Friday, September 30, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 11)

Today we pick up from where we left off last week on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Today we will take an interesting look at four false substitutes for the biblical doctrine of hell. This is a part of my verse by verse exposition through the Epistle of Jude for our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day- 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1-7)

Who is the major enemy in this war that we are called to fight in contending for this once for all delivered faith? Ultimately it is Satan who controls these false teachers that have crept into the church. Just as Jude comforts the Christians with the knowledge of God’s election, so he also assures them of the certain damnation of these false teachers or apostates. Jude gives three examples from history to remind his audience of the certainty of damnation for these apostates.

In verse 5 Jude reminds us that after rescuing Israel out of Egypt, God destroyed those who did not believe. In verse 6 he reminds them of the demons that did something that was extra evil and are now locked up in hell. And in verse 7 he gives an example of the of the Gentiles of Sodom and Gomorrah that practiced gross immorality and rampant homosexuality but were destroyed by God as rained eternal fire on those two cities.

The doctrine of hell is not a popular subject today. Many preachers try to pretend it’s not in the Bible because it is too scary and no one wants to go there which is actually the whole point! In verse 23 Jude reminds the church of how serious this is when he calls on them to:

save others by snatching them out of the fire (Jude 23a).

The fact that so many churches refuse to speak of hell and so many pastors find it contrary to God’s love only shows that they have no understanding of Who God is and who we are. If God is loving then He must also be wrathful. What do you think of those policemen in Muslim countries who look the other way when Muslims attack Christians and murder them right in front of the police station? They are unloving because they have no desire to punish evil. It is because God is good and loving that there must be a hell. Just as God loves all that is good he hates all that is evil.

God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. (Psalm 5:5)


It is not just what we do but also Who He is. The Bible says that all liars will end up in hell. If that seems severe then think of this illustration that I use ad infinitum (it is worth repeating because it is worth memorizing). If I lie to my daughter, she can do nothing to me. If I lie to my wife I will be sleeping on the sofa. If I lie to my boss he can fire me. And if I lie to the government they can throw me in jail. Though the crime never changed the higher the authority the bigger the consequence. Now, what if God is an infinite authority, then all lies are an infinite crime. If God is infinitely Holy and He judges all of our actions, all of our words, and all of our thoughts and He is infinitely good and infinitely loving and infinitely righteous then it is heaven that should confuse us. We should really be asking the question how can anyone be right with God. And that is the right question to ask and I will answer that question later.

Before taking a closer look at verse 5 in Jude's letter it is worthwhile refuting four popular modern preaching ideas that try to get rid of hell or make it softer.

1. Annihilationism

This is the idea that hell is not eternal punishment but that the wicked will be destroyed and no longer exist. This idea has little basis in Scripture but comes more out of the emotions of those who cannot believe in eternal punishment. John Stott readily admitted this when articulating his annihilationist view. The silver bullet to this view is Matthew 25:46 which comes right at the end of the Jesus' frightening story of when the sheep (true converts) and the goats (false converts) will be separated:

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The two words "eternal" in this verse are known as a perfect greek pair. They are the mirror image of each other. To deny eternal punishment you must also deny eternal life because they both carry the same meaning in that verse.

2. Purgatory

This evil lie is an invention of the Catholic church found nowhere in Scripture. It is supposed to be a temporary hell where people can have their sins atoned for or paid for by some relative. The Catholic church used purgatory to make money by claiming that they could release dead relatives from purgatory if you paid them enough money. This evil practice is what provoked Martin Luther to nail his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg which was the bomb that started the reformation. Emergent church leader Greg Boyd actually teaches purgatory in the present day. But the idea is found nowhere in Scripture. There is eternal life and eternal punishment and once we are dead it is too late.

3. Hell Is Separation From God

This modern evangelical phrase shows itself to be worthless in the clear light of Scripture:

If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. (Revelation 14:9-11 emphasis mine)

4. The Fire, Darkness and Punishment are Symbols

John Piper says that:

Even if I try to make the Lake Of Fire a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality. Jesus did not choose these symbols to tell us that hell is easier than burning (Brothers We Are Not Professionals P114).

The truth is that if we preach hell as something totally horrifying, then it actually makes salvation more meaningful and wonderful. The wrath of God is real and something that should terrify us. It is the reason that Jesus trembled in the garden and sweated drops of blood asking if there was another way. The Jews did not scare Jesus, neither did the Romans, and neither did Satan. But the Lord asked if He could avoid the “cup”. What was that “cup” – it was the cup of God’s wrath that had to be poured out on Him as a substitute in the place those who deserved God’s wrath but trusted in Him as the One who would pay for their sins. When we preach hell and God’s wrath in full terror then we are magnifying His love and salvation.

So in Jude verse 4 the church is reminded that the false teachers among them "who long ago were designated for this condemnation". Verses 5-7 are a lesson in history to remind us that this damnation is absolutely certain and we will explore this lesson from history next week . . .

Go On To Part 12
Go Back To Part 10
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Big Questions - Evolution Debate (Part 3)

Where do I come from?

We go to the very first verse in the Bible to get the answer

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God created the world around 6000 years ago over 6 days. He took six days to fill and shape the earth with land, seas, animals, and, of course, man.

Verses 26 and 27 tell us:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Jesus taught this scientific fact in the New Testament:

But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' (Mark 10:6)

The Christian world view teaches that man was created by Almighty God in His image. That man has always been man since the creation of the world.

Why am I here?

Christianity teaches that you are not an accident but have been created with a purpose. To live a life that brings glory to God and to enter into eternal life with Him in the next life.

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.... Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31)

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

Where am I going?

It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27b)

The reason for this judgment is that we are all going to live for eternity in either heaven or hell.

Heaven is described in the Bible:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4)

Hell is also described as a place where people will:

drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night (Revelation 14:10a,11a).

My opponent's answers to these questions were similar to those in the video below, though dressed in "nicer clothes". William Provine (the man in the video) is a world-famous evolutionary professor at Cornell University who featured in the movie "Expelled". Using my gift of the best possible construction I would have to say that Provine is an honest evolutionist:



Provine's comments are even more chilling in the light of the fact that he has a very serious illness! Lord please open his eyes . . .

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shock Therapy For Modern Evangellyfishes

Several people I have spoken to recently have told me of their fears of speaking to people or even giving out tracts. Several of these people have told me of their need to be pushed. Well many of us need to stop and examine ourselves right now. Ask yourself this question, do I love my self respect more than lost souls and glorifying God's Name?

WATCH THIS VIDEO!!



A Reality Check
People in Denmark, where I live, are generally very worried about what people think about them. This goes for the typical church goer as well. I strongly suspect much of the west is the same. Folks we need to get past this. Jesus told us:

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18-19).

The Apostle Paul also said:

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (II Coritnhians 2:14-16).

True Christians are the smell of life to those being saved and the smell of death to those perishing. Some people just aren't going to like us. And that's just it, someone mightn't like you or call you a name. There are many Christians right now having their bodies hacked into pieces just because they are Christians. How dare we even be preoccupied with our own fragile selfesteem.

The disciples always taught:

"that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

So if you're trying to avoid tribulation you're probably trying to avoid God's Kingdom. Just stop and think about it for a moment.

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12).

So you can try and avoid persecution or embrace it as something honorable to go through for the Name of Him who suffered so much for us (please don't confuse this with offending people through acting like a jerk). Either way, persecution will come!

So in Denmark, persecution means a little personal rejection . . . what does it mean in India right now???





Many tears have been shed as I have prepared this blog post. It comes from seeing the suffering of my persecuted brothers and sisters while I watch on in my westernised affluence, I also cry as I am reminded that the blood of the martyrs is precious in God's sight, and I pray to God that he would give me courage and strength to ceaselessly testify of my wonderful Savior when I face Satan's henchmen. Watching these videos also makes me so mad at all these churches trying to preach "your best life now" all the while remaining silent on our precious suffering brothers and sisters in India. Pray for them and speak up with the Gospel. It is glorious and Christ is so worthy to be preached.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 10)

Today we pick up from where we left off on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Jude represents the first expository assignment I have been tasked with in our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken. Though short in length, Jude is a letter jam packed with information on why we should hunt down false teachers that conceal themselves in the church, how we should identify them, and that we as Christians should go to war against them secure in the knowledge of being kept in the safety of God's preserving grace. Much of the credit for this series must go to John MacArthur whose teaching on this Epistle has been my major source.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day- 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1-7)

Knowing history can be a life and death issue as we learnt in the previous post when looking at the unfolding tragedy of the Book of Judges. Jude also recognizes the importance of history and gives a lesson on this subject in verses five to seven. But first, let’s take a quick look back at the first four verses of Jude to see the reason for this history lesson. As we learnt earlier Jude, who wrote this letter, was actually the Lord’s half brother (they shared the same mother). He was originally an unbeliever but was probably converted sometime after the resurrection. He now called himself a servant of the Lord Jesus but we also learnt that the correct translation of that word or servant, which is doulos in the Greek, should actually read “slave”. Jude’s life was no longer his own and his life was not his own, he was bought with a price and ready to die for the Lord. His devotion was so great that he needed to write this letter to warn the church about false teachers that were among them. We see in verse three that he wanted to write about their commen salvation but the dangerous situation made it necessary to write a letter warning the church about the false teachers and calling them to fight for the true Gospel with those words "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints".

Jude also wanted to comfort the church in the knowledge of God’s election as we see in verse 1. Those who are called are loved by God. And those who are loved by God are kept by God:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

We can enter the battlefield secure in the knowledge of God’s calling, loving, and keeping. And we are called to battle:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

And who is the enemy in this war? Ultimately it is Satan who controls these false teachers that have sneaked into the church. Just as Jude comforts the Christians with the knowledge of God’s election, so he also assures them of the certain damnation of these false teachers or apostates.

Go On To Part 11
Go Back To Part 9
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Opening Remarks - Evolution Debate (Part 2)


I have been asked by a lot of people in the last few weeks on both sides of the Atlantic (and Pacific) about my recent debate over creation vs evolution with Lars Viggers who is a college biology teacher in Denmark. What I intend to do over the coming weeks is post the entirety of my presentation for three reasons. Firstly because I did not get to present much of my research due to an inexperienced moderator (not that I am experienced either) who deviated a long way from the originally planned structure of the debate. Secondly because I believe the real facts surrounding the debate are very edifying for all true Christians. And thirdly because I believe there is a lot of very useful information for the Christian layman to use when contending for the Christian faith/worldview in our everyday secular lives.

Later on, I will also give my verdict on Lars' arguments that he brought to the debating table. I realize that this blog is not exclusively read by Christians and that some readers may question my objectivity. To those people I would say hey, all I can do is give my opinion (and yes, none of us are unbiased, I just happen to have a strong bias for the truth) and you can do with that what you will. To those who would object to my not posting Lars' presentation, there is a reason for that. Lars did not really come to the debate with any serious written presentation. Otherwise I would love to post Lars' arguments because most of them ultimately turned out to either support my worldview or expose evolutionary theory as a religion with no real scientific basis. With that said, today we start with my opening remarks:

First and foremost I ask you, the audience, for patience with me because I do find it difficult to discuss technical things in the Danish language. I may ask for help sometimes tonight and I hope you will understand that it will be to help me explain some things that are too advanced for my limited Danish.

My name is Cameron and I am a preacher and missionary who works in a factory. I am married to a beautiful Danish wife and we have three children. My main work in Denmark is in preaching and teaching the Bible. I have never been in a debate before and I am not coming here tonight to try and win a fight because there is a good chance that Lars is much smarter than me. There is also the slight chance that he may be a little better at Danish than me.

But I am here tonight because I think it is about time that the THEORY of evolution stopped being taught as a fact and I think everyone here deserves the opportunity to hear the facts that the Danish education system hides from you.

If you are here tonight to hear a debate between religion and science then you can forget it. The Danish schools don't want religion taught in their schools and yet that is exactly what you get with evolution! It is a religion with no scientific proof at all. True empirical science is observable, testable, repeatable, and measurable. That is why we have the LAW of gravity because it is observable, testable, repeatable, and measureable. Evolution is none of these things – nobody has seen a monkey turn into a man, tested it, repeated it, or measured it. It is a bigger fairytale than anything ever written by your very own Hans Christian Andersen. My opponent tonight is a man of great faith, because I personally don't have enough faith to believe that nothing created everything.

And Lars, please don't think that evidence of monkeys turning into different types of monkeys is evidence. That is just variation within a species. What you need to do to prove your case tonight is show proof of monkeys becoming humans. Species to species change – evolutionists need to prove this!

I am hopeful that my lack of experience in debate and my lack of formal education will only help to show that the true scientific evidence is very simple and very clear:

1. That “Darwin's theory of evolution” is still called a theory because it has no proof.
2. That the “missing link” is still called the “missing link” because no one has ever found it.
3. And that “creation” is still called “creation” because it has a Creator!

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, September 19, 2011

Evolution's Phony Chasm Between Science And Christianity - Evolution Debate (Part 1)

Many of my friends are aware of my recent debate with a Danish biology teacher on the subject of creation vs evolution. I have been asked a lot about this event and plan to discuss it over the coming weeks. Today, I thought a good start point would be to examine the true relationship between science and Biblical Christianity. Because there are a lot of "educators" who don't want you to know this! Highly decorated anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer Loren Eiseley wrote that science "demands some kind of unique soil to flourish." Eiseley went on to reluctantly concede that this unique soil was in fact "the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself".

The scientific method is built upon presuppositions, all of which, cannot be verified by this scientific method. These presuppositions include the reality of the universe, the knowability of nature, the uniform laws that nature is subject to, the predictability of its behavior, and that measurable causes underlie all observable effects. It would seem that the modern world of evolutionary science is heavily invested in concealing the fact that all these presuppositions find their sole affirmation within the pages of the Biblical Text.

This has become a nasty form of historical revisionism because the truth of the matter is that the scientific endeavor was pioneered by Christians like Copernicus, Johnannes Kepler, and Jean-Baptiste van Helmont. These men saw science's ultimate goal as the pursuit of greater knowledge of the Creator, and they considered this a God given calling! What the modern "guardians" of evolutionary science veil behind all their empty rhetoric is the reality that theology was established in institutes of higher learning as the "Queen of the Sciences". Michael Patton says that theology was "understood to be the first among pursuits of knowledge, since it was believed that all other pursuits were vitally linked to its dictates. Morality was dictated by it. Philosophy was called its handmaiden. Why was it held in such high esteem then? Because theology itself provides a foundation for your philosophy and worldview, which in turn sets inclinations for your heart, actions, and decisions in all situations." Many Americans would be surprised to know that universities like Yale, Harvard, and Princeton (to name a few) were all established to train missionaries and Christian ministers.

Richard Dawkins leads the brigade of "modern scientific" gurus who pit science and religion (more specifically Biblical Christianity) as warring factions for the hearts and minds of humanity. It would seem that Dawkins does not ascribe to theology as "Queen of the sciences" when he rhetorically asks "What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?". Yet when Professor Dawkins continually refers to Darwin's theory of evolution as "the fact of evolution" he exposes himself as an apologist for his own religion, not a good scientist. True science is measurable, testable, repeatable, and observable - all of which have no connection to Darwin's theory of cell to creature evolution. Darwin's theory is still called a theory because it is not a fact! The "missing link" is still called the "missing link" because no one has ever found it! And the creation is still called creation because it has a Creator!

This all points to the first chapter of Romans where Paul says:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

This is the great big cosmic "no-brainer" which Dawkins unwittingly affirms when he says that:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (The God Delusion p51).

This is not an argument against God's existence, it is an argument for Dawkins' hatred of the God he denies (it would seem that Richard Dawkins has learned a way to make a good living from being a bad theologian which just goes to show that this is not exclusively the domain of prosperity preachers on TV).

This brings us to ground zero of the atheistic evolutionary worldview. That their main objection to God's existence is not based on their knowledge but is rather driven by their morality. The Lord Jesus affirmed this just after the most famous verse in the Bible when He said:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20).

These verses remind us that the atheist's primary problem with God's existence is that he loves sin and hates God. It is also a humbling reminder of my own condition before God graciously saved me. It also serves to remind us that all evangelism should revolve around the moral issues of sin, righteousness, and judgment rather than the endless rabbit trail of intellectual debate. Because Biblical theology is the "Queen of science" and evolutionary theory is just bad theology.

Go On To Part 2

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Christian Decapitated In Somalia

After an extensive search, Christians in the Bakool region of southwestern Somalia discovered the decapitated body of kidnapped Christian Juma Naradin Kamil on Sept. 2, 2011. Kamil’s body reportedly bore the marks of an execution by the Muslim terrorist group al-Shabab.
“It is usual for al-Shabab to decapitate those they suspect to have embraced the Christian faith, or sympathizers of Western ideals,” a local Christian told Compass Direct News. “Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.”

On August 21, three suspected al-Shabab terrorists forced Kamil into a car, according to local sources. Many local Christians believe the extremists had closely monitored Kamil before kidnapping and killing him.

Kamil’s body remained unburied for two days because local residents didn’t want al-Shabab to associate them with Christian converts, a local Christian told Compass Direct News. Someone secretly buried Kamil on September 4. With 3,000 to 7,000 members, al-Shabab seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia, Islamic law, throughout the Muslim world. They have vowed to eradicate Christianity from Somalia. Earlier this year, two Muslim extremists murdered a member of an underground Christian community in Somalia, and they also killed a mother of four children, 36-year-old Asha Mberwa, for her Christian faith.

Source: Compass Direct News

That was another dose of perspective for people who profess Christ and live in the western world. Please pray for our persecuted brethren!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 9)

Today we pick up from where we left off on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Jude represents the first expository assignment I have been tasked with in our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken. Though short in length, Jude is a letter jam packed with information on why we should hunt down false teachers that conceal themselves in the church, how we should identify them, and that we as Christians should go to war against them secure in the knowledge of being kept in the safety of God's preserving grace. Much of the credit for this series must go to John MacArthur whose teaching on this Epistle has been my major source.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day- 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1-7)

In verses 5 to 7 we see three lessons from history. Ray Comfort once said that "the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history!" And when I grew up I had zero interest in history. I didn’t care one bit – and my father was a history teacher! But years after God saved me I really discovered and embraced the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. And that is when I began to see that history is His story. God has been at work all through history working all things together for His glory and when we start to see God’s Sovereign hand at work history becomes exciting. And a failure to learn history becomes deadly.

The book of Judges is one of the saddest darkest books in the Bible. I can remember the first time I read Judges and it was very distressing for me because some of the stories are so evil it is shocking. I also read Judges the way I approach any story (actually I wasn’t a reader so I should say movie) and I always understood stories as something that has a good guy and a bad guy – and here I was reading Judges as a new Christian trying to figure out who exactly are the good guys in this book? But the key to understanding the book of Judges is that there aren’t really any good guys. The phrase that appears over and over again in Judges is the same as the verse that closes the whole book:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

But what does the book of Judges have to do with not learning history? Go back to chapter 2 verse 7 and we will see exactly where things went wrong:

And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7-10)

The people of Israel did not know what happened in their past. They knew nothing of God’s mighty works in saving Israel out of Egypt. They did not teach history, they did not learn His Story. We need to be a people and a church that knows our history and we are going to take a ride through some important parts of history as we examine verses five through seven from Jude's Epistle. Satan hates the church and has been fighting a war against us since Genesis 3. We need to be aware of it and live our lives with both eyes open.

To be continued next Friday . . .

Go On To Part 10
Go Back To Part 8
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Witnessing To People In Their Pain

Just two days ago we sold a piece of furniture in the local newspaper. A man called Per came to collect it. We had a nice chat and, as is my custom, I handed Per a Gospel tract that I have designed with a powerful checkerboard illusion on the front page. I asked him which square was darker - A or B? "A" definitely appears darker in the picture but things are not always as they seem. The next picture reveals the truth that both "A" and "B" are the same color. I told Per that even though many people don't believe in God because they cannot see Him, they cannot even trust their own eyes. In fact, the Bible warns us that we can even be deceived by our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). But the day is coming when that heart will stop beating and the deception will be over. Because the God Who made us will judge us and He is not deceived about anything. He knows everything we do, everything we say, and even every thought that passes through our head. I told Per as he was leaving that I had written something on the tract that I wanted him to read and consider because his eternal future depended on it.

Just then, Per turned around and told me that he had just been diagnosed with a very serious illness and he did not know what to think about God and eternity. Moments like these are very sobering, humbling, and demand very tender sensitivity. But they are also God ordained moments where the God of the universe arranges an appointment between fallen dying men and a messenger of the Way, the Truth, and the Life! It is a very fair criticism to say that I cannot adequately empathize or sympathize with a man like Per at such a vulnerable moment. But I do know Someone Who can:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The fact of the matter is that God has dealt ever so graciously with myself and my family. I cannot explain why - I certainly don't deserve such blessings at all. But when I looked into Per's eyes and saw the fear and helplessness I knew that I could point him to the One Who has tasted the full spectrum of human suffering and knows what he is going through. When Per asked me why he had been struck with such terrible affliction I could point him to the One Who:

Has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

I told Per that I could not answer him the specific reason why he was struck with such devastating illness. But I told him that we should ask another question instead. Why does God allow us to live in spite of our sin? Why does He delay His wrath? CJ Mahaney says that "we will never see the cross as something done for us until we understand the cross as something done by us". Though Per was a victim and I was in no position to lecture him on suffering, I could appeal to the Savior Who was treated as if He lived the life of the vilest sinner ever in order that God could treat the vilest of sinners as if they had the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When people are hurting and vulnerable we still need to gently show them their guilt before God so that they can understand why Jesus died on the cross. I showed Per that it is not just how bad our sin is but also how holy God is. God cannot demonstrate His great love to us if He violates His righteousness. And to forgive sinners would violate His justice and righteousness unless . . . a substitute Who was fully God and fully man came and fulfilled the law that we had broken and taken the punishment that we deserve - thereby satisfying God's wrath against the sinner and crediting the sinner with Christ's righteousness. God had grabbed Per's attention and had brought him to someone who could give him the message he needed to hear (Per left our house with openness and thankfulness for our conversation - please pray for him, wouldn't it be great to enter into eternal life together with him?).

Once upon a time I would have focussed my conversation on praying for physical healing. And I told Per that I would pray for him and I have prayed for his healing - because nothing is impossible for God. But at the end of the day, we are all terminally ill and our days are numbered. Physical healing still prolongs the inevitable. The far more important issue is whether we are reconciled to God. If we love hurting people and long to see them reconciled to God, then we can find ways to sensitively show them their true need for Christ - in sickness and in health. That they may hunger for the righteousness of Christ more than their physical healing. It is easy for me to say, but regardless of this, these words remain true in spite of my inability to identify with those whose days are short. Rather may it remind me of my own fragile mortality, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and the precious gift of eternal life for those who repent of their sinful ways and put all their trust in Christ. May it remind us all that suffering can be a blessing in disguise:



Laura Story has her own true story of suffering and grief that lies behind this wonderful song:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rick Warren - The World's Foremost Expert On Humility

Warren Unveils The R.I.C.K. Plan On Humility

Pastor Rick Warren, well-known for creating memorable acrostics to convey his groundbreaking church initiatives like PEACE, SHAPE and CHURCH, has unveiled his latest teaching on Christian humility called the RICK Plan. Says Warren, “As Christians who have received greater spiritual insight than people of other religions, we can easily fall into the trap of acting superior. But Jesus said we need to humbly serve others without concern for our preeminence in the world, and that’s what my new RICK Plan is all about.”

RICK stands for: Remember others first; Imitate Christ; Create opportunities for service; and Keep your ego in check.

Warren believes his new strategy is essential for the success of the Church and plans to implement it throughout his Purpose Driven network until RICK covers the globe. “I’ve come to realize how important humility is, and I want other Christians to understand it, too,” Warren explained. “In fact, just the other day I was telling Bono how I practically created another Pentecost at Saddleback’s last membership drive. All of a sudden the phone rings and it’s a call from the White House. It was Barry wanting some pastoral advice. This is the kind of humbling situation that I hope others can learn to experience someday, too.”

When asked about the critics who charge that his new global humility plan is just a veiled marketing campaign to force his personal agenda on the Church, Warren responded, “Hey, the RICK Plan isn’t about me.”

(article courtesy of Sacred Sandwich)

The saddest thing about this post is that many of the readers will remain unsure as to whether it is satire or real life. Those lines regularly cross over in Rick Warren's universe!

If you haven't heard enough about Rick Warren's humility you can find out more (non-satirical examples) in these previous posts from his sermon at last years Desiring God conference.
Rick Warren's Sermon At Desiring God Part 6
Rick Warren's Sermon At Desiring God Part 13

(Based on subsequent feedback it would seem that too many readers are seriously open to the RICK plan being a real thing. To alleviate your fears the article is courtesy of "Sacred Sandwich" which is a site devoted to satirical pokes at the worst parts of modern seeker sensitive evangelicalism. But I have to say that in the likelihood of Warren not reading this article, the RICK plan would seem only a matter of time!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just Added - John Macarthur: Servant Of The Word And Flock

Famous Christian biographer, Iain Murray's first biography on someone who is currently alive has now been added to my resource directory!

JOHN MACARTHUR: SERVANT OF THE WORD AND FLOCK
Iain Murray

Category: Biography
Click Here To Order
Through more than forty years, John MacArthur has opened and taught the Word of God in one local congregation, Grace Community Church, Los Angeles. Consequences have followed which no one anticipated, and which the preacher attributes to the sovereign hand of God. A people united to Christ, and to their pastor, became a channel for blessing across the earth. It has been a ministry marked by characteristics that re-appear in every spiritual advance - not concern for relevance not special attractions for young or old, male or female; but love for God and dependence on his Word and promises. MacArthur has proved, without ever intending to do so, that true preaching of the Word of God is international, because if you teach the Bible it transcends every border, every language, every culture. It is as relevant today, and will be tomorrow, as in all the years since God put it down. That is why his sermons are heard or read in more than two hundred countries around the world today. But this is also a human story, including the shaping of his youth, the strength of marriage and family, the refining influence of trials and controversies, and the building of a man whose staff have never known to be angry. There are friends who, for all their love of his ministry, say his life is his best sermon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 8)

Today we pick up from where we left off on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Jude represents the first expository assignment I have been tasked with in our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken. Though short in length, Jude is a letter jam packed with information on why we should hunt down false teachers that conceal themselves in the church, how we should identify them, and that we as Christians should go to war against them secure in the knowledge of being kept in the safety of God's preserving grace. Much of the credit for this series must go to John MacArthur whose teaching on this Epistle has been my major source.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1-4)

The next point Jude makes in verse 4 is that these apostates "pervert the grace of our God into sensuality". Jude doesn’t use any energy refuting their heresy. Instead he describes the character of these apostates. They are sensual and worldly, lovers of pleasure and power and money. Jesus said that we will know them by their fruit and Jude writes to the church and points out the lifestyles of these false teachers. Heresies come and heresies go but false teachers are always recognized by their worldly behavior – whether it be a love of money and things, a love of sexual immorality, or a love of power. Maybe some of us are frustrated by church elders we consider to be too careful with new methodologies and expressions of worship we would love to see integrated into our worship services. But it is better to be too careful than too lax because it is the false teachers who always want to change the rules and move the boundaries and relax the standards.

The final point Jude makes in verse 4 is a common thread in their heresy – they always attack the person of Christ. Jude says that they "deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." A lot of people get fooled in this area because many false teachers use the name of Jesus Christ. The problem is that the Jesus they are talking about is an idol. This very issue confused the pastor of America’s largest “church” when he was interviewed on Fox News.

What follows is the transcript of a conversation that took place between Joel Osteen and reporter Chris Wallace of Fox News:

WALLACE: And what about Mitt Romney? And I've got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?

OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that's what I believe, so, you know, I'm not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.
And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don't think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that's what I felt like.

WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?

OSTEEN: I probably don't get hung up in them because I haven't really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don't know. I certainly can't say that I agree with everything that I've heard about it, but from what I've heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that's a common bond.


Newsflash Pastor Osteen - the jesus of Mormonism is a created being, the brother of Satan, and someone who helps us get to heaven after we have done all that we can.

All the major heresies of history ultimately attack Jesus Christ as he is described in the Bible. The Jewish legalists denied the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, the Gnostics denied Jesus’ humanity, Arianism denied that Jesus was fully God, Pelagianism denied His sovereignty, Socinianism denied His miracles (here is an interview I did with Phil Johnson on this very subject). We must define Jesus rightly which takes us back to what Jude said in verse 3 to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints".

John clearly teaches in his first letter that we must know the right Jesus to know that we are truly saved:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life. (1 John 2:18-25)

Go On To Part 9
Go Back To Part 7
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Public Debate With An Evolutionist - Friday, 9th September 2011

I will be participating in an evolution debate next Friday the 9th of September in Brønderslev against a biology teacher called Lars Viggers from one of the local colleges (or "gymnasium" as it is called in Denmark). Lars will be arguing for the religion of evolution. There will also be some street evangelism earlier in the day. The debate will be conducted in Danish so that will be a real stretch - please pray for me :)

Debate details:
Address:
Bredgade 117, 9700 Brønderslev
Times:
Evangelism 15:30 - 17:30
Debate 21:00 - 23:00

I have never been in a debate before and I am not entering into the ring this Friday to try and win a fight because there is a good chance that Lars is much smarter than me (there is also the slight chance that he may be a little better at Danish than me). And Lars will need to be a lot smarter than me because he is trying to defend an exceedingly dumb religion with no scientific basis whatsoever. So he has the hard work in front of him. My work will be neither difficult nor easy but will rather require steadfast faithfulness on my part to the specific message God has called me to preach. My ultimate labor during the night will be to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to open blind eyes that are dead in sin.

I am entering into this battlefield because it is about time that the THEORY of evolution stopped being taught as a fact and that the Danish public had the opportunity to hear the real facts that the Danish education system hides from them. I am hopeful that my lack of experience in debate and my lack of formal education will only help to show that the true scientific evidence is very simple and very clear:

That “Darwin's theory of evolution” is still called a theory because it has no proof.

That "the missing link” is still called "the missing link” because no one has ever found it.

And that “creation” is called “creation” because it has a Creator!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Vanishing Gospel Conference - Australia/New Zealand September 2011


One of the great priveleges of my recent trip to Australia was the invitation to fill the pulpit of Pastor Philip Powell on two occasions. Philip was a lone voice of discernment among the Pentecostal movement back in the 90's when I was attending an AOG church. His critiques proved to be a most valuable resource as I tried to sift through the mountain of bad theology I was experiencing. As someone who stood down as General Secretary of the AOG denomination in the early 90's over matters of honesty and Gospel truth, I have always had a lot of time for Philip's willingness to call a spade a spade when other men would prefer to hide in the shadows of self preserving silence. Philip's magazine Christian Witness Ministries has always been a rare Australian resource of honest journalism concerning much of what goes on in a mainstream Aussie Christianity dominated by the Hillsong machinations.

I am most thankful that my dear brother Philip recognizes the single greatest problem that the folk down under face with a looming election - the absence of true Gospel preaching from almost every pulpit in the land. He also recognizes the only solution - calling on all shepherds to abandon all the stupidity of seeker sensitive stunts, pop-psychology, moralistic therapy, and cowardly compromise and start preaching the pure Christian Gospel undefiled! This passion and vision has birthed a special conference - The Vanishing Gospel - which is a watchman's call to return to the once for all delivered faith and deliver it loudly and widely. I encourage my many Aussie friends to support this event which will will be happening in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. There will also be numerous smaller meetings around New Zealand. Please go the the conference website for all details!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Macarthur's Final Letter - The Cessationist Stink (Part 12)

Keep Reforming
by John Macarthur
29 August 2011

I’m grateful for the widespread response this series of blogposts has generated, including all the feedback we have received from people who disagree about certain points. Yes, a few vocal critics have replied with mocking or misrepresentation, as if to illustrate the validity of some of my central concerns. But most of the response we have received (including a lot of the dissent) encourages me—because it comes from young people who seem genuinely thoughtful about the dangers I have tried to highlight, and I trust they are genuinely committed to cultivating a thoroughly biblical worldview.

That being said, I’d like to give a final word of encouragement to my Young, Restless, Reformed friends: Keep reforming.

Semper reformanda (“always reforming”) is one of the enduring slogans often associated with the Protestant Reformation. The origins of the phrase are murky and probably date from the late 1600s. But the kernel of the idea is true enough: Until we are glorified—until we are fully, finally, perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ—we as saints individually, and the whole church collectively, must always be reforming.

The idea is not that we should change for the sake of change. You can be sure that whoever first penned that slogan was not urging Christians to stay abreast of every wind of earthly fashion in order to suit someone’s shallow notion of “relevance.” Nor does the principle of semper reformanda require us to rewrite our doctrinal standards every generation in order to keep in step with the constantly-changing dogmas of human philosophy.

On the other hand, real Reformation is not about slavish subscription to one particular set of seventeenth-century confessional standards—as if the magisterial Reformers or their immediate successors reached a level of ecclesiastical and doctrinal perfection beyond which further reform is impossible. According to that view, you’re not truly Reformed if, for example, you reject paedobaptism or you employ musical instruments and hymns in your worship rather than strictly limiting your singing to metrical psalms sung a capella.

John Calvin was under no illusion that the Reformation had reached its goal in his lifetime—or that it would get there in a generation or two. He wrote:

Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," (Eph. 5: 25-27.) Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal. (Institutes, 4.1.17)

Here’s the point: the only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behavior, and our worship with the Word of God. In fact, the full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (“The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”)

God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry therefore cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with “success.” The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”

So let me close this series with an earnest practical exhortation to my friends who are young, restless, and Reformed - especially those who aspire to positions of leadership and influence in the church:

Don't squander your good theology and your opportunity to make an impact by selling out to stylishness, self-promotion, or mere popularity - thus guaranteeing your ministry a short shelf life and no lasting influence.

The great leaders you admire from past generations - the architects of the Reformation theology you say you love - do not occupy that heroic stance in our thinking because of their wardrobe, cultural savvy, musical style, or ability to identify with the behavior and tastes of the unconverted.

What has given them an exalted place in our thinking is purely their clarity of doctrine, the carefulness of their exposition, the way they exemplified virtue, and the zeal with which they served our triune God. In short, they were wholeheartedly committed to the truth of Scripture above every other value, goal, or pastime.

In other words, their influence endures precisely because they transcended the shifting preoccupations of human style.

Now let’s be completely candid: Many (perhaps most) evangelical celebrities from the past half-century or so will never be remembered like the Reformers, because they will pass away with their own self-styled faddishness.

Whatever you do, don’t let that happen to you.

Thanks Dr. Macarthur. I have always been told that the only way to eat an elephant is one piece at a time and this has turned out to be one big elephant. I couldn't make the elephant go away by ignoring it, nor can I summise to whole debate here and now. Give me time to keep chewing and I will post some closing thoughts of my own concerning the cessationist stink soon enough!

Go Back To Part 11
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Stink Over The Brew - The Cessationist Stink (Part 11)

John Macarthur's second letter to the YRR certainly struck a raw nerve among those who love a beer. Here are some comments from one blog:

Normally we wouldn’t even take the time to respond MacArthur’s argument, but sometimes you must bend to answer the absurd, if only because others take the absurd so seriously. Indeed a great many people have already answered him, but we wish to add our voices to the company of those Christians who think that alcohol should not merely be tolerated but commended, celebrated, and cherished among the people of God. We sense that MacArthur’s overall tone is a direct attack on broader Reformational groups, such as Lutherans and Calvinists . . .

It is no wonder, then, that the YRR crowd regards the enjoyment of alcohol in moderation as something that should accompany their interest in the theology of the Reformers – it’s planted deep in the heritage of the Reformation. If MacArthur wishes to complain about this attitude, he has to go back much further than a twenty-first century movement. His complaint is ultimately with the Reformers themselves. Yet, if the Reformers themselves do not collectively get to speak about what is acceptable Reformed behavior, then no one does. MacArthur stands entirely outside the view of the Reformers on this one . . .

comments like these demonstrate that MacArthur doesn’t know his church history very well. Yet, they also reveal that MacArthur doesn’t know public perception of alcohol very well. In whose mind is alcohol and cigars associated with pool halls and casinos? There’s no necessary association between these things and places.

From what we can tell, it’s MacArthur and his ilk that have to keep this association alive because the rest of us recognize that alcohol and tobacco is found in use across so many different cultures, classes, venues that it is absurd to make such a narrow association. Why should we when there’s hardly any other social behavior that is more pluralistic than alcohol and tobacco? Pool halls and casinos? This is a left-over association from Prohibition where the critics who drew the association were the very people who created the legislative conditions in which alcohol would only be found in the very places they criticized it for being found . . .

MacArthur suffers from the same sociological problems as those in fundamentalist circles. Fundamentalists take examples of abuse and use them to make dogma. They take the abuse and declare that God has thus spoken. Others—more moderate evangelicals– while affirming that God nowhere prohibit partaking of alcohol, at the same prophesy of the cultural consequences and the dangers of losing Christian witness before the world. Both approaches fail to discern the biblical rationale for alcohol usage, and because the Bible has not taken its central role in shaping the debate, they have come to unhealthy conclusions.

As we have discussed earlier, MacArthur is well outside the Reformed tradition in understanding the purpose of alcohol. He has to deal with the fact that the Reformers overwhelmingly—with the exception of small groups of pietistic reformers in the early 20th century—enjoyed alcohol and treated it not as an evil to avoid, but as a gift to enjoy.

MacArthur has long championed the importance of sanctification in the Christian life. He has made profound and biblical pronouncements on the importance of the Lordship of Jesus over the life of the Christian. Yet, he fails to stress the importance of maturity when it comes to God’s gifts. For MacArthur, the end goal of the Christian life is to avoid worldliness. While we can affirm this goal, we do not—and dare not—affirm the avoidance of the world. Worldliness pertains to those matters that deny the law of God and the goodness of God. The world, on the other hand, pertains to everything God has created. Therefore, the danger of MacArthur’s pastoral counsel is that it places his parishioners in an outright rejection of the world of God and embracing a near form of Gnosticism. Under Gnostic presuppositions, Christians detach themselves from a world which Christ has come to redeem (John 3:17). When Yahweh declared all things very good He was not playing word games. He was actually declaring that creation and all therein is good.


The only observation I will make at this point is that I don't recall Macarthur ever placing a prohibition on alcohol consumption. That said, I also have to say that one of the things I personally love about Macarthur is that he is not getting soft with age - a trait sadly displayed by many others. In fact, it seems Macarthur is getting as blunt as ever:





I do fear where this is all headed for a movement that has been a wonderful reaction to the rise of liberalism. Church history teaches us that we must be vigilant in guarding the gates at the perimeter between the church and the world.

Go On To Part 12
Go Back To Part 10
Go Back To Part 1

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reformed And Charismatic - The Cessationist Stink (Part 10)

For those of you who think I am only reporting one side of the stink, I am actually on the lookout for any theological heavyweights weighing in who are taking a supporting view of Driscoll. Still waiting . . .

Meanwhile, Michael Horton over at The White Horse Inn blog has weighed in and had some very interesting things to say:

Reformed and Charismatic?
by Michael Horton
22 August 2011

Obviously, those who believe that miraculous prophecy continues after the apostolic age should not be lumped together with radical movements like the New Apostolic Reformation.  Nevertheless, it does provide an occasion to think carefully about the compatibility of Reformation theology with Charismatic emphases.  This is especially the case when there have been renewed calls for a “Reformed Charismatic” synthesis in our own circles.

I’ve never been willing to die on the hill of cessationism: that is, the belief that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing, and tongues have ceased.  I’m still not.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that non-cessationism is neither exegetically sound nor historically compatible with Reformed theology. Furthermore, the surprisingly widespread popularity of more radical views of ongoing sign-gifts, coupled with political ambition, pushes me into the unpleasant position of challenging the views even of far sounder brothers with whom I agree on so many important points.

As a Charismatic Calvinist, Wayne Grudem has been used by God to bring the doctrines of grace to many who would likely not have encountered these truths otherwise.  I have immense respect for his clear defense of many cardinal doctrines of Christianity.  At the same time, the Calvinism-Charismatic bridge goes in both directions and his view of continuing prophecy has contributed to a curious hybrid that in my view cannot survive in the long run.  Reformed theology is a system—not one imposed on Scripture, but one that arises from the self-consistent Word of God.

Mark Driscoll, a student of Grudem’s, has recently claimed to have regular visions of the sinful—usually sexual—behavior of people he encounters. “I see things,” he says, although the gift he describes is nowhere exhibited even in the apostolic era.  Also posted on his Mars Hill website is a critique of cessationism as “modernistic worldliness,” lumping this view with deism and atheism.  “Functional cessationism is really about the mind, but functional charismatic theology is really about the heart.”  He concludes with a plea: “…you Reformed guys, especially you who are more Presbyterian, you tend to ignore the Holy Spirit and attribute everything the Spirit does to the gospel.” Sovereign Grace Ministries, led until recently by C. J. Mahaney, has also followed Grudem’s path toward a synthesis of Calvinistic and Charismatic emphases.

There is much to admire in these men and their labors.  I am not targeting these friends and brothers, but pleading with them—and with all of us—to rediscover the ordinary means of grace, ordinary ministry, ordinary offices, and to long for a genuine revival: that is, a surprising blessing of God on his ordinary ministry in our day. The false choice between head and heart, the Spirit and the Word, has been a perennial polemic of the radical wing of Protestantism.  Mark Driscoll’s plea above reveals that dangerous separation of the Spirit from his Word.  Only by assuming such a cleavage can one argue that Reformed theology ignores the Holy Spirit.

We have had enough “apostles,” “prophets,” and “Moses-model” leaders who build ministries around their own gifts.  We need to recover the beauty of Christ alone upon his throne as the Priest-King of his church, exercising his ministry by his Spirit through preaching, sacrament, and discipline in mutually accountable communion with the wider body of Christ.  Reformed theology is not just the “five points” and “sovereign grace,” but a rich, full, and systematic confession.  It’s a human and therefore fallible attempt to wrestle with the whole counsel of God—in both doctrine and practice, soteriology and ecclesiology.  Until we rediscover this richness, “Reformed” will mean “whatever my leader or circle believes.”

Of course, the biblical case that must be made cannot be made well in this brief space.  However, I’ll focus on the question of whether the gifts of prophet and apostle have ceased.  In Ephesians 4:7-16, the apostle says that offices prophets and apostles as well as pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts of his heavenly ascension.

Against both Rome and the radical Anabaptists, the Reformers argued that prophet and apostle are extraordinary offices, for a foundation-laying era.  They are sent at key moments in redemptive history, and their writings are added to the canon of Scripture.  Like the distinction between a nation’s constitution and its courts, the biblical canon is qualitatively distinct from ecclesiastical interpretation.  The former is magisterial (normative), while the latter is ministerial (interpretive).

Particularly in the wake of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, this question has divided Christians into two camps: cessationists (believing that the gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues have ceased) and non-cessationists.  Non-cessationists find no exegetical reason to distinguish some of these gifts and offices from others in terms of their perpetuity.  However, cessationists hold that the New Testament itself makes a distinction between the foundation-laying era of the apostles and the era of building the church on their completed foundation (1 Cor 3:10-11).  Although the New Testament establishes the offices of pastors/teachers, elders, and deacons, it does not establish perpetual prophetic or apostolic offices with their attendant sign-gifts.  With this in mind, we must examine each gift in question.

Paul treats prophecy (prophēteia) as preaching, which although illumined by the Spirit is (unlike the scriptures) un-inspired and therefore must be tested (1 Cor 12:29; 1 Thes 5:19-21).  At Pentecost, the gift of tongues was a Spirit-given ability to proclaim the gospel in languages that one had not been taught.  The diverse crowd of visitors to Jerusalem for the feast asked, “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Ac 2:8).  We should therefore understand “tongues” as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret.  This served not only as a sign that Christ’s universal kingdom has dawned but as a practical way of disseminating the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.  None of these gifts was given for the personal edification of believers alone, but for the spread of the gospel and the maturity of the saints in that Word.

Similarly, the gift of healing was a sign that Christ’s kingdom had arrived, bringing a preview of the consummation in all of its fullness at the end of the age.  Yet signs always cluster in the Bible around significant turning-points in redemptive history.  Like the temporary prophesying of the elders in Moses’ day, the extraordinary gifts of signs and wonders are given to validate the sacred ministry of human ambassadors.  Once that ministry is validated, it no longer requires further confirmation.  (For an excellent treatment of this topic, see Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Perspectives on Pentecost  (P & R, 1979), especially 94-95, in relation to Wayne Grudem’s contention that “prophets and apostles” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 refer to the same group.) It would seem, then, that the gift of prophets and apostles (along with the gifts of miracles, prophecy, and tongues) was given but fulfilled its foundation-laying function.  Just as Paul’s understudy Timothy is an ordinary minister, we find no evidence that his ministry was attended by extraordinary signs and wonders.

Some theologians, such as Wayne Grudem, recognize that the office of apostle has ceased, but are “unsure if this question” of the cessation of spiritual gifts “can be decided from Scripture.” [This and following Gruden quotes from his Systematic Theology, 906-912, 1031; cf. Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1988), 226-252.]

With Grudem I agree that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, which speaks of prophecies and tongues passing away “when the perfect comes,” is inconclusive.  Paul is most likely referring to the consummation, when there will be no need for faith and hope and all that will endure into eternity is love (v 13).

However, I do not find Grudem’s case for continuing prophecy persuasive.  He clearly distinguishes prophecy today from the prophecy that delivered the sacred oracles of Holy Scripture.  This is both the strength and the weakness of his position.  Grudem believes that the kind of prophecy that is ongoing in the church is distinguished from preaching and teaching by being “a spontaneous ‘revelation’ from God….” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1058)

So the distinction is quite clear: if a message is the result of conscious reflection on the text of Scripture, containing interpretation of the text and application to life, then it is (in New Testament terms) a teaching.  But if a message is the report of something God brings suddenly to mind, then it is a prophecy. (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1058)

In my view, this interpretation introduces a definition of prophecy that is not consistent with its practice in the apostolic church.  Nowhere is prophecy distinguished by its spontaneous quality.  Furthermore, in spite of his salutary caution against raising such prophecies to the level of Scripture, this interpretation still raises the question as to whether the Spirit issues new revelations that are not already communicated in Scripture.  If prophecy is defined simply as Spirit-given insight into Scripture, then is this not synonymous with preaching?

Today, the Spirit validates this ordinary ministry of the gospel through preaching and sacrament: the signs and wonders that Christ instituted to confirm his Word.  If it is true that the apostles understood their work to be an extraordinary ministry of foundation-laying and their miraculous signs as its validation, then “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ….If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward” (1 Cor 3:11, 14).

While living stones are continually being added to the temple, the edifice itself is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).  As the person and work of the head is distinct from that of its members, the foundation-laying ministry of the apostles is different from the “up-building” ministry of their successors.

Where apostolic preaching became Scripture, our proclamation, faith, and practice stand in continuity with the apostles to the extent that they conform to that rule. To understand Scripture as canon, within its Ancient Near Eastern treaty background, is to recognize that, like the redemptive work to which it testifies, it cannot be revised by addition or subtraction (Dt 4:2; Rev 22:18-19).  While interpretations are always subject to change, the constitution has been given once and for all.

Similarly, the canon that witnesses to Jesus is the covenant that he ratified in his self-sacrifice.  In its appeal to this canon and its practice of its stipulated rites, the church participates in the heavenly reality as servant rather than Lord of the covenant.  Just as Jesus-history is qualitatively distinct from our own, the apostolic canon is qualitatively distinct from the subsequent tradition (or preaching) that interprets it.  One is magisterial, the other ministerial.  Just as the church does not extend or complete the work of redemption but receives, interprets, and proclaims it, the church does not extent or complete revelation.  The interim between Christ’s advents is not an era of writing new chapters in the history of redemption.  Rather, it is a period in which the Spirit equips us for the mission between Acts and the Apocalypse—right in the middle of the era of the ordinary ministry with its new covenant canon.  Just as the church cannot extend the incarnation or complete Christ’s atoning work, it cannot repeat Pentecost or prolong the extraordinary ministry of the apostles, but must instead receive this same word and Spirit for its ordinary ministry in this time between.

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