Category Archives: Discipleship

Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray

The Master’s Seminary is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray.

This volume serves as a sequel to Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.

The book’s contributors are comprised of TMS professors and/or pastors at Grace Community Church. Here is a list of the chapters included in this volume:

Foreword by John MacArthur

Section 1: The Church and Contemporary Issues

Chapter 1: When the Church Goes Astray: Evangelicalism’s Misguided Quest for Popularity and Prestige (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 2: Rock-Star Religion: Countering the Church’s Celebrity Culture (Tom Patton)

Chapter 3: The Crescent and the Cross: Engaging Muslims for the Sake of the Gospel (William D. Barrick)

Chapter 4: When Truth Meets Love: The Church’s Response to Homosexuality (Alex Montoya)

Chapter 5: Is This Jesus Calling? Evaluating a Bestselling Book in Light of Biblical Truth (Jesse Johnson)

Section 2: The Church and Sound Doctrine

Chapter 6: Who’s In Charge of Your Church? Submitting to the Headship of Christ in Everything (Michael Mahoney)

Chapter 7: Nothing But the Truth: Why We Cannot Compromise Our Commitment to Scripture (Abner Chou)

Chapter 8: The Hallmarks of Heresy: Discerning the Difference Between Doctrinal Confusion and False Teaching (Michael Riccardi)

Chapter 9: The Charismatic Question: Are the Miraculous Gifts Still in Operation Today? (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 10: Things That Should Not Be Forgotten: Why Church Leaders Should Care about Church History (Nathan Busenitz)

Section 3: The Church and the Great Commission

Chapter 11: To the Ends of the Earth: God’s Global Agenda to Reach the Lost (Irv Busenitz)

Chapter 12: Compassion Without Compromise: Thinking About Social Justice in Light of the Great Commission (Jesse Johnson)

Chapter 13: Fit for the Master’s Use: Proclaiming the Gospel from a Platform of Personal Piety (Carl Hargrove)

Chapter 14: Global Risk Assessment: Threatening Trends Within Evangelical Missions (Mark Tatlock)

Chapter 15: To the Praise of His Glory: A Call to Remember the Church’s Ultimate Priority (James Mook)

The post Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

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How to Ignore “Discernment Bloggers” and Remain Comfortably Clueless

Steve Kozar of Messed Up Church offers 7 ways for professing Christians to rebuff “discernment bloggers” in order to hang on to beliefs not found in Scripture, should they so choose.  Here are his suggestions:

discernment-3Want to stay comfortable in your (theologically shallow & Biblically illiterate) Christian beliefs? Even if those beliefs are not really based on God’s Word?? Of course you do! Here’s a guide that will keep you in the dark, and will help you to avoid the bothersome content of whichever discernment bloggers are currently bugging you:

  1. Start with this assumption: There aren’t any false teachers. With this handy starting point everything else falls comfortably into place. Just tell yourself that people who proclaim a different Gospel are just… different. It’s like the difference between hotdogs and hamburgers. If there are no false teachers, then it logically follows that all discernment bloggers are wrong. Now you won’t have to consider what they say!

  2. Go with the group. If the majority agrees with you, you must be right. Remember, Jesus wants you to follow the most popular teachers, even when they twist the Bible. Discernment bloggers are not popular, so they must be wrong. Now you won’t have to consider what they say!

  3. Lump them all together. It’s true: some discernment bloggers are too extreme and exaggerate too much, or they go off on some crazy bunny trails; therefore you can ignore everything that every discernment blogger says (see points 1 & 2).

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Tozer’s Three Concerns

Although A.W. Tozer’s writings ranged over all kinds of topics, three concerns dominated Tozer’s writings. You’ll find him returning to these often, and giving them different treatments each time. What they amount to is what Tozer saw as the most serious maladies of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

The first was what he called textualism. For Tozer, this was a rationalistic expounding of biblical texts, with little to no expectation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination. He saw a kind of depersonalization of Scripture taking place. Scholars and pastors were treating Scripture as a collection of inert facts, which could be discovered and communicated as surely as a scientist recording laboratory findings. He saw this as the shortest path to dead orthodoxy, and incessantly called for the church to recognize the doctrine of the Spirit’s illumination. “You can be,” Tozer delighted in saying, “straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually.” For Tozer, the deadness and lack of piety was evidence that people were not seeking God Himself when reading the Word. He called for solitude, silence, and self-denial as means of seeking God in His Word so as to experience His illuminating ministry. This was the Deeper Life – a surrendered pursuit of the knowledge of God Himself in His Word.

His second major concern was pragmatism in the church. Tozer saw the pragmatism begun in the 19th century beginning to bring in its harvest. He spoke out against using methods and techniques from the world to make church more popular, palatable, fun, or attractive to unbelievers. Tozer was writing in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s, but already pragmatism was changing the very nature of what styled itself as the heir of the apostolic and historic church. Evangelicalism was culturally apostatizing while claiming fidelity to the gospel. Long before Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and the worldliness you now see around you, Tozer stood as a signpost to the church pointing away from pragmatism.  He wrote, “The temptation to introduce “new” things into the work of God has always been too strong for some people to resist. The Church has suffered untold injury at the hands of well intentioned but misguided persons who have felt that they know more about running God’s work than Christ and His apostles did. A solid train of box cars would not suffice to haul away the religious truck which has been brought into the service of the Church with the hope of improving on the original pattern. These things have been, one and all, positive hindrances to the progress of the Truth, and have so altered the divinely-planned structure that the apostles, were they to return to earth today, would scarcely recognize the misshapen thing which has resulted.”

His third major theme was true worship. Tozer saw that the church was losing a sense of majesty, reverence and awe in its worship, and had trivialized the whole act. Worship was becoming a form of entertainment. Hymnody was being replaced by the gospel song and the religious entertainer, reverence was being replaced with breezy cheeriness or childish hilarity, and sobriety and simplicity were being wounded in the house of their friends. “Worship,” Tozer explained, “is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”

And what was said of Ezekiel could be easily said of Tozer, whom everyone loves to quote, “Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. (Eze 33:32)

Source: Tozer’s Three Concerns

An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program – Part 2

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In yesterday’s post, we began an analysis of the packaged addiction program, Celebrate Recovery (CR). CR is founded on eight principles, taken from the Beatitudes, similar to the twelve steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA).

Created by John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, CR claims to be a Christ-centered, biblically-based program. CR will be examined according to those claims, using the Leader’s Guide, by John Baker, as cited in yesterday’s post.

As stated yesterday, this review (completed with the help of Matthew Mumma) will demonstrate that CR contains two major problems: (1) Though claiming to be biblically based, its teachings are often constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. (2) Though claiming to be Christian based, its theology often clashes with sound Christian theology. In today’s post, the second problem will be addressed.

2. Much of CR’s theology clashes with sound Christian theology.

Several examples will be examined here.

God

CR generally teaches a view of God lower than that of Scripture. For example, according to CR, God seems to not be sovereign over the hurt we experience in our lives. “You need to understand and believe that the harm others did to you was from their free will. It was their choice, not God’s. It was not God’s will” (192). Certainly those who hurt others certainly make an active choice to do so, for which they are culpable. And, sin against others is not God’s prescribed will. However, the lack of clarity with respect to God’s decretive will is troubling. Though being sinned against can be painful, we must say with Scripture, “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other” (Eccles. 7:14). CR lacks clarity here, while failing to teach that we can trust the love and wisdom of God who is sovereign over all of our battles.

CR teaches that God is an unsovereign bystander in our salvation. Man’s salvation is up to his own will power. The sinner chooses God (11-13, 85, 90, 105-106, 167). “He loved us so much that He gave us a free will” (192). This clashes with Scripture, which teaches the sovereign grace of God in sinners’ salvation (e.g. John 3:3-8, 6:44; Rom. 8:29-30, 9:15-16; Eph. 1:4-5).

slide_3Additionally, CR teaches that God must be forgiven by the addict. Baker writes, “[O]n your list of ‘others to forgive,’ you might have forgotten about someone you may need to forgive; God. Yes, you heard me right. God” (192). No such thing can be found anywhere in Scripture. Now, CR teaches that God cannot and does not sin. However, elsewhere, forgiveness is described as a letting go and that “forgiving your enemy sets you one above him” (192). So, where does forgiving God place us in relation to him? Such teaching suggests that God is somehow accountable to man, thus dethroning him from his glorious position of Sovereign Lord and King (cf. Ps. 93:1-2).

Finally, in an inappropriate AA parallel, CR repeatedly refers to Christ as the sinner’s “Higher Power.” While it is a good start to mention him as the “only Higher Power” (41), the terminology does not go far enough in capturing Scripture’s teaching on Christ. Worse, the phrase too closely parallels AA’s reference to a subjective god of man’s making. Christ is not a power that is higher, but the omnipotent, uncreated, eternally-existing I AM, God, Creator, and sustainer of all things who. Incredibly, he loved sinners, demonstrated by absorbing the righteous anger of God due them (John 1:1-3, 8:58; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 4:10).

Even more, CR’s view of Christ is parochial: far more than the “Higher Power” who helps me in my recovery, he is the King of kings whom I am to worship (Phil. 2:10) and the only Savior through whom man can be acceptable before holy God (John 14:6, 1 Tim. 2:5-6). Yet, in the brief references to Christ now and then, CR does not speak of him in these terms.

Humanity and the Problem

In CR, man is reduced to an addicted creature with “hurts, hang-ups, and habits.” However, Scripture teaches that every person is a worshipping creature, made in the image of God for the glory of God. In CR, what defines man is his addictions and culpability to his self-actualization. In Scripture, what defines man is his image bearing and culpability to God (Gen. 1:26-27).

CR teaches that humanity is not entirely dead in sin, but capable, by his will, of choosing God in salvation (11-13, 85, 90, 105-6, 167, 192). Humanity’s problem is often described as a low self-esteem, low self-love, and the need for self-forgiveness (167-8). For example, Baker writes that the root of his enslavement to alcohol was low self-esteem (14) and a “lack of positive self-image” (167). This lack of self-esteem is taught to be the root of all sin from which other negative behaviors arise (167). Such lack of positive self-image is what causes an individual to engage in addictive behaviors. Therefore, CR teaches that humanity’s deepest problem from which all sin springs has to do with self-image and self-esteem.

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The problems with CR’s understanding of man and his problems are numerous. First, man is fundamentally an image-bearer of God, created to worship him (Gen. 1:26-27, Isa. 43:7). However, all humanity since the Fall of Adam and Eve are conceived with a sinful nature, which is incessantly hostile towards the true God (Rom. 3:10-18). Consequently, with the full capacity and desire to worship remaining, our hearts (the seat of our will) rebelliously cling to and crave created things in worship over and above God (Rom. 1:18-23). The product is as bad as it gets: man is both relentlessly religious and entirely sinful. Thus, in our natural state, we are relentless idolaters, in constant violation of our great obligation, privilege, and purpose to worship God with the full capacity of our hearts. To be sure, it is not simply the drunkard or drug user (as I once was) who are addicts. All humanity are addicts: motivated by love for self and enmity towards God, we are rebelliously enslaved to give loyalty to anything except God. Consequently, some worship alcohol and its effects; others, food; still others, things like body image, sex, money, reputation, kids’ performances, comfort, exercise, approval, and moral performance.

However, underneath all idolatry is not low self-love, but the contrary: we worship idols out of an extreme devotion to self. Thus, self-esteem is not the answer. As somewhat of a case study to prove the point, God has recorded for us a tragic-comical moment in history, displaying the product of man’s high self-esteem. At the Tower of Babel, man’s self-esteem drove him to build praise for himself by attempting to construct a tower so high that, perhaps, he could not only avoid another flood, but look God in the eye so as to self-cure his proud inferiority complex (cf. Gen. 11:4). We know how that ended.

At no time does God’s word instruct us to better love ourselves. In fact, quite the opposite. Paul warns Timothy that one symptom of increasingly unchecked human depravity is that “men will be lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). Our problem is not that we are poor self-lovers with “hurts, hang-ups, and habits that didn’t work” (74), but, being lords of self, we feed ourselves with whatever idol will soothe, exalt, please, praise, comfort, venerate, and prefer self. Man is naturally a colossal lover of self, adoring and worshiping himself. Sons of Adam naturally loathe and resent any threat to his self-rule and self-exaltation.

Contrary to CR’s teaching, character defects are the consequence of our sinful self-devotion (Prov. 4:23, Jer. 17:9, Mark 7:14-23, Gal. 5:19-21, James 1:14-15). We are dead to God, unwilling and unable to please him in this state (Eph. 2:1-3). Without ever having to be taught or conditioned, every human being is born in extraordinary religious devotion to the ante-Luke 10:27-28, loving the lord himself, with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength, and all his mind, and hating his neighbor as much as he loves himself.

Therefore, man is in gross violation of God’s good and holy moral requirements (Rom. 3:23). Our due punishment corresponds to the greatness of the One whom he has violated. As such, we deserve to endure the righteous wrath of God for eternity (2 Thess. 1:8-9, Rev. 20:11-15). A boost in self-esteem will only compound the problem. We may feel better, but we remain incessant self-worshipers, facing eternity in hell. Tragically, CR omits virtually all of these truths on the nature and standing of humanity, thus, harming its participants and setting itself up for an anemic gospel.

Salvation

In CR, salvation is recovery from addictive behavior. CR’s process of salvation could be captured as follows: man is an addicted being beset with hurts, hang-ups, and habits. Through CR, he learns to manage his hurts, hang-ups, and habits through forgiving God, others, and himself, belief in the Higher Power, Jesus Christ, and improved self-love and self-esteem. The curbing of the addictions and enthusiastic involvement in CR demonstrates his healing. He continues involvement in CR, as a “believer who struggles with [insert addiction].”

SkeletonWhen CR describes the event of salvation, man is in charge as he chooses God. God must be permitted to act (166, 170). The word repentance is mentioned, being described as taking God’s point of view on our lives over our own, while turning away from our sins and turning towards God (107). This was one of the high-points of the book. However, the event of salvation can be triggered by the sinner praying a formulaic prayer to accept Christ.

In all of the testimonies in the book, few, if any, contained the true gospel. They go back to the moment in time they prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, sat in CR for the first time, or experienced healing from addiction. CR’s gospel is addiction recovery.

The problems here are significant. Our needs are more serious than CR teaches.

First, our need is not to recover from an addiction, but to be forgiven our infinite sin debt (Rom. 4:7-8). God’s law brings focus to our condemnation before God (Rom. 3:19-20). Our only hope is that he might respond to our cry of mercy by forgiving our infinite debt so as to remove the hell we deserve.

Second, our need is reconciliation to God (Isa. 59:2). By nature and deed, we are his sworn enemies (Rom. 5:10). In our incessant idolatry, we are in perpetual rebellion against him. To remain there would mean eternal hell.

Third, our need is a righteousness with which we can stand acceptable to our Creator, not a few principles to assist with addictions (Phil. 3:9). Man’s problem of the ages is not addictions but a woefully inadequate righteousness before God.

Fourth, our need is an entire change of nature (John 3:3, 5). More than recovery from poor behavior, we are in desperate need of a new heart that worships Christ, not cravings (2 Cor. 5:17). Since our problem stems from worship, we need to be repaired at that deepest level so as to be willing and able to please God.

Fifth, man’s need is not to love himself, but loathe himself. Christ presented self-hate as necessary for following him (Luke 14:26, cf. 2 Cor. 7:10-11). In fact, in a passage which describes the future salvation of Israel, God describes the consequence of receiving his grace of regeneration by the Holy Spirit as follows: “…you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in our own sight for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezek. 36:31). So, a recovery to spiritual health (if we might put it in such terms) will not look like a greater self-love, but self-loathing. By nature, we so crave our own lordship, that it takes nothing less than the power of Almighty God in regeneration to pry our self-venerating claws off the throne of our hearts and place himself there.

Of course, the problem with these needs is that we are incapable of providing them for ourselves. If God does not act, we are hopelessly lost. We may be able to rotate idols so as to appear more socially acceptable, but we would remain condemned idolaters before God, headed for a miserable eternity. CR attempts to present a system of salvation-recovery, while, tragically, failing to address these greatest of man’s needs. A possible consequence of self-esteem theology is he externally assures himself with Bible verses and Christian principles, but remains an incessant self-worshiper under the banner of Christianity. He remains his own lord, but has recruited an unbiblical Jesus to assist in his self-centered agenda.

Cross-on-BlockUnlike CR’s teaching, it is with self-denial, not self-love, that we come to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance, and not for mere behavioral recovery, but reconciliation to God (Luke 9:23). Salvation is more than belief in Jesus for addiction therapy. Christ, being fully God, stepped out of heaven, became a man, and lived a perfect life in full obedience in thought, word, and deed, to the requirements of God’s law (Gal. 4:4-5). At no time was he sinfully enslaved to idols. Instead, he worshiped God perfectly (Heb. 4:15). Motivated by his own mercy, he willingly went to the cross where he suffered and died, bowing under the righteous wrath of God due us, so as to eliminate our condemnation (John 10:17-18; 1 John 4:10; 1 Pet. 2:24). He was then raised for our justification and ascended to heaven as exalted Lord (Rom. 4:25, Heb. 12:2). Man is called then to repent of his sin and surrender to Christ as Lord (Acts 17:30-31). By faith in Christ, God counts the penalty for all our sin to have been served in the death of Christ, while simultaneously counting us righteous in Christ, so as to be at peace with him (Rom. 5:1, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Contrary to CR’s teaching, salvation occurs, not by man’s permission, but God’s sovereign act of grace on the dead sinner (John 6:44, 65). By his mercy, he causes the supernatural work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, in which a new nature is given (John 3:3-7, Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and accomplished by the power of the Spirit through the instrumentality of the word of God (John 5:24), when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Spirit, responds in faith to the gospel (Eph. 1:13-14). That is the good news of God’s grace in Christ, which meets humanity’s greatest need.

The Risk of Promoting False Assurance

But CR risks promoting false assurance of salvation. A few pages into the CR Leader’s Guide, an unbiblical view of salvation is purported in the author’s testimony. He writes, “I asked Christ into my heart at age thirteen” (14), then describes nearly two decades of no fruit bearing. However, the writer asserts, “I knew that if I died I was saved, but my Christianity was not reflected in my lifestyle, business practices, and priorities” (15).

Though perhaps unintentionally, this immediately sets the stage in CR for a view of salvation that does not square with Scripture. Jesus taught, “Every branch in Me that does no bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:2, 5). “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). Contrary to the author’s testimony, Scripture gives no assurance to individuals who persist in a life without fruit bearing (cf. Eph. 2:10, 1 John 2:3-6).

Additional false assurance is risked with addiction-recovery akin to salvation in CR. With little to no teaching on man’s incessant idolatry and violation of God’s holy law, the consequent punishment of hell, and the need for justification, CR endangers its participants. If a CR participant says a prayer, affirms belief in Jesus, and experiences behavioral improvement, assurance is given. However, it’s possible to have swept the soul clean, leaving it unoccupied by the Spirit (Luke 11:24-26).

Sanctification

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CR teaches that the path to change is to “let go and let God” (17, 95, 166). By embracing the eight foundation principles, change is expected to occur (142). Growth and lasting change seem to be centered on perpetual CR attendance. Cessation of attendance and working through the 8 Principles and 12 Steps is not suggested (167).

Scripture offers a more comprehensive, promising transformation in the process of sanctification (Rom. 8:29-30). God’s work is not limited to perpetual addiction recovery, but conforming the whole soul into christlikeness (2 Cor. 3:18). And, contrary to CR, enslavements no longer affix to the identity of God’s children. Such things were we (1 Cor. 6:11). But, by the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit, we are not merely getting help with hurts, hang-ups, and habits, but putting our entire sin nature to death (Rom. 8:13-14, Col. 3:5). Through regular immersion in the means of grace (e.g. biblical preaching, Scripture reading, prayer, repentance, one anothers), the Spirit ministers transforming love to the soul. However, the means of grace are not mentioned in CR. Instead, the CR program is the means of grace. But, with incorrect interpretations of Scripture and erroneous theology, both salvation and sanctification are hindered.

The Church

In psychology’s teaching, deep-seated problems can be solved only by the professional counselor’s therapy. In AA, enslavement is treated through perpetual AA involvement. CR parallels both, in that the enslavement is treated through perpetual recovery in the CR system of therapy.

Participants are functionally taught to put faith in the CR system. Christ is mentioned as the “Higher Power,” but only in name. Little is said about his attributes, deity, righteousness, and sin-bearing work. Instead, CR participants are, perhaps inadvertently, conditioned to depend on the packaged methods and ideas of the program. In reality, then, since individuals are addicts in perpetual recovery, they cannot survive apart from the CR system. Thus, CR replaces Christ’s institution, the church.

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Furthermore, the goal is to feel “safe at Celebrate Recovery” (73). I am guessing that CR’s creators are not attempting to replace Christ’s church, but, with this approach, they risk doing so. It’s as if CR says, “Well, for those battling with addictions, Christ’s church is not quite adequate for you. You need something more. What you need is what we have created; Celebrate Recovery.” Shepherding is through perpetual CR attendance (29, 37, 59, 167-8). One’s choice of a local church is irrelevant (59, 167-8). While attending a church is mentioned as good idea, it is not promoted as necessary (242). Baker writes, “If you aren’t ready to get involved in your church, that’s your decision” (146). So, CR participants need not come under the shepherding and accountability of biblically qualified elders for God’s best kind of care. Instead, they may perpetually remain in CR and assured that all is well. Even so, CR claims that “[Jesus] is the rock, the foundation, of the Celebrate Recovery program” (29).

Consequently, it cannot be concluded that Christ is the head or foundation of CR. As a program which misuses Scripture, whose theology is erroneous, and replaces the church, it brings itself under another head.

However, if Christ is a sufficient God, then that one organism which he builds must also be the sufficient organism to shepherd broken and enslaved people. Christ taught that he builds and blesses one institution; the church (Matt. 16:18). CR, however, suggests that one can be devoted to Christ yet detached from the church. We would be hard pressed to suggest saving union with Christ while indifferent union with his Bride (Eph. 5:25-27, Rev. 19:7), Body (Eph. 1:22-23), and flock (John 21:15-17). The individual with indifferent involvement in the local church should probably not be encouraged to be a better Christian, but evangelized to become one.

Those in CR who are not actively involved (or encouraged to be) in a sound, New Testament local church, are deprived of God’s kind of care. They risk missing out on the joy, security, and privilege of relationship with and submission to biblically qualified elders (Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 5:2-3). They miss out on frequent, meaty feeding through expository preaching (1 Tim. 4:13, 2 Tim. 4:2). They miss out on sanctification and cultivating their Spirit gifts in the context of people much different than them in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7, 12).

Finally, we might ask, “Was there a people in biblical times who struggled with various enslavements to whom writers of Scripture ministered? If so, what did they do without CR?” Take Corinth for example. From Paul’s writings, we know people were enslaved to things like alcohol, drugs, stealing, homosexual and heterosexual sin, and other destructive behaviors (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11). What was the solution? Create a special program? Christ’s local church with all her normal, often-unexciting means of grace sufficed. Go to church. Sit under Christ-crucified preaching and teaching. Get shepherded by elders. Repent of sin. Read Scripture. Take communion. Love people. Practice the one anothers. Pray. Repeat. For Paul, that was enough. Addictions are not a special set of sins requiring something more than Christ’s church.

Conclusion

When it comes to packaging an organized program, CR has done a fantastic job. Potential participants and leaders have everything they need to jump in. The program is well-structured, creative, and contains an incredible amount of ingenious acronyms in each lesson. CR’s creators certainly have put much work and thought into the program.

However, as far as a Christ-centered, biblically-based program, CR falls significantly short. Though claiming to be biblically based, its teachings are often constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. Though claiming to be Christian based, its theology often clashes with sound Christian theology. Therefore, a Christian church looking to shepherd people struggling with enslaving sins should rethink using Celebrate Recovery.

Superior Alternatives to Celebrate Recovery

Those who have turned to CR in attempt to bring Christ’s love to souls ought to be commended for their desire to care. The church must do something to minister to such needs. However, there are several superior alternatives.

First, church leaders ought to equip themselves and members to counsel people biblically. No substitution exists for unrushed, rigorous training in how to accurately handle and minister the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). It is the church’s high, exalted calling from her Lord to give herself fully to raising up mature men and women, competent in God’s word (2 Tim. 2:2). No shortcuts exists here, nor should they be sought (1 Tim. 5:22).

acbcartigos_postChurches can seek outside help for such training, for example, from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Once a leader or two are certified, then they can train others in the church and even work towards becoming an ACBC-certified training center. Churches will not be able to construct something as quick as a CR program. But that is not a bad thing. The goal is not to get something going that appears to work, but that is biblical.

Second, several resources exist as biblical alternatives to CR. For example, the book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, by Ed Welch, is a must read. Welch also created a workbook called, Crossroads, which is designed for either one-on-one counseling or a group study. Mark Shaw has a handful of resources targeted at multiple issues from a biblical perspective at theaddictionconnection.com. His books, The Heart of Addiction, and, Relapse, are great resources, as well.

Finally, let God’s people trust that giving ourselves to the correct, biblically-prescribed means of grace will prove abundantly sufficient to effectively minister to the greatest of needs. May our Lord give us grace in these privileged labors.

Source: An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program – Part 2

An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program – Part 1

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Enslaving behaviors are as old, and common to humanity, as sin itself. Since our fall at the dawn of time, we have been naturally enslavement to every destructive behavior possible. In response, various efforts have been made to deal with the problem.

One such effort is a packaged addictions program called Celebrate Recovery (CR). John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church created the program in 1991 to help people with various addictions. Rick Warren writes, “[D]uring the ten-week series that I preached to kick off this program, our attendance grew by over 1500!” (John Baker, Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide, 12). During the past 25 years, some 20,000 churches in the United States have reportedly used CR, with some 2.5 million people having completed the program. Needless to say, CR has had a major influence on the church.

CR’s stated purpose is “to encourage fellowship and to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives as we work our way along the road to recovery” (21). Further, Warren claims that CR is “more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of” (12).

Generally, the program runs on a one-year repeating schedule. Participants are taken through the material in 25 lessons and testimonies, meeting once per week for 52 weeks. Rick Warren writes that CR was born when “I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about ‘recovery.’ To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery—in their logical order—given by Christ in His most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount” (12). More specifically, CR teaches that the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), which are said to be “eight ways to be happy,” contain the progressive path to addiction recovery.

The eight principles upon which CR is derived are as follows (the principle is stated, followed by the corresponding Beatitude):

The Road to Recovery

  1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1) “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor” (Matt. 5:3, though the CR manual cites these verses as the NIV, they are all taken from the GNT). 
  1. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2) “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). 
  1. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3) “Happy are the meek” (Matt. 5:5). 
  1. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5) “Happy are the pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8). 
  1. Celebrate_Recovery_Zondervan_large

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    Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7) “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” (Matt. 5:6). 

  1. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9) “Happy are the merciful” (Matt. 5:7). “Happy are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). 
  1. Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11) (no verse cited).
  1. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12) “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires” (Matt. 5:10).

Clever readers will notice that the first letter from each of the eight steps forms the acronym, “recovery.” CR’s approach takes each of the eight principles and expounds them with a few lessons, forming the 25 lessons in which participants are guided through how to deal with their “hurts, hang-ups, and habits” (the oft-used phrase in CR to describe our problems which need recovery).

Since CR claims to be Christian in nature, “biblical” (13), grounded in God’s word (12), and[b]ased on the actual words of Jesus rather than on psychological theory” (12), it deserves to be evaluated as such. This review is based upon the program’s teaching as stated in the CR Leadership Guide only (pages cited are from this guide) and is not a critique of every person who has participated in the program. Further, the purpose of this review is not to question whether the 2.5 million participants have felt that they were assisted with enslaving behaviors, nor to doubt the sincerity of individuals seeking to help, but, instead, to examine CR’s claim to be biblically based.

Having said that, this review (completed largely with the help of Matthew Mumma) will demonstrate that CR contains two major problems: (1) Though claiming to be biblically based, its teachings are often constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. (2) Though claiming to be Christian based, its theology often clashes with sound Christian theology. In today’s post, this first problem will be demonstrated. …

Source: An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program – Part 1

TMS: The Believer and Sanctification

The Christian life is anything but a passive pursuit. The New Testament commands believers to “be all the more diligent” (2 Peter 1:10), to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), to “strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24), to “run” that we may obtain the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24), and to “work out” our salvation (Philippians 2:12). Our spiritual growth clearly involves human exertion. But what, then, are we to make of God’s sovereignty over our growth?

In recent years, that question has fueled intense theological debate on the driving force behind sanctification. Is spiritual growth produced by the believer or is it sovereignly performed by God?

In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul lays it out as a paradoxical truth:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (emphasis added)

Who is responsible for our sanctification? The answer is more complex than some make it out to be.

Paul sees sanctification as a two-sided coin. He focuses first on the believer’s role in sanctification. Some misguided interpreters completely misread this exhortation as if it said, “work for your salvation,” “work at your salvation,” or “work up your salvation.” But both in the immediate context of this letter and the broader context of the New Testament, none of those interpretations is correct. Paul is not speaking of attaining salvation by human effort or goodness, but of living out the life God has graciously granted.

Alive by Faith

To the Ephesians Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Faith alone has always been the way of salvation. Noah was a righteous man by faith (Genesis 6:9; Hebrews 11:7). Abraham was saved by God’s grace working through his personal faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). The Mosaic law did not alter the way of salvation. It was only by faith that Moses and all Old Testament saints were saved (Hebrews 11:23–38). All those believing men and women “gained approval through their faith” (Hebrews 11:39), by which God granted them His righteousness—salvation—in advance on account of the future death of His Son.

Working Out What God Worked In

So, salvation is from God alone, yet in Philippians 2:12, Paul focuses on the responsibility of believers to live lives that are consistent with that divine gift.

Strabo was an ancient Roman scholar who lived about sixty years before Christ. He recorded an account concerning some Roman-owned mines in Spain. He uses the very same verb that Paul does in Philippians 2:12, katergazomai, when referring to the Romans as working out the mines. Strabo’s point was that the Romans were extracting from within the mines all their richness and value.

That’s a fitting expression of what katergazomai (work out) means in Philippians 2:12. I am to mine out of my life what God has richly deposited there in salvation. I am to produce such precious nuggets of godly character from what He planted when He saved me.

Working by the Spirit

Everything in life requires energy. It takes energy to walk and to work. It takes energy to think and to meditate. It takes energy to obey and to worship God. Where does the believer get the energy to grow as a Christian, to live a life that is holy, fruitful, and pleasing to the Lord? Philippians 2:13 makes it clear that God is the necessary source of that sanctifying energy we are commanded to expend. In the words of Galatians 5:25, since “we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

So who is responsible for your growth as a Christian? God is responsible for supplying everything you need for life and godliness, and you are responsible for actively using that power to grow in sanctification for His glory. The paradox is found in the believer being both fully responsible, and yet fully dependent on God’s supply. We may not fully comprehend the paradox, but we can exercise faith that it is resolved in the infinite wisdom of God and respond in obedience to His commands.

Today’s post is adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians.

The post The Believer and Sanctification appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

HeadHeartHand Blog: A New (And Big) Book On The Christian Ministry

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The Christian Ministry: 250 Articles On Pastoring, Preaching, Counseling, and Leading ($2.99).

After 20 years of pastoral ministry, 12 years of training pastors in seminaries, and many years of blogging, writing, and speaking about pastoral ministry, I thought I might have enough material to put together an eBook on The Christian Ministry. What surprised me when I got down to it was just how much material I had for the book. After some ruthless pruning, I eventually got it down to about 250 articles, 700 plus pages, and 170,000 words divided into four categories: pastoring, preaching, counseling, and leading.

  • PASTORING: Shepherding, celebrity pastors, pastoral visitation, rookie pastors, pastoral joys (and miseries), call to the ministry, leaving a church, evangelism, social media, church discipline, hate mail, caring for the body, etc.
  • PREACHING: Sermon preparation, teaching tips, balanced preaching, evangelistic preaching, preaching without notes, and numerous articles on preaching Christ from the Old Testament.
  • COUNSELING: Counseling training, the sufficiency of Scripture, hospital visitation, pornography, mental health, depression, stress, suicide, etc.
  • LEADING: Church meetings, hiring, administration, workaholism, leadership types, control-freaks, etc.

You can also read much more on pastoral leadership in The Happy Leader, one of the books included in A Bundle of Joy: Six Books on Christian Happiness.

BIG THANK YOUS to Faculty assistant, Esther Engelsma, and my personal assistant, Sarah Perez, for all their hours of help with this project.

The Christian Ministry $2.99

Source

How Can You Be Sure that You Will Spend Eternity with God? (Dr. Erwin Lutzer) – Video Series

How Can You Be Sure that You Will Spend Eternity with God?/Program 1


How Can You Be Sure that You Will Spend Eternity with God?/Program 2


How Can You Be Sure that You Will Spend Eternity with God?/Program 3


How Can You Be Sure that You Will Spend Eternity with God?/Program 4


Hope for Those Who Doubt Their Salvation/Program 1


Hope for Those Who Doubt Their Salvation/Program 2


Hope for Those Who Doubt Their Salvation/Program 3


Hope for Those Who Doubt Their Salvation/Program 4


Why is it Important to Be Sure Where You Will Spend Eternity?

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

Why Is it Important to Be Sure Where You Will Spend Eternity? Is the faith that people have in God going to get them into Heaven ? Matthew 7 says, ‘I’m sorry. I never knew you,’ here’s what His message is.” What are two ways that Jesus talked about misplaced faith.


Why Is Grace So Amazing?

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

Ephesians 2:8 says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” Why is Grace So Amazing?


What is Justification?

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

Understanding the importance of the doctrine of salvation. If the righteousness of Christ, is applied to me legally the moment I put my faith in Him, does that mean that I can accept Christ and then live like the devil?”


What Does the Bible Teach About Being Born Again?

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

In our society when so many people say, “You know, he was born again,” what really does the Bible teach about being a “born again” Christian?


Held in God’s Hands: The Doctrine of Eternal Security

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

Held in God’s Hands: The Doctrine of Eternal Security. Do We need to be saved again and again?


Saved for Sure: Overcoming Doubt

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

How do you overcome those doubts–to be brought to the point where you say, “Yes, I know it’s okay. I’m going to Heaven.


For Doubters Only

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

There are still some people who have a tough time in having confidence in their salvation. What do those folks need to do?


Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s Personal Testimony

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer

Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s personal testimony.

GTY Blog: Evangelical Syncretism: Therapeutic Confusion

Code: B150223

 

by Jeremiah Johnson

The language of therapy has a stranglehold on our culture. Children don’t lie anymore, they tell stories. Serial adulterers have been re-branded as sex addicts. Drunkenness is now an alcohol disorder—in fact, addiction itself is treated like a disease. Even the gross perversion of pedophilia is listed as a psychiatric disorder in the ever-expanding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In short, the world’s pattern for dealing with sin is to diagnose away the guilt, or redefine wickedness as something more innocuous. You’re not a sinner, you’re a victim. And regardless of who or what is victimizing you, you’re not to blame for your flaws and faults.

Tragically, the church is following that thinking.

Today, psychological terminology shapes the way our culture talks about life, and that same terminology has infected the church. This psychological assault has major implications for biblical authority and gospel purity. One prominent professor of a major Christian seminary argues:

It is time for Christian sages—psychologically informed pastors, theologians, counselors, therapists as well as psychologists—to speak wisdom into the mind and heart of the church concerning its mandate to explore human nature.[1]John Coe, “Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical, or Speaking Psychology Gently into the Church,” Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) Western Division Annual Meeting, 1991.

The only mandate that Jesus gave the church is the Great Commission. The gospel message is not concerned with exploring human nature, it is the remedy for human nature (cf. Genesis 6:5; John 3:19–20; Romans 1:18­–20; Romans 3:10–23). What needs further exploration?

But with the Freudian view of man we don’t need salvation, we need healing. We don’t need to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, we need fulfillment. The self-affirming language of psychology has changed the way we talk about sin, the gospel, and the life of the believer. With a few choice words, we’ve turned the life-transforming truth of the gospel into nothing more than a motivational speech.

More than twenty years ago, John MacArthur saw the threat that psychology posed to the church. He warned believers not to give credibility to the secular pseudo-science.

Psychology is no more a science than the atheistic evolutionary theory upon which it is based. Like theistic evolution, “Christian psychology” is an attempt to harmonize two inherently contradictory systems of thought. Modern psychology and the Bible cannot be blended without serious compromise to or utter abandonment of the principle of Scripture’s sufficiency.[2]Our Sufficiency in Christ (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1991) p. 66

At the time, pastors and church leaders were being cowed into surrendering aspects of their leadership to “professionals” who could supposedly better address the emotional and psychological needs of believers.

Evangelical psychological clinics have sprung up. Though almost all of them claim to offer biblical counsel, most merely dispense secular psychology disguised in spiritual terminology. Moreover, they are removing the counseling ministry from its proper arena in the church body and conditioning Christians to think of themselves as incompetent to counsel. Many pastors, feeling inadequate and perhaps afraid of possible malpractice litigation, are perfectly willing to let “professionals” take over what used to be seen as a vital pastoral responsibility. Too many have bought the lie that a crucial realm of wisdom exists outside Scripture and one’s relationship to Jesus Christ, and that some idea or technique from that extrabiblical realm holds the real key to helping people with their deep problems.[3]Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 57-58

Fast forward two decades and it’s no longer a question of surrender. Instead, church leaders have embraced the therapeutic culture and adopted the kind of terminology that appeals to a generation of victims.

Most celebrity pastors today won’t talk about sin or repentance or righteousness. Sermons—well, not sermons, talks—center on life’s journey, fulfillment, and relationship counseling. Christ is a cool guy who set a great example for us. The Holy Spirit is little more than an enabler. And a whole list of topics—basically anything that would confront any of society’s favorite sins—is all but forbidden.

In his book, Christless Christianity, Michael Horton describes the vacuous tendencies of modern evangelicalism:

We are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior Who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God Himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to become all that we can be.[4]Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008), 19.

While many in the church may be passively capitulating to those tendencies, the end result is still the same: The authority of God’s Word is neutered and the gospel watered down to an easy-to-swallow self-help message.

We need to reassert the prophetic voice of the church, and make loud and clear the hard truths of Scripture. We need to cut off the influence of those who would soften or dull the gospel, and vigorously proclaim the only truth that offers lasting hope, peace, and fulfillment.

And we need to remember, as John MacArthur wrote all those years ago, that the things that separate us from this therapeutic culture are the very things that are most valuable in our efforts to win the men and women in it to faith and repentance:

True psychology (“the study of the soul”) can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for the understanding and the transformation of the soul. Since the secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations, it is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level. . . . If one is a truly Christian psychologist, he must be doing soul work in the realm of the deep things of the Word and the Spirit—not fooling around in the shallows of behavior modification. Why should a believer choose to do behavior modification when he has the tools for spiritual transformation (like a surgeon wreaking havoc with a butter knife instead of using a scalpel)? The most skilled counselor is the one who most carefully, prayerfully, and faithfully applies the divine sanctification—shaping another into the image of Jesus Christ.[5]Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 58-60


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B150223
COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You

The Cripplegate: 5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity (reprise)

Let me start by saying that it’s not wrong for a new believer to be immature any more than it’s wrong for a child to be childish.

Puerility is only annoying in an adult. When a four year old dons a cape and wears his underwear over his pants, claiming x-ray vision it’s cute. When his dad does that it’s concerning (or certifiable).

When you’ve been a believer for many years though, lack of these indicators should be concerning.

Mature believers possess these 5 indicators…

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CultureWatch: Standing and State

by Bill Muehlenberg

One would have thought that a very basic, long-standing, and well known theological principle needs little or no defending and explaining. But regrettably it seems clear that many believers do not have such basic understanding, and one must go back to basics and seek to elucidate some primary biblical themes and principles once again.

But there is nothing new here in this regard sadly. As the author of Hebrews had to say 2000 years ago, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again” (Heb. 5:12).

christianity 3So let me deal with what is known as the standing/state doctrine. I emphasise this because there are plenty of groups who are going off into real error – if not heresy – because they fail to get this basic theological principle. For example, the emergent church folks seem to utterly fail to grasp these biblical truths.

So do the hyper grace folks, And so too those who rail against what they call ‘lordship salvation’. These three groups – and others – all flounder because they have forgotten or rejected this basic biblical teaching. So just what is it then?

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CultureWatch: The False Gospel of False Grace

by Bill Muehlenberg

Here is a biblical truth you can bank on: any gospel which makes it easier for you to sin, and to feel OK about sinning, is not a gospel of Jesus Christ, but comes straight out of the pits of hell. Any message proclaimed from the pulpit, printed in books, or heard in conferences, which gives the believer the idea that sin is no big deal and that we can just relax about it all is a gospel of demons.

The really amazing thing about this is we have been there and done that. This is already 2000 years old for heaven’s sake! Paul dealt with the error of cheap grace, or false grace, or hyper grace, some two millennia ago – so why are we still having this discussion?

He too had to deal with false teachers who peddled a false gospel of cheap grace. His words are so perfectly clear on this that it staggers me that we are still repeating these same diabolical errors in the church today. In the book of Romans – Paul’s great treatise on justification by grace through faith – he deals directly with this pernicious error. As he says in Rom. 6:1-2, 15-16:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? … What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

We cannot save ourselves – that is why it is all of grace. But we also called to work out our salvation. We have a role to play. We must obey, resist sin, appropriate what Christ offers us, and so on. Spirituality is not automatic. We have much to do to see sanctification progressively worked out in our lives.

Yes, in Christ we are complete and perfect – all due to his grace – but we must work out what we already are in Him by our daily choices. We must resist and fight sin, and we must desire and pursue holiness. Obedience is a crucial part of the Christian walk, and we dare not allow a doctrine of cheap grace to trap us in sin.

Several recent articles deal with this in more detail, and are well worth citing here.

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