Daily Archives: September 17, 2014

Questions about Theology: Law vs. Grace—Why Is There so Much Conflict among Christians on the Issue?

 

One side says, “Salvation is by grace and grace alone.” The other side counters, “That idea leads to lawlessness. God’s righteous standard in the Law must be upheld.” And someone else chimes in with, “Salvation is by grace, but grace only comes to those who obey God’s Law.” At the root of the debate are differing views on the basis of salvation. The importance of the issue helps fuel the intensity of the discussion.

When the Bible speaks of “the law,” it refers to the detailed standard God gave to Moses, beginning in Exodus 20 with the Ten Commandments. God’s Law explained His requirements for a holy people and included three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. The Law was given to separate God’s people from the evil nations around them and to define sin (Ezra 10:11; Romans 5:13; 7:7). The Law also clearly demonstrated that no human being could purify himself enough to please God—i.e., the Law revealed our need for a Savior.

By New Testament times, the religious leaders had hijacked the Law and added to it their own rules and traditions (Mark 7:7–9). While the Law itself was good, it was weak in that it lacked the power to change a sinful heart (Romans 8:3). Keeping the Law, as interpreted by the Pharisees, had become an oppressive and overwhelming burden (Luke 11:46).

It was into this legalistic climate that Jesus came, and conflict with the hypocritical arbiters of the Law was inevitable. But Jesus, the Lawgiver, said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). The Law was not evil. It served as a mirror to reveal the condition of a person’s heart (Romans 7:7). John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Jesus embodied the perfect balance between grace and the Law (John 1:14).

God has always been full of grace (Psalm 116:5; Joel 2:13), and people have always been saved by faith in God (Genesis 15:6). God did not change between the Old and New Testaments (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 55:19). The same God who gave the Law also gave Jesus (John 3:16). His grace was demonstrated through the Law by providing the sacrificial system to cover sin. Jesus was born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4) and became the final sacrifice to bring the Law to fulfillment and establish the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). Now, everyone who comes to God through Christ is declared righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:15).

The conflict between Jesus and the self-righteous arose immediately. Many who had lived for so long under the Pharisees’ oppressive system eagerly embraced the mercy of Christ and the freedom He offered (Mark 2:15). Some, however, saw this new demonstration of grace as dangerous: what would keep a person from casting off all moral restraint? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 6: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (verses 1–2). Paul clarified what Jesus had taught: the Law shows us what God wants (holiness), and grace gives us the desire and power to be holy. Rather than trust in the Law to save us, we trust in Christ. We are freed from the Law’s bondage by His once-for-all sacrifice (Romans 7:6; 1 Peter 3:18).

There is no conflict between grace and the Law, properly understood. Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf and offers the power of the Holy Spirit, who motivates a regenerated heart to live in obedience to Him (Matthew 3:8; Acts 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:14). James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” A grace that has the power to save also has the power to motivate a sinful heart toward godliness. Where there is no impulse to be godly, there is no saving faith.

We are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). The keeping of the Law cannot save anyone (Romans 3:20; Titus 3:5). In fact, those who claim righteousness on the basis of their keeping of the Law only think they’re keeping the Law; this was one of Jesus’ main points in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20–48; see also Luke 18:18–23).

The purpose of the Law was, basically, to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Once we are saved, God desires to glorify Himself through our good works (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, good works follow salvation; they do not precede it.

Conflict between “grace” and the “Law” can arise when someone 1) misunderstands the purpose of the Law; 2) redefines grace as something other than “God’s benevolence on the undeserving” (see Romans 11:6); 3) tries to earn his own salvation or “supplement” Christ’s sacrifice; 4) follows the error of the Pharisees in tacking manmade rituals and traditions onto his doctrine; or 5) fails to focus on the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

When the Holy Spirit guides our search of Scripture, we can “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15) and discover the beauty of a grace that produces good works.[1]

 

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

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: Is ‘Idle Hands Are the Devil’s Workshop’ a Biblical Statement?

 

Though the statement is not found verbatim in the Bible, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” has its roots in Scripture. The apostle Paul notes that those who waste their time in idleness or in a non-productive manner are easily led into sin: “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). By not using their time productively, these people were tempted to meddle in other people’s business and stand in the way of their progress. “They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:13). These idlers and busybodies were wasting time that could have been used to help others. In essence, their lack of activity was leading them into sin.

Idleness is not the same as rest. The Bible advises people to rest, and taking breaks from work is good. By “idle” we mean “lazy” or “doing nothing when you should be doing something.” Idleness often stems from not having a specific goal or purpose in mind. With no goal, one can be easily distracted. The book of Proverbs warns us that sloppy or careless work is akin to malicious destruction: “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).

We live in a sinful world, and a person who doesn’t have something particular to do will invariably be tempted to do something sinful. If we have nothing to do, the devil is all too eager to find things to occupy our time.

Paul and his fellow missionaries set an example of diligence for the church. “You yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you.… On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:7–8). Idleness was not a part of Paul’s lifestyle, and we can’t afford to countenance it in our lives, either.

Yes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” The Lord knew that He needed to be about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), and so should we. Jesus told us to pray for “workers” to be sent into the harvest field, not idlers (Luke 10:2). There is work to be done for the Kingdom, and we must not be distracted by the things of the world.[1]

 

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

Questions about Creation: What Is the Meaning of the Tree of Life?

 

The tree of life, referred to in Genesis, is the symbol of God’s provision for immortality in the Garden of Eden. Of all the trees that were in the Garden of Eden, two were named for their great importance, but just as one—the tree of life—was a blessing to Adam and Eve, the other was to become a curse for all of their posterity. “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

The Lord told Adam that he was free to eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for by doing so he would surely die (Genesis 3:16–17). The tree of life was provided to be continuous reminder that immortality was a consequence of obedience. As long as Adam and Eve were obedient and did not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they had access to the tree of life. Once they sinned, they were driven from the Garden, and God placed an angel with a flaming sword to guard the tree of life so they would no longer have access to it. Eternal life was now no longer theirs. Just as God had warned, they died, and through Adam all men after him would die (Romans 5:12).

By barring access to the tree of life, God showed compassion in His omniscience. Knowing that because of sin, life would be filled with sorrow and toil, He graciously limited the number of years men would live. To live eternally in a sinful state with its results—pain, disease, heartache, toil, and grief—would mean endless agony for humanity, with no hope of the relief that comes with death. By limiting our lifespan, God gives us enough time to come to know Him and His provision for eternal life through Christ, but spares us the misery of an endless existence in a sinful condition.

Because God knew that Adam would fail the conditions of his immortality, He provided for One who would redeem fallen mankind. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, but through another Man, Jesus Christ, redemption through the forgiveness of sin is available to all (Romans 5:17). Those who avail themselves of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will see the tree of life again, for it stands in the middle of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2, 22:1–2). Its water is the constant flow of everlasting life from God’s throne to God’s people.[1]

 

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

Learning How to Count (Philippians 3:1–11)

Joe Quatrone, Jr.

philippians 3.7Circumstances and people can rob us of joy, but so can things; and it is this “thief” that Paul deals with in Philippians 3. It is easy for us to get wrapped up in “things,” not only the tangible things we can see, but also the intangibles; such as, reputation, fame, and achievement. Jesus warns us that our lives do not consist in the abundance of things we possess (Lk. 12:15). Quantity is no assurance of quality. Many people who have the things money can buy have lost the things money cannot buy. We can be snared by both tangibles and intangibles, and as a result lose our joy.

The key word in Philippians 3:1–11 is count (vv. 7–8). It means to evaluate and assess. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. Yet, few people sit down to weigh seriously the values that control…

View original post 1,205 more words

GTY: God’s Sufficient Spirit

Code: B140917

The book titled I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional, by Wendy Kaminer, debunked much of the mystique of modern psychology.[1] The author did not purport to be a Christian. In fact, she described herself as “a skeptical, secular humanist, Jewish, feminist, intellectual lawyer.”[2]

Yet she wrote as a bitter critic of the marriage of religion and psychology. She noted that religion and psychology have always more or less deemed one another incompatible. Now she sees “not just a truce but a remarkable accommodation.”[3] Even from her perspective as an unbeliever, she could see that this accommodation has meant a change in the fundamental message Christians convey to the world. She wrote:

Religious writers would minimize or dismiss the effect of psychology on religion, fiercely denying that it has made doctrinal changes, but it does seem to have influenced the tone and packaging of religious appeals… Christian codependency books, like those produced by the Minirth-Meier clinic in Texas, are practically indistinguishable from codependency books published by secular writers… Religious writers justify their reliance on psychology by praising it for “catching up” to some eternal truths, but they’ve also found a way to make the temporal truths of psychology palatable.[4]

Some of the criticism Kaminer leveled against evangelicals is unwarranted or misguided, but in this respect she is right on target: Evangelicalism has been infiltrated by a worldly anthropology-psychology-theology that is diametrically opposed to the biblical doctrines of sin and sanctification. As a result of this accommodation, the church has compromised and hopelessly muddled the message it is to proclaim.

Psychology and worldly therapies have usurped the role of sanctification in some Christians’ thinking. Psychological sanctification has become a substitute for the Spirit-filled life.

But can psychotherapy possibly accomplish something that the Holy Spirit cannot? Can an earthly therapist achieve more than a heavenly Comforter? Is behavior modification more helpful than sanctification? Of course not.

The Paraclete

To understand the crucial role the Holy Spirit plays in meeting people’s inner needs, we must go back to what Jesus taught His disciples when He first promised them He would send the Holy Spirit. It happened on the night Jesus was betrayed. His crucifixion was drawing near, and the disciples were fearful and confused. When Jesus spoke to them about going away, their hearts were troubled (John 14:1). In that hour of turmoil, they feared being left alone. But Jesus assured them that they would not be left to fend for themselves. He comforted them with this wonderful promise:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16–17)

“Helper” in verse 16 is the Greek word paraklētos, meaning someone called to another’s aid. First John 2:1 applies the same term to Jesus Himself: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate [paraklētos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word is sometimes transliterated into English as “paraclete.”

It describes a spiritual attendant whose role is to offer assistance, succor, support, relief, advocacy, and guidance—a divine Counselor whose ministry to believers is to offer the very things that so many people vainly seek in therapy!

The promises Jesus made with regard to the Holy Spirit and His ministry are staggering in their scope. Let’s look at some of the key elements of this text.

A Divine Helper

The word translated “another” (allos) is a key to understanding the nature of the Holy Spirit. The Greek text carries a precision that is not immediately evident in English. The word means “another of the same kind,” as in, “That cookie was tasty; may I have another?”

In using this word, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “another [allos] Helper [of the same kind].” He was promising to send His disciples a Helper exactly like Himself—a compassionate, loving, divine Paraclete. They had grown dependent on Jesus’ ministry to them. He had been their Wonderful Counselor, Teacher, Leader, Friend, and had shown them the Father. But from now on, they would have another Paraclete, One like Jesus, to meet the same needs He had met.

Here, for the first time, Jesus gave the disciples extensive teaching about the Holy Spirit and His role. Note that our Lord spoke of the Spirit as a person, not an influence, not a mystical power, not some ethereal, impersonal, phantom force. The Spirit has all the attributes of personality (mind, Romans 8:27; emotions, Ephesians 4:30; and will, Hebrews 2:4) and all the attributes of deity (see Acts 5:3–4). He is another Paraclete of exactly the same essence as Jesus.

There was, however, a significant difference: Jesus was returning to the Father, but the Holy Spirit would “be with you forever” (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is a constant, sure, trustworthy, divine Paraclete graciously given by Christ to His disciples to be with them forever.

A Guide to Truth

It is noteworthy that Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (v. 17). As God, He is the essence of truth; as a Paraclete, He is the One who guides us into truth. That is why apart from Him, it is impossible for sinful beings to know or understand any spiritual truth.

Jesus said, “The world cannot receive [Him], because it does not see Him or know Him” (v. 17). Echoing that truth, Paul wrote:

To us God revealed [things which the world cannot see or understand] through the Spirit… Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor. 2:10, 12, 14)

Believers are actually taught spiritual truth by God Himself (see John 6:45). In fact, much of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers involves teaching them (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 John 2:20, 27); guiding them into the truth of Christ (John 16:13–14); and illuminating the truth for them (1 Corinthians 2:12).

After Jesus ascended to heaven, one of the crucial ministries of the Holy Spirit was to bring to the disciples’ minds what Jesus had said and to teach them what He meant: “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:25–26).

That means that the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to recall the precise words Jesus had spoken to them, so that when they recorded them as Scripture, the words were perfect and error free. This assured that the gospel accounts were recorded infallibly, and that the apostolic teaching was unadulterated.

But this promise of our Lord also reveals the Holy Spirit as a supernatural Teacher who ministers truth to the hearts of those whom He indwells. The Spirit guides us into the truth of God’s Word. He teaches us, affirms the truth in our hearts, convicts us of sin, and often brings to mind specific truths and statements of Scripture that are applicable to our lives.

The Indwelling Presence

Look a little more closely at Jesus’ words at the end of John 14:17: “He abides with you and will be in you.” Our Lord was promising that the Holy Spirit would take up permanent, uninterrupted residence within His disciples. It was not only that the Spirit would be present with them; the greater truth was that He would be resident within them permanently.

This promise was not limited to the eleven apostles who were present that night. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. In verse 23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (emphasis added). Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Thus each believer enjoys the permanent, continuing presence of the Holy Spirit living within.

The Holy Spirit in Biblical Counseling

The new birth is the Holy Spirit’s sovereign work (John 3:8). And every aspect of true spiritual growth in the life of the believer is prompted by the Spirit, using the truth of Scripture (17:17). The counselor who misses that point will experience failure, frustration, and discouragement.

Only the Holy Spirit can work fundamental changes in the human heart. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the necessary agent in all effective biblical counseling. The counselor, armed with biblical truth, can offer objective guidance and steps for change. But unless the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of the counselee, any apparent change will be illusory, superficial, or temporary, and the same problems or worse ones will soon appear.

Conclusion

It is futile to follow the path of psychology and look within ourselves to find answers to our problems. And it is certainly true that those who focus on themselves, their childhood traumas, their wounded feelings, their emotional cravings, or other egocentric sources will never find genuine answers to their troubles.

The true believer, however, does have a Helper who dwells within. He is the Holy Spirit, who applies the objective truth of Scripture in the process of sanctification. Yet even He does not draw our attention inward, or to Himself. Instead, He directs our focus upward, to Christ. Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (15:26).

Ultimately, it is unto Christ that the counselee’s focus must be directed. “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corithians 3:18). That is the process of sanctification. And it is the ultimate goal of all truly biblical counseling.

(Adapted from Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically)

[1] Wendy Kaminer, I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1992).

[2] Ibid., 121.

[3] Ibid., 124.

[4] Ibid., 124-125.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140917
COPYRIGHT ©2014 Grace to You

Cripplegate: The Holy War

 

swordIt’s a word with which much of the world has unfortunately become familiar in recent years: “jihad.” “Jihad” is the Arabic word which carries the idea of “struggle,” and is often referred to as “holy war” within Islam.

While not all Muslim scholars agree on the way in which holy war should look, one need not look far to understand what it means to many in our world today.

But though such wars have been going on for centuries, Christ would in no way attribute the term “holy” to them. Worship and devotion to the true God means loving, not murdering, our enemies. Those of different faiths are not to be the object of our killing, but praying.

There is, however, a true holy way commanded by God. This war is spiritual in nature. It is a war against ourselves, and against the lack of holiness within, the moment we become a Christian. The true holy war is physically peaceful towards others, but spiritually aggressive towards self. Its not about strategically hunting down, and systematically taking out, the enemies outside of us, but the enemy inside of us.

While God’s agenda advancement for his disciples today does not consist of killing others, it certainly consists of killing our own sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

john-owen-by-john-greenhillThe 17th century puritan pastor, John Owen, has been greatly used of God to help the church in the holy war. He writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it [while] you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Now, studying sin may seem strange and undesirable to many. But our sin is not something we forget about simply because we are forgiven of it. An attraction to sin still exists inside the Christian because of our residual fallenness, the flesh. As such, it is our great enemy within. And its the thing which keeps us from doing what we most want: to love Christ. That’s why the true holy war is one of the sine qua non’s of the Christian life.

Here are 7 truths to arm God’s people for the holy war:

Read more

A Call to Repentance and Surrender

Truth in Grace

After Bible Study the other night, we were sitting around talking, and someone mentioned that, before he knew the Lord, he wouldn’t attend church because he knew he wasn’t living right. Thankfully, he finally hit a place where he surrendered to the Lord, changed the things he knew needed to change, and surrendered his life to Christ.

I understand why churches stress the importance of coming to Jesus as you are instead of waiting to be cleaned up but it also seems like way too many stay as they are, even after making a profession of faith. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ said the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'” This doesn’t mean your sins become white but that your life of sin disappears as you…

View original post 494 more words

GAO report: Obama lied again – 1,036 Obamacare plans cover abortions

WINTERY KNIGHT

First it was “you can keep your doctor” then it was “you can keep your health plan”. Now it’s funding of abortions.

CNS News reports:

President Obama promised that under his health care plan, “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion,” but that’s just another broken promise, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, which indicates that public funding of abortion is happening on a large scale.

“This confirms what we have long suspected,” Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

Pitts and other Republicans asked the GAO to find out which taxpayer-subsidized plans in the Obamacare exchanges fund abortion and if consumers know about that coverage.

The report concluded that in 2014, more than a thousand federally subsidized Obamacare policies paid for abortion on demand, sometimes unbeknownst to policyholders. And in five states, every plan offered on…

View original post 202 more words

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Samuel at Gilgal

Bishop J. C. RyleBishop J. C. Ryle:

“Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, “Show it to Me.”

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, “What are you doing?”

View original post

What is religious externalism?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self- indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 “ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28 NASB)

Because of our old church going Purpose Driven in 2006, my wife and I left. The journey to find a new local church fellowship was a long and difficult one. One of the churches along the way was…

View original post 1,920 more words

%d bloggers like this: