Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Cross or Life?

Who does your allegiance belong to?

We live in a world where almost everything is instant. We have instant coffee, instant tea, instant news, instant entertainment, instant dessert; and, now we are moving ever closer to instant life—the cloning of human beings (God forbid!). The western world has become a world of easy living. Whatever is not easy should not be accepted. It has become a life of hedonism—believing that pleasure is the ultimate goal in life. We have gone so far in the west to believe that if it does not bring joy then it has no worth at all! It is for this reason that free sex and drug and alcohol abuse have become so wide spread. Of course, the free sex—in many cases—leads to HIV/AIDS. In the western world, if we cannot have the latest gadgets we feel that our lives are becoming too difficult to live. Will it really be that difficult without the latest microwave?

We went to visit my mother's stepfather of 95 some time ago (my grandmother died in January 2003). At that time he lived on a farm in a farmhouse about 130km (81mi) from where we live. The farmhouse is on one corner of the farm where he and my grandmother could graciously live for free. The owner of the farm let them live there for free on a very small piece of the farm. He and my grandmother have lived there for many years. They never had electricity. Neither did they ever have free flowing water delivered by the local town council. Their refrigerator is an old gas refrigerator. Water is delivered from a windmill that had to be maintained all the time. Most of his food he has to grow himself since his pension is puny and he could not live on his pension alone. When we arrived there the windmill was broken and he only had water in a container left. He'd been trying to fix the windmill but to no avail. To top it all, it had been of the driest seasons in the area for decades. All his crops were drying in the hot sun and without water he would soon be without the extra food he grew on the little piece of ground he lived on. However, when we arrived he told me that he enjoyed living there and that his trust was in the Lord. This is the life that the Lord had given him to live and he was content with that. It makes me think of what Habakkuk wrote Hab 3:17-19, "[17] Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, [18] Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. [19] The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places."

Jesus told His disciples, "And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Mt 10:38) What does this mean for Christians? To some Christians this means not having the modern conveniences of life. Taking up their cross—in their minds—means not having that wonderful paying job that Joe Soap has. Perhaps taking up my cross means not having the latest BMW? Maybe it means I must not quibble about the latest losses on the stock market and the losses I have made with my own shares? If this is all you see in taking up your cross, then you are indeed a modern western Christian, influenced by the hedonistic world-view of the prevailing times. It is a culture that has created Christians who are only in the race for their own personal gains. Profit that they feel God owes them. Taking up our cross means so much more than this and is also so far different from this!

What does it mean to take up my cross? Paul wrote, "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:8) When Jesus took up His cross He died. Why should the taking up of our own cross have any different meaning than the cross of Christ? The whole idea behind the cross in the New Testament is that of death!

Taking up our own cross is to show our total commitment to Christ. Modern Christians know all about being involved with Christianity. They know to give up their time to go to prayer meetings and church services. Oh, yeah! They also have to sacrifice their time for additional Bible study meetings. This involvement with the church is like the chicken that lays an egg. However, the gospel demands much more than an egg! It should be more analogous to the pig that gave himself up to become the bacon! Chicken Christians are merely involved in the church and its day to day activities. Bacon Christians are those committed Christians that are committed to the point of death. They are the ones who will give their lives for the furtherance of the gospel. These are the Biblical Christians! They understand what it means to take up their cross!

Looking at the context of Mt 10:38, we realise that this is exactly what Jesus meant when he said those words! Back in verse 28 Jesus told His disciples not to "fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." In verse 39 Jesus His dialogue on the meaning of discipleship with "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." The NASB Study Bible note on Mk 8:34 says, "The picture is of a man, already condemned, required to carry the beam of his own cross to the place of execution (see John 19:17). Cross-bearing is a willingness to suffer and die for the Lord's sake."[ 1]  An unwillingness to take up our cross and follow after Christ proves that we are not worthy of Christ!

The interesting thing concerning the matter is that it is not optional to take up one's cross. The modern Christian's New Testament tells him at Mt 16:24 that "Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The reality of the matter is that Jesus said "
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow" Him. Luke adds one little word that makes the statement so much forceful, "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (Lk 9:23) It must be a daily consideration. Christians in countries where Islam rules have to consider this daily as they are being harassed and persecuted by Muslims. Christians are beaten daily; their houses and churches are burnt to the ground daily; some are sent to prison on false charges almost daily. Others are murdered almost daily, for their faith in Christ!

In our modern life we have learnt that most, if not all, of us have low self-esteem and we need to build up our self-esteem. We have taken that wholeheartedly into the church to the point that we have forgotten that if we are to be the disciples of Christ we must deny ourselves, not assert ourselves! Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), the great missionary of a little more than a century ago, wrote that "self-indulgence and self-assertion [are] temptations to which we are ever exposed, and to which we constantly give way, without even a thought of the un-Christlikeness of such conduct."[ 2]  Nowhere in the beatitudes (Mt 5:3-11) do find Jesus saying, "Blessed are those that assert themselves, for they will find promotion in life!" Rather, Jesus said, "[3]  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  [4]  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  [5]  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  [6]  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  [7]  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  [8]  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  [9]  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  [10]  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  [11]  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." A life of self-denial in the face of Christ's death for us certainly is not a life of asserting ourselves for our own self-promotion! In our own self-denial we must be willing to stand naked before the world, clothed only with Christ! If we died today, what would people write on our tombstones?

What is the driving force behind your life? Is it your work? Your family? Money? Recognition? A nest-egg for retirement? Fame? Or, can you say with Paul, "to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?" (Phil 1:21) Are you willing to echo the words of Paul, "far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world?" (Gal 6:14) Finally, will you be able to stand before Christ, and without any guilt, repeat the words of Paul, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified?" (1 Cor 2:2)

Walter Chantry writes concerning Mt 7:14, "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few", "No one with an inflated ego can squeeze through the door. There must be self-effacement, self-repudiation, self-denial even to become a disciple (a student) of Jesus Christ."[ 3] Chantry continues on self-denial, "It is this most obvious aspect of our Lord's teaching which has been forgotten or ignored by modern evangelism. Anxious to bring sinners to life, peace and joy in the Lord, evangelists have failed even to mention that Christ insists upon denial of self at the outset. Having failed to pass on our Lord's requirement, and forgetting it themselves, evangelists have never questioned whether their 'converts' with self-centred lives are true followers of Christ… our text [Lk 9:23-24] will show that unless a man lives a life of self-denial, he has not received a first work of grace."[ 4]

In our modern world we, as Christians, have forgotten that Christ demands our all, all the time. We must carry our cross daily! We must deny self daily!

Just thinking...

1. NASB Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999.
2. Taylor, James Hudson, Meditations on Cross-Bearing,
3. Chantry, Walter, Take Up Your Cross,
4. Ibid.

Meet them where they're at

If this pic was not a joke, it could have been a reality in our modern emerging church!

Just thinking...

HT: Dan at Biblical Christianity

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reaching couch Christians

Yesterday I listened to a message that I got via podcasting from Crosstalk America . The show at Crosstalk was called Clarifying True Biblical Salvation .

In this show Ingrid Schlueter from Slice of Laodicea fame played part of a sermon that Paul Washer of the HeartCry Missionary Society preached to 5,000 young people that brought them to stunned silence.

Do yourself a favour and download the show at the link provided above and from there you can download the sermon by clicking on the SermonAudio link on that page.

This can be an amazing tool in reaching " Couch Christians."

Just thinking ...

Terrorists in civilians' clothing (int the church)!

Dan Phillips wrote a very thought provoking blogpost over at PyroManiacs called Terrorism in the church.

This is a subject that has been on my heart for some time now (see this, this, this, this, this, and finally this and more!). The only problem is that it doesn't seem like anyone listens! Yet, we will not hesitate or stop to blow the trumpet of discernment in the church!

But to call it terrorism in the church!?  Absolutely brilliant! This is exactly what these false teachers are! It fits so well in our modern understanding of how terrorists operate!

Just thinking...

Church Attendance

How should we handle it?

What should we say about church attendance? What may rightly keep us away from attending church? What makes us unable to go to the churches available in our community?

Either church is too far, or you are too sick to attend. Perhaps you do not have transport! However, what about when there are many churches around, but you still choose not to go to church? How should that be handled?

Obviously, the most important issue that must be raised is the issue of doctrine. What kind of doctrine do the churches in your community teach? When you are in the position that you cannot rightly for conscience's sake attend any church in your community, then certainly, that would be a valid point.

To Scripture, truth is very important. Jesus told the woman at the well that "[23] true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (Jn 4:23-24) We must not let the true importance of this passage escape us! A worshipper that neglects worshipping from the spirit or that neglects worshipping from the vantage point of Biblical truth simply cannot be a true worshipper. Sure, call yourself a worshipper, but you cannot call yourself a true worshipper!

Many churches just hang onto the spirit part of worship and neglect the truth. That is totally wrong. Worship must be a combination of both spirit and truth. Worship in spirit, not singing worship, which is a worshipful life, must be guided by the truth. It is simply impossible to worship in spirit when one does not have the truth. No matter how much we claim to be worshipping in the spirit; when we do not walk in the light of the truth of the Word of God, then what we call worshipping in the spirit is mere fantasy and has nothing to do with Biblical worship.

Coming back to church and walking with a church….

It would be totally valid not to walk with a church if that church does not hold to the essential doctrines of the gospel. However, if there are churches that preach the essentials of the gospel, then the non-essentials should not keep us away from church. The essentials would obviously be the foundational doctrines of the gospel, such as the nature of man, the nature of God, the nature of Christ, the nature of the atonement, the nature of salvation itself and how that is applied to man. If all the essentials are met, then why still stay away from attending church?

What other things can keep us away from church? Our families? Maybe we think our children are too rowdy? They cannot sit still! In my humble opinion, those children need to be trained to sit still. They need to be trained to listen, and to be calm when it is time to be calm. I do not think that we can use this as an excuse to stay away from church. The fact is that, if this is why we stay away from church, we are blaming our children for us not going to church. What will your response be? Many years from now, when you have not taught your children the habit of going to church they find out that it was because of them that you did not teach them to go to church, what response could you expect from them? Personally, I think that we use many things as excuses not to go to church, and that is just what they are…excuses! If you really think that your children cannot sit still and behave in church, then it is time to apply some discipline in their lives. Better for them to learn when they are small that there are certain boundaries in life than finding out later in life the hard way. Thousands of parents have for centuries been able to take their children to church in a disciplined way. What makes us so special that we cannot do the same? If these parents could handle their children, surely we can handle ours! Why do you think that you are the exception?

Our attitude toward attending church should not be one of trying to find excuses to stay away from church! We should rather try to find excuses to go! What can I do to make sure we can go to church? We should not do as much as we can to stay away, but as much as we can to go!

There is an attitude that says that we do not need to go to church. All we need to do is fellowship with Christians here and there. That is simply an excuse. We need to get to that place in our lives where we realise that when it says that we should not neglect the assembly of the saints as is the habit of some (Heb 10:25), that it does not mean to get together haphazardly with individual saints, but to get together in worship with the church. It should be a habitual action on our part, to get together in fellowship with the church, the local church! We need to get together in corporate worship, hearing the Word of God expounded.

Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment. He said, "[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. [35] By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn 13:34-35) This is one of the hallmarks of being a disciple of Christ. This is not simply speaking of other Christian individuals, but of the body of Christ. How can we show our love for the body of Christ if we never join the body of Christ in worship and fellowship? A burning coal is not a fire! One burning coal must join many other burning coals to make a fire.

The gifts of the church cannot be used in isolation since they are to be used "for the common good." (1 Cor 12:7) We cannot even begin to work towards the common good of our Christian brothers and sisters if we do not actually get together with them for the common good.

When we are told to understand what the will of the Lord is in Eph 5:17, we must note that we are clearly informed what that will is. "[18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,  [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,  [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  [21] submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:18-21 ESV)

This is the will of the Lord:
·        that we do not get drunk with wine.
·        that we remain filled with the Spirit.
·        that we address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
·        that we always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
·        that we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

At least two of the points mentioned by the apostle Paul as the will of the Lord, are meant for the local church. We cannot address one another "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" if we do not actually get together with one another. We also cannot submit to one another if we do not get together as a unit.

It is important for us to be knitted together with the local church, for it is in the local church that we can give expression to our own gifts and the talents that the Lord has given us for the church.

Do not let anything stop you from joining a local church and to give of yourself to that church.

When we look at the word "church" we need to understand that when it is used in the New Testament, it is used mostly to signify the local church. In fact, it mostly signifies a specific local church. For instance, the epistle to the Ephesians was written to the specific local church at Ephesus. Similarly, the epistle of Galatians was written to the specific local church in the province of Galatia. It can also be said of the epistles to the Romans and the Thessalonians that those letters were written to the specific churches of Rome and Thessalonica respectively.

The fact of church membership is amply displayed in the New Testament.

Since the church in New Testament times kept a list of widows (1 Tim 5:9), we can with certainty assume that they also had a list of the local church members. Why have a list of the widows and not of the members? It would only be from the list of members that they would be able to apply the rule as to who may rightly be called widows.

Jesus laid down the rules for discipline within the church in Mt 18:15-17. Paul also tells us how to treat "believers" who live like unbelievers in the church in 1 Cor 5:11-13, "[11] But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  [13] God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'" (ESV) The point is, how can one discipline someone in the church without them being a member of that local church? Paul very instructively speaks of outsiders and insiders. Paul makes it clear that within the church we judge those who are inside the church and not those who are outsiders. He could not simply have spoken about an unbeliever who wanted to attend church. He is speaking here of someone recognised as part of the church that needs to be excommunicated. This could only happen if a list was kept of those that were formally associated with the church.

How can we claim to be Christians if we do not want to spend time with God's people?

Just thinking...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hearing God's voice?

I have been thinking about the subject of hearing God's voice.

Since the day that I came to believe in Jesus Christ as my wonderful Saviour, I have been taught the line of waiting on the Lord for direction to my life and that of my family.

Around 1998 God brought me to a full understanding of the doctrines of grace, also known popularly as Calvinism or even TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). So, as a charismatic who used to be in all kinds of errors like Word-of-Faith (WOF) and also holding to the idea that God spoke to us everyday outside of the Bible and that we should be waiting on God to speak to us, I now held to doctrines traditionally opposed to what charismanianism holds to.

However, for some time now I have seen myself as a Reformed Charismatic, although I have had a big problem with the word "charismatic" since that word today has more baggage to it than what it had, say, 40 years ago. Today, it has added to it all kinds of heresy such as the WOF heresy (Kenneth Copeland, etc) and other heretics such as T.D. Jakes and more.

Nevertheless, I have been wondering about the whole issue of hearing God's voice. I was not of the kind that believed that hearing God's voice today added anything to the Scriptures, but that anything contrary to the Bible was obviously not God!

So, for a long time now I have been thinking to myself that I do not know of anywhere in the Bible where it commands us to actively wait on the Holy Spirit to hear from Him. I can't even think of examples where it was a common occurrence!

If there is someone that believes that we have such clear commands or that we have ample examples of this in the Bible I would like to see it!

The point is, in the charismatic/pentecostal circles a lot is made of hearing God's voice and obeying Him. Those who apparently do not hear from God as regularly as the super-spiritual ones, are vilified and made to feel that they could NOT possibly be in God's perfect will!

Sure, I do not deny that God could speak to us today. What I do deny is that God sits at His throne like a little puppy waiting for us to come home so He could spend time with us. God's providence is way bigger than that! Do people really believe that God is unable to accomplish His work without them? God can make the rocks on the ground praise Him if we don't!

The way I see it, and help me if I am wrong here, is that God speaks when He wants to. Right through the Bible, people were going about their daily (or nightly) business when God sovereignly stepped into their lives and spoke to them! It was God who stepped into the life of Abraham (before He was a "Hebrew"), Moses at the burning bush, Samuel while sleeping and Paul while riding in the desert. Later, Paul was on his missionary journeys when God spoke in a vision to Paul telling him to go to Macedonia. Paul was seemingly on his way in one direction and then God called him in another! If we are to constantly wait on God for His direction, why was it necessary for God to interrupt Paul's dreams to call him to Macedonia if it was not for the reason that it was not part of everyday Christianity to want to know God's will for the next step? Maybe Paul was just not spiritual enough yet!

On the other hand, should we not just let God guide us in His sovereign providence?

Just thinking ...

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Nuts" about dogs!

Just came across a very funny post at The Riddleblog (by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger) about weird inventions for dogs. He has a link about some dogs that are "nuts" about their owners; or, is it the other way around?

Just laughing...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The "Fall" of Argumentation

Dan Phillips from PyroManiacs wrote an interesting post on their blog called When is an argument over? In this post Dan looked at the fact that even when all the facts are in, and the conclusion to the facts is quite evident, there are still those who will continue to disagree.

In order to keep his sanity intact, there are two things that comfort him: The judgement of God and The public nature of the exchange.

I would like to add a third point to Dan's two: The nature of sin.

When man fell into sin, the whole issue was "self". Instead of relying on the All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, Adam and Eve wanted to be All-Wise and All-Knowing. They wanted to be in charge of themselves. They no longer relied on God.

Then, what happened when they were found out for their sin?

The argumentation began. Who was to blame? Eventually, Adam blamed God for giving him the woman and blamed the woman for giving him the fruit, and Eve blamed the devil who didn't have a leg to stand on!

The thing is, sin is selfish. That will come through in debate and argumentation too. There are few of us who are really objective in our arguments and because of the sin factor we do not deal well with the fact that others argue with us about things we "know" to be true!

So, when we do bring forward answers to question in a thoroughly Biblical fashion with Biblically conclusive answers, we must expect that there will be those who will take us on and disagree with us.

I commiserate with Dan. It is not always easy dealing with the argumentative types, especially when it is clear how they are influenced by error.

However, as Christian who hold to Biblically orthodox doctrine, we need to stand firm and "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Just thinking...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Abortion Law declared invalid in South Africa

"It was with great joy that I heard yesterday that the South African abortion act--Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act (ToP)--was declared invalid. The reason for invalidating this act is that parliament failed to allow reasonable, sufficient public participation in the process of creating this act."

Just thinking ...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big words and worshitainment

Listening to the average evangelical sermon in our modern age will soon fall on our ears as sermons with very few to no BIG words in the content.
It has long been my contention that the modern church has made it their purpose to dumn down the message of the gospel to the point of becoming quite meaningless.
The BIG words of our faith of yesteryear, words like propitiation and redemption, eschatology and ecclesiology, have been given the boot in the church in order to make way for little words.
Many preachers today do their utmost not to use these words in their sermons, perhaps because they don't know or understand these words themselves.
Even our Bible translations are getting dumbed down. Just reading The Message for a few minutes is enough to convince me that many in the church has lost the plot and are no longer following the marching orders of our Saviour.
What is it with these BIG words? Why are churches and their pastors so scared of them?
Our culture has moved away from little boys wanting to grow up to become men, to men wanting to hold on to eternal youth. Many adolescents refuse to grow up into mature adulthood, and while their bodies reach adulthood, they never reach that stage of psychological and sociological adulthood, resulting in rebellious teenagers in adult bodies. It is because of this that we have so many physical adults today that never seem to take up responsibility for their own lives and actions. We see this trend everywhere, but especially in the popular culture espoused by the media and movies. In the old movies, for example, young actresses and actors would portray mature people in the movies and sometimes play parts that are much older than their own ages. These days we find that older men would portray very immature, youthful men on the screen, that are in reality bumbling, irresponsible idiots.
The fact is, that our churches have started treating their flocks in this way, as if the people in the pew hardly have brain waves! The BIG words have been jettisoned in order to make way for many little words. And since there are so many little words used instead of BIG words with meaning, it has become like a very watered down salty water. If I have 1 teaspoon of salt in 5ml of water, the water will be VERY salty. However, if I add that 1 teaspoon of salt to a pool of 50,000 litres of water, there will be no real discernable difference! This is what the church has done. All the BIG words have been removed out of the message and have been replaced with little words. Those little words later on became too big and they were replaced with even smaller words. Right now, we have a message with words so little and with so little meaning, that in the scheme of the message we preach, those little-smaller words have rendered the message meaningless!
It is not as if society no longer use big words! It is the church that took the wrong step somewhere along the line and have started treating the people as if they are all children. So, now we have a church that never grows up. Instead of taking the people from a young age and helping them grow a healthy vocabulary, their growth have been stunted by pastors whose message has become meaningless.
It is also because of this eternal-youth syndrome that the church has come to believe that the greatest sin they could ever commit is failing to keep people excited. The value of a church service is gauged by the level of excitement raised in the service. So, what happens when you somehow get to have a killer service one week? Next week, a better one will be expected, and the week after that even better. You see, in this materialistic world of ours, this attitude of materialism has even crept into our worship services. Christians have become so used to these experiences of excitement, that it has become the commodity that the church uses to barter for our loyalty as happy "excitement" customers.
It is for this reason that worship in much of the church has lost its meaning, since it no longer worships with the correct attitude and neither is the worship aimed at God, but at man himself. Man has become the arbiter of what worship is, and to the extent that there is excitement in the worship, man can feel happy and fulfilled.
Biblical worship never loses sight of the fact that the object of worship is God, and that He is to be satisfied in worship. Modern worship has lost that from its view, and man has become the master of worship while demanding feel-good sessions of excitement so that the master may be appeased in order to keep him loyal to the church where his own selfish, manward desires may be pleased.
This worship is no longer aimed at God, but at man, and to attract man, and as a result has fused worship and entertainment to create the evil chimera of worshitainment. The church has become so weak in its message that it has succumbed to the false belief that we have to bow down to what would work in the world to draw people, and so the church has married the world of entertainment (a world of smokescreens and mirrors where false ideals and expectations are created) with the worship of the Holy God.
It seems to me that the loss of the BIG words of our faith coincides with this need for worshitainment. Is it perhaps the fact that we have lost the BIG words that the church has now reached toward something other than the message itself to attract people? It is only in the last 40 or so years that the BIG words have gone into disuse. Does it not strike you as odd, that the charismatic movement started about 40 or so years ago?
I believe that it is time for those pastors of churches like those portrayed here, to become mature men willing to teach their people as though they can think and can increase their vocabulary. Remember, we need to preach the unadulterated message from the Bible!
Just thinking...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Are you serious?

Christians everywhere claim to be Biblical Christians. The question is, how many are really Biblical?

What does it mean to be a Biblical Christian? Does it mean to believe the right doctrines? Others believe it is to do the right things. Well, I believe that it would be both.

It would amount to nothing if we believe the right doctrines but live like the devil. On the other hand, it would amount to just as much if we live like angels, yet do not believe the very doctrines that the One and Only God set forth in His revealed will, the Scriptures!

The Bible is very clear on both issues, that a person must hold to both in order to be called a Christian. Someone who does not believe in the Biblical doctrines of the Bible cannot be called a Christian. Yet, even if someone believes all the orthodox, Biblical doctrines with the greatest of clarity and understanding, but lives a life of habitual sin, then the Bible is equally clear... that person is not a Christian!

Now, what about those that have it right both ways? Well, if they truly believe with the heart and live their lives in such a way that they are continually undergoing sanctification in a life of holiness, then we have to conclude that they are indeed Christians.

However, what bothers me, is the fact that there are many Christians out there that have it right on both accounts, yet they are "couch Christians".

"Couch Christians" will complain about things happening in society or in the world, yet will not lift a finger to be part of God's answer to a world rapidly sliding through the doors of hell. These "couch Christians" would rather be comfortable and would rather want to be able to carry on their lives without others interfering in their lives and without them having to interfere in somebody else's life.

These people will give up the call of God in order to be left alone. Instead of laying their lives down for God and in defense of their families, they find it more "comfortable" to make more money or to go to the latest sporting event, or to take part in the latest sporting event!

While society is being ripped apart by abominations such as homosexuals fighting for imaginary "rights," abortion, pornography, exceptionally high levels of other crimes and more, these "couch Christians" (CCs) are content at riding their bikes, or watching the next movie or TV show, or wondering how they can make more money.

It is unfatomable how Christians cannot see that we are in the midst of huge culture wars. What do we have to do to get these people to wake up? Burn their "couches?"

Before long, when everything these CCs enjoy has been lost, what will they do? Start complaining once again about things, not realising that the cultural battle had been lost?

I sometimes wonder of CCs really love God or their neighbour. How can it be when they do not obey God's commands to take His gospel to the lost and to get involved in the fight for justice? Our love for God is displayed by our obedience to Him, and our love for our neighbour is shown by the fact that we care enough to bring him the gospel or to fight injustice on his behalf.

These CCs find it good enough to walk out of church on Sundays feeling good about themselves, since the preacher just preached a very "feel good" sermon in which he "encouraged" his people (read brats).

However, Monday Mr. CC will once again complain about the state of the nation. Of course, once again he will not get involved and will rather allow the kingdom of darkness to flood the nation while he hides the kingdom of light under the bushel of his "couch!"

It is time Christians get off their "couches" in order to get involved in the battle of the ages for the souls of men and for justice to be won in the Name of Christ!

Do you still breathe? Then get off the "couch" and stand for Christ in the midst of darkness. A darkness that can be dispelled through the preaching fo the cross!

Just thinking...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

God is impotent, or perhaps just incompetent

I am sure the subject line caught your attention.

That is perhaps how I could sum up a sermon I heard at church today! See the sermon link here with text, audio and video. The gist of the sermon was that God could do nothing without our help. God needs our partnership or all else is doomed! Oh, how impotent, or perhaps just incompetent God must be to these people?!

Let's start with the sermon, then.

The sermon is part of a series called Breakthrough. This series has gone on for many months now. The sermon itself is called Breakthrough in Fruitfulness: Praying God's Purpose. It is based on 1 Tim 2:1-4:

(1) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (3) This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In the introduction the old Arminian mantra is thrown to the audience that asks, "What does 'all' mean?" The expected reponse from the audience is "ALL!" "'All' means 'all'!" is a mantra that's been used here many times before, yet, in almost every case it is used, it can be demonstrated that "all" does not always mean "all!" This of course refers to verse 4 which says that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

This leads to the first point in the sermon: God has purposed that ALL people be saved.

Many would say "all" means "all." Sure "all" means "all." Yet, only as related to the context in which it is used can we find the scope of "all." When Jesus told Paul "for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard." (Ac 22:15 ESV), did Jesus mean Paul was going to be a witness to every single individual, or to all kinds of men? When Paul was accused of preaching to "everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place" (Ac 21:28 ESV), did they mean that he was preaching to every single individual in this world, or to all kinds of people? Paul sets up this generic use of "all" elsewhere too.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
(Col. 3:11 ESV) .

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 ESV)

It is consistent with the context of Paul's writings to recognize this use of "all." This is Paul's way of including all kinds of people. "All" in the above two passages cannot mean every individual, but all kinds or groups of people!

Coming back to 1 Timothy 2, knowing how Paul sometimes used the word "all," we need to have another look to see what Paul meant in verse 4 when he used "all people." In order to find this out we need to look at the context. In verse 1 Paul tells Timothy that we should be praying for "all people." Does he mean here every individual everywhere? I contend that he does not! Although the Bible tells us to pray for all people everywhere, I do not believe that Paul is telling us to pray for every individual everywhere in this verse. The meaning of "all people" in verse 1 is unambiguous. Paul sets up the scope of the meaning of "all people" in the very next phrase from verse 2: "for kings and all who are in high positions."

(1) Therefore, I urge first of all [for] petition to be continually made, prayers, intercessions, [and] thanksgivings, on behalf of all people: (2) on behalf of kings and the ones being in positions of authority, so that we shall lead a tranquil and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity.
(1 Tim 2:1-2 Analytical-Literal Translation)

We have to remember the reason Paul wrote this. It was at this time that Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. It was a time of intense persecution for Christians, and not very long after this Nero had Paul and Peter executed. Paul reveals to us why we need to pray for "all these people:" "that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." It would be the "kings and all who are in high positions" who would be able to ensure the peace of all in the land apart from God as its first cause. Paul was trying to make a point here. "Even pray for those in authority who seems to have your future in their hands. God even wants to save those types!" These "kings and all who are in high positions" are represented as classes of men. Now, having seen Paul's use of "everyone" or "all men," we can come to some conclusion about the phrase "who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:4 ESV). God desires all kinds of people to be saved.

To find out more about Paul's meaning of "all" we need to also look at verse 5-6. For what reason do we need to pray for "all men" to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? Verses 5-6 tell us this reason. There is only one way of salvation without which no one can be saved. Now, let us get back to Paul's meaning of "all." First, if in verse 4 we take "all men" to mean "all men individually," then the conclusion here in verse 5 has to be that Christ must be mediator for "all men." If Christ then mediates for every individual, then He fails as mediator everytime an individual denies Christ as Lord and Saviour by his almighty free-will. It is absurd to assert that Christ mediates for "all," but fails to save "all." Second, the ransom - His own sacrifice - that Christ gives in verse 6 is either a saving ransom or not a saving ransom. If that ransom is a saving ransom, and it is made in behalf of "all men", then "all men" would be saved. Is the intention of the ransom for "all men" to be saved? Then the ransom has failed miserably when the result is compared to the intention.

Just thinking of the first point--God has purposed that ALL people be saved--makes me think how absurd and irrational that statement is, and these people do not even see it! If God purposed that ALL people be saved, then He must be an impotent God, or at least incompetent not to be able to make His purposes come to pass!

The first point carries on... It was said that we are not always successful at evangelism since people constantly tell us not to preach to them. The sermon's answer to this is that "they can stop us from talking, but not from praying for them." This is true, but then a further absurdity sets in. "They can run from us, but they cannot hide from God and our prayers." Is that not amazing? People have so-called free-will only until we start praying from them? Can their theology be more incongruous than this? How can these people believe in the free-will of people and still believe that they can pray God into violating that free-will?

Next it was said that "we need to pray prayers that are in line with God's Word." What does this really mean? Is it like taking a total unknown, such as Jabez, of which almost nothing is known, but for ONLY 2 verses in the Bible, and to form a whole prayer doctrine around it? Does it become a formula, that when this formula is prayed that we can with absolute certainty expect results? Simply pray the right verses from the Bible and all our loved ones will be saved?

Lastly, we were told to "soak our prayers in faith." What does that really mean? Are we to have faith in our faith like Kenneth Hagin, Sr. used to say? Should we not rather soak ourselves in the Word of God and let faith be resident in us, and when we pray we pray with faith?

The second point was really a question: Does prayer really work?

There was a positive among all the weird stuff. The preacher mentioned the old saying that "prayer changes things." He called this "buncum!" Good for him.

Yet, a few minutes later he makes a troubling statement. "Prayer is so powerful. Prayer that is executed correctly." What I felt earlier in the sermon, that prayer here is a formula, was here uttered almost in so many words. All that we need to do is find the correct execution of our prayers and its done! All we have to do is stand on Jn 14:13-14 and 15:7! Execute them correctly and we will have everybody saved! If only Paul had known this almost 2000 years ago. He would've prayed the right prayers with the right execution, and then the whole world would have been saved, albeit against their free-will, but saved nonetheless!

The fact is that prayer does work, as it aligns itself with the sovereign work of God and as God providentially works in us and through our prayers.

Point number three: Your partnership with God in prayer is vital!

This is a very troubling point. Many statements are made that were obviously not thought through!

"Why did He make Himself dependent on our prayers?" He did? I thought that God was the Sovereign One, and He was in control! I thought that the "king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will?" (Prov 21:1 ESV) What kind of God are we serving if He can only do things which we request? Surely, this is not a God with His own free will, but a God who is bound by the free-will of man. How is it that God "created all things, and by [his] will they existed and were created," (Rev 4:11) yet we are to believe that He cannot act of His own volition? Is God the genie in the lamp that we rub with our prayers to make Him do things for us, or is He in fact the Sovereign God of the universe? If he acts only upon our prayers, then he is not the God that Paul taught in Col 1:16-17:

(16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

To confirm this image of a god who is locked up behind some cosmic gate (or a genie stuck in a lamp) until we release him with our prayers, it was also said that "he is waiting for your prayers to open up the gate to make his power flow." All of this is so typical of the free-will mantra that it is actually not so weird when they say that "God is waiting for your partnership in prayer." God is waiting, and until then He is stuck between a rock and a hard place? What must God be thinking while stuck in the genie lamp. "Oh my! How will I save so-and-so if so-and-so does not start praying soon?" The God I serve will, in His sovereign wisdom and power, get so-and-so to pray for so-and-so! My God is not passively sitting in heaven waiting for us to move Him around like a pawn on a chess board. NO! My God is actively in control of every single situation on this planet, from me waking up in the mornings to the wars in the middle east. He has written the script and He is directing the play to bring it to its desired end result!

The statement was also made that "God's listening to my voice depends on me listening to His voice." Of course, no scripture was even given to back this up. Not even one out of context. I find that very strange. People would sit in the pews saying "Amen!" without thinking even once about what is being said. So, before I can pray I must first let God tell me what to pray for? I thought the Bible already told me who to pray for? What about passages like the scripture text for this sermon that was preached (1 Tim 2:1-4)?

Next, to prove that God needs our prayer partnership, the preacher hauled out Elijah and his rain episode from 1 Kings 17-18. After a bit of explanation of what happened there, the question was asked: "If God intended to send rain anyway, why in the world did He want Elijah to pray?" I would say that it is quite evident! If God sent the rain anyway, people would not have known that it was God who sent it. It would simply have been another day of rain after a period of drought! The fact that God used Elijah in this scene is because He wanted a spokesperson to explain what was going to happen in order to prove to them that God indeed did send the rain.

Finally, the last point in the sermon: What can our prayers accomplish?

According to the sermon, it accomplishes a few things:
- "Help to remove spiritual blindness." The verse to prove this is 2 Cor 4:3-4:

(3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I must be blind, but I cannot see how this passage speaks of our prayers. In the context it clearly speaks of the preaching of the gospel that was handed to Paul. It is the preaching of the unadulterated gospel that opens eyes. Prayer is a preparatory "tool" (for a lack of a better word). It prepares the hearts of those we preach to. It doesn't accomplish the work of the gospel.

- "Our prayers bring revelation, conviction of sin and repentance." No Biblical proof is given. It is in the preaching of the gospel that revelation comes to the hearts of men (Rom 10:14-15). Jn 16:8 says that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts the world of sin, not our prayers. Once again, we must not confuse prayer and preaching. Prayer cannot do the work of preaching the gospel. Further, it is God's knidness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25)

- "Help to line up divine circumstances." I suppose that this is true in a sense. However, my comments further up (genie?) should clear up any thoughts on this issue.

- "Release people as harvesters." This is true in a sense. We need to pray that the the Lord sends out harvesters. God will be the One to send the people out as harvesters. We all understand that prayer cannot do this directly, but God will do so in response to our obedient and faithful prayers in this regard. Does God do this anyhow, even when we are not praying? Of course! Yet, we must still pray!

- "It breaks down Satan's stronghold." The scripture text here is 2 Cor 10:4-6.

(1) I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!-- (2) I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. (3) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. (4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (5) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (6) being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
(2 Cor 10:1-6 ESV)

When it comes to spiritual warfare, there have been many abuses, obviously encouraged by books like This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti.

As we turn to our passage in 2 Cor, we find that Paul is answering a complaint against his ministry in verses 1-2. Some in the Corinthian church have said that Paul is "meek when face to face" with them and "bold toward [them] when absent." They therefore concluded that Paul was not walking in the Spirit, but "according to the flesh." It is from here that Paul writes in verses 3-6 concerning spiritual warfare.

First, "we are not waging war according to the flesh," meaning that Paul did not execute his ministry in the flesh, since he was divinely called by Jesus Christ Himself (Ac 9:1-19). Paul?s preaching is not in the flesh, but it has "divine power to destroy strongholds."

It is only through the preaching of the gospel that people can come to a saving knowledge of Christ. There are no mystical ways through which God works! God has chosen the base things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor 1:27). The teaching of the cross is foolishness to the unsaved; yet, it is the power of God to those who are being saved (1 Cor 1:18). Our spiritual warfare is not based on human wisdom (1 Cor 1:21). The warfare we are speaking of here is not based on commanding demons everywhere to leave (would that not be great, since we would simply command them to leave the earth? Why stop at our cities?), but it is based on the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel which is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16), not the wisdom of men (1 Cor 1:25) which is simply warfare in the flesh.

When Paul writes that "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," (2 Cor 10:5) he clearly does not mean we are binding demons everywhere. Paul?s language here seems to refer to subtle philosophical rhetoric and arguments with no basis in the gospel. He refers to the godless opinions of men raising themselves against "the knowledge of God." How are these thoughts taken captive for Christ? It is through the preaching of the gospel that God?s power works to take "every thought captive to obey Christ."

It was said on this point, that "if you don't pray, they stay in prison." There is a bit of illogic here in this sermon. It seems that because we are told to pray for the unsaved, it is believed that if we don't they won't come to believe! Scripture does not say this at all. It simply says that we must pray for the unsaved. It never says that if we do not pray they will not come to believe!

This sermon, in my opinion, shows a lack of knowledge as to how and when God works. It shows a certain level of indoctrination by groups such as the Word-of-Faith crowd, I believe, since this is their trademark. Yet, on the other hand, this is also very much what Arminianism believes as a whole. No level of exegesis was demonstrated in this sermon.

Do not get me wrong, I believe that we should pray, at every opportunity. However, prayer is not a formula that we can use to release the genie or move the pawn.

Is God impotent, or perhaps just incompetent that He cannot get His purposes to be fulfilled in the earth?

This is not my God! My God, Jesus Christ, is in control of everything and everyone, and holds the destinies of all people in His hands!

Just thinking...

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