Monday, January 30, 2006

Ready for Reformation

I have just started reading Ready for Reformation: Bringing Authentic Reformation to the Southern Baptist Churches by Tom Nettles and am finding it a very good read. In actuality the call for reformation he makes could just as easily be made for many other denominations.

I have not gotten far but am reading on preaching and its shallowness in many SBC churches and for that matter much of the church as a whole. To relate the importance of solid preaching to the life of the church Nettles says:

“The believer’s only opportunity to hear an argument mounted against the torrent of temporality pressed daily and hourly into his consciousness comes when a Christian minister stands to preach the Word of God. Will he hear anything that challenges and strips bare the lies that have been presses on him from every quarter? Or will he hear a few assertions from a biblical text surrounded by warm stories garnished with the trappings of sentimentality and never enter substantially into truth? Will he be called on without doctrinal instruction to pull himself together and get with it for Christ, decide to do right, and make Christ the center of life?” (Page 32)

These are strong words but rightly needed in today’s day of “don’t worry be happy” preaching. With so many preachers afraid to even mention sin in case it may somehow harm the sensibilities of his listeners and even reduce the size of his congregation it is refreshing to see one, Tom Nettles, who is in a position to foster change make such calls for reformation in preaching. This is a wake up call for all, including myself, to make sure that what we preach is not molded so as to stoke the ego’s of our listeners but to encourage God driven change in their lives and thus the life of the church by preaching the Word of God as if it truly is the Word of God.

To this point the book is not simply a critique of what is wrong but has solid guidance for change and a feeling that change can come by the hand of God on His people. All is not lost to the worldliness of the current church and specifically to the text many SBC churches.

Also, check out Tom Ascol’s comments from late last year when the book came out:

Ready for Reformation?
Ready for Reformation? Pt2
Ready for Reformation? Pt 3
Ready for Reformation? Pt4
Ready for Reformation? Pt5
Ready for Reformation? Pt6

I plan on writing more as I go through this book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Homosexual Activism and the SBC

Tom Ascol recenlty wrote on a conversation he had with a gay activist. This is a very good article to see how one can be biblical, stand ones ground on truth and also show love.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Examining Ones Faith

The following is an article written by Steve Camp that deals with a touchy area with most professing believers, that of examining their faith to see if it is true. I would encourage you to read this and contemplate the questions at the end. To know where you stand with God is of utmost importance. I can speak from personal testimony that if I had been asked these questions during the 8 years I thought I was a Christian I would have understood earlier my true position with God.

Could I Be Called a Christian?
...what is the evidence of your salvation

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!... " 2Corinthians. 13:5

We all have PhD’s in rationalizing our behavior; we have all graduated with high honors. Most people are "good Christians" in their own judgment and by their own assessment. But we can never render the final verdict upon ourselves for our own conscience is defiled and our discernment skewed. The Apostle Paul gives this insight on the flawed value of self-analysis, "For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:4 emphasis added).

The Narrow Road
If Paul, being the greatest Christian to ever live, would not trust - dare not trust his own self-evaluation, how much more we?. It is a narrow road that leads to heaven (Matt. 7:12ff) and few are they that find it. As Matthew Mead so appropriately states, "...self-love deceiveth truth for its own interest." The heart of man is the greatest imposter and cheat in the world; God himself states it, "The heart is deceitful above all things [and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)]. Despite that astounding appraisal of the human condition, we are still commanded to take self-inventory. We must judge ourselves not by the standard of ourselves, but by the Word of God; by the Lord's standard and rule (2 Timothy 3:16-16); by the Lord's wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24-25); by the Lord's divine verdicts (Psalm 19:9)..

The Almost Christian
Therefore, we must examine ourselves--eliminating ourselves as the standard, the rule, the judge and jury. Sunday morning worship services in America are littered with thousands of people pretend­ing to be Christians. They enjoy the music, support church programs, find benefit and solace in a stirring sermon, relish in the fellowship, and may even serve as an elder, deacon or sunday school teacher - "yet be no better than almost a Christian" as Mead decisively proclaims. They have come to church but have never come to Christ! They haven't taken stock of their spiritual condition - they have not examined themselves. And if by chance they do, it is not with the probing double edged sword of God's Word (Hebrews 4:12), but with the crooked plumbline of moral standards, good works, philanthropic gestures, acts of kindness or good will, and worse -religion. They are moral people headed for a "moral" hell. Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan divine, cuts through that illegitimate prideful system of useless righteousness when he says, "repent not that you are civil, but repent that you are no more than civil." One of the marks of a true Christian is that he embraces a life of repentance - he loves God and hates sin (2 Timothy 2:19).

To still be in love with your sin and "wedded to your idols", as Spurgeon says, is to "insult the gospel, pervert the truth and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." The Christian life is not marked by a life of disobedience, unbridled passion, unbroken pride and unguarded pleasure. The true Christian is one that is evidenced by a life of obedience, a life of holiness, a life of righteousness, a life of virtue, a life of godliness, a life of Christ-likeness!

How May I Know I Am Elect?
A.W. Pink gives seven points of reflection that I would urge you to use as a thermometer to take the temperature of your spiritual health.

First by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced.

Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty and lost condition.

Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope.

Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ.

Fifth, by the resistance the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it.

Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness.

Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces, and using all diligence to this end. Scripture encourages healthy self-scrutiny.

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10a). No where more important should this examination occur than when approaching the table of grace - holy communion (1 Corinthians 11:28). John MacArthur reminds us, "Self-examination is as important today as ever. When statistics tells that more than a billion people in the world are Christians, one must wonder who established the criteria. Such figures certainly do not square with what Jesus said about many on the broad road and few on the narrow." (Matthew 7:13-14).

Even those who belong to the right church can be deceived and utterly devoid of the righteousness of God through Christ... The Bible teaches clearly that the evidence of God's work in a life is the inevitable fruit of transformed behavior (1 John 3:10). Faith that does not result in righteous living is dead and cannot save (James 2:14-17). Professing Christians utterly lacking the fruit of true righteousness will find no biblical basis for assurance they are saved (1 John 2:4). These words are not meant to spark feelings of doubt about your salvation if you are genuinely saved. However, they are meant to prick the hearts of those who have a false security in themselves, based on good works absent of true faith. I would implore you to turn the penetrating laser of the Word of God upon your life. Is it "wood, hay and stubble", that will ultimately burn, or will your life stand the test and be proved to be "gold, silver and precious stones"? (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

*"The Almost Christian Discovered" by Matthew Mead
*"The True Christian Love For the Unseen Christ" by Thomas Vincent

1. Think of one example from the past week in which you rationalized or made excuses for some sinful action or attitude on your part.

2. Why is the Word of God the only sure and absolute standard by which we are to examine ourselves, as opposed to our own moral preference or presupposed religious/social expecta­tions?

3. Ponder the following Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:19; Ephesians 4:15. Do you think sanctification (growth in holiness and conformity to Christ) is in any way optional for the believer?

4. What is the evidence of a true believer? Is this evidence characteristic of your won life in light of 2 Corinthians 13:5?

5. What areas in your life would cast doubt in the minds of those around you that you are indeed a Christian? Will you commit these areas to the Lord?

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Blog Site: Together for the Gospel (T4G)

This should be a good site to keep up on: Together for the Gospel

The following is the description fo the site:

The T4G Blog is an ongoing public conversation between Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler. The authors welcome your comments and may read and respond to them in their posts. However, the only comments that will be available for public viewing are those submitted by the four authors themselves.

One last (I think) link on End of the Spear

Al Mohloer writes a good article on The Controversy Over "The End of the Spear".

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More on the End of the Spear

Here is a link to an interview with Chad Allen on the movie End of the Spear. As has been shown over the last week or so he does see this movie as something other than it should be. Here is a section of the interview where he is asked what the movie is about:

WCT: Ultimately, what is this movie about?

CA: Love. It’s a shame that this word is almost overused, but here it involves transformation, forgiveness, passion and God.

He does not see it as a movie about God changing lives.

Also, of concern is the following:

CA: Here’s the thing: There will continue to be [ different ways of thinking ] . If our goal is for all of us to think the same, we’ve got the wrong goal. I was watching a play the other night and someone mentioned how the world is like a stained-glass window and we each have our own colors in that glass with God being the light that shines through it. That’s the way I choose to see it. I don’t need to be right; I just need to be respected.
I’ve really been heartened by the number of Christians who have said that [ homosexuality ] is not a sin and that we should just love and respect each other. Even, Pat Robertson has a link to my Web site—and it’s done in a nice way.

WCT: Is this the same Pat Robertson who said that [ Israeli Prime Minister ] Ariel Sharon’s recent stroke was a sign from God?

CA: Well, it’s his group. I’m not exactly sure who’s behind it. I couldn’t believe it, either.
So now homosexuality is moved out of the realm of sin. Yes we can and should love the person trapped in the gay lifestyle but true love will reveal it is a sin.

Also, if anyone can find the link from Pat Robertson mentioned above let me know as I did not find one. All that I found was a link on the 700 Club page to the movie and it did not deal with this subject. I was curious as to what "..done in a nice way." meant.

Again read the interview and see for yourself if this movie will further the glory of God or man.

Also, I would say that we should not forget to pray for Chad, as we should pray for all of those that are lost, that God would change his heart to see the sin he is and call on God for forgiveness. We should also take the time to relfect on our own lives as we deal with sin on a daily basis and make sure we are repenting of our own sin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A revealing Larry King

Last Night on Larry King Live the topic was on Brokeback Mountain and gay marriage. The conversation included Al Mohler and Chad Allen. Read the transcripts, here, and you will see that Chad Allen's view that he espouses is to say that homosexuality and Christianity are compatible. Again, as I have said before you have to make the decision with regards to The End of the Spear, which Chad Allen portrays Nate and Steve Saint, for yourselves but it seems clear that the message Allen sends and promotes is that there is not an issue between Christianity and homosexuality. Actually it is just as disturbing that his form of Christianity seems to be very moldable to how each individual understands it instead of grounded in God's word alone.

Here is a section of the transcript that shows how Allen's Christianity is very syncretistic:

CALLER: Chad, by whose standard do you think that it's right to live the way you have chosen to live?

ALLEN: By the standard that I judge all of my actions. These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding. It is a deep-founded, faith-based belief in God based upon the work that I've done growing up as a Catholic boy and then reaching out to Buddhism philosophy, to Hindu philosophy, to Native American beliefs and finally as I got through my course with addiction and alcoholism and finding a higher power that worked for me.

So again decide for yourslef.

I have seen numerous posts on other sites asking why homosexuality is being singled out over other sins with regards to this case. Well it is in this case the sin that is being promoted. I can tell you if the actor was a Adultery Activist, if there is such a thing, or an Activist for any other sin I would be equally vocal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Top 50 Most Influential Christians

I was reading a list of the TOP 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA and began to wonder if it was a commentary on those that proclaim to be Christians or on the organization, and those that voted. As one looks at the list I would agree that they are influential, not necessarily for the good, but never the less influential.

What is said when person number one, T.D. Jakes, does not believe in the historic definition of the trinity. From all I have read of him and heard from him it seems clear that he side steps the issue and this would seem to be due to his apparent Oneness Pentecostalism views.

Next on the list is a man, Joel Osteen, that has proclaimed on TV and in print that he does not preach on sin, what happened to the whole council of God, and had to side step comments on Larry King where he was heard to say that Christ may not be the only way to heaven. While he did apologize and try and do damage control, and may actual not believe what he said, it becomes clear that his theology is lacking if he cannot make an easy stand on the issue of the exclusivity of Christianity.

The rest of the list includes such notables as Paul Crouch (#6), of TBN Fame, Robert Schuller (#10), Benny Hinn (#30), Creflo Dollar (#36). It is clear that the Health, Wealth, Prosperity icons are doing well and being heard. What should make us all uncomfortable is that I would agree that these people probably are influential and how they influence is not for the Glory of God but the glory of man. The list finishes with that icon of Christianity at #50, Dr. Phil, who regularly on his show lifts up the individual to be of the utmost important being.

By the way the Emergent church is well represented as well by Rob Bell (#25), Leonard Sweet (#32) and Brian Mclaren (#42).

It takes to #15 (Joni Eareckson Tada) to see a person I would consider worthy of influencing people. You then have to go to #24 (John Piper) to see one of the men that has greatly influenced me and countless others. Apart from these two I do not find much to be encouraged about. Where is John MacArthur, Albert Mohler and others. I realize that when you look closely at the list you find that to be influential you need to be on TV and then make sure that in all you do you dare not reveal to people that there is no good in them apart from Christ changing of the heart. Humanism is live and well.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Futility of the Seeker Movement

William E. Brown, PhD, associate professor of Evangelism and Church Planting and Nehemiah Project director at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina has written an article for SBC Life, The Seeker, that delves into the whole “seeker” movement. It is refreshing to see an article that acknowledges that man does not seek after God without God first changing the person’s heart and thus his desires.

I do wonder how many in the SBC will read this article and realize the folly of so many of the methods used to “Grow Churches.” From catching the next wave, currently Purpose, to organizing around a smorgasbord of “ancient” rituals (Emergent) churches seem to be more promoting the individual rather than God. The adage “what you do to bring them in you will need to do to keep them” when applied to the church means those churches that cater to the unregenerate will forever be having to change what they do. Also, how you evangelize says much about your view of the Gospel and that is clearly evident in today’s church growth movement. What is said is that man’s will is paramount to God’s sovereignty and just as important is that man’s desires trump scripture. Scripture is so clear, as seen in John 10, that only those that already belong to God, His sheep, will hear His voice so why does the church seem to look everywhere but scripture to “do” church? So biblically there is not such thing as an unregenerate seeker.

I pray that those that read this article will see the futility, regardless of the size of the church, of the seeker movement, in whatever form it presents itself, and change what they do. That they will replace results based evangelism with scripture based evangelism. I now that those that this article speaks about will claim to rely on scripture but I think this is simply a case of making scripture fit ones methods rather than methods fitting scripture. As with all things orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, right doctrine leads to right practice.

For a video that asks “Do You Go To a “Me Church”, click on picture below.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The End of the Spear movie concerns

In the last couple days I have been reading a number of articles regarding the up coming movie “The End of the Spear”. Some are concerned about the fact that the Gospel message is not as clear as it could be and while I may understand that this was done to make the movie more marketable it is never the less sad to see. Of more concern is that the main character that plays both Nate and Steve Saint is an openly gay activist. Some comments have been made that we all sin and if we avoided those that sin we would not be able to do anything. However I think the point of concern is that in a story that is openly Christian, even if the story is not told as clearly, the choice of a gay activist is disconcerting. Also, disconcerting is that Chad Allen, the actor in question, has made comments that seem to say this movie can be used to the benefit of the gay community, see link below to Sharper Iron article.

We all have to make our own decisions on these issues but I know that this has put a damper on my enthusiasm to see this movie. To tell the truth I would have the same concern if it was revealed that the actor was an open womanizer or adultery so it is not the issue of homosexuality. In actuality it is the activism of Allen and that a story of men who were committed to Christ would be used to promote an agenda that is anti-Christian. It is not even the issue of sin as we all sin but it is the fact that Allen does not find fault in his sin and even wants to promote it. There is a vast difference between one who sins and is convicted by the Holy Spirit and is in the process of change and one who relishes and denies what they do is sin as Chad Allen seems to do.

Jason Janz at Sharper Iron writes on this subject that may give more insight. If you do not see the movie I would recommend seeing the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Affix your focus on the glory of Christ

In God is the Gospel John Piper, in Chapter 6, talks about “The Glory of Christ in Evangelism, Missions and Sanctification” and this is one of the places were the concept Piper is writing on touches the church by impacting the people that fill her.

By looking at 2 Cor 3:18 three things are revealed that impact the church. First is that the pathway to Christ-likeness is “beholding the glory of the Lord”, beholding is becoming (page 90). God changes us by enabling us to see the glory of Christ. This helps us see that it is not our smarts or presentation that reveals Christ to others but God who does this. This does not mean we are to be lackadaisical about sharing our faith but that in the end it is God that reveals His glory and not us.

Secondly on page 92 the process of sanctification and the dynamics of transformation is shown to be intimately tied to what we admire and fix our attention on. This lets the church see the importance of discipleship and not simply convert making. The road of sanctification is one that relies on being focused on the beauty of Christ and not ourselves and our needs.

Thirdly, the transformation that comes from beholding the glory of Christ in the Gospel does not happen in one moment but over time, incrementally (page 93). The process of discipleship is a journey not a sprint. But what is also seen in this is that there is change and not simply stagnation. We are encouraged by the fact that change is not instantaneous but also convicts that change is an integral part of the Christian walk.

These three insights help us see the importance of the gospel in everyday life. If we simply see the gospel as the benefits we get and not God Himself then we will affix our focus on those benefits and in the end on ourselves. The end result is narcissism, the narcissism that appears to permeate the church. Having a correct view of the Gospel also affects how we portray the Gospel to people on a regular basis. The concept of cross bearing is replaced with self aggrandizement when man is made much of instead of making much of Christ.

I pray that we become a church that’s focus in on Christ and His glory and not ourselves. That we truly be being conformed to His likeness by affixing our gave on His beauty constantly. That we be the Church God desires.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Note on John Piper

From reading Justin Taylor's blog- Between Two Worlds John Piper has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I would suggest reading the letter Piper worte to his congregation as it is in the midst of the circumstances of life that ones true theology comes to the surface:

Here is the article: Pray for Piper

Keep John Piper and his family in your prayers and also pray that he will be used as much through this circumstance of life as thorugh his teaching.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Devotional Site

I have started a daily devotional site and will try and have at least one daily devotional in the morning and when possible one in the evening as well. A large part of the devotions will come from a devotion I was led to by Tom Ascol.

The site is called For His Glory-Devotions and can be found at the following link: For His Glory-Devotions

If you want to add a news feed you can add it HERE.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Making Much of Jesus

Along the same vein of how the church views the Gospel I was recently listening to a new song by Steven Curtis Chapman called “Much of You” on his new album: All Things New. I immediately wondered if he had read John Piper. Lo and behold Chapman reflects on how his reading of Piper’s Don’t Waste You Life changed how he viewed things and led to is writing of “Much of You”.

The whole concept of how we present Christ is wrapped up in the idea that we are to make much of Christ not the other way around. Chapman writes:

This is Your love,
oh God Not to make much of me
But to send Your own son
So that we could make much of You

All too often the way evangelism is presented is the other way around and is as all too focused on man and not God. The more I contemplate this I think at issue is that often evangelism dictates theology rather than theology driving evangelism.

I pray that the churches preaching and teaching would more focus on making much of Jesus than making much of man. It is, I feel, a desire to build up man’s self esteem that probably drives this not scripture. Scriptures focus is Christ from Genesis to Revelation not man. Man is a central character but not THE central character. Let us change our evangelism to be God centered and not man centered and then we may see true conversion and not surface conversions that are nothing but emotionally engineered decisions.