Category Archives: Christian Living

The Gathering Storm: Religious Liberty in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. discusses the challenge to religious liberty Christians will face in this generation. Mohler writes:

“These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one.”

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Barna Update | Pastors and Parents Differ on Youth Ministry Goals

The tug-of-war between a parent’s protective instincts and their desire to raise fearless kids is felt in youth ministries. In partnership with Youth Specialties and YouthWorks, Barna conducted a major study on the state of youth ministry in the United States, looking at the expectations of pastors, youth leaders and parents.

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Legalism and Sanctification

Philippians 2:12-13

Code: B170322

Legalism is harder to avoid than you might think. Don’t assume you’re not a legalist just because you’re not trying to work your way into heaven. It’s not that simple.

As we saw last time, the Pharisees believed they could keep the Mosaic law through their own efforts. But that wasn’t the full extent of their legalism. They also took simple elements of God’s law and buried them under a mountain of fine print. John MacArthur elaborates on this in his sermon, “Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath, Part 1”:

It was God who defined Sabbath in Genesis 2:3, He ceased completely from the work of creation. And so, Sabbath came to refer to that day when people ceased working. That’s all the Old Testament says. It simply says you’re not to work. . . .

But the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes had developed all kinds of things to make Sabbath worse than every other day because of its unbelievable restraints. . . .

You couldn’t travel more than three thousand feet. Some say you can’t go more than nineteen hundred and ninety-nine steps, if you take the two thousandth step, you’ve violated Sabbath. This would be from Friday when the sun goes down till Saturday when it goes down. . . .

No burden could be carried that weighed more than a dried fig, or half a fig carried two times. . . . If you threw an object in the air and caught it with the other hand, it was a sin. If you caught it in the same hand, it wasn’t. If a person was in one place and he reached out his arm for food and the Sabbath overtook him, he would have to drop the food and not return his arm, or he would be carrying a burden and that would be sin. A tailor couldn’t carry his needle. The scribe couldn’t carry his pen. A pupil couldn’t carry his books. . . . Wool couldn’t be dyed. Nothing could be sold. Nothing could be bought. Nothing could be washed. A letter could not be sent. . . . No fire could be lit. Cold water could be poured on warm, but warm couldn’t be poured on cold. It goes on and on.

The Pharisees’ proclivity for such absurdly detailed laws provoked a blistering rebuke from the Lord. Drawing from Isaiah 29:13, Jesus renounced their burdensome legal system: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mark 7:7).

Thankfully, we don’t have to live under the oppressive minutia of pharisaical rules. Nonetheless, many Christians do live their lives in bondage to a similar strain of legalism—one where their Christian identity is largely defined by man-made rules.

That was certainly the case in my earliest experiences as a new Christian. The church I attended had roots in the holiness movement, and the pastor was certainly old school. He believed that salvation was solely by God’s grace, but maintaining that salvation was another story altogether.

My early Christian education primarily revolved around what not to do. Drinking, gambling, dancing, and close proximity to the opposite sex were all strictly taboo. Maintaining that code of conduct made me a member in good standing at my local congregation. Admittedly, I believe following those rules spared me from a lot of personal grief as a young man. But trying to live out those prohibitions was detrimental to my theology—I developed an inverted view of sanctification, believing that good works were the requirement rather than the natural fruit of spiritual regeneration.

That sort of behavioral sanctification has become synonymous with the fundamentalist movement in America. It’s unfortunate, because fundamentalism has far more noble origins. It was the bulwark against the liberal theology that invaded America a century ago after destroying the Protestant churches in Europe. John MacArthur acknowledges the heroic biblical roots of fundamentalism:

Evangelicals from both sides of the Atlantic united in writing and publishing a series of articles titled The Fundamentals. Originally published in twelve volumes, those articles laid the basis for a movement that became known as fundamentalism. With men like J. Gresham Machen, James Orr, and R. A. Torrey leading the way, fundamentalism employed sound doctrine to combat liberalism, higher criticism, evolutionary theory, and modernism. [1] John MacArthur, Reckless Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), 93–94.

Sadly, almost immediately after its greatest triumph, the fundamentalist movement began to splinter and then morph into a completely different animal. One faction began to pursue academic credibility to an unhealthy and compromising degree. The other side overreacted by shunning serious biblical scholarship altogether and shifting their focus to matters of external behavior and appearance.

This right wing of the fundamentalist movement was relentlessly fragmented by militant separatism. Legalism led to an extreme emphasis on external issues. Petty concerns often replaced serious doctrine as the matter for discussion and debate. This branch of the movement quickly reached the point where some of its adherents spent more time arguing about men’s hair length and women’s clothing than they spent defending the real fundamentals of the faith. [2] Reckless Faith, 95–96.

Fundamentalists are now widely derided as legalists by most Christians, and as party poopers by an unbelieving world. And that’s a tragic outcome for a movement that I still hold strong affections for, with founders whom I count among my spiritual forefathers.

Nonetheless, the trajectory of fundamentalism furnishes us with a powerful lesson on the dangers of creeping legalism. Spiritual identity must not be bound up in external behavior or appearance. Yet that’s what we see every time we drive through an Amish community. It’s what we hear every time a Seventh Day Adventist admonishes us about Sunday worship. And it’s what we display every time we start legitimizing our Christianity on the basis of the things we do or don’t do.

Does this mean we shouldn’t concern ourselves with external righteousness? In the words of the apostle Paul: “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:2). Our growth in righteousness matters to God. But as I stated earlier, our sanctification is the result of true conversion, not the guarantee. That’s not to say that righteousness occurs passively, but rather when you “work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12) you are only able to do that because God “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). It says “His good pleasure” and not “our self-restraint”—if our good works only come through gritted teeth, they may well point to a heart that is not yet regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel beautifully points to the external righteousness that manifests in the lives of those who are internally transformed by the Holy Spirit: “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27). We should give glory to God for even the good things we do. As John MacArthur argues, justification isn’t where God’s work ends, but rather where it begins:

Those who argue against lordship salvation often base their theology on the faulty assumption that the work of God in salvation stops with justification. The rest, many believe, is purely the believer’s own effort. Sanctification, obedience, surrender, and all aspects of discipleship are left up to believers to do or not do as they choose. Thus while touting salvation by grace apart from works, they have actually established a system that is almost wholly dependent on human works for any measure of practical righteousness.

Thankfully, the gospel according to Jesus does not abandon believers to their own energies. The glorious justification our Lord spoke of is only the beginning of the abundant life He promised (cf. John 10:10). “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). The salvation He promised brings not only justification, but also sanctification, union with Him, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and an eternity of blessing. [3] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 200.

God is the author of our salvation and the power source for a transformed life. True liberty from the shackles of legalism awaits those of us who find our Christian identity and value, not in what we do or don’t do, but in Whom we belong to. In other words, our position in Christ is a far more trustworthy gauge of our spiritual status than our behavior.

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170322
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).

Legalism and Salvation

Luke 10:25-28

Code: B170320

Have you ever been called a legalist? Or perhaps you’ve slapped that label on someone else? It’s a word that gets tossed around with alarming frequency in religious circles—always as a pejorative. But how well do we really understand legalism? Such a stinging indictment shouldn’t be used recklessly, or ignorantly.

In the days ahead we’ll examine three major strains of legalism and what Scripture has to say about them. They range from dangerous to damnable, but not all of them are obvious. You may be more prone to fall into one of them than you think.

Likewise, you could be throwing around the term inaccurately, accusing and impugning people who have done nothing wrong. Either way, legalism—true legalism—is a subject that demands our attention.

Today, we’ll consider the most familiar and heretical strain of legalism: works righteousness.

Scripture is explicitly clear regarding the relationship between our good works and our salvation—there isn’t one.  We have a right, legal standing with God by grace, through faith in Christ, apart from any meritorious human works (Ephesians 2:8–9). But works-righteous legalism directly assaults that core gospel doctrine.

Self-Righteousness

The self-righteous, or works-righteous, legalist thinks that salvation hinges entirely on his ability to meet God’s legal requirements for right standing with Him. He insists that good works are either the sole cause of, or contribute to, justification before God.

That theology was central to the defective religious system devised by the Pharisees. They actually believed they could fulfill all the requirements of the Mosaic Law if they worked hard enough. Many of them took great pride in their dedicated efforts at self-righteousness.

Jesus accurately described their delusional beliefs in one of His parables, reciting a typical pharisaical prayer: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11–12). That kind of self-righteousness was implicit in many of Christ’s encounters with the Pharisees. It’s why they couldn’t fathom the fact that Jesus hung out with sinners (Matthew 9:11).

Their fixation with earning salvation was exposed when one of their lawyers questioned Jesus: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, emphasis added). And Christ responded by telling him exactly what he needed to do if he wanted to earn eternal life through his own efforts: “Do this [keep all of God’s Law] and you will live” (Luke 10:28). John MacArthur explains the point Christ was actually making:

Jesus, of course, was not saying that there were some people somewhere who could be saved by keeping the law. On the contrary, He was pointing out the absolute impossibility of doing so, since the law demands the impossible—perfect and complete obedience (James 2:10), and promises physical, spiritual, and eternal death to those who disobey it (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23). Those realities put sinners in a hopeless situation. They are required to keep the law perfectly, but are not able to do so, and as a consequence face death. The only way out of that frightening dilemma is to acknowledge one’s sin (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9), cry for mercy (Luke 18:13), and through faith alone (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; Acts 15:9; Romans 3:20–30; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9; Philippians 3:9; 1 Peter 1:9) embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior and only sacrifice for sin (Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:24–28; 10:12). [1]

Tragically, the pharisaical lawyer failed to realize that he was actually talking with the One whose mission was to fulfill God’s law on behalf of sinners (Matthew 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Grace Plus Works

Christ’s resurrection and ascension didn’t put an end to Jewish legalism. Rather, it was re-packaged to infiltrate the early church. Instead of offering another gospel based solely on works righteousness, a new wave of legalists argued that the Christian gospel needed to be supplemented with added works.

That was the heresy Paul fought in his epistle to the Galatians. People who were zealous for the Mosaic law had infiltrated the church there. Rather than denying the gospel of grace apart from the works of the law, these Judaizers wanted to blend certain Mosaic legal requirements—especially circumcision—with the call to saving faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:3; 4:9).

It’s worth noting that Paul’s war was not against circumcision per se, but rather its use as a supplemental means of justification.

In fact, Paul was emphatic that adding anything to Christ’s finished work ultimately negates His finished work:

If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. . . . every man who receives circumcision . . . is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law. (Galatians 5:2–4)

In short, human works do not blend together with Christ’s finished work to achieve salvation. It is not a collaborative effort. Short of perfectly fulfilling the entire Mosaic law, you and I cannot make a contribution to our right standing with God.

Roman Catholicism and the Galatian Heresy

Modern parallels abound to the situation in Galatia. Roman Catholicism bears a strong resemblance to the heresy of the Judaizers. The works they insist on may be different (as is their definition of grace) but the damnable equation is exactly the same—grace plus works equals salvation:

If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. [2]

They object to justification by faith alone, anathematizing anyone who says “nothing else is required” except faith. Their religious system demands additional works of righteousness, performed by the believer, that contribute to his justification:

If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. [3]

Roman Catholicism is hostile to any soteriology (doctrine of salvation) where good works aren’t required. And their legalism continues unabated into the present day. The Council of Trent may be almost 500 years old but it is still binding on all Catholics. Its doctrine highlights the sheer absurdity of any and every ecumenical overture towards them. The battle lines that the Reformers drew with Rome over the gospel haven’t moved in half a millennium.

In fact, Rome’s error was dealt with two thousand years ago when Paul returned to the church in Jerusalem after his first missionary journey. He brought news of many Gentile converts to Christ. That announcement triggered heated debate among the first disciples—who were Jewish—concerning which, if any, Mosaic laws should be enforced upon the new Gentile believers. Acts 15:1–29 is exclusively devoted to this matter. Peter’s counsel at that meeting should be heeded by anyone who believes in adding any works to the gospel:

Why do you put God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way that they also are. (Acts 15:10–11)

The yoke Peter referred to was the righteous demands of God’s law and Israel’s continual failure to keep it throughout its history.

What Is the Purpose of God’s Law?

All of the legalists discussed above share two critical pieces of common ground: They missed the point of God’s law and they were oblivious to the seriousness of sin.

Choosing any path of works righteousness is to subject oneself to the full scope and demands of God’s legal requirements (Galatians 5:2–4). Everyone who fails to fulfill the law in every point is under its curse (Galatians 3:10–12). Christ’s judgment on the Pharisees holds true for everyone who subscribes to any form of works-righteous legalism: “You will . . . die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8:21).

What then should we make of God’s commands? Was the law given in the hope that it might be a viable option through which men could possibly meet its requirements and attain eternal life? Was the law a bad thing because no one could keep it? Paul answered both of these questions with an emphatic “no.”

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)

God’s law plays the vital role of exposing our guilt. That, in turn, points us to our desperate need for a Savior (Galatians 3:19). Paul calls it “our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

Works-righteous legalism is antithetical to that. Rather than exposing their guilt, legalists believe that the law affirms their self-righteousness. That is a path to eternal destruction that we must avoid at all cost.

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170320
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).

Three Ways to Experience More of God’s Love

Is it possible to fully understand the immensity of God’s love?

The Bible tells us repeatedly that God loves us and has given us plenty of evidence to back up his words. He created us. He created a marvelous world in which we are called to create. He provides for us.  And he forgives us, even though we are rebellious. He even went so far as to send his Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us while we were still sinners. God did it all because he loves us.

The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would comprehend the incomprehensible dimensions of the love of Christ, and that we would know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge.

It is a remarkably bold prayer:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19, emphasis mine)

We Need Strength

Paul prayed for us to have strength to comprehend the love of Christ. That strikes me as unusual.

If I were to pray for someone to better know my love, I would ask for their eyes to be opened, or for a hidden depth of feeling to become realized, or for wisdom to be gained—but it wouldn’t occur to me to pray for strength to understand love.

The love of God must be in a different category from human love if we need strength to begin to understand it.

We Need Perspective

My daughter just had a baby. He is adorable, just like his two older brothers. She needs strength to heal, to get up at all hours of the night, to handle the older two, and to manage the household. The baby doesn’t need much strength to know that his mom, dad, and brothers love him. My daughter and her husband, on the other hand, need emotional and physical strength. Their love is far stronger than the baby’s.


Knowing the love of Christ is more than an intellectual exercise; it’s experiential.
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Maybe when it comes to love, we’re a bit like babies. God has always loved us, and we simply do not understand what it has cost him. We read how much he loves us in the Bible, we experience his blessings, his provision, and even his discipline, and we do love him. But in comparison to his love for us, our love for God seems like a baby’s love for his mother.

A baby is simply not equipped to love the way his parents love him. Only as he grows in knowledge and strength will he begin to comprehend the love of his parents Jesus himself is the best teacher, and Paul was very well taught, so I have begun to pray Paul’s prayer and ask for strength to begin to comprehend God’s incomprehensible love. I can’t develop that kind of strength by myself.

We Need Other Believers

It’s easy to skip over the phrase “with all the saints” in that passage, but it is critical. No one person can fully understand the love of Christ through their limited experience. However, if we join with all believers, we will have a bigger and better picture of God’s love.

We need inner-strength for this. If we invest ourselves in the lives of others, we will rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. The rejoicing is easy; mourning is not. When you’re celebrating with a family member over good fortune, rejoice in the love of God. Conversely, when you are sitting with a friend who is mourning, look for expressions of the love of God. It may be more difficult to find, but it is always present. As we become familiar with other believer’s stories, we will see the faithful love of God in all circumstances.

From my little bubble in the northwest suburbs of Chicago I can’t imagine how God shows his love to a homeless person in San Francisco or to the very wealthy in New York City, but I’m sure he does. It is beyond my experience to know what the love of Christ looks like to people in other parts of the world, but I know his love is enough for everyone. Knowing the love of Christ is more than an intellectual exercise; it’s experiential. And our strength to comprehend it increases as we walk with other believers.

We Need Christ

Paul’s use of four dimensions to describe the love of Christ—breadth, length, height, and depth—suggests that his love is beyond description, that it’s multidimensional in expression. Commentator Matthew Henry describes these dimensions as signifying “the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”*

Comprehending the incomprehensible love of Christ comes from growing in knowledge and strength in him, and walking with others as they grow. Then we will be better able to fathom the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ.

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The post Three Ways to Experience More of God’s Love appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

Polemics Term: Cultural Marxism

WHAT IS CULTURAL MARXISM

The term Cultural Marxism, which is also known as multiculturalism (although the latter term has various meanings and implications), is a philosophy that is perhaps as old as 1919. According to William S. Lind, Cultural Marxism came into thought when the classical Marxist scheme did not work in Western Civilization in the post WWI era, as predicted by classical Marxists. Two Marxist philosophers, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, theorized that Marxism didn’t take root in the West because “Western culture and Christianity” had buffeted the philosophy, along with the mortal enemy of Marxism – upward economic mobility. In economically free nations in which fortunes could be earned and economic classes changed in a single generation, the workers were not nearly as interested in rising up against the wealthy because they, themselves, had hope of becoming wealthy (link).

Instead of traditional economic Marxism, what was proposed and advanced in Western Civilization far more successfully was Cultural Marxism.

But, it’s impossible to understand Cultural Marxism without first understanding Economic Marxism.

ECONOMIC (OR CLASSICAL) MARXISM

Marxism is a method of sociological analyzation that seeks to understand differences in class relations. Originating with Karl Marx, the system desires to view society in different socio-economic classes, and lists conflict between the classes as the cause of all social ills. While there are divergent schools of Marxist thoughts, it’s plainest definition is:

a theory in which class struggle is a central element in the analysis of social change in Western societies, which stands in contrast to capitalism, an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit (link, multiple sources)

Put plainly, Marxism recognizes “class struggle” (economically so, chiefly) as the source of problems and the socialization of all property and resources as the solution to those societal problems.

Critics of Marxism argue that not only does socialization of property and resources decrease the overall wealth of a population and is unfair to those who produce wealth, but it artificially reduces people to members of a particular “class,” and seeks to cause conflict between the classes to bring about social change (IE, the “haves versus the have-nots”). The Judeo-Christian understanding of the 8th Commandment, which undergirds the notion of private property rights, is historically the reason for great resistance to socialism in the West.

THE ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURAL MARXISM IN THE WEST

To turn classical Marxism into Cultural Marxism, members of what is called “the Frankfurt School” (which included Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse) argued that culture was not a part of Marx’s original idea regarding society’s “superstructure,” and was an important variable in the over-all Marxist experiment. They argued that the working class would not revolt against the “bourgeoisie” in places where the poor could become rich. So then, the Frankfurt School intellectual leader, Herbert Marcuse, argued that Marxist ideology should enlist a cultural contingent; chiefly a coalition of blacks, students, feminists and homosexuals (link).

As Lind explains…

Fatefully for America, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Frankfurt School fled – – and reestablished itself in New York City. There, it shifted its focus from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States. To do so, it invented “Critical Theory.” What is the theory? To criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down. It wrote a series of “studies in prejudice,” which said that anyone who believes in traditional Western culture is prejudiced, a “racist” or “sexist” of “fascist” – – and is also mentally ill (link)

IMPLICATIONS OF CULTURAL MARXISM ON AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

The goal and design of Cultural Marxism was very intentionally thought-out by its intellectual progenitors in order to undermine both Western Civilization and Christianity. While Cultural Marxism may seem like a purely political ideology, like Classical Marxism, it has deep consequences for the realm of Christendom.

By viewing everything through the lens of ethnicity, Cultural Marxism is actually the enemy of true and authentic, Gospel-centered racial reconciliation, which is based upon the premise of Galatians 3:28. Cultural Marxism seeks to dis-unify, rather than unify the Church (although it is practiced under the veiled disguise of racial harmony).

It is not uncommon to hear evangelical leaders today use the term “racial justice,” a term that is steeped in (and directly derives from) Cultural Marxism. Certain evangelical leaders seeking to bring ethnic harmony to the church are actually and inadvertently falling into the century-old game plan of Cultural Marxists when they insist on seeing culture through the lens of race (and more liberal denominations may do this with gender as well, which is equally as dis-unifying).

The Evangelical Intelligentsia is especially prone to espouse Cultural Marxism, and examples of them falling for the scheme are multitudinous, as best seen in recent years in writings by both The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Source: Polemics Term: Cultural Marxism

The Religion of Secularism

Secularism is the belief that man does not need God or God’s laws in man’s social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Ironically, secularism rejects religion, yet is itself a religion. In these United States of America, many of our politicians, courts, schools, and businesses embrace and promote the religion of secularism under the rubric of freedom from religion and by the advancement of human autonomy, which inevitably leads to anarchy.

“In God we trust” officially became the national motto of the United States in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. Originally implemented in part to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union and its explicit state atheism, the motto has remained to our day. Like many mottoes, however, the phrase has unfortunately become more of a throwaway statement for many Americans than a declaration of true faith in the one and only God of Scripture.

It is indeed our hope that our nation—and every nation—would genuinely trust God. Although many people claim to trust God, they act as if He has no authority whatsoever over their lives. They are an authority unto themselves, and the foundation for their self-appointed authority is as unstable as the emotions of their ever-changing hearts. Whether or not they know it, they have succumbed to secularism, which begins in the heart and ends in death. Secularism is the belief that man does not need God or God’s laws in man’s social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Ironically, secularism rejects religion, yet is itself a religion. In these United States of America, many of our politicians, courts, schools, and businesses embrace and promote the religion of secularism under the rubric of freedom from religion and by the advancement of human autonomy, which inevitably leads to anarchy.

It’s bad enough that secularism is a growing problem in our culture, yet it’s even worse that it’s making inroads in the church. Worship is often shaped by the felt needs and wants of secularized people. Many pastors will not preach on hell for fear of scaring people away. Some of our most popular religious leaders do little more than take self-help messages and dress them up with a veneer of Christianity. Even some preachers have embraced secularism’s teaching that we define our own reality. Thus, they are happy to redefine gender, marriage, and a host of other divinely revealed institutions and norms.

Secularism is not only a problem out there in the culture, it is something we must fight in our hearts, our homes, and our churches. We are too easily tempted to forget God and to avoid conflict with the world. It sometimes seems easier to live as if God really isn’t there, to go about our days without reflecting on His authority and that we’re called to live all of life coram Deo, before His face. But if we forget Him, we’ll forget who we are. We are His people, and we are called to stand firm against the creeping darkness of secularism, declaring to our hearts, our homes, our churches, and our nation that the Lord God Almighty has authority over all and that, unwaveringly, in God we trust.

© Tabletalk magazine. This article used with permission.

The post The Religion of Secularism appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Namaste, Satan

Na-ma-stay is the pronunciation. It’s a Hindu salutation that is said at the beginning and end of most yoga classes. Participants place their palms together before the heart, bow their heads, and utter “Namaste,” which means “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” But wait! We all know professing Christians who participate in yoga classes.  Many of them have been warned that there are spiritual dangers associated with yoga and are not concerned in the least. According to Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, who has warned of the spiritual dangers for years, “The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine.”

So, should believers avoid yoga altogether?  What about “Christian yoga“?  And what is the association between yoga and Satan? Pam Frost answers these questions in a piece she penned for truthXchange.  Some of what Frost reveals about this Hindu practice is chilling. She writes:

Photo credit: truthXchange

Namaste, Satan.

These are surely shocking words to the ears of most yoga enthusiasts, who find the association of yoga with Satan to be both disturbing and incongruous with their own understanding and experience of yoga. Yet, so begins an article announcing yoga classes to be held in the Satanic Temple of Salem, Massachusetts. How could something so widely considered beneficial in every way suddenly be associated with the devil? After all, yoga has achieved status in the West as the seemingly ubiquitous answer for the general well-being of just about everyone—from children in our public schools to the elderly in assisted living, from those with robust health in the prime of their lives to those with terminal illnesses nearing the end of their lives, and everyone in between. Many healthcare professionals recommend yoga for purported benefits such as the increased strength, flexibility and balance attributed to yoga’s postures; for the reduced blood pressure and heart rate attributed to yoga’s breathing techniques; and for the inner peace and global harmony attributed to yoga’s meditative spirituality. Yet, while most acclaim what they believe to be the positive benefits of yoga, William J. Broad, in his New York Times Magazine article How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, warns that it can actually cause serious physical injuries such as trauma to the back, neck and head, as well as brain injuries and even stroke. But as Christians, we also need to ask whether there could be real spiritual dangers associated with the practice of yoga. We need to understand what the essence of yoga really is.

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Five Prayers to Grow in the Fear of the Lord

As believers, we know we are to honor and fear the Lord, but our culture doesn’t lend itself to a reverential disposition. Instead, our culture does us the further disservice of not having much appreciation for the truth.

To acquire both—reverence and truth—we have to search the Scriptures and combat the messages we inevitably hear. As we do, the truth about Christ and who he is leads to honor, fear, and reverence—for our God is matchless and true.

We are a people of the faith—belonging to the “body of truth,”[1] or as Jude puts it, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The faith is precious, Christocentric knowledge that we have inherited as believers; by reflecting upon these passages of Scripture,[2] we can begin to grow in our fluency with it and deepen our reverence for God.

Five Prayers to Grow in the Fear of the Lord

Read, reflect, and pray with me:

1. His Gospel Plan

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

Father, how contrary this is to my natural disposition, that in being sinned against, you made a plan to come remarkably nearer—when I want to avoid people whose sin affects me! Through a detailed plan of action and decree revealed through prophecies in the Holy Scriptures, your plan is specific and glorious. I hold dear this singular pattern, that Christ died, was buried, was raised, and made appearances; it is true that you are the resurrected Lord, and I join the chorus of believers throughout history bearing witness to this fact today.

2. His Humble Mission

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

Father, you are glorified in the humble mission and, then, the glorious exaltation of Christ. My obedience comes through Christ’s, the indescribably greater obedience; and my humility in view of him is infinitely less than the humility Christ assumed. His Name is exalted in every way—in true servanthood, obedience, and humility, and, therefore, in honor bestowed to his Name in the heavens and earth forever. So every single person will praise the exalted, worthy Lord with their mouths on the day you’ve appointed.

3. His Exclusive Kingship

…Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:12-16)

Father, when Christ was in his trial to death, speaking with Pilot, he confessed his Kingship, and gave testimony that truth is from God through himself (John 18:36-37). You alone have authority and belong to light beyond comprehension, sight, or survival by us—except for believers who are permitted near through your sacrifice. I praise you that death could not keep you; you alone are immortal of your own accord. In the presence of many witnesses throughout my life, may I always speak the truth about you, as you did.

4. His Inexhaustible Glory

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:54-56)

Father, this is the grace you give those called to die for you—remembrance that the Son of Man, the Christ, is irrevocably positioned at the right hand of God. Christ is my security and hope in every trial, and would be in martyrdom, should you ever call me to it. Your glory is inexhaustible; you are worthy of my life and my death; your exaltation is my hope.

5. His Overcoming Power

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)

Father, culture tells me that there is no exclusivity to our faith, but I know better. I know that you are the only reality, the only Judge, and the only Savior. What kind providence you have given to me, and those I call my family in Christ! Who can possibly overcome but us who are found in you?

Let’s Fear the Lord Together

The death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Christ; the humble mission of Christ from the Father and glorious exaltation at this moment; the confession that proceeded from his mouth of exclusive Kingship and truth; the glory of God and position of Christ that gives unlimited courage for those who believe; the power of Christ who alone overcomes, and us in him—let’s revere the Lord together!

[1] Lightner, Robert P. “Philippians”. In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. [2] A short summary of John H. Leith’s longer list in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present.

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Feeling God?

Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila

Do you ever wonder if there’s something more to the Christian life? Maybe you’ve heard of or know people who tell you about having some sort of amazing God-experience—whether it’s been intense feelings of peace and joy, some kind of ecstatic excitement, maybe even visions or voices—and you wonder if you’re missing out. You hear about these things and you think to yourself “I want more”.

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought that maybe if I prayed in a different way, or if I sang songs in a different style, or if I used that Bible reading plan, then maybe I would experience God in a fuller, deeper, and more intimate way. Maybe if I just did something differently, then God by his Holy Spirit would fill me with these feelings of excitement, making my Christian walk just that much better.

As I speak with Christians at church or university, it seems that this desire to ‘experience’ or ‘feel’ God more intimately is quite widespread. People who desire such an experience feel they’re missing out on something. As one Christian said to me at church after hearing a sermon on Psalm 103, “There must be something more to the Christian life than I am currently feeling”. I wonder what advice you would give to such a person? On one hand, you may be right to point out that what we know to be the truth shouldn’t be overshadowed by being caught up in an experience-hungry age—but does this downplay too seriously the proper place of our emotions? My hope is that we can speak in such a way that values a desire for intimacy with God by speaking truthfully about the work of the Holy Spirit in the here and now.  View article →

Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Why Christians Don’t Love the World”

1 John 2:15-17

Code: B170317

Loyalty matters. The military shows no mercy to traitors and defectors—those who have violated the trust of brothers-in-arms. On a more personal level, few things can match the devastation caused by a husband or wife abandoning his or her partner. The sense of betrayal leaves long-term scars that never fully heal.

But as devastating as the consequences of human-to-human betrayal can be, they pale in comparison to the eternal consequences awaiting professing Christians who turn their backs on Christ.

As Christians, all of us have felt the sting of losing brethren to the world. Scripture reserves some of its harshest commentary for spiritual defectors—apostates—who depart from the Christian faith. They are described as “faithless” (Jeremiah 3:6) and “false brethren” (Galatians 2:4). People with “evil, unbelieving heart[s]” (Hebrews 3:12) who “in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13), “trample under foot the Son of God” (Hebrews 10:29), and are “marked out for . . . condemnation” (Jude 4). “They went out from us, but they were not really of us” (1 John 2:19).

Second Timothy 3:4 gets to the heart of the matter when it describes apostates as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Ultimately, the distinction between the imposters and those who are truly part of Christ’s church boils down to who (or what) they really love. It’s why the apostle John warned: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). What a terrifying warning: Scripture declares that loving the world is synonymous with alienation from God.

In his message, “Why Christians Don’t Love the World,” John MacArthur examines 1 John 2:15-17 to warn us about the seductive threat posed by the world and the satanic system it represents. Specifically, he points us to four critical reasons why we shouldn’t love the world:

–   Because of what the world really is.
–   Because of who we really are.
–   Because of what the world really does to us.
–   Because of where the world will really take us.

None of us should feel immune to the lure of the world. We need to be able to see what really lies beneath its attractive veneer. To that end, “Why Christians Don’t Love the World” is a helpful and powerful warning that we all need to hear.

Click here to listen to “Why Christians Don’t Love the World.”

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170317
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Weekly Watchman for 03/17/2017

The Selective Morality of the Transgender Agenda

In the last several decades, we’ve seen a public push by those on the left to accept evil as good in just about any form, and to accommodate behaviors we would have called “sins” fifty years ago. (or at least our great grandparents would have)

I can hardly imagine how hard this is on innocent children growing up in this world today. The moral confusion and social pressure are intense, and now there is the expectation that everyone else abandon absolute truth and comply with the gender theory claim that biological facts are now mere ‘social constructs.’

Do you think most people in Hollywood, the liberal media, public education system, or leftists in government care about truth or about the morality of this ideology? Tragically, some parents are imposing their own will on their children and encouraging them to “identify” as the opposite of who God made them to be.

Then there are sad, cultural indicators of how far we have fallen for the lies.

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Faith: But faith in Whom?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, took the wrath of God against sin on the cross in our place, so through our faith in Him we might be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with God. Faith plays a crucial role in the life and eternal destiny of every human being. Today we discuss our faith in Jesus Christ and God’s faithfulness toward us even when we are not faithful to His will for us with Pastor Mike Abendroth.

We also discuss a movement within a certain sect of Roman Catholicism calling on Pope Francis to proclaim Mary “co-redemptrix” with Jesus Christ. But the group claims this will point people to Jesus rather than distract them away from the only one who can save us. We’ll discuss their argument in our final segment today. Join us live at 9am central Thursday.

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Islam, ISIS & National Security

President Trump has vowed to destroy ISIS. But will that really do anything significant in ending the scourge of Islamic terrorism? Or will the next radical organization simply step up and fill the void?

The truth is we are not merely fighting a minority of radical terrorists…we are fighting against an ideology bent on world domination and elimination of any religious beliefs that do not submit to the false god Allah.

Ryan Mauro of The Clarion Project joins us to discuss ISIS and president Trump’s new “travel bans”. He will also contrast the “Woman’s March” in our nation with the strong women fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

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Apostasy & Lies: Will Fans of ‘The Shack’ Care?

Can we at least agree, as Christians, to hold up Young’s words and beliefs against the truth of God’s Word revealed to us in Scripture? As we approach this program today, we should ask what your thoughts are and do you think Young’s description ad understanding of God line up with the Bible or contradict it?

The Shack appeals to our human desire to be loved and forgiven, but it discounts what is required by God: confession and repentance. The movie plays right into the growing mindset in America about wanting benefits without responsibilities. It’s overall message is that God conforms to us instead of our need to be transformed into the image of Christ which produces holy living. The Shack is the prefect message for people who want to think we are all basically good in nature and character.

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Prophecy & the Flood of Noah

Today we revisit one of the most basic and debated topics involving our understanding of God and this world: Creation. Is there an intelligent ‘Designer’ and if so, how long ago did He create the Heavens and the earth? Does the age of the earth matter? What about Noah and the Great Flood – true history or a clever fable taught to young children in Sunday school?

These are important questions, and the Bible has the answers – if we are honestly pursuing truth and are open to revisiting some of our assumptions about God and creation based on what we were taught and told by man. Jay Seegert (TheStartingPointProject) helps us sort all this out today thanks to his expertise on the subject and clear explanation.

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