Keeping Our Balance

Over the years while working with drug addicts, gang bangers, and those recently released from prison my approach to ministry has changed, or rather evolved as the Lord dealt with me during my sanctification. Theological training alone does not prepare one for this field of ministry as those working as prison chaplains will rightly attest. It was probably easer for me to accept this calling having been an alcoholic and having been affiliated with hard core criminal types. It was only by God’s grace that I was never convicted of any felony myself, only a DUI. I understand the struggles people in these situations go through and have a burden for them, knowing that Christ can deliver them and desires to do so.

This type of ministry requires one to be totally committed to God and hearing a clear call from God. It is not a glamorous ministry, and one wanting fame, recognition, and admiration from his or her peers will probably never materialize. Truthfully, most will think you are crazy and wasting your time. The adage that “you can’t change the spots on a leopard” invariably arise: Addicts will always remain addicts. Alcoholics will always remain alcoholics. Criminals and violent gang members will die that way. Even the mainstream “Church” has an issue in dealing with “those people.” Many churches choose to ignore their existence. Others accept them but only as second-class Christians. Full acceptance of “those people” is withheld unless they change and conform to the “standards” of appearance, speech, and lifestyles demanded by most of the pious and self-righteous membership and enforced by self-appointed watchers. But this is precisely why so many churches are no longer the living organism they once were but are only monuments and museums of the previous generations that were Spirit led and committed to the cause of reaching the lost for Christ. No longer are they lighthouses to mark the way, or hospitals to care for those souls wounded by wrong choices and unmitigatable circumstances. It has been said that “The Army of Christ (Christians) are the only army that kills its own wounded.” So, what chance does an outcast of society have?

Matthew 9:10-13 gives us a clue:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If all a newly graduated seminarian desires is to take over an existing church and receive admiration and a paycheck from an existing congregation, he is not taking hold of the plow and doing the work he was supposedly called for. He is only building upon someone else’s work at best, but most likely is only being a maintenance person or custodian. He learns to speak what the congregation wants to hear and is rewarded for not rocking the boat. He is spoken well of and loved by everyone, even by those living in gross secret sin. No one is upset because he is not preaching the true Gospel which is divisive and brings the conviction of sin that leads to repentance. This is not what Christ commanded in the so-called “Great Commission.”

Recovery ministry requires a real faith that the Lord can and will transform lives when sinners of any type cry out upon the Name of the Lord. An addict knows how lost and hopeless they are before they even hear the Gospel. Hardcore gang members cry themselves to sleep when alone in their prison cells realizing how their life is being wasted for pride in a neighborhood’s reputation. Many know of no other way of life as their families belonged to the same gang for several generations. Many Hispanics in the “varrios” (barrios) of Los Angeles live out their lives and die within a two-mile radius of their homes (not counting incarceration). Survival is tenuous due to extremely low income and unique social pressures, so crime and drug addiction is frequently a means to escape the hopelessness and despair felt by many. The nominal Roman Catholicism many profess is useless as it has no power to break the chains these people are bound by and certainly no power to restore. The Virgin Mary does not hear their cries or prayers offered to her. Prayers to the Saints also fall upon deaf ears, as these are but forbidden idols that have crept into the Church and venerated by those not having the Spirit of Christ indwelling them. Before criticizing too quickly though remember that the Israelites made and worshipped the Golden Calf immediately after witnessing firsthand the power of God delivering them from Egypt. We also walked in darkness and were under the same condemnation. We are inclined to consider our sin as different or not as bad, but God judges alike as worthy of death and Hell. But God in His mercy delivered us from the Kingdom of Darkness into His Kingdom of Light because someone took the time to explain the real Gospel to us, and also taught us how to live the life we have been called to.

Hearing the Gospel and receiving Christ is only the beginning of the Christian life, and unless one continues in the Word under Biblical teaching growth rarely occurs. Growth results by the application of Biblical Truth to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our part is to prepare our hearts to receive the Word and to study it. We also must learn how to pray and to worship and praise the Lord for” true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” according to Jesus in John 4:24.

I look at our walk (and teach) that our growth and sanctification is dependent on three legs, like a milking stool or a camera tripod (I only use this as an illustration of some Biblical principles). If one leg is shorter than the other two our balance deteriorates, and we begin to slip off. If one leg is non-existent a stool is not supportive at all. Engineering and physics show us that we need at least three legs for support without some form of anchoring- it is gravity that holds three legs steady and supportive of our weight.

Similarly, we need a minimum of three legs or supports to keep our Christian life growing up straight and strong in the Lord. The three legs I can see are:

1) Regular reading and study of the Bible. If we do not know the will of God how can we pray for it? How can we know what is right or wrong? How can we fully understand who God is and what Christ has done for us if we do not read His revelation? There is so much false teaching and beliefs around today because most Christians are biblically illiterate. This is also why so many are spiritually immature.

2) Regularly seeking the face of God in prayer. If we do not speak to our spouse, the relationship never grows and probably degenerates completely. We never learn about the other person. Relationship with God also requires communication. Speaking to God in prayer is necessary as it during prayer that we make confession, make supplication, and most importantly speak to our Heavenly Father in a loving relationship. If we do not pray will Jesus say to us “I never knew you?” Possibly. Do you want to take the chance? I do not. If one is born from above, they should desire to speak to their Father in Heaven. Jesus told us “When you pray say this…,” not “if you pray” when teaching His disciples how to pray. Considering how much Jesus depended on prayer how much more is our need.

3) Worshipping and praising God for who He is and what He has done. Worship shows the worth we individually place upon God. We praise Him for His love and for the Cross. A worshipful life is a life of constant thankfulness and awareness of His presence, of our being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our life as He leads us in our ministries.

Obviously, there is much, much more to all three than can be written here. Study the Psalms- much is learned about God and His worship in the Psalms and contains some of the greatest examples in the Bible of how to go before the throne in Heaven. I regularly teach that these things are essential to grow in Christ and to stay free from the chains that previously kept us bound in darkness and enslaved by the Devil. I consider them especially essential for those escaping from addiction and gang life. They need and receive much more mercy and forgiveness than most people claiming the Name of Christ and must be taught to make reading the Word, prayer, and worship God the most important activity in their life. Being consistent in these things keeps one in the fight against the powers of darkness seeking to destroy our faith and life itself. And as ministers of the Gospel we so much more need to practice these disciplines to stand firm against the fiery darts launched by Satan. We must genuinely believe that God is in control regardless of what our senses tell us so we can in turn teach others to walk this way. As our personal faith grows, we are further equipped to carry out the commission given us to make disciples and to teach them all that Christ commanded.

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PUT ON THE BELT OF TRUTH

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Ephesians 6:14

“What is Truth?” Pontius Pilate asked of Jesus during His trial before the hardened commander serving as the Roman Procurator in Judea. Every person has pondered this greatest of all questions during their lifetime. Everyone seems to believe they have the correct answer, from the lowest member of society to the greatest philosophers, scientists, and academics. Presuppositions defining what truth is forms the basis of all belief systems, whether we are discussing religions, science, law, or the economy. Everyone believes they know what truth is, but most will have difficulty when asked to provide an objective working definition.

I define Truth as being “that which conforms to reality.” I believe in propositional truth, statements such as “Darkness is the absence of Light.” This statement is true in all situations, whether in the normal usage as a concrete objective fact, or as abstract theological statements that speak metaphorically to help bring comprehension to a difficult concept. An example of this is the biblical concept that apart from Christ we walk in darkness. Jesus is the Light of the World, given to us to bring light into the spiritual darkness we wander in without Him. We cannot see, perceive, or understand anything without it being illuminated, whether physically, figuratively, or spiritually. Who hasn’t seen in cartoons the light bulb coming on over a person’s head when an answer is found to a perplexing problem? When we finally understand something we say “Now I see” or “I have been enlightened.”

In the post-modern world many reject propositional truth, but are forced to make a propositional statement to that effect, nullifying their own argument. Very few people still believe any longer in absolute truth today, but it’s usually because their acceptance of absolute truth requires recognizing an authority they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge, namely God. Without having absolute, or immutable truth, the world as we know it would be nonexistent because no consistent physical laws could exist, and any experimental knowledge would be impossible to attain. Truth is not relative as is popularly believed by many, and it is especially logically impossible for two so-called truths to have equal validity if they each contradict the other’s premise. They can both be false, but logically they cannot both be true if contradictory. This is known in logic as the “Law of Non-contradiction” seen at <www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/lawofcon.htm>

The Law of Non-contradiction means that two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. X cannot be not X. A thing cannot be and not be simultaneously. And nothing that is true can be self-contradictory or inconsistent with any other truth.

This holds true as much in the study of religion as it does in science or mathematics. In spite of the popular belief that all faiths believe in the same God and teach the same thing so all are equally valid, and is many times stated by people when confronted over false beliefs as “I have my truth and you have yours,” it is a logical impossibility or fallacy for multiple conflicting statements to all be true. And that which is not true is logically false. Take the simple step of comparing the major faiths claiming Abraham as the Father of the Faith. We have Judaism, Islam and Christianity. If they are equally valid why are there wars by the Islamic states to destroy Israel? Why do Islamic jihadists behead Christians? Why were there Crusades centuries ago? Because the God of Israel is not the same god as Allah of Islam as revealed by Mohammed in the Quran. The Bible is full of prophetic utterances and the writings of Israelite Prophets, some written many hundreds of years in minute detail before their fulfillment to the letter. The Quran contains no prophecy whatsoever and is morally inferior to the Judeo-Christian writings found in the Holy Bible. The Quran, written approximately six centuries after Christ walked on the earth is also historically and logically inferior when it comes to Truth, and contradicts much of the Bible with the assertions made by Mohammed, many concerning a denial of real biblical history which has been proven by archaeology, and also his many fanciful tales that place personalities in the Bible within wrong time frames. How could the blessed prophet of Allah get it all wrong if Allah was the same god as YHWH of Israel? Again, the definition of Truth is that which conforms to reality. Scoffers have been trying to debunk the Bible as being the inerrant Word of God for centuries without any success. Truth withstands any scrutiny, dissection, and logical analysis. The Quran does not and cannot. Jesus said “Love your enemies.” Mohammed said “Kill your enemies without mercy.” The same teachings and same God? I think not!

Jesus gave the perfect answer to the question what is Truth. He said in John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Truth is the Word of God. And Jesus as the Living Word is Truth personified as found in John 14:6 “I am the way, the Truth, and the life.” Jesus is Truth! That in itself is a marvelous truth to hold close to the heart of the believer, and apart from believing in Him and standing on the Truth in faith we cannot be saved. We cannot be righteous and holy as is required by God’s Eternal Law, and are lost and condemned for eternity apart from Christ.

Paul commands us in Ephesians 6 to “Put on the whole armor of God” beginning with the “belt of Truth” girded around our waist. To understand this we must study the armor of the greatest army in existence at the time, that of the Roman Empire. The belt is first because it the foundation providing the support of the rest of the armor and weaponry. It also protected the kidneys and provided support, bracing the lower back in the same manner as a weight lifter’s belt preparing him for the heavy work involved in his sport and helping to prevent strains.

The other purpose of the heavy leather belt was to attach the rest of the armor securely to the warrior’s body. The soldier’s breastplate was attached at the bottom to the heavy belt by loops, keeping it firmly held against his body in order to protect his vital organs in the thoracic and abdominal regions. Hanging from the belt was the tunic made of wide leather strips and metal providing an apron from the waist to just above the knees to protect the thighs from frontal attack. The short sword also hung in a scabbard or sheath from the belt for it to be quickly drawn when needed. His daggers, knives, darts, and storage sacks also hung from the belt as does the equipment on a modern soldier’s duty belt.

Spiritually, the belt of Truth represents the greatest weapon in our arsenal. Truth found in the Word of God is the only weapon wielded to counter Satan’s attacks on us. The Devil’s plan is to instill doubt in the veracity of God’s Word in order to engender rebellion within our hearts, to cause men to question God’s great love for us, and also to question God’s motives towards us. Satan’s methods and the effectiveness of his many lies are first seen in Genesis 6:1-6 as he deceives the woman Eve:

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

                Satan’s strategy of twisting the Scripture and planting a lie within it is so effective that he has never had to change it at all. The reason it works has always been the same: We are so biblically illiterate we do not know God’s Truth from the lie whispered into our ears by the old Serpent, the Devil. Also, we are still vulnerable because of our three fleshly weaknesses as seen in 1 John 2:16

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”      

                We have five senses bringing information to our mind, which is carnal if it is not led by the Spirit. We have the senses of hearing, of tasting, of smelling, and of feeling by touch the things which the flesh lusts for. We see things and desire them unlawfully and covetously which is the lust of the eyes. Finally we seek to rise above the rest of the world, thinking ourselves better than all others, that we are smarter, more capable to rule, that we are lord. This is exactly what brought about the fall of Lucifer, the sin of pride.

Temptations to step outside God’s will still come in the same way. Satan plays on our inner desires in order to tempt us to sin, and our fallen nature is more than happy to oblige him unless we have been delivered by the blood of Christ.  Even as a Christian we may not recognize the lie unless we are well versed in Scripture. That is precisely the reason that the Bible comes under attack in academic circles in the secular world, and regrettably also in our liberal seminaries which are supposed to equip men to stand for the truth, not to mock it and cause others to also reject it. Truth is both our defensive and offensive weapon used in the battles against the Kingdom of Darkness. Without the Belt of Truth girdled around us no other piece of the armor is available to use in our fight. Truth holds it all together. Our heart is guarded by the breastplate of righteousness, our righteousness being completely reliant upon God’s Word, which is Truth, and Jesus being the Living Word and the embodiment of Truth. The Shield of Faith also depends upon the Truth found in the Bible, for our faith falls or stands on the veracity of the Word of God. We block or quench the fiery darts of the enemy through faith in Christ, knowing and believing in the promises of God to us. Our faith, the shield, grows stronger as we study, believe, and apply the Scriptures to our life. Understanding and having faith in who we are in Christ strengthens us to resist the missiles of temptation launched by Satan’s henchmen at us, resisting all the  ridicule and mocking by the “wise men of the world” that he employs in battle. We can fold and give in to the temptation, either because of our lack of faith or by our giving in to the pride swelling within us, which tells us “you are too important to be seen putting up with these unwarranted attacks on your faith which should be kept in the privacy of your home instead of in the sight of the world.” Likewise, Satan tempted Christ, offering Him the rule over all the kingdoms of the world, and the avoidance of the Cross and its horrors, if Jesus would only bow down and worship him. By Truth Jesus defeated the Devil, telling Satan that no one but God was to be worshiped. We also must take care to not worship our own flesh by giving into its lusts and desires, disregarding God’s clear commands in the Bible to avoid practicing the works of the flesh. Often times though, the addict feels the desire for the object of his addiction growing to the point that he gives up resisting the Devil. The object of his desire becomes the Ultimate of his life, worshiped instead of his Creator. In the addicts quest to fulfill the lust and the craving desire of his flesh he gives in to the promise of unbridled pleasure and relief, regardless of the consequences of his choices and actions. An addict will think nothing of robbing or hurting someone else, because his own needs are always perceived by his prideful self-image as being much more important to fulfill than are the lives and property rights of those of whom he preys on. In his own distorted vision he is God. Pride is at the root of all sin and it can only be quenched by the application of truth, and recognizing our true self by the light of God’s Word. Foremost is the realization and then our admission that “God is God, and I am not He.”

This Truth is used in the Twelve Step programs, which unfortunately will not recognize who the “higher power” is, leaving it to the choice of those in the program. This is a prime example of the relativism prevalent within our secular society, demanding tolerance and the recognition of the equality of all faiths. Telling someone their morality is wrong is considered intolerant, and relativism tolerates all views. By that standard, the Nazis were justifiably correct in their hatred towards and extermination of the Jews. The Islamists are correct in their barbarous murder of non-Muslims, and pedophiles are right in their belief that it is acceptable to have sex with children. Does anyone else see the absurdity in these examples? There are absolutes of what is considered right and wrong, moral absolutes based on the Truth revealed by the God of the Bible.

                Relativism is also very deceptive in its claim to tolerate all viewpoints and beliefs. For one, evil should never be tolerated, such as the evil presented in the three examples above. Secondly, relativism is intolerant of intolerance, and of absolutism, so it therefore is defeated by its own standard and requirement. Thirdly, by the rejection of absolutes, relativism has no foundation for the belief that we should be tolerant of others and their beliefs without being an absolute itself. Again, it demolishes its own arguments, reducing itself to an absurdity. To discard Absolute Truth is to discard knowledge and reason, both requiring the existence of absolutes, as foundational to experimental and observational sciences as numerical properties, operations, and functions are to mathematics. Two will always equal two, two added to three will always be five without any exception. The laws of physics and mathematics are absolutes designed by God for the orderly motion of the universe. We discover, not invent, these laws. In like manner we “discover “the Moral Law in the Scripture because God chose to reveal how we are to live and act, and more importantly, to reveal Himself and His character to us. The ultimate revelation of Truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God incarnate, the Word made flesh to dwell among us. And as Paul told us in Romans 13:14 “having girded your waist with truth” we are told to “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Without first clothing ourselves with Truth we will have no way to determine that which is false. Without Truth we cannot guard our vulnerable hearts from the onslaught of Satan deceits. We would have nothing to counter his blows without the Word of God which is Truth. Ultimately, without Truth we are without Christ for he is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and without Him no one comes to the Father. Jesus is the one who faced and conquered Death and the Grave, so who or what will you follow? The teachers and gurus that foolishly speculate about what happens upon our deaths? Or will you wisely choose The One that has been there before and returned after paying the price of our sins so that we will not have to pay it ourselves?

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WHEN LOVE WAS CRUCIFIED

By Bishop Dr. David A Church

Writing just weeks before Christmas after coming home from a joint men’s breakfast I began meditating upon the Cross and our journey through life. Although we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, our sanctification involves us in the process through our obedience to the Gospel. As we yield to the Holy Spirit working within, we become more like our Master. We are brought to many trials during our time here on earth, to either face them successfully in the power of God or to fail in our own power or because of our unbelief.

Most people in the Church today prefer a life without conflict, pain, or loss. The idea of partaking of Christ’s suffering is foreign or looked upon in distaste. We hear in many popular “religious” shows that we are the King’s Kids and deserve all the good things we can get. If we are under any trial it is because of the Devil and because we do not have enough faith, and therefore we are being punished.

But if we are truly the Lord’s we are not under condemnation any longer. True discipleship teaches us to endure trials. We are told to rejoice in them by James. They exist both to purify our faith and to further prove to us that the promises of God always hold true and never fail. Unfortunately, most “Christians” are not disciples, because the goal of many groups is to increase numbers, not faithfulness. The Gospel has been watered down to the God loves everyone “easy believism” preached today. They don’t want to offend the so called “seeker” visiting their church, so sin and repentance are ignored, and the Cross has become both offensive, and paradoxically, a piece of jewelry proudly worn but devoid of any meaning. Instead of being led by the Holy Spirit, Churches are taught to be “Purpose Driven seeker-sensitive” country clubs instead of lighthouses of Truth and hospitals for the healing of sinful broken lives. Others have become Emergent, old liberalism with new packaging teaching self-esteem and believing in the inherent goodness of man despite evidence to the contrary.

True Christianity with the power of God behind it comes only when we individually begin to realize what the Cross was about. No one will ever be able to say God did not reveal enough about Himself. No one can ever say that God did not do enough to save us from Hell. No one can claim ignorance of God’s existence or how we should live before Him, for the very creation itself shouts His glory and how we should walk in righteousness. But we prefer to go our own way, and even His Church prefers a tamer Christ, the Lamb without the Lion. Programs replace training in righteousness, sin has become mistakes or wrong thinking. Many so-called Christians still believe God will ultimately save everyone because “God is Love” and would not send anyone to Hell (if it exists at all). Truth has become relativized and the Bible has become only one more “sacred text” that shows “a way” to live instead of declaring The Way. Seminaries regularly teach that the Bible is not in-errant nor infallible, and question the reliability and historicity of many stories recorded within its pages, including the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection which are all fundamental beliefs in True Christianity.

A watered-down Gospel and a weak powerless Christ could not transform anyone from a criminal addict to a faithful servant of God and contributing member of society. Working in Recovery and Re-entry ministry takes a God and Gospel with the power to transform lives. It is the unpopular and offensive preaching of the Cross that leads to repentance and faith in Christ. It is coming to a knowledge of the sinfulness of Sin and the cost of forgiveness that leads us to obedience to the commandments. The wrath of God is upon those who sin (which is everyone). The debt had to be paid or absorbed by God Himself before forgiveness and cleansing could be offered to us. In love this was accomplished at the Cross by the God-Man Jesus Christ. A Son was given to take our place of punishment, which we see in what is one of the most well-known verses stating the love of God, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

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Be Holy for I Am Holy

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

          Never in the entire history of the Evangelical Church has the concept of personal holiness been as disregarded as it is today by those professing to follow Christ. Sin runs as rampart within the confines of church membership as it does outside the Church. Divorce rates skyrocket as even well-known preachers desert their own wives for another’s wife, and the church accepts them back to continue “ministering” in a state of adultery. We see pastors exposed for their addictions to pornography and for their adulterous affairs. Stories abound of the blatant mismanagement and the embezzlement of funds received from donations given in good faith. A leading television preacher sold the TV stations and equipment purchased with the tax free gifts of his followers and pocketed the money for himself, as though it were a private corporation owned solely by him instead of the nonprofit it was. Worship music has now become a billion dollar industry, with lyrics often shallow in theology but heavy on sound, phrases repeated endlessly and mindlessly as though a chanted mantra. Preaching today is seen to have become little more than a feel good pep talk, or a motivational seminar designed to give the hearer goosebumps instead of delivering the truth that saves their souls from the destination of Hell many no longer even believe exists. Jesus has become but an addition to the other interests in a professing Christian’s life, a cosmic Santa Claus or genie waiting only to give you, by faith, your heart’s materialistic desires stemming from our unrepentant covetousness. Again, if anyone tries correcting these sinful attitudes in love they are accused of being judgmental, legalists, the Christian Police, and Pharisees. They are hit with the mantra “Judge not that ye not be judged.” Tell a money-preaching televangelist they are in error doctrinally and you will receive back “Touch not the Lord’s anointed!” We also compare our “holiness” with that of others, feeling good about being better that the other guy, forgetting or ignoring the fact that God’s acceptable standard is the absolute and perfect obedience to the Torah at all points both internally and externally. God does not grade on a Bell Curve!

So the big question I now ask is “What is holiness and how do I achieve it in response to the command to Be Holy?” Can absolute perfect obedience ever be accomplished by us in this lifetime or even multiple lifetimes? No! What then happens if we cannot be perfect? Does God overlook our shortcomings? Why are some churches so legalistic, while others act like the commandments do not even matter? What is this argument over Law and Grace about anyway? Is the Law even relevant today? Is the Bible truly inerrant? Do we have the real Word of God in the Bible? Or is it only a fabrication to control our life as claimed by atheists? Which religion is the only correct one? Or are they all effectively the same and equally true? Is there evidence?

These are the very questions we must ponder in our search for meaning and purpose in our lives in order to answer “Why am I here, how should I live, and where am I going?” The answers to these questions are sought by peoples across the entire world and across all cultural and national boundaries. All mythologies originate in the need to explain reality and our consciousness. Only the Bible claims to originate with God, and is the revelatory story of Creation, our Fall from the state of innocence, and the Redemption story of the members of the human race that find favor with God only by His Grace because they believe His revelation and receive His love and forgiveness through Faith in Christ.

In a moral sense, holiness is to be pure, sinless, upright and without fault. God is perfectly holy in all His ways and also in His very essence and Being. God is Love, Love being the greatest attribute of God and is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, the more excellent way he says in chapter 12. It is also listed in Galatians 5:22 as the first fruit of the Spirit, possibly the only fruit with the rest of the list being attributes or characteristics of Love. Jesus is the pinnacle of love in action, demonstrated through healing the sick and infirmed, and ultimately healing the one sickness at the root of all others, our sin. Love for the world (meaning all people) is what moved the Father to send His only begotten Son to be tortured and slain in the most horrible method imaginable, taking the punishment due us for our trespasses against the Law and the will of God. Love sent Christ, and only His love for us held Him on the Cross. To cry out to the Lord for salvation yet refusing to follow Him and obey His commandments is the pinnacle of Man’s selfishness and ingratitude. The Scripture states in 1 John 4:19 ”We love Him because He first loved us.” But do we really love Him? Jesus also says in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” So isn’t the statement “If you don’t love Me, you will not keep my commandments” a valid rephrasing of the statement and its interpretation?” Logically speaking, an irrefutable “Yes.” We do not keep His commandments because we do not love Him enough to consider His feelings, and to refuse to be obedient to His authority is a rejection of Him as Lord, meaning God’s right to rule your life is contested. This is the sin of pride, as insane as that which gripped Lucifer in his rebellion against the Most High, thinking to make himself as God. This also is the sin that brought down Adam and Eve, pride to become as God, knowing good and evil. One of the best and concise definitions of pride I’ve ever seen is “Here is the essence of the pride of life—anything that exalts us above our station and offers the illusion of God-like qualities, wherein we boast in arrogance and worldly wisdom.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/pride-of-life.html). If we are not in obedience to Jesus Christ, the King and Lord of the universe, we are outlaws in the Kingdom of God. Outlaws in any other kingdom are living under a death sentence if they are not forgiven and then pardoned by the king, and a pardon for their rebellion demands their sworn fealty to the king and to the laws of his kingdom, and their continued demonstration of it in keeping all the commandments of the king. Why then should we not see the Kingdom of God in this same manner? For us to live in obedience, a separation from the world’s continued rebellion is “holiness.”

Holiness in the New Testament is from the Greek adjective “hagios” meaning “set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred.” (Strong’s Concordance) Set apart must imply a difference between us as a believer and that from that we are to be separated and set apart from, the world. This is the reason Paul commands us in Romans 12:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

          God’s will for us is to be different, nonconforming, being unlike those living in the world. Instead of participating in the sinful and rebellious actions and lifestyles of the world’s masses we are called to be noticeably different in our lifestyle and attitude. It is that we “may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.“ We prove it to ourselves, we prove to the world what God’s will is for Mankind, and obedience proves our love for Christ. The world has become weary of hearing our claims to be a follower of Christ, especially when the evidence is contradicted by our actions and lifestyle. The televangelist with all his phony claims to be serving God do not correspond to his covetousness and his evil lust for money and fame, leaving all Christians open to the mockery of the world that sees through his sham and believing all believers are like him. In their eyes, all Christian ministers and all churches are only “in it for the money” because of the extravagant living by the few that are seen on the screen constantly begging for more money for the ministry, but spending it on their own lusts and fleshly desires to gain more material goods. Their god is Mammon, not the True God. Holiness is for us to live separated even from the appearance of evil, so that the world can distinguish the true follower of Christ from the counterfeit.

          Holiness is also necessary for effective evangelism, especially to those that knew us before our conversion experience. We are put under their microscope in order to ascertain the validity of our claims to be “new creations in Christ.” They are looking to see if we have really become a disciple of Christ following His teachings instead of just running another con game. In the vernacular of the world they want to see if “we walk our talk,” looking to see if we obey what we claim to believe. The world understands much more about how we should be living than we realize and will call us on it every time we are seen to do that which the Bible forbids. They look for non-Christlike and non-loving attitudes towards those living in sinful situations, condemning them instead of seeking their repentance and restoration. These Pharisaical attitudes pervade us in the church also, with us ready to pass harsh judgment on a fallen saint instead of helping the person rise up and be restored as taught by Christ. That is why it is said “The Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.” If on the outside looking in, why would someone want to be like us? Our example is not one of showing the love of Christ like we should project. Many of the non-Christians see themselves as more loving and tolerant of people’s failings than the average Christian in the evangelical church, so why would they want to become one of us? Churches like Westboro Baptist Church constantly spout hate speech in God’s name, for whom they really do not speak at all. Signs proclaiming “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates the World” contradict the fact proclaimed in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” Paul tells us in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” I guess many of us have forgotten where we came from and have begun to take the grace God had upon us for granted, now believing in a delusion that we merit it. In the Supreme Court of God, Satan is the one who brings charges against Christians, not us, and we are not the Judge either. So why is it that we so readily condemn those who are caught up in sin rather than to exhort, encourage and bring them to repentance and restoration? That is the whole point of church discipline, to restore one who fell into sin to fellowship. We must carefully separate ourselves from legalism in order to portray the holiness of God in our life, for we also were forgiven much.

          The holiness and righteousness required by God from us is not native to us but is foreign. Our own holiness and righteousness “is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and falls far short of that righteousness required by God. Even our good deeds are tainted by our sin nature, not resulting purely from altruism, a disinterested selfless concern for another’s welfare. Good deeds, such as giving money to the poor, is often done only to gain merit before God and before others. Only a born again believer filled with the Holy Spirit can come close to performing good deeds out of love alone, without a thought of the reward of a pat on the back by others. Perhaps that is why Jesus said we should do things in secret so that the only witness to the “good deed” performed is God. Seeking His approval, not man’s recognition, is fine if recognizing that any righteous act we perform is actually because of Christ’s righteousness that is imputed to us, knowing there is no good thing in us apart from Christ.

          So the answer to the question “What is holiness and how do I achieve it in response to the command to Be Holy?” is “We ourselves can never attain to being perfectly holy and good, as is God.” However, through God’s loving grace alone Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith as being our righteousness. We must only believe His promises of salvation to those repenting and turning to Him in faith and who trust in Him to guide their lives.

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GOT JESUS?

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

As we walk through life, many times we wish we had a second chance to do something right, a “do over” similar to restarting a computer game. We did something wrong or just plain stupid without consideration of the consequences involved. We almost never realize at the time that we still will be required to “pay the Piper.” We reap what we sow, no exceptions. A loosely lived life has consequences, all causes have an effect, and all actions have a reaction in life. Plant corn, reap corn. Sow wheat, you reap wheat. Plant weeds, we get weeds.

This is a Law of all Creation. The things that most concern me are our actions, or our inactions, that have an eternal consequence upon our souls. It is about the choices we make as we walk through this short life that we will stand before God one day and have to give an account. Those that know Him will receive recompense for what they did while in the body and hear from Jesus Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21) Those not knowing Him will instead hear the dreaded words I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! Matthew 7:23

You ask “What does it even mean to “know Him”, and more importantly to be known by Him? As the Son of God doesn’t Jesus know everything? Then how can He say to someone “I never knew you?” What does He mean?”

Jesus is speaking of having an intimate relationship with individuals. Not just knowing the facts about a person, but a relational interchange where each party seeks to know and understand the character of the other person, how they look at the world and treat the people around them, and how they deal with situations and circumstances that happen in life. How did Jesus answer His critics? How did he interact with the infirmed and diseased? How did He confront our sin and dullness towards spiritual things? He showed compassion, love, and patience. To know Christ is to understand His love for us although we can never completely fathom it. It is understanding what He expects from us as His disciples. Loving Him entails obeying His commandments. Knowing Him means we have first believed the Gospel and have been born again, and have received Him as our Lord and Savior. We study the Word of God because from it He speaks to us, instructs us in righteousness, and reveals more of Himself. We pray in order to speak to Him, revealing ourselves intimately and confessing how we fall so very short of His will for our lives as He reveals more of His love and patience to us. We trust Him and bring our needs to Him, and also intercede on behalf of others in need.

But what of the bad things I did in the past? What about the evil deeds committed out of selfishness, or lust, or hatred? What about our covetousness which led to theft, or our pride which may have led to violence towards others without regard of consequences? How can we justify the sins from our past with our claim of following the Lord Jesus Christ today? From the natural and worldly viewpoint a drunk is a still a drunk even if he is sober. A murderer is still a murderer, a thief is still a thief. They are only not practicing their sin. But what the world looking through non-spiritual eyes doesn’t see or understand is that which is seen in what I consider the key verse of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

If we are in Christ we are new creations! Anyone who is born again from above is not the same person because if we are in Christ we are, not will be, new creations. We are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit who brings conviction upon the world and regenerates us unto new life in Christ. It says anyone, not just some special class of people. Anyone who lives by faith in Christ is a new creation. Period. Our sins were removed, washed away by the blood of Christ and never again to be remembered by God or used against us in judgment. Our chains were broken that bound us to a life of sin without any hope of escape other than death. We were freed from the curse of sin which leads to eternal separation from God and His goodness, and delivered from eternal torment in the Lake of Fire which God created for the Devil and his angels that followed him in their rebellion against the Most High. It is our own rebellion and refusal of God’s gracious pardon in Christ that condemns us into the place of outer darkness with no hope whatsoever of ever leaving it. Our unbelief is what brings the judgment of God upon our head, the refusal of God’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ as the only acceptable way to enter the Kingdom of God. If you are not found “in Christ” you are lost forevermore without hope or reversal of your sentence. You made up your mind to reject Him in life, so He makes up His mind for your eternity. His holiness and justice absolutely demands it. To do otherwise would be to bring Christ’s sacrifice to naught, as well as breaking God’s Word.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18

Believing in Him means much more than merely believing cold facts about the Lord. Believing in Him means to trust unswervingly in the Lord for your salvation. For we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

We were newly created in Christ for good works and we ourselves had nothing to do with it. All we had to do was believe (as in “trust”) in the atoning death of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice made for us on the Cross. He created us. We are His workmanship, His handiwork. And He created us for a purpose, for good works which God prepared beforehand. This is God’s will for our lives, and He demands obedience if we are to fulfill the purpose He created us for in Christ.

In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” If He is recognized as Lord why isn’t He obeyed? The definition of Lord issomeone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler.” If one is the Master, as is Jesus, all others are servants from whom He requires obedience to his lawful commands. As we are subject to Him any disobedience is but further rebellion to His rule. Why would God allow a non-repentant rebel to enter into His Kingdom? Refusing to obey God stems from pride, deciding our will should supplant God’s desire to direct us through the maze of life. We do not even see the whole picture as does the Lord, so we are walking blindly into perdition when we refuse to accept the grace and knowledge of the One who has already tasted death for us and came back to show us the way through the minefields laid by Satan to destroy us and our souls. A Christian who is truly born again will have fruit showing in his life as well as a transformation in his character and demeanor. The love of Christ will show through, proving the man or woman is a new creation in Christ and that all things indeed have become new. Look closely at the tenses of the verbs in the lead passage:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

In the first part of the verse we see “is in Christ” and “is a new creation.” This means now, in the present, God sees us in Christ as one of His, and as a brand new creation which is His workmanship. If born again we have been already placed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, and live presently in Christ as a new creation. We don’t have to wait for it. We just need to learn to believe it and to walk in it.

The second part tells us the old things already have passed away, our “old man” or sin nature. It is already dead and buried with Christ, and now all things have become new as born again believers. Again, we don’t have to wait for it. We just need to learn to believe it and to walk in it. When we believe in our position in Christ we will “Walk by the Spirit,” and we will not be drawn back in disobedience to the “works of the flesh.” What really amuses me about people is that it takes much more effort to defy God and to work against His will than it does to simply obey His will and to do what He asks from us. To rebel against God is foolish anyway, but that is puffed up fallen man for you. How many times have we said “I know what’s best for me.” That was Satan’s downfall, full of pride and desiring to be like the Most High. We are repeating the same folly every time we go our own way instead of following the path previously marked out for us by the Holy Spirit in Scripture. If we continuously stray from the path chosen we increase the possibility of eventually losing our way back. If we stray all the way to again practicing “the works of the flesh” without repentance we have stepped out of Christ’s hand and may no longer be found “in Christ” by the Lord we previously professed to follow as a disciple. Paul states emphatically in Galatians 5:21 “that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He put no other condition or requirement on this statement that negates the consequences. We can either take it literally at full face value, or we can try to soften its meaning at the peril of our soul by redefining the meaning of the verse. It does not say “might not inherit” or “will lose their rewards.” It says “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” There is only one other kingdom we can possibly belong to, and that kingdom is destined for the Lake of Fire, along with its ruler Satan, all of his angels, and all his human followers. Which kingdom are you serving? The battle lines are in the process of being well defined in this day of increasing evil, and those in the Church must wake up to the reality that we are in a war to the death with the Kingdom of Darkness and the god of this world: Satan, the Adversary, Lucifer, the Devil, the old serpent or whatever other name by which he is recognized. He is very real and it is mandatory for us to wake up to that reality! Choose and stand fast! “… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 25:15

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Who Do You Say I Am?

The absolute necessity of correct doctrine

By Bishop David A Church

Matthew 16:13-17

“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

In an interview with Napp Nazworth, a Christian Post Reporter, Dr. Scot McKnight, the professor of religious studies at Northern Seminary states “The fundamental job of the evangelist is not to get people to feel guilty about sins, or to feel terrorized by an angry God. The central question of evangelism is, ‘who do you think Jesus is?'” “Evangelical pastors,” McKnight explained in his interview, “are more concerned about precipitating decisions than making disciples.” Looking at the state of the Church I must agree wholeheartedly, seen in the spectrum ranging from small Fundamentalist Baptist Churches to the giant megachurches ruled over by Bill Hybels and Rick Warren that are seeking quantity over quality in their flocks. Dr. Jack Hyles used to boast of having the largest Sunday School in the nation. The lack of true discipleship training and teaching the whole counsel of God has resulted in the very weak and  biblically illiterate nominal “Christian” filling the pews today. The command of Christ is to make disciples, not just converts. The crusading evangelists of the last hundred years only judge their effectiveness by the number of people answering the altar call and filling out the obligatory contact cards, never again to be seen darkening the door of a church. These are the ones spoken of by Christ in the Parable of the Sower.

 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” Matthew 13:20-21

I have sat through many evangelism events and “revivals”, and in many I have never heard the Gospel, only a heartfelt plea to make a decision to receive Christ as the answer to all the problems in life. People were told to “repeat this prayer after me” which contained no Gospel in itself, only saying “Jesus, I know you loved me and died for my sins. I’m sorry for my sins and I ask you to come into my heart and be my Savior. Amen.” The Gospel is Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to Scripture.” It is not contained in the drivel of the “the Love Gospel” seen above. Not once is true biblical repentance required of the so called “seeker”, nor is required a proper understanding of the Gospel as received by Paul from Christ and delivered unto us for our justification.

Dr. McKnight further states “Pastors … preach revivalistic sermons that precipitate decisions, that precipitate experience, and the result is, if I’ve had the experience, I’m in; if I haven’t had the experience, I’m not in. But more importantly, if I’ve had the experience, I’m in and I know who else is in — those who’ve had my experience. So all other people are basically off the map unless they’ve had the same experience. That’s revivalism and that has created what I call a salvation culture.”

Unfortunately, we have grown so accustomed to hearing about making a “decision for Christ”, especially at the large crusades in which the Gospel itself has suffered, that many don’t recognize the true Gospel. Instead of preaching Law and Gospel, a large percentage of fundamentalist pastors have been infected with Charles Finney’s “New Measures” preaching without realizing that they are using the methodology of one who denied most of the doctrines considered to be in the pale of orthodoxy. Quotes below are taken from Charles G. Finney’s “Finney’s Systematic Theology” (Bethany, 1976).

First of all, Finney denies the doctrine of original sin, following the doctrine of Pelagius, the heretic of the 4th century. Finney taught that all human beings have the total ability to choose either corruption or redemption by their own volition, and taught original sin was an “anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma” (p. 179). Finney completely denied the doctrine that all human beings possess a sinful nature. He looked at each person as born with a “blank slate”, a “tabula rosa”, spiritually neutral. He rejects that which is taught in Scripture in Romans 5:12

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”

According to Finney we do not inherit Adam’s sinful nature, we only follow his example. We are not born corrupt, we learn to be corrupt. To be saved Finney believed we ourselves must remove all sin from our life before we can be justified before God, for he asks “can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him? Certainly not!” (p. 57) His doctrine of justification is built upon this denial of original sin, and he continues to build his theology upon its foundation of sand. It is a salvation by works, justification by our own merit instead of Christ’s.

Finney also completely denied the substitutionary Atonement of Christ. “If he [Christ] had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?” (p. 206) In the first place, we never had a “personal obedience” to return to, therefore we needed to be regenerated because “the wages of sin is death” according to Romans 3:23. Finney redefined being born again of the Spirit as “Regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence,” (p. 224) which was demonstrated by Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of morality. “Original or constitutional sinfulness, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence.” (p. 236) Finney’s “gospel” is not the Gospel of Christ. It is but another gospel which cannot save.

Rejecting the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and supernatural regeneration by the Holy Spirit, he next denied the foundational doctrine of the Bible fought for during the Reformation: our justification by grace alone through faith alone, by Christ alone. Finney rejected this as nonsense. “The doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ’s obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption.” After all, Christ’s righteousness “could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us…It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf.” This “representing of the atonement as the ground of the sinner’s justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many.” (pp. 320-322)

“The view that faith is the sole condition of justification is “the antinomian view,” Finney asserts. “We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification.” Furthermore, “present sanctification, in the sense of present full consecration to God, is another condition…of justification. Some theologians have made justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification. But this we shall see is an erroneous view of the subject” (pp. 326-327). Each act of sin requires “a fresh justification” (p. 331). Referring to “the framers of the Westminster Confession of faith,” and their view of an imputed righteousness, Finney writes “If this is not antinomianism, I know not what is” (p. 332). This legal business is unreasonable to Finney, so he concludes, “I regard these dogmas as fabulous, and better befitting a romance than a system of theology” (p. 333). Again, the arch heretic Finney has spit on the Cross and on the Son of God, trampling the True Gospel and denying the Word of God.

Finney’s theology when boiled down to its essence is a theology of works which is condemned in Scripture. To quote Michael Horton’s article “The Legacy of Charles Finney” (Modern Reformation Magazine, “Life Under the Big Top: When Evangelism Undermines the Evangel” (Jan./Feb. 1995 Vol. 4, No. 1, page numbers 5-9) “His “New Measures,” like today’s Church growth movement, made human choices and emotions the center of the church’s ministry, ridiculed theology, and replaced the preaching of Christ with the preaching of conversion.”

As I said previously, preaching the Gospel needs to ask individuals the ultimate question presented by Christ “Who do YOU say I am?” The incorrect answer to the evangelist’s incorrect question leads the person to another Christ and another gospel that does not result in the new birth. Only recognizing Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” as did Peter in Mark 8:29, results in salvation. We do not come to this conclusion by our senses or intellect and logic. To see Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” requires us to be first drawn to Jesus by the Father (John 6:44), and Jesus said “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” John 15:16. So it is not the hype, music and psychological pressure of the evangelist that brings us to a belief in Christ. It is God the Father, and we are already chosen in Christ. In respect to this I reject the Calvinistic doctrines of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace which states that God in Eternity Past chose to create us for either Redemption (salvation) or Perdition, and that Jesus only bore the sins of the elect (those chosen for salvation by God), and that he did not bear the sins of every individual who has ever lived. If you were created for Perdition there is no remedy for you, no salvation whatsoever. This is counter to many Scriptures such as John 3:16 which states “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Also, 1John 2:2 “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world,” and Acts 2:21 (ESV) ”And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” According to Calvin’s teaching we cannot choose because we are dead spiritually, so we must be regenerated before we can have faith. This approach could, in theory, leave an unbelieving yet regenerate man if he died before believing but after being regenerated in order to believe. They convolute the issue by saying this is not a sequential order in time, but rather a necessary order logically because a spiritually dead person cannot believe. But the biblical definition of death is not an inherent inability to choose God unless we are first regenerated. Death is defined as a separation, physical death being separated from our physical body, and spiritual death being our soul’s separation from God in both the present and in eternity if found without Christ.The Calvinist must redefine words such as whoever, all, and everyone to mean “the chosen, or elect only.” In a sense they are correct, for we are “elect in Christ” from the foundation of the world, but notelect by decree from the eternal and secret counsels of God in Eternity Past. The “Calvinist’s God” doesn’t seem to have the power or ability to create a being with free will, nor is the Calvinist’s God omniscient enough to know how the person will choose when presented with the Gospel, whether he will choose to believe or reject it in unbelief. The “Calvinist’s God” also cannot seem to give us sufficient grace to allow us to believe prior to regeneration, as taught in Scripture by those of the Arminian and Biblicist schools of theology.

What we see then is that the act of being regenerated or “born again” cannot be separated from the act of believing the gospel. When we believe the Gospel we are saved. So where in the Bible is the “Decision for Christ” found that the crusading evangelist asks us to make? If we already have believed the Gospel why would we go forward at the invitation to “Receive Christ” which also is not found in Scripture in the way they interpret it? We are told by the Bible to “repent and believe the Gospel” by Jesus Christ Himself in Mark 1:5. Peter told the people in Acts 2:38 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Acts 16:31 says “…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Again, nowhere are we told in Scripture to make an altar call and to go forward to “receive Christ” or to “make a decision for Christ.” It is not our decision to make in the first place outside of God’s timing! The passage usually used in this type of evangelism is John 1:11-13:

11 He came to His own,and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

As shown in an earlier chapter receiving Him gives the right to become children of god, it does not make us so. It refers to the fact that Messiah Jesus was sent to the Jews, but His teachings were not accepted or received by the leadership, nor was He seen as the Messiah. This passage also is not a passage directly concerned with justification unto salvation. Only believing the Gospel makes it so. Also, this passage of Scripture crushes the idea of a person making a decision leading unto salvation. This “decision to receive Christ” is made of our own will, but the Scripture specifically states “…nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Our will is has no part in the equation leading to our salvation, it is God alone who saves. We hear the Gospel and we either believe it or not. If we believe it we are saved immediately. The theology which is called Decision Theology (or Decisionist Regeneration) says we must make a conscious decision in order to receive Christ. But this is false and is nowhere taught in Scripture. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. To believe otherwise is relying on a works salvation as propagated by Charles Finney, the grandfather of this form of evangelism. The very act of having to make a decision is a work. The ultimate problem with “Decision Theology” is that it bestows upon us a power we do not biblically possess, and tells us we are saved because “we” made the decision for our salvation, which in turn would give us cause for boasting over those not making the decision for Christ. It clouds the reality of who initiates salvation, which is the Holy Spirit who calls us by the Gospel and regenerates whom He will, which are all that believe in Christ. “Decisionist” evangelists also use emotional manipulation and psychological pressure from friends and relatives in order to elicit the decision, resulting in many a false conversion that they count as a trophy soul, another jewel in their “soul winners” crown. This confirms Dr. McKnight statement “Evangelical pastors are more concerned about precipitating decisions than making disciples.” Obviously, this is a very broad and sweeping statement to make. But as a class a very large percentage of these preachers, especially those in the Fundamentalist camp which include many Baptists and Pentecostals, do preach and believe this “method” or “new measure” is the correct way of enlarging the Kingdom of God. The church growth programs at many major Bible schools and seminaries promote this. Pastors are taught to run a church like a corporation and to use the business model to increase attendance. Find out what the consumer wants and give it to them. It is not evangelism, but marketing that they are taught will bring growth. Church growth relying on converts who make the “decision to receive Christ” and by saying the “sinner’s prayer” is also not taken from Scripture. They are instructed to say “I am sorry for my sins”, which is not the same thing as biblical repentance. Judas was “sorry” for betraying the Son of God to the authorities, but he had no real repentance leading to confession and forgiveness by God because of unbelief about who Christ was. Instead, he committed suicide because of the blood-guilt weighing upon his soul. People go forward to “receive Christ” not because they believe the Gospel, but out of their fear of Hell after being told if they will follow the evangelist’s direction to come forward and pray they will be saved forever, and that there is nothing we do that can change that. This is a delusional “fire insurance policy,” not salvation and deliverance from the power of sin and death. Unfortunately, many souls are damned because of this wrong view of biblical salvation and who it is that initiates regeneration. They are instructed to believe a lie, a watered down “gospel” which is no gospel at all. And the lie is reinforced by telling the person that they are saved because they had walked forward at the invitation then prayed the prayer, when the truth is we are saved by grace alone through faith alone without any necessary action by us in order to cause our justification. Ultimately, the whole question of salvation is settled by answering for ourselves “Who do you say I am?” Is He only a man, a great teacher, or a prophet? Or do you believe His claim to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who gave His life for us and rose again? If the latter, salvation is ours as we have been justified by our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My personal answer is “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” because the Father by His Holy Spirit revealed this truth to me. This again is the central question of the Scriptures, “Who do you say I am?” Who do YOU say he is?

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” Matthew 13:20-21

While doing research on Decision Theology I found an interesting article by Tim Woods posted at www.steadfastlutherans.org, dated March 11, 2015. It was called “Polysyllabic Words Helped Carry Us to Missouri” and spoke of his experience with Decision Theology. His article caught my attention because his observations match mine that I’ve made over the years, having grown up in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church without ever being taught the Gospel because the pastor had no grasp of it himself. He was trained in the “pop evangelism” school of “easy believism and cheap grace” as taught in the tracts used for personal witnessing. Tim’s description of what he learned summed up a large percentage of the theological lessons I learned in Sunday School and in church. Small wonder that most of their “converts” never persevered. Also, these are basically identical with today’s evangelism methods which also leave few lasting converts. The decisions to follow Christ failed so often enough that I decided it (Christianity and the Bible) was not even true. Thank God He has taught me otherwise!

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IF YOU LOVE ME KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS

by Bishop Dr. David A Church

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23

            In the average Evangelical church today there is a grievous misunderstanding of the relationship between grace and the Law, partially because of incorrect exegesis and “wrongly dividing” the Word of God. According to the teaching of many Dispensationalist preachers (derived from the Scofield Bible) the Law has become only a footnote to Grace. Many teach that the Old Testament Jews were saved by keeping the Law, and that the Church is saved by Grace. Redemptive history is harshly divided into the dispensations of Law and Grace, without any intermingling of the two. But this is blatantly a false view. It also removes the necessity of keeping the commandments of Christ to “be holy as God is holy”, and “that those who practice such things (works of the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God.” “The wages of sin is death” according to the passage above. Salvation by grace is not a license to sin. The “carnal Christian” is a myth, a construct of those possessing an antinomian inclination in their lives and theology. If the Holy Spirit truly indwells a person, they will bear the fruit of repentance and be transformed. Christ and the Apostles all taught this.

            If the Jews were saved by the Law there would be absolutely no one saved because no one other than Jesus Christ ever kept the Law perfectly even though that is what God requires. Salvation has always been by grace through faith. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited (counted or imputed) to him as righteousness.”(Romans 4:3) The Law was given as a governing document to the Israelites by God through Moses. Although it listed the ordinances of God, He knew perfect adherence to the Law was unobtainable by Fallen Man. The Jews were to look past the written letter, past the shadows and types contained within it towards the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that actually removes sin and bestows upon all with faith in Him the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. For all are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ, whether looking forward to the Cross, or back to it as we do. But it has always only been “the Seed of the Woman” that crushes the head of the serpent Satan and destroys the sting of death which is sin, and ultimately Death itself which will be thrown into the Lake of Fire at the Great White Throne judgment, never again to rule over Man’s heart through guilt and fear.

Romans 3:21-26

”But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

            That the righteousness of God through faith in Christ was revealed in the Old Testament during the Mosaic (Law) dispensation until Christ is proven in Romans 3:21-22. Salvation was through faith, is through faith, and will always be through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Since the Garden of Eden we have been living in the Age of Grace. The idea of living under different dispensations is true, if dispensations are meant to mean the methods used by God to deal with sinners rebelling against His reign. And that includes every human (other than Christ) ever born or will be born. The Scripture is absolutely clear, without any wiggle room or loophole, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” All means all! As is taught in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” one receives death as payment for his or her sins, and all have sinned and fallen short of the absolute perfection demanded by God in His Law, and even though the penalty for sin has been born by Jesus Christ upon the Cross we do not have a license to indulge again in the works of the flesh without consequences for doing so. Again, “that those who practice such things (works of the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The myth and soul damning heresy of “Once Saved Always Saved” was discussed in the first chapter, and warnings of damnation to those that engage in habitual sin abound in the New Testament, the so-called time of the beginning the Dispensation of Grace, the Church Age. Never is it stated unless you have believed at some time in the past,but one must believe and persevere to the end to be saved, and one believes what they obey. Does the blood of Jesus Christ save those who believe but obey no commands? I think not. Where is repentance? In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” he states “Only the believing obey, only the obedient believe.” In this statement Bonhoeffer breaks down the false distinction between the two. Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin, if you will. He exposed the “cheap grace” and “easy believism” so rampant in modern evangelicalism today. We no longer tell those inquiring about salvation to count the cost of following the Lord. Jesus is portrayed as “the solution to all your needs” and “He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Christ becomes something to add to your life to make it better, like a gym membership. No one is told they may be called by Christ to die a gruesome death, or to be subjected to torture for their faith. They only want to hear how God will bless them and prosper them in all that they do, as seen on TV. What happened to the will of the Father in this equation? Many seek to follow their own will but want God to bless it as though He is the “cosmic genie” that must acquiesce to all the demands of his children if asked whenever the “word of faith” is spoken. The Bible says in John 14:13-14 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it”. But many fail to recognize that what the Father does for us is done that He may be glorified in the Son. We are not asking for ourselves for our own gratification in this verse, but it is for God’s glory alone.

But the warning by James in chapter 4 says “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The Lord promised to supply our needs, not to make us wealthy and comfortable. Where is our heart? Are we striving for material and financial wealth here on earth with no thought of the fact that we can’t take it with us? Do we bother to ask the Lord what He would like us to do with the life He has given us? Do we stop to consider that we are only stewards of all He places into our care? Are we laying treasures for Heaven, or only trying to have more toys than those around us? Where are our hearts? In the “heavenlies with Christ”, or on the things of this world serving mammon instead of Christ? Are we obeying Christ, His will and the commandments He has given us through Scripture? Or do we believe we can live as we like as “Christians” since we are “under grace”, not the Law. After all, we still love the Lord and He loves us, right?

The problem is, Jesus died to free us from these sins we still apparently love more than Christ. We try to justify our inability to refrain from things in our past by excusing ourselves as “Carnal Christians.” We tend to forget that in Christ we are given the ability to obey, though we aren’t to rely on our own strength, but in His by the Holy Spirit. The chains which bound us as slaves to sin are broken asunder if we are in Christ as a true, faithful, and believing child of God born from above. But again, faith and obedience are not to be separated. Grace is still unmerited favor upon us which saves us through faith in Christ. We will never be worthy of salvation apart from God’s grace towards us. Neither can we serve Him properly apart from this same grace, though we are called to live in holiness and righteousness.

In John 14:15 Jesus said “If you love Me, keepMy commandments.” He would not have said it if He did not give us as Christians the ability to choose to do as He commands. The Holy Spirit empowers us to stand against the wiles of the Devil by giving us the whole Armor of God, but we must decide to wear it by faith and to use it when engaging in warfare with the Kingdom of Darkness. We must take the initiative to arm ourselves with Scripture, the Sword of the Spirit. Without studying the Bible we stifle our growth as Christians, remaining babes in need of spiritual milk instead of the meat that matures us and readies us for the mortal combat with our enemy and his forces of darkness. It is for the souls of the lost that we wage this war, dismantling his kingdom by rescuing one soul at a time from an eternity in Hell, separated forever from the goodness and grace of God. If we do not carry out the commands of our King we will be ineffective soldiers on the battlefield, possibly to the point of desertion and disqualifying ourselves. Considering that in Christ’s parable about Jesus being the True Vine with us being the branches, we are warned that the unfruitful branches will be broken off and cast into the fire. In the parable of the unfaithful servant all he was given was taken from him and given to someone else, then the unfaithful servant was thrown into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the same description as that of Hell. A servant would have been one already serving his Lord previously, so I am compelled to interpret this story at face value. Instead of saying the unfaithful servant never really believed in Christ I believe this is a story of an apostate, one who walked away from his faith in the Lord and service to Him. I don’t believe that when the Master called His servants to Him an unbeliever would have been among them, nor be expected to be fruitful and gain an increase on the Masters talents. One has to remain in Christ, attached as a branch to the Vine in order to bear fruit, for he can do nothing alone. Jesus said apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:15

The necessity of obeying the commandments of Christ is seen in many of the epistles in the New Testament, as well as in the Gospels. Obedience is equated as being “in the Light” as opposed to still “walking in darkness.” Here are passages from 1 John discussing those that do not keep the commandments of God.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:6

 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  1 John 2:3-4

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”  1 John 3:4-6 

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” 1 John 3:24

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”  1 John 5:1-3

            Knowing Christ is equated with obedience to Him, which results in our walking in the light which is Truth. Knowing Christ does not mean just knowing facts about Him, like being able to quote sport statistics in a discussion. Knowing Christ implies an intimate relationship with Him, in the Word and in in prayer on a regular basis and also in regular fellowship with His people. Christianity isn’t something just added to your life, it is your life. All is done for His honor and glory. All is done for the Kingdom of God, not for our own gain. We all realize living for Him alone isn’t done perfectly, but our trajectory on the path He has marked for us is evident by our walk and remains true as we walk by the Spirit.

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In Christ, or not?

IN CHRIST, OR NOT?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
As we walk through life, many times we wish we had a second chance to do something right, a “do over” similar to restarting a computer game. We did something wrong or just plain stupid without consideration of the consequences involved. We almost never realize at the time that we still will be required to “pay the Piper.” We reap what we sow, no exceptions. A loosely lived life has consequences, all causes have an effect, and all actions have a reaction in life. Plant corn, reap corn. Sow wheat, you reap wheat. Plant weeds, we get weeds.
This is a Law of all Creation. The things that most concern me are our actions, or our inactions, that have an eternal consequence upon our souls. It is about the choices we make as we walk through this short life that we will stand before God one day and have to give an account. Those that know Him will receive recompense for what they did while in the body and hear from Jesus “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Continue reading

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Critical Reading of the Word

Not to be in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, every Christmas season I am reminded of the lack of knowledge of the Bible with people instead believing in the traditions they have heard all of their lives.

There are many examples in the “Christmas” carols and stories we grew up with. My question is “If we believe what the Scriptures say, should we not make the truth known and dispel the myths that endure?” As an apologist believing in the inerrant and infallible Word of God I believe that the traditions should be set aside regardless of the sentimental memories held.

We hear that three wise men came to see the baby Lord Jesus in the manger. Actually, no number was given, and by the time they arrived the family was living in a house. Also, the wise men or Magi were not named in the Bible, but tradition names them as Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. Continue reading

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God’s Land to do as He Will

Its been a while since my last post. Signed up for some classes at LBU for an MA in Biblical Studies. While following news about ISIS, Al Qaida and the madness surrounding Israel’s right to exist I have been delving into the question most needing answered. That question is “Who does the land belong too?” The presupposition of the existence of God and Biblical inerrancy is the foundation the question is analyzed upon and answered.

(Genesis 15:13-21 ESV)

“Then the LORD said to Abram, Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Continue reading

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