Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just Added - The Prayer Of The Lord

RC Sproul's recently published book on the Lord's Prayer has just been added to my resource directory!

R C Sproul

Category: Prayer
Click Here To Order
What is the Lord’s Prayer? In The Prayer of the Lord, Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferable principles for conversation with God.” In short, Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer to teach His disciples about prayer, and Dr. Sproul, in his trademark fashion, brings out many of the truths Christ intended for His followers to learn. Readers will learn how not to pray, then will be led into a deeper understanding of such topics as the Fatherhood of God, the kingdom of God, the will of God, the nature of sin and forgiveness, the dangers of temptation, and the cunning of Satan. The final chapter includes questions and answers on various aspects of prayer not covered elsewhere in the book, and the appendix addresses the difficult question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty and prayer. The Prayer of the Lord is an eye-opening journey, one that reveals new vistas in familiar terrain.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gandalf And The Atonement (Part 2)

In my previous post I published a comment made by "Gandalf" which criticized my series on NT Wright. More specifically my emphasis on the importance of correctly teaching (and understanding) how the doctrine of the atonement actually works. There are several objections/points raised by Gandalf and I will respond to his first one today. Gandalf wrote:

First: Theories about how the atonement works (including PSA with all its content) are not the atonement or belief in the atonement itself. Therefore what Christians must believe in is the atonement of their sins through death and resurrection of Christ whereas ideas on how this works are secondary to this (In C.S: Lewis book Mere Christianity there is a discussion about this issue which I find very convincing).

Gandalf, what you say is true in part which can help to let the flaws in your comment sneak under the radar. It is very similar to NT Wright's modus operandi of reinventing the issue at hand. For example, when Wright objects (with regards to the doctrine of justification) that people are not saved by their ability to correctly formulate the doctrine of justification it serves as a very clever smokescreen to the real debate (RC Sproul responded brilliantly to this very issue here). When God graciously saved me as a biblically illiterate 20 year old I was certainly incapable of theologically formulating the doctrine of justification. But I clearly understood that I was a sinner with nothing to offer God. I knew that my salvation depended solely on the completed work of Jesus Christ. I clearly understood that my human works played absolutely no part in my redemption. I also clearly understood that my human works (or wickedness) were the main reason that I needed a Savior to rescue me from the damnation that I deserved. The issue is not our ability to formulate the doctrine of justification, it is whether we are trusting Christ's completed work alone, by faith, or trusting any other system that involves even the smallest level of works righteousness. And to consciously teach any view of justification that involves any degree of human achievement is a damnable offense. It is the reason Paul wrote to the church in Galatia.

Likewise, we might not understand all the inner workings of the doctrine of the atonement. But we do need to understand that the cross Jesus died on is what we all deserve. Remember these words:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

Here we have a criminal who is most likely uneducated and lacking a deep working knowledge of the theology being played out on the cross beside him. But he does know that he is evil and deserves wrath. He does know that Christ is fully righteous. He does know that he has nothing to offer the Lamb of God. He does know that his only hope is to completely humble himself as a wretched sinner and beg the Savior for mercy. And it is to these that God grants pardon!

Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

It is here we get to ground zero. In order to be saved we must respond in repentance and faith. And different models of atonement elicit different responses to the Gospel. We don't hear the thief thanking Jesus for identifying with the pain of his human experience. We don't hear the thief calling out as a poor victim of Satan awaiting his rescue. We hear a thief who sees his own enormous guilt. We hear a thief who sees the righteousness of the Son of God. And we hear a thief crying out in genuine repentance, trusting in the One Who was heading for His throne. Jesus did not come to provide therapy for victimized people. He did not come to feel the pain of hurting people. He did not come to coach untrained people. He came to save sinners - even really bad ones like me! He came to fulfill the law that everyone broke and endure the wrath that everyone deserves. Which brings us to the word Paul Washer discussed in my previous post - propitiation:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

Propitiation is a very special and important word that describes a sacrifice that takes away sin and satisfies wrath. God has wrath and you can't solve that problem by pretending that He doesn't. Every time you break God's law by lying, stealing, sex outside of marriage, or even a lustful thought, or any other part of God's law - God cannot violate His demand for justice because He is good. Most people try to reassure themselves as they face eternity with the thought that God is good and loving. Yes God is good and loving - and that is exactly the problem. If God overlooks sin He stops being good and loving and becomes corrupt. So either we must burn in hell for all eternity to satisfy His wrath or a substitute must endure God's wrath in our place.

Gandalf, it is true that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are not saved by rightly understanding the correct view of the atonement. But it is also true that different views of the atonement impact greatly on our view of God. They impact greatly on how we view ourselves. They impact greatly on our view of Christ's life, death and resurrection. Hence it impacts greatly upon our response to the Gospel and whether we find true repentance. Ignorance of this is one thing, but conscious denial is another thing altogether. And to actively teach against penal substitution is a crime of epic proportions. Even, as in NT Wright's case, when it is a failure to acknowledge penal substitutionary atonement as the transcendent meaning of the cross. The doctrines of Christ as our example (Philippians 2:5-8), our compassionate intercessor (Hebrews 4:15-16), and our liberator (Hebrews 2:14-18) are only made possible through the satisfaction of God's wrath - that God can be both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus".

We have seen that the doctrine of penal substitution is necessary to safeguard the justice and holiness of God, for to deny it is to suggest that God is content simply overlook evil whenever He forgives someone. To discard penal substitution would also jeapordize God's truthfulness, for He has promised that sin will lead to death. Moreover, other aspects of the atonement cease to make sense if penal substitution is denied. Penal substitution is essential to Christ's victory over evil powers (something that Gustav Aulen's Christus Victor theory fatally missed), to His restoration of the relationships between sinners and God (reconciliation) and to the liberation He brings from captivity to sin and Satan (redemption and ransom). Far from being viable alternatives to penal substitution, they are outworkings of it. As the hub from which all of these other doctrines fan out, penal substitution is surely central.

To take another example, it is impossible to understand how the atoning death of Jesus could usher in the new creation and bring new life to the corrupt and degenerating cosmos if He did not endure and exhaust the divine curse on the old creation. The renewal of the cosmos by means of Jesus' death is explicable only by reference to penal substitution. (p211 Pierced For Our Transgressions - Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach)

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gandalf And The Atonement (Part 1)

Gandalf (one of the Gandalfs who is not the guy in this picture - I just wanted to narrow the possibilities by one) recently posted a comment on my series NT Wright v The Gospel where he questioned whether people's salvation hinges on their view of the atonement. Here is what he wrote:

Hi Cameron,

having read your series about N.T. Wright (and other posts about him as well) I must say that I still think some of your conclusions are at least out of scope maybe misjudging Wright.

Here my arguments for that (maybe I posted some of this earlier but I want to make it as a summary here):

First: Theories about how the atonement works (including PSA with all its content) are not the atonement or belief in the atonement itself. Therefore what Christians must believe in is the atonement of their sins through death and resurrection of Christ whereas ideas on how this works are secondary to this (In C.S: Lewis book Mere Christianity there is a discussion about this issue which I find very convincing).

Notably much of the real discussion about the atonement comes from liberals/progressives who openly dismiss that Christ's death had anything to do with human sins and human redemption (Maybe the name of the German protestant pastor Burkhard Müller is known to you for causing some stir here for saying such things).

Discussions about how this works are probably interesting for theologians but error on how it works does not amount to something you quoted McArthur for (that without imputed righteousness no salvation is possible).

You know probably that Eastern Orthodox christians as one example do not believe (according to their churches doctrine) in PSA, imputation etc. are they all damned?

Second: You repeatedly note that certain concepts and issues are missing in Wright's books or are presented in sketchy or ambiguous manner (individual sin, hell etc.).

Have you read "Surprised by Hope"? I did not find you quoting that in your posts. In that book I found both explanation for his lack of mentioning certain things in other booke in detail, namely, that he likes to view all things as "big picture" where God wants to redeeem and bring back to right the whole cosmos (with the fate of individuals just being part of it, like in a puzzle consisting of numerous pieces but all belonging to the same story). However, in the same book he really gives explanations for questions like individual sin (includng an explanation of the word hamartia), final judgment and hell.

You probably will object to his view that hell isn't like a torture chamber in the midst of Gods kingdom and that he very much follows a middle ground between traditional teaching and a view that sees the lost ones simply becoming what they desire/practise (a grumble instead of a grumbling man or woman is an example for this from "The great Divorce") and hence being at some point no longer humans in Gods image. But I think you'll have to admit that he teaches final judgment with two outcomes, completely dismisses universalism and that God really cares for righteousness and is not laissez-faire with sin on an individual level.

Third: I generally think the amount of flame and vitriol in this debate goes beyond its purpose. People on both sides should handle it more in a manner like the one you advised in your post about the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, otherwise we would only deserve the laughter of the Spongs, Borgs, Bells and McLarens in this world for our quarreling.

Gandalf, I welcome your comments and the ensuing discussion it will evoke. Over the coming days I will be responding to each issue that Gandalf raises. Unlike the emergent "conversation", I love to come to the table and reason together from the Scriptures with those who disagree with me. Our view of the atonement sets the framework through which we understand and communicate the Gospel. We must remember what Paul wrote to the church in Galatia:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

For this reason our view of the atonement matters and I will set forth my contentions from Scripture over the next week or so. In the meantime I offer this ten minute video of Paul Washer explaining the meaning of the word "propitiation" as found in Romans 3:25 (also in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10). The importance of this word is central to the issue at hand.

Go On To Part 2

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just Added - Teach Them Diligently

This outstanding book on parenting has just been added to my resource directory!

Lou Priolo

Category: Parenting
Click Here To Order
This is an outstanding Gospel centered and Bible based parenting manual. John Macarthur had this to say about Teach Them Diligently: "There is far more to teaching your children the Bible than merely telling them Bible stories. Unfortunately, many parents feel ill-equipped for the task, so they neglect this vital aspect of Christian parenting. In doing so, they forfeit many of the greatest blessings of parenthood. Here's a valuable aid for parents seeking help. Lou Priolo's Teach Them Diligently: How to use the Scriptures in Child Training holds a wealth of practical and biblical advice for parents seeking to fulfill the mandate of Deuteronomy 6:6-7."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 10)

Myth 10. Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words.

This is a famous quote that Rick Warren uses regularly. The quote is supposed to come from a monk called Francis of Assissi. But historians have found no record of Francis ever saying those words. So it is a legend that sounds deeply spiritual to people who are spiritually shallow. Saying preach the Gospel, if necessary use words is like saying “wash always, if necessary use water”.

Every time the word "preach" appears in the New Testament it means loudly spoken. It is a verbal message. Being salt and light backs up the message but it isn't the message. We cannot live out the Gospel because Christ came to do what we cannot do. We are called to speak about the One Who lived the life that we cannot live, and live a life that bears witness to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The True Cross Centered Gospel is a Gospel where we have the responsibility to tell it to others. What a priveledge. God does not need us but has blessed us with a part to play in His redemption plan. It is a verbal message. Yes we should do good works because they are the fruit of true conversion and they back up the message we preach, but it isn't the message. We cannot “live out” the Gospel because Christ came to do what we cannot do. We are called to speak about the One Who lived the life that we cannot live, and live a life that bears witness to the work of the Holy Spirit.

And the Bible teaches that there are only two times when we should preach – in season and out of season!

Truth 10. The Gospel is a spoken message and the word “preach” in the New Testament always means loud proclamation. The Gospel cannot be lived, it can only be spoken because we speak of the One Who did what we can never do.

Go Back To Part 9
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, July 23, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 9)

Myth 9. Accept Jesus into your heart and make Him Lord of your life.

This has been normal evangelical language for a long time now. And it is ridiculous. Try and find it in the Bible. Jesus does not need our acceptance – we need His, and what He accepts is brokenness, humility, submission and repentance. We don’t make Jesus Lord – He is Lord. Whether we bow our knee in repentance before Him, or have our kneecaps busted by His rod of iron. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

Truth 9. We need the acceptance of Jesus Christ. He is Lord whether we bow before Him in repentance and faith, or suffer for all eternity under His just wrath.

Go On To Part 10
Go Back To Part 8
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 8)

Myth 8. Instead of using the word "hell" it is better to say “eternal separation from God”.

Have you ever heard preachers say “separation from God” as their way of describing hell? Saying this can be harmful to evangelism because it avoids Jesus’ warning to “flee the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7). But worse than that, it is simply not true. Hell is not separation from God because Jesus is Lord of all and this includes hell:

If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:9-11)

These people are punished in Hell in the presence of the Lamb. Paul Washer recently said that Hell is the pure endless flaming wrath of God (see the video below). We should stop and tremble at that thought. Maybe you think I’m using scare tactics. Yes I am - guilty as charged. If you have a problem with scare tactics then you have a problem with Jesus. In both Matthew and Luke, He is on record as saying:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

Almost all the doctrine on hell is built upon the words of Jesus, He spoke so much about it. It is meant to be scary – that’s the whole point. We should not be afraid to preach hell in the scariest possible terms. Because even that will be understating it anyway. John Piper says that people who argue that a lake of fire is only symbolic could be right. But if it is only a symbol, then the reality must be much worse:

Even if I try to make the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15) or the "fiery furnace" (Matthew 13:42) a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality. Jesus did not choose these pictures to tell us that hell is easier than burning. (p114 Brothers We Are Not Professionals)

We should also beware of these coming back from the dead testimonies where people say they went to hell and experienced it before coming back to life. I got sent one of these testimonies from a friend recently. These stories of Satan and demons running around in hell punishing people and having a good time is contrary to Scipture. Satan is not in charge of hell – God is. And God is going to punish Satan and all his demons in hell for all eternity.

Truth 8. God rules the entire universe and this includes hell. Hell is the pure endless flaming wrath of God.

Go On To Part 9
Go Back To Part 7
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, July 19, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 7)

Myth 7. We need to be seeker sensitive.

The seeker sensitive movement has been the big influence on evangelical Christianity for the last twenty to thirty years with the major influences being Willow Creek in Chicago and Rick Warren’s Saddleback church in California. But Robert Schuller is probably the father of the movement when he pioneered the pragmatic approach to ministry. He started a church with the idea that he needed to find out what all the lost people in his area wanted in a church and he would give it to them. Schuller says:

The secret of winning unchurched people into the church is really quite simple. Find out what would impress the non churched in your community then give it to them. (Robert Schuller, as quoted in Gary Gilley, This Little Church Went to Market (Evangelical Press, 2005): 76.)

A lot of people came to Schuller’s church because he gave them what they wanted – but it should be remembered that many who joined Schullers church were not new converts but people who didn’t enjoy the conviction of their previous church. These were people who loved the way Schuller built up their self-esteem. Schuller had a high view of man and a low view of Scripture as evidenced when he said:

I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality . . . than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition. (online source)

It’s such a shame that Robert Schuller wasn’t there when Paul was writing the book of Romans. I think I’ll listen to Paul over Schuller who said that he did not know he was a sinner except that the law showed him; and that God demonstrated His love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were sinning. You cannot show God’s love without exposing mans sin!
Paul actually said in Romans 3 that no one seeks after God. It is God Who seeks and saves the lost!

Truth 7. No one seeks after God. But God seeks and saves the lost. We need to be sensitive to the One true Seeker by being faithful to the message He told us to preach.

For further and more in depth critique check out Todd Friel's excellent critique of Willow Creek and the results of their internal survey of members.

Go On To Part 8
Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, July 16, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 6)

Myth 6. God has faith in us.

This is an idea that emergent pastor Rob Bell teaches in one of his popular sermons and videos. His argument is that Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Jesus then left them and returned to heaven leaving the Great Commission in the hands of the disciples.

Is this true? Did Jesus leave them? What did Jesus say to them as he ascended up to heaven?

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)

Did Jesus tell them to go and evangelize the world or did He tell them to do something else first?

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)

They had to wait in Jerusalem! Why? Because God had faith in them? No – it was because they could not do anything until they had the power of the Holy Spirit.

This teaching, that God has faith in us, became a plague among many of the youth in my old church in Australia (so much so that it prompted me, as an elder, to make a biblical response which can be viewed at the bottom of this post). I mention this myth today because I have learnt that our flesh and pride love to eat at the table of humanism. And to teach that God has faith in us – that He believes in us – is a humanistic idea that is totally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is also worth taking a look at how the bible defines faith. It’s found in Hebrews 11:1 – read carefully:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

So, based on Hebrews 11:1 faith requires that there are things we cannot see? Is there anything God cannot see? No, He is omnipresent:

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

The other thing Hebrews 11:1 requires for faith is that we must hope for things. We don’t hope for things we already know. If God knows all things then He cannot hope for anything. There are so many verses that teach God’s omniscience, I’ll give just one example:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:1-4)

When people like Rob Bell teach that God has faith in man they are actually denying God’s attributes and committing idolatry. He is actually elevating man and humanizing God. It is an attack on the Gospel which clearly teaches faith ALONE in Christ ALONE.

Truth 6. Faith is not a part of God’s character and nature – it is contrary to His omniscience and omnipresence. God is the object of faith as the reformation solas teach.

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 5)

Myth 5. The Gospel is to love God and love people.

One angry member of an emergent church recently launched some stinging criticism at the way I evangelize. The conversation went something like this:

EMERGENT: It really offends me how you use the ten commandments to show people their guilt. You are such a legalist. Instead, you should only tell them to love God and love people - that's all they need to do.
CAMERON: How are you doing at loving God and loving people?
E: I'm doing quite a good job of it actually.
C: Do you see your problem here?
E: What problem?
C: Loving God supremely and loving your neighbor as yourself is Jesus' summation of the whole ten commandments. You are suggesting that I should stop being a "legalist" and instead tell people to keep the whole ten commandments. Worse than that, you actually think that you are doing a good job of keeping the law. If you really understood what Jesus was saying, it would not comfort you, but speak condemnation to you because of your utter failure and inability to keep it. If you really understood this you would desire a substitute Who has fulfilled this law that you cannot keep. You are calling people to meet the requirements of God's law whereas I am using the law to show people that they cannot keep it and need a Savior instead. Can you see who is the legalist here?
E: I don't know why I waste my time on legalists like you. I need to get back to reading "A New Kind of Christian".

If we understood Jesus rightly when He says to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourself. If we understand Jesus rightly here, then this verse does not speak comfort to us – it speaks condemnation. How are you doing at keeping the law?

This is why the Gospel is not about doing anything but about what Christ has already done in the place of sinners. This is why the Gospel is not about keeping the law but pointing us to the One Who fulfilled all righteousness. This is why the Gospel is not about a righteousness that we have done but a righteousness imputed to our account. This is why Jesus is much more than an example, He is a substitute for sinners who cry out in repentance and faith. This is why we cannot live the Gospel, because the Gospel is testifying to the One Who did what we can never do!

Truth 5. Telling people that to love God and love people is the gospel is actually telling them to keep the whole law in order to be saved.

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, July 12, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 4)

Myth 4. People who preach the law of God are legalists.

The Apostle Paul didn’t think so. In the book of Romans he says:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."(Romans 7:7).

I recently had a pastor tell me that he would not preach about sin because people already know that they are sinners. I suggested he pay a visit to the nearest prison and conduct a survey on the inmates to find out how many of them have been wrongly convicted. It is popular to suggest that everybody knows that they are sinners. But do they really? Scripture teaches us that "every man is clean in his own eyes" (Proverbs 16:2) and "proclaims his goodness" (Proverbs 20:6). Sure most people will concede to doing a few wrong things but grace is never amazing to them because they've never contemplated the severe depth of their sin. A give away for this point is that these people often ask the question how can a loving God send people to hell and why is there evil? If they understood that they are really sinful they would ask how could God possibly forgive me? They would be relieved that God has not yet fully dealt with evil, particularly the evil that they have perpetrated themselves.

We can destroy the biblical meaning of grand concepts such as grace, love, forgiveness and salvation by failing to preach law, wrath, sin and hell. Their very definition hinges on a correct biblical understanding of these truths. This is highlighted in the interaction between Jesus, a sinful woman, and a Pharisee in Luke 7. Jesus shows that the more we are forgiven then the more we love. If we don’t see the depths of our sin then we won’t see the depths of God’s forgiveness.

If you really want to love God a lot like the woman who washed Jesus' feet then perhaps you need a deeper understanding of your own depravity and unworthiness. This in turn will serve to magnify Christ's redemptive work on the cross.

God's law serves four functions for those of us in the New Testament era:
1.It stops the sinner's mouth from justifying itself;
2.It helps the whole world realize that they are guilty;
3.It brings the knowledge of sin; and
4.It acts as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
(Romans 3:19,20, Romans 7:7, and Galatians 3:24).

When preaching God's law it is important to remember that it is a mirror and not a stick. It shows us our utter inadequacy and inability to please God. It is designed to drive men to complete surrender rather than improved behavior. To bring us to the point where we are through with ourselves, where we seek a substitute, where we hunger and thirst for righteousness - it is then that God's grace becomes wondrous. It deepens our gratitude and sense of wonder at how amazing grace really is.

Truth 4. The law preached rightly kills all legalism because it shows our total wretched depravity and need for righteousness from a righteous substitute. To preach the law rightly we must preach it not as a stick to alter our behavior, nor as a carrot to entice us to a better life, but as a mirror to destroy our self righteousness. To not preach the law is cruel.

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, July 9, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 3)

Myth 3. The Trinity can be illustrated by water, ice, and steam.

I’ve heard this one preached a lot of times. I have to say that any illustration is going to have problems when it comes to explaining the Trinity. But is there a particular problem with this illustration?

I don't want to be harsh on the guy in this video because he is spot on in his theology of the Triune God. It is just that he is using a bad illustration, one of which I am also guilty of using. Water ice and steam is actually a good illustration for the heresy of modalism/sabellianism which goes back to the second century AD and was a reason for the Athanasian Creed. I won’t delve into an in-depth study on the Trinity right now but I recommend Paul Washer’s book “The One True God” for an excellent and simple study on the subject.

The Athanasian creed is very long but it if you need to summarize it in three points regarding the Trinity as taught in Scripture they are these:

1.There is one God.
2.This one God exists in three persons.
3.These three Persons are each fully God.

Modalism however does not teach one God in three Persons. It teaches one god in three manifestations. So the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit become different roles that God uses at different times – just like water, ice, and steam is h2o appearing in different forms. The modalist has major problems with issues like Jesus praying to the Father or Jesus’ baptism where the Father spoke and the Holy Spirit descended. For the modalist Jesus is not eternal, but how the Father appeared for 33 years. For the modalist Jesus cannot be a mediator between sinners and the Father. For the modalist Jesus cannot suffer the Father’s wrath on the cross. I could say more but I think you can see modalism is a big problem – it is idolatry.

Modalism is alive and well today. Popular “evangelical” preacher TD Jakes is a modalist as well as the singing group “Philips, Craig, and Deane”. Todd Friel told me he once met “Philips, Craig, and Deane” though obviously not all of them at the same time.

Although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal and exist in perfect unity, they often carry out distinct functions as distinct persons.

1. The FATHER is the invisible God who no man has seen (John 1:18).
2. The SON is God made flesh and the perfect revelation of the Father (John1:1, John 1:14, John 1:18, John 14:9).
3. The HOLY SPIRIT is God living in the Christian (Romans 8:9, John 14:16-17, John 14:23).

Truth 3. The Scripture clearly teaches that there is One God. This One God exists in three Persons. And these three Persons are each fully God. If you define God differently to this you are an idolater.

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 2)

Myth 2. Doctrines only became true after they were written in creeds.

Let me explain by quoting popular emergent church leader Rob Bell from his best selling book Velvet Elvis:

“This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is . . . (Bell then goes on to say) When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true” (p. 67-68).

So Bell thinks that the Bible didn’t exist before the church voted on it. Is this true? John Macarthur had this to say:

When various councils met in church history to decide on the canon (and canon means books that are inspired by the Holy Spirit) they did not vote for the canonicity of the book but rather recognized, after the fact, what God had already written. The councils were formed to formalize what they already knew. They were also necessary because of all the fakes that were getting around at the time (taken from The Macarthur Study Bible).

Another great example of this is the first two articles of the Together For The Gospel (T4G) statement of Affirmations and Denials (what you get when Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, John Macarthur, CJ Mahaney, Al Mohler, John Piper, and RC Sproul bang their heads together):

Article I: We affirm that the sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy. We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation, or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or the effects of human sinfulness.
Article II: We affirm that the authority and sufficiency of Scripture extends to the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice. We deny that any portion of the Bible is to be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or, for example, to set the words of Jesus against the writings of Paul.

The last part of that statement would not have been written 10 years ago. But with new false teaching that appears through history, we are forced to respond to it. Using Jesus' words against Paul doesn’t suddenly become wrong because we added it to our doctrine statement.

Here’s another quote from Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis where he says that the doctrine of the Trinity:

“emerged in the several hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection” (p. 22).

Rob Bell is talking about the Athanasian Creed which was written in the fourth century AD. What Rob Bell is saying would be like me saying that nobody thought terrorism was wrong until September 11 2001 because that is when we first see all these new anti-terrorism laws appearing. But we know that flying a plane into a building was always wrong. We just never needed to write it down until it actually happened. So too with the Trinity. It is what Scripture always clearly taught and was always understood – they didn’t need a creed until a lot of the heresies about the Trinity started being taught. So just like anti terrorism laws were written in response to 9/11 so the Athanasian creed was written in response to false teaching that was happening concerning the Trinity.

Truth 2. The Christian creeds never invented anything new – they are a wonderful gift to us confirming what true Christians have always believed during church history.

The subject of the Trinity leads me to my third myth which I will discuss on Friday: Myth 3 - The Trinity can be illustrated by water, ice, and steam.

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, July 5, 2010

Preaching Myths In Modern Pulpits (Part 1)

Today I am starting a series which will examine some of the popular soundbites and cliches used by modern preachers, to see if they are based in Scripture or human inventions. To see if they are consistent with the Christian faith or contrary to it. Is "preach the Gospel, if necessary use words" a helpful catchcry for evangelism? Is hell "eternal separation from God"? Do our churches need to be "seeker sensitive"? Should we "accept Jesus into our heart and make Him Lord"? Does "God have faith in us"? Is "loving God and loving people" the Gospel? Is preaching law before grace "legalism"? Over the coming weeks I will be responding to these, and other popular myths emmanating from many modern pulpits. The first one I will examine today is the popular Charismatic/Word Faith teaching on the Greek words "rhema" and "logos".

Myth 1. The word ”word” is translated either Rhema or Logos in the New Testament. Logos means written word and Rhema means personal revelation.

I can remember 13 years ago when I lived in Australia being at a Bible camp where we were sitting under the teaching of one of the major leaders within the Australian Pentecostal movement. This leader listened to me as I counselled one of the youth on the importance of the Bible by quoting Romans 10:17 which says ”faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Well, then the leader called me over and corrected me. He told me that the ”word of God” in Romans 10:17 was a ”rhema” word and that meant personal revelation – not Scripture.

I thought this guy must be right. He pastors a big church and must know a lot more than me. But about a year later by accident I heard a greek lecturer at a Pentecostal Bible school teach that the words rhema and logos are interchangeable. I was shocked by this revelation. I asked him, don’t you realize that this rhema logos teaching is widely used. There is even a whole movement based on this teaching – There are major churches and bible colleges named Rhema. The lecturer just shrugged his shoulders and said that none of the leaders were interested in having a greek lecturer teach them about greek words.

This is an idea that seems to have originated and gained major traction in the Word Faith movement. So I did some of my own research and this is what I found:

Matthew 26:75 And Peter remembered the word (rhema) of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Mark 14:72 And Peter called to mind the word (rhema) that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Luke 22:61 And Peter remembered the word (logos) of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

1) Jesus' word to Peter that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Matthew and Mark accounts refer to Jesus' word that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed using the Greek word "rhema" for Jesus' word. The Luke account, however, refers to Jesus' word that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed using the Greek word "logos" for Jesus' word. By comparing these 3 accounts side by side we can see that both "rhema" and "logos" can refer to a prophetic spoken word.

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word (logos) of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

2) Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12 both describe the word of God as a sword, but Ephesians uses the Greek word "rhema" for the word of God, while Hebrews uses the Greek word "logos" for the "word" of God. Should we assume that there are two different "swords" of God's word, one that is a rhema word and one that is a logos word? No, the obvious answer is that it's the same sword being described in both cases and that the words "rhema" and "logos" are not distinct enough to justify creating two different categories of the word of God.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words (rhema), the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word (logos).

3) Acts 10 describes Peter proclaiming the Gospel to Cornelius' household. Verse 44 uses both the Greek word "rhema" and the Greek word "logos" to refer to the words Peter spoke to them. Once again, this indicates that "rhema" and "logos" are both interchangeably associated with the spoken word.

What is my point in all this? It is that we have the authority of Scripture. The reformation succeeded where the renaissance failed because it was built upon the absolute authority of God’s Word. If you look through church history and look at every movement that honored God and then fell away – you will find the troubles first started with small compromises on God’s Word. Peter said that:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Truth 1. God’s Word is a more certain than even hearing God’s voice from heaven.

Continued on Wednesday: Myth 2 - Doctrines only became true after they were written in creeds.

Go On To Part 2

Friday, July 2, 2010

5 Days To Go - Reformation Resurrection 2010

Tilbage Til Bibelen (Back To Scripture) of Denmark is proud to host Dr Peter Hammond at this years Reformation Resurrection conference in Denmark. With 5 days to go (the conference runs from July 7th to 10th) we are almost fully booked but a handful of places remain.

Dr Hammond is one of the most exciting and gripping speakers I have ever heard. He is a rare blend of "tough as nails" frontier missionary, bold prophetic voice, and academic with peerless knowledge of Europe's Reformation history. Denmark rarely has visiting preachers of this caliber. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Denmark - please don't miss out . . .

Click Here for all conference details.
Click here to view Dr. Hammonds CV.
Click here to watch a short interview of Dr. Hammond on "Wretched TV".
Click here to listen to Todd Friel interview Dr. Hammond.
Click here to download some of Dr. Hammond's sermons.