36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36–38, NASB
When I was a young man and even prior to that when I was a teenager, I was quite religious. I went to church with my family and tried to emulate what I saw my parents do in their devotion. I tried to reach a point in my own devotion where I could be fulfilled, wanting to serve God with the joy and fervor I saw in other believers. However, I just could not do it. I found myself bored in church. I found no inner drive to read my Bible. I had no desire to have a consistent devotion to God because there were so many other things in my life that were more important to me than that. I was tormented by the fact that I could not behave consistently “Christian.” I had no self-control in certain situations. Then I would visit my family and attend church with them on Sunday full of remorse and guilt. I would exit the service determined to do good works and not sin anymore. I look back on that time now and almost laugh except it was a horrible conflict in my life at that time. I was convinced that being a Christian consisted of doing Christian things. In that unregenerate mind, a Christian was a Christian because they did those things. That, of course, is works righteousness.
1 Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean Will no longer come into you. 2 Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.” Isa. 52:1–3, NASB
Many look at salvation as if they believe that it is a work of some kind. The cry to put on strength and beautiful garments is seen as a new believer putting on something they already have. However, in Isaiah 52:1–3 we see that those being saved were in bonds. They were in a captivity into which they were not sold, but they were redeemed without money. From where does their strength and beautiful garments come?
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!Rom. 6:14–15, NASB
Most of the early years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000. During that time we had three pastors. I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14–15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law?
μηδὲν φοβοῦ ἃ μέλλεις πάσχειν. ἰδοὺ μέλλει βάλλειν ὁ διάβολος ἐξ ὑμῶν εἰς φυλακὴν ἵνα πειρασθῆτε καὶ ἕξετε θλῖψιν ἡμερῶν δέκα. γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου, καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς. Rev. 2:10, NA28
Do not fear the things you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have affliction ten days. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the Crown of Life. Rev. 2:10, translated from the NA28 Greek text
Πιστὸς (pistos) is the Greek adjective translated in Revelation 2:10 as “faithful.” Πιστὸς is defined as “faithful, trustworthy, reliable, dependable.” In the context of Revelation 2:10, 13, which are our Lord’s own words, to be “faithful” is to refuse to compromise the Christian faith, even in the face of persecution and martyrdom. In this day of superstar or what some call “Rock Star” Christian leaders whose popularity is based upon their willingness to dilute the Christian faith with the world and its ways or even by blending in the cultic ways of other religions, we need to have a clearer understanding of the faithfulness that is expected of the genuine Christian by our Lord.
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 2 Pet. 1:1–2, NASB
God is good to those who belong to him. Within that he imparts knowledge of himself to us and that includes knowledge of our own fallenness. He uses this knowledge to make sure that those of us in Christ fully understand that we are in him despite our sinfulness and unworthiness to be so. When we walk in light of this knowledge we also, in the power of the Holy Spirit, walk in repentance according to God’s marvelous grace. We also come to know how awesome it is that we have obtained faith in righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ even though all we really deserve is God’s wrath.
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Lev. 18:22, NASB
One of the early leaders of the Bolsheviks who led the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the 20th Century was Leon Trotsky. After the death of its main leader Lenin, Trotsky came into conflict with the Bolsheviks who supported Stalin. He had to leave the country. He wrote articles in hiding that attacked the policies of the Stalinists. One of the “strategies” of Trotsky that was rejected by the Stalinist was “Continual Revolution.” He was a true Communist. According to Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Communism is the goal, but in order to reach it Capitalism must be replaced with Socialism and eventually done away with completely in order to bring in a pure Communistic state. Trotsky was a true believer, while Stalin was more pragmatic. What has this to do with homosexuality? The ‘Gay Rights’ movement is constructed according to the principles of Leon Trotsky’s ‘Continual Revolution.’ Its true believers will never stop until they achieve their goal of complete societal acceptance of homosexuality as a protected minority with all the same legal rights as non-homosexuals, but with the added protection from the federal and state governments to ensure it.
8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Rom. 13:8–14, NASB
The Doctrine of the Resurrection is a target of our enemy. He does not want God’s people to understand it or to have hope in it. I have received some very strange comments on the posts on the Resurrection lately. I have not posted them because the challenge from them was couched in arguments that were either pure humanism or from a spiritual slant that was entirely pagan. Tragically, a few were from professing Christians whose concept of the Resurrection read more like a fairy tale or a horror story than what we find in the Bible. In this post we will look at the effects of denying the Resurrection.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.2 Pet. 2:1, NASB
False professors and false prophets have one thing in common. They are convinced that the ‘religious paradigm’ they love, cherish, follow, and proclaim is true. Of course, they come to this conclusion through what some of them refer to as their ‘thinkology.’ In other words, what makes it true in their hearts is their own acceptance of it. The deciding or defining standard, which is used by these people, is their own value system. They oppose clear Biblical truth because “they just don’t believe it” while they embrace humanistic forms of Christianity simply because their ‘thinkology ‘ gives them a green light.
8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matt. 23:8–12, NASB)
This discernment ministry stuff is not for everyone. I often wonder if I am cut out for it at all. I do not like conflict. On the other hand, God gifted me with the makeup that loves the truth and seeks justice because it is His truth and I am compelled, quite often, to speak out when false prophets besmirch His truth and the Gospel is treated as optional by certain “evangelicals.” However, there is a fine line between exposing that which is false and slander. That fine line has to do with intent and evidence.
6 A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. 9 Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Isa. 40:6–9, NASB
We are commanded in God’s Word to be unified in Christ, to love one another in the Lord. We are commanded to stand firm and rebuke false teachers as we warn the brethren as well, but our role is not to cause division. We are not to separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats. That is not our job at all. That will happen when our Lord returns in judgment. However, that does not mean that we are to be unified with heretics or to call apostates our brothers. No, there is a unity that we are to have as the Body of Christ that is built by the Holy Spirit that He establishes in God’s truth first then as a visible unity which is the eventual fruit of shared submission to the Word of God.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
The builder and sustainer of the Church, the Body of Christ is the Lord Jesus, not any man (Matt. 16:18). The building of the true Church is accomplished as God works through the foolishness of preaching to draw people from the darkness into the light and life that is found in Christ alone. It is built up in Christ through the means of grace, which are ordained by God not men. While we see that it is God who actually is doing the building, He has chosen to work through His servants to accomplish that which will bring Him glory. These servants that He uses as fishers of men are symbolically like the fishermen in their boats on the Sea of Galilee who cast their nets to catch fish to sell as their business.
1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Rom. 4:1–8
Recently, I was engaged in a discussion where the person with whom I was conversing was very upset because he felt that raising the standard high in churches can be very discouraging to those who are not as spiritually mature as others. He believed that churches need to be more easy-going and less demanding. He also believed that all we have been saying lately against seeker-sensitive church models is unfair because in those churches those who may not be very mature can feel comfortable and welcome. My heart broke while reading his comments because I understood exactly what he was talking about and I began to see that there is another group of Christians out there who are drawn to churches that are not so demanding on doctrinal issues as in a typical Reformed church. They are the ones who feel that they will never measure up. They feel inadequate to the apparent ‘holiness’ seen in the more mature members in those churches.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 6:9–11
The 21st Century version of pop-Christianity is not doctrinally sound. This ought not surprise since those within it who hold the most influence elevate human philosophy up to the highest esteem while looking at Orthodox Christianity and its solid biblical doctrines as passé, old-fashioned or something to be phased out to make room for what is culturally relevant. One of the components of this pop-Christianity consists of using cool buzzwords like ‘missional.’ Within that paradigm, there are other buzzwords like ‘incarnational’ and ‘Spiritual Formation.’
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
There is a lot of dispute in our day about the nature of Christ’s atonement on the cross. What did Christ purchase for His people that day? Many imply that our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross was not necessary. Others say that He did not die for the sins of His people, He simply suffered for them. Let us not rely on tradition or ‘feelings’. Let us go the source, God’s Word, to see what the Holy Spirit revealed to us about this through the Apostle Paul.
The study of Pneumatology, or The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, is especially important these days as many professing Christians have an incorrect understanding of the works of the third person of the Trinity. Not including the works of the Holy Spirit prior to and including Christ’s incarnation, He also is intimately involved in the salvation and life of believers. For instance, in 2 Pet. 1:21 we learn that He inspired all Sacred Scripture. All believers come to Christ because they are first regenerated by the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:12; Titus 3:5; Rom. 8:11). All believers are baptized into the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5), and from this we learn of His permanent indwelling of all genuine believers. In the lives of all genuine believers, before they are saved and afterwards as they are drawn into walks of repentance, the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8). He sanctifies all believers (2 Thess. 2:13). He is the “helper” sent by Christ to all believers (John 14:16; 1 John 2:1; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:1; Rom. 8:26). Lastly, we come to the filling of the Holy Spirit. All believers are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and it is vital that Christians understand what this means.
While many believers are convinced that they are justified by grace alone through faith alone, as Sacred Scripture clearly teaches, at times it seems as though some have become convinced that they must obey certain commands of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be considered worthy of that salvation. This notion is unbiblical. The command to abide in Christ is indeed an imperative, a command, but the ability to obey it is only available to those whose hearts have been regenerated by God. The regenerate are justified by God and have nothing to earn and could never deserve their salvation, however, as Christians mature in Christ, they acquire more and more of His character as the Holy Spirit transforms each one by the grace of God (Romans 12:2). Christians obey the Lord, not to earn salvation, but because they abide in Him.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. John 7:24, NASB
Our pastor has been preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) since October. Today he preached through Matthew 7:1-6, which as I hope many of you know was the foundation for my series Judge Not!, which I wrote back in 2006. One thing I really appreciated in his sermon was that as he got to verse 6, which is where Jesus tells us that we must be discerning; i.e. that we must make proper judgments, he quoted John 7:24, which I placed at the top of this post. He even contrasted improper judging that Jesus was preaching against in Matthew 7 with proper judging that requires discernment and humility and the mind of Christ. I almost fell out of my seat when he gave the example of righteous judgment being warning Christians against the unbiblical preaching that was preached this very day by the pastor of the largest SBC church in California.
In every generation, new attacks on the veracity of Scripture arise, and the church faces a choice. Will she stand firm on the inspired Word of God, or will she capitulate to the Spirit of the Age? In the message below given at Ligonier Ministries’ No Compromise: 2013 National Conference, Dr. Steven Lawson explains why the church must never compromise her commitment to the inspired and inerrant Word of God, but rather remain firm in the face of all challenges.
Most students entering college today believe that truth is relative, that what is true for you may not be true for me. In this message from Ligonier’s No Compromise: 2013 National Conference, Dr. Steven Lawson looks at the influence relativism has had on our culture and explores the consequences. He will explain the absurd and self-defeating nature of relativism and remind us of God’s call to stand for the unchanging absolute truth of His Word.
Was the Reformation debate over justification by faith alone a tempest in a teapot? There are many today who think so, many who argue that the Reformation is over. At Possessing the Treasure, Mike Ratliff shares a message from Ligonier’s No Compromise: 2013 National Conference, in which Dr. R.C. Sproul explains why the Reformers spoke of justification by faith alone as the article on which the church stands or falls, and why Christians must never compromise on this essential truth of the Christian faith.
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness. 1 Thess. 2:1–5
The rebellion against God is alive and well…for now. This rebellion began before the fall of Man into sin (Genesis 3). It began when Lucifer attempted to overthrow God and ascend to the throne himself. Because of this, he lost his place in Heaven and became Satan. When he deceived Eve in the Garden and Adam followed her into sin, they actually became recruits in his continual war against God. All of their descendents were born into this army as children of wrath. After God interceded after the fall, He prophesied that there would be a seed of the woman who would be bruised by the serpent, but He would, in turn, crush his head.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 2 Cor. 11:3–4
Every professing Christian, whether he or she is a trained theologian or not, has constructed some kind of Christology in their mind and in their heart. Sadly, with the dearth of clear and correct doctrine being taught in our churches, most seem to believe that whatever their own concept of Christ is okay. After all, to have correct doctrine isn’t that important, right? Some think that Jesus came to give His followers a “better life” here and now. This would include becoming prosperous and influential. Others see Jesus as mostly concerned about the environment and that He is the ultimate tree hugger. Still others see Jesus as primarily a teacher of ethics. This same Jesus is concerned with accepting all into His kingdom regardless of whether they have repented of their sins or not. Are any of these examples representative of the Jesus we meet in God’s Word?
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:2, NASB
Back on February 14th my wife and I went to see a movie at a local theater. It was Lincoln, which I have wanted to see for some time since I have been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals upon which the movie is partially based. The book is history written based upon actual letters and diaries and records written by the people Goodwin wrote about in her book, however, in the movie, artistic license was obviously taken in order to dramatize certain things. Certain facts were made up and others were left out or changed in order “to fit the movie story line” and tell the story that Steven Spielberg wanted to tell. We arrived at the theater early, and we had to sit through nearly 30 minutes of previews and specials before our movie actually started. One of those specials that was previewed was The History Channel’s upcoming miniseries, “The Bible.”
9 συνεπέθεντο δὲ καὶ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι φάσκοντες ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχειν. 10 Ἀπεκρίθη τε ὁ Παῦλος νεύσαντος αὐτῷ τοῦ ἡγεμόνος λέγειν· ἐκ πολλῶν ἐτῶν ὄντα σε κριτὴν τῷ ἔθνει τούτῳ ἐπιστάμενος εὐθύμως τὰ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ ἀπολογοῦμαι, 11 δυναμένου σου ἐπιγνῶναι ὅτι οὐ πλείους εἰσίν μοι ἡμέραι δώδεκα ἀφ’ ἧς ἀνέβην προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ. 12 καὶ οὔτε ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ εὗρόν με πρός τινα διαλεγόμενον ἢ ἐπίστασιν ποιοῦντα ὄχλου οὔτε ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς οὔτε κατὰ τὴν πόλιν, 13 οὐδὲ παραστῆσαι δύνανταί σοι περὶ ὧν νυνὶ κατηγοροῦσίν μου. 14 ὁμολογῶ δὲ τοῦτό σοι ὅτι κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἣν λέγουσιν αἵρεσιν, οὕτως λατρεύω τῷ πατρῴῳ θεῷ πιστεύων πᾶσιν τοῖς κατὰ τὸν νόμον καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς προφήταις γεγραμμένοις, 15 ἐλπίδα ἔχων εἰς τὸν θεὸν ἣν καὶ αὐτοὶ οὗτοι προσδέχονται, ἀνάστασιν μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι δικαίων τε καὶ ἀδίκων. 16 ἐν τούτῳ καὶ αὐτὸς ἀσκῶ ἀπρόσκοπον συνείδησιν ἔχειν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους διὰ παντός. Acts 24:9–16, NA28
9 The Jews also jointed in the attack saying these things to be so. 10 And Paul answered as the Governor nodded to him to speak: “Knowing that for many years you have been judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense concerning these things, 11 since you can take note that not more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 Neither in the temple did they find me conversing with anyone or stirring up the crowds in either the synagogues or in the city itself. 13 Nor are they able to prove to you the things that they are now accusing me. 14 But I confess this to you that according to The Way which they call a sect, thus I serve the God of our fathers, believing in all the things according to the Law and the things written in the Prophets; 15 having hope toward God, which also these men anticipate, a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 By this I also do my best to always have a blameless conscience toward God and men.” Acts 24:9–16, a personal translation from the NA28
In our last post, Fumbling the Ball, we looked at some disturbing examples of some very visible professing Christians and Christian leaders who have set an example of compromise. We discussed how this “fear of man” that causes Christians to compromise infects us all. What is that God-given mechanism that He put in each of us that works as the soul’s warning system? It is, of course, the conscience, which allows humans to contemplate their motives and actions and make moral evaluations of what is right and wrong. However, in order for the conscience to work correctly as God designed it, it must be informed to the highest moral and spiritual level and best standard. This means that we must submit it to the Holy Spirit through God’s Word (Romans 12:1,2; 1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22).
32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· 33 ὅστις δ’ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. Matt. 10:32–33, NA28
32 So everyone who confesses me before men I also will confess him before my Father who is in Heaven 33 and whoever denies me before men I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven. Matt. 10:32–33, a personal translation from the NA28
What does it mean to confess Jesus before men? Is it what so many say in our time that it is a simple profession of faith that you are a “Jesus Follower?” Or as so many do in that they point to their religious affiliation? One thing is made clear in Sacred Scripture; if one does profess to be a Christian then that “faith” that is presented will be tested. The test will be along some line of demarcation that divides what is genuine faith from what is of the flesh or of this world. Of course, there are three results of these tests. Christians go through the fires of tribulation and stand firm and their faith is strengthened as the Holy Spirit works through that test to reveal the truth of their faith to them and also to those whom God intended to see it for his own purposes. However, genuine believers can also fall badly as their faith is tested as did Peter the night of our Lord’s trial in which he denied our Lord 3 times and also when Paul had to confront him about his hypocrisy when the Judiazers came to Antioch (Galatians 2:11-13). In both cases Peter failed the test because of “fear of men.” Did this make him an unbeliever? Of course not! No, these tests were used by God to reveal to him problems with his walk in which he needed to confess and repent. On the other hand, there is a third result in which disingenuous faith is revealed and these false believers immediately fall away as their faith is revealed to be not supernatural, but of the flesh or of the world. I covered this in this post back in 2006.