Category Archives: Christian Living

Forsake Sin by Following the Good Shepherd

Seeing the people, [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36, NASB)

Brothers and sisters, the fight against sin feels prolonged and arduous in this life—doesn’t it? We grow in one area, only to meet the next depravity in ourselves to war. Well, though the fight against sin is difficult, sin’s harm within us is far worse.

Jesus, the One who sees into our bare souls, noticed without exception that the people he preached to were “distressed” and “dispirited” without him. Jesus cared about the damaging effects of sin on our souls, and he saw our barren want—coming to give us life and truth for all eternity (c.f. Matthew 9:37-38).

How Sin Scatters the Sheep

Distressed and dispirited.

Distressed denotes that our souls are being harassed by sin and, therefore, are disoriented about our circumstances. Sin rips away at us. It leaves us troubled, disconcerted, anxious, and unhappy.

The second word, dispirited, suggests a limp form, haggardly and motionlessly positioned without help or care.¹ We are astray and lifeless by sin whose wages are death (Romans 6:23; Matthew 18:8), for it keeps us from our Shepherd. The people of Jesus’ time—and we in ours—needed the foretold, divine Ruler:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6)


The opposite of sin is to be led as sheep by the Good Shepherd who has compassion on us.
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This Shepherd would be unlike any other. The infamous Pharisees, the spiritual leadership at the time of Jesus’ first coming, were not shepherding their people well. They were concerned with themselves primarily, and it grievously muddled the hearts and minds of the people in their care, as in the mold of the words of Ezekiel 34:5 and Jeremiah 50:6:

“So [the sheep] were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered;”

“My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray…and have forgotten their resting place.”

Good earthly shepherds herd sheep toward the guidance of the true Shepherd. Yet, without good earthly shepherds, people’s souls are consumed by unsound doctrine and wither from sin, and people do not see their needs accurately. In order to understand our needs as they are, we have to truly hear and see him.

It might be natural to assume that the opposite of sin is not to sin. Yet, better, the opposite of sin is to be led as sheep by the Good Shepherd who has compassion on us.

How Jesus Shows Compassion to His Sheep

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ compassion is associated with his messianic signs, people’s faith in him, and his teaching.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew’s Gospel teaches Jesus as Israel’s Messiah (Matthew 1:1). In Matthew 15:31, Jesus performs many miraculous signs, and people glorify the “God of Israel.” Then, Jesus has “compassion” for the crowd of four thousand, and with a messianic sign he feeds them.

In the previous chapter, a great crowd follows Jesus after the news of the beheading of John the Baptist (14:13), and he miraculously feeds the five thousand, with “compassion” upon them (14:14). These miraculous, messianic signs were likely associated with some display of faith, considering Matthew 13:58 which tells us about a place where Jesus “did not do many might works…because of their unbelief.”

Earlier in Matthew, his miraculous signs were seen alongside the message of having faith in his ability to do the more difficult work: “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (9:5). He is not merely one who has compassion and performs wonders—he forgives sins. By him, we have eternal direction and life.

“He began to teach them many things.”

Mark 6:34 directly connects Jesus’ compassion with his response of teaching these eternal truths: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things”—presumably about his being the Son of God (1:1), their need for his forgiveness (3:28), and their response of repentance and faith (4, 6:12).

Jesus met physical needs; he fed crowds and performed miracles—for he was the long-awaited Messiah (Matthew 1:1) and the Son of God (Mark 1:1). These attested to his authority, but Jesus taught that he was the eternal remedy for our sin-ravaged souls. So the Gospels, including Jesus’ compassionate messianic signs, teach us to follow him toward eternity in full confidence and belief. In him, we become sheep with the Shepherd we have always needed.

How Jesus’ Sheep Forsake Their Sin

Sheep are not the smartest of animals; but I think the comparison can also be one of beauty. I envision sheep following a shepherd trustingly, willingly, and without second-guessing their way.

Being spiritual sheep means we cannot discern that we are sinners in need of a Shepherd without being told so (Romans 10:14). Yet, once we truly hear him and see the truth of his teaching about ourselves and who he is, then we believe he is our Shepherd, and like sheep, we will follow him anywhere. Beautiful! So it is as the Christian life continues—as we see and hear more of Jesus, we want to follow and be led away from sin.

Christian, he has seen your need; he has acted for you for eternal life. So keep fighting your sin! Continue, because you have a true Shepherd whose life-giving voice your reborn soul loves to hear, and whose reorienting truth it marvels to see. Keep fighting your sin because you know you have a Shepherd who has had such compassion upon you. “Compassion involves so identifying with the situation of others that one is prepared to act for their benefit.”²

No other has, will, or ever could act for our behalf as he did.

Forsake your sin by knowing, listening to, and following the sin-forgiving, debt-paying Ruler and Shepherd of your soul.

[1] Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005. [2] Ibid. Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

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Frequently Abused Verses: Does God Condemn Debate? (2 Timothy 2:14)

2 Timothy 2:14

Code: B170412

Almost twenty years ago, during Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week conference, I heard Jim Cymbala make the following plea for unity:

Think of the division right now in the Body of Christ. We have all these names that don’t exist to God: Baptist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Charismatic. God doesn’t have any idea what any of them mean, because He only has one Body. . . . He has one Body—the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelical—evangelical doesn’t even exist to God. We’re using words that aren’t in the Bible. We’re thumping the Bible and being unbiblical while we’re thumping it. He only has—there’s one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Body. And He doesn’t like us dividing up His Body. [1]

In the moment, it struck me as nonsense. Of course God knows what our denominational titles mean; of course He understands where the doctrinal lines have been drawn in the sand.

But then again, who is going to argue in favor of division?

The church’s current fascination with the soft ecumenism of identifying and celebrating common ground hinges on a false dichotomy—that all division grieves God. They point to a variety of texts—frequently wrenched out of their original context—to make that point.

Cymbala’s text, for example, was Mark 3:20–26—a passage in which Christ answered the allegations that His power came from Satan. The Lord rightly points out it would be illogical to use Satan’s power to cast out demons—that “a house divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Cymbala turned that statement into a rebuke to a divided church.

Today another text is frequently floated as a mandate for unity: “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). Often, that’s taken to mean we should not debate our doctrinal differences—that we shouldn’t let doctrine divide us at all. If we say we’re Christians, we ought to focus on what we agree on, and set aside anything on which we don’t.

Under certain circumstances, that posture might be acceptable. But, as John MacArthur explains, in a world overrun with false gospels and false christs, we cannot afford to simply brush away every doctrinal line in the sand.

Through the centuries, the steady stream of falsehood has become a deeper, wider, and increasingly more destructive sea of ungodliness. False teaching about God, about Christ, about the Bible, and about spiritual reality is pandemic. The father of lies is working relentlessly to pervert and corrupt the saving and sanctifying truth of God’s written Word, the Bible, and of the living Word, His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Christian” cults abound today as never before, as does every type of false religion. Many Protestant denominations that once championed God’s inerrant Word and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ have turned to human philosophy and secular wisdom. In doing so, they have abandoned the central truths of biblical Christianity—including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, and salvation by grace alone. In rejecting God’s truth, they have come to condone and embrace countless evils—universalism, hedonism, psychology, self-salvation, fornication and adultery, homosexuality, abortion, and a host of other sins. The effects of ungodly teaching have been devastating and damning, not only for the members of those churches but for a countless number of the unsaved who have been confirmed in their ungodliness by false religion. [2]

As he writes in his book, The Truth War, today we need to be all the more fervent in our defense of the truth.

Jude’s command “to contend earnestly for the faith” is not merely being neglected in the contemporary church; it is often greeted with outright scorn. These days anyone who calls for biblical discernment or speaks out plainly against a popular perversion of sound doctrine is as likely as the false teachers themselves to incur the disapproval of other Christians. That may even be an understatement. Saboteurs and truth vandals often seem to have an easier time doing their work than the conscientious believer who sincerely tries to exercise biblical discernment.

Practically anyone today can advocate the most outlandish ideas or innovations and still be invited to join the evangelical conversation. But let someone seriously question whether an idea that is gaining currency in the evangelical mainstream is really biblically sound, and the person raising the concern is likely to be shouted down by others as a “heresy hunter” or dismissed out of hand as a pesky whistle-blower. That kind of backlash has occurred with such predictable regularity that clear voices of true biblical discernment have nearly become extinct. Contemporary evangelicals have almost completely abandoned the noble practice of the Bereans, who were commended for carefully scrutinizing even the apostle Paul’s teaching. They “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

But in our generation it sometimes seems as if the more aggressively something is marketed to Christians as the latest, greatest novelty, the less likely most evangelicals are to examine it critically. After all, who wants to be constantly derided as a gatekeeper for orthodoxy in a postmodern culture? Defending the faith is a role very few seem to want anymore. [3]

Far from the modern twist on 2 Timothy 2:14, much of what Paul wrote to his apprentice had to do with defending the church and holding fast to sound doctrine. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. . . . This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (1 Timothy 1:3–4, 18–19)

The same kind of exhortations are littered throughout Paul’s writing. In Acts 20:28–30 he warned the Ephesian church,

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

He further exhorted the Thessalonians, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). Paul was clearly not one to shy away from a doctrinal debate. He was a passionate defender of the gospel, and a tireless guardian of the truth.

So what should we make of his exhortation to Timothy “not to quarrel over words” (2 Timothy 2:14, ESV)? Here’s how John MacArthur explains it.

Paul’s purpose was to motivate and encourage Timothy to keep a firm grasp on that truth himself and to pass it on to others who would do likewise (2 Timothy 2:2). It is only with a thorough knowledge of God’s truth that falsehood and deceit can be recognized, resisted, and opposed. . . .

Logomacheō (wrangle about words) carries the idea of waging a war of words, in this instance with false teachers, who are later described as “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Such deceivers use human wisdom and reason to undermine God’s Word, and believers are not to debate with them, especially within the church. [4]

He goes on to explain why such a warning is particularly timely for the church today.

The barrage of ungodly ideas and verbiage that today is assaulting society in general, and even the evangelical church, is frightening. More frightening than the false ideas themselves, however, is the indifference to them, and often acceptance of them, by those who name the name of Christ and claim to be born again. Abortion, theistic evolution, homosexuality, no fault divorce, feminism, and many other unbiblical concepts and attitudes have invaded the church at an alarming rate and to an alarming degree. One of the most popular and seductive false teachings is the promotion of high self-esteem as a Christian virtue, when, in reality, it is the very foundation of sin. Such destructive notions are inevitable when Christians listen to the world above the Word, and are more persuaded by men’s wisdom than by God’s. Far too few leaders in the church today can say honestly with Paul that their “exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit” (1 Thessalonians 2:3).

As Christians become less and less familiar with Scripture and sound doctrine on a firsthand, regular basis, they become easy prey for jargon that sounds Christian but strongly mitigates against God’s truth. Such unbiblical and arbitrary ideas as being “slain in the Spirit” and “binding Satan” frequently replace or are valued above the clear teaching of and submission to Scripture. [5]

God’s people should not be combative; we must not walk around with doctrinal chips on our shoulders, looking for a fight. But we must also have a high enough view of God’s Word that we’re willing to stand up in its defense. We should not condemn doctrinal debate or disagreement; we should use them for God’s glory and the good of His church.

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170412
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Did God Forbid us to Critique or Criticize Church Leaders?

High profile Church leaders who teach doctrines of demons actually have the temerity to warn their critics to back off or face danger of divine judgment. Well, Cameron Buettel’s not backing off. In a blog post he wrote for Grace to You, Buettel names names and includes a video of one wolf in sheep’s clothing you won’t want to miss. The man’s heretical teaching is breathtaking!  Even so, he has a gazillion adoring fans who financially support his sham of a ministry and they’ve made him a wealthy man. Why would any serious Christian support mangy wolves? Because many believers simply are unable to discern a wolf from a terrier, the reason being that they don’t have a firm grasp of Church doctrine — what they believe and why they believe it.

Someone once said that the Church is a mile wide and an inch deep. In other words, when it comes to understanding the things of God, His people have very little understanding. As a result of their shallowness, spiritual discernment is pretty much non-existent in the visible Church.  And therein lies the problem.

So with all of this in mind, here’s Cameron Buettel’s excellent post:

False teaching thrives in environments where it is unlikely to be questioned. Charlatans and heretics prey on uncritical minds, and work tirelessly to protect and preserve that gullibility. Their success depends on dismantling every challenge to their authority and accuracy.

John MacArthur describes why that problem is rampant in the modern church:

In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance; it will always say you’re being divisive, you’re being unloving, you’re being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. And so it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny.

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Source: Did God Forbid us to Critique or Criticize Church Leaders?

Frequently Abused Verses: Did God Forbid us to Critique or Criticize Church Leaders? (Psalm 105:15; 1 Samuel 24:10)

1 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15

Code: B170410

False teaching thrives in environments where it is unlikely to be questioned. Charlatans and heretics prey on uncritical minds, and work tirelessly to protect and preserve that gullibility. Their success depends on dismantling every challenge to their authority and accuracy.

John MacArthur describes why that problem is rampant in the modern church:

In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance; it will always say you’re being divisive, you’re being unloving, you’re being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. And so it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny.

In recent decades, some of the most notorious charismatic church leaders have been doing just that. They continually warn their critics to back off or face the imminent danger of divine judgment. Claiming God’s stamp of approval, they wield Psalm 105:15 like a loaded gun: “Touch not [the Lord’s] anointed” (KJV).

And lest you think such a description to be hyperbole, the following clip from Benny Hinn is a spectacular example.

Hinn’s handling of Psalm 105:15, as well as the story of Saul and David, is hopelessly wrong on too many levels to address in one blog post.

For example we could discuss how Hinn utterly fails to understand Judas’s role in God’s sovereign plan for the crucifixion, while woefully underestimating the deity of Christ. We could invalidate Hinn’s warnings against criticism by pointing out the time Paul rebuked Peter—or when Hinn has publicly rebuked Joel Osteen, among others. Then there’s the problem of Hinn basing his threats upon the extra-biblical revelation of another false teacher (Kenneth Copeland).

What does it mean to “touch”?

But there is one simple, glaring error that explains all the other problems and exposes Hinn as the incompetent and unqualified Bible teacher that he is. When David says, “I will not stretch out my hand against [Saul], for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10), he is explaining why he didn’t kill Saul, not why he didn’t criticize Saul. In fact, David was openly critical of Saul on numerous occasions. Moreover, 1 Samuel 24:10 is part of a larger discourse where David rebukes Saul face-to-face over his murderous scheming: “I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it. May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:11–13). Even if Benny Hinn was “the Lord’s anointed”—he’s not—none of his critics are attempting to “touch” him in the sense described in 1 Samuel 24:10 (or Psalm 105:15; or 1 Chronicles 16:22).

Who are the anointed?

There is another fatal flaw in Hinn’s interpretation. He—and all those who follow this teaching—assume that only certain persons are “anointed.” They claim that pastors and self-appointed prophets and apostles have a unique anointing from God that immunizes them from criticism. But such a concept is foreign to Scripture. In short, the Bible teaches that all believers have an anointing from God.

In his first epistle, the apostle John explained what it means to be anointed as a New Testament believer. After warning his readers about antichrists who were coming to deceive them, John reminded them of their security because of Christ’s anointing:

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:26–27)

The anointing John refers to is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—a reality for all true Christians. John MacArthur explains the context and meaning of “anointing” as it appears in 1 John:

The false teachers who threatened John’s readers employed the terms for knowledge and anointing to describe their religious experience. They arrogantly saw themselves as possessing an elevated and esoteric form of divine knowledge, and as the recipients of a special, secret, transcendent anointing. That led them to believe they were privy to truth that the uninitiated lacked. John’s response, which was both a rebuttal to the antichrists and a reassurance to the believers, was to assert that, in reality, all true Christians have an anointing from the Holy One.

Because believers have received that anointing, they have the true understanding of God that comes exclusively through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). They do not need any secret, special, or transcendent understanding or esoteric insight. Anointing (chrisma) literally means “ointment” or “oil” (cf. Hebrews 1:9). In this text it refers figuratively to the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:21–22), who has taken up residency in believers at the behest of Jesus Christ, the Holy One (cf. Luke 4:34; Acts 3:14), and reveals through Scripture all they need to know (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10). [1]

The anointing we have as believers reveals the truth and therefore exposes the lies of false teachers. How ironic that the “anointing” Benny Hinn evokes to extort and manipulate churchgoers is actually our warning system to expose the self-serving deception of wolves like him.

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170410
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1” 1 Peter 1:13

1 Peter 1:13

Code: B170407

Self-discipline, by definition, does not come easy. While it might require less effort for some people, we all have to battle against ourselves and our natural inclinations toward indulgence.

For those of us who have been redeemed by and reconciled to God, the battle is significantly greater. We’re not just fighting our natural dispositions—whether we’re organized or prompt. Instead, our self-discipline is a spiritual battle against our flesh. We’re struggling to subdue our past sinful habits and live holy, god-honoring lives.

Ours is a daily struggle—or should be—a battle we will fight as long as we remain on this side of eternity. By God’s grace, He has set us free from our death sentence. But we still bear the grave clothes of our former selves. It’s the struggle to live out the transformation God has already worked in us.

In his message “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” John MacArthur gives us some helpful encouragement for that daily struggle. Grounded in the study of 1 Peter 1, he highlights several key elements of Christian self-discipline—starting with the exhortation of verse 13, “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit.”

Here’s how John explains Peter’s charge to “keep sober.”

A disciplined mind is a mind that avoids the intoxicating elements and allurements of the world. We’re talking about somebody whose mind is clear, whose priorities are fixed, who has a spiritual steadfastness, who exercises self-control in their thinking, who has balanced priorities. You could even call it moral decisiveness because there are fixed principles in the mind. That’s why sound doctrine is so important; you have to have fixed principles in the mind in order to establish priorities of behavior, mental alertness. It’s the opposite of sort of whimsically careening through life in reckless self-indulgence at the response of your emotions to every option. It’s being able to clear out the clutter from life’s entanglements and sort out what really matters in your mind.

From there, John gives us three guiding principles that shape and secure the self-discipline of God’s people. He discusses the vital importance of remembering who owns you, remembering the covenant of salvation, and recognizing all sin as a violation of our relationship to God. This message ascends some theological heights, but it’s dealing with matters that could not be more personal or practical. I don’t know a believer who doesn’t need to listen—or listen again—to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1.”

But don’t just take my word for it; here’s what another Grace to You staff member had to say about this message:

This sermon addresses the urgency of living disciplined lives in practical, everyday matters, as well as bringing to bear what the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:13 about girding up our minds. Living out this teaching on self-discipline has helped me establish biblical priorities that are properly motivated by the glory of God and grounded in the truth of God’s Word. I challenge believers to listen to and apply Pastor John’s teaching on the essential Christian attitude of self-discipline for the glory of God and the strength of His church. -Mark G

To listen to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” click here.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170407
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).

Barna Update | Meet the “Spiritual but Not Religious”

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it—maybe even said it—before. But what does it actually mean? In this second part of a two-part series on faith outside the church, Barna takes a close look at the segment of the American population who are “spiritual but not religious.” Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live out their spirituality daily?

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Frequently Abused Verses: Was Jesus Poor So We Could Be Wealthy? (2 Corinthians 8:9)

2 Corinthians 8:9

Code: B170405

The prosperity gospel is neither a small nor isolated error. The fixation with money and material riches pervades the theology of its adherents, corrupting every aspect of their faith and doctrine. It is a comprehensive lie—one that skews the very nature of the gospel itself, distorting even the Person and work of Christ.

In particular, it assaults the nature of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf. Forgiveness of sins and imputed righteousness are of minor importance at best. Instead, prosperity preachers teach a version of the atonement that serves their material interests. And it all hinges on one verse: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Here’s how TBN televangelist Joseph Prince explains it:

On the cross, Jesus bore the curse of poverty! That is what the Word of God declares: “For you know the grace [unmerited favor] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Read 2 Corinthians 8 for yourself. The entire chapter is about money and being a blessing financially to those who are in need. So don’t let anyone tell you that the verse is referring to ‘spiritual’ riches.” [1]

Prince is partly right—2 Corinthians 8 is about blessing others financially. But his fixation with money forces him to overlook the obvious flaw in his argument—that Paul was exhorting the Corinthians to give for the sake of other Christians in need. Apparently they had not been—as Prince promised his readers—delivered from “the curse of poverty.”

In verse 1 Paul commends the Macedonian Christians for the “wealth of their liberality” that flowed out of their “deep poverty.” Likewise, in verse 7 Paul reminds the Corinthians of their own spiritual riches: “Just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious [giving] work also.” The Corinthians and Macedonians were wealthy in many ways, just not in the specific way Joseph Prince is.

Phil Pringle, another prosperity preacher and founder of the gigantic C3 Church in Sydney, Australia, leaves no doubt about his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 8:9—going so far as to offer his own paraphrase: “Jesus became poor regarding the wealth of this world on the cross, that those who receive Him may become rich with the wealth of this world.” [2]

Such is the corruption and greed of men like Prince and Pringle, that no subject is off limits in their quest to sanitize and sanctify their perverse love of money. At best, they minimize the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness at the expense of physical health and material wealth. At worst, they do away with the spiritual components of Christ’s atoning work altogether.

That self-absorbed theology collapses under biblical scrutiny. John MacArthur points out the true nature of Christ’s earthly poverty:

This verse is not a commentary on Jesus’ economic status or the material circumstances of His life. . . . The Lord’s true impoverishment did not consist in the lowly circumstances in which He lived but in the reality that “although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6–7). [3]

Christ was not a wealthy man, but He wasn’t especially poor, either. The poverty He endured was in contrast to the vast heavenly riches He willingly set aside during His incarnation:

Though as God, Jesus owns everything in heaven and on earth (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 10:14; Job 41:11; Psalm 24:1; 50:12; 1 Corinthians 10:26), His riches do not consist primarily of what is material. The riches in view here are those of Christ’s supernatural glory, His position as God the Son, and His eternal attributes. . . . As the eternal second person of the Trinity, Jesus is as rich as God the Father. To the Colossians Paul wrote, “For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9), and “[Jesus] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Arguments for Christ’s eternity and deity are inseparable. Since the Scriptures reveal Him to be eternal, and only God can be eternal, Jesus must be God. Therefore, He owns the universe and everything in it, possesses all power and authority (Matthew 28:18), and is to be glorified and honored (John 5:23; Philippians 2:9–11). [4]

Therefore, the riches Christ offers us surpass anything this world can offer. Material blessings don’t merely pale in comparison—they fade into oblivion when contrasted with the vast spiritual riches the Lord supplies. Justification, reconciliation, sanctification, and, eventually, glorification—the eternal benefits of salvation are beyond our comprehension. Peter described them as “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for [believers]” (1 Peter 1:4).

And as John MacArthur explains, these are the riches we most desperately require:

Sinners desperately need the riches of Christ because they are spiritually destitute. They are the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), beggars with nothing to commend themselves. But through salvation, believers are made “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), sharing His riches because they are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The ultimate goal of their salvation is to be made like Him (1 John 3:2), to reflect His glory in heaven, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). [5]

Paul anticipated the lies of the prosperity gospel. In his letter to the Philippians, he described its promoters as “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19). He charged the church to avoid such worldly distractions. Instead, Christians must fix their hearts on the eternal riches only Christ can provide.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21)

 


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Three Reasons God is a Cessationist

Jordan Standrich has some thoughts on cessationism vs. continuationism to help us think through this challenging topic. “An important part of cessationism,” says Standridge “is God Himself and what He has done in history.”

In this piece over at The Cripplegate, Standrich offers three reasons to bolster his argument that God is a cessationist and not a continuationist. He writes:

Lord I believe that Jordan will play in the NBA! No! I declare Jordan will play in the NBA!

That was a sentence that a guy prayed over me as we were leaving a basketball camp I attended in high school. He said that sentence as he alternated between speaking in tongues and speaking in English. I wanted to say, “have you not seen me play this whole week? I’ll be lucky to start on my high school team this year!” That was the first time I was exposed to the modern version of the gift tongues. Over the years I’ve had a chance to attend quite a few pentecostal churches and events but it wasn’t until I got to seminary that I really started gaining interest in Charismatic theology.

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Research: New Apostolic Reformation

For the Person Who Feels Weak

There’s no denying it. I am weak to the core.

My body is weak as it continues to be beaten down by Lyme disease and its devastating effects. My mothering abilities feel weak as I grow weary caring for four sick children who are also being ravaged by this awful disease.

My marriage has had weaknesses exposed as my husband and I carry stress loads that statistically leave 90% of marriages in divorce. Even our basic needs have left us feeling weak and vulnerable after my husband was laid off work. And if I’m honest, my faith has felt weak as I’ve wrestled with the Lord through my confusion, fears, anger, and weariness.

Three Reminders for the Weak and Weary

In my flesh, I despise feeling weak. But in the Spirit, I’ve found a sufficient and satisfying strength. If you’re struggling with weakness (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual), be encouraged by these three reminders from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

1. You are accepted and loved.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (v. 8)

When my husband lost his job, I went through a period of shock and didn’t want to speak to anyone, including the Lord. We were already feeling like we were sinking, and had been praying for deliverance, healing, and provision. I felt angry, confused about how to reconcile what I felt with what I knew to be true about the Lord, and numb, completely overwhelmed by reality. What do we do in a place like this?

We throw ourselves upon Christ, even the messy, doubting, angry part of us. He knows our thoughts, emotions, and hearts better than we do. We are believing a lie if we think we must pull ourselves together before we can come to him.

Why do we seek momentary comforts and solutions to temporarily drown our pain, rather than casting ourselves at his feet in dependence on his mercy, grace, provision, and strength? Jesus knows what we need and is able and willing to provide it, so let’s bring ourselves to him in honest prayer and receive what he has for us in his Word. He will be faithful to meet us where we are—weakness, mess, and all.



2. He gives strength.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9)

Just as we can’t see the wind with our eyes, yet see evidence of its presence, we can’t see or always feel the strength of Christ flowing through us, yet we see evidence of his power. I marvel at how the Lord has infused me with his strength. In my flesh, I’ve wanted to run—but I didn’t. In my flesh, I wanted to be angry at the Lord, yet I found myself desperate to be near him and drawn to the Word as if it were my very lifeline of survival. I felt no desire to get up each morning to care for my kids (or myself), yet somehow I made it through another day.

Although I don’t feel strong, I see incredible evidence of his strength in me. So draw near to Christ honestly and trust him to give you the strength you need. You may not feel it in the moment, but he will be faithful to equip you, even if it’s simply to take your next breath.

3. His strength brings joy.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (vv. 9-10)

In Christ, you will experience joy, even in circumstances that you don’t enjoy. Paul’s weaknesses drew him into a deeper love-relationship with and reliance on his Savior. Though I imagine he found no joy in the thorn in his flesh, his words express a contentment and joy as he experienced the strength of Christ. Oh, I pray this would be true of you and me!

Whatever trials we are entrusted with, may we be so satisfied in Jesus that we gladly boast in our weaknesses because of how Christ’s power is miraculously displayed through them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t pray for relief, healing, or provision; but if the Lord chooses not to bring it, we have an opportunity to bear the evidence of Christ’s power shining through our flawed, weak, and broken lives.

Strength in Weakness

There is a strange freedom that comes with knowing that God alone is big enough to save us. While we’ve been blown away by the love that others have shown us, ultimately it is Christ who has sustained us, provided for us, and carried us through this darkness.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon,

Oh, storm-tossed believer, it’s a happy trouble that drives you to your Father! Now that you have only your God to trust in, see that you put your full confidence in Him….Show the strong person how strong you are in your weakness when underneath the everlasting arms. Now’s the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord your God will surely glorify Himself in your weakness.

weak

The post For the Person Who Feels Weak appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

Barna Update | Meet Those Who “Love Jesus but Not the Church”

We live in a rapidly secularizing American culture. But even though fewer are going to church, many still believe in God and practice faith outside its walls. In this first of a two-part exploration of faith and spirituality outside the church, we look at those who “love Jesus but not the church.”

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Weekly Watchman for 03/31/2017

Needed: Men of God

God is a God of order. In His infinite wisdom and understanding He established guidelines for His Church to carry out His will on earth until the day Jesus Christ returns. When we do not follow His guidelines, we get the results we see today: a decaying morality, corrupt culture, ineffective churches, and families falling apart.

God ordained men to be leaders in His Church and in our families. But over the past 50-plus years, many men have abdicated their position of leadership for a variety of reasons. Most studies show that professing Christians divorce at a rate similar to unbelievers. And the disintegration of the family is creating problems for the church and our society.

How do we stand up once again and become godly men, following hard after Christ and embracing the privilege and responsibility God has given us as leaders? We’re joined this morning by Pastor Gary Gilley who just taught on this very subject at a recent Christian Men’s Conference.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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The Cold Sting of Political Reality

Reality is not always pleasant. But to deny the reality of the crisis we face in America is foolishness. By every measurable standard we are a nation in decline. Republicans are arguing among themselves about who has the best policies to fix the problems while Democrats have become obstructionists and have forged a national resistance against anything the Trump administration attempts to do. And Christians are also divided politically and morally on many issues including whether we should even engage in politics.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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A Church on the Defensive

Today we look at another Christian survey as well as some disturbing news on just how far many professing churches and leaders have fallen. Some are deceived while others are deceiving people into moral relativism, false teachings, and abandoning the truth of God for the faulty wisdom of man. Christian churches should be affecting secular culture. Instead secular culture seems to be infecting many churches.

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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The Gospel, the Church, and the Supreme Court

In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. He encourages us to put on the full armor of God for this battle for the eternal souls of men.

Every effective army is comprised of strong focused leaders and committed followers. As we see the church in America being generally ineffective in sharing the gospel and making true disciples for Christ, we have to wonder if the problem is weak leadership; disinterested, uncommitted followers, or both. We cover an article by Peter Heck in our second segment titled, “Maybe the Problem isn’t the Church… Maybe it’s You.”

In our first segment we talk with author Preston Condra of watchman.org about his new book By Which We are Saved: Sharing the Gospel with Confidence. Why are we failing to share the gospel of salvation with our friends and families?

Daily podcast, relevant articles on issues pertaining to Christians and more can be found on Stand Up For The Truth.

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