Monday, November 23, 2015

No Winners And Losers (the Glorification of Self-Esteem)

There are probably many indicators, in Christian Schools, of a gradual slide toward secularization and possibly, eventual ruin.  Political Correctness and the glorification of self-esteem might be warning signs. 
I was once asked to help judge a speech competition in a Christian school.  At first, I was excited for the opportunity until we received the judging instructions. We were told that no child should receive low scores; that all the children were winners just because they showed up. In the end, everyone took home winning ribbons. Sorry, but that is NOT a competition. In a competition, someone wins and everyone else doesn't. Second place is just the first loser.
That overly-sensitive mindset has permeated our society to the point that “competition” has become a dirty word.  Schools have prohibited games like Red Rover and Dodge Ball. In one school, the game of Tag is no longer allowed because someone’s self-esteem might suffer if he has to be “It.”
When my daughter was a new teacher at a local elementary school, she told me that her students played with the tetherballs on the playground, every day but they had never actually played tetherball; they had no idea that Tetherball was a game of competition with rules and that there would be a winner.  She had to teach them the game.

Just a few years ago, the national little league association decided to prohibit the keeping of scores in league games with the youngest players. With all their politically correct psycho-drivel, they reasoned that baseball should be played only for the fun, exercise, physical development, and encouragement but not for the competition.  So there would be no winners because that would mean there would be losers and the losers might feel bad. But what they didn't anticipate and couldn’t stop was the kid’s keeping their own scores. The kids know who are the real winners and the losers.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. So run in such a way that you will win. I Cor. 9:24
...Don't think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.  Romans 12:3

3/08  17

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (An open letter to Church change agents)

Okay, I get it.  
You wanted to do good. 
You wanted to increase your church’s attendance.
You wanted to help build the kingdom of God.
You wanted to win souls to Christ.
You looked around and saw other churches that seemed to be growing, but yours was stagnant. Regardless of your sincere intentions, your church’s membership rolls were not increasing. 
You asked yourself, what were you doing wrong?  What was it about the church down the street that attracted so many more people?

Soon you became aware of new buzz words and phrases in the evangelical community that you had never heard before; phrases like seeker friendly, seeker-sensitive, church marketing, felt needs, relational ministries, friendship evangelism, and purpose driven.

And you began to hear of strange and exciting new business models for church growth from marketing gurus like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels that seemed to be producing remarkable results. You studied their books, you examined their promotional materials, and you listened to the seminar presentations.  And then you decided that you were doing everything wrong.  This is a new world.  Your old model was no longer relevant.  It was stuffy.  The music was not stimulating.  The preaching was too confrontational or too convicting.  People were bored and not engaged.
That’s when you called your other trusted church leaders together to discuss, in confidence, a new paradigm to reach out into the community and attract the unchurched.  It would be great, you thought.  It would expand your ministry opportunities as unbelievers were drawn in and exposed to the gospel.  One of your men even suggested a radical change from the old ways; the formalism and liturgical practices that made unbelievers feel uncomfortable.  “We need to tear down all the (figurative) walls and fences and throw open the doors so that we can be attractive to the whole community,” he said.

So your “leadership team” (your newly adopted, unbiblical term for elders or pastors) made the business decisions without the approval or knowledge of your congregation and began its work to “lead” them into a radical new way of doing church.  It was subtle at first; a little insignificant change here and a cleverly crafted, upbeat success seminar speech masquerading as a sermon, there.  Before long the signs were everywhere but most of the people were still not sure what was happening.

Oh, there were a few resisters who began to question your practices.  But you were prepared, Rick Warren had already warned you about the “troublemakers,” and you were prepared to either intimidate them into submitting to your authority or let them go.  Some would just go away quietly, but there were others who saw your intentions and directly confronted you.  You knew that you would have to force them out for the sake of “unity.”

It all seemed like such a good idea at the time but “a deep and abiding passion to see our churches grow is a very dangerous thing." Andrew Heard.

It wasn’t long before your constitution was nullified. No, you didn't overtly change it; you just stashed it out of sight, along with your doctrinal statement, deep in the back bottom drawer of an old file cabinet in a storeroom.  Formal membership requirements were minimized or waived.  Church discipline became an obscure, archaic concept buried deep in the archives of church history.  The doors were thrown open wide; everyone was welcomed to join in the profane worship and became active participants and, in some cases, leaders in your ministries.
Along the way, you began to notice cracks in your foundation; and there were rumblings of trouble on the horizon.  About a decade ago some of the major national leaders in the church growth, purpose driven movement, began to admit that they were wrong and that their methods were not working.  Why didn’t you stop to re-evaluate then?  Were you too far invested to give up?  Were you too proud to admit you were wrong?  Or were you just arrogant enough to believe that, although the experts failed, you knew better?

So here we are today, at least two decades into this alternative church growth plan (which is contrary to God’s plan).  It has been said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”  So, Pastor, how is all that working out for you?  If you have been paying attention, you probably already know that the newest "movement" is trending back to more traditional models.  And by now you are discovering that your “target market” has changed.  They are moving on.  They have grown weary of the same old worship bands singing that mindless noise that was so relevant and contemporary just five years ago. Some are moving down the street to the next “newest gimmick.”  And if you are going to remain in your church, by now you know that you will probably need to make some serious strategic changes or perhaps it would be easier to lick your wounds and just move on to another place.

On the other hand, if you have resisted the temptations; if the Word of God is boldly proclaimed from your pulpit; if your primary focus is on preaching the whole counsel of God; if your congregation is fed a regular, healthy, steady diet of expository preaching; if you boldly and unabashedly tell the truth about sin and constantly warn your people of it's consequences; if you are obsessed with the glory of God, then you have a real "relevant" church.  You don't need no stinkin' gimmicks. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Do All Babies Go To Heaven When They Die?

I am amazed at how so many Christians invent, believe, and teach so many doctrines that simply have no scriptural authority.  And this is one of them.  Since the Bible is silent (or at least unclear), we like to imagine that a kind, loving god would certainly act the way we think he should act.  But that is not the God of the bible.  

Nowhere in scripture can you find the concept of sinlessness before an "age of accountability" or any other free pass to heaven for any class of people including unborn babies who are aborted.

This question is divisive and explosive and lots of people get really angry about it.  But the Bible is clear about the nature of all children; even babies are conceived in iniquity and born in sin. 

On this subject, I think R. C. Sproul Jr. has articulated the most intelligent, Biblically sound, and God-honoring answer I have ever read.

You can link to it or read it here in its entirety:

Do All Those Who Die In the Womb Go To Heaven?

I don’t know.  The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do.  It is also possible that they don’t.  It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not.  Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him.  While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin.  Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin.  The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers.  The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect.  Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions.  In the end, I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them.  Thus my bold response- I don’t know.  What I am persuaded of is this.  All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God.  Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them.  That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe?  Not by themselves, just like you and me.  It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen?  II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might.  I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might.  Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb.  It could include none of them.  Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly.  This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue.  It is not, in my own life, merely abstract.  My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14-year-old with the capacities of a one-year-old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith.  Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone.  We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ.  But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

R. C. Sproul Jr.

So, let God be God.  You're not.  Just believe Him when He speaks and trust Him when He is silent.

H.T. to The Contemporary Calvinist

Orig. post Nov. 19, 2011

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Song Choice For Reformation Day

Yesterday was Reformation Day, one of the most important days on the church calendar so for our worship service, I chose some hymns appropriate for the day.  It was on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral and exposed the errors and unbiblical practices of the Catholic Church.  That incident is widely regarded as the initial catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

Our pastor's sermon will continue the series, “Confronting the Culture,” in which we have been learning that our faith will often bring us to a point where we must make decisions or take stands that will cause us trouble.

As I was thinking about the sermon outline, I couldn’t help making the connection between it and the Reformation.

The Gospel is both attractive and repulsive.  It is attractive to those God is saving; it is repulsive to the lost.  Whenever or wherever real, Biblical Christianity collides with Government, the culture, or even an apostate church, the result is tribulation or persecution.  There is going to be trouble; that is just the way it is.

In the hymn, “How Firm A Foundation,” verse 3 says,  
       When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
              My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
       The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
              Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

That reminded me of this interesting analogy:

As they were studying chapter three in the book of Malachi, a group of women came across the verse that says, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." They wondered what that statement meant about the character and nature of God.

Later that week, one of the women made an appointment to observe a silversmith at work.  He held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was necessary to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The smith answered yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire because if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

Then she asked him, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"  He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part – it’s when I see my image reflected in it."

There is no question that troubles and trials are both fiery and painful but we can rest assured that God is holding us over the fire to remove the impurities and He is watching until He can see His own image in us.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ten Reasons Why Every Believer Should Speak In Tongues

A few years ago, in my town, a local “pastor” ran an ad in one of those free, weekly advertisers, encouraging people to call the number for the bible message that "the Lord had given him." That should be the first tip-off to every discerning Christrian.  Whenever someone says, "the Lord told me" the first response should be, "What chapter and verse?"  If it is not there, it's not from God.  

Nevertheless, my curiosity got the best of me so I called to hear the message, “Ten Reasons Why Every Believer Should Speak In Tongues.”
Ten reasons; wow, that's pretty ambitious. I was thinking, at the time, it would be difficult for me to try to find ten biblical reasons to support almost any legitimate scriptural imperative. But I must remind myself, he got this message from God so I guess anything is possible.

Here it is. This is verbatim (and remember, he claimed that he got this by direct revelation from God; I wonder if that includes all the errors too?). I painstakingly transcribed it right from his recorded message. I can’t make this stuff up. What a bunch of hooey. Without any sense of shame, this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” offered this convoluted, twisted, illogical and disconnected claptrap, along with out-of-context “proof texts” (except where he couldn’t find any) for the mindless deluded, willfully ignorant, and elitist “full gospel” sheep.


Reason #1 - Tongues is the initial sign that a believer has been filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:4 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Reason #2 - Tongues are for our spiritual edification. I Corinthians 14:4 “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself” (the word edifieth – to edify- means to build up or charge).

Reason #3 - Tongues reminds us of the Spirit’s indwelling presence. Acts 10:46 “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”

Reason #4 - Praying in tongues is praying in line with God’s perfect will. I Corinthians 14:14 “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth but my understanding is unfruitful.”

Reason #5 - Praying in tongues stimulates faith. Jude 1:20 “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.”

Reason #6 - Speaking in tongues is a means of keeping you free from contamination with the ungodly, the profane, and the vulgar talk around you if you are working on the job or out in public.

Reason #7 - Speaking in tongues provides a way for things to be prayed for, but for which no one thinks to pray about or about which they know nothing. The Holy Spirit knows everything. The Word says, “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered in articulate speech.”

Reason #8 - Isaiah 28:11-12 says, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, ‘this is the rest by which ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing;’ yet they would not hear.” What is the rest? Speaking with other tongues.

Reason #9 - I Corinthians 14:15-17 “What is it then? I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the Spirit and I will sing with the understanding also. Else, when thou shalt bless with the Spirit, how shall he that occupieth the (room) of the unlearned say ‘amen’ at the giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest. For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.”

Reason #10 - James 3:8 says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil full of deadly poison.” Speaking in tongues; yielding your tongue to the Holy Spirit to speak with other tongues is a long step toward fully yielding all your members to God.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Stupid Stuff I Wish Christians Would Stop Saying

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased."

Do you say stuff like this?  Your prayers and thoughts are bouncing off the walls and dropping to the floor.

Do you really believe that your words just float around the world until they magically land on your intended target?  And do you really think those words have any magical powers?  Do you think that your friends will be helped by an all-encompassing cloud of happy thoughts?
Stop saying that!  If you are a Christian, you have the ear of the Almighty God of the universe.  If you are going to pray for people, make sure they know that you are going to petition the One and only God who knows their needs and can accomplish His will in their lives. 

Stop practicing mysticism and start representing God.

" not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  Philippians 4:6

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Christians; The Original Despicable Minions

My Savior’s Love

I selected this song for our Sunday worship because my Pastor's sermon was about how we (Christians) are to be prepared for persecution and suffering because our Lord suffered persecution.

In this hymn, the writer, Charles Gabriel, refers to the Lord as “Jesus the Nazarene” which references a statement in Matthew’s Gospel:
“He [the Lord Jesus] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’.”

What does that mean?  In general, Nazareth had a lousy reputation; it was the “lowlife neighborhood on the other side of the tracks.”  Nazarenes were despised by most people including the people of Galilee.

When Philip referred to the Lord as “Jesus of Nazareth”, Nathanael’s derogatory response was, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

Later, followers of Christ (who were associated with Paul), before they
were known as Christians, were called, “the sect of the Nazarenes” which was intended to be an insult and a put-down.  (And, by the way, the world STILL hates us because the world hates Christ.)

This kind of scornful contempt for the Son of God was prophesied:

(Ps. 22:6-7) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.  All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

(Ps. 69:20-21)  Reproaches have broken my heart so that I am in despair.  I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

For Jesus to be called a “Nazarene” might allude back to Isaiah’s prophecy;

He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.

He was despised and rejected by men;  a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces.  He was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

So all of this is to be expected.  We are all familiar with the first few verses in the second chapter of Philippians-- the “Humiliation of Christ.”  It details a shocking description of how the Almighty God, the creator of the Universe, the Holy and Just One, could stoop so low and take on the form of a man and suffer and die for His creation.  Certainly this humiliation would include rejection, persecution, grief, beatings, scorn, and maltreatment.

The hymn writer’s personal sense of “amazement” is that this One, so despised by humans, would love Him enough to die for his sins.

I stand amazed in the presence,
       Of Jesus, the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
       A sinner, condemned, unclean.

He took my sins and my sorrows;
       He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary
       And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory,
       His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
       To sing of His love for me.

How marvelous, how wonderful!
       And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous, how wonderful
       Is my Savior’s love for me!

And that is the message of the gospel of grace, the Good News that the Son of God set aside His glory and humbled Himself to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

He suffered and died a terrible death, under the wrath of God, as our substitute, so that we, through faith in Him, might be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life.  How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior's love for me.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why Did I Pick THAT Song For Sunday Worship?

Why Did I Pick THAT Song?

Admittedly, there are several songs that I avoid for use in our congregational singing because of the way they are often used to evoke emotional responses to over-simplified “easy believism.”   I Have Decided To Follow Jesus is one of them.  It has all the apparent elements of music that make it unfit or inappropriate for God-honoring worship -- it uses too many first person pronouns;  it is too simple and repetitive, and it contains no Scripture or substantive doctrinal truths.   Furthermore, it seems to present an Armenian view of salvation. In fact, It was popularized by the Billy Graham crusades and has become inseparable from its use in evangelistic altar calls.

But the story behind the song leads us to a wholly different understanding of the writer’s intent.  It is not a statement about our part in choosing salvation.   It actually stands as a radical call to suffer and die with Jesus.

In the late 1800’s missionaries from many western nations saw an evangelistic explosion in northern India, which was in the grips of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism.  Violent and hostile reactions in the provinces resulted in scores of missionaries being martyred as well as many new converts being killed.  Nevertheless, the gospel made amazing inroads into this previously off-limits area.
In one particularly brutal village in the Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized. Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. They arrested the family and demanded that the father renounce Christ or see his wife and children murdered.

When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. They gave him another chance to recant.  Again he refused and his wife was also brutally murdered.   When he still refused to renounce his faith, he followed his family into glory.

So what does that story have to do with this song? 

Well, witnesses later reported that when he was ordered to recant or his children would be killed, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”

And then after seeing his children murdered, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.”  Then, after watching his wife being pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

As a result, a revival broke out, and those that had murdered the first converts came to faith themselves. The accounts of the martyred family were so astonishing and widely circulated that most Indian believers were familiar with it. The martyr’s last words were put to traditional Indian music and became one of the first uniquely Indian hymns. 

So, apart from its historical setting, the song can easily be mistakenly presumed to be about free will and our role in choosing salvation while minimizing the sovereign work of God in regeneration.  However, in this context, the word “decided” doesn’t have a minimalistic feel to it, but rather has a once-for-all commitment attached to it; a commitment that the author knew would lead to his imminent death. 

On Oct 1, 2015, just four days ago, Christians were martyred on American soil.  We have all read or heard the accounts – how, one by one the victims were asked, “What is your religion?” and those who answered, “Christian” were executed. 

God is still saving His people for His purpose, which is, ultimately, always for His glory. Choosing to follow Him is no frivolous or flippant thing.  This song of commitment reminds us that a decision to follow after Christ may come with a high cost, even if it means torture or physical death. 

So, that’s why I picked this song.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pope Is A Fraud

There is only one High Priest and His name is NOT Francis.  

His Name is Jesus.  Anyone else today (including the pope) is a fraud.  He is a usurper.  He is not different from Satan (a created being who elevated himself to the place of God).  He is a false prophet.  He is antichrist.  

" you believe tht men like yourself have priestly power?  Do you think that they can regenerate infants by sprinkling them, and turn bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ?  Do you think that a bishop can bestow the Holy Ghost, and that a parish [priest] can forgive sins?

"If so, you are the victim of crafty deceivers.  Your soul will be their prey in life and in death.  They cajole you with soft words, fine vestments, loud pretensions, and cunning smiles, but they will conduct you down to the chambers of death, and lead you to the gates of hell...

"Jesus Christ is the true Priest who can forgive all your sins; go to Him at once, without the intervention of these pretenders.  Make confession to Him!  Seek absolution from Him!  The Holy Ghost alone can cause you to be born again, and the grace of God alone can bring you to glory.

"Avoid ...Romish foxes, for they seek to make a gain of you, nd led you, not to Jesus, but to their Church and all its mummeries.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in these deceivers."

Charles Spurgeon  (Sword and Trowel tracts, no. 22)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Christian Songs I Love To Hate

Or should I say songs I hate to love?

What do I mean by that?  These are songs I love.  I grew up with them.  I memorized them.  I sang them with passion.  The people in my church love them.  They are songs that raise the human spirit.  They touch our hearts.  They make us feel good.  They inspire us.  The music is pleasant and dynamic.

But I hate them.  They are egocentric.  They are theologically anemic at best and downright errant, heretical, or blasphemous at worst.  Yet, because they are ingrained in our church culture, undiscerning people are filled with false doctrines.

So I hate them; I hate it that I love them.  I hate to love them. 

Here’s one that rears its ugly head every few years.  It was performed at the 9-11 memorial service a few years ago and this week the world thrilled over it once again at the ungodly display of a man in Washington who thinks He is god, hosting another man from South America who thinks He is god (the Pope), to bring about worldwide peace and love among heathens who don’t care about God.

Let There Be Peace On Earth is a bad hymn.  It is liberation theology.  It anticipates the glorious end of the earth when all people will live in love and drink Coca-Cola while they "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."

It deifies mankind.  The premise of the song doesn’t begin with God; it begins with me.  This heavenly peace on earth is achievable because, if every one of us will just dedicate ourselves to the goal, we can make it happen. 

It smacks of universalism.  I hate to break this to you but, God is NOT the father of all men and we are NOT all brothers.  God is the father of His elect and Satan is the father and god of everyone else.  So, as a Christian, as much as I might try, I cannot walk together in perfect harmony with unbelievers.

And what about this peace?  Is this peace really meant to be?  What does that mean?  Who meant it to be?  Was it God?  If so, then why don’t we have it?  Maybe God is impotent and we have to do His work for him.  If we don’t do it, it won’t be done.

This song is classified as a Christmas song, perhaps because of the phrase “peace on earth.”  But when the angel appeared to the Shepherds and declared “peace on earth; goodwill toward men,” he wasn’t just mouthing a sentimental Hallmark wish.  He was declaring that, with the advent of the Messiah (God’s goodwill toward men is imminent),  we can now be at peace with God.  That peace was achieved at Calvary; it is a done deal and that is evidenced by the fact that God doesn't just kill us all but, instead, has provided a way for some to be reconciled to Him.  And someday, Jesus Christ will return, take his throne, and rule over all the earth for 1000 years of peace.  He will do it; we cannot.  And, no matter how hard He tries, neither can King Obama.

This is a lousy Christmas carol and a terrible, unbiblical Christian hymn but, other than that, it is a really great song.  Please, can somebody write some better lyrics?  Until then, let's keep it out of our churches.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do It Yourself Salvation

Ask yourself these three questions:

1.   Are you a good person?

2.  Have you kept the Ten Commandments?

3.  Do you think you are good enough to deserve Heaven?

If you answered yes to those questions, you are going to spend eternity in a very hot, dark place of never-ending pain and misery called Hell.  Don't fall for these lies.  Confess your sin to God, repent, and trust only on the merits and finished work of Jesus Christ to save you.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to spend an evening with my Father-in-law, Al while our wives were out together.  During the evening, he initiated some conversation about my faith.  I knew that Al was not a Christian, but he considered himself a fairly good guy, certainly worthy of God’s favor.  I answered several of his questions and then showed him how he could know for sure that he would be in God’s favor when he died.  I carefully pointed out that, according to the Bible, salvation is a free gift of God’s grace and cannot be earned by our merit or our works.  It is given only to those who will accept it by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Al stumbled on that point.  He had been deceived by the teachings of a cult and so It seemed, to him, inconceivable that the reward of eternal life in Heaven in the presence of God could be his without costing him something.

In the end, he concluded that it just couldn’t be that simple.  “You have to DO something!” he argued.

It occurs to me that there are at least three common misconceptions people have about how they can qualify for heaven.

1.   The Rating Game -- Some people think that God will use some kind of comparison system to sort out the good from the bad.  They believe they are basically pretty good, and when compared to so many others, a loving God will certainly see fit to allow them entrance to Heaven.  After all, who wouldn’t agree that Adolf Hitler deserves eternal punishment in Hell.  But surely, by contrast, Billy Graham must have a special place reserved for him in Heaven.   But the Bible makes no such provision; it is clear that we are all sinners and deserving of God’s wrath.

Romans 3:9-11   What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:23    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;

2.   The Balancing Act -- Then there are those who believe that God is like the statue of the Blindfolded Justice that symbolizes our judicial system.  He simply weighs our lives in the balance.  Holding the scale in one hand, he systematically sorts all our good deeds into one basket and our transgressions into the other.  If the good outweighs the bad, we get our pardon. 

Psalm 14:2-3   The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Isaiah 64:6

Isaiah 64:6     But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags;

Genesis 6:1-8      And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them, wives of all which they chose.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.  And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

3.   The Merit Badge -- Finally, some are convinced that they will earn heaven the way a Boy Scout earns a merit badge.  They believe that God has some religious requirements and a few suggested options that, when completed, will entitle them to the reward.  

    Wouldn’t it be great if God had just outlined the requirements for salvation on a simple checklist so that we all knew exactly what was expected and we could chart our own progress? 

    Think about it.  A suggested checklist could be comprised of three sections.  In section one God could have included all the basic requirements like baptism, church membership, and communion and, as each of those events were completed, we could simply place an X in each item’s corresponding box.  Section two could give us some optional ways to accumulate additional points.  We could earn points each time we completed a reading through the Bible or by attending a reasonable number of church services each year.  And then in section three, God could have allowed us to choose from a list of optional service electives that could accrue to our benefit in the event that we might fall slightly short of the other requirements.  In this section we could record the times we spent working in charity rummage sales or singing in the choir.  Or we could earn extra credit for the money we gave.  With a clear description of the minimum requirements and a simple method to calculate points, we could go to work at our own individual paces and we would know when we qualified for our final rewards.

Isaiah 64:6     We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

The problem with these misconceptions is that they have roots in the same presumptions that my friend, Al, had.  They assume that we, by our own efforts, can gain favor with God.

Ephesians 2:7-9     That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Most people will agree that Billy Graham, in comparison to other people, is certainly worthy of God’s favor and the rewards of Heaven.  But on this very subject, he was very careful to ensure that no one misunderstands how he qualifies.  Listen to his words: 

“I'm not going to heaven because I've preached to great crowds of people.  I'm going to heaven because Christ died on that cross.  None of us are going to heaven because we're good.  And we're not going to heaven because we've worked.  We're not going to heaven because we pray and accept Christ.  We're going to heaven because of what He did on the cross.  All I have to do is receive him.  And it's so easy to receive Christ that millions (Just like my friend, Al) stumble over its sheer simplicity.

And this from Pastor/Teacher, John Piper   -   

       "This is my confession
I was born into a believing family through no merit of my own at all.  I was given a mind to think and a heart to feel through no merit of my own at all. I was brought into the hearing of the gospel through no merit of my own at all.  My rebellion was subdued, my hardness removed, my blindness overcome, and my deadness awakened through no merit of my own at all.  Thus, I became a believer in Christ through no merit of my own at all.  And so I am an heir of God with Christ through no merit of my own at all.  Now when I put forward effort to please the Lord who bought me, this is to me no merit at all, because:
…it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

…God is working in me that which is pleasing in his sight. (Hebrews 13:21)

…he fulfills every resolve for good by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

And therefore there is no ground for boasting in myself, but only in God’s mighty grace.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)

Apologist and theologian, Paul Little, often reminded us to “Put the cookies on the bottom shelf.”  In other words, we should be careful to present God’s Good News in simple terms.  The night the jailer asked the apostles, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” their immediate reply was simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” 

And it is that simple.  In fact it is so simple that people not only get tripped up over it, but many consider it to be pure foolishness.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth explained that he was not called to baptize but to preach the Good News.  His fear was that our religious works might obscure the simplicity of the Gospel and render it ineffective.  In 1 Cor. 1:18, he wrote,   “I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.”