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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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The weekend of New Years 2017 I posted this article on the church website as many desire to ‘check out’ a church at the beginning of the new year. I have written many things through the years that go unnoticed. This article, in contrast, got a great deal of attention, both good and bad. Having received several phone calls and even emails from around the country about its content, I thought I would share it here for posterity and engagement. May the Lord honor our conversations and grow us in our understanding of what the church should be doing.

Why Worshipping with GraceTruth May NOT be for you…. 21 Reasons

I’m not kidding by writing this article. It’s not a ploy or a play on words that will be tongue-in-cheek and cause you to want to join us for worship. It is a serious reflection over the last four years and why so many people just cannot get to the point where they want to be a part of our fellowship.

  1. We are NOT creative. Well, we have many creative people, but when it comes to what the church should be doing, how she should be doing things, and why; the bible is clear. God hates when man brings traditions and selfish desires to the table of His gathering. We are not going to be swayed by the next new idea and frankly, make no apologies for it. If you are interested in seeing what the church should be doing from a God-commanded point of view, then check us out.
  2. We are NOT seeker sensitive. Scripture teaches that the church (called out, gathered) are those who are alive in Christ Jesus. The world has no place in the church because it really hates the Lord and His word. (Evidenced by all the traditions and creative efforts to make worship services “better” than how they are prescribed in Scripture.) People are not really seeking God in the first place according to Romans 3. We are not going to revamp, retell, rework, or retool anything we do in hopes that droves of people come running through the doors. We want to be a people for the glory of God and as we reach out to the lost and the missing, God will bring us together for His glory by His grace.
  3. We are NOT assimilators. There is really NOTHING to do at GraceTruth Church except learn together, pray together, live together, worship together and give our lives for each other’s growth and joy in Christ. We don’t have anything else to do. No programs for the kids, no children’s church, no manifold praise bands and no ministry of the arts. We do simply what we are told to do in scripture and have unlimited space in our lives for anyone who wants to be a part of our family. As a family, we will do things together, but we aren’t going to find your area of “fit” and stick you there.
  4. We are NOT easy on Sunday. I mean, there are easy parts of life, but worship, prayer, the Lord’s table, fellowship, hearing the word and discipline is not easy all the time. Sometimes we have to get real and sometimes scripture puts us in a place of discomfort. The good thing is, every time God’s word gives us a good rebuke, it gives us the glorious grace of God to grow from it; so our Joy is full!
  5. We ARE full of kids. All ages!  Birth to college, there are kids galore. BUT, they are always with us at all times. This is the way the church is supposed to be; worshipping as a family and learning together. The traditions of man are damned by Jesus in the gospels, and the ripping apart of the family has devastated the glory of God in saving families. So, we don’t divide our families and it is tough some days when kids are crying or going to the bathroom every 10 seconds or dropping crayons or staring at you while you try to listen. It can be tough, but it’s worth it, even though we know it costs us some very good people through the years; we will not budge on this grand conviction.
  6. We DO take the Bible seriously. No, we are not the silly millies that pluck out our eyes, the Spirit gives us sense to know how to read literature, but we do take seriously the word of God. So, everything we do and everything we believe is regulated by the bible. There are no philosophical invasions in our teaching. There is no room for cultural segways or external ‘supports’ to scripture. We preach through letters, talk about teaching that is needed, and really put ALL OF OUR HOPE in the scripture to bring about ALL life change, all salvation, all worship and all unity.
  7. We will love you too much. Back to my original statement, this isn’t a ploy. You’d be surprised at the people who come and go because they want to just hide in crowd. Now, there is always space and margin, but if you join us, people are going to introduce themselves and ask who you are, it’s just common courtesy. And if you come twice, you may get taken out to lunch or invited over for dinner! If this sounds horrid, better stay away.
  8. You will NOT be asked to work. After 15 plus years in the mega-church market, Pastor James knows what burn-out looks like. Well, I do. 🙂  And I know that life is tough enough without having mundane and constant requirements to be at “the church” all the time. Now, for folks who want to convene and fellowship, sweet! But we are not going to be so busy that when you need us we cannot come. We are all suffering saints, living in this life sometimes hanging on by a thread. We want you to feel the peace of knowing that you can be available to minister to others when the time is right.
  9. We do NOT mandate the KJV. (King James Version) There is great value to this version of Scripture (which is derived from Erasmus’ greek) but we have people who utilize this version as well as four others: The ESV, the NASB, and two versions of the Greek NT. When preaching we will read out of the ESV and commonly utilize both majority and non-majority Greek texts for clarification. The church is allowed to consider their own versions, but we do steer away from modern variations and paraphrases.
  10. We do NOT dress up. Well most of us don’t. We may not come in our flippy floppies… (some may), but we don’t wear suits, hats, canes, and high gloss shoes. But, if you must, then please do, just do not impose the idea that we are supposed to wear such lest we bring on men something God has not commanded. Many people throughout my life have never owned “dressy” clothes and God forbid it that one must have a new suit to attend the worship of Christ. Please don’t be offended, but I do not wear a suit, tie or slacks very often. When I do, people ask where the funeral is located.
  11. We believe people who are WITH US should JOIN US. This means that if you stick around, you need to publicly align with us for growth, accountability, discipline, prayer, ministry etc. It is a burden on a church who loves a family who has a hangup on being an official part of the family. Everyone always wants to be a part, then say they are not a part when things don’t go their way. Well, we love each other and being committed is a big part of that.
  12. We do NOT mandate tithing. If we did, we’d have nearly 30% of everyone’s gross weekly. But, since we don’t, we teach that everyone should give according to the prayerful consideration and be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Now we do believe that giving is an OBVIOUS example of God’s spirit in a believer and that scripture teaches clearly that each member of the church is responsible to financially support the work of the church and its pastors. We are just not going to mandate an amount. Many members just follow a simple 10%, some more and some less. It’s up to you and Jesus.
  13. We ARE creedo. Uh oh. It just means that we have a statement of faith that we hold to and everyone who becomes a part of our fellowship is required to read it, ask questions about it and take the truth contained within as truth. This confession of faith is what we see the bible says about certain things that are vital to the local church. We believe doctrine matters greatly, because without it, we really are not the church.
  14. We don’t have drums. I know this seems silly, especially toward the end, but while we have a piano/keyboard, and some guitars, we feel that drums are out of place in the music we prefer in service, and drums are also very likely to offend some, so we don’t have drums. We are supposed to bear with others and while Jesus probably isn’t going to scourge us if we had drums, He would surely want us to give up our right to play drums for the unity of the church. That being said, our decision to not have drums is a direct result of our love for each other and our desire to never offend a brother.
  15. We sing THEOLOGICALLY rich songs. We do sing new songs, but not contemporary “adult christian” type songs that have no bearing in Scripture. If we sing a song, it must teach us something true about Jesus, reflect on those things, or reflect on the work of God, His attributes etc. For example, we love “It is well” and we also love, “In Christ Alone.”
  16. We do not ENDORSE false teachers but rather call them out. I have had numerous times through the years a visitor state, “I wish you hadn’t said _____ taught error, it’s unbecoming.”  I understand beloved that many people do not like the tension of hearing false teaching being called out. But, when I am teaching in John 3 and the same week on TV/Radio a preacher was teaching that Jesus was not God, we have a problem and it must be corrected because Jesus commands it in Titus, Timothy, Galatians, etc. We are not on the witch hunt, but from time to time we have to address error in a biblical way.
  17. We are NOT perfect. Sorry. We are not going to fulfill your fantasy of a perfect church with no sin, no problems, no pain, no suffering and no long sermons. All of these will be a part of who we are. The difference is that we will submit to the Lord Jesus through His word in dealing with them. (maybe not the long sermons).
  18. Speaking of sermons. We DO preach for an hour each week. I do confess that I am trying to truncate my messages to 45 – 50 minutes, but often they are 65. There is little time to introduce, exegete, apply and close an argument from scripture in 20-30 minutes and I would suggest that most sermons in that length are probably not contextual. We stand to make sure it is thorough. Maybe too much at times.
  19. We do NOT preach politics or life’s lessons or cultural events. While there ‘may’ (once in 10 years) be an issue that needs to be addressed, it can be done briefly in the beginning or at the end of a service. We will not rob the feeding of the flock for the fodder of pop culture. We aim to live life by faith and doing so, we will all have ample opportunity to engage on these matters.
  20. We DO have planned Q&A times. Often we have these times where the church can ask questions of me, the other elders and each other relating to life and scripture. It’s a good time and we think it is very helpful, especially when someone is dealing with a serious issue, it can bring the church together. We also value constant learning and provide opportunities for the church to grow and learn weekly.
  21. We do NOT think we are professionals. Sometimes we have no music, sometimes we have no lights, sometimes we have no sound, etc. These things happen and we go on as usual. We are not going to change the mood to manipulate your feelings. We are not going to stand at the end of the service and work your emotions to make some decisions. We are not going to pass a plate to get your money. We are not going to miss out on ministry. We are not going to be afraid to weep, pray, laugh, hug, get firm, or whatever else the Lord would have us do in our intimate time of worshipping Him together.

It is surely best you stay home unless you think this list sounds a little inviting. Who knows, I may write an article on why you may want to join us… 

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Did I really Trust IN Jesus?

For many years the invitational system has been utilized by evangelicals to ‘secure’ the knowledge of salvation among men. Sadly, this new-age and dangerous invention created a great number of false conversions throughout history. Judgment will be lined with many who have placed their faith in their faith as well as in their actions toward faith in prayers, isles, and even public professions. The root of such behavior has a mixed historical record, initially, these actions were created by and employed by Charles Finney, who in response to the rejection of his ordination, decided he could perform great revival meetings without the measure of scripture as the rule of faith. A quick glimpse at his writing on theology and his writings on revival and revivalism (The New Measures) will quickly inform the reader of his abhorrent apostasy from the orthodox faith of Christianity. The Lord gave me great pause in 2003 during an evangelistic meeting that the request from the pulpit to the congregants did not sound biblical. While I am unsure as to the nature of that specific call, I was certain that if I were to look at the apostle’s record, I would find no such appeal and action in the text of the Bible.

Later in 2009, a dear brother in the Lord presented a few arguments that not only assisted me in seeing the complete error of the practice but in also seeing the unscriptural assurance that followed such things. In dialog through the years, no passionate hatred has foamed from the mouths of professing Christians as to when they were questioned to give testimony of their assurance of salvation only to find that the hope they held so tightly was indeed human responses, not divine affection. Let me share three of Brother downings observations.

Assurance of salvation is seen in the culmination of the conversion experience. It is inherently related to the very nature of saving faith itself.  The believing sinner, in the context of God-given faith and repentance, through the comprehension of Divine truth, the witness of the Spirit of God, and the realization of the dynamic of Divine grace in the life, possesses a reasonable certainty that he is a new creation in Christ Jesus and rejoices in the same. He is made aware of Go’ds unreserved love, which is constantly vouchsafed to him by the holy Spirit. This elementary assurance is:

  • Inferential – one may infer from various Scriptures that he is saved- that he has put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (John 3:16, John 5:24; Acts 16:31; Rom 10:9-10; 13, 17)

  • Evidential – one bears the marks of grace or exhibits the characteristics of a converted life. (Rom 5:5, Rom 6:1-18; 8:11-16; Gal 5:16-18, 22-23; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 12:14; 1 Jn 2:3-5; 1 Jn 3:3-10, 14)

  • Internal or immediate – the witness of the Holy Spirit to the reality of one’s spiritual life. (Rom 5:5, 8:1-16; 2 Cor 3:17-18)

Scripture has never revealed that one’s salvation is based on an isolate, momentary religious experience or a decision. Saving faith is NOT a point in history but rather it is a present reality. There is hardly any worse doctrine of demons than that of telling a man he can repent and believe and thus save himself at his pleasure and will. There is no biblical mandate, expression, doctrine, or narrative that shows anything of the sorts and before the early 1820’s it had never been seen or practiced in any version in the entirety of the history of the cosmos. One can easily place faith in faith and faith in actions and words, but beloved, this faith is not a saving faith for there is no object of that faith nor subject of that faith that can offer salvation. Scripture repeatedly reveals man’s hostility toward God’s supremacy and rule and even in an attempt to escape the damnation set before him, man will grasp the simplest means through which he could still control his own destiny and that which sound ‘right’ in his own ears lest he has to give up and place himself firmly in the hands of another for salvation. Those who still trust in themselves have a love affair with their salvation experience, not the Savior. The evidence of such things produces a demonic song of resistance to the truth of Jesus Christ and they will argue rather than testify. The argument will ensue with hurt or feelings of personal attack where Scripture reveals that those who are born of God through the Spirit will sing the song of testimony. They will herald the truth that they were blind but now can see. That they were slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness. They will praise God for His glorious grace in saving them from certain and just condemnation as they plead with others to hear the truth and believe on the name of Jesus Christ.

Traditionalist (as they call themselves) are very much close to apostasy as they have renounced the very statement of belief that Scripture prescribes. Do you? Do you trust in the experience of your salvation? Do you have faith in your expression of faith? Are you secure in Jesus Christ because of what you did, said, or prayed? If so, I implore you to repent of these false assurances and fully TAKE HOLD OF Jesus Christ who accomplished salvation fully, with no effort from anyone. Trust in Christ Jesus Alone and stand secure in the promises of God who saves, transforms, sanctifies, and surely will glorify His people for His Glory.

The good news of Jesus Christ is surely good news. Do not ignore it. Do not ignore the good news that has come down from heaven to tell you of Himself. What is this gospel? He is Jesus Christ, our righteousness, our salvation, our wisdom, our hope, our King!

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Total Depravity by Loraine Boettner

While the discussion is certainly found in many forms, Boettner had a grand ability to produce clarity in his writing. See how he tackles the matter of depravity according to the Scriptures.

Total Depravity

BY LORAINE BOETTNER

1. STATEMENT OF THE DOCTRINE

IN the Westminster Confession the doctrine of Total Inability is stated as follows: — “Man, by his fall Into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”l

Paul, Augustine, and Calvin have as their starting point the fact that all mankind sinned in Adam and that all men are “without excuse,” Rom. 2:1. Time and again Paul tells us that we are dead in trespasses and sins, estranged from God, and helpless. In writing to the Ephesian Christians he reminded them that before they received the Gospel they were “separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” 2:12. There we notice the five-fold emphasis as he piles phrase on top of phrase to stress this truth.

2. THE EXTENT AND EFFECTS OF ORIGINAL SIN

This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself, nor that man‘s spirit is inactive, and much less does it mean that the body Is dead. What it does mean is that since the fail man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation. His corruption is extensive but not necessarily intensive.

It is in this sense that man since the fall “is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” He possesses a fixed bias of the will against God, and instinctively and willingly turns to evil. He is an alien by birth, and a sinner by choice. The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volitions, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions. And it is this phase of it which led Luther to declare that “Free-will is an empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all.”2 In matters pertaining to his salvation, the unregenerate man is not at liberty to choose between good and evil, but only to choose between greater and lesser evil, which is not properly free will. The fact that fallen man still has ability to do certain acts morally good in themselves does not prove that he can do acts meriting salvation, for his motives may be wholly wrong.

Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him? This is the inability of the will under which man labors. Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil,” John 3:19; and again, “Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life,” John 5:40. Man‘s ruin lies mainly in his own perverse will. He cannot come because he will not. Help enough is provided if he were only willing to accept it. Paul tells us, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom. 8:7.

To assume that because man has ability to love he therefore has ability to love God, is about as wise as to assume that since water has the ability to flow, it therefore has the ability to flow up hill; or to reason that because a man has power to cast himself from the top of a precipice to the bottom, he therefore has equal power to transport himself from the bottom to the top.

Fallen man sees nothing desirable in “the One who is altogether lovely, the fairest among ten thousand.” He may admire Jesus as a man, but he wants nothing to do with Him as God, and he resists the outward holy influences of the Spirit with all his power. Sin, and not righteousness, has become his natural element so that he has no desire for salvation.

Man‘s fallen nature gives rise to a most obdurate blindness, stupidity, and opposition concerning the things of God. His will is under the control of a darkened understanding. which puts sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet, good for evil, and evil for good. So far as his relations with God are concerned, he wills only that which is evil, although he wills it freely. Spontaneity and enslavement actually exist together.

In other words, fallen man is so morally blind that he uniformly prefers and chooses evil instead of good, as do the fallen angels or demons. When the Christian is completely sanctified he reaches a state in which he uniformly prefers and chooses good, as do the holy angels. Both of these states are consistent with freedom and responsibility of moral agents.

Yet while fallen man acts thus uniformly he is never compelled to sin, but does it freely and delights in it. His dispositions and desires are so inclined, and he acts knowingly and willingly from the spontaneous motion of the heart. This natural bias or appetite for that which is evil is characteristic of man‘s fallen and corrupt nature, so that, as Job says, he “drinketh iniquity like water,” 15:16.

We read that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. 2:14. We are at a loss to understand how any one can take a plain common sense view of this passage of Scripture and yet contend for the doctrine of human ability. Man in his natural state cannot even see the kingdom of God; much less can he get into it. An uncultured person may see a beautiful work of art as an object of vision, but he has no appreciation of its excellence. He may see the figures of a complex mathematical equation, but they have no meaning for him. Horses and cattle may see the same beautiful sunset or other phenomenon in nature that men see, but they are blind to all of the artistic beauty. So it is when the Gospel of the cross is presented to the unregenerate man. He may have an intellectual knowledge of the facts and doctrines of the Bible, but he lacks all spiritual discernment of their excellence, and finds no delight in them. The same Christ is to one man without form or comeliness that he should desire Him; to another He is the Prince of life and the Savior of the world, God manifest in the flesh, whom it is impossible not to adore, love and obey.

This total inability, however, arises not merely from a perverted moral nature, but also from ignorance. Paul wrote that the Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart,” Eph. 4:17, 18. And again, “The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God,” I Cor. 1:18. When he wrote of “Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, And which entered not into the heart of man, Whatsoever things God hath prepared for them that love Him,” he had reference, not to the glories of the heavenly state as is commonly supposed, but to the spiritual realities in this life which cannot be seen by the unregenerate mind, as is made plain by the words of the following verse: “But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit,” I Cor. 2:9, 10. On one occasion Jesus said, “No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him,” Matt. 11:27. Here we are plainly told that man in his unregenerate, unenlightened nature does not know God in any sense worthy the name, and that the Son is sovereign in choosing who shall come into this saving knowledge of God.

Fallen man then lacks the power of spiritual discernment. His reason or understanding is blinded, and the taste and feelings are perverted. And since this state of mind is innate, as a condition of man‘s nature, it is beyond the power of the will to change it. Rather it controls both the affections and volitions. The effect of regeneration is clearly taught in the divine commission which Paul received at his conversion when he was told that he was to be sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God,” Acts 26:18.

Jesus taught the same truth under a different figure when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do,” John 8:43, 44. They could not understand, nor even hear His words in any intelligible way. To them His words were only foolishness, madness; and they accused Him of being demon possessed (vss. 48, 52). Only His disciples could know the truth (vss. 31, 32); the Pharisees were children of the Devil (vss. 42, 44), and bondservants of sin (vs. 34), although they thought themselves free (vs. 33).

At another time Jesus taught that a good tree could not bring forth evil fruit, nor an evil tree good fruit. And since in this similitude the good and evil trees represent good and evil men, what does it mean but that one class of men is governed by one set of basic principles, while the other class is governed by another set of basic principles? The fruits of these two trees are acts, words, thoughts, which if good proceed from a good nature, and if evil proceed from an evil nature. It is impossible, then, for one and the same root to bring forth fruit of different kinds. Hence we deny the existence in man of a power which may act either way, on the logical ground that both virtue and vice cannot come out of the same moral condition of the agent. And we affirm that human actions which relate to God proceed either out of a moral condition which necessarily produces good actions or out of a moral condition which necessarily produces evil actions.

“In the Epistle to the Ephesians Paul declares that prior to the quickening of the Spirit of God each individual soul lies dead in trespasses and sins. Now it will surely be admitted that to be dead, and to be dead in sin, is clear and positive evidence that there is neither aptitude nor power remaining for the performance of any spiritual action. If a man were dead, in a natural and physical sense, it would at once be readily granted that there is no further possibility of that man being able to perform any physical actions. A corpse cannot act in any way whatever, and that man would be reckoned to have taken leave of his senses who asserted that it could. If a man is dead spiritually, therefore, it is surely equally as evident that he is unable to perform any spiritual actions, and thus the doctrine of man‘s moral inability rests upon strong Scriptural evidence.”3

“On the principle that no clean thing can come out of what is unclean (Job 14:4), all that are horn of woman are declared ‘abominable and corrupt,‘ to whose nature iniquity alone is attractive (Job 15:1446). Accordingly, to become sinful, men do not wait until the age of accountable action arrives. Rather, they are apostates from the womb, and as soon as they are born go astray, speaking lies (Ps. 58:3); they are even shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5). The propensity of their heart is evil from their youth (Gen. 8:21), and it is out of the heart that all the issues of life proceed (Prov. 4:23; 20:11). Acts of sin are therefore but the expression of the natural heart, which is deceitful above all things and exceedingly corrupt (Jer. 17:9).”5

Ezekiel presents this same truth in graphic language and gives us the picture of the helpless infant which was cast out in its blood and left to die, but which the Lord graciously found and cared for (Ch. 16).

This doctrine of original sin supposes that fallen men have the same kind and degree of liberty in sinning under the influence of a corrupt nature as have the Devil and the demons, or that the saints in glory and the holy angels have in acting rightly under the influence of a holy nature. That is, men and angels act according to their natures. As the saints and angels are confirmed in holiness, — that is, possessed of a nature which is wholly inclined to righteousness and adverse to sin, — so the nature of fallen men and of demons is such that they cannot perform a single act with right motives toward God. Hence the necessity that God shall sovereignly change the person‘s character in regeneration.

The Old Testament ceremonies of circumcision of the new-born child, and of purification of the mother, were designed to teach that man comes into the world sinful, that since the fall human nature is corrupt in its very origin.

Paul stated this truth in another and, if possible, even stronger way in II Cor. 4:3, 4: “And if our Gospel is veiled it is veiled to them that perish; in whom the god of this world (by which he means the Devil) hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.” In a word, then, fallen men without the operations of the Spirit of God are under the rule of Satan. They are led captive by him at his will, II Tim. 2:26. So long as this “strong man fully armed” is not molested by the “stronger than he,” he keeps his kingdom in peace and his captives willingly do his bidding. But the “stronger than he” has overcome him, has taken his armor from him, and has liberated a part of his captives (Luke 11:21, 22). God now exercises the right of releasing whom He will; and all born-again Christians are ransomed sinners from that kingdom.

The Scriptures declare that fallen man is a captive, a willing slave to sin, and entirely unable to deliver himself from its bondage and corruption. He is incapable of understanding, and much less of doing, the things of God. There is what we might term “the freedom of slavery,” — a state in which the subject is free only to do the will of his master, which in this case is sin. It was this to which Jesus referred when He said, “Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin,” John 8:34.

And such being the depth of man‘s corruption, it is wholly beyond his own power to cleanse himself. His only hope of an amendment of life lies accordingly in a change of heart, which change is brought about by the sovereign recreative power of the Holy Spirit who works when and where and how He pleases. As well might one attempt to pump a leaking ship while the leak is still unmended, as to reform the unregenerate without this inward change. Or as well might the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as he who is accustomed to do evil correct his ways. This transfer from spiritual death to spiritual life we call “regeneration.” It is referred to in Scripture by various terms: “regeneration,” a “making alive,” a “calling out of darkness into light,” a “quickening,” a “renewing,” a taking away of the heart of stone and giving the heart of flesh, etc., which work is exclusively that of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this change a man comes to see the truth and gladly accepts it. His very instincts and intimate impulses are transferred to the side of law, obedience to which becomes but the spontaneous expression of his nature. Regeneration is said to be wrought by that same supernatural power which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Eph. 1:18-20). Man does not possess the power of self-regeneration, and until this inward change takes place, he cannot be convinced of the truth of the Gospel by any amount of external testimony. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead.”

3. THE DEFECTS IN MAN‘S COMMON VIRTUES

The unregenerate man can, through common grace, love his family and he may be a good citizen. He may give a million dollars to build a hospital, but he cannot give even a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of Jesus. If a drunkard, he may abstain from drink for utilitarian purposes, but he cannot do it out of love for God. All of his common virtues or good works have a fatal defect in that his motives which prompt them are not to glorify God, — a defect so vital that it throws any element of goodness as to man wholly into the shade. It matters not how good the works may be in themselves, for so long as the doer of them is out of harmony with God, none of his works are spiritually acceptable. Furthermore, the good works of the unregenerate have no stable foundation, for his nature is still unchanged; and as naturally and as certainly as the washed sow returns to her wallowing in the mire, so he sooner or later returns to his evil ways.

In the realm of morals it is a rule that the morality of the man must precede the morality of the action. One may speak with the tongues of men and of angels; yet if he is lacking that inward principle of love toward God, he is become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. He may give all his goods to feed the poor, and may give his body to be burned; yet if he lacks that inward principle, it profits him nothing. As human beings we know that an act of service rendered to us (by whatever utilitarian motives prompted) by someone who is at heart our enemy, does not merit our love and approbation. The Scripture statement that “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God,” finds its explanation in this, that faith is the foundation of all the other virtues, and nothing is acceptable to God which does not flow from right feelings.

A moral act is to be judged by the standard of love to God, which love is, as it were, the soul of all other virtue, and which is bestowed upon us only through grace. Augustine did not deny the existence of natural virtues, such as moderation, honesty, generosity, which constitute a certain merit among men; but he drew a broad line of distinction between these and the specific Christian graces (faith, love and gratitude to God, etc.), which alone are good in the strict sense of the word, and which alone have value before God.

This distinction is very plainly illustrated in an example given by W D. Smith. Says he:

In a gang of pirates we may find many things that are good in themselves. Though they are in wicked rebellion against the laws of the government, they have their own laws and regulations, which they obey strictly. We find among them courage and fidelity, with many other things that will recommend them as pirates They may do many things, too, which the laws of the government require, but they are not done because the government has so required, but in obedience to their own regulations. For instance, the government requires honesty and they may be strictly honest, one with another, in their transactions, and the division of all their spoil. Yet, as respects the government, and the general principle, their whole life is one of the most wicked dishonesty. Now, it is plain, that while they continue in their rebellion they can do nothing to recommend them to the government as citizens. Their first step must be to give up their rebellion, acknowledge their allegiance to the government, and sue for mercy. So all men, in their natural state, are rebels against God; and though they may do many things which the law of God requires, and which will recommend them as men, yet nothing is done with reference to God and His law. Instead, the regulations of society, respect for public opinion, self-interest, their own character in the sight of the world, or some other worldly or wicked motive, reigns supremely; and God, to whom they owe their heart and lives, is forgotten; or, if thought of at all, His claims are wickedly rejected, His counsels spurned, and the heart, in obstinate rebellion, refuses obedience. Now it is plain that while the heart continues in this state the man is a rebel against God, and can do nothing to recommend him to His favor. The first step is to give up his rebellion, repent of his sins, turn to God, and sue for pardon and reconciliation through the Savior. This he is unwilling to do, until he is made willing. He loves his sins, and will continue to love them, until his heart is changed.

Smith continues,

The good actions of unregenerate men, are not positively sinful in themselves, but sinful from defect. They lack the principle which alone can make them righteous in the sight of God. In the case of the pirates it is easy to see that all their actions are sin against the government. While they continue pirates, their sailing, mending, or rigging the vessel, and even their eating and drinking, are all sins in the eyes of the government, as they are only so many expedients to enable them to continue their piratical career, and are parts of their life of rebellion. So with sinners. While the heart is wrong, it vitiates everything in the sight of God, even their most ordinary occupations; for the plain, unequivocal language of God is, ‘Even the lamp of the wicked, is sin,‘ Prov. 21:4.”5

It is this inability which the Scriptures teach when they declare that “They that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom. 8:8; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Rom. 14:23; and “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to Him,” Heb. 11:6. Hence even the virtues of the unregenerate man are but as plucked and fading flowers. It was because of this that Jesus said to His disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And because those virtues are of this nature, they are only temporary. The one who possesses them is like the seed which falls on the stony soil, which perhaps springs up with promise of fruitage, but soon withers in the sun because it has no root in itself.

It follows also from what has been said that salvation is ABSOLUTELY AND SOLELY OF GRACE, — that God is free, in consistency with the infinite perfections of His nature, to save none, few, many, or all, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will. It also follows that salvation is not based on any merits in the creature, and that it depends on God, and not on men, who are, and who are not, to be made partakers of eternal life. God acts as a sovereign in saving some and passing by others who are left to the just recompense of their sins. Sinners are compared to dead men, or even to dry bones in their entire helplessness. In this they are all alike. The choice of some to eternal life is as sovereign as if Christ were to pass through a graveyard and bid one here and another there to come forth, the reason for restoring one to life and leaving another in his grave could be found only in His good pleasure, and not in the dead themselves. Hence the statement that we are foreordained according to the good pleasure of His will, and not after the good inclinations of our own; and in order that we might be holy, not because we were holy (Eph. 1:4, 5). “Since all men alike deserved only God‘s wrath and curse, the gift of His only begotten Son to die in the stead of malefactors, as the only possible method of expiating their guilt, is the most stupendous exhibition of undeserved favor and personal love that the universe has ever witnessed.”6

4. THE FALL OF MAN

The fall of the human race into a state of sin and misery is the basis and foundation of the system of redemption which is set forth in the Scriptures, as it is the basis and foundation of the system which we teach. Only Calvinists seem to take the doctrine of the fall very seriously. Yet the Bible from beginning to end declares that man is ruined — totally ruined — that he is in a state of guilt and depravity from which he is utterly unable to deliver himself, and that God might in justice have left him to perish. In the Old Testament the narrative concerning the fall is found in the third chapter of Genesis; and in the New Testament direct references are made to it in Romans 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:22; II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:13, 14, etc., although the New Testament emphasizes not the historic fact that man fell, but the ethical fact that he is fallen. The New Testament writers interpreted it literally and based their theology upon it. To Paul Adam was as real as Christ, the fall as real as the atonement. It may be maintained that the apostles were in error, but that this was their position cannot be denied.

Dr. A. A. Hodge has given us a very good statement of the doctrine of the fall which we shall take the privilege of quoting: —

As a fair probation could not, in the nature of the case, be given to every new member in person as it comes into existence an undeveloped infant, God, as guardian of the race and for its best interests, gave all its members a trial in the person of Adam under the most favorable circumstances making him for that end the representative and personal substitute of each one of his natural descendants. He formed with him a covenant of works and of life; i.e., He gave to him for himself, and in behalf of all whom he represented, a promise of eternal life, conditioned upon perfect obedience, — that is, upon works. The obedience demanded was a specific test for a temporary period, which period of trial must necessarily be closed either by the reward consequent upon obedience, or the death consequent upon disobedience. The ‘reward‘ promised was eternal life, which was a grace including far more than was originally bestowed upon Adam at his creation, the grant of which would have elevated the race into a condition of indefeasible holiness and happiness for ever. The ‘penalty‘ threatened and executed was death: ‘The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.‘ The nature of the death threatened can be determined only from a consideration of all that was involved in the curse actually inflicted. This we know to have included the instant withdrawal of the divine favor and spiritual intercommunion upon which man‘s life depended. Hence the alienation and curse of God; the sense of guilt and corruption of nature; consequent actual transgressions, the miseries of life, the dissolution of the body, the pains of hell.7

The consequences of Adam‘s sin are all comprehended under the term death, in its widest sense. Paul gives us the summary statement that “The wages of sin is death.” The full import of the death which was threatened to Adam can only be seen by considering all the evil consequences which have since befallen man. It was primarily spiritual death, or eternal separation from God, which was threatened; and physical death, or the death of the body, is but one of the first fruits and relatively unimportant consequences of that greater penalty. Adam did not die physically for 930 years after the fall, but he did die spiritually the very moment he fell into sin. He died just as really as the fish dies when taken from the water, or as the plant dies when taken from the soil.

In general we cherish a very wrong idea as to how Adam fell. . . . Adam was not tempted by Satan in a direct way. . . . Eve was tempted by Satan, and Eve fell, being deceived. But we have inspired evidence to prove that Adam was not deceived (I Tim. 2:14). He was caught by no wiles of Satan, but that which he did, he did wilfully and deliberately. And in the full consciousness of what he was doing, and with a perfect realization of the solemn consequences which were involved, he deliberately chose to follow his wife in her act of sinful disobedience. It was this deliberate wilfulness of man‘s sin which constituted its heinous character. Had he been attacked by Satan, and forced to yield through some overwhelming power being brought against him, we might have tried to find some excuse for his fall. But when, with eyes wide open, and with mind perfectly conscious and fully aware of the awful nature of his act, he used his free will to respond to the claims of the creature in defiance of the Creator, no excuse can be found for his fall. His act, in reality, was wilful, defiant rebellion, and by it he openly transferred his allegiance from God to Satan.8

And has there not been a fall — a fearful fall? The more we see of human nature as it is manifested in the world about us, the easier it is to believe in this great doctrine of original sin. Consider the world as a whole, filled as it is with murders, robberies, drunkenness, wars, broken homes, and crimes of all kinds. The thousand ingenious forms which crime and vice have assumed in the hands of regular practitioners are all tokens telling a fearful tale. A large portion of the human race today, as in all past ages, is left to live and die in the darkness of heathenism, hopelessly astray from God. Modernism and denial of every kind is rampant even in the Church. Even the religious press, so called, is strongly tinged with unbelief. Observe the general disinclination to pray, or to study the Bible, or to speak of spiritual things. Is not man now, as his progenitor Adam, fleeing from the presence of God, not wanting communion with Him, and with enmity in his heart for his Creator? Surely man‘s nature is radically wrong. The daily newspaper accounts of events, even in such an enlightened land as America, show that man is sinful, lost from God, and actuated by unholy principles. And the only adequate explanation of all this is that the penalty of death, which was threatened on man before the fall, now rests on the human race.

We live in a lost world, a world which if left to itself would fester in its corruption from eternity to eternity, — a world reeking with iniquity and blasphemy. The effects of the fall are such that man‘s will in itself tends only downward to acts of sin and folly. As a matter of fact God does not permit the race to become as corrupt as it naturally would if left to itself. He exercises restraining influences, inciting men to love one another, to be honest, philanthropic, and considerate of each other‘s welfare. Unless God exercised these influences, wicked men would become worse and worse, overlapping conventions and social barriers, until the very zenith of lawlessness would soon be reached, and the earth would become so utterly corrupt that the elect could not live on it.

5. THE REPRESENTATIVE PRINCIPLE

It is easy for us to understand how a person may act through a representative. The people of a state act in and through their representatives in the Legislature. If a country has a good president or king, all of the people share the good results; if a bad president or king, all suffer the consequences. In a very real sense parents stand representative for, and to a large extent decide the destinies of, their children. If the parents are wise, virtuous, thrifty, the children reap the blessings; but if they are indolent and immoral the children suffer. In a thousand ways the well-being of individuals is conditioned by the acts of others, so inwrought is this representative principle into our human life. Hence in the Scripture doctrine that Adam stood as the official head and representative of his people we have only the application of a principle which we see at work all about us.

Dr. Charles Hodge has very ably treated this subject in the following section: —

This representative principle pervades the whole Scriptures. The imputation of Adam‘s sin to his posterity is not an isolated fact. It is only an illustration of a general principle which characterizes the dispensations of God from the beginning of the world. God declared Himself to Moses as one who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children‘s children unto the third and to the fourth generation, Ex. 34:6, 7. . . . The curse pronounced on Canaan fell on his posterity. Esau‘s selling his birthright, shut out his descendants from the covenant of promise. The children of Moab and Ammon were excluded from the congregation of the Lord forever, because their ancestors opposed the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. In the case of Dathan and Abiram, as in that of Achan, ‘their wives, and their sons, and their little children‘ perished for the sins of their parents. God said to Eli, that the iniquity of his house should not be purged with sacrifice and offering for ever. To David it was said, ‘The sword shall never depart from thy house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.‘ To the disobedient Gehazi it was said: ‘The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed forever.‘ The sin of Jeroboam and of the men of his generation determined the destiny of the ten tribes for all time. The imprecation of the Jews, when they demanded the crucifixion of Christ, ‘His blood be on us and on our children,‘ still weighs down the scattered people of Israel. . . . This principle runs through the whole Scriptures. When God entered into covenant with Abraham, it was not for himself only but also for his posterity. They were bound by all the stipulations of the covenant. They shared its promises and its threatenings, and in hundreds of cases the penalty of disobedience came upon those who bad no personal part in the transgressions. Children suffered equally with adults in the judgments, whether famine, pestilence, or war, which came upon the people for their sins.

And the Jews to this day are suffering the penalty of the sins of their fathers for their rejection of Him of whom Moses and the prophets spoke. The whole plan of redemption rests on this same principle. Christ is the representative of His people, and on this ground their sins are imputed to Him and His righteousness to them. . . . No man who believes the Bible can shut his eyes to the fact that it everywhere recognizes the representative character of parents, and that the dispensations of God have from the beginning been founded on the principle that the children bear the iniquities of their fathers. This is one of the reasons which infidels assign for rejecting the divine origin of the Scriptures. But infidelity furnishes no relief. History is as full of this doctrine as the Bible is. The punishment of the felon involves his family in his disgrace and misery. The spend-thrift and drunkard entail poverty and wretchedness upon all connected with them. There is no nation now existing on the face of the earth, whose condition for weal or woe is not largely determined by the character and conduct of their ancestors . . . The idea of the transfer of guilt or of vicarious punishment lies at the foundation of all the expiatory offerings under the Old Testament, and of the great atonement under the new dispensation. To bear sin, is in Scriptural language to bear the penalty of sin. The victim bore the sin of the offerer. Hands were imposed upon the head of the animal about to be slaughtered, to express the transfer of guilt. That animal must be free from all defect or blemish to make it the more apparent that its blood was shed not for its own deficiencies but for the sin of another. All this was symbolical and typical. . . . And this is what the Scriptures teach concerning the Atonement of Christ. He bore our sins; He was made a curse for us; He suffered the penalty of the law in our stead. All this proceeds on the ground that the sins of one man can be justly, on some adequate ground, imputed to another.9

The Scriptures tell us that, “By one man‘s disobedience the many were made sinners,” Rom. 5:19. “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned,” Rom. 5:12. “Through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation” Rom. 5:18. It is as if God had said: If sin is to enter, let it enter by one man, so that righteousness also may enter by one man.

Adam was made not only the father but also the representative of the whole human race. And if we fully understood the closeness of the relation between him and them we would fully realize the justice of the transmission of his sin to them. Adam‘s sin is imputed to his descendants in the same way that Christ‘s righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Him. Adam‘s descendants are, of course, no more personally guilty of his sin than Christ‘s redeemed are personally meritorious of His righteousness.

Suffering and death are declared to be the consequence of sin; and the reason that all die is that “all sinned.” Now we know that many suffer and die in infancy, before they have committed any sin themselves. It follows that either God is unjust in punishing the innocent, or that those infants are in some way guilty creatures. And if guilty, how have they sinned? It is impossible to explain it on any other supposition than that they sinned in Adam (I Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12, 18); and they could not have sinned in him in any other way than by representation.

But while we are not personally guilty of Adam‘s sin, we are, nevertheless, liable to punishment for it. “The guilt of Adam‘s public sin,” says Dr. A. A. Hodge,

is by a judicial act of God immediately charged to the account of each and every one of his descendants from the moment he begins to exist, and antecedently to any act of his own. Hence all men come into existence deprived of all those influences of the Holy Spirit upon which their moral and spiritual life depends. . . . and with an antecedent prevailing tendency in their natures to sin; which tendency in them is itself of the nature of sin, and worthy of punishment. Human nature since the fall retains its constitutional faculties of reason, conscience and free agency, and hence man continues to be a responsible moral agent. Yet he is spiritually dead, and totally averse to and incapable of the discharge of any of these duties which spring out of his relation to God, and entirely unable to change his own evil dispositions or innate moral tendencies, or to dispose himself to such a change, or to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in effecting such a change.10

And to the same general effect, Dr. R. L. Dabney, the outstanding theologian of the southern Presbyterian Church, says:

The explanation presented by the doctrine of imputation is demanded by all except Pelagians and Socinians, Man‘s is a spiritually dead and a condemned race. See Eph. 2:1-5, et passim. He is obviously under a curse for something, from the beginning of his life. Witness the native depravity of infants, and their inheritance of woe and death. Now, either man was tried and fell in Adam, or he has been condemned without trial. He is either under the curse (as it rests on him at the beginning of his existence) for Adam‘s guilt, or for no guilt at all. Judge which is most honorable to God, a doctrine which, although a profound mystery, represents Him as giving man an equitable and most favored probation in his federal head; or that which makes God condemn him untried, and even before he exists.”11

6. THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD

A survey of the fall and its extent is humiliating work. It proves to man that all his claims of goodness are unfounded, and it shows him that his only hope is in the sovereign grace of Almighty God. The “graciously restored ability” of which the Arminian talks is not consistent with the facts. The Scriptures, history, and Christian experience by no means warrant such a favorable view of the natural moral condition of man as the Arminian system teaches. On the contrary each of these gives us a very gloomy picture of a fearful corruption and universal inclination to evil, which can only be overcome by the intervention of divine grace. The Calvinistic system teaches a far deeper fall into sin and a far more glorious manifestation of redeeming grace. From these depths the Christian is led to despair of himself, to throw himself unconditionally into the arms of God, and to lay hold on unmerited grace, which alone can save him.

We should see God‘s mercy and also His severity in the spiritual and physical realms. Life is full of hard facts which, unpleasant though they may be, must simply be faced and admitted. Throughout the Scriptures, and especially in the words of Christ Himself, the final torments of the wicked are described in such ways as to show us that they are indescribably awful. In the gospel of Matthew alone see 5:29, 30; 7:19; 10:28; 11:21-24; 13:30, 41, 42, 49, 50; 18:8, 9, 34; 21:41; 22:14; 24:51; 25:12, 30, 41; and 26:24. Surely a doctrine which received such emphasis from the lips of Christ Himself cannot be passed over in silence, distasteful though it may be. In the next world the wicked, with all restraint removed, will go headlong into sin, blaspheming and cursing God, growing worse and worse as they sink deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit. Endless punishment is the penalty of ENDLESS sinning. Furthermore, it is as much the glory of God that He punishes the wicked as that He rewards the righteous. Much of the easy-going indifference toward Christianity in our day is due to the failure of Christian ministers to emphasize these doctrines which Christ taught so repeatedly.

In the physical realm we see God‘s severity in wars, famines, floods, disasters, diseases, sufferings, deaths, and crimes of all kind which come upon the just and the unjust alike. All of these exist in a world which is under the complete control of a God who is infinite in His perfections.

“Behold then the goodness and severity of God,” Rom. 11:22. Naturalism does justice to neither of these. Arminianism magnifies the first but neglects the second. Calvinism is the only system which does justice to both. It alone adequately sets forth the facts in regard to the eternal and infinite love of God which caused Him to provide redemption for His people, even at the great cost of sending His only-begotten Son to die on the cross; and also in regard to the awful abyss which exists between sinful man and the holy God. It is true that “God is love,” but along with this must be placed the other statement that “our God is a consuming fire,” Heb. 12:29. Any system which omits or under-emphasizes either of these truths will be a mutilated system, no matter how plausible it may sound to men.

This doctrine of the Total Inability of man is terribly stern, severe, forbidding. But it is to be remembered that we are not at liberty to develop a new system suited to our liking. We must take the facts as we find them. Such exhibitions of the true state of mankind are, of course, offensive to unregenerate men generally; and many have tried to find out a system of doctrines more palatable to the popular mind. The state of fallen man is such that he readily listens to any theory which makes him even partly independent of God; he wishes to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. The lost, ruined, and helpless state of the sinner needs to be constantly set before him; for until he is brought to feel it, he will never seek help where alone it is to be found. Poor man! truly carnal and sold under sin, not only without power but without inclination to move toward God; and what is more awful still, an actual rebel, a presumptuous, blasphemous rival of the Great Jehovah.

This doctrine of Total Inability, or Original Sin, has been treated at some length in order to set forth the fundamental basis upon which the doctrine of Predestination rests. This side of the picture is dark, very dark indeed; but its supplement is the glory of God in redemption. Each of these truths must be seen in its true light before the other can be adequately appreciated.

7. SCRIPTURE PROOF

I Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.
Gen. 2:17: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Rom. 5:12: Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.
II Cor. 1:9: Yea, we ourselves had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.
Eph. 2:1-3: And you did He make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom ye also all once lived in the lusts of your flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Eph. 2:12: Ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Jer. 13:23: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Ps. 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.
John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Rom. 3:10-12: As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one;
There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God;
They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable;
There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one.
Job 14:4: Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
I Cor. 1:18: For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
Acts 13:41: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; For I work a work in your days, A work which ye shall in no wise believe, if one declare it unto you.
Prov. 30:12: There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,
And yet are not washed from their filthiness.
John 5:21: For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom He will.
John 6:53: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves.
John 8:19: They said therefore unto Him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye know neither me, nor my Father; if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.
Matt. 11:25: I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes.
II Cor. 5:17: if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. John 14:16: (And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever,) even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you.
John 3:19: And this is the judgment, that light is come unto the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.

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What is the Gospel? The basics.

Immutability. While many do not know the word, it refers to the essence of God’s innate character from which all things expound, whereby He is never-changing in any aspect at any time. Scripture teaches that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and therein expressly defines immutability. Because God is never changing it stands to reason that His nature, mission, purpose, and decrees have also never changed. In a basic sense, this is true of all doctrine found in scripture, and while some things can be mysterious, eventually God has made known the mystery but has not changed the message. This is certainly true of God’s message of redemption that is found throughout the entirety of Scripture. This message of redemption is commonly known as The Gospel, which comes from the historical use of “God Speak.” Originally, the New Testament used the word “evangel” (transliterated) which means, good tidings, or good news. Combining this small argument produces the fact that God has a good message for His people and it has never changed. Why then does it seem as if there are many “gospels” continually before the sons of men?

BECAUSE OF MAN

Man’s nature has always been contrary to God. (Romans 3) Even in the best of days, humanity is looking for ways to make a good thing better and because the nature of mankind is that of a sinner, broken and fallen from the glory of God, he (man) is rightly condemned. So, the outcome of such things is that when a man is inclined to move nearer to God, he is always going to add to the gospel and in doing so, produce “another” gospel, which is no gospel at all. (Galatians 1)  Another reason so many gospels are in fresh supply is that man’s will is corrupted because of the sinfulness of his nature. He is unable to divide truth rightly, so he creates his own truth and works diligently to make this new truth work for his purposes. Man also has a desire to be in charge of his life and to be the god of his choices and future. Unbeknownst to him, this exercise is a result of the delusion given by Satan, (2 Cor 4) who blinds the eyes of unbelievers in order to keep them from seeing the glory of God. The works of Satan then, are always prominent, not just in the obvious evils of the world, but also among God’s people and in sometimes within the context of the local church. Jesus was not taking a ‘stab’ at sarcasm when called the Pharisees the sons of Satan. He said it because it was true. He wasn’t sarcastic, and He wasn’t trying to be rude but he was, teaching an unyielding theological doctrine found throughout Scripture. That doctrine is that many men who are religious and pious, with great fervor, are often the tools of the devil. Just as the Pharisees had twisted the use and instruction of God’s word, so do some this present day. The root of this activity is Satan, who produces the fruit of unbelief. I often refer to this unbelief as a “low view” of Scripture.

SOLA SCRIPTURA

The Holy Writ is the single court of mediation for all things Holy, Divine, Revealed, etc. In other words, the Bible has the final word relating to the knowledge of God. John 1 teaches that God is fully known in Jesus Christ, who is the living Word, and Hebrews 1 teaches that God speaks only through His Son. When the picture of  Scripture convenes on this matter, one can easily see that Paul (2 Tim 3:16) is in agreement with Jesus (John 17:3-8), who clearly teaches that eternal life is knowing God and His Son, through the Word that gives life, who is Jesus, who has left His Word for us. (long sentence) Without the word of God, and when the Scriptures are viewed as non-essential, another gospel is always birthed. And even with the text of Scripture, it is easy to conceive any variation of Good News pretextually. That is why the Bible must be read and understood collectively and within its context.  Eternal life is at stake and anyone who is to gain life in Jesus Christ must the gospel through the hearing of it. So, what is this Gospel? What is the true Gospel that is taught in Scripture?

ALL OF GOD, ALL OF CHRIST

What this article hopes to produce is a clear picture of how the gospel is taught through the lens of the Bible while partly revealing some small aspects of how easy it is to ‘reduce’ the gospel to one or ‘lesser’ parts of the whole. The gospel is not some opportunity for man to peek into or “try” to see if it fits his life or ideals. The gospel has nothing to do with what any person can do to merit or obtain salvation. If it were any combination of such things, it would not be good news at all because man is, as soon to be discussed, unable to merit escape from sin, death, and condemnation. Salvation and the good news therein,  is certainly and emphatically, all of God through all of Christ. This means that the purposes of God found in Scripture flow from His eternal decrees that have been set forth before the foundations of the world, namely, that God created the Heavens, Earth, and all that is in them for His glory. In turn, God receives glory when He redeems sinners, for whom Christ died, and the word of God’s Spirit through His word makes salvation effectual in the lives of lost men when they hear and then through hearing, they believe.

MAN’S DILEMMA

Humanity is unable to be saved apart from Divine intervention and restoration. This idea is not just some human idea, scripture teaches clearly that it is impossible for man to be saved in himself. In Acts 16:30-31 the Apostles respond to the question of, “What must I do to be saved?” by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…”  Notice that belief isn’t the savior, Jesus is the savior. This glorious truth is good news because it eliminates pride and control when one is confronted with the reality that there is nothing he can do to merit or establish eternal life on his own. The GOOD NEWS is that God has done the work and has made it certain and sure. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, all humanity is now guilty and condemned under God’s righteousness (Justice), and without a miracle of redemption, all humanity will remain under wrath. Think about the following truths:

  • Romans 1:18 teaches that God will pour His wrath out on ALL ungodliness.
  • If anyone does not believe on Jesus Christ for salvation from sin (John 3:36), the wrath of God abides or remains on him.
  • Sin is worthy of such judgment. This is right. In the garden of Eden, God declared death was the penalty of sin and this truth is clearly confirmed throughout the narrative of Scripture and even more so, by the teaching of the Apostles. (Romans 6:23)
  • Without a supernatural rescue, all mankind is doomed to just condemnation because they love the darkness of sin and the darkness of self-reliance. (John 3:17-20) Man’s dilemma is grave and inescapable.

THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD

So now it can be clearly seen that man is in a very bad position. He is utterly dead in his sin. Some could argue that God could just remove many from the place of guilt, but righteousness requires penalty against sin. It is right for God to bring justice against sinners because to sin against God is evil. Remember the thought about salvation being “all of God?” This is where the reality of God’s work for the sake of sinners is clearly revealed. God’s love and grace toward sinners are the effectual agents in redemption. His desire and decree to save lost souls is the birthplace of salvation. From this point, the Genesis of the purposes of Christ’s advent, life, death, and resurrection secure the purchase of His people which is their redemption.

The grace of God holds a divine efficacy that does more than enables salvation; it also fully secures salvation for dead sinners. Grace secures the believer from the wrath of God, the consequences of sin, that is death, and rescues him from certain and just condemnation while placing the believer squarely within the gaze of God as if he had never sinned. Jesus delivers us from the wrath of God completely, and no purpose under heaven will prevail against the work of Jesus Christ in redemption. God is mighty to save! (1 Thess 1:10).  Romans 5:12 and Romans 6:23 both reveal that while all men are dead in sin through Adam, many are made alive only through Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God alone. (See also Romans 5:16, 18)

ALONE MEANS ALONE

For many seasons, the gospel has been wrongly preached and compounded resulting in a very distorted view of the good news of God. There are some who would preclude salvation without works and others who restrict the grace of God and make it vain. There are several clarifying points, taught in scripture, that are not mutually exclusive:

  • One must believe on Christ Alone for salvation.  There is no salvation apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. One must believe on Christ, fully and willfully, in order to experience salvation. Salvation does not come through any other means than faith alone in Jesus Christ. There is no work, no effort, no right living and no action that captures the eyes of God and causes His gaze to justify a sinner. Believing in and on Jesus Christ results in the often common phrase of “repenting and believing” the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All men who are saved from sin are so because they have no longer loved sin, but loved Christ; which is the point of faith.
  • All who believe in Jesus Christ alone will be saved. This is not up for discussion and yes, while Scripture shows there is such a thing as “false belief”, that is not the point. All of those who believe are saved and only those who believe in Christ are saved.
  • Belief is the action of man. Those who believe, and likewise repent, are actually the ones doing the believing and repenting. God does not believe for humanity, Jesus has never repented of sin, nor will He do so for an unbeliever. Vicarious faith is a heresy, God is not the one who believes, man is the one who believes God for salvation. Any man who desires to be forgiven must believe in the final and finished work of Jesus Christ. He must believe on his own, not through his parents, teachers, friends or congregation. All condemned souls will remain condemned if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. (See John 3 & Romans 3)
  • Man is unable to believe. Those who believe are unable to do so in the mire of their sin. No human being who ever lives on this Earth will ever have the capacity or desire to trust in Jesus Christ. While this seems contradictory to the previous sound and biblical statements, in like manner, scripture teaches all four of these things simultaneously. To deny either of them is to make a false premise and lead some to a false pretense of what the gospel teaches.  Humanity is opposed to God, hates Him and is unable to comprehend His righteousness without a divine intervention. Unbelief is a willful act of the natural state of man. It is a desire that flows from the center of man’s heart and mind. He hates God and does not submit to Him. (John 3 & Romans 3)

GOSPEL ALONE

See how desperately lost humanity needs the good news of God? In order to be saved, a sinner must do what he is unable to do. He must place faith in Jesus Christ alone and must be empowered, no, created to believe. Man CANNOT come to faith in Jesus Christ except the Lord bring Him to life. Consider these verses:

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

NEW BIRTH

Hearing the words of Christ is the vehicle through which the Spirit of God gives ears to hear and believe. (Romans 10:17) Jesus in John 3 makes it very clear that one cannot see or enter the kingdom unless that one is born again. “You must be born again.” How is this good news you may ask? It is good news because God has not only provided the ultimate end of salvation in His power, but He has also provided the means through His power.  This is good news!  When one hears the gospel, as the Spirit gives understanding, he is brought to life!  He believes, he sees, he loves, he repents, he holds, he strives, he comes to Christ, he longs for prayer and fellowship… because God has made him alive!  This is such a great salvation! God has never told a man to meet Him half way.  God has never said, “I will come to you if you first come to me?”  God has never provided a possible “good news” through Jesus Christ, the possible savior. No, God the Son is the author and finisher of “our” faith. He started it and He will finish it.  Crying out to God for eternal life is a manifestation of the glorious work of God from eternity past and it will be sealed until the day of the Lord Jesus for all eternity future.

Believing and repenting and all that comes from trusting in Christ, including the faith, is a work of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 reveals this very explicitly. You are saved by grace, through faith and this (faith/grace) is not of your own doing. If it were, one could boast, but here all boasting is in Christ. So often many stand argumentatively on these things as they stand their ground to defend their pleasure and pride in knowing they did what is right in the eyes of the Lord by believing.  Beloved, be very careful. FEW if ANY of these who would stand against the word of God and place their faith in the traditions of men are in Christ, and if God does not do a work in them, they never will be.

Historically, this truth has always been part of the protestant faith. Of course, Jesus and Paul passionately teach this as “THE GOSPEL” of God, but so have countless many. The Baptist faith from antiquity to date continue to hold such truths as foundations of the gospel:

  • A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. (BFM2000, Article IV. Salvation subsection A. Regeneration.
  • Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life;8 without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God.9
    8 Ps. 110:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:19,20
    9 John 6:44; 2 Cor. 4:4,6 (SLBC1689)

FAITH NOT ALONE

The grand gesture of God’s sovereign grace produces that which He has decreed before the foundations of the world. Namely, the salvation of a lost people for whom Christ died and all the works that flow from such gracious affection. These occasionally are called good works, or evidences of regeneration. As John writes his gospel, he points the apex of his pen toward the proclamation that “these things were written” in order that you would “believe” and so believing, “have eternal life.”  (John 20:31) His first epistle (1 John 1) reveals the work of God (John 3, Ephesians 2:10) as the fruits of the light of Jesus Christ in the life of those who profess faith in Him. Faith is never to be believed ‘in’. Faith can never be the object of faith nor can the fruit of faith be a guarantee of salvation. Jesus Christ alone is the guarantee of salvation and He alone will produce the fruits of His work in His people. (Galatians 5:22)

If there is a BETTER news that this, it would be difficult to establish such a claim. God is sovereign and omnipotent!  Be glad that He has saved you in His way and through His means: through the life, holiness, death, resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ the Lord!

What a savior.

Pastor James

 

 

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Types of Gossip and How It Kills a Church

Those for whom Christ died are precious to Him. He has offered His own life for their redemption and has given them the promise of sharing in His glorious resurrection on the Day of His coming. So when division and strife are found unchecked in the local church, it not just a sad day in the life of a people, it is an occasion that Christ hates. Thankfully, He has given His people all they need to be free of divided hearts and the grace to be reconciled if they ever find themselves in such a place.

Of all the sins that could plague the local assembly, none are more heinous than gossip. Gossip means ‘whisper’, in the Greek the word ψιθυρισμός, [Gal 2:20] even sounds sinister. Pronounced “psithurismos”, it is also used to describe the subtle murmuring and chants of a snake charmer. It denotes silent slander or private accusation toward someone and it is found in scripture to be listed among some of the vilest sins, even to the point that those who practice such have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. While lying is certainly a form of gossip, what about speaking what is true? What happens if we “think” something is going on with someone else, is it gossip when we get counsel? What other instances are considered gossip in the church? Let’s consider a few of them.

Quiet Murmurs 

These are the small and subtle thoughts that plague the mind and end up on the tongue, text, private meeting, phone call etc. Even when prayer is the central motivation, the details and names of people are off the table. Yes, prayer meetings are often the largest gossip sessions in the church. There are the discussions about someone else without them being present. When the subject of any sin, rebuke or testimony is not the first to be informed, the one speaking on the matter is doing the work of Satan. Talking ‘around’ the subject of a conversation, concern or critique is one of the largest attacks that the enemy uses to destroy the intimacy of the church. If the local body would adhere to the word of God, they would find that anyone who participates in such practices in either the capacity of the voice or the ear, should be brought publicly to the church immediately. Public warning of division, which includes quiet murmurs, is found in many New Testament epistles. The general prescription is that if they do it after the second warning, they should be excommunicated from the church. Bear in mind that often times, this type of gossip is first done in ignorance with good intentions, but it needs to be corrected so that the church is protected from the deceit of the enemy.

Secret Attacks

These could look much like the above practices but with the intention of making problems or sin known to others. Secret attacks against another sibling in Christ is actually an attack on Jesus directly. It is birthed from a desire to make sure everyone “knows” about the sinner among us, or worse, that there is someone that is not living as they “say” they are living. It only takes a few days for this type of thing to get out of control and cause serious damage to the unity of the church. Not only is it demonic, it is intended to do damage. This is often seen in the local church when someone doesn’t feel right about something and begins to keep tabs, make judgments, and then spread such things. For example, they see a sister always coming in late to service, leaving quickly afterward and not engaging. They will begin to watch this person intently, each week, and make notes of her actions. Then they will assume that the sister is in sin because she is not setting the example of timeliness and in their judgment have decided that such should be dealt with, after all, this person teaches a bible study on Thursdays. So they begin to call, talk, pray for and make it known that this teacher should be called out for her lack of holiness. What the person doesn’t know, is that the devil has snared them. How? First, the devil has made them notice this, not God the Spirit. Second, their judgment is evidence of their heart: they have a problem, not a solution. Third, they intention is not even for the joy of their sister, but for her pain and correction. Fourth, they fail to know that their judgment is bearing false witness because they don’t even know the truth of this person’s medical condition, schedule, or the fact that she prays with the leaders before and after church. And quite frankly, it is none of their business. Busybodies are also murderers in the church. That’s another post.

Self-Righteous Comparisons

The causes of these offenses in the heart of a believer are difficult to discern but there are some things that actually are the seed of the sin of gossip. An immature believer who isn’t living in subjection to the word of God is typically very conflicted and often times tossed around like a leaf in the wind, not knowing what to do or how to do it. They usually pray for God to give them hope and guidance, but they rarely obey the basics of the new life: such as being committed to the body in gathering, prayer and the learning of the Word. This type of Christian easily finds fault with others. They misunderstand that love covers a multitude of sin and they feel slighted if they find sin in the lives of others. By harping on such things, they become snared as stated above, and it becomes one of their greatest hangups. In reality, they forget the forest of logs in their own eyes and succumb to being spiritual police rather that spiritual siblings in need of Grace. This type of person doesn’t always gossip, but if they are left in this state, they will tell someone why they feel burdened: this is gossip. They forget that they don’t have the role or authority to deal with the sin in other’s lives because they have plenty of their own. This is the prescription, sin must be dealt in one’s own life before he or she can move on to someone else. Even then, there is a clear prescription to only deal with sin that is directed toward them. Jesus says, “When someone sins AGAINST YOU.”  Observing failings and sins that do not lead to death are to be prayed about, quietly and with all fear lest the temptation grab the observer. (1 John 5) The full reality of such things is a self-righteous heart. Let’s be reminded of the fact that this is a sign of spiritual ignorance. But it cannot remain.

Pastoral Accusations

Generally, these types of matters go unnoticed among the congregants of the church for decades. And while it causes division in small pockets and between families, an unbiblical church doesn’t deal with it and in a matter of time, the subject of such evil will be the pastors of the church. Satan has a wide chest of tools. Some of the most deadly are those who discuss the pastor in secret. 1 Timothy 5:19 says that accusations against a pastor should be done only with two or three witnesses. It may also be wise to yield to the structure of the letter in that it was written to an elder, thus any accusations brought public for an elder should really be through the plurality of elders. This is to guard the church against continued attempts of the devil to destroy the life and ministry of the pastor. It is good to remember also that general life matters and personal offenses fall under the mandate of Matthew 18:15-20, and a pastor is treated as a brother. Anyone who speaks of a problem with the pastor and anyone who receives a complaint before the pastor is aware of it has fallen into the sin of gossip and should be brought under correction. When a pastor is confronted and does not repent, the church should be told and just like any other member, if he repents, everyone rejoices, if he doesn’t, then he is removed from the church through excommunication. A pastor should not be confronted about every little thing unless it is absolutely obvious that he is living in continued, unrepentant sin.

Log Blocked Pet Peeves

In life, there are many things that bother us. There is certainly a list of things that cause grief, anger, frustration etc. but these things are not necessarily sinful. For instance, we can get annoyed at the someone’s personality, but it doesn’t make that person guilty of sin. When gossip is dissected, often it can be found to be over a pet peeve, not a sin. That makes it all the more egregious, that one would spread whispers and discord on something that is not even worth discussing. We have to take a very close look at what we see (and remember that we are not to peer into each other’s lives to find problems) and discern if that person is committing sin generally or sinning against us. If others are sinning generally, it is a wise and loving thing to inquire and be an encourager with hopes to bring joy into their lives, not hurt them and make them act the way we feel they should. What would it feel like if every time we missed church we were called and rebuke because it is a sin? What if every time we asked for prayer because we were fearful, those around us rebuked us and called out our unbelief? What if every time our children didn’t pay attention in church the elders brought us in to discuss our failed parenting? What about being asked daily if we prayed? What about service to others? What about submission to our husbands, loving our wives, laboring for our neighbors, keeping our minds and lives pure? What would happen if with every soda we drank someone reminded us of the body being the temple? What about our love for pagan holidays, or nice clothes, etc. that continually brought spiritual FBI enforcement to our door? Who is the measure of modesty? After all, the word means to draw attention. Sometimes the greatest of jewelry is immodest. Get the point?  One’s own view of holiness that is not prescribed in scripture is never to be pushed on someone else. And the failure of others to live the way we feel we should in our convictions is not sinful before the Lord. These are personal preferences and pet peeves that have no place in the gracious economy of the church. Love does not keep a record of wrong, it forgives and when it sees the same thing a little later, it calls it the first offense. There are many people looking for a body that looks just like they do, and in the end, they are miserable because, in their attempt to make everyone righteous in their own eyes, they have become alone and isolated.  So when small annoyances are there, even small failings and sins, we are to leave them be, not always be on the prowl to make sure everyone gets the specks from their eyes. It should also be said that someone “stumbling” has nothing to do with their views on things, but rather the fact that it causes sinful lusts or desires against a conviction. We give up liberties for the sake of our weaker siblings, but at the same time, we teach them to grow up and mature in Christ, because there is always a long line of devilish carrots hanging before the lives of men.

Gossips breed the fruit of all things unholy and suffers the church greatly. Here are just a few things that gossip causes.

Demonic Suspicion

When the church hears what they’ve never heard relating to someone else, the devil uses this information to cause distress and suspicion against people. It causes fear that something must be done and causes animosity with those who don’t see things in the same light. Suspicion multiplies like cancer among the whole of the church and then people are pitted against each other and families against themselves. Truth should be open, kind, humble and often. Not hidden behind assumptions and whispers until the “time is right.”

Satanic Division

Proverbs 6:9 reveals that a false witness is one who lies and also one who sows discord. The spirit of even calling out true sin as found in Matthew 18, is never to do harm or to expel one’s self from the ‘wickedness’ but to bring encouragement, lif,e and liberty from the offense. The motives are usually fleshly when things do not go as prescribed in scripture.

Pastoral Grief

Hebrews 13:17 says,  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (ESV)  A pastor that is continually trying to live up to a life that even the greatest of Christians cannot obtain is a pastor that is dead in his spirit and grieved, unable to have joy. It is also not profitable for a church member who gossips or receives gossip because they heart is bent against obeying what is taught, thus they live in dishonorable rebellion against God because they feel they cannot sit under a man’s teaching who isn’t perfect.

Dead Church

Long after the gossips have gone and resolved their problems, they leave a scarred remnant who has never gotten through it. They leave the dried seeds of Satan to be watered down the line to give birth to more dissension, bitterness, suspicion and harm. This church is all but dead and nothing will revive it again except discipline through the word of God. Often times a congregation has to just flush all members and start the process over so that only those willing to yield to Christ with evidence of humility and submission are allowed to stay. Let’s leave gossip at home, let’s not be spiritual police and let’s realize what is a sin and what is a life of sin.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

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