Daily Archives: July 8, 2017

Idolatry, Demons, and Ecumenism

From Berean Research:

Once again Mike Riccardi of The Cripplegate tackles the ecumenical movement. In an earlier piece, he revealed what happens when Bible believing Christians and theological liberals unite to show strength in numbers. Berean Research has done its part in “outing” Christian Right pro-family groups for joining forces with Progressive Christians, Mormons, Catholics, Word of Faith prosperity preachers and NAR “apostles” and “prophets” in their effort to “Take back America.” a phrase that has now morphed into “Make America great again.” Why would any Christian unite with cultists when Paul makes it abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 6:17 that we are to separate from people such as these? The thing that Bible believing Christians should find concerning is that so-called Christian leadership doesn’t seem to care that theological liberalism has fundamentally redefined what it means to be a Christian, as long as the money keeps pouring in to fund their organizations. “Every false religion in the world is not just wrong,” says Mike. “It is demonic. It is energized and powered by the kingdom of darkness that is ruled by Satan himself.” Let that sink in.

We urge you to read Mike Riccardi’s excellent essays on the dangers of the ecumenical movement. Here’s the second in the series:

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Source: Idolatry, Demons, and Ecumenism

Ecumenical vs. Evangelical

From the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, to the Manhattan Declaration in the present day, it’s the exact same story: Redefine Christianity so that faith in the Christ of Scripture and/or the Gospel of Scripture is unnecessary, so that you can partner with enemies of the Gospel who call themselves Christians, form a large group, and seize cultural influence. But Francis Schaeffer captured well the fundamental failure of the ecumenical movement when he wrote, “What is the use of evangelicalism seeming to get larger and larger if sufficient numbers under the name evangelical no longer hold to that which makes evangelicalism evangelical?”

One of the most devastating attacks on the life and health of the church throughout all of church history has been what is known as the ecumenical movement—the downplaying of doctrine in order to foster partnership in ministry between (a) genuine Christians and (b) people who were willing to call themselves Christians but who rejected fundamental Christian doctrines.

In the latter half of the 19th century, theological liberalism fundamentally redefined what it meant to be a Christian. It had nothing to do, they said, with believing in doctrine. It didn’t matter if you believed in an inerrant Bible; the scholarship of the day had debunked that! It didn’t matter if you believed in the virgin birth and the deity of Christ; modern science disproved that! It didn’t matter if you embraced penal substitutionary atonement; blood sacrifice and a wrathful God are just primitive and obscene, and besides, man is not fundamentally sinful but basically good! What mattered was one’s experience of Christ, and whether we live like Christ. “And we don’t need doctrine to do that!” they said. “Doctrine divides!” Iain Murray wrote of that sentiment, “‘Christianity is life, not doctrine,’ was the great cry. The promise was that Christianity would advance wonderfully if it was no longer shackled by insistence on doctrines and orthodox beliefs” (“Divisive Unity,” 233).

The Emergence of the Social Gospel

The result of this kind of thinking was the social gospel of the early 20th century. If what it means to be a Christian has little to do with creeds and everything to do with deeds, then what makes someone a Christian is whether they’re laboring for the betterment of society—feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, working for justice, and so on. And so across denominational lines, professing “Christians” were coming together to promote unity around a common mission, even if they didn’t share a common faith. In 1908, more than 30 denominations representing over 18 million American Protestants set their doctrinal differences aside and met in Philadelphia at what is called the Federal Council of Churches. Their great concern was not the Gospel, but how to address the social issues of the day: race relations, international justice, reducing armaments, education, and regulating the consumption of alcohol. This was the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.

Now, in each of these denominations there were faithful Christians who recognized that—as much as social ills mattered—the body of Christ was not defined most fundamentally by a common social agenda, but by a common confession of faith in the Christ of Scripture. These faithful men, led by the great Presbyterian professor J. Gresham Machen, among others, understood that there were certain fundamental truths that no one claiming to be a Christian could deny. A Christ who is not fully God is a fundamentally different Christ than one who isfully God. A salvation that can be more-or-less earned through good morals and good deeds is a fundamentally different salvation than the one purchased freely on the cross by our wrath-bearing Substitute. A religion built upon the authority of man’s ideas is a fundamentally different religion than one built upon the authority of God as revealed in Scripture. And so these men—pejoratively labeled Fundamentalists—insisted that the doctrinal fundamentals of the Christian faith were non-negotiable, and that, if they were abandoned, it didn’t matter how many people-who-called-themselves-Christians you could gather into one place: there was no true unity.

Strength in Numbers?

The conflict between the Liberals and the so-called Fundamentalists raged on through the ensuing years. In 1948, the World Council of Churches convened in Amsterdam, and embraced as Christian anyone who merely said they believed that Jesus Christ was God and Savior. Delegates from 147 churches brought Protestants, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox persons together from all over the world. Once again, the goal was to show strength in numbers—to portray to the world that “Christianity” was visibly united, a cultural force—and to pool support for worldwide missions and social justice. In every case, these movements and councils lamented the division across doctrinal and denominational lines, and argued that if Christianity is to have any genuine influence in the world, we must be big. And so we must come together. A divided church is an offense to God and a cause of her ineffectiveness in the world, they said.

By the 1950s, the Billy Graham crusades had become an evangelistic phenomenon. Tens of thousands were flocking to hear this evangelist speak, and thousands were making professions of faith in Christ. Now this caught the attention of the liberal ecumenists, because Graham believed in all the fundamental doctrines that they rejected. He believed in the sinfulness of man, the need of a spiritual Savior from sin, and he called for conversions. And yet he was drawing crowds! When Graham began his first crusade in Britain in 1954, the liberal Anglicans denounced him. But by the end of the crusade several months later, they were sitting on the platform alongside him. The Archbishop of Canterbury even gave the benediction at the final meeting.

And it was all—as it always is—driven by numbers. One of the Anglican liberals said of partnering with Graham, “What does fundamentalist theology matter compared with gathering in the people we have all missed?” In other words, Who cares about the theology? Just get the people in the seats! And sadly enough, the uncrucified lust for influence worked in both directions. Iain Murray writes,

“But the truth was that [Graham] wanted the cooperation of these men for the aid that their reputations gave to his work, and for the way it could secure wider denominational support. Winning the mainline denominations remained the primary objective and that could not be done without the good will of the leaders. So both sides were motivated by an ulterior motive. On Graham’s side the motive was to get a wider hearing for the gospel, but in order to do this, he adopted an attitude towards false teachers that is not compatible with the New Testament” (“Divisive Unity,” 240).

Good Morals Do Not Reform Bad Company

And though the motive is almost always pure—that is, to influence the enemies of the Gospel to be swayed from their opinions and embrace the Gospel—when you blur the lines between belief and unbelief, it always works in the opposite direction. 1 Corinthians 15:33  says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” You might think, “Oh, I’m just partnering with them so that I can minister to them and so that they can get saved!” But Paul says, “No, don’t be deceived! Good morals do not reform bad company; bad company corrupts good morals.”

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CultureWatch: Five Hallmarks of Spiritual Maturity

The New Testament is full of exhortations and commands to grow in our Christian faith, to become all we can be in Christ, and to be mature, wise and complete as Christ followers. Spiritual maturity is the aim of the Christian, not remaining a spiritual baby or toddler.

We are to grow up in Christ, in knowledge, in wisdom, in discernment, in love, and in truth. But regrettably so many Christians have never progressed beyond spiritual infancy. They may have been believers for many years now, but they have never really grown and matured.

In the physical world we would be massively worried about a baby that never grew and developed, but remained the same in size, in need, and in immaturity. We should be equally concerned when this occurs in the spiritual life. The Bible often mentions this. Hebrews 5:11-14 is one such passage:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

So let me look at five signs or indications of spiritual maturity. There would be others that could be added to this list of course, but these will do for a start. This is a spiritual checklist to help us all see just how far along in the Christian life we have progressed.

One. Having the fear of God rather than the fear of man. This is one of the key marks of the mature Christian. He is not really worried about what others think of him, but he is very concerned about what God thinks of him. This may be one of the most important lessons any believer can grasp.

maturityIn Proverbs we read an important passage on this: “The fear of man brings a snare” (Prov. 29:25). Yet so many Christians are petrified by what others might say or think about them, but seem so little interested in what God’s assessment is.

They are men pleasers instead of God pleasers. They have things back to front, and that is why they are not growing. They will remain spiritual babes until they get this right. God must come first, and the opinions of men must take second place. (But see below – there is certainly a need to listen to the counsel of others.)

A healthy fear of God is the best place we can be in. A paralysing fear of man is the worst place we can be in. The passages on all this are numerous. Here are just a few of them:

-Deuteronomy 6:24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God.
-Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
-Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
-Jeremiah 5:22 “Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence?”
-Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
-John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
-Galatians 1:10 Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Two. Having a consistent and regular Bible study, prayer and fellowship life. Those who do not read and study the Word of God on a daily basis, pray on a daily basis, and fellowship with other believers, can hardly expect to become a solid, mature disciple of Christ. They will forever remain spiritual infants in need of being spoon fed and led about by others.

That we need these spiritual disciplines is of course Christianity 101. Yet so many believers who are floundering and getting nowhere just don’t seem to get it. They will tell me they seem to be unable to progress in their Christian walk, and when I ask them about their devotional life (reading the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship), they tell me it barely exists.

Well, no wonder they are just not getting anywhere. And the analogy I used above applies here as well. If we saw a ten-year-old who was the size and weight of a three-year-old, we would all know something was radically wrong. The first thing we would inquire about is whether the child was getting proper nutrition: regular, daily food and drink.

If we discovered that this was not the case we would be shocked, and the negligent parents would likely be locked up. Yet too many believers are guilty of the same thing: they are woefully stunted in their growth, and should be arrested for spiritual self-neglect. We either engage in daily spiritual nourishment, or we will remain a runt.

Simply read Psalm 119 if you want to know how utterly crucial it is to daily immerse yourself in God’s word. Let me mention just one verse, v. 95, “How I have loved your Law, and it is my meditation the whole day!” And look at the life of Christ or any of the great saints of church history to see how imperative a regular prayer life is.

And passages such as Hebrews 10:24-25 inform us about the crucial need to stay in close fellowship with other committed believers, and not stay isolated and alone: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Three. Being able to handle criticism and being willing to admit you are wrong.Regular criticism is sadly part of the job description of the mature Christian – whether or not you are a leader. The truth is, you will constantly be criticised and condemned – and especially by other believers.

Think of your most loved and respected spiritual leaders or teachers. Every one of them will have heresy hunters trying to convince you that they are no good apostates, heretics and false prophets. They readily attack these folks, and they will attack you as well.

Indeed, over the years I have been accused of everything under the sun. I have had the critics inform me of all sorts of things I must repent of: of being a cultist, of not being a real Christian, of not believing Scripture, of being a hater, of not having the Spirit, of being judgmental, of being in deception, of not really knowing Christ, etc.

Being able to withstand all this criticism is a sign of Christian maturity. And as I have so often said, we need to deal with criticism the way we deal with a fish dinner: eat the meat but leave out the bones. When criticism comes, we need to prayerfully and carefully consider if it is of God or not.

If it is – or even parts of it – then we need to learn the lessons, make the course changes, and repent where necessary. But if it is not of God, then we should just let it go and move on. Often criticisms will contain a mix: there are some things we need to heed, and some things we need to ignore. The mature believer carefully listens to instruction from others, and will take on board various criticisms.

Getting angry and lashing out at those who seek to speak truth into your life is a sign of an immature Christian. Refusing to listen to others is a dangerous place to be in. There are numerous passages in the Book of Proverbs on this. Here are just a few:

-Proverbs 10:17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
-Proverbs 15:31-32 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
-Proverbs 25:12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.

Four. Not being blown about by every wind of doctrine. The Bible speaks to this often. The mature believer is solid in biblical truth and doctrine. He knows his Bible well and has a firm grasp of basic Christian truths. He knows the Word and basic Christian theology well enough to easily spot heretical and false teachings and practices.

Just as a bank teller can easily pick out a counterfeit note because he knows the real thing so well, the mature Christian can easily spot false teaching and deceptive doctrines because he knows the Bible very well indeed, and has a good grasp of theology and at least some church history.

This is how we stay on the straight and narrow. It keeps us from getting sucked into deceitful cults and false doctrine. And it also helps us to live the Christian life in a biblically balanced fashion. We will not heed all sorts of dopey and unbiblical claims about how we are to live and act as Christians.

Again, plenty of texts can be appealed to here. These are just some of them:

-Ephesians 4:14-15 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
-1 Timothy 4:11-16 Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
-2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
-Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
-Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

Five. Not being blown about by every emotional up and down. I know of far too many believers who have been Christians for many years now, yet they seem to live their lives on emotional roller coasters. They are up and down and all over the place.

There are simply too many Christian emotional bungee jumpers around: up, down, up, down. One minute they are on fire for God and the next minute they are flat as a tack and ready to give it all up. Sure, all Christians will go through hot and cold patches, up and down times.

But for the mature Christian there will be a slow and steady upward climb. There will be some setbacks and bumps along the way, but a noticeable upward path will be there. The immature believer never really grows or develops. There is no upward progress, just a lot of floundering and inconsistency.

While God made us to be emotional beings, we are not to let our feelings determine how we live our Christian lives. We are to know what is true, we are to choose and act on what is true, and our feelings should follow on from this. Simply emoting our way through life will never result in us becoming mature Christians.

Again, the Bible would have much to say on this, especially in the Wisdom literature, dealing with various emotions and the need to keep them in check, etc. Here are a few of them:

-Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
-Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
-Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
-Proverbs 29:11 Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end.
-Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As mentioned, there would be other indicators of Christian maturity. But these five would offer us key tests on this. So how do we stack up? Taking regular spiritual inventory of our lives as disciples is always vital. Let us all press on to maturity. As Paul put it in Ephesians 4:11-13:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

[2348 words]

The post Five Hallmarks of Spiritual Maturity appeared first on CultureWatch.

July 8, 2017: Verse of the day


31 Sovereignty of God. Ultimate success comes from God and not from human efforts. The contrast here is between the plans and efforts for the battle (“the horse is made ready for the day of battle”) and the true acknowledgment of the source of victory (“the Lord”; see Pss 20:7; 33:17).[1]

21:31 Men may go to elaborate plans to insure military success, but victory on the day of battle comes from the Lord alone. It is better to trust in Him than in horses—or in nuclear weapons—(see Ps. 20:7).

Plumptre summarizes verses 30 and 31 as follows:

Verse 30: Nothing avails against God.

Verse 31: Nothing avails without God.[2]

21:31 prepared … victory. This is not a condemnation of adequate preparation but rather of reliance on it for victory, instead of on the Lord (cf. Ezr 8:22; Ps 20:7; Is 31:1–3; Hos 1:7).[3]

21:31 The verse takes for granted that people will make suitable preparations to reach their goals, while recognizing that the result depends on God.[4]

[1] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 186). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 846–847). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 21:31). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 907). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.