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Mentoring Moment: 10 Questions you need to ask as you consider becoming a mentor

Biblical Patterns for the Christian Life

Spiritual leadership and mentoring are closely aligned.  One thing they have in common is an underlying reality that “We can’t take someone where we have not been”.   This is particularly critical in God’s economy given God’s ways are not man’s ways (Is 55:8-9). But don’t be discouraged if you feel suddenly uncertain and perhaps a little unprepared.    Let’s look at some questions someone might ask who sense God’s calling to be a spiritual mentor.

First God knows whose paths to bring together for a mentor and mentee relationship.  If we are sensitive to God’s activity in our lives we will be well aware of those we come in contact with and if God is purposing this encounter for a specific reason.   Our task is to be prepared to respond to God’s leading.   Here are some potential questions that you might reflect on as you consider God’s leading and preparation for…

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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY.

 

Biological Disconnect

Biological Disconnect.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in #BIBLE, #FAMILY, #HUMANISM, #LIVING

 

The God of Weights and Measures

hipandthigh

philae

Being the geek that I am, I followed with much enthusiasm the European Space Agency’s successful attempt landing the Philae probe on a comet. [Remember when the USA and NASA used to do that kind of cool stuff? Good times]. The entire process took nearly a decade when the Rosetta orbiter was launched, circled the earth three times, took a swing around Mars, and eventually caught up with Comet 67P.

The entire process was really amazing. The photos that are being beamed back are breathtaking. As we look at wonder upon those images, the only way that all happened is that God has created an orderly universe that is governed by His rational laws of logic that give us the ability to mathematically calculate the orbit of an incoming comet from the outer solar system and plan the trajectory of a space vehicle to meet with it and send a…

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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

HERETICAL MYLES MUNROE

Myles Munroe Myles Munroe teaches that God needs our permission to work on earth.  He also teaches that angels need our permission as well to do their jobs.For example, he teaches that God sought Abraham for permission to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  In their make believe interaction according to Myles Munroe, God told Abraham, “You got it!  You’re the man!  Once you’re satisfied and give me permission I will act.This is absurd to think that an Almighty and Sovereign God needs our permission to act in His universe!  Think about it my friend, is this not the height of arrogance?  What does the bible have to say about the sovereign plan of God and the vain efforts of man that try to subvert it?And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Daniel 4:35, see also Isaiah 43:3, Psalm 115:3, 135:6.  Whom will you believe, God or Myles Munroe? Benny Hinn made the following endorsements after these incredibly blasphemous statements by Myles Munroe: “Man!  That is absolutely awesome!  Dear God!That’s incredible!  That’s incredible!  Wow!Wow!  Wow!  Wow!This is so amazing!Are you getting blessed like I am, dear Jesus. Myles Munroe: That’s why angel’s need our permission to function.  It says they are here to do our biddingThey can’t even act without our permission, you see.  But, here’s the bigger statement: Even God Himself is illegal on earth.  Why?  Because, He is a spirit and the law He set up by His own mouth was that only spirits with bodies can function on earth legally.”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) “Why can’t God take care of Pharaoh by Himself?  Why can’t God invade that government and disrupt that process and set them free by Himself?  He is illegal.  So God then has to get the attention of a human first.  Then spend hours, maybe even days trying to convince this one human to work with Him.  Moses came up with every single excuse he could find and gave them.  And Almighty God tolerated him, saying, ‘Look, if you can’t talk, I will speak for you.  If you got problems, I’ll solve them for you.  If you’re afraid, I’ll give you courage.  In other words, whatever you need, please work with meCause I want to do something.  Give me your body.'”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) So, even though God can do anything, He can only do what you permit Him to do.  If you study the Word of God, you will see why it makes so much sense.  For example, God has done nothing on earth without a human co-operating with Him.  He had to find a human.  When God for example wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah…Go ahead and destroy it!  No!  He [God] was illegal.  He had to find a human to give Him access and ageement to release His powerSo, then God had to negotiate with a man in Abraham.  They argued for a long time!…Abraham figured it out.  Abraham said, ‘Ahh, Haa!  Okay, so I’ll tell you what!  Before I give you permission [Abraham gives God permission!] to touch that city, if I could find 50 men, 40, 30, 10.’  He said, ‘I’m dealing, and God had to deal with a man.’  And he said, ‘If I could only find one.’ God says, ‘You got it!  You’re the man!  Once you’re satisfied and give me permission I will act.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) “When you study Moses or any human that has been successful with God, you will find this dependency God has on humanity. God says, ‘Moses, quickly agree with me.  Because your brother, your nephew is on the way.  We got to get this work doneI need a human to agree.’  As soon as Moses agrees with God, God says, ‘Okay, let’s Go.‘”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “Let me define prayer for you in this show. Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairsIn other words, prayer is earthly license for heavenly interference.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) Heaven depends on earth for interference.  If He [God] could just find two people like you [Benny Hinn] and I to agree.  We agree for God to do this thing.  Then God says, ‘Thank you very much for permission!‘  Then He [God] can come.”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “Our prayer is a strange experience.  We normally ask God to do things, God is telling us to command Him permission to do it for us.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) God could do nothing on earth, nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving Him access.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) He [God] could not name those animals because He [God] is illegal.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “O’ Lord, heal this man.  God says, ‘No! No! No!  Talk to the sickness, I am already healing the guy.  What I need is permission to get the healing on earth.‘”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) Myles Munroe:  “Jesus was necessary for Christ.Benny Hinn:  “Wait!  Wait!  Wait!  Wait!  Pastor, slow down.  What you mean is.”Myles Munroe: “Jesus made Christ legal on the earth.  Jesus was the body.Benny Hinn:  “Has he always been this deep here?  It’s amazing what he’s saying.  So, So, repeat that.”Myles Munroe:  “Christ is God’s Spirit, that’s why Christ needed a body to come to earth legally.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) Every sick person is already healed.  That’s why you don’t really have to lay hands on a million of people in India to heal them.  You don’t have to, they are already healed.  What God’s problem is, is getting the healing to earth.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) When a human gets healed and becomes well again, God Himself is able to stay here legally longer.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “Every spirit is trying to find a body.  Can I give you another shocker?  [Benny Hinn: You bet!]  Even the Holy Spirit, because He cannot function here without a body.  That’s why your called the body of Christ.  And it says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Cause He Himself needs to be legal to function.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) In other words, Moses had to initiate the action for God to produce the product.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “God says, ‘If my people,’ now if means, ‘I would like to fix this, but I can’t fix this without a human giving me permission.‘”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) Interfering in earth by God is totally up to usHeaven is waiting on earth to get things done.”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 13, 2004) “What is faith?  Faith is believing in what you said, that God told you.  In other words, the fight is to keep believing after you said something.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) “That’s why your [Benny Hinn] healing ministry is necessary.  God could heal people by Himself as a spirit with powerBut it’s illegal to do it on earth.  So, He needs a human agency.  What does laying your hands on a human to do with healing?  Well, really nothing.  We touch you you all the time but your sick.  What He’s looking for is permissionThe power to heal is always present, but having permission to heal is held up by humanity and their lack of faith.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) “God made a promise to Satan, I paraphrase again, I believe God said it this way in my spirit.  He said, ‘Satan, you know I can’t come in right now because I’m a spiritAnd if I came in now as a spirit I would violate my Word, break my Word, and I would never be able to be trusted again with my Word.  But, I’ll make a promise, and the promise is: the same woman that you used to destroy my program on earth for humanity.  I’m going to use the same woman and I’m going to put my seed in her womb and she’ll build around me a physical dirt body.  And I will become legal in the earth.  And then legal, I will then come in legally and crush your authority legally.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) Satan himself knew that in order for him to fuction on this earth that he needed a body alsoThat’s why he had to go to the serpent which had a dirt body and negotiated with the serpent to borrow his body for awhile.  And he did, and that’s why God cursed the serpent cause the serpent literally loaned his body to the Adversary, who’s a spirit, in order to do buisness legally with Eve.(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004) “It bothered me, I’m sure it bothered you [Benny Hinn] for years as a pastor.  If God is so mighty, powerful, awesome, omnipotent, omniscient, why couldn’t this mighty God who made 500 million planets and galaxies couldn’t stop a skinny little woman from picking the fruit and destroying His whole program?  I mean, God aren’t you powerful?  You could intervene, you can destroy the works of the devil, prevent the woman and save humanity.  But He couldn’t!  Not that He didn’t, He couldn’t!…”(Myles Munroe, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn, July 12, 2004)
 

MEDITATION THAT HONORS GOD

by John MacArthur

The period of European history known as the Dark Ages were just that—dark. Mortality rates were exceptionally high. Medical advances could not keep up with the spread of disease. Poverty and illiteracy were pervasive. And on top of all that, the light of God’s Word was monopolized and distorted by the Roman Catholic Church. Only the religious elite had access to Scripture, and most of them manipulated and perverted its message beyond recognition.

That darkness gave way to the Reformation. The Protestant Reformers recovered the gospel and made Scripture accessible to the common man. They rejected the idea of a pope who presumed to speak for God on earth. God spoke through Scripture and the Reformers devoted themselves tirelessly to the labor of making it readily available in the language of the people.

Today, people all over the world can own and study the Bible in their own languages. That great blessing for Christians brings the responsibility to study God’s Word. And from that study, believers have the joy and duty of representing the Creator and proclaiming His message. Over the previous two weeks we’ve looked at several aspects of how to study the Bible, including:

  1. Placing the proper value on God’s Word.
  2. Reading both the Old and New Testaments.
  3. Interpreting a biblical text before it is applied.
  4. Avoiding common errors of interpretation.
  5. Bridging the gaps between the modern reader and the original author.
  6. Knowing the principles of Bible interpretation.

Those fundamentals, when incorporated into your study of Scripture, will progressively grow your knowledge of God and yourself, and cultivate a well-rounded biblical worldview. It is in His Word that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in an intimate and saving way. He owns us, knows us, and holds us responsible to know, understand, and proclaim Him on His terms and not our own.

Scripture is sacred and we should treat it as such by carefully handling its truth. Paul exhorted Timothy to study Scripture as a workman “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The tradesmen of Paul’s time needed to carry out their work with precision and great care. Paul was saying that the same sort of approach is needed when studying Scripture.

God instructed Israel concerning that very issue:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)

In other words, you ought to have God’s Word running around in your mind all the time. If you’re reading a portion of the New Testament thirty times in a row, as previously suggested, it will penetrate and shape your thinking. It should lead to meditation, which takes all the dimensions of study we’ve discussed and molds them into a unified understanding of biblical truth.

The word meditate can evoke thoughts of empty minds and eastern religions. But it is more likely that Hindus and Buddhists borrowed the term from the Bible and twisted its meaning to conform with their false religions. From the time of Joshua’s military conquest of Canaan, we hear the Lord instructing His people to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). So what does meditate mean? Biblically, it means to focus your mind on one subject.

In Deuteronomy, God tells His people that they should bind His words, “as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals to your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). God says He wants His Word everywhere.

David highlighted the role meditation plays in our sanctification when he wrote the first Psalm. The blessed man is one who meditates both day and night on God’s law rather than seeking counsel in the fellowship of unbelievers (Psalm 1:1–3). It is the key to his perseverance and fruitfulness as a child of God.

Meditation is no less needed today. We live in a culture that continually assaults us with distractions through billboards, television, the Internet, and more. God says that we should keep His Word perpetually in front of our eyes, filling our minds and conversations wherever we go.

Paul clarified what our minds should feed on:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Ultimately, our ongoing relationship with God hinges on sound biblical study. He places monumental importance on knowing, proclaiming, and worshipping Him rightly. And Scripture is the engine driving all of those things. The Dark Ages may have ended, but those who neglect to study and meditate on Scripture shun the light of God’s Word and continue to walk in willful darkness.

 

(Adapted from How to Study the Bible)

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in #BIBLE, #CHRISTIAN, #FAITH, #GOD, #GOSPEL, #LIVING

 

SHOULD I INTERPRET THE BIBLE LITERALLY?


by John MacArthur

Cynics love to mock Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. They note supposed absurdities like, the Bible is a sword (Hebrews 4:12); Jesus is a door (John 10:7); and God is a bird (Psalm 61:4). Of course, such caricatures of the process are obvious misrepresentations of proper biblical interpretation.

Serious students of Scripture, committed to its accuracy and authority, follow five basic principles of interpretation in order to understand the Bible how its authors intended.

1. The Literal Principle

When you read the Bible assume God is speaking in normal language, common everyday communication. If it says man, it means man. If it says the man went somewhere, it means he went somewhere. If it says he built a house, it means he built a house. This is understanding Scripture in the literal sense of language.

Scripture employs are similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and figurative language throughout. Even sarcasm is employed as a literary device. Those devices are used alongside normal, literal language to help illustrate or punctuate what Scripture is saying to the reader. There is seldom confusion in what God’s Word says or how it says it.

In everyday conversation, if we hear someone say, “That man is as strong as an ox,” no one is confused. That is simply using a simile to make a literal point or statement. We need to be wary of those who claim to unlock the Bible’s secrets by bending and twisting symbolic language beyond its clear intent. There is no need to extrapolate some mystical interpretation out of the text, nor insert one into it.

2. The Historical Principle

History is not only a gap to be bridged, but a context to be understood. What did the text mean to the people to whom it was spoken or written? What was the situation the author and his audience found themselves in? Historical circumstances not only explain what is written, but often why it is written. Ignoring the historical setting often leads to missing the point of a passage.

3. The Grammatical Principle

Very few people enjoy grammar, let alone remember their grammar lessons. But grammar is the key to meaning. Prepositions, pronouns, verbs, nouns—and the other parts of speech—are the bones that support every sentence. Imagine a medical examiner trying to determine cause of death without knowing basic anatomy. The result would be no less confusing and prone to error than interpreting the Bible without considering its grammar.

For example, consider the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). On first reading, “go” sounds like an imperative (verb) as does “make disciples,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” But as you study the sentence, you will find that there’s only one imperative—mathēteusate, “make disciples.” “Go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are actually all participles which means they modify the main verb. The central command of the great commission is to “make disciples.” How does one make disciples? You go, baptize, and teach. Understanding the grammar makes the fullness of that concept come out in the text.

4. The Synthesis Principle

The synthesis principle is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura—the Scripture all comes together. In other words, one part of the Bible doesn’t teach something that another part contradicts. So as you study the Scripture it must all harmonize. (By the way, this is another reason a comprehensive Bible-reading plan is critical.)

For example, Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46) cannot be about salvation by works (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner), because Ephesians 2:8–9 tells us that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works. Careful examination reveals that the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 all thought of themselves as believers—they both call Jesus “Lord” (Matthew 25:37,44). Furthermore, this harmonizes with James 2:17 which says that “faith, if it has no works, is dead.” That’s the synthesis principle.

J.I. Packer has wonderfully said, “The Bible appears like a symphony orchestra, with the Holy Ghost as its Toscanini, each instrument has been brought willingly, spontaneously, creatively, to play his notes just as the great conductor desired, though none of them could ever hear the music as a whole….The point of each part only becomes fully clear when seen in relation to all the rest” (from God Has Spoken).

Do you know what that tells me? There are no contradictions in Scripture. What appear as contradictions can be resolved if we have the information, because the Bible comes together as a whole.

5. The Practical Principle

The final question is: So what? As you try to interpret the Bible, how do you find out what it means for your life? Make sure in your Bible study that you find the practical principle. Read the text and find out what spiritual principle is there that applies to you. But remember that you can’t do that until you’ve gone through the other principles first—literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis. You know what it means by what it says—now you come to how it applies to you.

Conclusion

You must interpret the Bible rightly. Avoid the common errors, bridge the gaps between the biblical text and your modern setting, and apply the proper principles of interpretation. That brings you to the place where you are ready to engrave God’s Word on your heart (Proverbs 3:3) by meditating on the text. We’ll consider that next time.

 

(Adapted from How to Study the Bible)

 

BRIDGING THE GAPS BETWEEN BIBLE AND BRAIN

by John MacArthur

The Bible has been around for thousands of years. That is a huge gulf of history for the modern reader to cross. How are we to understand what the Bible writers were saying, as well as the various circumstances in which they lived?

One popular answer from modern pulpits to those questions is to transport our modern context into the biblical text. When Scripture tells us that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:6–10), prosperity preachers equate this with Jesus driving a Ferrari to the White House. Equally bizarre, social justice advocates think it is a blueprint for organizing a protest. Neither approach deals with what Matthew is telling us. The faithful shepherd (and Bible student) must lead his congregation across the historical bridge and immerse them in the culture and context of the biblical authors.

There are four interpretive gaps that the bridge must cross:

1. The Language

We speak English but the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and a few parts in Aramaic (which is similar to Hebrew). That language gap must be bridged in order to properly understand Scripture. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:1 the apostle Paul says, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ” (KJV). When we think of the English word minister, we think of a prime minister or the minister of defense. Many people refer to their pastor as a minister. A minister is an elevated thing; it’s a dignified term. But the Greek word is huperetes, which means a third-level galley slave on a ship. Paul wanted others to think of him as a lowly slave—someone without power, authority, or rights—for Jesus Christ. You would never get that out of the English term. Why? Because there’s a language gap.

One of the benefits of newer or updated English translations is that modern translators are able to bring together the best understanding of ancient words with how English words are used and understood today. For example, the New American Standard translates “minister” as “servant” in that text. Thankfully, many Greek and Hebrew words translate well into English, but even modern translations can’t always convey the full meaning of the ancient words.

That’s why it is critical to study the words in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. What tools do you need for this kind of study? In addition to a good modern translation and a good concordance, you should get W. E. Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Moody Press, 1985). It’s very helpful for someone who doesn’t know Greek. You can look up every English word, and it will tell you the Greek meaning. It will be a great help to you as you study the Bible.

2. The Culture

Ancient cultural differences is another gap that must be bridged in Bible study. If we don’t understand the culture of the time in which the Bible was written, we’ll never understand its meaning. For example: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). What does that mean? Why didn’t he say, “In the beginning was Jesus”? Well, he used “the Word” because that was the vernacular at that time. To the Greeks the term Word was used to refer to a kind of ethereal, spatial energy that was floating around. John said to the Greeks that that floating cause, that thing which caused everything, that spatial energy, that cosmic power, is none other than the Word that became flesh (1:14).

To the Jew, the term Word was always the manifestation of God, because “the Word of the Lord” was always God emanating His personality. When John said “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” he was identifying Jesus Christ, the incarnate Christ, as the very emanation of God. In the text, therefore, he meets the Greek mind and Hebrew mind with the right word that grabs both at vital points.

This continues all through the Bible. If you don’t understand the religious ideas of Gnosticism, you’ll miss a lot of meaning from Colossians and 1 John. If you don’t understand the dynamics of Jewish culture in Gentile cities, you’ll miss the reason for Paul’s strong language against the Judaizers in Galatians. If you don’t understand the Jewish mindset, you’ll miss significant aspects of the book of Matthew. There must be cultural comprehension to fully understand the Bible.

Some books that would help you in this area are The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Eerdmans, 1974) and Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series by William B. Barclay (Westminster, 1975). Barclay’s insights into culture are very good in spite of his bad theology.

3. The Geography

Geography places a major role throughout the Bible, and therefore joins language and culture as another gap that must be bridged. Understanding directions, distances, terrain, the size of cities and their strategic importance can make a significant difference in your understanding of a particular text. Geographical details will rarely, if ever, change the meaning of the text. However, they add rich color and depth to an otherwise flat and black-and-white page.

The dirty tepid water that flowed into Laodicea was no match for the famous hot springs in nearby Hierapolis, nor the clear cold mountain streams of Colossae. Just that basic information helps bring vivid detail to Christ’s announcement that he would spew the lukewarm Laodiceans out of his mouth as they were neither hot or cold (Revelation 3:14–16). The Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed in the garden, is where the glory of the Lord ascended after departing from the temple (Ezekiel 11:23). When Jesus returns in all His glory He will descend and His feet will touch down on that very mountain (Zechariah 14:4). Geographical details not only enable us to visualize many passages, they also help us to make connections otherwise hidden. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land.

4. The History

Finally, knowing the history behind a passage will also help your comprehension. In the gospel of John, the key to understanding the interplay between Pilate, the Jews, and Jesus is based on the knowledge of history. When Pilate came to power in Judea, he infuriated the Jews by bringing what the Jews perceived as idolatrous images into Jerusalem. Sometime later the Jews reported him to Emperor Tiberius when he antagonized them by a similar act. Tiberius was less than sympathetic with Pilate. In an attempt to avoid another confrontation with the Jews, Pilate let Christ be crucified. Why was he afraid? Because he already had a rotten track record, and his job was on the line.

Space doesn’t allow me to go into detail, but a fascinating study that will greatly enrich your understanding is the history between Jews and Samaritans. The history between these two groups will help you understand why any intersection between Jesus and Samaria was scandalous to the Jews, and why a Samaritan village refused to host Jesus and his disciples, prompting James and John to ask Jesus permission to call fire from heaven to consume the village (Luke 9:51-56).

The Bible is a book of history, but there is a lot of history outside the Bible that directly affects what is written in the Bible. A growing understanding of history will open the meaning of the Bible. One excellent source is The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Zondervan, 1976).

Conclusion

To interpret the Bible means closing those four gaps. As you interpret the meaning of Scripture by using the various sources, you will close the language gap, the culture gap, the geography gap, and the history gap. With those pieces of information in place, you will be ready to apply the principles of Bible interpretation. And we’ll examine that next.

(Adapted from How to Study the Bible)

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE STRANGE FIRE

by Cameron Buettel

It’s been just over a year since the highly publicized and controversial Strange Fire conference.

As a Grace to You employee with a charismatic background, I watched the buildup to the conference with a considerable amount of interest. I am certainly no stranger to the grievous damage caused by reckless false prophecies in the charismatic church. But since none of that spiritual fallout ever touched me personally, my animosity for the movement did not run deep. In fact, the major gripe I had with my old mainstream Pentecostal church was the same gripe I have with the church growth and emergent movements—a failure to rightly preach the gospel.

But as Strange Fire approached, I had the opportunity to study the charismatic movement with much closer scrutiny than before. In particular, I investigated several influential charismatic leaders, consuming an unhealthy amount of their videos and writing.

That investigation revealed a clear pattern that charismatics follow when engaged in debate. It’s almost a codified playbook of sorts for their self-defense (call it Foxe’s Book of Charismatics With Hurt Feelings), and it goes like this:

  • Dogged insistence that the gifts of prophesy, tongues, and healing continue to the present day.
  • Vague anecdotal evidence in support of the continuation of those gifts.
  • Unshakable confidence that the worst charismatic abusers and charlatans represent only the renegade fringe of the movement, and that they wield limited influence among mainstream charismatics.
  • Staunch refusal to name, criticize, or publically disavow those abusers and offenders at the supposed fringe of the movement.
  • Dire warnings that rejecting anyone who claims to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit or wield His power is tantamount to rejecting the Spirit Himself.
  • Total disinterest in discussing or debating any doctrinal or ecclesiological issues other than continuationism versus cessationism.
  • Confident assertions about the explosive growth of the charismatic church worldwide, and blithe acceptance that everyone who claims to be a charismatic is an authentic believer.

For many charismatic apologists, their self-defense doesn’t even extend that far. For them, the debate begins and ends with continuationism, so that’s all they ever want to talk about. In fact, most of the responses to Strange Fire have amounted to little more than reviving certain authors’ greatest hits in defense of the continuation of the apostolic gifts.

What’s important about that is this: Strange Fire was not primarily or even significantly about cessationism. Yes, it’s true that one of the keynote sessions made a biblical case for the cessation of the apostolic gifts, while others defended cessationism as the historical position of the church. But it still constituted only one part of a broad response to the charismatic movement as a whole.

In fact, if continuationism was the only issue in the charismatic movement that John MacArthur and the other Strange Fire speakers were concerned about, there likely never would have been a conference or a book to begin with.

Instead, Strange Fire addressed the rampant abuse of the Holy Spirit, the perversion of Scripture, and the danger charismatic teaching and practice represent to hundreds of millions of people around the world. It covered an array of theological and doctrinal issues, and it raised several important questions that charismatics need to address.

And yet a year later, the responses to the conference continue to focus on defending the continuation of the gifts. It makes you wonder whether charismatic leaders are defiant or merely deaf.

So in the interest of advancing the conversation beyond the endless defense of continuationism, let us table that part of the discussion. If it helps, imagine that we’ve conceded that point of debate. (We haven’t, but that’s beside the point at the moment.) There still remains a whole raft of questions and issues that need to be addressed. Questions like:

  • Is there any statistical evidence that proves the so-called “lunatic fringe” of the charismatic world is not actually the mainstream of the movement? Compelling statistics were produced at Strange Fire that indicated the prevalence of prosperity theology in mainstream charismatic churches. Can those numbers be contradicted, or is it time to reconsider who is truly on the fringe?
  • What is the responsibility of charismatic leaders to police their own movement beyond the walls of their individual churches? Who will be willing unequivocally to call out heretics and charlatans? And why are so many charismatics comfortable with false teachers serving as the face of their movement?
  • What constitutes the true, biblical gospel? And what deviations from it qualify as apostasy and heresy? In particular, how do you make sense of the rise of charismatic expressions in the Catholic Church? Is it possible to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit while continuing to reject the biblical gospel?
  • Is Oneness Pentecostalism heresy? Or is perverting the doctrine of the Trinity not really such a big deal after all?
  • How are manufactured experiences—like seeding air conditioning vents with gold flakes and promoting man-made prophecies—helpful or encouraging for true spiritual growth? Why should the proliferation of phonies give anyone confidence that the real thing even exists?
  • Is the prosperity gospel biblical? If not, doesn’t it fall under the curse of Galatians 1:8–9?
  • When it comes to Scripture’s instructions and prohibitions for life in the church—for example, Paul’s clear teaching about female pastors, or his admonition for only one person at a time to speak in tongues—how seriously do we need to take those things today? Again, are these matters worth dividing over?
  • Does the gift of tongues as practiced in charismatic churches today bear any resemblance to the supernatural events on the Day of Pentecost, or any other expression of the gift of tongues found in the book of Acts? If not, why is the dramatic difference acceptable for continuationists?
  • If today’s prophets are not held to the biblical standard of one-hundred percent accuracy, what standard is there for people who make false prophecies? Or is modern prophecy nothing more than a crapshoot?
  • Finally, in the immediate aftermath of Strange Fire, Phil Johnson made an appearance on Dr. Michael Brown’s radio program. Phil issued Brown a challenge—which Brown accepted—to produce any audio of Mike Bickle or someone of similar influence in the charismatic movement making a clear presentation of the gospel. We’re still waiting for that audio.

We want to see someone—anyone—from the charismatic side take up those important issues. Until then, the persistent debate over cessationism and continuationism feels like little more than a deliberate diversion.

If the charismatic movement were truly as vibrant and Spirit-filled as charismatic apologists claim, John MacArthur would never have needed to host the Strange Fire conference or write the book. The issues he and the other speakers raised at Strange Fire should have been dealt with decades ago by charismatics who were faithful to the biblical gospel and recognized the need to address the many perversions that were gaining traction.

Our preference still is for those faithful believers within the movement—who hold fast to Scripture and love the truth—to step up and clean house. Consider these our suggestions about where they might want to start.


 

CORPORATE EXCOMMUNICATION

The excommunication of an individual in your local church should never be done easily or lightly, but sometimes it needs to be done for the love and purity of the church. Done rightly and carefully it exposes false teaching and unrepentant immorality and may have the blessed function of being the means of repentance, reconciliation and the bringing of brothers back into the fold.

This has got me to thinking …due to the doctrinal chaos, immorality and outright rebellion now obvious in evangelicalism, I have thought about whether excommunication could be done on a corporate scale… that is, the excommunication of a church, group of churches of or a ministry. This would have to be done on a scale sufficient enough for everyone to take notice. And even if such an excommunication is not recognized by those excommunicated, it would have the blessed effect of making clear delineation between truth and error, life and death. I know that creeds and confessions served this purpose in the early church and after the Reformation but it seems, if evangelicalism is to have any future, that something like this needs to take place soon. Again it must be done with the utmost care and much be done with pain and difficulty, but that should not stop us for something so important as this. In this day and age, even among those who are theologically conservative, it would probably take a miracle to even agree among ourselves, but if we submitted ourselves to prayer, that miracle just might take place.

 — john_hendryx  
 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in #BIBLE, #CHRISTIAN, #CHURCH, #FAITH

 

WHY I AM A CALVINIST

Introduction

Almost a decade ago I was involved in a titanic spiritual battle between two opposing theological views. I could feel the once rock solid doctrines of free will slipping through my fingers like fine sand. I begged and beseeched the Lord to deliver me from the relentless reasonings and scriptural bombshells ripping the house I had built on the shifting dunes of man-centered doctrines. My pride and self-respect were on the line.

See, for the first decade of my born-again life I embraced a form of Arminianism that many call Semi-Pelagianism. Simply put, I believed that man’s free will is the deciding factor in salvation. Calvinism, which is the belief that God is sovereign over all things, including man’s salvation, had recently started making sense to me and I was drawn to it. (While at the same time being repulsed by it).

Calvinism was a dirty word in my old church. I considered it to be on equal footing with cultic beliefs.

I used to say such things as:

“Calvinism is a doctrine of demons!”

Or worse yet:

“If God is like how the Calvinists describe him, I would never serve such a cruel, heartless dictator who arbitrarily chooses who will and will not be saved!”

In my blindness I scoffed at the idea of a completely sovereign Lord who had the power over his clay to mold vessels of honor and of dishonor. From my limited exposure to Reformed soteriology I instead envisioned God towering over a huge golden lottery bin, filled with the names of every living person. I could see the holy angels rotating the bin by hand, mixing up the names so all participants in the game of life get at least a million-to-one chance to win the ultimate prize: everlasting life. I imagined the Lord reaching his hand inside, looking the other way (as to not show preference) and drawing out the lucky names at random. In my vision He then decrees these souls saved for all eternity. The angels rejoice and the Holy Spirit hurries down to earth to let those lucky few know they had hit the jackpot.
Yes, I was sarcastic and unrelenting in my disdain against the slandering, blasphemous Calvinist view of the loving and kind God that I knew – or at least the God I thought I knew…

The truth is, I only recall meeting one person in those first years who called herself a Calvinist. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very gracious toward her. In my college days, a girl sat next to me in speech class. We got to know each other a bit and I discovered she proclaimed faith in Christ. We got along great – for a time. One day after class we were walking together and out of the blue she blurted:

“I’m a Calvinist, you know.”

I was aghast. I did not know real people actually bought into that nonsense. I looked at her incredulously, shook my head and said something like:

“Why on earth would you believe that garbage!”

I could tell I had offended her. She offered the vague but often used ‘trump card’ defense of ‘It’s what the bible teaches.’ I replied:

“Then why does the bible say that God wills for none to perish? If it’s in His complete power to save all, then why does he only choose a few in the end when it’s his will for all to be saved?”

Disappointingly, she offered no rebuttal, choosing instead to walk away quietly. Not surprisingly, she never spoke to me again. In retrospect, if she had vigorously defended her position with scriptures I may have come down this road much sooner than I did. Oh well. It wasn’t time, right? God is sovereign and he revealed this truth to me in his own time, in his own way. I’m not complaining!

I have related the story of how my journey to the Reformed faith began here and here so I will not tread old ground. All I want to get across in this series is the why I crossed over to the dark side.

God revealed the Doctrines of Grace to me and it has been a mighty humbling experience. I tremble at my presumption for saying I never would serve a God that was completely sovereign over his creation. I now truly understand his Lordship and I am eternally grateful that He has chosen me, not arbitrarily, but also not according to anything I have done. He chose me for his good pleasure and purpose. I am grateful beyond words that He has provided me with an advocate, Jesus Christ, who cleanses me of all sin; even blasphemy spoke in ignorance. Only by his grace and mercy am I now a new creation in Christ, called to do His good works which he has prepared for me in advance to accomplish. I cherish his sovereignty over me and am thankful that all things are done for His glory alone.

Reason #1

Surprisingly, my conversion from free-will theology to Calvinism came rather swiftly. It’s shocking really, if only you could understand the depths of hatred I once held toward those doctrines.

I resisted initially, desperately hopeful that some sensible compromise existed between these diametrically opposed belief systems. I figured the Semi-Pelagian flavor of Arminianism fell into one ditch while Calvinism veered clear over to the other side of the road. I searched in vain for the imaginary highway that ran through the middle of both views, but I never found any signs to point the way. After wrangling with Calvinism for about 4 months, I finally beheld its beauty with a clarity only the Holy Spirit could grant.

The ditch I had plowed into, turns out, is really an off-ramp exiting the pothole plagued ‘Free Will’ service road. It flows into a smoothly paved four-lane interstate winding a clear path to the Celestial City. The road first runs through the firmly established townships of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura and finally Soli Deo Gloria, which lies at the very gates of the streets of gold.

You may have already deduced the obvious. My diligent search through the scriptures utterly convinced me of the truth of the Doctrines of Grace.

So, the first and foremost reason I became a Calvinist is the overwhelming evidence contained in the scriptures declaring God’s unquestionable sovereignty over every person, place and event in all of history.

The scriptures seen through the lens of God’s sovereignty and man’s helplessness made clear to me salvation can only be a gift freely bestowed upon those the Father has loved.
A Calvinistic world view allowed me to engage scripture passages that in the past I had tended to avoid, because they made me uncomfortable. In retrospect, it is clearly obvious why I avoided them. They shook the very foundations of my belief systems. I passed over difficult passages (such as those found in Romans Ch 8-9) expounding the doctrines of election and reprobation. If ever confronted with them in study or conversation I would quickly throw out carefully articulated defenses I had memorized from teachers opposed to the Reformed Faith without giving the text much thought.

I won’t go into detail about how the scriptures convinced me of Calvinism, but will briefly explain how free will theology failed to answer one very nagging question satisfactorily and how the Doctrines of Grace did answer it.

The question formed in my mind partly due to the church growth principles embraced so fiercely by my former church. We changed our altar call by adopting a sinner’s prayer approach to salvation, which included a pulpit guarantee of eternal life for all who spoke the prayer aloud and ‘meant it in their heart.’ I questioned the validity of such a presumptuous statement. In these prayers sin was never confronted . The pastor never clearly defined it as a power of wickedness that dominates human nature. He didn’t strip people naked (figuratively, of course) and lay them bare before the holiness of God with the righteousness of the law. He didn’t send them to their knees, pleading for mercy; a poor sinner in desperate need of grace through the righteousness of Christ.

The question causing so much unrest in my soul was this:

Is salvation really as easy as reciting a canned prayer, and sincerely confessing belief in a certain set of biblical truths?

I didn’t remember it being that easy for me! More importantly, where did the Holy Spirit fit into this approach? I had always believed that the ministry of the Holy Spirit actively participated in the conversion of a soul, even if I did not really understand why. I mean, as a former ‘free-willie’ type, I strongly believed that every person had to make a choice unconstrained by outward influence to follow Christ. To be honest, I am obligated to believe this or my doctrine of free will would be crushed. Yet, at the same time I also believed the Holy Spirit initiated this process, too. I never took the time to examine the obvious dichotomy between these ideas – at least until I began to examine the theology of salvation.

My search began with man’s nature. I quickly discovered man by nature did not seek after God, understand or receive the things of God, nor does he do good. Great enmity exists between man and God. This, in turn, has created a gulf that no man can bridge. The fact of the matter is, no man has any desire to cross that gulf and be reconciled to his Creator – at least not naturally. God took it upon himself to bridge the gap with the cross of Christ. He has reconciled to himself people from every tribe, tongue and nation for His glory alone. The only way God gets all the glory is if salvation is His to bestow on whom He wishes. God’s glory shines most brilliantly when we see that our salvation is from His sovereign hand from first to last. The doctrine of man’s total depravity utterly convinced me that salvation through rote recitation of a canned prayer is about as effective in converting souls as was the Spanish Inquisition. You might get a lot of converts, but their motivations are often centered solely on the immediate temporal benefits of doing so.

The Holy Spirit is not only a necessary helper in man’s conversion but acts as the lone agent in the regeneration of our souls. This is called the doctrine of Monergism. The Holy Spirit sends us to our knees with deep-hearted conviction. We then crawl to the altar of repentance, sapped of even the strength to lift up our heads toward heaven. With profound regret we beat our breasts and cry out “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” The Holy Spirit grants us a measure of faith, bestowed as a gift flowing from the cross of Christ. Man cannot come to Jesus in his own power. God, willing to show his great kindness and mercy, plucks many poor condemned souls from the jaws of hell and clothes them in the white robes of righteousness. They shall shine like the sun for all eternity.

At that point I had allowed the truth of God’s word to transform my highly overrated opinion of human nature. I realized God must renew the heart in order for any soul to be rescued from eternal damnation. If all this be true then God must choose who lives and who dies. The bible is clear in showing that only few ever find the narrow gate that leads to life. I then had to redefine the doctrines of election, predestination and foreknowledge. In light of my new understanding of man’s inherit corruptness, I could no longer believe that election and predestination referred to only God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. A closer study revealed these verses taught the actual salvation of particular people through Jesus Christ. I had been taught Arminian doctrine as a toddler Christian. I held tenaciously to it without ever studying the passages thoroughly. If God indeed foreordained only the plan, He must believe in man’s natural ability to come to Him of his own free will. But this runs contradictory to the well established truth of man’s total depravity. Based on that fact alone, my errant election theology got tossed in the dumpster alongside my ‘man is not all bad’ belief.

The domino effect of theological truths beginning with man’s Total depravity unfolded very clearly the remaing ULIP in short order. Yes, it all makes sense logically, but that alone is not enough to believe it. The scriptures from Genesis to Revelation reveal these truths to be self-evident. I will go deeper in future articles concerning the exegesis of these holy doctrines. For now, know this: The only way I could fiercely embrace these doctrines, that are unquestionably repugnant to the carnal mind, is by the grace of God and submission to the authority of His eternal, inerrant word.

Reason #2

A great mystery once surrounded the circumstances of my salvation experience that for a decade confounded all my attempts to unveil its secrets.

Let me start at the beginning. In the summer of 1993 I found a job at the recycling center of a local non-profit agency. They provided a training environment for people with developmental disabilities. The job humbled me, but I did enjoy working with the people. My supervisor lived his Christian faith openly, and stood boldly for his convictions. To make a long story short, he preached the gospel to me for a solid year-and-a-half, slowly chipping away at my granite hard heart. One day he quoted a scripture that flew like a steel-tipped arrow, breaching my great wall of enmity.

Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world’s rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:11-12)

I remember getting into my car at the end of the day with that verse blazing through my mind. I paused in the parking lot as illumination fell on me from above. I realized at that moment good and evil were struggling for my very soul. I could not remain neutral in this war. I had to take sides. I either had to stand with God against all the powers of darkness or cast my lot with the devil and his angels. Another, more sobering thought then dawned on me. I had already spent my entire life aiding and abetting the commander-in-chief of the armies of darkness.

I stewed over those thoughts for several months. One day in late January, 1995 as I prepared to leave for the day, my boss stopped me. He launched into one of his passionate discourses on the goodness and faithfulness of God in his life. At one point he started pounding his desk speaking of the zeal he had for God, quoting from scripture. At that very moment the Spirit of God came upon me with a such a mighty rush that I could sense it in a tangible manner. A great tingling warmth spread from the top of my head to the heels of my feet. I gasped audibly, not quite understanding what had just happened. My boss did not notice my reaction, so I politely acknowledged my appreciation for his word of encouragement and drove home.

However, an entirely different man arrived home that evening than the one who had woke up that morning. My thoughts were consumed with Jesus Christ and his goodness. I hungered and thirsted for righteousness like a man rescued from a long spell in the desert craves water and bread. I hurried to the nearest bible so I could immediately discover more about this Jesus of Nazareth. I wanted to know Him. Not just about Him, but to know him in a personal, relational way. I desired to follow Him no matter the cost. I devoured the gospels in a few short weeks. My hunger for the scriptures grew insatiable. I bombarded my boss with hundreds of questions. I amazed him with my new found zeal for Christ and for holiness.

Simultaneous with my office experience, the Holy Spirit pressed upon me the weight of my sin and guilt before a holy and just God. I repented and put all my trust in Jesus Christ, my Savior. I grew in knowledge and wisdom for the next several years in a Pentecostal, Arminian-leaning church. As I came to embrace ‘free-will’ theology as the only truth the scriptures taught, I came face-to-face with an apparent contradiction between theology and experience. My mind constantly raised this objection:

If repenting and putting my faith in Christ comes before I am born-again, how is it that the Holy Spirit changed me before I did any of those things?

My experience at work didn’t seem to completely match up with the doctrine of free will. I openly admit I didn’t spend too much time pondering the inconsistency. I simply shrugged it off. I believed salvation came, at least in part, by my intellect finally grasping the doctrine of salvation (with the help of a slight nudge from the Holy Spirit). I believed I had somehow woke myself from the slumber of ignorance, turned on my own light, took the blinders off my own eyes, unstopped my own ears and grasped with my own hands the salvation that lay before me. From time to time I would think back and wonder about the strange order of events, but I would fall back on the comfortable conclusions my mind and theology had conjured.

See, my understanding of the salvation process from my education in a ‘free-will’ church taught that man and God cooperate together in conversion of the soul. The Father initiated the salvation process by giving his Son as an atoning sacrifice, propitiating His wrath, opening the door for all men to become adopted sons of God. Then, in response to the gospel offer, we must do the following:

  • Admit our condition as a lost sinner in need of salvation from the wrath of God.
    • Note: This is no longer a pre-requisite for conversion in most churches
  • Believe the gospel message of salvation
  • Repent of all our sins.
  • Note: This also is no longer essential for conversion in many churches
  • Put all our faith in God, trusting Him to deliver our souls from eternal death

As a result of man meeting all these conditions by making responsible free-will choices, God will then:

  • Justify us as free from the guilt of sin
  • Impute the righteousness of Christ to us
  • Give us a new heart that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • Give the Holy Spirit who will empower us to live holy and pure before God

In summary, man becomes born-again, but only after he has met the four conditions listed above. At the time, this order sounded logical and appeared biblical. However, in recent years as I came to understand the true state of natural man through Calvinism, I questioned the soundness of it. It seems odd that God would require all these things of man, but waits until he fulfills them of his own power before He regenerates him and empowers him.

In my studies over man’s total depravity, I came across a stunning internet article that yielded vital clues to the mystery of my salvation. The article was titled something like ‘Does Faith Precede Regeneration?’ I initially responded with a sardonic ‘Duh!! Faith always precedes the new birth.’ I shook my head, wondering why anyone in their right mind would waste precious time writing an article pondering such a silly question.

However, I decided to have a good chuckle at the author’s expense. My laughter quickly turned to gasps of astonishment. Illumination dawned over my fog-shrouded heart. The article taught that man cannot fulfill the conditions of salvation on his own merit, lest his salvation be attributed to his own works, which contradicts the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone. If a man of his own abilities can come to Christ then he either has more wisdom, greater intellect, better circumstances, a superior environment or a more tender heart than a man who hears and rejects the gospel. The author raised the question, “What makes a man who receives the gospel to differ from one who rejects it?” The answer lies not in man’s innate abilities or environmental circumstances, but simply upon the mercy and compassion of a sovereign God.

The article emphatically nailed home the truth that regeneration must precede repentance and faith. These abilities do not reside in us naturally, they are a gift of God through the cross of Christ. Unless you are born-again you cannot even see the kingdom of God much less partake of it.

It all made perfect sense to me. That day in my boss’s office God chose to give me a new heart by his sovereign choice alone. My rock-hard heart split asunder, revealing beneath a new heart of flesh.

Prior to that moment I did not seek God, I did not feel the weight of my sin, I did not sorrow over my offenses against the holy and righteous Judge of all the earth. I did not desire to read the bible. My natural mind did not accept the things of the Spirit of God. I did not want to give up my life of sinful pleasure. I did not want to obey the commandments. I did not desire to follow Christ. I did not want to believe I was lost and headed for hell. I had no inclination to humble myself and submit to the righteousness of God in Christ.

But in a twinkling of an eye that all changed, forever. When the Spirit of God came upon me, every belief and desire I had built my life upon dissolved like a sand castle beneath the ocean’s tide. Repentance and faith clearly came after regeneration in my experience. I didn’t even clearly understand what repent meant until the Spirit worked in me.

In fact I didn’t fall to my knees in repentance until nearly two full weeks after my office encounter with the Holy Spirit. I confess that I put it off so I could make a spectacle of the whole affair. I believed that making a ceremony of it in a special childhood haunt would please the Lord. However, the Spirit of God so overcame me one Saturday at work, that I marched out of my office into a snowstorm and fell to my knees in the middle of a sticker patch, repented of my sins and put all my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My mouth finally uttered those things God had already worked in my spirit.

The stages of salvation I once embraced had it all backwards. It’s not as simple as ABC. Salvation doesn’t depend on human exertion or desire, but on God who has mercy. Here is the Ordo Salutis of true biblical salvation, exemplified by my experience.

  • For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:29)
    God the Father, from the dateless past, before the foundations of the earth were laid, chose for himself a people out of the world. He set his elect apart for his own purposes, by His compassion and grace alone. My heavenly Father elected me, Brandon, to inherit eternal salvation through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, who died in my place, bearing in his body all of my iniquities.
  • And those whom he predestined he also called, (Rom 8:30A) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (Joh 6:44A) The Ephesians 6 scripture pricked my heart and the first rays of gospel light shone on my spirit. The Lord opened my eyes that I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt where I stood spiritually. My heavenly Father issued his outward call through His word. The Holy Spirit, on an intellectual level at this point, convicted me of my sinfulness and alliance with the devil and his work.
  • And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Eze 36:26-27) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Joh 3:6-8) The Holy Spirit poured over me in that little office twelve years ago. He granted me a new heart of flesh and renewed my mind by the sovereign decree of the Father. My heart of hate and malice toward god morphed into one of love and gratefulness.
  • So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17) For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, (2Co 7:10A) God made his call effectual, granting me the gifts of repentance and faith. He brought me to a position of absolute humility through the constant preaching of my boss. I sorrowed over my sinfulness and threw myself upon his mercy and grace. I repented of my sins and put all my faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:30) I have been justified freely by the grace of God. I come nearer to glorification with each passing day. My spirit will eventually be released from this body of death and be present with the Lord. At the resurrection of the righteous I will receive my glorified body and my full sanctification. I will stand boldly before the throne of grace, an adopted member of the Lord’s family.

In conclusion, the second reason I embraced Calvinism is because it teaches regeneration precedes faith. I know this not only from the scriptures and by logic, but also from personal experience.

My coming to Christ the way I did aligns perfectly with this teaching. God took a man who loved himself above all and performed a miracle in his heart; reviving a soul utterly dead in trespasses and sins with a spiritual rebirth, turning his desire away from the passing pleasures of the world to now seeking to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Reason #3

Precisely nine years ago I embraced the doctrines of Grace (also called 5-point Calvinism). It was a chaotic time, where both the tearing down of my old theology and the construction of this new theology were taking place simultaneously in my mind and spirit. To complicate matters, an old friend, who had faithfully attended my weekly bible study for college students, came to my office one day and begged me to start up a new study group. She had come to a difficult point in her life and had a deep hunger for someone to bring her the Word. I had sympathy for her, but didn’t feel I was in any position to teach.

First, I could no longer teach much of what I had in the past. Many of those doctrines, like a house built on shifting sand, laid in a collapsed heap. I was in the process of bulldozing those aberrant beliefs right off my intellectual property. Second, I still did not know enough about Calvinism to be confident enough to teach it. Third, I still had not resolved all the points of Calvinism in my heart and mind yet. I readily accepted the T, the U, and the I but I wasn’t so sure about the L and the P. Odd, I know, if the U then the P should follow, right? I’ve never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer!

Anyway, against my better judgment, I plunged ahead with the study and presented my understanding of sovereign salvation to that small audience. It all worked out for the good, though. The class constantly presented challenges that helped to sharpen me. In the end though, only one person from the group came to believe in the doctrines of Grace. She came to visit me in my office one afternoon last year and I asked her pointedly, “have you become convinced that Calvinism is true?” My friend gave me an unforgettable reply. In a humble and almost broken-hearted tone, she said, “Yes it has to be true, because I know my own heart.”

What did my friend mean by this? She is talking about the biblical doctrine of Total Depravity. The prophet Jeremiah sums it up succinctly with his observation that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) Moses recorded that “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5) Paul wrote, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Rom 8:7) Jesus taught, “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (Jn 6:44)

In other words, the T in the TULIP is readily apparent, derived not only from the scriptures but by observation and experience. I witness its fruit everyday with the perplexing thought processes of my mind and the inner workings of my heart. Darkened thoughts rise up and vain imaginings spring into existence and if not cast down, evil deeds will follow. And this from a man who has been given a new heart! I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind daily, but this process of becoming holy is a slow one, progressing only by the Grace of God that strengthens me in my weakness. If my heart contains iniquity even now, in a state of grace and renewal, how wicked a heart did I have before conversion?

Allow me to demonstrate just how corrupt a heart I had.

I had a knowledge of God, but never gave him the glory and honor he is due. I could list all 10 commandments, but never cared to obey any of them. I understood the way of salvation, but only offered him lip service in exchange for a fire-free future. I did not seek Him, yet claimed to possess him. I understood his character and nature in an intellectual sense, yet I molded him into my image. I had heard of his great love, but spurned it. I was warned of His coming wrath, but convinced myself  it wasn’t aimed at me. I understood that he loved righteousness, yet I despised it. I knew he hated the wicked, but I was basically a good person. God demanded that I turn from sin, but I kept my course steady. God said that I have become worthless, yet I esteemed myself highly. The Lord proclaimed that without him I can do nothing, yet I set my heart to do all things without his help. He declared that without faith it is impossible to please him, but I thought my good deeds would make Him smile. God created me to sing his praises, but I uttered curses instead. I believed Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, yet I did not know the way of peace. The Scriptures demand that I fear God, but for 23 years I had no fear of him before my eyes. God commands for all to repent and believe the Gospel, but I was not willing to do the former nor able to obey the latter.

I followed the lusts of my own heart without any sense of guilt for my first 17 years. One day during m Jr. year in high school, as I browsed through the merchandise at my local Wal-Mart I came across a Chick tract. This one, in fact. It literally scared the hell right out of me. I sought refuge in the nearest church I could find. I started going to Sunday school and service for the first time in my life. I soon made a profession of faith in front of the congregation and got baptized. After securing my fire-insurance card, I proceeded to antagonize my Sunday school teacher and talk with my buddy about our weekend exploits on the back pew instead of listening to any of the messages.

Nothing had changed. My heart was still stone hard and unyielding to the call of God to true repentance and a living faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I was a baptized pig who had gone back to his wallowing in the mud. My initial reaction to the gospel message in that tract was one of pure abject fear. Not a fear of God in the sense of reverence and awe, but only a dread of eternally burning in the unquenchable flames of hell. I couldn’t bear the thought of such a horrible fate and carried out all the necessary outward rituals to avoid it. Unfortunately, though I performed the outward circumcision, so-to-speak, God had not performed the inner circumcision of heart required for true conversion.

The problem lay in the fact that I still hated God just as much as I did before my ‘conversion’. Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your strength. I did not love him. I, in fact, despised him for his harsh, unfair and (in my mind) irrational judgment on man. I believed man to be basically decent at heart, but because he fell short of perfection, was forced to pay for it by suffering eternally. I remember feeling sorry for all my friends who were not Christians. They would not listen to my pathetic attempts at evangelism. As a result, I knew they were doomed.

Eventually, I rejected the doctrine of judgment and hell. As a natural consequence, I eventually denied the authority of the bible as God’s revealed word. In my wickedness I adopted a much more pleasant-natured God who accepted everyone on the basis of their own uniqueness. This new age God placed no demands upon my life, but encouraged me to live guilt-free according to whatever my heart desired. The process of conviction, to faith, to doubt, and then to complete unbelief occurred all within 6 months. I had faith, but not a faith that could save. I put my faith into my ability to be pleasing to God by doing what I thought he demanded. After that, I could do as I pleased. These aberrant thought processes are all the result of the depravity of my heart. I did whatever I had to do to achieve the most rewarding benefit to my person. I did not seek God because I wanted to love him, I did not claim to cling to Christ because I wanted to ‘know him and the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his sufferings’. (Phil 3:10) No, I went through the motions of salvation just so I wouldn’t fry in the furnace of fire.

I am a totally depraved man apart from union with Christ. The holy nature of God given to Adam, which suffered corruption at his disobedience has infiltrated every corner of my entire being because I am his offspring. My heart is full of sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, evil, slander, pride and foolishness. My thoughts are only evil all the time. My carnal mind is at enmity with God. Out of the abundance of my heart my mouth speaks. My body obeys all my lascivious desires. Every single component of my humanity is touched by wickedness. My spirit, my mind, my emotions, my thoughts, my will and my entire heart is in bondage to the power of sin. This does not mean that I am the worst sinner that I can be in my natural state, but the potential for evil greater than history’s most corrupt tyrants dwells within my darkened heart.

The world around me that I read about everyday in the media convinces me that total depravity is alive and well on planet Earth. Terrorists blow themselves up, taking as many victims with them as they can, expecting an eternal reward of beautiful virgins – and you would dare say to me that man is not depraved? A gunmen walks the hallways of a university, public school or shopping mall and opens fire on people he does not know to exact revenge on a society that has supposedly shunned him – and I’m to believe man is basically good at heart? A father takes a gun and murders his two-year-old twin daughters and his three-year-old son and then kills himself – and you want to convince me that we have the ability to love God with all of our hearts? One young boy tells his parents that ‘I will kill you’ every time he is punished for calling them ‘idiots’ and ‘freaks’ – and I should accept that any man would be willing to come to Christ of his own free will? Another older boy, when punished for screaming and throwing things at his parents, then goes into a rage destroying everything in his path – and you want to boast of man’s natural ability to repent and believe the Gospel?

Sorry, I’m not buying it. We have corrupted ourselves in our zest for absolute autonomy and driven ourselves to madness with our lust to indulge every forbidden pleasure. God’s common grace is manifested through our conscience and in the civil governments of law and justice. These forces restrain our madness. Should God remove these restraints, society would dissolve and complete lawlessness would reign until man utterly destroys himself. This is the reality of the doctrine of Total Depravity.

But…

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25A)

God’s grace has saved me from the great trinity of evil – Me, Myself and I. While I was dead in trespasses and sins Christ has made me alive.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. (1Co 15:10A)

The combination of the doctrines of God’s absolute sovereignty over all creation and the radical corruption of man form the forge on which Calvinism is shaped and sharpened to a razor edge. I stand in absolute awe of the immeasurable magnitude of God’s magnificent grace in light of these biblical truths. Despite man’s intent to do evil all of his days, God has unconditionally and lovingly elected a people to call his very own out of every tribe, tongue and nation. He has purchased them out of the bondage of the devil and sin and purified them by the blood of Jesus Christ. He has drawn them irresistibly to himself by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and has set them upon a rock that shall never be moved. God protects and preserves his precious elect, causing them to persevere through every trial and tribulation. These doctrines are precious to me because they demonstrate God’s mercy and compassion to a company of people who deserve nothing but His fierce wrath.

In summary, the doctrine of Total Depravity, as taught by God’s word, is easily demonstrated by looking both inwardly to the thoughts and desires of one’s own heart and by observing the outwardly manifestations of those thoughts and desires in the world around us.

Reason #4

During my years as a Pentecostal/Arminian Christian I focused my theological studies on an array of supposedly sound biblical topics. I studied Dispensational Theology (though at the time I had no idea what it was called), learning the different epochs of time Earth’s history had been neatly packaged into. I dabbled with spiritual warfare, waging battle against all principalities and powers of darkness. I learned how to defend my family against the wiles of the devil. I read many kooky books that inspired me to take up the armor of God and stand firmly against the devil’s fiery darts in ways that now make me cringe with chagrin. I danced as King David did (except fully clothed) and anointed everything with olive oil (or Crisco if the former was not conveniently available). I claimed enough territories for Christ during those years that I could have established a whole other country. I scoured the scriptures, scrapping together verses in an effort to discern the times, and determine the signs of Christ’s Second Coming.  I agreed with both Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey that the temple in Jerusalem would soon be rebuilt and the secret rapture of the church would whisk us away while the world would suffer beneath the iron heel of the Antichrist’s reign of terror.  I spent hours pleading and wrestling with God at the altar, in the desperate hope that he would grant me an authentic, earth-shattering spiritual experience akin to the ones enjoyed by my brethren, who appeared to get a ‘dose of the Ghost’ on a weekly basis.

I worked hard to perfect my faith. I constantly exercised my spiritual muscles, speaking words of great faith, staving off sickness and disease, boasting in the power of my personal belief that God wanted me healthy and wealthy all the time. I voraciously rebuked the devil when a case of the sniffles assailed my sinuses. I cursed his name whenever I stubbed my toe, convinced that he was hard at work trying to bring me harm and weaken my faith – in my faith. I would walk around, point my finger at a piece of merchandise that I wanted and claimed it by faith. I then would daily thank God for granting everything that I asked for.  I would patiently await for my stuff to miraculously arrive at the front door. Which, by the way, NEVER happened.  I followed Scripture’s advice to lay hands on the sick and they would recover. I performed this ritual many times – on my broken down Nissan – and marveled at its miraculous resurrection from the dead.  I believed in living a sinless life, by faith in my willpower to resist temptation.  It became an obsession with me. I would often berate myself for failure to conform perfectly to God’s will. I cursed my lack of faith and promised to do better. After all, I had the Holy Spirit! I had no excuse for spots and blemishes any longer. This failure to be perfect eventually led to an unhealthy focus on backsliding and committing apostasy. I would often wonder if I had committed the ‘unpardonable sin’ by grieving the Holy Spirit with my mistakes. The combination of these toxic doctrines and my utter failure to measure up to God’s standards of righteousness caused great mental and emotional distress. It all came to a head in late 2005 when I cried out to the Lord in the dead of night, “Show me the truth!”

I had lived by faith, but in retrospect I now realize I’d grossly misplaced and misapplied my faith.  Many Word-Faith heresies became my foundational doctrine, and at the time I had no inkling that I was in error. However, God revealed himself shortly after my desperate plea. The truth of God’s sovereignty shone like a heavenly beacon as I delved deep into the doctrines recovered by the Protestant Reformation. I quickly learned God the Father ordains all that comes to pass and always works according to his good pleasure. For the first time in my Christian life I marveled at the greatness of Christ. He lived a life of perfect obedience, thus fulfilling the righteousness of God. He willingly took up his cross and died, that my sins would be forgiven and his righteousness would clothe me. I stood amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit, who could take a heart, dead in wickedness, and infuse eternal life into it without even a prior hint of godly desire for that life on my part. I slowly came to realize what my Christianity was lacking – Christ himself!

My religion had been dominated by a plethora of secondary topics. I divulged in countless hours of end times prognostication. I exercised a self-centric philosophy of faith and obedience.  I had an unhealthy obsession with spiritual performance and supernatural signs and wonders.  All these distractions worked to remove my focus from the only thing that matters – the cross of Christ.  I came from a church that viewed salvation by Christ’s blood on the cross as only the first step into a victorious and adventurous life of prosperity and personal fulfillment.  They assumed the Gospel most of the time.  As the leadership thought, so did I.  In my personal reformation God re-prioritized my mindset.  I began to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  I fixed my gaze upon the King of Kings and his glorious kingdom.  I realized that the cross is not a first rung on a spiritual ladder to success, but instead the luminescent sun, burning brightly in the center of my renewed heart.  All my doctrine, theology and devotion revolved around it, compelled by the irresistible gravity of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

I can honestly attest that for the first 10 years of my Christian life I never truly grasped the glory of Christ in the cross.  I pause to wonder if I really was a Christian.  I pursued signs and wonders, but failed to see the greatest sign and wonder of all.  I turned up every stone, looking for clues to his second coming, while not beholding the majestic beauty of his first coming.  I sought a spiritual buzz from the ‘Holy Ghost bartender’ and refused the cool refreshment of the the living waters of Jesus himself.  I worried constantly about falling from grace instead of simply accepting Christ’s free grace.  I worked to attain a state of sinless perfection, instead of clothing myself with the righteousness of Christ.  Calvinism forced me to gulp down the milk of the elementary principles of Christ.  By God’s grace he quickly moved me on to the strong meat of the word.  Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean that we ever move on from the cross of Christ.  I will forever remain anchored to its profound truths, and I never will be able to distance myself from it.  How I survived my early Christian life majoring in the minors I’ll never understand apart from God’s mercy.

When I became exposed to the doctrines of Grace – Calvinism – Reformed Theology – pick the moniker of your choice, a life of vibrant, lucid faith sharply came into focus for me.  The simple revelation that Christianity is all about Christ profoundly changed me.  I dare say that it’s almost as if I had been born-again – again!  An overwhelming sense of awe floods my soul as God reveals to me that he is absolutely sovereign over all people, places and things for all time.  I feel horror and revulsion as I begin to peel away the religious facade of feigned innate goodness in man as the scriptures speak to me of our great and awful depravity of mind and spirit. I marvel at the Father’s graciousness and mercy in the calling of a people as his very own.  His reasons lie within himself and not according to our actions or desires.  My heart exults when I attempt to fully comprehend the breadth and depth of God’s love for us, as demonstrated in the cross of Christ. I tremble at God’s power that ‘by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified’ (Heb 10:14).  I’m forever grateful for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to overcome our obstinate, rebellious natures.  I’m thankful that he effectually works the life of God in us so we would revile our sin, love God and flee to Christ.  Finally, I’m at rest knowing God loves me so much that although he will not spare me from the trials and tribulations of life, he will preserve me through them, causing me to persevere in the faith.

So the final reason I am a Calvinist is because in essence it is all about the Lord God, His Christ and the everlasting gospel.

Summary

, I first came to accept Reformed Theology due in no small part to the overwhelming support of scripture.  Not just a verse here and a verse there, but the entire fabric of Calvinism is woven together so intricately into every book of the bible that to pick apart the threads of these profound truths is to unravel the whole tapestry of the holy scriptures.  I am not overstating this in the least.  Personal pride took a mortal blow when I confronted the awful, yet glorious truth of God’s marvelous grace fully bestowed upon me despite the cold, hard lifeless heart that contributed not one iota to my coming to Christ.

Which leads me to the second reason I converted to the doctrines of Grace. Since I was dead in my trespasses and sins, Christ had to make me alive, and so he did.  God granted me a new heart. In response I turned away from my great sin and turned toward Christ in repentance and faith.  I was born again by the spirit of God – before I repented and believed, not because I repented and believed. I am convinced from the scriptures and by personal testimony that regeneration precedes faith. Faith can only flow from a renewed heart. A renewed heart is a gift of God through Christ.  ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ (1Pe 1:3).

The third reason I embraced the Reformed faith is that I, by the grace granted unto me by the Father, have become keenly aware of the sinful inward workings of my heart, that never ceases to tempt me into once again living a life of debauchery and self indulgence.  God’s grace constrains me, yet I shrink back in loathing at the unlawful desires that still stalk me day and night.  The depravity of my fallen human nature leaves me in awe.  How did I not destroy myself completely in the days of my youth?  God’s hand was undoubtedly upon me even before his call came.   Calvinism, which teach me about the total and complete depravity of my entire being, has been irrefutably confirmed by observing the inner workings of my own heart and the manifestation of those inner workings in the world around me.

Lastly, as I outlined above, I discovered that the teachings of Reformed Theology are God glorifying and Christ-centered.  The scriptures all point to the person and work of Christ and the glory of God demonstrated by him and his deeds, which will remain for all eternity.  We, the people of God, will stand also as an eternal reminder to the mercy and goodness of the entire Godhead.  God the Father elected a people for himself in eternity past, before the foundations of the earth were laid, to glory in his majesty and enjoy his goodness forever. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on the likeness of sinful flesh to procure unto himself the elect God had sovereignly chosen, to fulfill his holy justice and righteous wrath against their sin. His crucifixion and shed blood forever sealed these believers as God’s own adopted children.  The secret unseen work of the Holy Spirit regenerates stone cold hearts and calls men out of the world by a deep conviction of their trespasses.  This leads to a loathing of sin and all its destructive power. In turn, the new heart of flesh cries out in faith to Christ, the only source of salvation. We plead for mercy instead of justice, repenting of all uncleanness of the flesh and mind.  The renewed heart aches for communion with Christ everyday through fervent prayer, the reading of the scriptures, doctrinally sound preaching and teaching, the joyful singing of hymns and spiritual songs and the reverent administration of the sacraments. For all this I thank you O Lord our Lord.  How majestic is your name in all the earth! You have done more for me than I could possibly repay in a thousand lifetimes.  I’m grateful not only for doing all these things on my behalf, but also for revealing to my heart the scope and the breadth of your mighty deeds, that my gratitude and thankfulness may pour out to you for as long as we both remain.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wed, 10/29/2014 – 17:46 — john_hendryx
 

GTY Mobile

GTY Mobile.

 

GTY Mobile

GTY Mobile.

 

A Brief Introduction To The Millennium

A Brief Introduction To The Millennium.

 

An open letter to every celebrity who becomes a Christian

An open letter to every celebrity who becomes a Christian.

 

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then never do it again Part II

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then never do it again Part II.

 

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again.

 

Driscoll Goes Word of Faith?

Driscoll Goes Word of Faith?.

 

RELYING ON GOD’S GRACE

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted to God about his self- righteous efforts; the tax collector humbly acknowledged his sin. The Pharisee was proud and went away still in sin; the tax collector was poor in spirit and went away forgiven.
The Greek word translated “poor” in Matthew 5:3 was used in classical Greek to refer to those reduced to cowering in dark corners of the city streets begging for handouts. Because they had no personal resources, they were totally dependent on the gifts of others. That same word is used in Luke 16:20 to describe Lazarus the poor man.
The spiritual parallel pictures those who know they are spiritually helpless and utterly destitute of any human resources that will commend them to God. They rely totally on God’s grace for salvation, and they also rely on His grace for daily living. Jesus called them happy people because they are true believers and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
The word translated “theirs” in Matthew 5:3 is emphatic in the Greek text: the kingdom of heaven definitely belongs to those who are poor in spirit. They have its grace now and will fully enjoy its glory later (1 John 3:1-2). That’s cause for great joy!
Isaiah 57:15 says, “Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” David added, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
Like the humble tax collector, recognize your weaknesses and rely totally on God’s resources. Then He will hear your prayers and minister to your needs. That’s where happiness begins!
Suggestions for Prayer:
  • Thank God that when you come to Him in humility and contrition, He hears you and responds.
  • Prayerfully guard your heart from the subtle influences of pride.

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting God’s perspective on pride: Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; 11:2; 16:5; 18-19.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

DEALING WITH SORROW

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Matt. 5:4).

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.
Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.
Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God’s message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.
However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn’t have another man’s property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.
God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!
Suggestions for Prayer:
Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God’s Word, and commune with Him in prayer.
For Further Study:
Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

INHERITING THE EARTH

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). But their sin cost them their sovereignty and brought a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-18).
The apostle Paul said, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:19-21). Someday that curse will be reversed and God’s people will once again inherit the earth.
The Greek word translated “inherit” (Matt. 5:5) means “to receive an allotted portion.” The earth is the allotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His kingdom (Rev. 20:6). That’s an emphatic promise in Matthew 5:5, which literally reads, “Blessed are the gentle, for only they shall inherit the earth.”
Many Jewish people of Christ’s day thought the kingdom belonged to the strong, proud, and defiant. But Jesus said the earth will belong to the gentle, meek, and humble. Proud, self-righteous people don’t qualify (cf. Luke 1:46- 53). Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become [humble and submissive] like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
As a recipient of God’s promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom. Be encouraged to know that even when evil people and godless nations seem to prosper, God is in complete control and will someday establish His righteous kingdom on earth.
Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day.
Suggestions for Prayer:
  • Thank God that all of creation will someday be freed from sin’s corrupting influences.
  • Praise Him for His mighty power, which will bring it all to pass.

For Further Study:

Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
  • What issue did Paul address?
  • How does the future reign of Christians apply to that issue?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

CONTROLLING YOURSELF

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth”(Matt. 5:5).

The Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation–traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.
The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.
Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: “Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).
Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father’s house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father’s will.
The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel’s Messiah came He would commended them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn’t.
Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.
Suggestions for Prayer:
Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ’s example today so that gentleness will mark your character.
For Further Study:
Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32, Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

BEING FILLED WITH MERCY

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Like the other beatitudes, Matthew 5:7 contains a twofold message: to enter the kingdom you must seek mercy. Once there, you must show mercy to others.
The thought of showing mercy probably surprised Christ’s audience because both the Jews and the Romans tended to be merciless. The Romans exalted justice, courage, discipline, and power. To them mercy was a sign of weakness. For example, if a Roman father wanted his newborn child to live, he simply held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die, he held his thumb down.
Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their egotistical, self-righteous, and condemning attitudes. They were intolerant of anyone who failed to live by their traditions. They even withheld financial support from their own needy parents (Matt. 15:3-9).
Like the people of Jesus’ time, many people today also lack mercy. Some are outright cruel and unkind, but most are so consumed with their quest for self-gratification that they simply neglect others.
Christians, on the other hand, should be characterized by mercy. In fact, James used mercy to illustrate true faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14- 17). He also said mercy is characteristic of godly wisdom: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:17).
As one who has received mercy from God, let mercy be the hallmark of your life.
Suggestions for Prayer:
  • Thank God for His great mercy.
  • Ask Him to give you opportunities to show mercy to others today.

For Further Study:

Read Luke 10:25-37.
  • Who questioned Jesus and what was his motive?
  • What characteristics of mercy were demonstrated by the Samaritan traveler?
  • What challenge did Jesus give His hearer? Are you willing to meet that challenge?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

EVALUATING YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

Righteousness means “to be right with God.” When you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you passionately desire an ongoing and ever-maturing relationship with God Himself.
Righteousness begins with salvation and continues in sanctification. Only after you abandon all self- righteousness and hunger for salvation, will you be cleansed from sin and made righteous in Christ. Then you embark on a lifelong process of becoming as righteous as Christ–a process that will culminate when you are in His presence fully glorified (Rom. 8:29-30; 1 John 3:2). There’s always need for improvement in this life (Phil. 3:12-14), but satisfaction comes in communing with Christ and growing in His grace.
You can know if you’re hungering and thirsting for righteousness by asking yourself some simple questions. First, are you dissatisfied with your sin? Self- satisfaction is impossible if you are aware of your sin and grieve when you fall short of God’s holy standard.
Second, do external things satisfy your longings? A hungry man isn’t satisfied until he eats. A thirsty man isn’t satisfied until he drinks. When you hunger and thirst after righteousness, only God’s righteousness can satisfy you.
Third, do you have an appetite for God’s Word? Hungry people don’t need to be told to eat. It’s instinctive! Spiritual hunger will drive you to feed on the Word to learn what God says about increasing in righteousness.
Fourth, are you content amid difficulties? A hungry soul is content despite the pain it goes through because it sees every trial as a means by which God is teaching greater righteousness. If you react with anger or resentment when things go wrong, you’re seeking superficial happiness.
Finally, are your hunger and thirst unconditional? The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 knew there was a void in his life but was unwilling to give up his possessions. His hunger was conditional.
Christ will fully satisfy every longing of your heart, yet you will also constantly desire more of His righteousness. That’s the blessed paradox of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
Suggestions for Prayer:
Read Psalm 112 as a hymn of praise to God.
For Further Study:
Read the following verses, noting how God satisfies those who trust in Him: Psalm 34:10, Psalm 107:9, Isaiah 55:1-3, John 4:14, and John 6:35.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

HOW’S YOUR SPIRITUAL APETITE?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

David was a man after God’s own heart. In Psalm 63:1 he writes, “O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” He communed with God and knew the blessings of His sufficiency: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness. . . . Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:1-4). He endured unjust persecution for the Lord’s sake: “Zeal for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9).
David’s zeal for God illustrates what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). The words translated “hunger” and “thirst” speak of intense desire. They are present participles, which imply continuous action. The idea is paradoxical: the believer’s continuous and intense desire for righteousness is continually satisfied by Christ.
J.N. Darby, an early leader of the Plymouth Brethren movement, said, “To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in [God’s] heart towards me. When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father” (quoted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 81). When you have that kind of desperation, only God can satisfy it!
Does your desire for righteousness drive you to Christ for satisfaction? I pray that the words of the psalmist will be yours as well: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15, KJV).
Suggestions for Prayer:
Ask God to use the events of today to increase your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Look to Him in all things, knowing that He alone can satisfy.
For Further Study:
Read Philippians 3:1-14.

  • What does it mean to place confidence in the flesh?
  • How did Paul define true righteousness?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

BEING POOR IN SPIRIT

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson listed seven ways to determine if you are poor in spirit (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 45-48):
  1. You will be weaned from self–Psalm 131:2 says, “Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.” When you are poor in spirit you will focus not on yourself but on glorifying God and ministering to others.
  2. You will focus on Christ–Second Corinthians 3:18 says that believers are “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [and] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” When you are poor in spirit, the wonder of Christ captivates you. To be like Him is your highest goal.
  3. You will never complain–If you are poor in spirit you accept God’s sovereign control over your circumstances, knowing you deserve nothing anyway. Yet the greater your needs, the more abundantly He provides.
  4. You will see good in others–A person who is poor in spirit recognizes his own weaknesses and appreciates the strengths of others.
  5. You will spend time in prayer–It is characteristic of beggars to beg. Therefore you will constantly be in God’s presence seeking His strength and blessing.
  6. You will take Christ on His terms–Those who are poor in spirit will give up anything to please Christ, whereas the proud sinner wants simply to add Christ to his sinful lifestyle.
  7. You will praise and thank God–When you are poor in spirit, you will be filled with praise and thanks for the wonder of God’s grace, which He lavishes on you through Christ (Eph. 1:6).

Do those principles characterize your life? If so, you are poor in spirit and the kingdom of heaven is yours (Matt. 5:3). If not, you must seek God’s forgiveness and begin to live as His humble child.

Suggestions for Prayer:
Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, revealing any attitudes or motives that displease Him. Seek His grace in changing them.
For Further Study:
Read 3 John. Would you characterize Gaius as poor in spirit? Diotrephes? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

REJECTING WORLDLY AMBITIONS

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

Within every man and woman is a hunger and thirst only God can satisfy. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Sadly, most people search for happiness in the wrong places. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is one example. He turned from God to pursue sinful pleasures, but soon discovered that sin cannot satisfy a hungering soul. That’s when he returned to his father’s house, where he was given a great feast–a picture of salvation.
The rich fool in Luke 12 thought that amassing possessions was the key to happiness, saying to himself, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? . . . This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vv. 17- 21). Unlike the prodigal son, the rich fool never turned to God in repentance. Consequently he lost everything.
The rich fool is typical of many people today: they ignore Christ and attempt to fill the void with worldly pleasures. Most are oblivious to the eternal peril that awaits them if they don’t repent.
Those who love God shun worldliness, pursue righteousness, and know the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That’s the essence of the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Keep that goal uppermost in your mind as you face the challenge of each new day.
Suggestions for Prayer:
Thank God that He satisfies the deepest desires of your heart.
For Further Study:
Read Daniel 4:28-37.
  • What was Nebuchadnezzar’s sin?
  • How did God punish Him?
  • How did Nebuchadnezzar respond after being punished?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

 

When Dreams Overtake Scripture In Authority : Neo-Pentecostalism and Its Dangerous Effects

Endtime Delusion - 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11

This week I saw the lamentable new article posted by Nathan Leal of Watchmans Cry, called “Alert Warning Number 6 – A Prophetic Dream” dated March 8, 2013. http://watchmanscry.com/article_alert_6.html

It brings to the fore a very sad state of affairs in the church today. It marks out new territory in the rapid expansion and spread of apostasy, especially in online Christian ministries.

Vast numbers of Christians are rushing to accept this form of so-called “revelation from God” which is spreading like wildfire through Christian internet ministries and forums. It is nothing more than human dreams, elevated through false scriptural interpretation to be authoritative words from God.

Lets look at the newest “revelation” from the veteran self-styled  “watchman” of the internet, Nathan Leal. We will look at how the whole foundation for human dreams as revelation is erroneous at its very core, and expose the real reason why people like Leal do what they do. And as we shall see, their motive falls…

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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

MOURNING OVER YOUR SINS

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Human sorrow is mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God’s sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3-4). But when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which is mourning over your sin.
“Mourn” in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.
At that point David wasn’t a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn’t found in the sorrow itself, but in God’s response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. . . . For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.
After David confessed his sin he proclaimed with great joy, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (vv. 1-2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!
How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?
Suggestions for Prayer:
If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don’t let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.
For Further Study:
Read Luke 15:11-24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,www.crossway.com.

 

QUESTION: "IS RELIGION OPIUM FOR THE MASSES?"


Answer:
Labeling Christianity (and/or other religions) the “opium for the people” or the “opiate of the masses” is a fairly common tactic used by those dismissive of religion. Using phrases like this is a way to blow off religion without trying to counter or discuss it. Karl Marx was not the first to use this phrase, but he is the one most people are thinking of when they use this attack. Marx’s contention was that religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness—like opium does to a drug addict—and freeing people from that unrealistic illusion was part of building a better society.

Beginning primarily with Marx, the “opium for the masses” accusation is often used by atheists. Because they reject the existence of God, they have to somehow explain the continuing existence of religion. They see no need for religion, so they do not understand others’ need for it. Marx was not specifying Christianity in his rejection of religion. Rather, he was denouncing religion in general by using “people” in a demeaning sense to mean the poor, ignorant, and easily deceived. The essential argument of the “opium for the masses” saying is that religion is for weak-minded and emotionally disturbed people who need a crutch to get through life. Atheists today make similar claims, such as the idea that “God is an imaginary friend for adults.”

So, is religion nothing but “opium for the masses”? Does religion accomplish nothing but provide an emotional crutch for weak-minded people? A few simple facts will answer the question with a resounding “no.” (1) There are strong logical, scientific, and philosophical arguments for the existence of God. (2) The fact that humanity is damaged and in need of redemption/salvation (the core message of religion) is clearly seen throughout the world. (3) In the history of humanity, the vast majority of the most intellectually brilliant writers and thinkers have been theists. Do some use religion as a crutch? Yes. Does that mean the claims of religion are invalid? No. Religion is the natural response to the evidence for the existence of God and the recognition that we are damaged and in need of repair.

At the same time, we must differentiate between false religion which gives false security—just as opium gives a false sense of well-being—and Christianity, which is the only true religion and the only true hope for mankind. False religion is based on the idea that man, through some kind of effort on his part (works) can make himself acceptable to God. Only Christianity recognizes that man is “dead in trespasses and sins” and is incapable of doing anything worthy of eternity in heaven. Only Christianity offers a solution to the total inability of man—thesubstitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Recommended Resources:Logos Bible SoftwareandJesus Among Other gods by Ravi Zacharias.


Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/religion-opium-masses.html#ixzz2PgzHQfHf