Daily Archives: August 15, 2016

5 Christian Gold Medalist Olympians at Rio 2016 Who Defied Incredible Obstacles

The Christian Post has rounded up a list of five Olympians whose Christian faith has helped them prevail when stumbling blocks could have prevented them from winning gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

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Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety

From Tim Challies’ blog:

You have probably bumped into Adam Ford before, either through his comics at Adam4d.com or through his satire at The Babylon Bee. Over the past couple of years I’ve come to enjoy Adam as a friend and recently asked if he’d like to try his hand at another medium by penning a guest article. He obliged and this is the result. I trust you’ll benefit from it.

AnxietyFor 7 years I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety. It has completely changed my life. I have written and drawn about these things before and the response has proven to me that there are tons of Christians who relate to my story. This probably includes people you know. I also know that many are hesitant to tell others about their struggles. So for them, based on my experience, I compiled a little list of things you should know about your Christian friends and family who struggle with anxiety.

It changes us.

Before I had these issues I was an outgoing, type-A extrovert. I fed off social situations and loved being the center of attention. Today I’m a serious introvert who struggles mightily with social situations, unfamiliar settings, having any attention on me, meeting new people, talking on the phone, or even writing an article like this one. More often than not, I just can’t do it. I’ve been unable to leave my house for stretches of time. I’ve almost crashed my car while having a panic attack. I hate going to the doctor or the barber shop. I can’t do small groups with people I don’t know. I’ve tried so, so hard to go to conferences (I wanted to go to T4G so bad this year!), but I’ve never been able to go through with it. I’m a mess, really.

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Does Baptism Save You? (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38)

1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38; Galatians 2:16

Code: B160815

by Jeremiah Johnson

Faith and repentance are not easy. Submission contradicts the natural disposition of the human heart. And the transforming and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is often uncomfortable and difficult.

Salvation would be so much more inviting and enticing to our human understanding if it didn’t require humility, repentance, and the transformation of your entire being. Why can’t it simply be the product of a one-time activity?

For those looking to bypass the difficulty and discomfort of salvation, 1 Peter 3:21 seemingly provides a shortcut in the form of this simple declaration: “Baptism now saves you.” This and a select few other verses are often used to promote “baptismal regeneration”–the view that teaches that one is saved (regenerated) though water baptism.

However, not all proponents of baptismal regeneration see baptism as a shortcut to salvation or a quick fix to the problem of sin. Many view it as a necessary element—in addition to repentance and faith—that completes the work of salvation. And as a proof text, they point to Peter’s words in Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (emphasis added).

So what should we make of that—was Peter the first proponent of baptismal regeneration? And moreover, does that mean that no one is truly saved until they’ve been baptized?

To find the answers to those questions, we need to consider what it meant to become a Christian and make a public declaration of your faith in the earliest days of the church. In his commentary on Acts, John MacArthur sheds some light on the issue:

It is difficult for modern readers to grasp the magnitude of the change facing Peter’s Jewish hearers. They were part of a unique community, with a rich cultural and religious history. Despite long years of subjugation to Rome, they were fiercely nationalistic. The nation had rejected Jesus as a blasphemer and executed Him. Now Peter calls on them to turn their back on all that and embrace Jesus as their Messiah.

By calling on each of them to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” Peter does not allow for any “secret disciples” (cf. Matthew 10:32-33). Baptism would mark a public break with Judaism and identification with Jesus Christ. Such a drastic public act would help weed out any conversions which were not genuine. In sharp contrast to many modern gospel presentations, Peter made accepting Christ difficult, not easy. By so doing, he followed the example of our Lord Himself (Luke 14:26-33; 18:18-27). Baptism was always “in the name of Jesus Christ.” That was the crucial identification, and the cost was high for such a confession. [1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 73.

Baptism doesn’t accomplish or seal your salvation; it’s a public declaration of the work the Lord has already accomplished within. So the whole premise of baptismal regeneration defies the meaning and purpose of baptism. Not only that, the immediate context of Peter’s exhortation eliminates the possibility of anyone successfully using Acts 2:38 as an argument for baptismal regeneration. As John MacArthur explains,

[Baptismal regeneration] ignores the immediate context of the passage. As already noted, baptism would be a dramatic step for Peter’s hearers. By publicly identifying themselves as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, they risked becoming outcasts in their society (cf. John 9:22). Peter calls upon them to prove the genuineness of their repentance by submitting to public baptism. In much the same way, our Lord called upon the rich young ruler to prove the genuineness of his repentance by parting with his wealth (Luke 18:18-27). Surely, however, no one would argue from the latter passage that giving away one’s possessions is necessary for salvation. Salvation is not a matter of either water or economics. True repentance, however, will inevitably manifest itself in total submission to the Lord’s will. [2] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, 73-74.

Moreover, the idea of baptismal regeneration represents a significant contradiction to other passages of Scripture that clearly teach salvation by faith alone. In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas tell their jailor how he can be saved, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” In Galatians 2:16, Paul unmistakably denies salvation by works with these words:

Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (cf. Romans 3:28)

Even Christ Himself—in perhaps His most famous quote—denied the need for works to accomplish salvation: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In fact, the need for baptism would contradict the entirety of Christ’s ministry. As John MacArthur puts it, “After condemning the ritualistic religion of the scribes and Pharisees, our Lord would hardly have instituted one of His own.” [3] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, 74.

John MacArthur describes another reason Peter’s words cannot be read as an endorsement of baptismal regeneration:

This interpretation is not true to the facts of Scripture. Throughout the book of Acts, forgiveness is linked to repentance, not baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 5:31; 26:20). In addition, the Bible records that some who were baptized were not saved (Acts 8:13, 21-23), while some were saved with no mention of their being baptized (Luke 7:37-50; Matthew 9:2; Luke 18:13-14). The story of the conversion of Cornelius and his friends very clearly shows the relationship of baptism to salvation. It was only after they were saved, as shown by their receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-46), that they were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Indeed, it was because they had received the Spirit (and hence were saved) that Peter ordered them to be baptized (v. 47). That passage clearly shows that baptism follows salvation; it does not cause it. [4] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, 74.

So why do Peter’s words in Acts 2:38 read as an endorsement of baptismal regeneration? The confusion likely stems from the way the Greek preposition eis is translated. While it is often translated “for the purpose of,” it can also mean “because of”—that’s clearly the sense it conveys in Matthew 12:41, as Jesus described how the people of Ninevah repented after hearing Jonah’s preaching. That’s the sense we ought to see in Acts 2:38—Peter exhorted the people to be baptized because of the forgiveness of their sins.

As John MacArthur explains, that understanding is in keeping with the pattern presented throughout Scripture.

The order is clear. Repentance is for forgiveness. Baptism follows that forgiveness; it does not cause it (cf. Acts 8:12, 34-39; 10:34-48; 16:31-33). It is the public sign or symbol of what has taken place on the inside. It is an important step of obedience for all believers, and should closely follow conversion. In fact, in the early church it was inseparable from salvation, so that Paul referred to salvation as being related to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). [5] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, 75.

With that in mind, how do we make sense of the simple declaration we began with: “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21)?

As so often is the case in this series on Frequently Abused Verses, context is key. While those four words might seem to say one thing, a look at Peter’s complete statement makes his point abundantly clear.

When the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:20-21)

As John MacArthur explains in his commentary on 1 Peter, it’s illegitimate to use Peter’s words to make a case for salvation through water baptism, because that’s not even the kind of baptism Peter has in mind here.

“Baptism” (from baptizō) simply means “to immerse,” and not just in water. Peter here uses baptism to refer to a figurative immersion into Christ as the ark of safety that will sail over the holocaust of judgment on the wicked. Noah and his family were immersed not just in water, but in the world under divine judgment. All the while they were protected by being in the ark. God preserved them in the midst of His judgment, which is what he also does for all those who trust in Christ. God’s final judgment will bring fire and fury on the world, destroying the entire universe (cf. 2 Peter 3:10-12); but the people of God will be protected and taken into the eternal new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).

Peter made clear that he did not want readers to think he was referring to water baptism when he specifically said “not the removal of dirt from the flesh” (1 Peter 3:21). That he was actually referring to a spiritual reality when he wrote “baptism now saves” is also clear from the phrase, “an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). The only baptism that saves people is dry—the spiritual one into the death as well as the resurrection of Christ—of those who appeal to God to place them into the spiritual ark of salvation safety (cf. Romans 10:9-10).

Just as the Flood immersed all people in the judgment of God, yet some passed through safely, so also his final judgment will involve everyone, but those who are in Christ will pass through securely. The experience of Noah’s family in the Flood is also analogous to the experience of everyone who receives salvation. Just as they died to their previous world when they entered the ark and subsequently experienced a resurrection of sorts when they exited the ark to a new post-Flood world, so all Christians die to their old world when they enter the body of Christ (Romans 7:4-6; Galatians 2:19-20; Ephesians 4:20-24). They subsequently enjoy newness of life that culminates one day with the resurrection to eternal life. . . .

Therefore, God provides salvation because a sinner, by faith, is immersed into Christ’s death and resurrection and becomes His own through that spiritual union. Salvation does not occur by means of any rite, including water baptism. [6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Peter (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004) 217-218.

There are no shortcuts or religious rituals that can achieve salvation—in fact, it’s not a product of human works at all. As Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 


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The Curse of Constantine and the Lie of the Lesser of Two Evils

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill 

As we head closer to the presidential election in November, I have become increasingly concerned about what this election cycle is revealing about the state of the church. I’d like to share some insights from church history that could be very helpful for us as we prayerfully consider our calling in this time and place. Specifically, I think we all need to think more carefully about how the nature of political power is corrosive to the mission and witness of the church and how worldly moral compromise leads to regret and a loss of our prophetic voice in the world.

The Curse of Constantine

In 312 A.D. at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Emperor Constantine claimed he had a vision. In response to the vision, he did something that has had profound and lasting consequences for the church and the world, which echo down to this day and to our current presidential election. According to Eusebius and others, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words “Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα” (~in this sign, conquer!). Apparently, God was telling Constantine to conquer his earthly enemies and strengthen his empire in the sign of the cross.

This vision ran contrary to all that God had said in His word and all that Jesus had taught about the nature of His kingdom. The cross is not a symbol to prop up earthly powers and worldly kingdoms. Nevertheless, Constantine obeyed this vision and painted the Christian “chi-ro” symbol on his soldiers’ shields before the battle. They won. The following year, Constantine declared, “that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best.” Religious liberty for Christianity was enacted for the first time.

So, Constantine’s vision and his obedience to it seemed to have very good results: Victory in battle and religious liberty for Christians. As the years progressed, Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire and funded major church councils, including the Council of Nicaea. These early church councils established the orthodoxy of Christian faith, solidifying what the church had already believed and taught, while weeding out false teachers and strengthening our understanding of the faith.

So far, so good, right? Well, not so fast . . .

The decision of Constantine to embrace Christianity as a support for his empire has had severe negative consequences, too. The pastors and bishops who came out of the councils on the losing sides now faced persecution for their beliefs, sometimes even imprisonment and death. The church embraced worldly political power as the means to advance its cause in the world, just as Constantine embraced the church as the way for him to advance his cause in the world.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said in John 18:36. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.” Well, with Constantine’s decisions in 312-313, the church forgot these words of Jesus and tried to make His kingdom of this world. The result? His followers began fighting to establish, defend and advance Christ’s kingdom, something Jesus never told them to do.

What follows Constantine’s “conversion” is the history of a church full of ugliness: Christians attacking each other, fighting religious wars, burning each other at the stake, mistaking their earthly political kingdoms with the kingdom of God, compromising the Gospel and their prophetic voice to gain political power. As things degraded further throughout the Middle Ages, the positions of bishop became landed gentry offices for sale to the highest bidders, popes became political manipulators who were often notoriously immoral, dissent was met with brutal force, the poor were oppressed and exploited, people were killed for translating the Bible into the language of the people and more.

In fact, the pursuit of political power brought the church back to the spiritual state of the leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day. These men – Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes – were protecting the political power Rome had given them. They would do anything to keep power, even if it meant killing the Man who had clearly proven Himself to be the Messiah.

Here’s the bottom-line lesson of the curse of Constantine: When the church focuses on earthly political power, both the church and the world lose. Instead of on preaching the Gospel, showing the love of Jesus and speaking as a prophetic voice of truth to the culture, the church fights among itself, jockeys for political power, compromises, manipulates, back-stabs and presents an ugly, awful witness to the world.  The church loses her spiritual power, and the world loses a vital Gospel witness it so desperately needs.

I remember sharing the story of Chuck Colson’s conversion with a non-Christian friend in college. He listened politely and said, “So, he went from being a Republican political operative to being a Christian? Not much of a change, huh?” That’s the opinion of much of the world when it comes to Christianity. Sadly, we have too much in the media and on social media to reinforce that stereotype.

The Lie of the Lesser of Two Evils

As the church has sought to gain and keep political power, it has often compromised by giving into the lie that we must always choose the lesser of two evils. The church has been forced into situations of moral compromise by a worldly political power Jesus never called it to have. From the very beginning, the church had to decide how much it would compromise in order to gain and keep the favor of the emperor. They had to decide how far they would bend God’s word to win political favor.

Some refused to compromise, preferring to preach and teach the word of God without compromise. Sadly, they often paid with their lives, since the church powers now had the power of the sword. John Chrysostom was walked to death in the year 407 at the age of 58 because he refused to compromise. Jan Hus was burned at the stake.  John Knox was driven from Scotland and lives years in exile.

But those who did compromise, who chose to go along with the political realities of their day often suffered worse fates. Wolf Hall is a brilliant mini-series from the BBC which aired on PBS. It tells the sad story of Thomas Cromwell, who compromised repeatedly in order to remain in Henry VIII’s good graces. He compromised his soul before losing his life in 1540.  Likewise Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. He also compromised his values to support Henry VIII. Later, he compromised the Gospel itself in denouncing his faith in order to try to save his life under Queen Mary.

Henry VIII was a powerful egomaniac, a serial adulterer and womanizer who divorced several wives who failed to please him. He was perhaps the most tyrannical king in the history of England, and yet he was surrounded by brilliant Christian leaders who willingly compromised their values, looked the other way, made excuses, corrupted their souls and marred their witness – all for the sake of political power. In the minds of the Reformers who supported Henry, he was clearly the lesser of two evils, the greater being the Catholic Church. Ironically, their compromises helped to set up a culture of religious persecution in England that later led to Queen Mary executing hundreds of godly Reformed pastors.

You don’t need to be a student of church history in order to see the lie of the lesser of two evils In the recent history of the United States, we have also seen the folly of compromise in support of this mis-guided idea:

1. In World War 2, the US and Great Britain made an alliance with the Soviet Union, the lesser of two evils, in their fight against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. Joseph Stalin ended up killing more of his own people than Hitler, the Soviets took over Eastern Europe, and we were dragged into a Cold War that lasted over 40 years.

2. In the Iran-Iraq War, we made an alliance with Iraq and supported Saddam Hussein. He was the secular leader fighting against Islamic extremism in Iran. We knew he was an egomaniac, but we still armed him with weapons and money, some of which he used against his own people and some of which he used against us in 1991 and again in 2003.

3. In Afghanistan in the 1980’s we supported the rebels against the Soviet Union. We armed and funded Osama bin Laden.

4. In the Arab Spring of 2011, we supported local uprisings against their brutal dictators in Egypt, Libya and Syria. One of the Syrian rebel groups extended into Iraq and became ISIS. The Libyan we supported later attacked our embassy in Benghazi and killed four Americans. The Muslim Brotherhood we supported in Egypt because brutal persecutors who were later removed by their own people.

Whenever we compromise basic principles of morality in order to support the lesser of two evils, we pay for it later.

Lessons for Today

As Christians living in America, we face a presidential election unlike any other we have ever seen. On both sides, professing Christians are supporting seriously flawed candidates because they despise the other candidate so much and feel they must choose “the lesser of two evils.” It’s hard to deny the reality that either Donald J. Trump or Hillary R. Clinton will most likely be the next President of the United States. Very few clear-thinking people enthusiastically support either candidate, as they are among the most compromised and immoral candidates we have ever seen. Yet many people are so driven by fear that they will publicly support a deeply flawed candidate in order to prevent the other from gaining office.

I think history can teach us several things:

1. The church cannot compromise its witness in pursuit of political power.

2. The church cannot find its Savior, its hope or its security in politics.

3. The pursuit of political power or salvation through political means has repeatedly caused Christians to brutally attack in each other in many different ways.

4. We must not believe the lie that we must choose between the lesser of two evils.

5. Supporting evil publicly for political purposes undermines the witness and spiritual power of the church.

I will not presume to tell you how to vote. What concerns me much more is seeing Christian leaders publicly supporting either candidate, given how deeply compromised they both are. Neither of them should be trusted with the power of the presidency. Neither of them seems to have any moral compass other than self-interest. Both of them have a long history of lies, fraud and corruption.

The church has a clear calling. It is not to form political alliances. It is to preach the Gospel, love our neighbors and stand for Jesus Christ our King, come what may. May the Lord give us the grace to stand and keep us from compromise, in-fighting, an ugly witness to the world and instead allow us to shine with His light.

Source: The Curse of Constantine and the Lie of the Lesser of Two Evils

Mature in Christ within the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8 (NASB) 

The Doctrine of Imputation is a wonderful blessing for the Christian. Christ’s Righteousness and perfect obedience to the Law were both imputed to the account of every believer at their justification. That means, in God’s sight, each and every one of us in Christ are as blameless in his eyes as Christ himself. 

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