual. They never experience the bold truths of Scripture that they are secure in God through Christ and that nothing can snatch them out of His hand. In turn, they hold to the work of their mind, their heart, and their hands while “saying” that Christ is their savior. They are sometimes cavalier and sometimes too broken and scared to know what to do. Christ alone has provided forgiveness through His blood, there is no other work that can be prepared. There is no other sacrifice for sin. Some may suggest, “what does it hurt to go the extra mile?” Well, beloved, the extra mile is a sentence of death. It is unbelief. It is taking a walk for the sake of salvation and righteousness that God does not prescribe. Paul said to the Galatians that they would forever be cut off from Christ if they began to adopt other means of grace. Grasping at these false hopes belittles the grace of Jesus Christ and produces a continual guilt or an opposing pride in the heart. These give birth to either a perpetual worthlessness, a fake righteousness, or a prideful arrogance that all end in the same place: spiritual death.

The false gospel of man keeps many from knowing and holding fast to the enormous truth of God’s everlasting love for us. I remember a time when I felt far removed from God because of my self-evaluation only to be driven to depression, hopelessness, and despair with nothing to do but throw myself at the mercy of God who lifts helpless sinners to glory. Where are you today? What has your faith? Is it you? Is it your church? Is it your religion? Is it your works? Is it your faith? OR is it the grand good news of Jesus Christ who took ALL OF YOUR SIN on Himself and was judged in your place? Trust in this Jesus. The God of the bible who loves you and gave Himself for you. Otherwise, you rest in vain.

Something to think about,

Pastor James

 

{ 0 comments }