Daily Archives: December 4, 2016

Grace to You(GTY): “Hillsong & God”

Code: B161129

by Cameron Buettel & Jeremiah Johnson

Truth matters, especially when it comes to worship. That ought to be obvious; you can’t properly praise the Lord if you don’t know who He is. Christ Himself was unequivocal on that point—He said true worshippers “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, emphasis added).

However, much of modern worship music seems to aim at taming the one true God. Some popular “worship songs” are nothing more than artificial praise offered to a different god altogether. In his book Worship, John MacArthur describes the fallout of the biblical illiteracy that permeates the church today.

“Worship” aims to be as casual and as relaxed as possible, reflecting an easy familiarity with God unbefitting His transcendent majesty. This type of “worship” seems to aim chiefly at making sinners comfortable with the idea of God—purging from our thoughts anything like fear, trembling, reverence, or profound biblical truth. . . .

The decline of true worship in evangelical churches is a troubling sign. It reflects a depreciation of God and a sinful apathy toward His truth among the people of God. Evangelicals have been playing a kind of pop-culture trivial pursuit for decades, and as a result, the evangelical movement has all but lost sight of the glory and grandeur of the One we worship. [1] John MacArthur, Worship (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 10-12.

During our recent visits to Hillsong Los Angeles, we’ve seen that trend played out in vivid detail. Worse still, we’ve identified some unbiblical characteristics that Hillsong routinely attribute to God.

Hillsong’s God Is Passive

In their Statement of Beliefs, Hillsong asserts—without any biblical support—the following: “We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and blessed lives in order to help others more effectively.”

That statement raises some important questions: What is hindering God from making us all healthy and blessed? And why is the world full of sickness, poverty, and hardship if God doesn’t want it that way?

The simple answer is that Hillsong worships a passive and impotent God. Over and over during our time at Hillsong LA, we were encouraged to “invite God in to lead and guide” and to “allow” Him to lead us. We were taught that our worship opens the door for God to work in our lives—that it offers Him the opportunity to bring breakthrough to our circumstances. One night we were bluntly assured that “our prayers can even change God’s mind.”

That’s a far cry from the God of the Bible, who “does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3); whose purposes cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2); who predestines His people according to His purpose and will (Ephesians 1:11); and who sovereignly rules over all His creation (Psalm 103:19). While God’s sovereignty is occasionally paid lip service in songs and sermons, the concept of a truly sovereign Lord is utterly foreign to Hillsong’s theology.

Hillsong’s God Is One-Dimensional

But that comes as no surprise, given Hillsong’s general myopia when it comes to divine attributes. In the Hillsong doctrinal economy, one aspect of God’s character stands head and shoulders above all others: His love. On more than one occasion we were told that “God desperately loves every single person out there in Los Angeles.” We were repeatedly reminded that the gospel and the message of Jesus Christ are “inclusive”—that God is not interested in perfect people; that He loves you “just the way you are” (more on that next time).

In one evening service, we heard from Christine Caine, an anti-trafficking activist and international speaker—herself a product of Hillsong. Her message concerned God’s faithfulness to keep His promises, and she used the story of Abraham and Sarah as her text. She closed by reassuring us that God still loves us after the “dumb stuff”—a term she applied to all sorts of sin, including Abraham’s fornication with Hagar. Her point was that there is nothing we can do—no matter how egregious and rebellious the sin—to make God love us any less. His great love for mankind will always win out, overcoming any and every obstacle.

The problem with that view of God’s love is that it ignores so many of His other fundamental attributes. There is no thought given to His holiness, His justice, or His righteous wrath. In fact, as Romans 5:8-9 makes clear, God’s love and His wrath are best understood in tandem. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

Hillsong is quick to apply the blessings and benefits of God’s great love. But apart from those other vital aspects of His character, it seems like little more than vague affection. Put simply, God’s love loses its luster in a vacuum.

As John MacArthur explained in a video blog earlier this year, “You can’t take one attribute of God—any one attribute of God—and isolate that as if that defines God alone. God must be understood in all the complex of all His attributes.” In God’s divine nature, those attributes complement one another—they do not compete. And they cannot be fully or accurately understood in isolation.

Hillsong’s God Is Familiar

Perhaps one of the other hazards of over-emphasizing God’s love is that it turns Him into a kindly benefactor, robbing Him of due reverence and respect. Worship services do not need to be somber affairs, but there is a noticeable lack of sobriety that pervades Hillsong LA’s meetings.

And it’s not just a matter of the club-like atmosphere or the rock show accouterments. There’s no discernable sense of reverence or awe for God—no notion that He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29). And while they spend significant time wooing people to enter into a relationship with Christ, there is no sense that “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Rather, Hillsong’s God is a cosmic butler, attentive to all our needs and eager to unleash breakthrough, heal relationships, and shower blessings into our lives. He waits at our beck and call.

Gone is any sense of God’s transcendence or holiness. In fact, the reactions of men like Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John—who humbly fell on their faces in the presence of the Lord, dumbstruck with awe—seem inappropriate for a deity as intimate and familiar as the one Hillsong describes.

That attitude can lead to some disturbingly casual and careless discussion of God’s Person and work. For example, in the aforementioned message from Christine Caine, she brought the audience to hysterics with the following description of God’s creative work: “God woke up one day and burped and [gestures] earth, and [said] ‘Whoops, look what I did.’” Those simply aren’t the words of someone who takes God and His Word seriously.

A Word About God’s Word

That same giddy carelessness is on display in most of the preaching we heard at Hillsong LA. Speakers frequently play fast and loose with Scripture and its meaning. Context is rarely a concern. The general pattern is to isolate a portion of Scripture’s narrative and turn it into an analogy for the audience and a promise of God’s blessing and favor.

Even the most familiar verses and passages are exceedingly pliable in the hands of Hillsong’s leadership. The first Sunday we attended, Hillsong LA’s lead pastor Ben Houston turned John 3:16 into an exhortation to give to the church, explaining how “God so loved that He gave,” and that our love for the church ought to prompt us to give our money.

That sort of postmodern flexibility is brought to the text in every service, and it turns every lesson into a reminder of God’s aggressive love for you, His eager desire to bless you, and your integral part in unleashing that blessing in your own life. It’s not much more than a watered-down version of the prosperity gospel or the Word Faith movement.

In his book, Worship, John MacArthur points to several Old Testament examples to illustrate how seriously God takes worship. Whether it’s the Israelites fashioning a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, the strange fire offered by Nadab and Abihu, or Uzzah simply reaching out to steady and secure the Ark of the Covenant, the message is clear:

God will not accept deviant worship. Some would insist that any kind of sincere worship is acceptable to God, but that is simply not true. The Bible clearly teaches that those who offer self-styled worship are unacceptable to God, regardless of their good intentions. No matter how pure our motivation may seem or how sincere we are in our attempt, if we fail to worship God as He has commanded, He cannot bless us. [2] Worship, 20.

At best, Hillsong’s God is a pale and incomplete shadow of the fullness described in Scripture. At worst, he’s a fraudulent idol, made in man’s image and incapable of providing the redemption and transformation that sinners so desperately need.

 


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B161129
COPYRIGHT ©2016 Grace to You

Grace to You(GTY): “Hillsong & Man”

Code: B161201

by Cameron Buettel & Jeremiah Johnson

The heart of the human problem is the human heart. Therapy can’t change it. Self-help gurus can’t fix it. Positive confession can’t conceal it. And self-esteem can’t convert it.

Sinners cannot be persuaded into the kingdom of God. Salvation is not achieved through mental assent or emotional responses. Unless God regenerates the heart (Ezekiel 36:25–27; John 3:3) it remains dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), hostile to Him (Romans 8:7), and worthy of condemnation (Ephesians 2:3). That’s not a matter of opinion—it’s God’s own diagnosis of the unregenerate heart. And the only cure is His redeeming and transforming work. Everything else is woefully insufficient.

If you get the doctrine of man wrong, you can’t help but get the gospel wrong, too. That’s why John MacArthur describes total depravity (or “total inability”) as the most distinctly Christian doctrine:

No doctrine is more hated by unbelievers than this one, and even some Christians find it so offensive that they zealously attack it. Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel. . . . The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. [1] John MacArthur, Slave (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 121–22

That was exactly what we experienced during our visits to Hillsong Los Angeles, where the biblical view of man has been discarded and replaced with something far more palatable to a therapeutic, self-centered culture.

Man Is Central

In Hillsong’s spiritual economy, man has tremendous inherent worth. The individual replaces Christ as the central figure in God’s redemptive plan. Their own doctrinal statement says that the purpose of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was to “prove His victory and empower us for life.” The redemption of wretched sinners is not in view.

That man-centered approach is a recurring theme throughout Hillsong’s global ministry empire. Their songs are often more about the ones singing than the One they’re singing to. Every passage they preach is a promise of God’s blessing and favor for you. And their altar calls emphasize an endless stream of temporal, personal benefits—breakthrough, healing, success, and prosperity.

Effectively, Hillsong’s leaders seek to enable and empower a latent human condition. Their focus is primarily on the enormous potential we have to do great things and be great people. Hillsong’s official website contains a gospel presentation in which we are told that the main point of Christ’s incarnation was to “show us our full potential . . . the wonderful potential of perfected humanity.”

The preaching is where Hillsong’s man-centeredness is most blatant, as all the sermons we heard adhered to a simple but consistent template. First, a narrative portion of Scripture would be isolated and severed from its larger biblical context. Next, the preacher would insert him or herself and the congregation into the story. Third, the text was routinely used as a bridge to introduce personal illustrations from the preacher’s own experiences. And finally, after those personal experiences had been fully exegeted, the passage is recast as a promise from God for the congregation. Sitting under that kind of teaching long enough would convince you that all of Scripture is merely an allegory for you and your life.

God’s purpose in writing the biblical story, or its place in His wider redemptive plan, was never mentioned in any of the messages we heard. Man was always central. However, his culpability for sin was avoided at every turn.

Man Is Never Prosecuted

Human guilt barely registers on the Hillsong radar. While the word “sin” does get an occasional mention in Hillsong worship songs, it is never defined or described. The same goes for all the Hillsong preachers we heard—and even then, they prefer to describe sin as “dumb stuff” or “mistakes.”

Their statement of faith attempts greater clarity on the subject, but still falls far short of the biblical definition: “We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.” That’s not a false statement, but it drastically understates the reality of man’s fallen condition.

The reticence regarding sin extends throughout the ministry. We spoke with some of the Hillsong volunteers responsible for integrating new attenders. They made it clear that they had been instructed to avoid challenging or confronting people about their sins—even open, unrepentant sin. Considering the way Hillsong operates, you can’t help but wonder where and when such a confrontation might happen? It’s certainly not coming from the pulpit.

That reluctance to deal directly with sin is institutional at Hillsong. When Brian Houston—Hillsong’s founder and global pastor—was interviewed on Australian television, he was incapable of expressing any clear-cut biblical convictions on prominent moral issues:

I think that the homosexual question and sexuality generally is one of the most challenging questions there is for the church in the 21st century. And it’s one where I feel conflict myself, as a believer in the Bible and specifically the New Testament, I think that marriage is God’s idea, and I think it’s for a man and a woman. But I also represent a God that’s merciful and gracious and kind, and having to connect those two things I think is one of the great challenges for me as a church leader.

In the church we can point the finger so easily. On the subject of abortion, I’m pro-life. But in a way I’m pro-choice as well, because I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe that life begins at conception. But I also believe that ultimately human beings have to make their own choices, and I ultimately can’t tell you what you should do. I can only give you the parameters that I believe.

Those quotes don’t represent Christian conviction. They are the chameleonic ramblings of a political pragmatist.

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong New York, goes even further than Houston. Instead of equivocating on morality, he simply chooses to avoid the subject altogether. During a television interview with Katie Couric, Lentz was asked for his views on gay marriage: “Do you feel you have a moral imperative to speak publically about some of these more controversial issues?” He responded: “No, because we try to be like Jesus. Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues.”

That’s either a lack of integrity or biblical literacy. Either way, it’s indicative of just how far Hillsong is willing to go to avoid dealing with sin directly.

Man Is a Victim

Since Hillsong refuses to offer any exploration or explanation concerning our personal guilt, our condition is always couched in therapeutic language. Man is regularly designated as the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Both Hillsong’s music and message label the primary problems of unbelievers with words like trapped, bound, enslaved, captive, hurting, wounded, disappointed, let down, and brokenhearted. Certainly some of those words reflect the biblical truth about the unregenerate heart. But the gospel of Hillsong is presented as the remedy to those problems—not reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:19) and rescue from His wrath (John 3:36).

During our visits, we regularly heard different Hillsong teachers point out that God loves us just as we are; that He understands how hard our lives are; that He has great desires and dreams for us; that He wants to fix all our financial, health, and relationship problems; and that He’s waiting on us to let Him unleash blessing and breakthrough in our lives. But none of that can happen until we have repented of our sin and surrendered our lives in faith to God.

We’re not denying the existence of genuine victims. But in terms of eternity, even the greatest victim still needs to appreciate the depth of his own guilt in order to grasp his need for the Savior. The speakers we heard at Hillsong LA were only interested in salving our own grief—there was no thought whatsoever for how our sin grieves God.

Man Doesn’t Need to Change

The natural consequence of concealing human guilt is that it removes all need for repentance—another word we rarely heard in our time at Hillsong LA. It did fit the rhyme scheme of one or two songs, and it occasionally slipped out during the routine alter calls, but it was never explained or stressed as a necessary element of faith in Christ.

Oddly enough, Hillsong’s statement of faith does talk about repentance: “We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.” However, that quote only highlights the danger of taking doctrinal statements at face value. Concerning Hillsong and the doctrine of repentance, there is zero correlation between what they claim in print and what they actually preach.

For the sake of honesty, Hillsong should either conform their preaching to their doctrinal statement or conform their doctrinal statement to their preaching. As it stands now, it’s hard to see it as anything less than a devious misrepresentation. Worse still, they have congregations full of people—many of them previously unchurched—who are being kept in the dark about the seriousness of their sin and their urgent need to turn from it.

Man Is Validated

That leaves Hillsong with an emaciated, man-centered gospel. A gospel where God is the supporting cast to man’s starring role. It is a gospel that fails to prosecute men for their sins against God, and instead portrays the criminal as a victim—a gospel that places no requirements on the sinner to turn from his wicked ways. Salvation is thus reduced to God’s revitalization of the victim rather than His justification of the sinner.

Even during a discussion on the prayer acronym ACTS—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—we were specifically cautioned against confessing sins. The confession part of prayer was instead explained as reminding ourselves and God of His promises of blessing for us—a practice commonly referred to in charismatic circles as “positive confession.” With the doctrine of depravity already in ruins, it makes sense that Hillsong turns confession into another opportunity for self-aggrandizement.

That example pretty much encapsulates the delusional anthropology Hillsong teaches to its attenders. They focus on building self-esteem rather than our need to esteem Christ. They spotlight our disappointments at the expense of our guilt. They emphasize our potential while ignoring our depravity. And all the while the Hillsong flock is left in the dark about their true need for Christ.

A Final Word

Please don’t misunderstand our purpose in this series—as though we take some perverse delight in chronicling such a theological disaster. Instead, we feel a responsibility to warn the church about what we’ve seen and heard during our time at Hillsong, and encourage God’s people to be discerning about the ministries they allow to influence their faith and spiritual growth.

We also hope these posts will be lifelines to men and women who are unwittingly drowning in theological error. The people we encountered at Hillsong LA were some of the friendliest, kindest, and most welcoming people you could hope to meet. We are genuinely grieved for them and deeply troubled by their spiritual malnutrition. It’s our sincere hope that our words will help awaken them to the truth—that they are being denied the life-giving truth of God’s Word.

Perhaps you know people likewise caught under the sway of Hillsong or another similarly weak ministry—sadly, there are many others. Pray for them, and do what you can to funnel quality, biblical teaching their way. They are not the enemy; they are a spiritually starving mission field that needs to hear about the greatness of their sin and an even greater Savior.

 


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B161201
COPYRIGHT ©2016 Grace to You

Progressive Christians and their doctrines of devils

Do not be fooled by professing Christians who prefer either “progressive Christian” or “social justice Christian” over evangelical. It matters not what trendy terms they come up with to describe themselves, these folks are leftists. Some are Marxists. And others are Communists. As I said in a series of essays I wrote entitled “Liberals created the culture of evil and death” the visible Church has been infiltrated by . . . [Click for more]

Rick Warren: Forget Sola Scriptura, But There is ‘Plus Scriptura’

Bud Ahlheim of Pulpit & Pen examines the teaching of Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback megachurch which is one of the largest churches in the U.S.  He quotes Tim Challies as saying the following about the man who has been dubbed the “Purpose Driven Pope”:

One need only read Warren’s books or listen to a few of his messages to realize how often he explains and applies passages incorrectly. I assume this is because he has not taken the time to first humble himself before the Scripture and determine what the passages really mean. So do not be confused and presume that Warren is an expository preacher.

Ahlheim also includes something highly influential pastor Charles Spurgeon once said:

Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already. He adds nothing to the Bible and never will.

Now listen as Bud Ahlheim shreads Warren’s post “The Four Ways God Speaks To You.”  He writes:

Photo courtesy Apprising Ministries

When the apostle Paul was writing his final letter to Timothy, he failed to include a number of things that are so frequently hurled about the Christian church today as utterly important, especially when it comes to hearing from God.

For example, the apostle did not instruct his young protégé on the importance of listening for God’s “still small voice” for personal and ministerial guidance. He didn’t remind Timothy about the importance of astutely discerning between God-sent, spiritual “impressions” for direction as opposed to those which might be of a distinctly more carnal nature.  The apostle of our Lord also forgot to advise the young minister about the importance of circumstances God may orchestrate in order to provide spiritual guardrails to guide him down the correct, providential path.

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Fake News: 5 Stories The Mainstream Media Reported as Real, But They Were Fake

There’s a reason Secretary of State John Kerry said the Internet is making it harder to govern… because people have a lot more information at their fingertips and no longer have to rely solely on the mainstream media’s establishment propaganda machine.




Regeneration: Ascribed Entirely to God Alone

The Reformed Reader

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2 The Bible teaches that God gives life to dead sinners.  Scripture says that people by nature are dead in sin and in bondage to it until God sovereignly breathes new life into the heart by the power of his Word and Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:1-10).  This is an act of grace and mercy; no sinner deserves to receive new life from God.  Reformed theology teaches that regeneration is not conditional upon faith.  That is, we disagree with the Arminian teaching that faith precedes regeneration.  It is true that the regenerated sinner receives new life, and a new heart, and truly does embrace Christ by faith.  But regeneration is monergistic: God alone changes the dead heart.  Regeneration is not conditional.  The sinner is passive in regeneration.  I like how Francis Turretin stated it when he talked about regeneration and conversion (I’ve added [brackets] for clarification):

…Although in every instance [of conversion]…

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If We Aren’t Being Attacked For Our Faith As Christians, We’re Doing Something Wrong

It’s not just about gay marriage or abortion or any other specific issue. They hate Christianity because it is Christianity. They hate it simply for being true, just as Christ was crucified simply for being God. Those who hate truth and hate God will lash out at the closest things to Him.

A lot of people have seemed pretty shocked by the leftist media’s assault on Chip and Joanna Gaines.

BuzzFeed, along with other liberal sites, went after the Gaines family this week for committing the crime of being Christian. Sure, they didn’t put it like that exactly. Instead they accused Chip and Joanna of attending a church led by a pastor who doesn’t believe in gay marriage. But, as anyone with even a trivial understanding of the world’s largest religion already knows, every authentic Christian church in the world teaches the same thing. There has never existed a real Christian church that disagrees with the Gaines’ pastor on this matter. There have existed many apostate churches that deny Christ’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, but they are not Christian in any way other than their name (and often their names aren’t all that Christian, either).

Anti-Christian forces in our culture have attempted to divide Christianity into two groups: bad Christians and tolerable, if not good, Christians. The bad Christians are the ones who take the moral teachings of Scripture seriously, and the tolerable Christians are the ones who think the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, all Scriptural references to marriage and sexual morality, all of the Pauline letters, and the entire Old Testament, expired sometime within the last few decades. According to the tolerable Christians, we can now do, say, and believe whatever we want and still be Christian, so long as we throw, “Oh yeah, and Jesus is the Messiah or whatever, sure,” at the end of it. Anti-Christian leftists are fine with these sorts of Christians, mainly because these sorts of Christians are not Christian. That’s the most striking characteristic of the tolerable Christian: namely, that he isn’t one.

But any Christian who remains genuinely Christian will be seen as “the bad type” in our culture. And our culture is not the only one to give us that designation, we should note. Travel overseas to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, China, North Korea, etc., and you’ll find an even more pronounced, or at least more physical, hostility to the Christian faith. This has been the case for 2,000 years. We were persecuted by the Romans, the Persians, the Japanese. They were putting priests in front of the firing squads in Mexico as recently as the twentieth century (the persecution in that country continues to this day). And if we think we have it bad from progressives in this country, just consider what’s happening in places like Argentina, where hordes of crazed, half-naked feminists can be seen violently assaulting Christian men as they peacefully pray.

My point here is that the world really hates Christians. It always has and always will. And that’s not my point, really, but Christ’s point. He told us quite plainly on many occasions that we will be made to suffer for our faith. “You will be hated by everyone because of me,” Christ warned. He wasn’t exaggerating.

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Read another article on this topic: Buzzfeed Demands: ‘Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Christian?’

The Story Of Redemption

The Tabernacle was the mobile dwelling place of God–a tent covered in skin. When Jesus came, the Apostle John tells us that “He tabernacled among us.” Jesus is the enfleshed, mobile dwelling place of God. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Nothing serves to strengthen our faith so much as seeing the various patterns which God has woven into the pages of Scriptures in order to form a beautiful tapestry of His redeeming grace in Christ. It is not uncommon for theologians to refer to the meta-narrative, or the story of Scripture, as they seek to highlight the organic Christological connectivity of God’s revelation in the Bible. Over the years, I’ve sought to share some of the biblical theological insights that I have gleaned from Scripture and from many of the great theologians of church history. While there are so many rich redemptive-historical connections to be made in Scripture, here is a digestion of some of what I have personally found to be the most spiritually stimulating redemptive-historical meditations from Scripture–combined with a few historical references:

  • At creation, the Triune God looked back over His newly made world and pronounced it “good.” In the work of redemption, Jesus looked back over all that He had accomplished and proclaimed, “It is finished.” William Blaikie captured this so well when he wrote: “That cry with a loud voice, ‘It is finished,’ immediately before He resigned His spirit into His Father’s hands, was in many ways most significant. It indicated the feeling of the Redeemer surveying His work from the close, corresponding to the feeling of the Creator when He saw everything He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”1
  • As the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of creation–bringing new life out of the darkness–so He overshadowed the virgin Mary to knit together a human nature for the Son of God to take to Himself in order to bring about the new creation. Sinclair Ferguson elucidates the mystery of the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption in the following way: “It is an amazing, supernatural miracle; but like God’s great works–creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection–done safe from men’s prying eyes. He brings light out of darkness. He brings His Son into the dark womb of a virgin.”2
  • At the creation of man, the Lord breathed the breath of life into him–making him a living being (Gen. 2:7). At the inauguration of the new creation, Jesus breathed the Spirit of life into His people–making them spiritually living beings (John 20:22).
  • As God put Adam to sleep and created a bride for him out of his side, so God put Jesus to sleep in death and took a bride for Him out of His pierced side. Matthew Henry drew out this parallel when he wrote: “Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself.”3
  • Eve seems to have been presented to Adam on the Sabbath Day when he awoke from sleep. So, the bride of Christ, was presented to Him on the first day of the week when he awoke at His resurrection. Jonathan Edwards noted this when he wrote: “When [Adam] was in a deep sleep, Eve was made of his rib. And when he rose from his deep sleep in the morning, and the sun arose, and all things were renewed, he received his beauteous spouse that had been formed of him. She was brought and presented to him in perfect beauty and purity: which represents being of Christ by his death and his obtaining the church by his death…So Christ’s resurrection, when he rose from that death whereby he had purchased the church, was on the sabbath, the first day of the week, the first day of Christ’s immortal life, and the day when he first received what he had purchased by his death.”4
  1. William Blaikie Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Lord(London: Hodder and Stoughten, 1876) pp. 273-275.
  2. An excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon, “Jesus, Name Above All Names: Immanuel.”
  3. Matthew Henry Exposition of the Old and New Testament(London: Joseph Robinson, 1828) vol. 1 p. 12
  4. Jonathan Edwards. (2000). The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. 501–832). (A. Chamberlain & H. S. Stout, Eds.) (Vol. 18, pp. 288–289). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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December 4, 2016: Verse of the day

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Through Christ, as a man, came the resurrection of the dead, just as through Adam, the first man, came death. Paul’s point here is that Jesus’ humanness was inextricably involved both in His resurrection and in ours. It was because Jesus died, was buried, and was raised as a man that He could become the first fruits of all other men who would be raised to glory. As already noted, the first fruits and the harvest were from the same crop.

In verse 22 Paul continues to explain how the great truth of the one resurrection of Christ affects believers. The convincing analogy comes from the first man: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shah be made alive. Just as Adam was the progenitor of everyone who dies, so Christ is the progenitor of everyone who will be raised to life. In each case, one man doing one act caused the consequences of that act to be applied to every other person identified with him. Those who are identified with Adam—every person who has been born—is subject to death because of Adam’s sinful act. Likewise, those who are identified with Christ—every person who has been born again in Him—is subject to resurrection to eternal life because of Christ’s righteous act. In Adam all have inherited a sin nature and therefore will die. In Christ all who believe in Him have inherited eternal life, and shall be made alive, in body as well as in spirit. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

From countless other passages of Scripture we know that the two alls in verse 22, though alike in some respects, cannot be equal. Those who attempt to read universalism into this passage must contradict those other passages that teach reprobation (Matt. 5:29; 10:28: 25:41, 46; Luke 16:23; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 20:15; etc.). The alls are alike in that they both apply to descendants. Every human being is a descendant of Adam, and therefore the first all is universal. With only the exceptions of Enoch and Elijah, whom the Lord took directly to be with Himself, and of those saints who will be raptured, every person born will die.

Only those who trust in Jesus Christ, however, are His descendants (as illustrated in John 8:44), and the second all therefore applies only to the saved. It is only all the fellow sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:7; Eph. 3:6; cf. Acts 20:32; Titus 3:7) who shall be made alive. Adam is simply to be human, to have been born once. In Christ is to have eternal life, to be born again. By natural descent from Adam, having inherited his sin, all die. By supernatural descent from Christ, having inherited His righteousness, all shall be made alive.

Though the inheritance in both cases is bodily as well as spiritual, Paul’s major emphasis here is on the bodily. Through Adam’s sin, man died spiritually and became subject to death bodily. Likewise, through Christ believers are given life spiritually and will be raised bodily. But our spirits, because they go to be with the Lord at death, will not wait to be resurrected. Only our bodies will be resurrected, and that is the truth stressed here.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

December 4, 2016: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

December 4 Christ’s Equality with God

“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Philippians 2:6

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Christ is equal with God but willingly yielded His divine privileges for our sake.

At the time Christ lived, even His worst enemies, the apostate religious leaders, knew what Jesus claimed about Himself. John 5:18 says, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” In Philippians 2:6 Paul affirms Christ’s claim of equality with God. The Greek word translated “equality” (isos) describes things that are exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. Isomorph (equal form), isometric (equal measures), and isosceles triangle (a triangle with two sides of equal measure) are all English terms that describe equality. Christ is equal to God, and He exists in the form of God. A literal English rendering of the Greek text is: “He did not regard the being equal with God”—a tremendous affirmation of the deity of Christ.

The first step in the humiliation of Christ was that He did not hold on to equality with God. Though He had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Godhood, Christ didn’t grasp them. The word translated “grasp” originally meant “robbery” or “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, clung to, or prized. Paul meant that though He was always and forever God, Christ refused to cling to His favored position with all its rights and honors. He was willing to give them up for a season.

The Incarnation expresses the humility and unselfish nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ looked down on wretched sinners who hated Him and willingly yielded His privileges to give Himself for their sake. Let us follow His example by being humble and living unselfishly for others.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for His example of humility and unselfishness.

For Further Study: Read John 10:38; 14:9. What did Christ say about His relationship with the Father? ✧ In John 20:28 how did Thomas address Christ?[1]


December 4

A Prisoner for Christ

It has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.

Philippians 1:13

The apostle Paul always saw himself as a prisoner because of Christ—never because of crime. He was in chains because he believed in, preached, and represented Jesus Christ.

From the point of view of Rome, Paul was a captive chained to a Roman guard. But from Paul’s perspective, the Roman guards were captives chained to him! The result of such close confinement was that the cause of Christ had “become evident to the whole palace guard.” Far from being a burdensome condition, Paul had been given the opportunity to witness for Christ to each guard assigned to him, at six hours a stretch.

What did those soldiers see? They saw Paul’s godly character, graciousness, patience, love, wisdom, and conviction. As members of the palace guard were converted, salvation spread beyond them to “those who are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). No matter how difficult it may appear on the surface, no one is too difficult to reach with the gospel.[2]


DECEMBER 4

PICK UP THE HARP

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

—1 Chronicles 16:29

Man was made to worship God. God gave to man a harp and said, “Here above all the creatures that I have made and created I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument and I have given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can.” …

The purpose of God in sending His Son to die and rise and live and be at the right hand of God the Father was that He might restore to us the missing jewel, the jewel of worship; that we might come back and learn to do again that which we were created to do in the first place—worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to spend our time in awesome wonder and adoration of God, feeling and expressing it, and letting it get into our labors and doing nothing except as an act of worship to Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. I say that the greatest tragedy in the world today is that God has made man in His image and made him to worship Him, made him to play the harp of worship before the face of God day and night, but he has failed God and dropped the harp. It lies voiceless at his feet. WMJ007-008

Help me, Father, to pick up the harp and bring You the glory due to Your name. I’ve come to know You in a deeper way; may I respond with heartfelt worship. Amen. [3]


December 4

The Kingdom of Heaven

To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 13:11

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10) we see two aspects of the kingdom of heaven. “On earth” refers to the present kingdom, mediated through God’s servants, and “in heaven” refers to God’s universal, direct reign.

Through the centuries the present kingdom has attracted both true and false citizens. Only God can infallibly distinguish true citizens (the redeemed) from false ones. Jesus shows that many branches that seem to belong to the vine actually do not. The spurious ones will be pruned away and thrown into the fire (John 15:2, 6). Such people only superficially identify with Christ but are never really citizens of the kingdom of heaven or part of the body of Christ. They appear to be true citizens only from an imperfect human perspective.

Paradoxically, Scripture uses terms such as Israel, God’s people, and disciples that can include both nominal and genuine believers. Paul does make it clear, however, that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart” (Rom. 2:29; cf. 9:6–7). Only at the very end of the age, when the eternal kingdom begins, will those who are true citizens of God’s kingdom be clear to everyone. (Even during the Millennium, when Christ directly rules on earth, there will be disloyal citizens; cf. Rev. 20:7–8.)

The only way now to ensure your kingdom citizenship is to repent, trust in Jesus Christ, and pursue the sanctification that new life in Him brings (cf. Mark 1:15).

ASK YOURSELF
What should churches do to discern and encourage those who are Christians in name only to put their faith in Christ wholeheartedly? Why do we tend to avoid dealing in touchy matters like these? And what is the result of our reticence?[4]


December 4 Progressive Revelation

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

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The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.

When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn’t understand everything they wrote because it didn’t always apply to their day. That’s why Peter said, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Peter 1:10–12).

Progressive revelation doesn’t at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn’t in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God’s revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Thought incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That’s affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Paul added that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn’t all of God’s truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God’s character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study: Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16–17.[5]


DECEMBER 4

CONFUSED ABOUT WORSHIP

For ye are the temple of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:16

To really know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to love and worship Him!

As God’s people, we are so often confused that we could be known as God’s poor, stumbling, bumbling people, for we are most prone to think of worship as something we do when we go to church on Sunday!

We call it God’s house. We have dedicated it to Him. So, we continue with the confused idea that it must be the only place where we can worship Him.

We come to the Lord’s house made of brick and stone and wood. We are used to hearing the call to worship: “The Lord is in His holy temple—let us kneel before Him!” This is on Sunday and in church—very nice!

But on Monday, as we go about our different duties, are we aware of the continuing Presence of God? The Lord desires still to be in His holy temple, wherever we are; for each of us is a temple in whom dwells the Holy Spirit of God!

Lord, I want all the rooms in my temple to be clean not only for Your abiding Presence but also to be a shining testimony to those I encounter during the week.[6]


DECEMBER 4

HOLINESS AND WORSHIP COME BEFORE POWER

…He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

GALATIANS 6:8

To teach that the filling with the Holy Spirit is given the Christian to provide “power for service” is to teach truth, but not the whole truth!

Power for service is but one effect of the experience, and I do not hesitate to say that it is the least of several effects. Contrary to the popular belief, “to serve this present age” is not the Christian’s first duty nor the chief end of man.

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. To accomplish this He first reveals Christ to the penitent heart (1 Cor. 12:3). He then goes on to illuminate the newborn soul with brighter rays from the face of Christ (John 14:26; 16:13–15) and leads the willing heart into depths and heights of divine knowledge and communion. Remember, we know Christ only as the Spirit enables us and we have only as much of Him as the Holy Spirit imparts!

God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will!

Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 365). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 347). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 351). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[6] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

December 4, 2016: Quotations of the Day

Pass Through the Clouds.

To reach the regions of light, you must pass through the clouds. Some stop there, others are wise enough to go beyond.

Joseph Joubert.


Soldered, but not Sound.

A broken friendship may be soldered, but will never be sound.

Anon.


After the Burial.

In the breaking gulfs of sorrow, When the helpless feet stretch out, And find in the deeps of darkness No footing so solid as doubt;

Then better one spar of memory, One broken plank of the past, That our human heart may cling to, Tho’ hopeless of shore at last!

James Russell Lowell.


Education and Liberty.

Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. If we retrench the wages of the schoolmaster, we must raise those of the recruiting sergeant.

Edward Everett.


A Passion for Flowers.

A passion for flowers is, I really think, the only one which long sickness leaves untouched with its chilling influence.

Mrs. Hemans.


Education.

Education is the key note of the best society.

Emily Faithful.


Giving.

Who gives and hides the giving hand, Nor count on favors, fame or praise, Shall find his smallest gift outweighs The burden of the sea and land.

Anon.


 CHOICE QUOTATIONS IN  POETRY AND PROSE

(From the Master Minds of all Ages)

ARRANGED FOR DAILY USE BY THOMAS W. HANFORD (“ELMO”) copyright c. 1895

“Ten minutes each morning spent in the perusal of the page for the day will supply the mind with material for wise musings through all the day.”

“Great thoughts are valuable not only for the truth they contain, but for the truth they suggest. The thought that provokes thought is much more valuable than the thought that is only the echo of an accepted truth.”