Category Archives: Ministry

Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is (Video)

Red Grace media has published Unpopular The Movie, and it’s wonderful. This half hour movie is Christ-centric, accurate, clear, and presents the Gospel in a devastatingly biblical way. When you hear/read the Gospel, unvarnished and with open ears and open eyes, it singes the heart and devastates the soul. It is incendiary. Even as a long-saved person, it will try your emotions, and bring you low. We ALL need The Gospel.

Here, Emilio Ramos, Dr James White, and Paul Washer quietly discuss The Gospel. The background music is unobtrusive, the setting is thoughtful, and the presentation of the Gospel is accurate and beautiful. The movie is as much for the saints as it is an evangelism tool for the unsaved. Here is Red Grace Media’s synopsis:Unpopular The Movie is a Evangelism resource for the church. Unpopular is a gospel presentation by Emilio Ramos, Dr James White of Aomin.org, and Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society. Unpopular is meant to serve as a tool to evangelize non-Christians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To stay up to date visit http://www.unpopularthemovie.com

Mr Ramos said,

We live in a culture that glorifies sin. That trivializes sin, that makes sin less heinous than it is. It is very deceptive to look at sin in a way that makes sense to us. If we see ourselves in the way that the culture tells us to see ourselves, then man can remedy his condition through technique. But if we see ourselves the way the Bible tells us we really are, then the only remedy for our sin is the work of the Savior.

This is good. Watch it!

Sin, repentance, the cross…are the most upsetting and controversial doctrines on the entire earth. They are presented here, along with God’s love and mercy.

Listen and watch for yourself. We all need the Gospel, all the time. Let its truth and the majesty of a holy and righteous God who accepts sinners into His family through His slain and resurrected Son, Jesus. Then share.

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Further Reading

The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur

Source: Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is

Cru gives students free tickets, mixed messages about The Shack

Amy Spreeman has the story:

Should Christians ever use and consume entertaining apostasy like the heretical The Shack movie to witness to those who aren’t Christians?

Cru™ (Formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ), is promoting its free ticket giveaway to college students to see the film and take their friends. And in an almost apologetic way, the ticket site includes a caveat stating that Cru “does not endorse the movie.” That’s the small-font italicized quip at the very bottom of the website’s page. A footnote.

Free tickets. Not endorsing.

Without giving any warning or explanation as to why they don’t endorse, the site provides four videos from Cru and Family Life leadership clearly endorsing and encouraging movie lovers to not miss this “wonderful” film.

View article →

When Christians Act Like Mormons

Jordan Standridge shares his concern that in their approach to evangelism, many evangelicals actually look more like Joseph Smith than Jesus. In this piece over at The Cripplegate, Standridge lays out three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave like Mormons. He writes:

The other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”

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See our Research Paper on Mormonism

Responding to Frank Turek’s Defense of Andy Stanley

Went almost a full two hours today reading through and responding to Frank Turek’s 9/8 article in defense of Andy Stanley’s comments about the Bible and the resurrection.  Much important information on the foundational and fundamental differences between the evidentialist/minimalist approach and a full-orbed biblical apologetic.

https://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/player_embed.asp?SID=92216184475

Here is the YouTube link:

The post Responding to Frank Turek’s Defense of Andy Stanley appeared first on Alpha and Omega Ministries.

Discernment Ministry – A Biblical Defense

From Berean Research:

DiscernersThere is no shortage of critics in the evangelical community who oppose those of us involved in what is called an online discernment ministry (ODM).  Our well-meaning brethren often take “discerners” to task for reporting on false teachers and apostate movements within the visible Church.  Moreover, we are chastised for being too focused on negative things, or being judgmental, hurtful, even hateful. Worse, some of us have lost friendships with those who complain that they’re tired of reading about wolf sightings.  Some go so far as to say that ODM is not biblical.

Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel wrote about this issue back in 2009 where he stated:

Despite the clear mandate given throughout the Scriptures concerning the necessity for biblical discernment and critique, most continue to be critical of the whole concept.  Ironically, those who preach most tenaciously the need for tolerance are themselves intolerant of those who seek to faithfully follow God’s directives in this matter.

Pastor Gilley offers a biblical defense for the role of ODM in the Church.

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How to Diagnose and Treat Pastoral Authoritarianism

Post by Phil Newton.

AuthoritarianismSuffixes have a way of distinguishing a word from its root, such as –ian. An electrician does not personally hold an electrical charge but he does work with electricity. A Washingtonian may not have the last name Washington but she does live or work in the nation’s capitol. One source states that the –ian ending indicates “one who engages in, practices, or works with the referent of the base noun.” So a Memphian engages life in Memphis. A contrarian practices a contrary-spirit or lifestyle. When we think of an authoritarian, we distinguish it from the mere use of authority that has been delegated in the work place, government, or church as one who instead, engages in or practices authority beyond its normal bounds, demanding strict obedience to his/her demands.

We’ve certainly witnessed authoritarians in the work place or worse, in governmental settings, where someone takes political authority beyond its normal bounds to become a dictator. That kind of authority demands lockstep allegiance at every point.

But sometimes authoritarianism invades the church. Occasionally, a long-standing, powerful church member holds an authoritarian sway over a church. In such settings, pastors tend to come and go at the whim of the lay authority abused by that one member. More often than not in a church setting, where the pastor that should be tenderly shepherding the flock purchased by the blood of Christ, grabs a rod of iron to control and manipulate. In such cases a congregation suffers where it should thrive.

Spiritual Leadership

The difference between exercising pastoral authority as a spiritual leader in a local church and the iron hand of authoritarianism is not a thin line but a wide gulf. Faithful pastors and elders understand the need for authority that gives structure, protection, care, and leadership to the church. Authority, in this case, is always derived rather than demanded. It is held and exercised gently under the Lordship of Jesus Christ—the Head of the Church, who has appointed particular spiritual leaders over His people (e.g. Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11–16). It is used for the good of the flock, not for the personal desires of the one wielding it. Such authority equips and builds up the church, shepherding the congregation towards unity, maturity, and growing into the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12–13).

Jesus displayed the appropriate use of spiritual authority as He, the Lord of the Church, washed the feet of the disciples (see John 13) and laid down His life for the church (Acts 20:28). Peter called for shepherding and exercising congregational oversight without compulsion, without money grubbing, and without lording over the flock. Instead, a willing heart to serve, an eagerness to labor for the good of the body, and constancy in setting an example for the church characterizes the one who properly holds pastoral authority. He welcomes plural leadership to not only help him to serve the flock but to curb any temptation toward abusing authority (1 Pet 5:1–4). In the end, such a pastor knows that he will give an account to Jesus for how he treats His church (Heb. 13:17).

The Authoritarian

How do you recognize authoritarianism? An authoritarian pastor might preach “good” sermons in that he can exegete a text and deliver a homiletically thought-out structure with appropriate gestures and voice modulation. In other words, someone might hear him preach and think that he’s really good at it. But once out of the pulpit, an authoritarian typically lacks grace and tenderness toward others. He often uses the pulpit for his own purposes, attempting to bolster his position, undercut others, and even twist biblical texts with shrewd manipulation (that he calls “interpretation”) to emphasize his authority. His sloppy (that’s being charitable) hermeneutic finds the Old Testament texts related to authority in the theocratic nation particularly applicable to his pastoral position!

One thinks of Diotrephes, whom John warned Gaius and those associated with him, of his authoritarian ways (3 John 9–10). He loved to be first—so ultimately, the church gathering was all about him and not about Christ or the body. He rejected apostolic authority—so had no qualms about manipulating Scripture to gain control over others. He spoke unjust words, even accusing godly people of ungodliness—so resorted to slander to get his ways. He rejected faithful brothers and kept them out of the church—and so sought to control the church for his own desires.

Such a person lacks transparency, often resorting to secrecy and evasion in conversations, lest someone detect the real person behind the title. He’s unteachable, proved by his reluctance to listen to others or to seek out wise counsel. He avoids elder plurality or else tries to maneuver control over elders so that he might continue his iron handed ways. He manipulates, maybe even pouts and blusters, until he grasps control over the congregation. From that point, the façade might look like a normal church in terms of its services and activities. But those who get close enough realize that it’s all about the pastor, his ego, his lust for power and more. The flock of Christ suffers.

Rooting Out Authoritarianism

First, is the issue proper authority or authoritarianism? Make sure that is distinguished. Do not be hasty to level that accusation. Second, leaders in the church need to pray for wisdom, humility, and boldness in dealing with the out-of-control pastor. Only the Spirit can truly rescue this situation and bring glory to Christ. Third, while not receiving an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19–20), once that is certain, then privately confront the pastor concerning the biblical characteristics demanded in a pastor (1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). Approach this confrontation with humility, love, and with biblical authority, as well as a desire to help. Call for repentance, accountability, and immediate change of course, including practicing the biblical pattern of plural leadership. Some practical steps, e.g. establishing accountability, arranging counseling, and a leave of absence to work through the heart-changes, might prove useful. Fourth, if he does not respond, then Paul calls for public “rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (1 Tim. 5:20). In such cases, carefully thought out church polity will steer the steps toward the public rebuke and likely dismissal.

Authoritarianism has no place in the church whose Head served, nurtured, shepherded, patiently taught, and laid down His life to redeem. Instead, pastors should be characterized by another suffix: Christian, one who practices and lives in Christ.

For further reading, see: “Authoritarianism in the Church.”

The post How to Diagnose and Treat Pastoral Authoritarianism appeared first on Founders.

 

John MacArthur: The Two Greatest Acts of Terror in the U.S. Were Not Done By Muslims

In this bold and controversial sermon clip, Pastor John MacArthur calls out a greater terrorism than Muslim extremists—our own U.S. Supreme Court.

What are the acts of terror perpetrated by the U.S. Supreme Court according to MacArthur?

1. The legalization of abortion.

Since then, millions of babies have been slaughtered inside their mothers’ wombs. “The blood of those lives cries out from the ground for divine vengeance on this nation,” MacArthur says.

2. The legalization of same-sex marriage.

First came the destruction of motherhood and now the very family itself, MacArthur states. No bomb, no explosion, no attack and no assault on people physically can come anywhere near that kind of terrorism. “Our country is being terrorized by the people most responsible to protect it,” MacArthur says.

Do you agree with MacArthur? Are these two decisions by the Supreme Court more devastating than any other act of terror?

The post John MacArthur: The Two Greatest Acts of Terror in the U.S. Were Not Done By Muslims appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

Does Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades Produce False Converts?

Harvest America, with Greg Laurie, is coming to AT&T stadium near my house. This has sparked a lot of conversation lately for me. The conversation tends to end the same way each time. It ends with a question similar to this one, “If there are people that get saved what is wrong with calling people to walk an aisle and pray the sinner’s prayer?” I have had responses like this, “What does it matter if only a low percentage is saved that actually come forward if people are getting saved?” Other statements have gone like this, “If God saves people at these conferences it seems to be of God right?”

Before I go any further let me just say that, “It does seem that some fruit has come out of the Harvest Crusades.” I rejoice at the people that God saved out of these events despite what they do at the end!

Now, if people are getting saved from this crusade what is the problem? The problem is not with the people who are getting saved but with the false conversion it makes. Events like this make so many people believe they were saved because they made a decision. In a 1990 interview with PBS, Billy Graham thought that only about 25% of those who come forward at one of his events actually became a Christian. Not too bad right? In recent years, studies have shown that only 3% to 6% of people who “come forward” at an evangelistic crusade are any different in their beliefs or behavior one year later. Looks like 25% was a little too high of a guess.

What are the opposite numbers or statics of those who are false converts? By Billy Graham’s calculation, it would be 75% and by recent studies, it would be 97% to 94%. This is why I wrote this. Just look at the percentage of people who go forward that become false converts or fall away. Here is a Question to ask yourself. If your method of calling people to respond to the gospel is giving people false hope and does not save should you really do it? Where is the altar call or sinners prayer in the bible? If these things are not biblical why would you do it?

Paul Washer said, “Most people today in our churches are lost, and they demonstrate that they are lost because their entire Christianity is nothing more than, ‘They made a decision.’” Where in the bible does it say we are born again from a decision we make? I know it might look like the small percentage that went forward were saved by a decision but is that really the case? Faith is a gift of God. (Eph 2:8-9) Faith comes by hearing. (Rom 10:17) The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16) We find out, by Jesus, a correct response to the gospel is to “Repent and Believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Let’s us go back to the thought of did the people going forward get saved by what they did? To have an action one must have a cause. The gospel is what God uses to save people through His Holy Spirit. God seems to be the cause by giving people the gift of faith through hearing the gospel. In Mark 1:15, Jesus seems to be making a command. He does not seem to be saying, ” Just make a decision” or “Walk up here to me and be saved.” Jesus is telling people their response must be to, “repent and believe the gospel.”

So, would I recommend going to this crusade? I would not. The reason is simply because of the false conversion it causes. Without getting into the details of Greg’s soteriology, I cannot recommend this event simply on the basis of how they call people to respond to the gospel. If you are taking friends to this, please explain to them that one is only saved if they repent and believe the gospel. The object of a person’s faith should be Jesus, not something they did!

To Greg Laurie: Please look at the number of false converts that come out of things like this! I rejoice with how God is saving some of the people who go to your events! It is, however, sad that many people are given a false hope by you that they are saved. Where in the bible does it tell us we are supposed to tell people they are saved? Where in the bible does it give us an example prayer to pray to be saved? Please think about these things. Please call people to repent and believe the gospel and leave it at that.

[Guest Post by Jeremy Roten]
See also: John MacArthur withdraws endorsement of Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade.

Source: Does Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades Produce False Converts?

Four Things God Supplies to Overwhelmed Leaders – Unlocking the Bible

Have you ever felt out of your league as a leader? You may be surprised to know that one of the greatest leaders in the Bible, Moses, can totally identify with those feelings. Even so, God used Moses in the most amazing ways.

The good news about being used by God is that God uses insecure, overwhelmed, intimidated leaders like you and me, to accomplish his work in this world.

The story of God calling Moses in Exodus 3 and 4 give us a picture of an overwhelmed leader.

When God called Moses to deliver his people from Egypt, it is helpful to put yourself in Moses’ sandals. He grew up in the house of Pharaoh and fled as a wanted fugitive after killing an Egyptian. Then, God spoke to him through a burning bush, telling him to go back and do the impossible.

Moses questioned God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:7-11)

What does God do for Moses? Does he act like a divine drill sergeant saying, “Just move it!” No. Does he respond like Donald Trump saying, “You’re fired!” No.

God in his infinite mercy supplies four things to Moses that apply to overwhelmed leaders today:

1. God supplies his presence.

He said, “But I will be with you…” (Exodus 3:12)

God manifesting his presence in a special way is one of the great benefits of the gospel. Before you came to Christ, you were at odds with God. You were his enemy. You were actually under his wrath.

But in Christ, you have been reconciled to God. And as one of God’s people, you experience his presence to bless you. You see God doing this with Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness. He was with them in a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He helped them. He led them. He protected them. He provided for them. He blessed them.

And God has promised to be with you. After Christ gives his disciples the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, he says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God is with you as you fulfill the ministry he has called you to lead. God has promised he will be with you forever.

2. God supplies his power.

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3:19-20)

What were the chances of Moses waltzing into Egypt and freeing the Hebrew people on his own? Let’s face it. They were zero. There was no chance.

This was not about Moses’ power, but about God’s. God basically said to Moses, “You provide the obedience Moses. I’ll provide the power.”

What power do you and I have to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, change a human heart, or make someone grow spiritually? None.

In fact, Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He means that apart from him you can do nothing of spiritual significance. Why? Because only God has the power to make a spiritual difference in the lives of people.

Here’s the challenge for us: In Moses’ situation, it was so obvious that Moses couldn’t accomplish the challenge on his own. He knew he had to rely on the power of the Lord. For us, we sometimes think we can handle ministry on our own. That’s a trap.

We need to rely on the power of God for effective ministry. And here’s how we can tell if we are depending on his power: How much are we praying? Prayer indicates our dependence on the Lord. Prayer demonstrates that we know we don’t have the power. That we know we are relying on God’s power.

3. God supplies his providence.

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

Moses is immobilized by his own inadequacies. He says, “I don’t have the verbal skills to do this. I’m slow of speech. I’m not a good public speaker!”

And God says, “Moses, trust my providence.” God’s providence is how he orders the circumstances of this world to make sure his will is accomplished. God says, “Look Moses…who controls these things? And I have made sure that you have what you need to accomplish what I called you to do.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe that God is in control of the abilities, the education, the background, the intelligence, the physical characteristics that you have? Do you believe God has given you what you need to accomplish the task he has put before you?

Even with all God has given us, we still have weaknesses  The words of Jesus to Paul are a comfort:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Trust that he has given you those weaknesses so you will depend on him.

4. God supplies his partners.

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.” (Exodus 4:13-15)

Moses is complaining about his lack of speaking ability. And God says, “I’ll give you a partner to fill in where you are weak.” That’s God’s way throughout the scriptures. That is why he calls the church the body of Christ. We all need one another. We each have a role to play. We each have a unique contribution to make. You need people around you who can fill in where you are weak. And you can do the same for them.

In the midst of this passage that shows us the mercy of God, we also see God’s anger triggered by Moses saying, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13).

God puts up with our fears and insecurities. But he does not accept our disobedience.

“Send someone else” is not an acceptable answer to the Lord. He won’t take no for an answer. If God calls you to do something, he won’t accept no for an answer. “Send someone else” will not fly with God.

Here is the encouraging part: You can obey because of the four things God has promised you. Yes, God has given you great responsibility as a leader. Fortunately, he has given you equally great resources and promises to empower you to fulfill that responsibility as well.

Can you think of anything else God supplies to overwhelmed leaders?

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The post Four Things God Supplies to Overwhelmed Leaders appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

TMS: Preaching in Dangerous Days

In the verses surrounding 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul provided his protégé with much-needed motivation to stand firm and persevere to the end. For Timothy, the command was clear: preach the Word; and the calling was deadly serious: souls were at stake.

In order to equip him for the task, Paul gave Timothy five compelling reasons to persevere in ministry faithfulness. These motivations, found in 2 Timothy 3:1–4:4, are as applicable today as they were when the apostle wrote them nearly two millennia ago.

In today’s post, we will consider the first of these motivations.

Motivation 1: Preach the Word
Because of the Danger of the Seasons (2 Timothy 3:1–9)

In 2 Timothy 3:1, Paul warned Timothy “that in the last days difficult times will come.” Used here, the phrase “the last days” refers not merely to the end of the church age, but to the entirety of it, from the Day of Pentecost to the Parousia. Paul’s point is that, until the Lord comes back, the church will continually experience difficult times. As commentator William Hendricksen explains, “In every period of history, there will be a season during which men refuse to listen to sound doctrine. As history continues onward toward the consummation, this situation grows worse” (Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, 311).

The phrase “difficult times” does not refer to specific points of chronological time, but rather to seasons or epochs of time. And the term “difficult” carries with it the meaning of being “savage” or “perilous.” Paul is expressing the reality that, throughout the church age, there will be seasons of time in which believers are savagely threatened.

With his execution imminent, the apostle certainly knew a great deal about the difficulty that Christians might face. He also understood that Timothy was facing persecution and hostility; and that his young apprentice would be tempted by sins of cowardice and compromise. But that was exactly why Timothy needed to preach the Word. The looming threat made his ministry mandate all the more necessary and urgent.

In 2 Timothy 3:13, Paul wrote, “Evil men during these dangerous epochs will proceed from bad to worse.” Such men are “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (3:2–4). They are externally religious, “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power,” as they “enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vv. 5–7). Being of a depraved mind, they are filled with sin, error, and destruction. They oppose sound doctrine and reject the faith.

Significantly, based on Paul’s description, it is clear that the greatest threat to the church comes not from hostile forces without, but from false teachers within. Like spiritual terrorists, they sneak into the church and leave a path of destruction in their wake. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15); and it is their treachery that makes the difficult times of the last days so perilous.

The church has been threatened by savage wolves and spiritual swindlers from its earliest days (cf. Acts 20:29). Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has always sought to undermine the truth with his deadly errors (1 Tim. 4:1; cf. 2 Cor. 11:4). It is not surprising, then, that church history has often been marked by difficult times—seasons in which falsehood and deception have waged war against the pure gospel. Consider, for example, the havoc created by the following errors:

Sacramentalism

One of the earliest deceptions to infiltrate the church on a massive scale was sacramentalism—the idea that an individual can connect with God through ritualism or religious ceremony. As sacramentalism gained widespread acceptance, the Roman Catholic Church supposed itself to be a surrogate savior, and people became connected to a system, but not to Christ.

Religious ritual became the enemy of the true gospel, standing in opposition to genuine grace and undermining the authority of God and His Word. Many were deluded by the sacramental system. It was a grave danger that developed throughout the middle ages, holding Europe in a spiritual chokehold for nearly a millennium.

Though sacramentalism was exposed, by God’s grace, during the Reformation, it still represents a lingering threat. Even today, it continues to thrive in the apostate systems of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, destroying those who are doctrinally ignorant.

Rationalism

Not long after the Reformation, a second major wave of error crashed upon the life of the church: rationalism. As European society emerged from the Dark Ages, the resulting Age of Enlightenment emphasized human reason and scientific empiricism, while simultaneously discounting the spiritual and supernatural. Philosophers no longer looked to God as the explanation for the world; but rather sought to account for everything in rational, naturalistic, and Deistic terms.

As men began to place themselves above God and their own reason over Scripture, it was not long until rationalism gained access into the church. Higher critical theory—which denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible—infiltrated Protestantism through seminaries in both Europe and America. So-called Christian scholars began to question the most fundamental tenets of the faith, as they popularized quests for the “historical Jesus” and denied Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

The legacy of that rationalism, in the form of theological liberalism and continual attacks on biblical inerrancy, is yet alive and well. As such, it represents a continued threat to the truth.

Orthodoxism

A third historic threat to the church might be labeled orthodoxism. With this movement came the desire to return to orthodox Christianity. But the primary means used to accomplish this goal was the imposition of external standards. The end result was not true Christianity, but a cold formalism and superficial moralism. This kind of dead orthodoxy was prevalent, for example, in early eighteenth-century England, where the church had become a spiritual desert. Even in Puritan New England at that time, the spiritual climate was characterized by apathy and hypocrisy.

Though the truth was accessible, genuine belief was severely lacking. True conviction had been exchanged for a lifeless indifference to the Word of God; true conversion for a shallow pretense of spirituality. It was in the midst of this spiritual deadness, that the Spirit of God sparked a revival—both in England and in colonial America—through the ministries of George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John and Charles Wesley. Yet, dead orthodoxy still persists in the church today. Twenty-first century congregations are filled with cultural Christians—professing believers who look good on the outside, but internally do not truly know God.

Politicism and Ecumenism

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially in America, the church grew increasingly fascinated with government and political power. Many Christians became convinced that the best way to influence the world was through civil action and social activism—whether the issue was prohibition or, more recently, prayer in public schools. Over the last 150 years, and especially in recent decades, millions of man hours and billions of dollars have been spent attempting to legislate morality. Yet, the results have been less than encouraging, as American society grows continually worse.

In its preoccupation with politics, the church has neglected the fact that its primary purpose on earth is not political but redemptive. The Great Commission is a call to make disciples, not to change the government. If society is to be truly changed, it must be through the transformation of individual sinners. But that kind of heart renewal cannot be legislated; it is only possible through the preaching of the gospel by the power of the Spirit.

Sadly, the church’s desire for political influence opened the door to rank ecumenism. In their quest to moralize America, some evangelicals began to view other religious groups (like Roman Catholics and Mormons) as political allies, rather than the mission field. The assumption was that by partnering with such groups, the church could increase its influence in society. But nothing could be further from the truth; when the gospel is compromised, any real influence is lost (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14).

Experientialism, Subjectivism, and Mysticism

In the 1960s and ‘70s another dangerous doctrine arose called the Charismatic Renewal Movement, as Pentecostal experientialism began to infiltrate the mainline denominations. As a result, the church was tempted to define truth on the basis of emotional experience. Biblical interpretation was no longer based on the clear teaching of the text; but rather upon feelings and subjective, unverifiable experiences, such as supposed revelations, visions, prophecies, and intuition.

In the 1980s, the influence of clinical psychology brought subjectivism into the church. The result was a man-centered Christianity in which the sanctification process was redefined for each individual, and sin was relabeled a sickness. The Bible was no longer deemed sufficient for life and godliness; instead, it was replaced with an emphasis on psychological tools and techniques.

Mysticism arrived in full force in the 1990s, ravaging the church by convincing people to listen for a paranormal word from God rather than seeking out truth in the written Word of God. People began neglecting the Bible, looking instead for the Lord to speak to them directly. Consequently, the authority of Scripture was turned on its head.

All three of these movements attacked the sufficiency of Scripture. Whether people supplemented the Bible with supposed miraculous gifts, or with the human wisdom of psychology, or with their own imagined intuitions, many in the church began to seek something beyond the pages of God’s Word.

Pragmatism and Syncretism

At the end of the twentieth century, the church was also greatly damaged by the Trojan horse of pragmatism. Though it looked good on the outside (because it resulted in greater numbers of attendees), the seeker-driven movements of the 1990s quickly killed off any true appetite for sound doctrine. Ear-tickling became the norm—as “seekers” were treated like potential customers. The church adopted a marketing mentality, focusing on “what works,” even at the expense of a biblical ecclesiology.

Pragmatism inevitably gave way to syncretism, because popularity was viewed as the standard of success. In order to gain acceptance in a post-modern society, the church became soft on sin and error. Capitulation was masked as tolerance; compromise redefined as love; and doubt extolled as humility. Suddenly, interfaith dialogues and manifestos—and even interfaith seminaries—began to sprout up on the evangelical landscape. So-called evangelicals started to champion the message that “we all worship one God.’ And those who were willing to stand for truth were dismissed as divisive and uncouth.

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The church today is the hodgepodge product of these accumulated errors—from sacramentalism to subjectivism to syncretism. The “difficult times” that Paul spoke of certainly characterize the contemporary situation. Yet, in the midst of this chaos and confusion, faithful ministers are still required to carry out the very task that Paul gave to Timothy. In fact, the only solution for the church today is for pastors to diligently fulfill their God-given responsibility to preach the Word.

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TMS: Why We Must Preach the Word

For the biblical expositor, 2 Timothy 4:2 majestically stands out as sacred ground. It is precious territory for every pastor who, following in the footsteps of Paul, desires to faithfully proclaim the Word of God. In this single verse, the apostle defined the primary mandate for God-honoring church ministry, not only for Timothy, but for all who would come after him. The minister of the Gospel is called to “Preach the Word!”

As he penned this Spirit-inspired text, Paul knew he was about to die. The words of this verse stand at the beginning of the last chapter he would ever write. Alone in a bleak Roman dungeon, without even a cloak to keep himself warm (v. 13), the unwearied apostle issued one final charge—calling Timothy, and every minister after him, to herald the Scriptures without compromise.

Paul understood what was at stake; the sacred baton of Gospel stewardship was being passed to the next generation. He also knew that Timothy, his young son in the faith, was prone to apprehension and timidity. That is why he prefaced his exhortation to pastoral faithfulness with the strongest possible language:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Tim. 4:1–2)

The heart of that brief passage, preach the word, summarizes biblical ministry in one central mandate.

That command is consistent with what the apostle had earlier explained to Timothy about the qualifications for spiritual leadership. In 1 Timothy 3:2, Paul noted that—in addition to numerous moral and spiritual qualifications—overseers and pastors must possess one universal skill: the ability to teach. They must be competent Bible expositors—men who are able to both clearly explain the text and effectively exhort the congregation.

But being called to preach and teach is not just a sacred privilege. It is also a serious responsibility—one that the minister is expected to carry out at all times. He is to fill his pulpit “in season and out of season.” Whether it seems acceptable or unacceptable, wise or unwise, his mandate and his mission never change. The man of God has been summoned to boldly preach the message of God to the people of God, no matter how often the winds of popular opinion swirl and shift.

Faithfulness to the Word demands, furthermore, that the minister preach all of it. Timothy was not to focus solely on the positive, heart-warming aspects of pastoral ministry. He was also to “reprove, rebuke, [and] exhort” the flock, refusing the temptation to shy away from Scripture’s warnings and corrections. Yet, his reproof was to be balanced out with “great patience and instruction”—his fiery firmness tempered by his compassion and tenderness toward those under his spiritual care. For the faithful shepherd, patience towards people is of paramount importance.

But, while his shepherding is characterized by gentleness and longsuffering, his preaching must not be marked by uncertainty or ambiguity. Instead, the faithful minister proclaims the truth of God’s Word with the confidence and certainty that it deserves. Authority in preaching does not come from the pastor’s office, education, or experience. Rather, it derives from the highest possible source—God Himself.

Insofar as the sermon accurately portrays the biblical text, it comes with the Author’s own authority. The power of the pulpit, then, is in the Word preached, as the Spirit uses His sword to pierce human hearts (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). Consequently, the pastor’s task is to faithfully feed the flock with pure milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:1–3), trusting God for the resulting growth.

In the verses surrounding 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul provided his protégé with much-needed motivation to stand firm and persevere to the end. For Timothy, the command was clear: preach the Word; and the calling was deadly serious: souls were at stake. In order to equip him for the task, Paul gave Timothy five compelling reasons to persevere in ministry faithfulness. These motivations, found in 2 Timothy 3:1–4:4, are as applicable today as they were when the apostle wrote them nearly two millennia ago.

We will look at the first of these five motivations tomorrow.

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10 Essential Pre-Reformation Writings

If there is one area in which  young Reformed men preparing for seminary have generally failed to give adequate attention it is to the writings of that period of church history from the Apostles to the Reformation. There are obvious reasons for this. One such reason is that we live on this side of the Reformation where so much theological refinement has occurred. Many newer converts who have just begun to drink deeply of the pure exposition of Scripture in the writings of the Reformers–and in the writings of those who stand on the shoulders of the Reformers–do not have the patience, desire or knowledge base to sift through less than consistent theological expositions in the writings of those leading up to the Reformers. Another reason is that there is little guidance from a Reformed perspective as to what works are beneficial to read from this period, as well as how to read them with a critical eye. It was for this latter reason that the French Reformed theologian of the 17th Century, John Daille, wrote his Treatise Concerning the Right Use of the Fathers. Daille goes to great length to explain the benefits, challenges and errors in the writings of our early church theologians.

It is important for us to understand that the Reformation did not take place in a vacuum. It was B.B. Warfield who explained that “Augustine…gave us the Reformation” and that “the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the Church.” Several years ago we interviewed Michael Haykin on Christ the Center to speak about the benefits of studying “The Church Fathers.” In light of all this, below is a list of 10 Pre-Reformation works that I would recommend to every young seminarian and pastor. While many, many others could be recommended, the following works from the Pre-Reformation era have been significant aids to my own Christian life, as well as to my preaching and teaching:

1. Irenaeus Proof of the Apostolic Preaching – Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John. There are many helpful observations about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments in this work. Ligon Duncan notes that this is, in a very real sense, the first treatment of Covenant Theology post the apostolic writings.

2. Irenaeus Against Heresies – The greatest single diatribe against Gnosticism–an early heresy in the Church. The Apostle John is believed to have been writing against this error in 1, 2 and 3 John. The strength of this work is the way in which Irenaeus gives us a more detailed explanation of the teaching of the Gnostics, as well as a robust rejection of it based on the truth of Scripture. While Gnostic heresies often sound more like sci-fi than a codified religious system they posed a serious threat to Christianity in the first two Centuries.

3. Justin Martyr The Apologies –  While not of the caliber or theological acumen of Origen or Augustine, Justin’s work is important both for the historical setting and for the apologetical argumentation. These works are a defense of Christianity against the attacks of pagan philosophy. The early church historian Eusebius described Justin in the following manner: “Justin was the most noted of those that flourished in those times, who, in the guise of a philosopher, preached the truth of God, and contended for the faith also in his writings.”

4. Augustine City of God – The historical setting alone makes this one of the most important books in all of church history. Augustine wrote this just after Rome fell to the Visgoths in 410; and, he did so, in part, to defend Christianity against attacks that suggested that the fall of Rome is due to the presence of Christians. Additionally, he is defending Christianity against competing religions. In this work, Augustine sets out (in somewhat laboriously comprehensive fashion!) the nature, conflict and discord between the earthly and heavenly cities.

5. Augustine Confessions – One barely needs to emphasize how important this autobiographical work about one of the church’s greatest minds is for the training of men preparing for ministry. The beauty of Confessions is the way in which Augustine weaves together his own testimony in language of theological and devotional prayer to God.

6. Anselm Proslogium – The Proslogium is one of the most masterful apologetical texts in all of church history. In short, it is an explanation of what has been commonly called the Ontological argument for the existence of God.

7. Anselm Cur Deus Homo –  One of the most significant work on substitutionary atonement in all of church history. This strength of this work is the ease with which it may be read as well as the potency of the arguments about the necessity of the death of the God-Man. It is a must read for every seminarian and pastor.

8. Athanasius On the Incarnation – One of the most significant works on the two natures of Jesus in all of church history. As was said above about the strength of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo so too with this work.

9. Chrysostom Homilies on Hebrews – The man whose name means “golden-mouthed” is remembered for his great preaching gifts. Thankfully, we have numerous expository sermon series in print from which to glean expositional insight and homiletical clues. His sermons on Hebrews are among the most well-loved.

10. Bernard of Clairvaux Commentary on the Song of Songs – With the exception of his references to the writings of Augustine, John Calvin cited no one as much as Bernard. The majority of Calvin’s references to Bernard’s writing come from Barnard’s commentary on the Song. It is clear that the Genevan Reformer was well versed in it. Bernard’s commentary on the Song is really a compilation of his expositional sermons on this sweet book of Scripture. It is a seminal work on the Christology reading of the Song in church history. Many of the Puritans appeal to it in their own expositions of the Song.

 

*This post originally appear at Feeding on Christ

Source: 10 Essential Pre-Reformation Writings