Daily Archives: February 18, 2014

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Faith?

 

The spiritual gift of faith is found in the list of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says that some people are given the gift of faith, but the gift is not specifically explained. All believers have been given saving faith by God as the only means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9), but not all believers are given the spiritual gift of faith. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gift of faith was given for the “common good” which means the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The gift of faith may be defined as the special gift whereby the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God’s promises, power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God’s work in the church. The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, and His promises. Examples of people with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter, often called “the hall of faith,” describes those whose faith was extraordinary, enabling them to do extraordinary, superhuman things. Here we see Noah spending 120 years building a huge boat when, up to that time, rain was non-existent and Abraham believing he would father a child when his natural ability to do so had ended. Without the special anointing of faith as a gift from God, such things would have been impossible.

As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and do. Extraordinarily faithful people show a humble godliness and reliance on God’s promises, often so much so that they are known to be quietly fearless and zealous. They are so convinced that all obstacles to the gospel and to God’s purposes will be overcome and so confident that God will secure the advancement of His cause, that they will often do infinitely more in the promotion of His kingdom than the most talented and erudite preachers and teachers.

So to sum it up, God gives all Christians saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is given to some, who exhibit extraordinary amounts of faith in their Christian walk and who, by their faith, are a joy and an encouragement to others.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Sin: What Is the Greatest Sin?

 

No sin is greater than another sin in the eternal sense. All sin separates us from God and all sin needs to be atoned for. Also, there is no “greatest sin” in the sense of “mortal” and “venial” sins, as the Catholic Church teaches. All sins are “mortal” sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. At the same time, the Bible does state that on the day of judgment some sins will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14).

Jesus also referred to one sin being a greater sin (although not the “greatest”) than another in John 19:11. Speaking to Pontius Pilate, He said that the one who had handed Him over to Pilate was guilty of the “greater sin.” He meant that the guilt of the person who delivered Him to Pilate, whether Judas or Caiaphas, was greater than Pilate’s because of the deliberate and cold act of handing Jesus over after seeing the overwhelming evidence of His miracles and teaching, all pointing unmistakably to Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. That sin was greater than that of those who were ignorant of Him. This could indicate that those who have been given knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God and still reject Him would be subject to a greater punishment than those who remain ignorant of Him: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).

These incidents, however, do not prove that one sin is the “greatest sin” of all. Proverbs 6:16–19 is a catalog of the seven sins God hates and are detestable to Him: “. haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” But none of the seven is identified as a greater sin than any of the others and none is identified as the greatest sin.

Although the Bible doesn’t name any one sin as the greatest sin, it does refer to the unpardonable sin, which is the sin of unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. The Bible is clear that in His love for mankind, God provided the means of eternal salvation—Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—for “whoever believes in Him (John 3:16). The only condition under which forgiveness would not be granted concerns those who reject the only means of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), making it clear that He and He alone is the path to God and salvation. To reject the only means of salvation is unpardonable and, in that sense, is the greatest sin of all.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Catholic Questions: Who Are the Jesuits, and What Do They Believe?

 

The Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits, is a society within the Roman Catholic Church that was founded by Ignatius of Loyola and instituted by Pope Paul III. The Jesuit society demands four vows of its members: poverty, chastity, obedience to Christ, and obedience to the Pope. The purpose of the Jesuits is the propagation of the Catholic faith by any means possible.

Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish nobleman and intended to have a career as a professional soldier. A cannonball shattered his leg in 1521, and his career was shattered with it. During his long recovery at the castle of Loyola, he spent much time reading religious books, fasting and praying. As a result of these studies, Ignatius decided to become a soldier of Christ, and hung up his sword at the altar of Mary in Montserrat. From 1522 to 1534, Loyola traveled to monasteries and schools, studying and praying in preparation for a life consecrated to Christ. Toward the end of his graduate studies at the University of Paris, he and six friends who had been meeting for times of extended prayer and meditation vowed to continue their companionship after graduation by living in evangelical poverty and traveling as missionaries to Jerusalem. When war between the Turks and Venice prevented their passage to Jerusalem, they determined to work in the cities of northern Italy. Loyola presented his plan for service to the Vatican and received a papal commission from Pope Paul III in 1540, with Loyola receiving a lifetime appointment as General.

With the threat of Islam spreading across the Mediterranean region, the Jesuits’ first focus was the conversion of Muslims. Shortly after the founding of the order, their focus shifted to counteracting the spread of Protestantism. The Counter-Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries was largely due to the Jesuits. With their vows of total obedience to the Pope and their strict, military-style training, the Jesuits became feared across Europe as the “storm troopers” of the Catholic Church, and they led armies which recaptured large areas for the Roman Catholic Church. Along with the military actions, their work centered on education and missionary expansion, and by the end of Loyola’s life in 1556, there were Jesuits in Japan, Brazil, Ethiopia, and most parts of Europe. Many of the explorers of that period were accompanied by Jesuit priests, eager to bring Catholicism to new lands.

The Jesuits are still active in the world today, though the military actions of those early years have been left behind. The goal of spreading the Catholic faith is still their primary objective, and they do it through missionary work and education. As for their beliefs, they hold to the historic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The practice of “Ignatian spirituality” follows the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola and forms the foundation of their daily lives. The goal of these practices is to conquer and regulate the inner personal life so as to be submissive to God. One of the key practices is separation from all friends and acquaintances, in order to attend Mass and Vespers daily without interference. Another practice is deep and constant meditation on the sins that have been committed, so as to rouse intense sorrow for sins. To address all of their exercises would take far more space than this article allows.

As is the case with the Catholic Church in general, there is certainly an appearance of godliness and spirituality that is readily seen in the Jesuits. When we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible, however, it would appear that they have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5, KJV). The difference between Roman Catholic belief and the biblical presentation of the gospel has been well phrased in a question “do or done?” What must I do to get to heaven (Catholicism), or what has Christ done to get me to heaven (biblical Christianity)?[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Life Decisions: Should a Christian Read Romance Novels?

 

Romance novels have always been extremely popular, especially with women. In fact, romance novels have been labeled by some as “pornography for women.” Not all romance novels contain sex scenes and/or sexual innuendo, but more and more today, that is a component of them. Should a Christian read romance novels? This is a difficult question to answer because not all romance novels are the same. But the Bible has principles upon which to base our decisions in this, and all of life’s, questionable areas.

First is Paul’s admonition to believers in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” If the romance novel contains anything that is not honorable, pure, lovely or not worthy of praise, then we are not to “dwell on” them. Some people can read or watch or listen to things and forget them immediately afterward. Most people, however, are affected, some very deeply, by the things they take into their minds via the different media. If the elements of romance novels do not contain the things contained in Philippians passage, then they fall into the category of what we are not to dwell upon. A good test is whether we could honestly say we could read from the novel out loud to Jesus and feel comfortable in doing so.

There are many Christian romance novels that offer rich characters and intriguing plots without sex scenes. There are many secular novels from previous eras that do the same thing. Jane Eyre, for instance is a classic romance novel of English literature that not only contains nothing offensive, but its message is entirely in line with Christian principles. Many such books exist.

Another biblical principle to be considered is the need to protect our eyes, ears and heart. It is very important to not let novels, movies, or TV shows influence our perception of what is real. Many people watch TV or read books and think they portray the way real life is supposed to be. They then become disillusioned with their own lives and become frustrated that they don’t line up “life” as portrayed in the books or movies.

As in all things, wisdom is available from God who promises to give it without finding fault (James 1:5). If we pray and ask God to convict us of things that may be questionable, His Spirit speaks to our hearts as we yield to Him for guidance.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

GTY: Naming Names

Romans 16:17

by Cameron Buettel

When it comes to false teachers, naming names seems to have become the unpardonable sin for many in the charismatic movement. Certainly, much of the criticism aimed at last fall’s Strange Fire conference focused on that issue. But is “Thou shalt not call out false teachers” really another commandment for the modern church, or is it an unbiblical shield designed to protect heretics from theological scrutiny?

The apostle Paul spoke to this issue in his epistle to the Romans:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17 KJV).

Tragically, Paul’s instruction seems to have fallen on deaf ears among many charismatic and continuationist leaders who should know better. In Authentic Fire, his book critiquing Strange Fire, Michael Brown wrote:

Have I named names? For the most part no, since there is so much immaturity in the Body and we are so prone to division that the moment someone’s name is mentioned, even in the context of a minor correction, that person is instantly demonized by some, as if their whole message is suspect. [1] Michael L. Brown, Authentic Fire (Lake Mary, FL: Excel Publishers, 2014), 32.

Brown might think that naming names causes division, but Paul says clearly in Romans 16:17 that the work of false teachers is what causes division, and that we identify and avoid them for the sake of preserving true unity.

Brown’s argument is also markedly out of sync with church history. The Arian heresy, the Pelagian heresy, the Sabellian heresy, and the Socinian heresy—to name just a few—were all named after the heretic who taught them. Yes, their names were named, and still live on in modern memory as a reminder of the damnable errors they taught.

One could hardly say that false teachers find anonymity in the pages of God’s Word either. Jesus (Revelation 2:20), Paul (1 Timothy 1:19–20; 2 Timothy 4:14), and John (3 John 1:9–10) were all more than willing to name names.

Of course Romans 16:17 is not talking about witch hunts, but it does highlight the responsibility of Christian leaders to identify, expose, and reject false teachers wherever and whenever they appear. John MacArthur’s commentary on that very verse is both instructive and encouraging as he points out that passivity is not an option when it comes to wolves among the flock:

It is the nature of love to warn against harm to those whom it loves. The greatest harm against believers is that which undermines God’s truth in which they live. Love is ready to forgive all evil, but it does not condone or ignore evil, especially in the church.

The mature Christian is to keep his eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances. Paul is not talking about hair splitting over minor interpretations, or about immature believers who are divisive because of personal preferences. We are to “shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). Paul is here talking about something immeasurably more serious. He is warning about those who challenge and undermine the divinely revealed apostolic teaching they had received.

Keep your eye on such men, Paul says. Mark them out as false teachers who are to be opposed and avoided. Skopeō (keep your eye on) carries the idea of looking at or observing with intensity. It is from the noun form of that word that we get the scope in telescope and microscope. It means more than simply to look at, but to examine and scrutinize carefully.

Evangelicals who adhere strictly but unpretentiously to the inerrancy of Scripture and refuse to join ranks with professing believers who compromise God’s Word are often labelled as divisive. But God’s true church is bonded by His Word and the power of His indwelling Spirit, who applies and builds the church on and through that Word. The ones who truly cause destructive division and disharmony, the ungodly dissensions and hindrances about which Paul speaks here, are those who promote and practice falsehood and unrighteousness. No institution or movement can rightly claim unity in Christ if they are not unified in and by His Word. Whatever spiritual unity they may have is based on the spirit of this age, which is satanic, not godly.

The right response of believers to false teachers, especially those who teach their heresy under the guise of Christianity, is not debate or dialogue. We are to turn away from them, to reject what they teach and to protect fellow believers, especially new converts and the immature, from being deceived, confused, and misled. Paul often argued and debated with unbelievers, both Jew and Gentile (Acts 17:16–17; cf. 9:29; 17:2; 18:4; 19:8–9). He did not, however, provide a platform for those who professed Christ but taught a false and perverted gospel. Such people are not to be debated but denounced. [2] John MacArthur, Romans 9–16: MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 371–74.


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Are Tongues Real Languages?

We begin today’s post with a question: In New Testament times, did the gift of tongues produce authentic foreign languages only, or did it also result in non-cognitive speech (like the private prayer languages of modern charismatics)? The answer is of critical importance to the contemporary continuationist/cessationist debate regarding the gift of tongues.

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Writing Checks to Mel Gibson

Son of God the MovieIn late 2003 and early 2004, we were told that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was going to change the world. We saw breathless slogans like, “perhaps the best outreach opportunity in 2,000 years.” Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life had made him a household name, predicted “a spiritual tsunami” would hit when the film released. When he saw this tsunami coming, he planned a two-week preaching series leading up to the movie’s release, booked 47 theatre screens so members of his church could attend with their lost friends, invited a long list of celebrities and billionaires to a premier showing, and prepared a three-week small group curriculum for follow-up. He claimed that his church rode this tsunami to incredible results: “Over 600 unchurched community leaders attended our VIP showing; 892 friends of members were saved during the two-week sermon series. Over 600 new small groups were formed, and our average attendance increased by 3,000.”

It is hard to overestimate the buzz, the excitement, and the anticipation prior to The Passion. Do you remember it? I do.

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Ask RC: How well should pastors be paid?

Before we can answer how well pastors should be paid we first have to establish that they should be paid. The Bible is clear enough on this—see I Timothy 5:17-18 and I Corinthians 9:9-14. Having established that they ought to be paid we have already moved away from the pseudo-gnostic notion that there is something inherently sketchy about it. That is, if we are inclined to think they ought to be paid nothing, we will likely find any payment gross and obscene. Such is envy badly disguised as piety.

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Public Schools Are Preparing America’s Children For Life In A Police State

Our children are the future of America, and our public schools are systematically training them to become accustomed to living in a “Big Brother” police state. All across the United States today, public schools have essentially become “prison grids” that are run by control freaks that are absolutely obsessed with micromanaging the lives of their students down to the smallest detail. As you will read about below, students all over the country are now being monitored by RFID microchips, their lunches are being inspected on a daily basis by school administrators, and the social media accounts of students are being constantly monitored even when they are at home. Of course these sorts of things do not happen everywhere just yet, but on the path that we are on it is just a matter of time. At this point, many of our public schools very closely resemble “totalitarian dictatorships”, and so if the United States ever slips into totalitarianism the students of today will actually feel very comfortable under that political system. (Read More…..)

Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied with ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics

Despite its Biblical inspiration, Paramount’s upcoming “Noah” may face some rough seas with religious audiences, according to a new survey by Faith Driven Consumers. The religious organization found in a survey that 98% of its supporters were not “satisfied” with Hollywood’s take on religious stories such as “Noah,” which focuses on Biblical figure Noah. Faith Driven Consumers has been tracking the viability of major Hollywood films courting faith-based audiences this year.

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As Christian Persecution Spreads – So Does The Faith

In opening this congressional hearing, Rep. Smith pointed out that Christians right now face violence, displacement, or discrimination in 110 nations of the world, and that the 2.3 billion Christians alive today may form the world’s largest religion, but that they are also the most persecuted religious group. Rep. Chris Smith said: “It is a huge problem and it’s getting worse, not just in the Middle East, but in China, in North Korea and elsewhere.” He added that there has been an explosion of persecution against Christians, including martyrdom, torture, and harassment of all kinds.

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The United States of Decline

America unravels at an increasingly dizzying pace.

America is unraveling at a stunning speed and to a staggering degree. This decline is breathtaking, and the prognosis is dim.

For starters, Obama now rules by decree. Reportedly for the 27th time, he has changed the rules of Obamacare singlehandedly, with neither congressional approval nor even ceremonial resolutions to limit his actions. Obama needs no such frivolities.

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Cold Case Christianity: Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Jesus

Over the centuries, believers have sometimes struggled to understand the nature of God and the great mystery of Jesus. The Bible describes Jesus as having the nature and power of God, and the Gospel of John tells us that He existed before the universe began (He was, in fact, the creator of the universe). At the same time, the Bible teaches Jesus was fully human and died on the cross. Efforts to reconcile the Divine and human nature of Jesus have resulted in a number of classic and historic misinterpretations:

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Is the Bible the Word of God and Does it Have Authority?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 ESV)

Just a few days ago I posted “Is there a war going on between God and His forces on one side and Satan and his forces on the other?” In that post I mentioned a link sent to me by a friend to a post on another blog called The Emergent Village. On that blog I could not help noticing a link to another post by another writer there titled “The Bible is NOT the WORD OF GOD: a polemic against Christendom“. What that fellow had to say is the centerpiece of “Christian Liberalism.” Denying The Bible as the Word of God, a gift from God to His people is the first step into apostasy. Once that step is taken all other truths…

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