30 December 2011

This 'n' That

As we prepare to awaken Sunday morning to a new year, it's important to ask yourself, "Do I like me?" The answer to this question is vital. After all, if you don't like yourself, you're bound to be a bit of a "gloomy Gus" and let's face it, nobody wants to hang out with a downer. A simple, narcissistic reading of the Scripture reveals to us just how important elevated self-esteem really is. As Saddleback Church announced last week, "God is mad about you," so why in the world are you not wild about yourself too? Do you suffer from conviction of sin and an awareness of your fallenness? Do you find yourself relying on Christ's righteousness instead of your own fabulosity? If so, then my dear friend, you need a bit of a pick-me-up. Happily, Joyce Meyer has just the thing.


Happy to Be Me! will help you to realize that you really are fantastic, and that there is nothing about you that needs to change. Nope, all that has to happen is that you must learn to like who you are. Once you have achieved this self-acceptance, good things are bound to happen. Upon truly becoming happy with yourself just as you are, you will undoubtedly begin to see God's destiny for your life begin to unfold. But you must first come to this place of acknowledgement of your awesomeness. Otherwise, God is completely powerless to help you.

So, as you prepare to make your donation of $25 or more in order to receive this "free" resource from Joyce Meyer Ministries, here is your week in review (kind of):
  • Due to volcanic activity, a new island has arisen in the Red Sea.
  • I wish some of today's "conservative Bible teachers" would listen to this, and heed it. It is true that bad company corrupts good character. Unless, of course, God lied to us in His Word.
  • Voddie Baucham preaches about Modern Spirituality and your mind:

29 December 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is from a sermon entitled, The Hospital of Waiters Visited with the Gospel:
Do you not understand it? Christ bore the wrath of God, instead of those who trust him. Jesus Christ took the sins of all who trust him, and was punished in the room and stead of every believer, so that God will not punish a believer, because he has punished Christ for him. Christ died for the man who believes in him, so that it would be injustice on the part of God to punish that man, for how shall he punish twice for the same offense? 
Faith is the seal and evidence that you were redeemed nineteen hundred years ago upon the bloody tree of Calvary, and you are justified, and who shall lay anything to your charge. “It is God that justifies you: who is he that condemns you? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again.” This is the gospel of your salvation.
HT: The Daily Spurgeon

27 December 2011

Is There Something of Your Father About You?

I end, then, with this searching question. It is the most profound question a man can ever face in this life and world. Is there anything special about you? I am not asking whether you are living a good, moral, upright life. I am not asking whether you say your prayers, or whether you go to church regularly. I am asking none of these things. There are people who do all that and still are not Christians. If that is all, what do ye more than others, what is there special about you? Is there anything of this special quality about you? Is there something of your Father about you? It is a fact that children sometimes do not resemble their parents very closely. People look at them and say: "Yes, there is something of his father there after all," or "I see something of the mother; not very much, but there is something." Is there just that much of God about you? That is the test. If God is your Father, somewhere or another, in some form or other, the family likeness will be there, the traces of your Parentage will inevitably appear. What is there special about you? God grant that as we examine ourselves we may discover something of the uniqueness and the separateness that not only divides us from others, but which proclaims that we are children of our Father which is in heaven.
-D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount 

26 December 2011

Saddleback Church: "God is Mad About You"

Yesterday, like many churches, pastors and individuals, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church sent out Christmas wishes on Twitter. Unfortunately, they also sent out some bad theology:

(Online Source)
That's right, God is C-R-A-Z-Y, gaga over you. It's all about you! In fact, this almost makes it sound as though Christmas is even about you! Congratulations, wretched sinner, you are awesome. With no visible disclaimer, this message presumably is for everybody, even those who have not been washed by the blood of Christ, saved by grace through faith in Him. Apparently, texts like James 4:4 don't mean a thing to this "church."
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Seeing the above tweet from Saddleback Church brought back memories of junior high, when boys and girls would express their "feelings" for one another in the manner of a carefully folded note, passed quietly in history class.


It seems that God is just passing you a note in class, because He's "mad about you." Won't you check "Yes" and tell Him that you like Him, too?

Friend, if you have not repented and placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, then you are not a friend of God. You are His enemy. All have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If not covered by the perfect blood of the spotless Lamb, we cannot stand before our holy God, for we are not righteous of ourselves.
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
And if, then, we are living lost and dead in our sins, we are at war with a holy God.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow; (Psalm 7:11-12) 
So, either Saddleback lied, or God has lied to us in His Word. It shouldn't take too long to figure out which. But hey, anything for a warm-fuzzy tweet on Christmas Day, right?
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers. (Psalm 5:4-5)
Without Jesus Christ, you are not and cannot be reconciled to God. And so, with the Apostle Paul, I implore you, "on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).

24 December 2011

Come, Let Us Adore Him

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)
On this Christmas Eve, may we all remember that the true spirit of Christmas is worship. O come, let us worship our Lord, Jesus Christ!

 

23 December 2011

This 'n' That

Well, Christmas is nearly here. Hard to believe, isn't it? And so the weekend will be spent busily trying to enjoy everything we think we need to enjoy in order to truly experience Christmas. Dear Christian, if you have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then no amount of cookies, presents, carols or decorations will bring you the true joy of Christmas. May we thank our Lord for His gracious willingness to humble Himself in obedience to His Father so that we, an undeserving pack of sinners, may be saved from His wrath and judgment.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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 2:5-11)
On a lighter note, if you are still looking for a last minute gift for that blogger in your life, might I make a few suggestions? New beanbag chairs are always welcome (when you sit as much as we do, those cheap beans really get squished). Most of us also actually prefer Doritos (usually the spicy nacho ones) to Cheetos, so a bag of those makes a great stocking stuffer. And this T-shirt is a must for your favorite blogger. Hopefully that gives you some additional ideas to finish off your Christmas list. And as you work to check off those final details (even though you undoubtedly told yourself that this year you were not going to make a big deal out of the holiday), here's your week in review (kind of):
  • As you may recall, Rob Bell has resigned from Mars Hill Bible Church in order to move on to bigger and better things. Namely, producing television. This past Sunday, Bell delivered his final "sermon" to MHBC. You can read the transcript here.
  • Our prayers our with R.C. Sproul, Jr. and his family as his wife, Denise Sproul went to be with the Lord this past Sunday. While we weep with the family for their earthly loss, we rejoice for Denise who is now with her loving Savior! 
  • Yoga for horses. Seriously. How can anyone participate in this and keep a straight face?
  • I knew there was a reason I always liked Legos.
  • One of my favorite Christmas movies is The Nativity. You can watch the full length movie here, but I have to warn you: Santa Claus does not make an appearance.
  • The Grace to You blog has been running a great series of brief posts by John MacArthur discussing various aspects of the Christmas story. Make sure you read all of them here.
  • Don't miss Christmas:

22 December 2011

Beth Moore Recommends "Jesus Calling"

The following was written by Pastor-Teacher Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries:


BETH MOORE RECOMMENDS “JESUS CALLING” BOOK CLAIMING DIRECT DIVINE REVELATION

by Ken Silva Pastor-Teacher
The largely pretending to be Protestant evangelical community continues its pilgrimage back to the legalistic spiritual bondage of apostate Roman Catholicism and its evil author the Church of Rome.
As an online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministries does what we can to document this woeful walk away from the truths recaptured during the Lord’s Reformation.
How sad He must be to see James Robison And Rick Warren Working To Reverse The Protestant Reformation. Bottom line is this: If sinful ecumenicists like Robison and Warren are right, then the Reformers were wrong.
Beyond question Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore still remains enormously popular within today’s anything goes evanjellyfish.
Not unlike charismatic megachurch pastors such as PDL Pope Rick Warren, Moore is also an SBC figure apparently receiving direct revelations from God. As I’ve been pointing out lately, this kind of thing is becoming a real problem in evangelicalism as virtually every other sentence or two out of the mouths of e.g. Rick Warren or Beth Moore is “God told me” this or “the Lord said” that to me.
The main point being, we’re finding ourselves heading right into the very type of neo-Gnosticism that so infected the theology of the Church of Rome that it would anathematize the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. This liver shiver theology, where doctrine is being decided by what someone feels God is saying rather than by what the Bible tells us God has said, has also given rise to attractional Prophet-Führers like Steven Furtick.
We’re reaching the point in the mainstream of the visible church where charismania is beginning to rule the day, which is going to lead to our having to deal with dueling revelations. Oddly enough, the Southern Baptist Convention, which seems to stand for Slowly Becoming Catholic (SBC) is said to frown upon charismatic practices; but I guess they’re okay as long as someone isn’t a Calvinist. I mean we can’t have that.
Yet aside from Warren and Moore in the SBC, for example, there’s the neo-Gnostic Henry Blackaby. His mysticism-lite Experiencing God mythology has attained near Scripture-like status within. This is another area where the SBC Idol of Autonomy comes in so handy; leaders simply hide behind it and say nothing. Some talk about how autonomy of the local church stops when proper Biblical doctrine is violated, but that’s all it is.
At this point I remind you again that the work of Beth Moore has received quite a boost from the aforementioned ecumenicist James Robison. Every Wednesday she appears on Robison’s LIFE Today—TV program in a segment entitled Wednesdays With Beth. Right now that website is “getting a makeover” so the segments are currently found at LightSource:
What is the concern here is the book that Beth Moore recommends for her followers this past Wednesday December 14, 2011:
You may also find it interesting to know that Jesus Calling (JC) by Sarah Young, which is said to be “Devotions for Every Day of the Year,” is published by Thomas Nelson publishing:
As I pointed out previously, in the case of Beth Moore and JC, this is not a matter of guilt-by-association, this is guilt-by-endorsement. Moore is absolutely recommending Sarah Young who is herself making the clear claim that she has received direct revelation from God and Jesus; though in a postmodern fashion she insists it’s really not. It kind of depends what audience she’s speaking with and the direction of the theological winds.
For example, Young tells us in her Introduction:
I began seeking God’s Presence in earnest. My days started alone with God, equipped with Bible, devotional book, prayer journal, pen, and coffee. As I waited in His Presence, God began to reveal Himself to me.[1]
You hear that type of language in charismatic and mystic circles, which are now overlapping with the spread of neo-Gnostic so-called “spiritual disciplines” of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) under the guise of supposed Spiritual Formation. However, this is a form of divination, the occult; it is the attempt to gain knowledge of God outside of the Bible, a means of grace He has prescribed as the way to come to Him.
Beth Moore is on record below including herself among those who practice the crown jewel of CSM; a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness commonly known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP):
In fact, CSM and CCP are the same practices employed by apostate Roman Catholic mystics. It’s a very dangerous thing to do because God reveals the only means by which we can legitimately come to Him; and so-called “listening” isn’t part of them. With this in mind, some time ago CBN ran Q & A with Sarah Young where she’s asked how she learned “to ‘dialogue’ with God?”
Her answer should disturb you:
My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930′s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they “listened.” About a year after I started reading this book, I began to wonder if I too could receive  messages during my times of communing with God. (Online source)
There’s nowhere in the Bible that we’re taught about waiting in God’s Presence in order to write personal messages we allegedly receive from God. The lives of the writers of inspired Scripture are not normative for the Christian. In fact, this all begins to sound like what’s known as occultic automatic writing; and yet, Young still tells us “this little paperback became a treasure to me.”[2]
However, these two women listeners tell us they were personally receiving direct revelations from God Himself to instruct them, unlike us mere mortals who go to Scripture:
with my friend a very wonderful thing happened.  From the first, beautiful messages were given to her from the Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us.
We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by Him personally, when millions of souls who are  far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books and other sources.[3]
As you can plainly see, they do claim divine inspiration for their writings; and like her listening mentors, so does Sarah Young. CBN asks her how “awkward was it initially to begin a ‘dialogue” with God?” Young replies:
It felt a little awkward the first time I tried it, but I did receive a short message… at that point my journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. Day by day, messages began to flow more freely. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day.
(Online source)
Now she realizes she’s describing divine inspiration for her messages so Young tries to add this caveat, “I knew that my writings were not inspired (as only Scripture is).” But she can’t have it both ways; when God speaks, it is Scripture. Or are we supposed to believe He also speaks non-authoritatively. Here the following from my friend Dr. Gary Gilley will prove helpful when he tells us people like Sarah Young:
would claim that while they believe that God speaks to His people apart from the Bible today, that these revelations are not on par with Scripture. That is, God speaks today but not with the same authority as He did in His Word. So do not accuse us of adding to Scripture, they would say.
Interestingly enough, this brings up another issue. We find in the Bible that God did speak, either orally (including through His prophets) or through the written Word, but in both ways — always,His Word is authoritative. It was nothing less than a word from God — one that must be obeyed and heeded! (Online source, emphasis his)
Like I said before, that supposedly conservative Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore would recommend her readers buy this book by Sarah Young ought to be cause for serious concern about her discernment. In his review of Jesus Calling Tim Challies now gets to the heart of the matter concerning this kind of neo-Gnosticism of these supposedly superior listeners:
As I have spoken to others about the book, I’ve heard some people say that this book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader. But it’s important to know that Young makes a far more audacious claim—this is Jesus speaking, through her. The messages he has given her, she now passes on to us.
This is a very good time to pause and consider this claim. Sarah is claiming some kind of new revelation from God. She is saying that God speaks to her and that she then passes these messages to others. Immediately we need to ask what she believes about the Bible. Is she claiming that these messages are equal to Scripture? That they trump Scripture?…
Young begins to share those words of God as daily devotionals, saying “I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him. The more difficult my life circumstances, the more I need these encouraging directives from my Creator.”
James Montgomery Boice once said that the real battle in our times would not be the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture, but its sufficiency—are we going to rely on the Bible or will we continually long for other revelation? In Jesus Calling we see this so clearly. Young teaches that though the Bible is inerrant and infallible, it is insufficient. It was not enough for her and, implicitly, she teaches that it cannot be enough for us…
Jesus Calling is, in its own way, a very dangerous book. Though the theology is largely sound enough, my great concern is that it teaches that hearing words directly from Jesus and then sharing these words with others is the normal Christian experience. In fact, it elevates this experience over all others. And this is a dangerous precedent to set. I see no reason that I would ever recommend this book. (Online source)
Again, quite obviously, Beth Moore does not agree with this sound Biblical position expressed by Tim Challies.
___________________________________________________________________________
End notes:
[1] Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. (Location 658).
[2] Ibid.

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled A Christmas Question, and was preached on December 25, 1859:
If thou hast been born again, there is another matter by which to try thee. Not only is thy inward self altered, and thy outward self too, but the very root and principle of thy life must become totally new. When we are in sin we live to self, but when we are renewed we live to God. While we are unregenerate, our principle is to seek our own pleasure, our own advancement; but that man is not truly born again who does not live with a far different aim from this. Change a man's principles, and you change his feelings, you change his actions. Now, grace changes the principles of man. It lays the axe at the root of the tree. It does not saw away at some big limb it does not try to alter the sap; but it gives a new root, and plants us in fresh sold. The man's inmost self, the deep rocks of his principles upon which the topsoil of his actions rest, the soul of his manhood is thoroughly changed, and he is a new creature in Christ. "But," says one, "I see no reason why I should be born again." Ah, poor creature, it is because thou hast never seen thyself. Didst thou ever see a man in the looking-glass of the Word of God—what a strange monster he is. Do you know, a man by nature has his heart where his feet ought to be:—that is to say, his heart is set upon the earth, whereas he ought to be treading it beneath his feet; and stranger mystery still, his heels are where his heart should be:—that is to say, he is kicking against the God of heaven when he ought to be setting his affections on things above. Man by nature when he sees clearest, only looks down, can only see that which is beneath him, he cannot see the things which are above; and strange to say the sunlight of heaven blinds him; light from heaven he looks not for. He asks for his light in darkness. The earth is to him his heaven, and he sees suns in its muddy pools and stars in its filth. He is, in fact, a man turned upside down. The fall has so ruined our nature, that the most monstrous thing on the face of the earth is a fallen man. The ancients used to paint griffins, gryphons, dragons, chimeras, and all kinds of hideous things; but if a skillful hand could paint man accurately none of us would look at the picture, for it is a sight that none ever saw except the lost in hell; and that is one part of their intolerable pain, that they are compelled always to look upon themselves Now, then, see you not that ye must be born again, and unless ye are so this child [Jesus] is not born to you.

17 December 2011

"The Best Way to Promote Union is to Promote Truth"

I am quite sure that the best way to promote union is to promote truth. It will not do for us to be all united together by yielding to one another's mistakes. We are to be united heartily, I hope we are. We are to love each other in Christ; but we are not to be so united that we are not able to see each other's faults, and especially not able to see our own. No, purge the house of God, and then shall grand and blessed times dawn on us.
-Charles Spurgeon, The Importance of Small Things in Religion 

16 December 2011

This 'n' That

Still searching for that perfect Christmas present? Perplexed over what to wrap for the Furtick fan in your life? Look no further! This totally audacious T-shirt declares perhaps more accurately than anything what is the best outcome one can hope for upon praying one of Steven Furtick's infamous "Sun Stand Still" prayers. Order today for the Furtick-following friends in your life.

We are hoping that, once Escalator Church finds a permanent location in which to meet, we will be able to open up a gift shop...I mean, a bookstore, wherein such clever items will be available for purchase at a most reasonable price. We are working on some other simple, yet poignant designs, such as, "I ♥ Beth Moore," and "I'm not dizzy, I'm just praying a Circle Maker prayer." Further suggestions are always welcome. And as you search inside yourself for a clever, one-liner fit for a tee, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • I enjoyed flipping through this slideshow of Classic Toys: Then and Now. Although, what in the world have they done to My Little Ponies?!
  • An animal rights group has convinced the U.S. to limit medical research on chimpanzees. "The Institute of Medicine’s recommendation on Thursday stopped short of the outright ban that animal rights activists had pushed. Instead, it urged strict limits on biomedical research - testing new drugs or giving animals a disease - that would allow using chimps only if studies could not be done on other animals or people themselves, and if foregoing the chimp work would hinder progress against life-threatening or debilitating conditions." So, mice, rats, cynomolgus monkeys, beagles...these don't have the same rights as chimps? And I suppose we can assume that these people will be volunteering themselves to participate in the research instead? Yeah, I didn't think so. 

Prominent Atheist Christopher Hitchens has Died

Christianity Today reports:
Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).
We also know that Christopher was worried about this, and was afraid of letting down the infidel team. In a number of interviews during the course of his cancer treatments, he discussed the prospect of a "death bed" conversion, and it was clear that he was concerned about the prospect. But, he assured interviewers, if anything like that ever happened, we should all be certain that the cancer or the chemo or something had gotten to his brain. If he confessed faith, then he, the Christopher Hitchens that we all knew, should be counted as already dead. In short, he was preparing a narrative for us, just in case. But it is interesting that the narrative he prepped us with did not involve some ethically challenged evangelical nurses on the late shift who were ready to claim that they had heard him cry out to God, thus misrepresenting another great infidel into heaven. It has been done with Einstein, and with Darwin. Why not Hitchens? But Christopher actually prepared us by saying that if he said anything like this, then he did not know what he was saying.
This is interesting, not so much because of what it says about what he did or did not do as death approached him, and as he at the same time approached death. It is interesting because, when he gave these interviews, he was manifestly in his right mind, and the thought had clearly occurred to him that he might not feel in just a few months the way he did at present. The subject came up repeatedly, and was plainly a concern to him. Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right. Christopher Eric Hitchens (1949-2011).
Read the entire article here.

15 December 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled A Christmas Question, and was preached on December 25, 1859:
If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem's manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child. All who have an interest in Christ are, in the fullness of time, by grace converted, quickened, and renewed. All the redeemed are not yet converted, but they will be. Before the hour of death arrives their nature shall be changed, their sins shall be washed away, they shall pass from death unto life. If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion. Only men who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs. "But" saith one, "how am I to know whether I am born again or not?" Answer this question also by another: Has there been a change effected by divine grace within you? Are your loves the very opposite of what they were? Do you now hate the vain things you once admired, and do you seek after that precious pearl which you at one time despised? Is your heart thoroughly renewed in its object? Can you say that the bent of your desire is changed? that your face is Zionward, and your feet set upon the path of grace? that whereas your heart once longed for deep draughts of sin, it now longs to be holy? and whereas you once loved the pleasures of the world, they have now become as draff and dross to you, for you only love the pleasures of heavenly things, and are longing to enjoy more of them on earth, that you may be prepared to enjoy a fullness of them hereafter? Are you renewed within? For mark, my hearer, the new birth does not consist in washing the outside of the cup and platter, but in cleansing the inner man. It is all in vain to put up the stone upon the sepulcher, wash it extremely white, and garnish it with the flowers of the season; the sepulcher itself must be cleansed. The dead man's bones that lie in that charnel-house of the human heart must be cleansed away. Nay, they must be made to live. The heart must no longer be a tomb of death, but a temple of life. Is it so with you, my hearer? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you.

14 December 2011

Justin Peters Offers a Biblical Perspective on Santa

In the article referenced below, Justin Peters offers a far more thorough examination of the Santa Claus dilemma than did I. Though this article in its entirety is a bit lengthy, I urge you, especially if you are a parent of young children, to please follow the link below and thoughtfully read Peters' article.
SANTA PAUSE: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE by Justin Peters
Years ago a pastor told me, "Justin, never preach about Santa Clause.  You just can't win preaching about Santa Clause."  At the risk of going against his advice, I am going to address an icon with which we are all familiar but few really consider to be an "issue," Santa Clause. 
To do away with any suspense, I'm not a fan of Santa.  I've never cared much for him ever since I learned that he was not real.  As an adult, I cared for him even less and even began to have a bit of animosity toward the "jolly old elf."  However, it was not until last year that I, through circumstances in my life, was actually forced to sit down and think through exactly who Santa is and wrestle with the biblical implications.  As I write this I can already imagine the emails and comments that will pour in and charge me with being legalistic, pharisaical, and, well, a Grinch, for wanting to ruin for people what is deemed by most to be harmless, fanciful fun for children on just one day of the year.  I can assure you that these are not at all my motives for writing.  Two years ago I would have never dreamed of writing an article like this because, quite frankly, I never dreamed there to be a need for an article like this.   So, gentle reader, I ask only that you read the following piece and consider its thesis not with an open mind, but with a theological mind.  Consider the points forwarded and evaluate them not against family tradition, common sense, culture, majority opinion or emotion but rather against the teachings of inerrant and sufficient Scripture.  Our standard for what is true, right, appropriate, beneficial, and both edifying to the believer and glorifying to God can be nothing but the Word of God (John 17:17). 
In this article we will examine the history of Santa Claus, his characteristics and attributes and will then draw some conclusions about the proper biblical approach to this familiar icon of Christmas.  It is my prayer that upon reading this article and reflection upon the arguments and conclusions drawn that the reader will give pause to Mr. Claus.
Please continue reading this article here.

SEE ALSO:
Is Santa Clause A Theological Threat?

13 December 2011

Thin-skinned Christians & Accountability (from airō)

The following was written by Justin Edwards of airō, and is republished here with permission:

Thin-skinned Christians and Accountability

Posted on December 13, 2011

Judge Not!

The American church continues to give evidence of its ever-deteriorating state.  No longer can we, without rebuke, “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12) that we might “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (4:14), but it’s though the visible church is eager to “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Whether the above is the consequence or the cause of this woeful condition, the American church no longer practices church discipline, it exploits and abuses Christian judgment, and it has lost its grip on what it means to exhort, encourage, admonish, teach, correct, reproof, and build one another up in the faith in love founded on truth (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Instead, any constructive criticism given to other believers is seen as unrighteous judgment, hypocrisy, legalism, Phariseeism, or hatred.  Take for example last week’s article, Tim Tebow’s Christian Evangelism. Mostly, the response was favorable and it was understood that Tim has a heart to honor and glorify Christ and to make Him known, despite the persecution he faces.  He has demonstrated that he is humble when his enemies oppose him, and he seems to always point to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet, it seems Tim Tebow has become the poster boy for evangelicalism, and any criticism, no matter how much intended to be an exhortation and admonishment for biblical teaching and practice, is considered “gossip” and “slander” by the “judge not” crowd.

What has happened to the church? Instead of following Scripture to confront our brothers in sin (Galatians 6:1, James 5:20), professing Christians yell, “don’t judge me” or “we’re all sinners” or “don’t judge them because ‘we all fall short of the glory of God.’”  Yet, Paul was clear in his admonishment to the Corinthians after hearing about their handling of an adulterer in their assembly:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
The American church would be just fine if this Scripture was removed from the Bible – they operate like they have already.  But God commands we judge and confront professing Christians when they exhibit a worldly lifestyle, are in error, or have sinned (whether knowingly or unknowingly).  In fact, we see in the oft-abused Matthew 7 passage that it is after we have repented from our own sin, then we have authority and permission to confront our brothers (verse 5).  Verse 1 says nothing of never judging, but warns against judging unrighteously and hypocritically.  This video might help you.

Instead of addressing the error of our brothers in love and humility, we are condemned for making any mention of their error – no matter how egregious.  The argument is that we are all on different paths and paces, and we should just let the Lord do His work in us, but we should never confront each other as that would be judging.  It’s pathetic, really.  Wimpy even.  This is not how God has designed for godly men and godly women to operate in the Body of Christ. The fact is, God uses us to help each other grow in sanctification!

We are exhorted to contend for the faith that was once delivered to us (Jude 1:3). We are exhorted to teach and defend sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:4; 6:2-5, 20; 2 Timothy 4:3-5; Titus 2:1; 1 Peter 3:15).  We are commanded to confront our brothers in sin (Galatians 6:1; James 5:20; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).    We are commanded to practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:5).

How is it, then, the American church hates these very things?  It is because liberalism, carnal christianity, and the repentant-less modern message has infected us.  Easy-believism is king.  Discernment is dead. Another “gospel” is being preached.  The God of the Bible is not acknowledged or worshiped. The church has conformed to the world and tolerates sin.  The church has replaced doctrine with emotions, the Gospel for “your best life now” or “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” No one wants to be accountable for their actions, and no one wants to be told they are in error.  Frankly, carnal people resist or hate truth.

The divide between the visible and invisible church is growing steadily.  The one is diving deeper into darkness, the other is rising higher into holiness.  God’s grace abounds in the Body of Christ, and we want nothing more than to be conformed to His likeness.  We increasingly hate sin, and love holiness.  We increasingly hate deception, and love truth.  When we are in error, we want nothing more than to be confronted so we can be corrected.

So, dear Christian, instead of putting up such a fuss when you see your brothers confronting the sin or error of their brothers, take a moment to thoroughly examine whether what they say is true.  Take heed,
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Humble yourself before the Lord, and consider you might be in error yourself for the way you react to Christian discipline and admonishment.  It is pride to think you already have it all figured out.  I know I don’t, which is why I must repent from my own pride constantly so I can continue to change that I would be conformed to my Lord and Savior. Open yourself up to correction, surround yourself with godly brothers and sisters who will correct you, and when corrected, repent.

My friends, love disciplines, love submits, love defends, and love obeys.  Love longs for the truth, and it flees from error.  If you haven’t looked at any of the resources I posted in the Tim Tebow article, then please do so.  Flee from the tentacles of American Christianity and run to Christ, ever yielding to His lordship.  Why is this so important?  Because God tells us to
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).
All of us, including Tim Tebow, need to heed this exhortation, especially regarding matters of the Eternal Life.  We need to be sure that we are proggressing in holiness, and we need to be sure our message (and practice/methodology) is lined up with God’s Word.

Don’t be a thin-skinned Christian. Watched the following short video and ask yourself, “Am I a Defensive Person?”  You just might be.  Repent.

11 December 2011

10 December 2011

Not So Pithy Puritan Quote of the Day

Walking With God in a Strength Not Our Own 
We are to humble ourselves to this,—that we address ourselves to the performance of the greatest duties, being fully persuaded that we have no strength for the least. This is that which lies so cross to flesh and blood, that our souls must be humbled to it if ever we are brought to it; and yet without this there is no walking with God.  
There are great and mighty duties to be performed in our walking with God in a way of gospel obedience: there is cutting off right hands, plucking out right eyes; denying, yea, comparatively, hating father, mother, and all relations ; dying for Christ, laying down our lives for the brethren ; crucifying the flesh, cutting short all earthly desires, keeping the body in subjection, bearing the cross, self-denial,and the like;—which, when they come to be put in practice, will be found to be great and mighty duties.  
This is required in the law of grace,—that we undertake and go through with these all our days, with a full assurance and persuasion that we have not strength of ourselves, or in ourselves, to perform the least of them. “We are not sufficient of ourselves,” saith the apostle, 2 Cor. 3:5. We cannot think a good thought. Without Christ we can do nothing, John 15:5.
-John Owen
HT: The Essential Owen
 

09 December 2011

This 'n' That


Running errands this afternoon, I had one of those really irritating "duh" moments when you realize a truth that you should have known, or you did know, but ignored anyway. What was this annoying learning moment? Never go to Target without a game plan. I'm pretty sure I came home with two bags full of items that I don't actually need. Also, never go when you're hungry. Otherwise you may end up with multiple bags of Candy Cane Hershey Kisses. Not that I know of anyone who has done that, mind you...

While driving home from the store, I was listening to Christmas music on the radio (and getting really annoyed that very few songs were actually true Christmas carols). Every year they have what they call the "Elf Line," where people can phone in and leave a message to be played on the air. I can't be positive, but I'm 95% sure that I heard somebody wish all of his "paranormal friends" a safe and Merry Christmas. This begs the question: was this man speaking to some other-worldly (albeit imaginary) beings, or was he sending these wishes out to others who share his affinity for the bizarre? I suppose I'll never know.

Well, while I unwrap and savor a Candy Cane Hershey's Kiss, enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Justin Bieber, this generation's favorite professing "Christian" secular pop star, has made a very creepy music video with Mariah Carey...a remake of Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." Parents, if you haven't already banned Bieber from your child's iPod, I suggest you do so immediately.
  • We're very thankful that HHS overruled a proposal to make the "morning-after pill" available over the counter. This would have meant that women - and girls - of any age could obtain the pill without question or difficulty. Truly the number of children who have been murdered by abortion and "birth control" must be absolutely unfathomable. 
  • Remember this extremely convicting, yet wonderful sermon preached by Don Green about how to recognize true repentance? Well, he recently preached a follow-up: The Call to Repentance.
  • John MacArthur teaches about the Theology of Christmas:

08 December 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from the same sermon as last week, entitled, "Ready, Ay, Ready!" and was preached on January 28, 1904:
"The graves are ready for us;" are we ready for the graves? Are we prepared to die,—prepared to rise again,—prepared to be judged,—prepared to plead the blood and righteousness of Christ as our ground of acceptance before the eternal throne? What is your answer, my hearer? Do you reply, in the words I quoted at the beginning of my discourse, "Ready, ay, ready"? Didst thou say Death, that I was wanted? Here I am, for thou didst call me. Didst thou say, O Heaven, that thou needest to receive another blood-bought one? "Ready, ay, ready! "O Christian men, always keep your houses in such good order that you will ever be "Ready, ay, ready! "Always keep your heart in such a state, your soul so near to Christ, and your faith so fully fixed on him, that, if you should drop dead in the street, or some accident should take away your life, you would be able cheerfully to say, "Ready, ay, ready! Ready for thee, O Death; ready to triumph over thee, and to pluck away thy sting! Ready for thee, O Grave, for where is now thy victory? Ready for thee, O Heaven, for, with thy wedding garment on, we are ready, ay, ready!" The Lord make us ready, for Christ's sake! Amen.

05 December 2011

Is Santa Claus a Theological Threat?

I may regret tackling this subject. The issue of Santa Claus seems to be a touchy one among some Christians, and yet it baffles me as to why. Before I say too much, let me share with you that I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I vividly remember the excitement and anticipation that came with the holiday season. I also remember what that excitement centered around: presents. More than that, I remember what it felt like when I was finally told that Santa Claus was nothing but an imaginary figure. Honestly, I don't fault my parents at all. Following what their own parents had done, they likely never considered an alternative. And I know that today, if they could go back, they would choose to forgo the Santa myth. So for those of you who are parents of young children, or for those of you who will be, I pray that you will proceed through the Christmas season with much prayer and consideration.

It's true, letters to Santa and fabricated elf sightings may help your child to behave better for a few fleeting weeks, but what is being simultaneously sacrificed? Let us begin with the obvious answer: your child's trust. Why is it that parents, who demand the utmost in honesty and truthfulness from their children (and rightly so), suddenly adhere to a seasonal double-standard as regards mythical persons such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? There is no logical way to rationalize this, and it certainly cannot be justified from Scripture! So why are you lying to your children? What might be the consequences when you finally decide to share the truth? Perhaps your child may reason that if you lied about Santa, then you may have lied about other things...like Jesus Christ. While it's true that this may be an extreme response, it is nevertheless a very real danger. And what if you have more than one child? When the time comes to let your eldest in on the secret, will you ask him to lie to his sibling until such a time arrives for that child? Please think about this, parents. The consequences could extend far beyond what you can imagine.

Now, let's move beyond the *mere* moral and into the theological. Have you ever truly considered the attack that modern-day Santa Claus imposes upon the truths of biblical Christianity? Please don't dismiss my words here, because I do not believe that I am exaggerating. Several evenings ago, I caught a few minutes of a popular Christmas movie on television. What did I hear coming from the mouth of a child actor? "He's Santa. He's omniscient!" Really? Santa is omniscient? Perhaps I'm overreacting, but it seems to me that, as Christians, we ought to be grieved, angered, and even abhorred by the fact that one of God's great incommunicable attributes has been ascribed to an overweight, mythical elf. God alone is omniscient and, in spite of the fact that our modern-day Santa Claus is mere fiction, we ought not allow our children to believe that God shares such a holy characteristic with anyone or anything.

Compare the following to the ever-popular Christmas tune, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town:"
    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.
    You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)
Wow, doesn't Scripture offer us a much better omniscient figure than does the world? And yet we still deceive our children, rationalizing that belief in Santa Claus is "just a part of childhood." In reality, we are depriving our precious children of a true celebration.

Ponder further for a moment this fact: the modern-day idea of Santa Claus and his gift-giving runs entirely contrary to the Gospel. A "naughty" child is punished, while a "nice" child is rewarded. How confusing for our children! Do we not labor to teach them the Gospel, that it is through the work of Christ alone that we are saved, not by our own good works (Eph. 2:8-9)? Do we not desire for them to understand that righteous living is a result of a transformed heart, that good works are offered in gratitude and out of a longing to serve the God who has so graciously and undeservedly saved us? Is it not our wish that they would serve the Lord with good works not for what they may receive in return, but because they desire to do so? And yet, here comes Santa Claus, with his contrary message that reads far more like the legalism of the Pharisees than like the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Is it any wonder that so many people today are floundering in the belief that if they are a "good person" they will get to Heaven?!

Parents, is there any better story to tell your children this Christmas than this: that Jesus Christ was born to die? Is there any visitor more glorious than the One who humbled Himself two thousand years ago, entering this world in such a lonely and lowly state? Santa "loves" your children enough to bring them toys that will break. Jesus loved them enough to bleed and die that they may be spared from the eternal wrath of a holy God. How dare we think for even a moment that to deceive our children with the Santa Claus myth is nothing more than an innocent right of childhood!

I certainly am not seeking to tell you what to do in your own family. Even if that was my intention, I would hope that you would not listen to me, but rather would search the Scriptures and the Lord in prayer. Personally, I am not of the mind that Christians ought to ignore Christmas altogether. On the contrary, who in this world has more reason for celebration than those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ?! So let us enjoy the season, but let us not do so as the world would have us celebrate. Rather, let us rejoice as children of God, ever-mindful that all glory, praise and honor is due to Him forever and ever.

Our Weakness, God's Power

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 )
God uses suffering to perfect His power. God wanted Paul not just to be a humble man, not just to be a man of prayer and intimacy with God. Paul was not only to be a man of suffering so that God could display His grace but God wanted this man to be powerful. God wanted this man to be used to change the world. God wanted him to impact individuals and families and cities and nations. And so we come back to verse 9. "Power is perfected in weakness," God said to him. When He answered that prayer He said, "My grace is sufficient," and then the second part of it was, "Power is perfected in weakness." I not only want you to go through this so I can put My grace on display, but I want you to go through this so there's nothing of you left. I want you whittled down to nothing. I want you down...I want you down to the point where you have no self-confidence, you have no trust in yourself, you have no self-esteem in the sense you believe you're capable of anything eternal. I want you broken down.
[Paul's] weakness was not self-induced, it was God-given. It wasn't artificial, it wasn't a psychological game he was playing with himself. It was God-given weakness. He had been literally crushed by God so that he could be powerful. So when we have the deepest trials in life and we go through these things, [...] remember God is at work. The world can't fix it and probably shouldn't because God is using it to reveal your spiritual character, to humble you, to draw you to Himself, to put His grace on display and to make you powerful.
So Paul says the dominant theme of my life is suffering. Verse 10 sums it up, "Therefore...therefore...here's the summation...I'm well content with weaknesses." Well content means I am satisfied. I am at peace, I'm at rest, I'm content. It's a great word...I am content. Perfect contentedness with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecution and difficulties for Christ's sake. He's not talking about the things that come as a result of our sin and iniquity and disobedience. No. He's talking about those things that come for Christ's sake, they're undeserved sufferings and persecutions that aren't connected to our sin. He wouldn't be happy about his chastenings. He wouldn't be happy about sins. He's not saying that. He's saying I'm content with all those sufferings that come when I'm faithful to the Lord, "Because when I'm weak, then I'm strong." He wisely embraced his pain. He wisely embraced his suffering as hard as it was because it was in that weakness that Paul died and it was when Paul died that Christ really lived.
-John MacArthur, How God Uses Suffering