Daily Archives: July 30, 2016

Not Ashamed of the Gospel, book excerpt, The Cost of Our Silence

Eradicate: Blotting Out God in America

Open pages of bible isolated on white backgroundNow after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:14-15

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

In 1965 the epic religious movie The Greatest Story Ever Told was released, retelling the story of Jesus Christ from His humble…

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3 Things Sin Can’t Do To the Christian

“Below are three things to remember about sin to remind yourself that it has ultimately lost its power in your life. These reminders help us eliminate the shame we feel after disobedience and push us to repent of our sin even when we’re tempted to wallow in it.”

 

Repentance sometimes feels impossible. Often, I treat my sin like it’s some kind of illness, similar to a common cold or allergies. I stop fighting and let it overwhelm me. I know that something is wrong, but instead of seeking solutions, I self-medicate. And as if this numbness to sin isn’t frightening enough, I begin to ask myself, “Will God tell me I am a monster for letting my sin win?” Lacking trust in God and forgetting how faithful He has always been, I forego repentance and fall susceptible to a cycle of sin and shame. I start instructing myself to straighten up, to try harder, to do better. I want to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

But a bootstraps gospel is a false gospel. I’m not drifting into antinomianism here, but simply reminding you that your salvation depends on Christ’s obedience, not yours. Below are three things to remember about sin to remind yourself that it has ultimately lost its power in your life. These reminders help us eliminate the shame we feel after disobedience and push us to repent of our sin even when we’re tempted to wallow in it. They are “gospelisms”—truths about the gospel that are easy to preach to one another when we begin to forget the gospel—and I hope that they help you as they have helped me:

1. Our sin cannot rule us.

 “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — 1 John 1:6-8 (ESV)

If we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us of them, cleansing us from our unrighteousness! Think about the weight of the God of the Universe being justified in His forgiving and washing of sinners. God’s forgiveness is no scandal—Christ was unjustly punished so we could justly be forgiven. This should compel us to confess sin regularly before the Father and before each other, for the gospel lets us live freely to Christ instead of under bondage to sin.

This is sin’s Achilles’ heel. Though we may find ourselves falling into sin for a moment, it can never rule us if we are adopted sons and daughters of Christ.

2. Our sin cannot overcome us.

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” — Hebrews 10:12-14 (ESV)

Christ didn’t just merely enable liberation from sin for us—he decided to claim our hearts and minds as his for the rest of our lives. He was actually able to bear our sins. His blood never runs dry, and it always runs deep. Christ’s merits never have and never will fail on their promises.

If you are being sanctified by the renewal of your mind, your perfection has already been accomplished. Though you must work out your salvation with fear and trembling, you are no longer at enmity with God. Rejoice in this freedom! Sin cannot overcome us because we’ve been overcome with Christ’s righteous faithfulness. He completed all the work necessary to not just save you, but to keep you. Rest and rejoice in the faithfulness of King Jesus.

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NEW BOOKLET: A Christian Perspective on the Environment

NEW BOOKLET: A Christian Perspective on the Environment: How the Catholic Pope and Other Leaders Are Uniting the World’s Religions Through Environmentalism by Roger Oakland is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract.

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Emotion, the Will, and the Spiritual Life

One of the disturbing things that I have found to characterise so much of the life of contemporary Christians is the tendency to rely on emotions above all else. The reliance of feelings instead of firm acts of the will based on the clear teachings of Scripture has resulted in a woefully substandard Christianity in so many circles today.

Biblical Christianity has never emphasised a life of feelings, but a life of faith which is fully channelled by the Word of God and adherence to it. This has been basic Christianity for millennia, but today’s believers seem to have forgotten this altogether.

Not only the Bible but all the great saints have warned against living a Christian life run on and controlled by mere emotions. For example, in his important 1977 book Knowing Scripture R.C. Sproul dealt with this in detail. He said in part:

Many of us have become sensuous Christians, living by our feelings rather than through our understanding of the Word of God. Sensuous Christians cannot be moved to service, prayer or study unless they “feel like it.” Their Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. When they experience spiritual euphoria, they are a whirlwind of godly activity; when they are depressed, they are a spiritual incompetent. They constantly seek new and fresh spiritual experiences, and use them to determine the Word of God. Their “inner feelings” become the ultimate test of truth.
Sensuous Christians don’t need to study the Word of God because they already know the will of God by their feelings. They don’t want to know God; they want to experience him. Sensuous Christians equate “childlike faith” with ignorance. They think that when the Bible calls us to childlike faith, it means a faith without content, a faith without understanding. They don’t know the Bible says, “In evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). They don’t realize that Paul tells us again and again, “My beloved brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (see, for example, Rom 11:25)
Sensuous Christians go their merry way until they encounter the pain of life that is not so merry–and they fold. They usually end up embracing a kind of “relational theology” (a curse on modern Christianity) where personal relationships and experience take precedence over the Word of God. If the Scripture calls us to action that may jeopardize a personal relationship, then the Scripture must be compromised. The highest law of sensuous Christians is that bad feelings must be avoided at all cost.

emotion 6Elisabeth Elliot put it this way: “Faith is not an instinct. It certainly is not a feeling – feelings don’t help much when you’re in the lions’ den or hanging on a wooden Cross. Faith is not inferred from the happy way things work. It is an act of will, a choice, based on the unbreakable Word of a God who cannot lie, and who showed us what love and obedience and sacrifice mean, in the person of Jesus Christ.”

A W Tozer was one of God’s choice servants of last century to stir up the church and call it back to her true calling. He was relentless in calling for holiness, the cruciform life, and a life based on Godly choices, not emotional highs and lows.

In his book Man – The Dwelling Place of God he had a whole section on this: “True Religion IS Not Feeling but Willing”. Let me offer that in its entirety:

One of the puzzling questions likely to turn up sooner or later to vex the seeking Christian is how he can fulfill the scriptural command to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself.
The earnest Christian, as he meditates on his sacred obligation to love God and mankind, may experience a sense of frustration gendered by the knowledge that he just cannot seem to work up any emotional thrill over his Lord or his brothers. He wants to, but he cannot. The delightful wells of feeling simply will not flow.
Many honest persons have become discouraged by the absence of religious emotion and concluded that they are not really Christian after all. They conclude that they must have missed the way somewhere back there and their religion is little more than an empty profession. So for a while they belabor themselves for their coldness and finally settle into a state of dull discouragement, hardly knowing what to think. They do believe in God; they do indeed trust Christ as their Saviour, but the love they hoped to feel consistently eludes them. What is the trouble?
The problem is not a light one. A real difficulty is involved, one which may be stated in the form of a question: How can I love by commandment? Of all the emotions of which the soul is capable, love is by far the freest, the most unreasoning, the one least likely to spring up at the call of duty or obligation, and surely the one that will not come at the command of another. No law has ever been passed that can compel one moral being to love another, for by the very nature of it love must be voluntary. No one can be coerced or frightened into loving anyone. Love just does not come that way. So what are we to do with our Lord’s command to love God and our neighbor?
To find our way out of the shadows and into the cheerful sunlight we need only to know that there are two kinds of love: the love of feeling and the love of willing. The one lies in the emotions, the other in the will. Over the one we may have little control. It comes and goes, rises and falls, flares up and disappears as it chooses, and changes from hot to warm to cool and back to warm again very much as does the weather. Such love was not in the mind of Christ when He told His people to love God and each other. As well command a butterfly to light on our shoulder as to attempt to command this whimsical kind of affection to visit our hearts.
The love the Bible enjoins is not the love of feeling; it is the love of willing, the willed tendency of the heart. (For these two happy phrases I am indebted to another, a master of the inner life whose pen was only a short time ago stilled by death.)
God never intended that such a being as man should be the plaything of his feelings. The emotional life is a proper and noble part of the total personality, but it is, by its very nature, of secondary importance. Religion lies in the will, and so does righteousness. The only good that God recognizes is a willed good; the only valid holiness is a willed holiness.
It should be a cheering thought that before God every man is what he wills to be. The first requirement in conversion is a rectified will. “If any man will,” says our Lord, and leaves it there. To meet the requirements of love toward God the soul need but will to love and the miracle begins to blossom like the budding of Aaron’s rod.
The will is the automatic pilot that keeps the soul on course. “Flying is easy,” said a friend who flies his own plane. “Just take her up, point her in the direction you want her to go and set the pilot. After that she’ll fly herself.” While we must not press the figure too far, it is yet blessedly true that the will, not the feelings, determines moral direction.
The root of all evil in human nature is the corruption of the will. The thoughts and intents of the heart are wrong and as a consequence the whole life is wrong. Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction. The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return. His subsequent action proved his expressed purpose to be sincere. He did return.
Someone may infer from the above that we are ruling out the joy of the Lord as a valid part of the Christian life. While no one who reads these columns regularly would be likely to draw such an erroneous conclusion, a chance reader might be led astray; a further word of explanation is therefore indicated:
To love God with all our heart we must first of all will to do so. We should repent our lack of love and determine from this moment on to make God the object of our devotion. We should set our affections on things above and aim our hearts toward Christ and heavenly things. We should read the Scriptures devotionally every day and prayerfully obey them, always firmly willing to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself.
If we do these things we may be sure that we shall experience a wonderful change in our whole inward life. We shall soon find to our great delight that our feelings are becoming less erratic and are beginning to move in the direction of the “willed tendency of the heart.” Our emotions will become disciplined and directed. We shall begin to taste the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ. Our religious affection will begin to mount evenly on steady wings instead of flitting about idly without purpose or intelligent direction. The whole life, like a delicate instrument, will be tuned to sing the praises of Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
But first of all we must will, for the will is master of the heart.

Choosing to do what is right, instead of depending on how we happen to feel at a given moment, is how we are to live our Christian lives. But making hard choices, often against how we feel, is not easy to do, so far too many believers simply opt for what their mood is at the moment. This is unacceptable.

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The Duty and Delights of Discernment

I watched Pastor Justin Peters last night at Grace Community Church’s live stream of the introduction to his conference Clouds Without Water: A Biblical Critique of the Word-Faith Movement. That introductory hour of the two day conference was helpful in laying the ground work for the remainder of his lessons, because he explained what discernment is, and why it is important to practice, even for Christians who do not possess the gift of distinguishing of of spirits. (1 Corinthians 12:10).

Though Peters adds new video clips and updates the details over time, the overarching topics remain the same. Therefore if you are ever in a position to attend or watch it online as a video-conference, please do. I haven’t found a better series of lessons in which discernment is explained and then the audience is shown how to apply it to today’s Christian landscape. This link brings you to the conference outline and the topics specifically covered.

Providentially, as I read my Bible this morning, my reading brought me to John 7:17.

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

The context of that verse is Jesus is teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles. The audience is amazed that He teaches with such insight and authority. They wondered where Jesus obtained this insight and knowledge and the above verse is part of His answer. Now…what does it mean? Matthew Henry explains the first part of the verse:

That the most competent judges of the truth and divine authority of Christ’s doctrine are those that with a sincere and upright heart desire and endeavour to do the will of God (v. 17): If any man be willing to do the will of God, have his will melted into the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

Observe here, First, What the question is, concerning the doctrine of Christ, whether it be of God or no; whether the gospel be a divine revelation or an imposture. Christ himself was willing to have his doctrine enquired into, whether it were of God or no, much more should his ministers; and we are concerned to examine what grounds we go upon, for, if we be deceived, we are miserably deceived. Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume

Walvoord continues with an explanation for the rest of the verse-

The religious authorities figured that either a person studied in a traditional school or else he was self-taught. But Jesus’ reply pointed to a third alternative. His teaching was from God who had commissioned Him (cf. 12:49–50; 14:11, 24). Jesus was God-taught, and to know Jesus properly one must be God-taught (6:45). In order to evaluate Jesus’ claim, one must desire to do God’s will. Since Jesus is God’s will for man, people must believe in Him (6:29). Faith is the prerequisite for understanding. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). If Jesus were only self-taught (speaking on His own) or a genius, then His ministry would be self-exalting. But He did not seek honor for Himself. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Walvoord, Blum

John MacArthur finishes us off. Remember, the verse is that if anyone’s will is to do God’s will then he will know if the teaching is from God. The first cause is that the person desires to do God’s will. THEN he will be able to discern the teaching.

There’s a beautiful analogy to this in Proverbs Chapter 1 where wisdom is personified and is an analogy to Christ.  Chapter 1, verse 20, “Wisdom shouts in the street, even as Jesus did; lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: ‘How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?  And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing?  And fools hate knowledge? Turn from your folly, from your simple mindedness, from your scoffing, and I will pour out my spirit on you and will make my words known to you.'”

Do you see? You turn, and then it becomes known to you. Repentance comes first. God does not grant light on his truth unless a man is anxious to walk according to that light. He doesn’t grant an understanding of truth until a man is willing to obey that truth. John MacArthur, Embracing the Claims of Christ

Are you willing to walk in His light? Are you desirous of understanding truth, discerning right from wrong and truth from error? Jesus was the only man on earth ever to perfectly represent the Father. Though we cannot represent Him perfectly, our our task is to strive for a better representation of Him each day, and we do this by obeying His will, delving into His truth, and discerning truth from error. Discernment is part of the mix in striving to represent the Father. He grants it all to us, the desire of His will, repentance, and discernment, so let’s praise Him that He drew us out of darkness and depravity so we could represent Him at all! He gave us the wonderful gift, He poured out His spirit on us and has made His words known to us.

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Further reading

Todd Friel’s Drive By Discernment. While Mr Peters’ conference covers the Health/Wealth and NAR movements and teaches how to discern them, Friel’s series has a wider range and covers discernment itself as a biblical topic.

Source: The Duty and Delights of Discernment