Contend Earnestly: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why I Like John MacArthur I have had some real issues with John MacArthur, et al lately on certain things, but this is a good reminder of why I do like the man and believe that he is truly a defender of the faith. This is interesting, not because of what he says, we are used to that, but where he is saying it at. He is on the set of TBN and the audience is enjoying what he is saying. I am hoping that this got around to the whackos around TBN so that they can learn what the Gospel actually is. It is funny to watch Kirk Cameron lob some easy ones over the net for MacArthur to smash, and his corny Mike Seaver smile when he does it reveals them clearly.

I do believe that there is some over correction within the two videos, but probably needed to be said considering the audience and venue. Thanks to Steve Brown for pointing me over to Reformed Baptist.

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Evangelism by Martyrdom: Polycarp's Death and Proclamation of the Gospel: Part II

Chapter XIII.—The Funeral Pile is Erected.

This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals,—a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life,35 he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned36 with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”

Chapter XIV.—The Prayer of Polycarp.

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup37 of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat38 and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful39 God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”40

Chapter XV.—Polycarp is Not Injured by the Fire.

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury,41 we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking42 there.

Chapter XVI.—Polycarp is Pierced by a Dagger.

At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove,43 and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.

Chapter XVII.—The Christians are Refused Polycarp’s Body.

But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive44 nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors45 of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, “lest,” said he, “forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one.” This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners46 ), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary47 affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions48 and fellow-disciples!

Chapter XVIII.—The Body of Polycarp is Burned.

The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body49 in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified50 than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary51 of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course,52 and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

Chapter XIX.—Praise of the Martyr Polycarp.

This, then, is the account of the blessed Polycarp, who, being the twelfth that was martyred in Smyrna (reckoning those also of Philadelphia), yet occupies a place of his own53 in the memory of all men, insomuch that he is everywhere spoken of by the heathen themselves. He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a pre-eminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as having been altogether consistent with the Gospel of Christ. For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.54

Chapter XX.—This Epistle is to Be Transmitted to the Brethren.

Since, then, ye requested that we would at large make you acquainted with what really took place, we have for the present sent you this summary account through our brother Marcus. When, therefore, ye have yourselves read this Epistle,55 be pleased to send it to the brethren at a greater distance, that they also may glorify the Lord, who makes such choice of His own servants. To Him who is able to bring us all by His grace and goodness56 into his everlasting kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, to Him be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, for ever. Amen. Salute all the saints. They that are with us salute you, and Evarestus, who wrote this Epistle, with all his house.

Chapter XXI.—The Date of the Martyrdom.

Now, the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom on the second day of the month Xanthicus just begun,57 the seventh day before the Kalends of May, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour.58 He was taken by Herod, Philip the Trallian being high priest,59 Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever, to whom be glory, honour, majesty, and an everlasting throne, from generation to generation. Amen.

Roberts, Alexander ; Donaldson, James ; Coxe, A. Cleveland: The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997, S. 43

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Evangelism by Martyrdom: Polycarp's Death and Proclamation of the Gospel

I want to post an early letter concerning the martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp, as most know, was the disciple of the apostle John. This letter was sent to encourage the other Christians that were being persecuted and being called a cult. Polycarp died on AD 155, so this letter was written sometime in the 2nd century, a mere 100 years after the death of our Christ.

I will post this in two posts, but notice these two proclamations as you read:

But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.”26 Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ; ”Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? ”

But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent.” But Polycarp said, “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.”

What a great example and reminder of our early fathers who went before us.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ
1 Corinthians 11:1

The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam
Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp

The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium,1 and to all the congregations2 of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Chapter I.—Subject of Which We Write.

We have written to you, brethren, as to what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously [to this one], took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbours. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one’s self to be saved, but also all the brethren.

Chapter II.—The Wonderful Constancy of the Martyrs.

All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess3 greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly,4 who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?—who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by [the suffering of] a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things “which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man,”5 but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. And, in like manner, those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured dreadful tortures, being stretched out upon beds full of spikes, and subjected to various other kinds of torments, in order that, if it were possible, the tyrant might, by their lingering tortures, lead them to a denial [of Christ].

Chapter III.—The Constancy of Germanicus. The Death of Polycarp is Demanded.

For the devil did indeed invent many things against them; but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all. For the most noble Germanicus strengthened the timidity of others by his own patience, and fought heroically6 with the wild beasts. For, when the proconsul sought to persuade him, and urged him7 to take pity upon his age, he attracted the wild beast towards himself, and provoked it, being desirous to escape all the more quickly from an unrighteous and impious world. But upon this the whole multitude, marvelling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians,8 cried out, “Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!”

Chapter IV.—Quintus the Apostate.

Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily [for trial]. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up [to suffering], seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do.9

Chapter V.—The Departure and Vision of Polycarp.

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically,” I must be burnt alive.”

Chapter VI.—Polycarp is Betrayed by a Servant.

And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household. The Irenarch10 then (whose office is the same as that of the Cleronomus11 ), by name Herod, hastened to bring him into the stadium. [This all happened] that he might fulfil his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.

Chapter VII.—Polycarp is Found by His Pursuers.

His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation12 with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber.13 And being come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of14 a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, “The will of God15 be done.”16 So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marvelled at his age and constancy, some of them said. “Was so much effort17 made to capture such a venerable man?18 Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease19 for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.

Chapter VIII.—Polycarp is Brought into the City.

Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot20 ), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavoured to persuade him, saying, “What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar,21 and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety? ”But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, “I shall not do as you advise me.” So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter22 words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot,23 insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg24 [by the fall]. But without being disturbed,25 and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.

Chapter IX.—Polycarp Refuses to Revile Christ.

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.”26 Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ; ”Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? ”

Chapter X.—Polycarp Confesses Himself a Christian.

And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,” he answered, “Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines27 of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said, “To thee I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God.28 But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.”29

Chapter XI.—No Threats Have Any Effect on Polycarp.

The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand ; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent.” But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil;30 and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.”31 But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent.” But Polycarp said, “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.”

Chapter XII.—Polycarp is Sentenced to Be Burned.

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, “This is the teacher of Asia,32 the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods.” Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch33 to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows34 of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, “I must be burnt alive.”

Roberts, Alexander ; Donaldson, James ; Coxe, A. Cleveland: The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997, S. 39

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Atheists' Perspectives of Christianity

You might have seen these videos before, but I thought that they are great reminders from others what they actually expect from us. Sometimes it is good to hear from another point of view what they expect from us. I still do wonder what the first guy would do if he was approached by someone about Jesus. Sometimes this is all talk in the name of respect and tolerance. Penn seems to be quite honest about it, which was pretty shocking the first time I saw it.

HT: Michael Melenka

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Best Thing About Heaven is the Worst Thing About Hell

There are many views on hell and many strange things that have been said throughout history. I am hoping that what I have to offer in this small post won’t go down in Christendom as some quack sharing his dumb thoughts on a much debated topic. What I am not going to write about is whether hell is hot, eternal or real. Although I believe all those things to be true, I believe that the historic debates on hell usually miss the point of hell. Although to tell the truth that hell is real and a long time, eternal to be specific, to focus on those two things is missing the central reason it should be feared most of all.

What we do know of hell is that it is said to be a place of torment, gnashing of teeth and also utter darkness.

What I believe this could be saying is the fact that the greatest thing about heaven is the worst thing about hell. What is the greatest thing about heaven? The greatest thing about heaven is found in 1 Peter 3:18.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
1 Peter 3:18

Notice why God sent his Son. He sent his Son to suffer and die to bring us to the greatest aspect of heaven, which his being in the presence of God himself.

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?
John Piper, God is the Gospel

Some of the things that we know about the end is the fact that all will know that God is indeed the sovereign ruler and all will indeed bow to him.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

If we in fact know this, in the end people will end up knowing the greatness of the Christ and God. Because of this emotions will start to boil up in side of them. To see what those emotions are, we don’t need to look very hard as it is shown to us in Isaiah 6. Once shown the throne room with Christ highly exalted Isaiah felt undone and completely under the iron fist of wrath because of his sin. But you will notice that once forgiveness came, his worries and torment of sin was released. Afterwards an emotion came from Isaiah in the form of worship. He desired to worship through service. Isaiah proclaimed “Here am I, send me!” He loved God and desired to please him.

Here is the thing with hell. Every person will know the greatness of God. Every person will understand the vastness of their sin, yet they will be alone and not allowed to worship God face to face. They get the opposite of what we do in heaven. We get God, they get no fellowship and in that they are in complete darkness alone, without God. They don’t get to do what Isaiah was able to experience. They don’t get the relief of forgiveness and the ability to show their love for their Creator and Sustainer.

This shouldn’t be hard for us to realize that this fact is true. Jesus while beaten, scourged and hung on a tree did not find his agony at the deepest in those times. Although they were no lesser harsh and painful, we find Christ’s utter darkness and deepest pain come at the time when God forsook him. This is why we find Christ sweating drops of blood in the garden and this is when we find our silent Sheep headed for slaughter finally cry out in agony. We find this when God somehow forsakes Christ. So, as Christ gives us a picture of heaven through his bodily resurrection, he also gives us a picture of hell in the garden and on the cross when he is separated from the Father.

This is why there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, this is why there is groaning and emptiness, this is why they are in utter darkness. Because the Light of the World is not among them, but is on his throne being worshiped by those whom he purchased with his own blood and rose up on the last day.

The greatest thing about heaven, namely God, is the worst thing about being in hell, being apart from God.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:1-8

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Is Open Air Preaching Effective for Today?

This topic is an interesting one as it seems to be on the comeback in some areas. In my previous post, you will notice that a friend of mine (Christina) in Mozambique has an interesting perspective on what is taking place in Africa. This post will be in regards to the United States and is not the answer for every culture, every time period and every nation. What I don't want to do is put down those who are just trying to be faithful in their calling and I also will not be speaking in regards to the past. I am going to post on what I believe Open Air Preaching should be in regards to today's culture in the United States.

Most, as they look in the Scriptures and see some of history in the Reformers and also men like George Whitefield will try and make a case that since they did it, we should do it. Most will point to yester year and say that since it worked then, we should do it now. Most will point to the fact that if one person is saved from a ministry then it is effective. I am guilty of this fact in many things I do, but that doesn't make it one that is most effective. (I might write a follow up post in regards to this thought)

I believe that both the Calvinist and the Arminian join hands in the cause of preaching the gospel in the most effective ways possible to reach the most people for the cause of Christ. What we have to be careful of as we look to what God calls us to do is make sure we don't make methods of preaching the gospel faithfully as infallible in all contexts and in all cultures. Now, this post is not to say that anyone is in sin that uses differing methods in preaching the gospel but, this post is simply asking "is it the most effective use of our time to share Christ with the lost?"

When I bring up this question to most open air preachers what they will do is usually point to men like John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus and say that since they used open air preaching to reach the lost, then they feel like that is what we should also feel compelled to do. The problem with this logic is that it is faulty at the very core. Because the opposite would be true in this logical argument. Meaning, preachers should then all sit down, because that is how the teachers of the Jewish and Greek cultures would teach, by sitting down. These days if I were to pull up a chair and sit down and make the congregation stand up the entire time, people would seriously walk out. So, the method of preaching isn't as important as the message. It's actually no where close.

The real question in these cases is "why" did John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus use these means of preaching? Why did they use open air preaching? Why did Whitefield preach so many open air sermons that he permanantly damaged his speech and often bled from his throat?

Remember I am not saying that if you like open air preaching that it is sin, but I do believe that other means are far more effective.

The reason I believe that Jesus, et al, did open air preaching is simply that is what was available. They didn't have places to meet, they didn't have microphones or comfortable chairs for people to sit in. So, we find our Saviour preaching the Sermon on the Mount, instead of the Sermon in Room 202. In Jesus' time this was the most effective way to reach the crowds of lost people for the cause of God.

Being Effective "Open Air" Preachers

We also find Paul going to places where people met to discuss religion and philosophy and he would preach to them. We find this at Mars Hill in Acts 17, and all over Acts as the apostles would go to the synagogues, go to the riverside where women gathered for the Sabbath, etc.

Do we really think that Paul and the apostles just saw where people where and then started preaching? It doesn't seem so. What they instead did is went where people were gathered to learn philophy, religion and spirituality. These places that the Apostles went to were carefully picked out for the most effective way to turn people to Christ. They didn't do this lightly and they didn't just teach and preach where ever they felt like it, or where ever people would gather.

What we find today is that open air preachers will just pick a place where people are and start preaching. I don't believe (you can show me if I am wrong) that the apostles ever went to a place just because people were there. They chose places where it was the norm for spiritual things to be discussed. Today, those places would be churches and college campuses and other forums. Men like Ravi Zacharias and Billy Graham show us what is effective for today. We have media outlets to draw large number of peoples to gather to be ready to hear the word of God spoken. These are the most effective. Many churches that I know have bible studies on college campuses and put up flyers and have people tell others so that the gospel can be shared and defended. Think about it. When you do this, people are ready to share and discuss and learn spiritual things. This is exactly what the apostles did in their preaching. They preached to people who were ready to discuess spiritual things.

What is odd for me is to simply set up shop outside a mall where people are buying underwear and pretzels and yelling at them from a bullhorn to repent. How is this possibly the most effective way to share the gospel? With all the ways to prepare someone to discuss religion and spirituality, I really don't understand how someone can say that they are being fully biblical by just picking a spot to scream out the gospel. From my reading of Scripture, this is never put forth. I am a Christian and sometimes have been scared when yelled at from one of these guys. I wasn't prepared, I wasn't in that state of mind to discuss these things. It was odd.

So, the question I have for any open air preacher or anyone who defends this practice is simply this: Why do you choose the places you do for preaching?

I am not even going into all the ways I have seen the open air preacher look foolish and do things that are down right ungodly. I am not even looking at how badly the gospel has been twisted, or theology downright heretical. I am just asking for the reason of why you choose the place you pick.

I think you will find it a hard defense to simply say that is where people are. Biblically speaking the apostles used their open air preaching only in places where it was the norm to speak such truths. We should always be ready to share Christ with others, no matter where we are, but to understand how to do this is a huge deal.

I would love to hear thoughts from actual open air preachers and will do some follow up posts if necessary.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Open Air Preaching: Speaking to the Wind?

Below is a clip of an open air preacher. What I will say is that from what I have seen, this is about what happens with most of the open air preachers that I have seen. I want to know what your thoughts are in general in regards to open air preaching and I will write a follow up post on my thoughts as I have seen these things take place. Do you believe it is something for today? Is it biblical? Or is it just down right lunacy?

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

God Has A Wonderful Plan for Your Life...

HT: John Warren via his facebook profile

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Sola Fide: Part II

Defining and Defending Sola Fide

From the last post we can now understand that faith is a gift and we can actually define faith alone. As we understand faith alone, we are speaking of salvation. Salvation is only by faith and by no other means. This faith is given to us, so that in no way can we claim merit or claim ourselves in having any part of this salvation that was bestowed on us by the grace of God.

To understand this fully we must look at this in two texts to prove this: Romans 3:21-4:5 compared to James 2:14-26

Most protestants confess belief in faith alone but if a Roman Catholic were to confront us with James 2 I think most of us would be thoroughly confused. We need to take a look at these two. So for the sake of space click on the verses: Romans 3:21-4:5 and James 2:14-26

First, who are the two writers writing to? This might be the most crucial to understand. Paul was writing to the Gentile Roman Church (ad 57) and James was writing (ad 48) at the time that the church was predominately Jewish.

We have two things at work here as well. The Jews, used to obeying the Torah, were throwing out all works under the name of Christ. They were sinning and didn’t care because Christ died for their sins, this is called antinomianism. The Gentiles on the other hand, were being led astray by later Jewish Christians, called the Judaizers, who believed in a mixed form of religion. Namely, one had to be circumcised and follow some of the laws of the Torah and believe in Christ. They believed in a works justification.

So, these two men are addressing two different classes of people in completely different times. Please grasp this.

Here is the real fight between the two texts of Scripture:

Romans 3:28 verses James 2:24

We know exactly where Paul stands on this issue, we also see him write in Eph 2:8,9

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.

Then we really get into problems with the two texts because they both speak of the same man, Abraham and his righteousness.

Here is where we need to know understand the themes of each book: Whose justification is Paul seeking to determine in Romans? God’s. Look to
Romans 4:5

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Ready for the kicker? Who is James’ justification seeking? Look at James 1:3 and you have the thesis.

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance

Also, take a look at these verses in the book of James:

James 1:6 says to ask in faith without doubting
James 1:12 blessed is the man who perseveres under trial
James 1:22 prove yourselves doers of the word
James 1:26 if anyone thinks he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceived his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless
James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
James 3:10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? aLet him show by his bgood behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I could continue but I will not, you get the point? James is speaking of the justification
for ourselves and those around us, not God’s justification. This is a vital difference when taking a look at these two verses, if one does not see this difference they have some real problems, whether Catholic or Protestant.

Further, we can see that when James speaks of the justification of Abraham and speaks of Abraham’s deeds when offering Isaac this comes 7 chapters after God’s justification of Abraham in
Genesis 15:6

Abraham’s deeds did not justify him before God, but in reality justified him in his own heart. His works proved his faith, not for God but for Abraham and us. I am not going to take time to fully exegete this, but if you believe that God waited to see Abraham’s faith to justify him then you believe that God is a liar and not omniscient. The reason is that God justified Abraham in Gen 15 meaning the act was done, or else God is a liar, and God knew Abraham would do all he did in Genesis 22 so God didn’t “learn” from what Abraham did or He is not omniscient and is not perfect. If God can learn, this destroys the Trinity and God Himself. Genesis 15:6 uses the word "reckoned." Notice first that it is in the past tense and is the same term that is used "to make a judgment." It is a judgment now past tense and made by the highest court. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8:33

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies

James makes sure we understand this as he then points to Rahab. Hebrews 11:31 tells us that by faith Rahab did not perish, but read straight from the source. Read Joshua 2

Take note of these verses:

11 “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
12 “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth,

Notice the change in Rahab. First, in verse 11, calls the Lord “your God” and then says, swear to me by “the Lord.” in verse 12. This change is crucial. Rahab went from showing the spies that her faith changed from a "far away god" to the only omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotant El Shaddai. Know also that Rahab truly fears God, if this is true she has been given a new heart to fear God because we know from Romans 3:18 which is quoting Psalm 36:1 that no one fears God because of their sin.

Do you see this? We see clearly what James is trying to get across here. Rahab was justified just like Abraham. Her faith justified her by God, but proven by works to the spies. She justified her faith in works to humans not God. God knows our faith, because He gave it to us. This is why the spies were sent to Rahab. God knew her faith and sent the spies to her house. They, as humans, still needed confirmation of her faith by saying in verse 14 to do “this” and we will believe you. This comes right after her confession of faith.

If God justified us by our works would that not mean that God was learning? God cannot learn like man. We learn of those who are in the faith because we see their works, God infuses faith and because of His knowledge we come to faith, not the other way around. We are the ones doing the learning, not God.

By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

John Calvin

I have heard John Piper say: we do not believe that salvation is faith plus works but a salvation that works.


Sola Fide really fights two fronts. One that faith is not something drummed up inside you so that you can some day “wake up” and believe. It is not a faith that takes a look at evidence and makes a rational choice between two ways. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is given to us by our Creator so that we can humbly bow our head in knowing that no amount of evidence could have convinced us if wasn’t the Spirit of God drawing us to the Saviour's feet.

The second front is that our justification before God is entirely of faith in Him. We realize as James points out that there are two different faiths, one that is dead and one that works. The one that is dead, will never save because the true faith that God gives you is a working faith.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Ezekiel 36:26,27

Notice that when God gives you this new heart that HE CAUSES YOU TO WALK, because it is only by Him that we can walk in His statutes, and if it is not by Him you cannot walk in His statutes.

We are truly saved by faith alone, justified by God. This is why when they cried out “What must we do to be saved?” The apostles told them to repent and believe. God justifies your heart, your works justify you before men.

May we all hold fast to what Paul said in Romans 5:1,2

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sola Fide

If you did not read the intro to Sola Fide, please read that first as it will give you an important look to the background of where we find this Sola. click here

Faith is a Gift from God

With Sola Gratia we hopefully challenged you in understanding that God grace is given to whom He chooses and whom He wills. If you remember we went through Romans 9 and answered some questions that are natural in the understanding of this doctrine.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:14-16

We looked at man’s deadness in sin. We saw that men were not merely sick, merely blind, almost dead; no, men are completely dead in sin without capacity to search for God as found in Romans 3:10. So, if all this is true, how can anyone believe?

We state that people are saved by faith alone, but how can they have a faith if they are totally dead in sin? Would not this faith be constituted as some good in man instead of the opposite? Here is the kicker: saving faith is given to God’s elect so that they will respond to the call of the Gospel.

I won’t completely exegete this passage, but look to John 6:37

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

If faith was generic, given to all men equally, so that all could respond, how could Christ say that ALL that the Father gives Me will come to Me? Notice that further down in John 6:39 that Christ says that He loses none of them but will raise them up on the last day. So, we see that Christ gives some absolute statements here.

- All the Father gives will come
- Christ loses none of these that come
- Christ raises these up, or better put in John 10:27,28

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Do you see the parallel here? How do the sheep come as spoken of in John 6:37? Jesus calls them with His voice and the sheep hear, and come.

John 6:44 continues to reveal this to us

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

So, now John 6:44 continues to tell us that only those that are drawn by God can come to Him, no one else is able to. This Greek word for “can” where we see “no one can come” is this:

to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom

So, no one is able to by their own power, ability or resources come to God unless He draws them. This also reveals that God does not draw all men, for if He did, all would come and all would be raised up, or saved.

So what does God do in order so that they can come when He draws them? He gives them the saving faith in Him.

We will look to two verses in particular to define this for us, but also, when you have time, look who Paul thanks when referring to the faith of those in Colossae and Thessalonica. If this faith was because of the people you would expect Paul to thank the believers, but since it is given by God, Paul thanks God for their faith, not the people themselves.

First verse is Phil 1:29

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Some have taken this verse and said that through Christ suffering is a possibility but not always a reality. So, Christ made faith a possibility but not a reality. First, rule in interpreting Scripture? Scripture interprets Scripture…

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
2 Timothy 3:12

There is no doubt this is an absolute statement. If you want to live godly you will be persecuted, not maybe, not might be, but absolutely. Don’t blame Scripture if you are not persecuted for your faith, because the faith that God gives is always persecuted. Jesus even said in John 15:19 that the world will hate you, then the apostle John follows this up again in 1 John 3:13. Maybe if you are not being persecuted or hated, it is time to do some self evaluating to see if you are truly in the God fearing, God exalting, God proclaiming faith.

So, then if we can see this absolute, that it has been granted to us to suffer for Christ, then the proof lies that it has been granted to us to believe in Him, or granted to us to have the faith that saves.

This word “granted” is used in a lot of places in Scripture, but let me ask; What does a blind man do to receive sight from God? Does Christ use the little light or shades of light that the blind man has to restore his sight? Or did Jesus give the sight to the blind man freely by Christ’s power?

At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind.
Luke 7:21

The word for “gave” when saying “He gave sight to many…” is the exact same word for “granted” when telling us that it has been granted to us to believe.

Notice the other proof text of this understanding: 2 Peter 1:1

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This word for received means: to receive by divine allotment

I don’t want to beat a dead horse but when we think of love, peace, wisdom, understanding and good; are these not all understood to have one that is given by God and one that is given or adhered to by man? Is there not a difference between a godly love, a godly peace, godly wisdom, godly understanding, and godly good, compared to human love, human peace, human wisdom, human understanding and human good….

We actually find this different, human faith in James 2:14

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

James goes on to prove that there is a difference between the human faith, that is dead and the God given faith that works. So, when we come to the doctrine of faith alone, Sola Fide, we must understand that our faith was given to us, when you believe this you cannot fall into the trap of thinking that your faith was anything meritorious for your salvation. How can it be? It was given to you, you did nothing to receive this faith.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 1:6

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith
Heb 12:2a

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

You Are the Homosexual: Part II

If you didn't read the first post on this subject, I highly recommend to as this won't make much sense without it. Click here to read the first post.

On the heels of the first post, here is the problem. Most of you right now, are thinking “okay, give me a way to get rid of my sin…just give me a list to follow”

How is this going to help? What do you want me to do? Tell you to not look at girls anymore? Not look at other people’s possessions anymore? Tell you to pray harder? Tell you to remove this or that from your bedroom? Don’t look at this site or that site? Think if you told a homosexual trying to come out of that lifestlye. What are you going to tell them..."Hey, just stop going to gay bars and then pray harder!" They would laugh at you if you thought that was going to stop their fundamental struggle with the sin of homosexuality.

While this might put a band aid on the problem, and can be somewhat helpful practically, it isn’t the fullest solution.

I have heard people that struggle with pornography told to get rid of their computers and to stop getting on the internet. Is this dealing with the problem or just masking it?

That would be like saying that a tree is bearing bad fruit, so just cut off the bad fruit and it will get better. The more bad fruit the more you cut off, the quicker it grows the quicker you cut.

The problem has to do with the roots of the tree, not just the fruit.

So, although lists might provide a band aid, it won’t get to the heart where all this fruit springs from.

Week in and week out, people ask me to pray about the same sins and the same struggles. I have done it myself, I will ask people to pray for the same struggle over and over again. Their first question should be, “what are you doing about it?”

I had a buddy who was living with my wife and I and he asked how I was doing, I told him that it had been a bad week. He didn’t ask what was going on, he didn’t tell me to do the 40 days of purpose, he didn’t tell me that I should come up with a list of things to do to make my life better, he simply asked, “have you been in the word?”

I said “no”

He said, “this isn’t hard to figure out” and he walked away.

We want Jesus, we want peace and hope, but we don’t want to do anything about it. Some of you have struggles with many things, but you aren’t willing to do anything about it. You are struggling in life, you are struggling with sin, you are struggling with spirituality, but you aren’t doing anything about it. Don't we believe Paul when he says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?

You know what God says about this type of so called worship? The worship from a people who plead for peace and hope while sitting around like a crying 2 year old for lunch?

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Isaiah 29:13

Look to Isaiah 1:11-17

“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
Luke 6:40

Who is your teacher? Are you trying to live like Jesus and do what Christ did or are you merely whining like a baby about your struggles all while doing nothing about it?

Think on this:

How many of you have a regular time in the word each week? This can be by reading the bible, listening to the bible, listening to sermons, studying certain biblical topics, etc.

How many of you pray daily and pray often?

How many of you serve others often?

How many of you ask yourself often, why you do the things you do? Whether it is the clothes you wear, music you listen to, people you hang with, movies you watch? Do you ask yourself why? Do you ask if you are glorifying God through them?

How many of you ask why you pray? Why you read the word of God? Why you read about theology? Why you memorize scripture? Is it so you will be able to know more than others? Is it so you can win a debate? Is it so you can beat others up with your knowledge?

I ask my son all the time, "Why are you memorizing scripture in Awanas?" I am harsh, because if he says to get his book signed off, to get a dumb patch or candy, I tell him that isn’t why we do these things and then I show him the gospel.

So, you can see that there is a hard balance here. On one hand you have the people that just say that they love Jesus, they live in their sin and just merely put it to the side. They don’t do anything about it…they don’t surround themselves with godly people for help, they don’t read their bibles, they don’t memorize scripture, they don’t serve others…these people are just as bad as a homosexual and a murderer who say, “I was born this way…screw it.” They are practical antimonians.

You also have the other side. This is the “do more” side.

memorize scripture,
they read scripture,
they pray for others,
they answer every question correctly,
they win debates,
they do everything they can right on the outside…but they do it merely because they are supposed to.

They are merely a monkey in a circus. They are a practical Pharisees. They simply ask for the rules and follow them. They will say things like, you must at least read the bible for an hour, you must pray like this, you must memorize this much scripture and if you want your life to be better just do more of this or that or follow this list or that list.

The problem with this is that sometimes, you read the bible like crazy, you pray like crazy and you serve others like crazy, and you still struggle mightily with sin and your spirit. Now what Pharisee?

They don’t know what to do, because they have this façade that says, “I did it, it worked…what’s wrong with you?” What happens when you conquer the list and you still struggle in sin, or find yourself in a dark place? The question is not where is the list, but where is your heart.

Do you love Jesus? Do you desire to be his child or not? I heard a pastor friend of mine say it like this:

What if I was married, but still lived like I was single? What if only hung out with my buddies late at night, came home and slept on the couch. What if I never spoke to my wife, what if everything about my actions looked like I was single. You bring this up and I point to my wedding ring. How would you respond? You would laugh.

On the other hand, what if I did everything right on the outside. What if I had bible studies with my wife, took her to church, supplied money for her, gave her children, but it was all done because I was supposed to and not because I deeply loved her…what now? You might think I love her, but she is in agony because she knows it is all a façade to put on for the world around me.

There has to be a balance. We must work, we must bear fruit, we must read our bibles, we must pray, we must serve, we must do all this though for the glory of our Christ and to know him more. Not merely because we are supposed to.

The reason we work, the reason we bear fruit, the reason we learn theology, is for the glory of Christ. If you struggle with sin, if it is tearing at you, if you wake up daily fighting it off, look to your Saviour, ask for his strength, ask for his mercy and forgiveness.

Is homosexuality wrong? Yes. What is the difference with you and the homosexual if you live in sin without doing anything about it? Nothing.

Some months ago I saw a transvestite on the bus and saw the reactions on the faces of everyone on the bus. My first thought, and this was no joke…I wonder how they would look at me if my sin was worn on the outside instead of hiding in my heart?

It amazes me at how much people will call out homosexuality, but wink at other sin that people just care less about.

If this is you…if you sin and continue to sin and you think that because your life is busy and you don’t really have time to worship God 7 days a week…I wonder what Christ will say to you when you see him face to face?

What are you going to say to him? You want to see me play my sport? You want to see my homework that I finished? You want to see my grades? You want to catch a movie? You want to hang out with my friends? You want to see my blog stats?

How about instead…we say, “Jesus you want to see the works that I did, the struggle with sin I had because of your righteousness? I only did the works because of how much I loved you, not because I was trying to gain your love or affection. I struggled with my sin because I know your perfection…I tried…but I know I failed, and I thank you so much for being my Saviour and using me, despite me.

But, don’t tell me you love Jesus and live like he is dead to you.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Motivational Speech for Churches

Maybe if the coach in the video was the pastor, we would get more excited for fighting the fight of the faith...not sure...but love the movie Rudy...a classic.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

You Are the Homosexual

I know this post title seems to be one to merely draw attention to it. Now, that is definitely part of it, but it is also quite true for many people. I personally believe that homosuality is a sin and it is quite evident from Scripture. If you would like to see my post on this issue, click here.

What I want to do with a couple of posts is simply show a deeper understanding of our own sin, by looking to the sin of the homosexual.

I know you can’t wait to argue the points on why homosexuals are wrong. But, what a stupid way to take a theology and live it out. Do you defend the Bible? Yes. But people have made this sin above others and will vote people into office because of it, choose friends because of it and completely disregard people because of it.

The harsh thing to realize is that you are the homosexual.

This sounds odd the first time you hear it. This sounds like an overstatement. It can be, but the scary thing is that it could be true.

Let me ask you this question.

Will a homosexual go to heaven if they know it is a sin, if they continue to live the homosexual life without care and without struggle, so they have a partner and carry out all the things that are deemed as sin because of the homosexual lifestyle, they help people around them, they feed the poor, they read their bibles, the memorize scripture, they go to church, they sing the songs and they say that they love Jesus. Will this person go to heaven? No.

Can a person who has been a homosexual, has those temptations, fights those temptations, and struggles with the sin, but turns them to Jesus, loves Jesus and puts their trust in righteousness in Him alone, go to heaven? Yes. If this isn’t the case we have greater issues than the homosexual…let me show you.

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said,
“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
“The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.
“But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb
Which he bought and nourished;
And it grew up together with him and his children.
It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom,
And was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man,
And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd,
To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him;
Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.
“He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!
2 Samuel 12:1-7

Do you have sin in your life?

Here is the thing that people love to read when they read about the homosexual lifestyle, they love to read the following verse with the emphasis only being on the part of homosexuality.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Isn’t that how most people read these verses…as though God highlighted homosexuals with his eternal yellow highlighter?

Notice the other things that are mentioned…fornicators and adulterers…Jesus said that any who lusts is a fornicator

Thieves are mentioned…covet in your heart…you have stolen

1 Timothy 1:8-10, which also mentions homosexuals, also mentions liars, sinners and immoral men

Let me ask you then…what is the difference between a homosexual or someone who is a liar, one who lusts, one who is angry, one who covets others in their hearts for their things or other things…what is the difference?


So, why do you get all upset by transvestites and homosexuals yet, I know you have friends, if it isn’t you yourself, that lie without care, have pride without care, don’t do anything for God in regards to fruit without care…

What is the difference?

If you lie all the time, if you lust all the time, if you have anger in your heart all the time and you do not struggle with it, but just shake it off as something that is “just who you are” what is the difference between you and a homosexual? You like to tell gay jokes? I am going to start telling jokes about you and your sin…see how much that hurts.

The difference really is found in the struggle for righteousness. There is a difference between someone who is a liar, knows it, is fighting against it, taking it to Jesus, praying for it, asking others to pray for it, and someone who just lies without care.

The same is for the homosexual, or better put, the person who understands that homosexuality is a sin, is fighting against its lusts and temptations and trusting in Jesus for His righteousness and the person who just states, "God made me this way, therefore I am going to live in the way that God made me."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Introduction to Sola Fide

We have entered into some of the most prevalent issues when dealing with some of our thoughts on the Five Solas and they have hopefully challenged you in your thinking of the true biblical doctrines of Scripture, Christ, Grace, man and the Gospel. As we continue, we come to the Sola that, behind Sola Scriptura, is probably the most fought between Rome and the Protestant Church. I must use Protestant loosely though, as some say “Sola Fide” but they really have a list of rules one must do to be saved.

Sola Fide is a Sola that, in reality, calls the church of Rome, heresy. We saw hints of this in Solus Christus and Grace alone, but Sola Fide comes right out and draws a line in the sand and makes sure that no one can blur that line with any dogma or any orthodoxy.

Our definition of Sola Fide is this:

Faith alone asserts that only faith is the substance of the gospel, not any merit or favor achieved. Faith alone is what saves, not any method or human understanding of how to persuade men to Christ.

Faith alone believes in the power of the gospel and that the power of the gospel alone is what saves, nothing else.

Faith alone is almost the conclusion to grace alone and Christ alone as these happen or happened first. First God in His grace chose not only that Christ should die for fallen man but also chose for Himself an elect people, and through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, or better put, propitiation, is anyone ever saved.

How are they saved? By the faith that is given by the Holy Spirit through regeneration and the power of the Gospel, and by this faith, given by God, alone. The gospel declares what Christ did for us on the cross, not what we need to do to reach Him.

To give you some background to this Sola, we find it in the life of Luther as he was studying Romans in the year 1515. The great reformation and the 95 theses would not come for another 2 years, but in this year, in this study, Luther was brought face to face with the Almighty God and the gift that God gives in Sola Fide. Luther read:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Romans 1:17

Luther saw that it was God’s righteousness that was given to man by and through faith alone, not by the man’s merit. Let the journey begin.

The whole of the 95 Theses is wrapped up in this Sola. Luther argued against indulgences and penances that were being sold to build St Peter’s Basilica, and John Tetzel angered Luther when he tromped through his city exclaiming: Once the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs.

Luther could take it no more. It all came to a head as explained by R.C. Sproul in his book, “Faith Alone”

April 17, 1521: On this day in history the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, already embroiled in controversy, under the condemnation of the papal bull Exsurge Domine issued by Leo X, stood before the imperial Diet of Worms. The newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had summoned Luther to this place for a hearing regarding his teachings. Such a hearing had been urged by Luther’s protector, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony.
Luther, in danger and in fear of his life, made the journey bearing letters of safe conduct issued by the emperor and various German princes. The trip, undertaken in a covered wagon, required fifteen days. Luther was accompanied by a few friends—colleagues from the university, a student, and a fellow monk. Luther arrived at Worms on April 16, a scene described by Gordon Rupp: “On the morning of April 16th, a trumpet sounded and the crowd pressed towards the gates . . . as a proud cavalcade of nobles and knights clattered by; at the end the little covered wagon swaying round the bend. The crowd stared and murmured their fill at the Black monk who stared back with quick, shining eyes.”
Luther came to Worms in fear and trembling. There was boldness and courage to be sure. But it was a courage required by the piercing fear that haunted the man. Rupp writes:
It was the climax of months of inner struggle. For Luther was no loud-mouthed fanatic with a hide like a rhinoceros. The taunts flung at him by his enemies found an echo in his own tormented self-questioning. “How often has my trembling heart palpitated—are you alone the wise one? Are all the others in error? Have so many centuries walked in ignorance? What if it should be you who err, and drag so many with you into error, to be eternally damned?”
Luther spoke openly to his friends Philipp Melanchthon and Georg Spalatin about his struggle: “‘I shall enter Worms under my Captain, Christ, despite the gates of Hell,’ he told Philipp, and ‘I come, my Spalatin, and we shall enter Worms despite the gates of Hell, and the powers of the air.’”
Luther later recalled the day: “. . . the condemnation had already been published in every town, so that the herald himself asked me whether I still intended to go to Worms. Though, in truth I was physically afraid and trembling, I replied to him: ‘I will repair thither, though I should find there as many devils as there are tiles on the house tops.’”

Then we have the following that would unravel the great protestant reformation, where we thank Luther and the faith that was given to him by our One and only Holy Father.

On the morrow Luther appeared once more before the diet. This hearing was held in a larger and even more crowded auditorium. The hall was dark, illumined only by smoking flares. Johann Eck began with a stern rebuke:
His Imperial Majesty has assigned this time to you, Martin Luther, to answer for the books which you yesterday openly acknowledged to be yours. You asked time to deliberate on the question whether you would take back part of what you had said or would stand by all of it. You did not deserve this respite, which has now come to an end, for you knew long before why you were summoned. And every one—especially a professor of theology—ought to be so certain of his faith that whenever questioned about it he can give a sure and positive answer. Now at last reply to the demand of his Majesty, whose clemency you have experienced in obtaining time to deliberate. Do you wish to defend all of your books or to retract part of them?
Luther responded with a lengthy speech in which he divided his writings into various classes and directly recanted nothing. Eck responded with annoyed irritation:
Luther, you have not answered to the point. You ought not to call in question what has been decided and condemned by councils. Therefore I beg you to give a simple, unsophisticated answer without horns (non cornutum). Will you recant or not?
To this direct mandate Luther gave his historic reply:
Since your Majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)—unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

So this is our setting where we first find this Sola defended in the courts of the Roman Catholic church and forever we will continue to defend it against their gates.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tim Lien is a Loser

I had made a bet with Tim Lien on the March Madness bracket and he is now paying up. If UConn would have won...this would have been flipped. It was very close and I think that he actually got more games correct than I did...which is the only thing I have in common with George Bush, which would make Tim, Al Gore. I am posting his post here as it made me laugh.

Here is the post:

Seth McBee (of Contend Earnestly fame) approached me with this unholy proposition. Lose the March Madness bracket, I would pose with a sign stating “Credos are More Reformed than I am.”

(Definition: “Credos” are those new-babes in Christ who still disobey the God-given command to apply the sign of the covenant to our babies thru the sacrament of baptism. They love to mention “the age of accountability” as mentioned by the heretic Garfunkeles in his acid-laced vision transcribed in the 3 Volumes of Calastophaton)

If I were to win, he would pose for a photo holding a sign stating: “I am Credo. I might as well be Arminian.” UConn managed to dissapoint me, and I lost. Being nothing if not a gentlemen, I am now settling up with the house.

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Sola Gratia: Part III

As we left off in our last post I stated that Romans 9 answers some key questions for us while dealing with this idea of God choosing who He gives His grace to. Romans 9:11, in my mind, completely destroys any notion of God choosing based on “looking down the portal of time.”

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls

Notice that the whole of God’s choice is NOT based on anything the boys did or would do, but only on GOD’S PURPOSE! Then Paul tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. If you know the story of these two boys, and this is really the hinge on Calvinism and Arminianism, these boys were both evil. Just as we are all evil. God chose one of the two evil boys for His purpose. Is this not the great story of redemption? God in His grace, instead of allowing all evil people go to hell, chose some to worship Him forever. This is Calvinism. Arminianism says, “this isn’t fair, God should have chosen both boys then.” So, Paul answers their question before it is asked by saying in Romans 9:13 that, “there is no injustice with God is there? May it never be.” Paul then tells us this reason, why there is no injustice, notice God didn’t say anything about being FAIR!

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:15,16

What is grace based on? God’s mercy and choice alone, not on ANYTHING we do or don’t do. Not on the man who wills or runs, but on God's mercy.

Paul continues to answer another question, “Why do people go to hell to pay for sin and disobedience they couldn’t help but do? If they aren’t chosen and can’t choose God, why does God make them pay for their sins in hell?” Basically, the question is focused on Esau instead of God’s grace in Jacob!

Here is Paul’s answer, Romans 9:19-23:

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Notice why Esau and all others that are the reprobate were created: so that God’s children, His sheep would know the riches of His glory. How do you know a good day is a good day? Because you have had bad days. How do you know a sunny day is a sunny day? Because of the rainy days. How do you know the surpassing riches of God’s grace to you? Because you know that you did absolutely nothing to earn God’s favor, yet He chose you for His grace and left some in their sinful state.

You see Sola Gratia states that not only is the actuality of the gift of salvation free but so is God’s choice of you: He freely gives the free gift

The Provision of God’s Grace

I am going to stay in one passage that really shows the provision that God granted to us: Ephesians 2:5-9

Notice first the stark contrast we see here. Why are we dead? Because of our transgressions. Why are we ever rescued from that death? Only by God and His grace through Jesus Christ.

You see when we realize that God, while we were yet sinners, sent His Son to die on the cross to save us and if we realize that the entire work of Him saving us through Grace is by His kindness and not what we have done, the provision of God’s grace becomes something to be marveled at, not scoffed at.

We can see in Ephesians 2 that:

He made us alive
By Grace we have been saved
He raised us up
He seated us with Him

If we realize these things there are two things that this should do:

Verse 7 tells us that we should understand the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness and verse 9 tells us that we will not boast.

The definition of grace is receiving something that you don’t deserve. If this is true how can you say that the provision of the Son was applied to you because of the goodness and knowledge in you to believe in Him?

The provision of the Son has taken us as Ephesians says, from death to being made alive together with Him. This starts now. We were once a people with no hope, not a nation and under God’s wrath. But, now we have a hope, we are a nation and our eternal life has started on the day of salvation.

This understanding of provision should drive us to our knees with thanksgiving and this is truly why Paul could say, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

If we understand that God freely gives us this grace, not based on works and we understand these surpassing riches and kindness, will we not be transformed to a life denying ourselves and worshiping Him? But, this point must be saved for Soli Deo Gloria.

The love of God to us in Christ is here proved, or again declared, to have had its origin in mercy. That he might shew, says he, the exceeding riches of his grace. How? In his kindness towards us, as the tree is known by its fruit. Not only, therefore, does he declare, that the love of God was free, but likewise that God displayed in it the riches, the extraordinary pre-eminent riches of his grace. It deserves notice, also, that the name of Christ is repeated; for no grace, no love, must be expected by us from God, except through his mediation.
John Calvin


Sola Gratia is not only talking about the gift itself, but also the reasons behind the gift. God’s freedom.

This was completely against Rome and their Aristotelian beliefs. To them, man is good enough to respond and God’s choosing is based on God looking to see who would believe and then choosing them. This gives too much credit to a dead man.

Ravi Zacharias said it best:

Jesus Christ did not come to make sick men healthy, but to give dead men life

The actuality is that Luther wrote his 97 Theses just one month before his 95 Theses stating the heresy of believing in free will and Aristotelian theology. It never took and Luther was upset that this thesis was not given more attention.

The clincher for me was. Do I believe more in myself choosing God or do I believe that God sovereignly chose me? I know myself and my sin. I know how wretched of a sinner I was and I cannot imagine that I would have ever chose God unless He first chose me.

1 John 4:19 states that; we love because He first loved us.

Sola Gratia states that God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us, and He freely gave that grace to whom He freely chose.

God is not a beggar: He is a chooser.

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History of Religion in 90 Seconds

I first saw this over at Justin Taylor's blog a while back...wanted to share it again...pretty cool illustration.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Should We Use Study Bibles?

If you look around your local church you'll probably notice that people are carrying around these huge books, covered in enough leather that took a whole cow, where they are so big the dorks out there are carrying them in their rolling briefcases, because they are so heavy.

These things you see taking over the church are called study bibles. They are huge. Each one needing their own pulpit so your arms don't get tired holding them up.

Last year, the ESV Study Bible was named as the best book of the year by most major bloggers and Christian publications. This has made study bibles even more accessible to even the Reformed folk who have held off so they didn't have to trust in Arminians and dispensationalists to give them sermon ideas.

Now this opening makes it sound like I am completely against study bibles, which I am not. What I do want to put forth is some thoughts on how to make sure we don't allow the notes in the study bible as infallible as the red letters that they are explaining.

I know that we all, or most of us, remember the days of the horrific bible studies where you read a verse and then everyone gave their opinion on what it meant to them. Sometimes, I remember hearing 10 different views on the same verse. I was in high school back then, caring less about Jesus but had to pretend because my dad was the pastor. I remember thinking, "Who cares what these guys think it means, what does it actually mean?" So, off those horrific "bible studies" I understand why more people like to have in their hands a short commentary on the Scriptures where ever they are. I get that.

But, what has happened, or what I see happening, is that instead of studying the bible for themselves, they simply read the notes and that becomes ex cathedra. I hate to bring this up, but those who do the notes in your Bibles...they are fallible. I know, it's crazy to think that they could be wrong and you are just a dumb sheep following dumb teachings, but it could be true. What is funny, and it shouldn't be, is that every time I hear someone read from their study Bible notes, I just hear, "baaaaaaaa, baaaaaaaa" I ask them, "well, what did you find in your own study of the passage?" They look at me like a hooker in a baptist church.

I just want to put forth some ideas to help make these study Bibles, a help and not a hindrance.

All these things that I list should come before one even looks at the study notes in their study Bibles.

1. Know who wrote the notes. Know their background and theological convictions. Try to have Bibles with differing views so you can have a good supply of ideas on different verses in the Bible. This creates one to think out differing views to think and study for themselves.

2. Study the passage yourself. I know, this sounds crazy. Actually study the bible for yourself? Sounds like I am asking you to try and form your own ideas on what the bible says. Well, I am. If you merely recite what others say, what makes you different than a parrot who asks if you want a cracker? How is this understanding the Christ in your heart and not merely head knowledge? Tear through the passage yourself, looking at context, looking at who wrote the passage, cross referencing the passage with other passages and verses in the NT and OT, compare your conclusions with the rest of the Scriptures, find where Christ is the hero in the passage, etc.

3. Pray over the passage. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us. Just to give you a hint. The Holy Spirit isn't code for John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul or J.I. Packer. I know we forget that, and these men know their Bibles very well, but they have searched the Scriptures and would ask you to do the same. Read a passage, read the verses and spend time in prayer that God would show you what it means and how it represents Jesus as the hero and how you should glorify God because of it. When was the last time you prayed over a passage that you read and studied?

4. Ask, "How does my interpretation work within the rest of the Scriptures?" If you have come up with an interpretation of the passage that contradicts the Bible in other parts, you might want to check yourself. This step requires one to be drenched in the word of God. But with someone who loves God, this step comes as they become more and more sanctified and grow in the knowledge of the Christ. A new Christian might have no clue on this as they are new to the Bible. This can take time. But any Christian, new or old, should do as much as God has supplied in this area.

5. Ask friends how they have interpreted the passage and how it has impacted their life for Christ. If you are homeschooled and have no friends, then start using what we call a computer and get on twitter and facebook so you can make friends. Kidding of course. But simply ask others that you love and see live for Jesus and ask them about it.

6. After all this, see what the study Bible (which I would recommend the ESV Study Bible) or other commentators have to say. You won't always be in agreement and sometimes this is okay. The only time this isn't okay is if you have come out completely opposite from all sources in professional training. You might want to take a second look. If you come out thinking that Jesus really has wool and hooves because he is called the Lamb of God, you might want to rethink your interpretation of those scriptures. Test their conclusions on the passage, making sure that you aren't merely reciting what they have said, but coming to a conclusion that makes you worship Christ instead of the human interpreter.

The reason I write this is that with the internet, cheap books and study Bibles, personal struggle with passages have become abnormal. Instead, what we find it a lot of reciting of famous preachers and teachers of today and times gone by. Although it is very profitable to study what the Holy Spirit has told others, we need the Spirit to test us and our spirit as well. We need to struggle through prayer and study on our own so that we can see the transformation of the Spirit in our lives. The passages that mean the most to me are the ones I have personally studied and prayed over like crazy and then having the Holy Spirit walk me through it to deeper understanding of how it should affect my love for Christ.

I don't hate study bibles, but I fear what they are doing to our congregations. I fear that if used improperly, we will grow into parrots reciting whatever the study notes say, and without knowing it, we have made them infallible and non-negotiable. The only persons who are those two things are the Trinity, not man.

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