30 May 2011

Memorial Day

For many, Memorial Day is little more than a (much needed) day off of work, and an excuse to gather with friends and family, enjoying the weather and some good food. All in all, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, so long as it doesn't lead to debauchery, of course. Yet I wonder how many actually pause to ponder the meaning of this day. Is it only when you pass a cemetery and notice some gravestones graced with an American flag that you remember, "Oh yes, people died for my freedom?"

As I write this, I am looking off to my right, where, on my cluttered desk sits a worn, browned, tattered picture of my grandfather. He is a young man in this picture, taken years before I came along, and he is wearing his Navy uniform. My grandfather served his country faithfully as a Seabee in World War II and to this day I am proud of his service. Though he is no longer here to share his stories, his laughter, or his warm smile, I am reflecting today on each of those things. Even as remembering brings a tear or two to my eyes, I find myself praying, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus," for I cannot wait for the day when I will see my grandpa again.

Yet my thoughts also turn to those who are today still serving our country, whether in active duty or in the reserves and they deserve our most heartfelt thanks and respect. If you are reading this and you are a member of our armed forces, I would first of all like to say, "Thank you." Second, I would like to apologize for those in this country who have railed against your service and your dedication. Thirdly, I would like to repent on behalf of this country for so terribly abusing and perverting the freedoms for which you have fought.

Still, there is so much more to be considered today. As I pass by a cemetery covered with proudly flying flags, I am struck with one final, sobering thought. How many of those men and women, in cemeteries across the country, died fighting for freedom while never being set free themselves? How many serve and fight today for a fleeting cause, all the while ignorant of their own bondage? How many know nothing of the freedom which is in Christ Jesus?
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)
Christianity and the truth of Jesus Christ has been steadily and subtly silenced in the military for years now. The actions and loyalties of our current government have perhaps demonstrated that better than any other. How much more, then, ought we to be praying for, and witnessing to, these men and women?! The terrible irony of someone dedicating their life to fight for freedom, yet never being set free from the bondage of their own sin is a grave reason for us to weep...and to boldly and fervently witness. This Memorial Day, thank a soldier. And then ask them if they know the One to whom all service is due.

Happy Memorial Day.

29 May 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

To follow along with this song, just open your Bible to Isaiah 53.

27 May 2011

This 'n' That

I came across several stories of interest this week, but didn't have the time to blog about them individually, so here's an end-of-the-week round-up:

In case you missed it, you can listen to Monday night's press conference with Harold Camping here. In between yelling at my computer for him to please stop blaspheming God, I heard him twist Matthew 19:30 to say that even people of other religions may be chosen by God for salvation. When asked who would be taken to Heaven in the Rapture and what would become of those of other faiths, Camping declared, "The fact is there's only one kind of people that will ascend into Heaven and that has nothing to do with any religion, they could be a Hindu or Muslim, whatever. If God has saved them, then they will be caught up." He then went on to talk about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, although after his prior statement, I can't really see the value in that...

A couple in Canada has decided to keep the gender of their newest child a secret from friends, family, and the public. It seems that their other two boys are already given the freedom to dress and do as they please, and both are often mistaken for little girls. I'll bet you a nickel that this family owns a copy of My Princess Boy. The parents believe they are "giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be" and ask the question, "When will we live in a world where people can make choices to be whoever they are?" You know, it's funny. I can't wake up one morning and decide to be a different ethnicity. Why? Because that's not how God made me! In the same manner, I cannot wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide that I'm going to be the opposite gender. God didn't make me that way...some things you just don't get to choose. But listen to me, babbling on as if we aren't free-falling through a hopelessly  lost, postmodern world...

Oprah Winfrey has finally left television! New Agers and stay-at-home moms everywhere are likely mourning the loss of their feel-good guru, but I suspect this won't be the last that we've heard from the priestess of mainstream meditation. As she declared on Good Morning America this week that “nobody but Jesus could have made this [her television success] happen for me," one has to ask...which Jesus is she talking about? Apprising Ministries examines the answer to that question.

John Piper interviews Rick Warren about doctrine, The Purpose-Driven Life and more. No comment.

Looking for some Christian music that actually glorifies God rather than, well, you? Then check out Seeds of Character. Their songs are strictly Scripture. Seriously, that's it. A lot of the tunes are quite catchy, so this would be a great way for parents to work on Scripture memorization with their kids. Although, I have to admit, I've had Psalm 55:22 stuck in my head ever since I watched the video, so I may just be downloading a few of these songs myself. 

Here's something wonderful: Wretched Radio is accepting pre-orders for their newest Gospel-sharing DVD, The Biggest Question. If you can, order a spindle of 100 (or more!) and hand them out like candy this summer! Click here to see a promo video.

26 May 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

From "A Neglected Duty," first published in the 1865 Sword and Trowel.
The Word of God is very plain as to the duty of rebuking sin, although, from the neglect into which the work has fallen, one might have imagined that it was left optional, or allowed, rather than commanded. It is a most weighty observation that, according to God's law, silence concerning sin is consent to it. "And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity" (Leviticus 5:1). Trapp has pithily said, "By ill silence to leave men in sin is as bad as by ill speech to draw them to sin. Not to do good, saith our Savior, is to do evil, and not to save is to destroy" "And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" (Mark 3:4). To leave others in their sins unreproved is to be "partakers of other men's sins." Paul teaches us this when he writes, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them"—as much as to say, if you do not reprove them, you have fellowship with them. If I see a thief breaking into a house, and give no alarm, am I not, by my silence, an accessory to the act? Without the aid of my silence the burglar could not perpetrate the robbery; if I lend him that assistance, am I not, morally, his accomplice? The same holds good in all cases; but we are not left merely to infer the fact, for the Lord has told us by the mouth of his prophet Ezekiel, "If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand." The ruin and sin of others we shall surely partake in if they perish through want of our admonition. Eli must break his neck for very grief when his sons are cut off in their sin; it was not meet that he should outlive those whom he had not endeavored to preserve from ruin by timely rebuke: had he made their ears to tingle with his upbraidings, his ears might never have tingled with the news of the terrible judgments of God. How few Christians will be able to say with Paul, "I am pure from the blood of all men"?—none of us can be in that happy case if we neglect the duty of warning our neighbors for their good.

22 May 2011

The Character of Genuine Saving Faith

Christians are called to examine themselves in order to ensure their faith is true. In the pages of the MacArthur Study Bible is a useful resource to help us do just that:

The Character of Genuine Saving Faith 

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)

  • Visible Morality: Matt. 19:16-21; 23:27
  • Intellectual Knowledge: Rom. 1:21; 2:17 ff
  • Religious Involvement: Matt. 25:1-10
  • Active Ministry: Matt. 7:21-24
  • Conviction of Sin: Acts 24:25
  • Assurance: Matt. 23
  • Time of Decision: Luke 8:13-14
  • Love for God: Ps. 42:1 ff; 73:24; Luke 10:27; Rom. 8:7
  • Repentance from Sin: Ps. 32:5; Prov. 28:13; Rom. 7:14 ff; 2 Cor. 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
  • Genuine Humility: Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9 ff
  • Devotion to God's Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7; 48:10 ff; Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 10:31
  • Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Eph. 6:18 ff; 1 John 2:15-17; James 5:16-18
  • Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9 ff, 3:14, 4:7 ff
  • Separation from the World: 1 Cor. 2:12; James 4:4 ff; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
  • Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Eph. 4:12-16
  • Obedient Living: Matt. 7:21; John 15:14 ff; Rom. 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5
  • Hunger for God's Word: 1 Pet. 2:1-3
  • Transformation of Life: 2 Cor. 5:17
If list I is true of a person and list II is false or non-evident, then there could be cause to question the validity of one's profession of faith. If list II is true of a person, then list I will be true as well.

Source: MacArthur Study Bible, 2010

Robbing God of His Glory in a Moment

Are you banking your eternity on a moment of decision, a time when you raised your hand, walked an aisle, or, perhaps the most common, "asked Jesus into your heart?"Okay, so you allegedly have a "conversion story." That moment was the beginning of it...what do the chapters in between look like?

I can't tell you how many times I heard it taught that, to be saved, I needed only to "ask Jesus into my heart." Really, it's just that simple. All I had to do was, at the perfect, emotionally charged moment, during that ultimately timed crescendo in the music, pray a prayer and ask Jesus to come in and fill some supposed God-shaped hole in my heart. And then POOF! I would be a Christian. End of story. To be honest, I cannot recall whether I actually did pray that false prayer of asking Jesus into my heart, but I lived enough years as a false convert to know that a temporary warm-fuzzy, emotional moment in a church does not save a soul.

The scary thing is, this is the teaching that abounds in church youth groups and children's programs. The dumbing down of the Gospel begins at an early age and it's a tragedy. Let's be honest, kids understand far more than most adults give them credit for, and even a child can understand that he or she is a sinner who needs to repent and trust in a Savior. Unfortunately, in today's world of boosting self-esteem and self-confidence, churches don't want to tell kids that they are sinners. It may hurt someone's feelings. So instead they opt for the gospel of easy-believism. Just pray this prayer, ask Jesus into your heart, and you're good to go. Really? I knew quite a few kids in junior high and high school who asked Jesus into their hearts but showed absolutely no sign of regeneration. Even the crude, heathen singer Katy Perry used to sing in her church about...gasp!...filling the God-shaped hole in your heart. I think we can see how well that turned out.

There's a resource at Wretched Radio entitled "10 Reasons Not to Ask Jesus into Your Heart" and I think it's worth looking at if you or someone you know is resting in a false assurance of salvation based solely in a moment of decision and not in a regenerated life. If you read this document and it describes you, let me just urge you not to let pride keep you from crying out to God. If you are living in rebellion to Him, yet claim to be one of His own, then you must examine your claim to salvation. Trust someone who has already traveled this road and been graciously awakened and saved by the overwhelming mercy of Jesus Christ. And if this document describes the experience of someone you love, then I would urge you to present them with the full Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

The easy-believism, moment-of-decision gospel is one of the most deceptive lies being perpetrated in the church today. For one thing, it is not even remotely biblical. It ignores the clear commands of Scripture to repent (Acts 2:38) and to trust in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). The result of asking Jesus into your heart is most often nothing more than tossing a 90 minute weekly church service and the occasional declaration of "I'm a Christian" into an unregenerate, unrepentant life. Come as you are, stay as you are, and just add Jesus as the cherry on the top.

Most tragically, this watered-down gospel robs God of His glory. You didn't just decide to get saved one day. No...GOD SAVED YOU IN SPITE OF YOURSELF. If indeed you are saved, it is because GOD saved you out of no merit of your own, but solely on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ because it pleased HIM to save you in order that HE may be glorified through the miracle of your salvation! But if we teach that it's all up to us when we decide to pray a prayer or walk an aisle or a raise a hand, we are robbing God of the glory that is due solely to Him! How dare we.

Sunday Morning Praise

My Eternal King

My God, I love Thee; Not because I hope for heav’n thereby, 
Nor yet because who love Thee not Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou dids’t me Upon the cross embrace; 
For me dids’t bear the nails and spear, And manifold disgrace;

Why, then why, O blessed Jesus Christ, Should I not love Thee well? 
Not for the hope of winning heav’n, Or of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught, Not seeking a reward; 
But as Thyself hast loved me, O everloving Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love, And in Thy praise will sing; 
Solely because Thou art my God, And my Eternal King!

Still Here?

Well, it's May 22 and as far as I know, there has been no worldwide rapture of the church. Though we had no doubt that this would happen (or not happen), this once again proves Harold Camping to be a false prophet. To my knowledge, as of the writing of this post, there has been no word from Mr. Camping and I suspect that his silence will continue for quite some time. Granted, according to his warnings, only those who were true followers...of Harold Camping...would actually be going in this supposed rapture, so perhaps they've all hidden themselves in a cave somewhere until the controversy blows over.

Regardless of the whereabouts of Camping and his followers, something that should be happening in these subsequent days (and should have been happening prior to this), is that Christians worldwide should be calling Camping to repent of his false teaching and blasphemy and to turn in faith to the one true God, Jesus Christ. Sure, it's easy to make jokes and quip about his particular nonsense, but think for a moment what a grave disservice Camping has done to the genuine evangelical Christian camp (no pun intended). To begin with, the secular world now views us as even more crazy than they previously did, especially those of us who do believe in an actual biblical, pre-tribulational Rapture of the true Church. But then, this should come as no surprise to us, for as Christians we will continue to take the brunt of jokes and persecution regardless of whatever wacky prophecy is being perpetrated at the moment.

Even more devastating, however, is what Harold Camping has done to the Word and to the character of God. He has made God out to be a liar. Camping stated unequivocally that yesterday would be the day that Jesus returned for His church; he stated that this truth was clearly outlined in the Bible, the Word of God. Now that it hasn't happened, Camping has in essence "shown" God to be a liar. He has blasphemed the holy truth of God and has undermined the infallibility and authority of Scripture. His silliness has mocked the only thing on this fallen earth that can be trusted without hesitation. For this, Harold Camping must be called to repentance. God will not be mocked, and those who mock Him while claiming to also love, worship and follow Him are perhaps most of all to be pitied, for their blasphemy will follow them into eternity.

So today, Mr. Camping, I number myself among the many who are calling you to come out of hiding and to publicly repent of your very public false teachings. Repent and turn in true faith to Jesus Christ.

On a final note, amidst all of the comments flying around the internet yesterday (most of them very snarky), there was one that caught my attention as most true and appropriate, and above all most God-glorifying:
"We will not be surprised that Christ has not returned according to any human's timetable. But we should not be relieved. Lord come quickly." -Albert Mohler (online source)
Amen, come, Lord Jesus!

20 May 2011

Video Friday

Milton Vincent speaking about justification at the Psalm 119 Conference. If this doesn't make you want to attend one of the upcoming conferences, then there might be something wrong with you (I say this in Christian love, of course)...

SEE ALSO: Discerning the Beauty of the Gospel - Psalm 119 Partial Recap, Part 3

Because the devil doesn't have hedge clippers...Here's your Friday funny:

19 May 2011

17 Ways Harold Camping Glorifies God (from Pyromaniacs)

At the Pyromaniacs blog, Dan Phillips has compiled 17 ways that Harold Camping, even in his gross error, is glorifying God. Below are just a few of the reasons listed. Click here to read the entire post.
First, Harold Camping glorifies God because all things are God's servants (Psalm 119:91). Camping can't not glorify God. You can't not glorify God. You will either glorify Him as His servant, or as His tool; but you will glorify him (cf. Isaiah 10:5-16).
Second, Harold Camping glorifies God because, by his refusal to repent for past false guesses and his insistence on "doubling down" and putting all his weight on yet another guess, he illustrates God's wisdom in warning us: "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).
Tenth, Harold Camping glorifies God by providing a living illustration of the horrendous result of ignoring God's warnings against being wise in one's own eyes (Proverbs 12:15; 26:12).
Twelfth, Harold Camping glorifies God by providing a living illustration of the horrendous result of forsaking a primary focus on preaching Christ and His Gospel (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:1-11; Colossians 1:27,29).
Seventeenth, Harold Camping glorifies God by how his hopelessly (and oft-rebuked) muddled hermeneutics  highlights the perspicuity of Scripture and the validity of a normal, grammatical historical theological approach — so much so that Christians of all traditions are publicly affirming the clarity of the dominical word,  "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. ...Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24:36, 42).
Read the complete list here.

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled, Hearken and Look; or, Encouragement for Believers, preached on April 27, 1881.
"Ah," you say, "but men are not called now, as Abraham was, by miraculous calls from heaven." I reply,—The statement may be true; but God's visible means of calling men are now so many that there can seldom be need of miracle. The Lord can by his Spirit make one of the millions of Bibles scattered over the world to be as powerful a means of call as though he had sent an angel from heaven; yea, a solitary leaf of a printed tract, if wafted by the wind, or carried by the wave, may be borne where God shall bless it to the calling forth of a champion ordained of old to do great exploits. Where ordinary means are so plentiful wisdom resorts not to signs and wonders. Miracles were of admirable use while they were necessary; but now that they are no longer required the prudence of God forbids an extravagant display of the supernatural. Now that the word of God is scattered "thick as leaves in Valambrosa" everywhere by willing and ready hands, what need can there be of voices of the day or visions of the night? The same Spirit who called Abraham by a supernatural voice can call others by the word of truth. Instead of regarding it as a prodigy that a man should be unexpectedly called out from among the heathen I look for it, and shall not be surprised to hear that in the remoter provinces of China, or in the centre of Thibet, or in the recesses of Africa men have been raised up to found churches for our Lord Jesus. God can through the printed page or by hints and rumours passed from hand to hand convey enough instruction to call out more Abrahams and bless them, and increase his kingdom by them. "Omnipotence hath servants everywhere." Let us never dream that the God of Abraham is short of means for calling out chosen men to build up his church. Surely Christian people should never doubt the power of God to raise up lights in dark places when we remember that the greatest preacher of the gospel, namely, the apostle Paul, was drafted into the army of Christ from the ranks of his direst foes. The proud Pharisee, a fanatic of the fanatics, embittered against Christ, and persecuting his people, became the earnest advocate of Christ Jesus. Aforetime his breath was threatening and slaughter, yet on the road to Damascus he was conquered and transformed. As a lion roareth over his prey, so did Paul rejoice that the saints in Damascus were now in his power; but the Lord struck him down, and turned the lion to a lamb, and henceforth where sin abounded grace did much more abound. First in the ranks of Christian heroes stands the man who called himself the chief of sinners because he persecuted the church of God. My brethren, as Luther came from among the monks, so out of Rome, yea, from the Vatican itself, can God, if he wills, call another Luther. The darkness of the times cannot forbid it, for God is Light. The weakness of the church cannot hinder it, for all power belongeth unto God. There may not be among us to-day one whom God will so greatly honour as to make him a spiritual father of nations; but there may be such a one in the courts of Whitechapel or in the rookeries of St. Giles. The Christ, who was himself called the Galilean, despises no place or people. Our king is not particular as to the mine from which he digs his gold. The great seeker of precious souls full often finds his purest pearls in the deepest and the blackest waters. Take this, then, for encouragement, ye who tremble for the ark of God: he can build up a spiritual house for himself out of dark quarries, and find cedars for his temple in forests untraversed by the feet of missionaries.

18 May 2011

Gospel-Judgment & Discerning False Teachers - Psalm 119 Partial Recap, Part 5

Let's face it: we judge others. All of us do it, for better or for worse. Yet, as Christians are we supposed to judge other people? A favorite verse used to respond to this is "Judge not, lest ye be judged," but what does that really mean? Doesn't the Bible call us to be "fruit inspectors" and to call others to repentance if they are in sin? How can we do that without judging? Is the Bible contradicting itself?

So many questions, and that's why I loved the first session with Pastor R.W. Glenn at the Psalm 119 conference. Pastor Glenn is the senior pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN and also is behind the ministry Solid Food Media. In his first presentation, Pastor Glenn preached on Matthew 7:1-5 and offered a Biblical interpretation of these verses.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
These five verses are not merely declarative statements delivered by Jesus. Rather, here we see Him teaching His followers how discerning people ought to judge. You see, there are two kinds of judgment addressed here: hypocritical judgment and Gospel-judgment. These and the following verses also offer us three clues that Jesus is not condemning the exercise of sincere Gospel-judgment:
  • Matthew 7:1 says that He will judge judgment.
  • Matthew 7:6 finds Jesus referring to certain people as "pigs"and "dogs" which is a fairly judgmental statement in and of itself.
  • Matthew 7:15ff finds Jesus teaching how to distinguish false teachers from true teachers, which is again a method of judgment.
So it is clear that, practiced rightly in a gospel-centered context, Jesus is not condemning judgment. What He is condemning, however, is hypocritical judgment.

Verses 3-4 of this passage indicate that hypocritical judgment is both ignorant and arrogant. First, let's address the ignorance. Those who exercise this erroneous type of judgment do not see themselves as they really are. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Can you hear the sarcasm here? Jesus is trying to get a point across! Hypocritical judgment is self-righteous and is a result of spiritual blindness. Yet, in Hebrews 5 we can see the importance of having an acute awareness of our own sin. This chapter describes how the earthly high priest had to first offer sacrifices for his own sin before he could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Improper, unbiblical judgment then is partially rooted in ignorance and we ought to deal gently with an individual if this is the source of their behavior.

Matthew 7:4 alerts us to the arrogant aspect of hypocritical judgment. After all, in many situations, does not ignorance lead to arrogance? Do you find that there is an element of enjoyment when you are pointing out the errors of others? If so, then it may be time for a little prayer and self-examination! And trust me, I am not completely innocent of this same charge.

So, Jesus condemns ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical judgment. But we know that, in other places, Christians are called to exercise a form of judgment or discernment, so how do these reconcile? Matthew 7:5 addresses this:
[F]irst take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Whether the other person's error is doctrinal or practical, true Gospel-judgment will find us first addressing our own "log" and then addressing the "speck" in our brother's eye. This is crucial and necessary because a log in our own eye will obscure our vision! I'm not an overly visual person, but when I read these verses, I find that I grasp them best when I see myself walking around, or trying to drive to work, with a big ol' wooden log hanging out of my eye. Let me tell you, it is really difficult to see oncoming traffic that way! The point is, I must see myself as being an even greater sinner than the person I am correcting. If I do not have an accurate understanding of the depth and gravity of my own sin, than I cannot presume to properly address or correct the sins of others. Our exercise of Gospel-judgment will only be effective inasmuch as we recognize this truth. Without acknowledging the depth of our own sin, we will, in our correction of others, become impatient, be too easily surprised or incredulous, or we may ultimately write that person off, which is precisely the place where Jesus does not want us to go!

To exercise Gospel-centered judgment is a serious and high calling for Christians. Hypocritical judgment, however, is evidence of the absence of grace. Yet we are each guilty of passing ignorant and arrogant judgment. This self-righteousness always flows from an insecurity about the Gospel. So how can we best replace this wrong judgment with Gospel-judgment? The cure for this ailment is the same cure for all of our sin: Get your eyes on Christ! Preach the Gospel to yourself DAILY. Remember that Jesus was unjustly judged so that you never have to be!

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes during this message by R.W. Glenn was, "The Gospel shows me that I am both precious and a piece of work!" The reminder that we are precious to God should give us boldness, yet the reality that we are sinful "pieces of work" ought to steep us in humility. I am sinful and flaw-filled and yet Christ died for me. Wow.

For his second session, Pastor Glenn stayed in Matthew 7, focusing this time on Jesus' teaching about false teachers:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20)
False teachers are sometimes difficult to identify, but it is not impossible. Why are they hard to spot? Because the cleverest among them truly are disguised as wolves in sheep's clothing. Think about it--bad fruit is not always obviously bad; sometimes you really have to inspect the apple before you find the worm hole. Remember the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30 where Jesus taught that the weeds will grow alongside and look just like the wheat, remaining undetected until the very end. So we must acknowledge that false teachers are not all prancing around with two horns and a pitchfork. They are dressed to look just like the sheep, they truly are often disguised as "angels of light."

It is not, however, impossible to discern a false teacher. The very fact that Jesus offers this warning in Matthew 7 suggests that there is a way to tell the difference between a true and false teacher. What, then, should we be looking for? Pastor Glenn offered 3 tests:
  • Character & Conduct of the teacher
  • Complexion of his (or her) followers
  • Content of his/her teaching
Bottom line: all three of these must be in line with the Gospel, but let's break these down briefly:

Character & Conduct: The Beatitudes of Matthew 5 offer a fairly comprehensive view of the character of a true Christian. Yes, I know we can get into a discussion here about the purpose and audience of the Sermon on the Mount and whether or not it is reserved for Jews, etc, etc. But if you do not feel that the teaching of this sermon, and especially the beatitudes, are something that the Church can learn from, then we have a whole separate discussion that needs to be had! So for the purposes of this post, just humor me. Let's look at some of these characteristics:
    • Poor in spirit - this is to be one who admits his weakness and his own need of grace
    • Those who mourn - this refers to those who mourn in Gospel grief over sin.
    • Those who hunger & thirst for righteousness - this desire is for a righteousness that is not one's own, but is the righteousness of Christ. 
    • The merciful - to forgive quickly and to take action for the weak or needy while not thinking of oneself as better than those he is helping
    • Pure in heart - to be personally loyal to God and relationally honest with others
    • Persecuted - those who have been or are being persecuted because of Jesus Christ.
The interesting thing about the Sermon on the Mount is, out of the 66 imperatives offered, the majority reflect attitude over behavior. Why is this? Behavior can easily be counterfeited, but what is inside of a person will eventually infiltrate one's outward behavior.

Complexion of Followers: It doesn't take much to realize that a dedicated follower more often than not resembles his teacher. I have certainly witnessed this myself in both good and bad circumstances. I can tell when a preacher is attempting to model his style after John MacArthur, for example. I have also witnessed (and been a casualty of) when a false teacher passes along her discrepant conduct to her followers. I have seen this demonstrated by staunch followers of Beth Moore and other false teachers and let me say, that if that is the fruit of a true Christian teacher, then we have a huge problem! But I digress...The point is that a teacher's defects will often show up even more pronounced in the students because imitation tends to become more exaggerated. If diehard followers of a teacher, then, are behaving in a consistently unbiblical manner, then you can many times trace this back to the "leader of the pack."

Content of their Teaching: Matthew 12:33 and following teaches us that what comes out of someone's mouth betrays what is really in their heart. Sure, lies can be professed for awhile, but it is only a matter of time before the true heart is exposed. Look at Rob Bell as an example. Now, I would certainly argue that his teaching has been unorthodox and unbiblical from the early days of his success, but didn't he hide it much better? But now, with the release of this latest book, sleeping Christians finally woke up because his teaching is so blatantly false and erroneous that it simply can no longer be ignored. When confronted with a false (or suspected false) teacher, then, we must inspect to see if what they are teaching is in line with the Gospel. Do we find their version of the truth on the narrow or on the broad road?

All false teaching ultimately falls into one of two camps: Antinomianism or Legalism. Antinomianism avoids Jesus Christ as Lord. It rails against the law and relaxes God's standards so that it is "easier." It lowers the bar so that it is easier for one to get over it. False teaching such as this allows people to blatantly disobey God and to do so in the name of "freedom." It presumes on the grace of God (hey, let's sin more so that grace may abound!) and will always result in rationalization of sin, shifting blame, and making excuses for sin. Antinomianism over-emphasizes the comfort of the Gospel. It takes advantage of the grace of God and results in a false salvation.

Legalism, on the other hand, avoids Jesus Christ as Savior. It is filled with moralism and religiosity, and teaches people to close the gap of salvation with their own efforts. Roman Catholicism is a perfect example of legalism. Yeah, yeah, we know Jesus died for our sins, but it wasn't quite enough, so you still need to pray all the required prayers, pay all the required cash, and attend all the required masses. Legalism is often driven by lists (both "to do" and "not to do"), and results in an angry sense of entitlement with God. "Hey, God....you owe me! I donated lots of money to charity last month, so you owe me!" People trapped in legalism often feel the need to make up for their sins, once again looking to themselves to close the gap instead of looking to the righteousness of Christ. "Good" legalists will demonstrate behavior and feelings of superiority over others who are "doing" less, while "bad" legalists will experience feelings of inferiority because they haven't "done" enough. Legalism over-emphasizes the demands of the Gospel and results in a false salvation.

So ask yourself (remember always to bring these messages back to yourself first, before you say, "Hey, so-and-so needs to hear this!"), do you live your life in step with the Gospel? Do a self-examination (and get ready for conviction). Is your walk overall marked by change and growth? Sure, we all sin and we all have setbacks, but overall has God sanctified you so that you can look back and know that you are a different, more Gospel-centered Christian today than you were a year ago? Look at your followers (yes, you have them). What is their complexion? Do they love to repent of their own sin, or do they love to revel in pointing out the sins of others? What is your message? Is it a balance of both the comfort and the demands of the Gospel? Is it pointing to Jesus Christ, or to someone or something else? Who is being glorified? Lastly, are you an expert in the Gospel? Do you preach it to yourself, to your family, and to others daily? Is it constantly in the forefront of your mind or is it an afterthought?

As with all of the other speakers, these two messages by R.W. Glenn were incredibly informative and, more importantly, convicting. Who among us doesn't find himself occasionally exercising hypocritical judgment? And who among us isn't guilty of not keeping the Gospel at the front and center of our ministry, whether that ministry is formal or simply is within our very own home? His insight into how best to discern false teachers was so helpful and organized, and really helped me to better express why I do label certain people as false teachers. Having listened to and learned from Pastor Glenn with Drive by Theology and Drive by Church History, it was truly an honor to hear him speak in person. And just a warning if you plan on attending a future Psalm 119 conference...this guy is active and animated, but in a great way! He will keep your attention from his opening sentence to his closing prayer. God has truly gifted him and you will not be disappointed if you hear him preach.

As this is my final recap of the April Psalm 119 conference, I just want to once again extend my thanks to each of the speakers, as well as to all of those who worked behind the scenes to execute a successful weekend. I know that each one of you was working only for God's glory and it showed. God was lifted up and, while I cannot speak for every attendee, I can say without a doubt that I walked away from that weekend loving Jesus more. Honestly, it doesn't get any better than that.


16 May 2011

5 Days and Counting...

I have to apologize for my lack of posts last week, but with Judgment Day right around the corner, I had to take some time to get my affairs in order. Now that the matter of my finances and personal belongings have all been addressed, I can get back to blogging, although apparently only for a short time.

In the rare chance that you may not have heard, Harold Camping has definitively (and wrongfully and heretically) declared that May 21, 2011 will be the end of the world. So you better get ready, because we know how reliable all this date setting can be! Never mind the fact that Camping already predicted that the world would end back in 1994, this time I'm sure he double-checked his math to make sure he was right! And if he is wrong again (which he will be), then perhaps his followers will finally realize that the words spoken by the Lord about false prophets is true:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.(Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
Honestly, I wish date setters would just keep their mystical math and numerology to themselves. After all, when someone declares that Jesus will return on a specific day, we can be certain that He then will not return on that day. I don't know about you, but I truly am ready and anxiously waiting for Christ to come for His Church, and all of these false prophecies are getting in the way! It's true that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ's return (Matt. 24:36), yet it is just as true that we can be aware of the season (Matt. 24:32-35) and so we must be ready. Though we are clearly living in a time when His return is very near, we still do not know how much longer God's patience will endure. It could be 6 months, it could be 60 years. In the meantime, Christians should be about His business, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and living ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling.

Over the next week, I think we ought also to be praying for those who follow and believe Harold Camping. Next Sunday, on May 22, they will be hopelessly wandering as they realize that their leader has led them into a lie. Camping is a false prophet, claiming to speak for God and offering a weak and powerless gospel to those who follow him. Please pray that those who have been deceived by him would have their eyes opened to the TRUE and living Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Dangers of Subjectivism
The End is Near? The False Teaching of Harold Camping (article by Al Mohler)

Pray For...

Please continue to pray for the situation that I mentioned in this post. It has been a long week for the family, yet they are resting in the sovereignty of God. Nevertheless, as decisions have to be made and as injuries and ailments persist and/or worsen, I would ask that you please pray for wisdom for both the doctors and the family, as well as clear minds and a constantly renewed peace and faith for the family. We know that God hears and answers the prayers of those who believe in Him, and we are praying ultimately for His will to be made clear and for Him to receive all the glory even in the midst of tragedy. Thank you once again for your prayers.

08 May 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

Happy Mother's Day! This song comes at the request of my own beautiful, Godly mother and in honor of my equally beautiful grandmother, who is today resting in the peace of her Lord Jesus Christ.

Pray For...

This prayer request hits a little closer to home than usual. Please pray for a family friend who was injured terribly yesterday afternoon when he fell off of a 2 story roof and landed on concrete. There's no need to detail the specifics of the injuries, but as you can imagine they are quite extensive and extremely serious. I know that my regular readers are also good prayer warriors, and we will take every prayer we can get! Please pray for healing. Pray for strength and comfort and sound mind for the family. Pray that the doctors would have wisdom. Most importantly, please pray that God would be glorified mightily in this. Thank you.

05 May 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

Every man by nature fights against salvation by grace. Though we have nothing good in ourselves, we all think we have; though we have all broken the law, and have lost all claim upon divine regard, yet we are all proud enough to fancy that we are not quite so bad as others; that there are some mitigating circumstances in our offenses, and that we can, in some measure, appeal to the justice as well as to the compassion of God. Hence the apostle puts it so strongly, “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The statement of the text means just this, that we all need saving — saving from our sins, and saving from the consequences of them; and that if we are saved it is not because of any works which we have already performed. Who among us, upon looking back at his past life, would dare to say that he deserves salvation?

Neither are we saved on account of any works foreseen which are yet to be performed by us. We have made no bargain with God that we will give him so much service for so much mercy; neither has he made any covenant with us of this character; he has freely saved us, and if we serve him in the future, as we trust we shall, with all our heart and soul and strength, even then we shall have no room for glorying, because our works are wrought in us of the Lord. What have we even then which we have not received?
HT: The Daily Spurgeon