Monday, December 24, 2007

The Real Miracle of Christmas

The most important aspect of Christmas is the fact that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, and came into this world “to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Without that important fact, the Christmas season has no biblical significance. And for the believer, it should be the most precious thing and the source for our joy. It is through this miracle that demonstrates how God relates to us and how we relate to Him. It is that fact that should be the continuous joy for the believer throughout the year.

But take a moment and ponder this great miracle. God, without abdicating His divinity and sovereign role as the great “I AM”, who always was and had no beginning, came into this world as part of His creation. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became a human being. Jesus existed from eternity past, He was not created. He was spirit without material substance until he became fully a man at what we call the incarnation. John 1:1 sums up this great mystery; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”(NASB) In speaking of His eternality in verse 2, it says “He was in the beginning with God.”

It is clear in Scripture that Jesus had a human body. John 1:14, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, He was born into this world just like human babies are born (Luke 2:7), He grew like human children grow and increased in wisdom through learning (Luke 2:40, 52), He became hungry and became physically weary (Matthew 4:2,11). Jesus also died (Luke 23:46) and had a human body after His resurrection (Luke 24:39).

The fact that Jesus became flesh is not limited to the fact that He took on a human body, but rather the entirety of what comprises a human being. This includes the mind, will and emotions. Jesus had a human soul (in other words, “spirit”) and this is made clearly evident in passages such as John 12:27 where Jesus says “Now my soul has become troubled” and also John 13:21, “He became troubled in spirit”. Hebrews 5:7 illustrates that Jesus expressed His emotion when He cried out in agony to the Father as “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears”. Jesus also exercised his will in submitting to the divine will of the Father (John 6:38; Matthew 26:42).

All of this was necessary so that Jesus could become like us “in all things” (Hebrews 2:17, NASB) in order to save us. He became like us in all respects with the exception of the stain of human sin in order to be the perfect sacrifice to rescue us from sin (Hebrews 4:15-16). It was necessary for Jesus to become fully like us in every way (body, mind, will, emotions) except sin in order to fully save us.

All of this great mystery is summed up in the uniting of the two natures, both divine and human in what is referred to in theology as the hypostatic union. This term may sound complicated, but it is really simple, but at the same time extremely profound. The term hypostatic simply means personal, and refers to the personal union of the human and divine natures of Jesus. Jesus is only one person, not two. And this concept is profound. These two natures come together in one person, Jesus, who is to be the focus of our worship. And it is the uniting of these natures that satisfies our longings and makes possible the fellowship that we can enjoy with our heavenly Father. It is this connection between the human and the divine that enables us to connect with God and satisfies the human soul.

It is my prayer that we as believers will continue to reflect on this great miracle long after the Christmas season comes to an end, and that it will be reflected on as we approach the celebration of Easter.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Biblical Recipe for Discernment

One of the most detrimental flaws in contemporary evangelicalism is the lack of discernment that seems to pervade the Christian landscape. This dilemma did not take place overnight and there is a biblical remedy for this. Hebrews 5 explains the condition that renders so many with the inability to discern between truth and error.

The writer of Hebrews goes into detail describing the priestly ministry of Jesus. Verse 11 says that there is much more that could be explained, but the audience was “dull of hearing” and could not understand anything deeper.

" 11Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
13For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
14But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
(Hebrews 5:11-14, NASB)

One of the key reasons that there is such a widespread lack of discernment is due to the absence of consistent solid exposition of God’s truth in a growing majority of churches all across America. The prolonged exposure to shallow teaching, and at times blatantly false teaching, has caused a growing number of Christians to become dull of hearing. This dullness of hearing makes it difficult to explain anything of much depth from the Word of God. As a result multitudes lack understanding making them vulnerable to be led captive by the whims of false teachers, who at times can make compelling arguments to peddle their errant teaching. Not only that, but when leaders in the church fall into the same trap, they become inept at handling Scripture, and inadvertently begin drifting off course so subtly in their teaching that they are barely aware that it is happening.

The Hebrews reached a point where they should have been able to be teaching others, but due to the neglect of the truth, they became unable to handle the solid meat of God’s Truth. They needed to be taught the basics once again. Within the context here, the Hebrews were not taking the step to embrace Christ and move on in their walk with Him, but were still lingering just on the verge of belief. But a similar dilemma manifests itself in the life of believers, who begin to neglect the truth in their lives. This is what happened to the Corinthians, where Paul was grieved that they were vulnerable to being deceived by false teachers, in much the same way that Eve was deceived by the serpent. (2 Corinthians 11:1-4) The Corinthians were in this position because they were becoming immature in their faith and were unable to tolerate the solid food of God’s Word.

Once embracing that faith, these Hebrews would be able to progress in their spiritual maturity, building discernment in their life through the constant exercising of their increasing knowledge of God through His Word. This is key in the life of the believer. While it may be true that there are those who possess what we would call the gift of discernment ("distinguishing of spirits", 1 Corinthians 12:10, NASB), ALL believers are exhorted to engage in some degree of discernment in their lives. To put this in perspective, just because someone does not have the gift of “helps” (1 Corinthians 12:28) does not leave them off the hook to minister to a need. All believers are to engage in these matters as a normal part of the Christian walk. And discernment does not occur in a vacuum. It must be cultivated in a believer’s life.

Hebrews 5:12 tells us that this group needed to be taught the basics of the “oracles of God”. The "oracles of God" refers to the words of God especially as it pertains to the Mosaic Law. The Hebrews were in need now of being taught the basics of the Old Testament as it pointed to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This was the purpose of the Old Testament teaching (Galatians 3:23-25). The Hebrews were not “accustomed”, meaning that they were inexperienced in handling the Word of God. Scripture is referred to as the “word of righteousness”. The word righteousness comes from the Greek "dikaiosune", and refers to the doctrine taught in Scripture which teaches us the way in which we are approved by God. And it is the conscious effort applied to the study and application of Scripture which aids in conforming us to the image of Christ, as we continually learn how we are to live and relate to God. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to “present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Scripture also speaks of the purifying effect of the Word of God in the life of the believer (Ephesians 5:26).

Solid food is for the “mature”(Hebrews 5:14), which is from the Greek "teleios" and means a state of completeness or perfection, and is used in context here to refer to salvation. Only those who have come to Christ and embraced saving faith will be able to understand the deeper things pertaining to His person and work. But from that point comes continued spiritual growth. A believer must be trained in the Word of God. The word translated as “trained” here is the Greek “gumnazo” and refers to vigorous training much like that of an athlete training for competition. And this is absolutely necessary in order to discern between “good and evil”. This is something that is not going to occur through the mere casual reading of Scripture. Merely having short daily devotionals comprised of a short verse of Scripture is going to be insufficient to develop any degree of sharp discernment. Our minds require consistent, vigorous study in order to develop any degree of sufficient discernment. We must be transformed by the constant renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2), where our thinking is trained to focus on the things of God. And this can only occur through the careful reading and study of God's Word and subsequent application to our lives. And this, by the way, is the only means by which believers are able to discern God's will for their lives, something all believers are commanded to do (Ephesians 5:17;Colossians 1:9).

With the void of solid Scriptural teaching prevalent in evangelicalism today, it is no wonder that many are being seduced by error. It is imperative that believers seek teaching that is solid and also learn to become skillful in their study of Scripture. It is the only defense there is in order to keep ourselves from falling prey to the various false teachings that have littered the evangelical landscape today.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Subtle Seduction of Error

This excerpt from “The Truth War” by John MacArthur describes the subtle seduction of false teachers. Sometimes error can be difficult to spot and it requires due diligence to discern truth from error.

“Now, you might think that the difference between a picayune disagreement and a serious threat to some core truth of Christianity would always be obvious and clear-cut. Usually, it is. Most of the time, it is easy enough to see the distinction between a peripheral issue and a matter of urgent and fundamental importance. But not always. And here is where mature wisdom and careful discernment become absolutely crucial for every Christian: sometimes serious threats to our faith come in subtle disguise so that they are barely noticeable. And false teachers like to surround their deadly error with some truth. Therein lies the seduction. We must never assume that things like the teacher’s reputation, the warmth of his personality, or majority opinion about him are perfectly safe barometers of whether his teaching is really dangerous or not. We also shouldn’t imagine that common sense, intuition, or first impressions are reliable ways of determining whether this or that error poses a serious threat or not. Scripture, and Scripture alone, is the only safe guide in this area.”
(John MacArthur, “The Truth War”, pg.77)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Never Learn

I know that this is not new news any more, and others have already commented on this, but I will give my two cents any way. Bill Hybels has apparently had a life changing experience after the facts revealed through their evaluation of their ministry. After years of instructing multitudes of churches and leaders about how they should be doing church, they have come to realize that what they have been doing has not been grounding people in Scripture and maturing them in the faith. As Phil Johnson pointed out in his post, isn’t this what many have been warning about for years, because Willow Creek was failing to follow a Biblical model for ministry? And it is only now, as a result of their own poll, that they have realized the truth. Wouldn’t they have avoided all of this had they followed a Scriptural model of church ministry?

What is frustrating is that there is not really any hint of true repentance for their actions. The only remedy they are going to offer apparently, is some new program for training on how the congregation can read, learn and apply the Bible for themselves. Now, I think that teaching people how they can read and learn the Bible for themselves is extremely important and certainly should be a fundamental part of what a church does. And it is also true that Christians should not rely solely on the church to provide all of their spiritual nourishment, spoon-feeding them all truth. Christians need to take responsibility for their spiritual growth. But in addition, God has ordained that there should be leadership that assists with that process as well. (Ephesians 4:11-16) And the church is biblically obligated to provide solid Bible teaching to help believers grow. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 3:15, NASB) Pastoral leadership is to labor in the Word of God, seeking to teach with precision and accuracy. In fact, those who "work hard", putting forth greater effort at preaching and teaching are considered worthy of greater honor (1 Timothy 5:17). This describes seeking to teach the more in-depth truths of Scripture. That is fundamental to contributing to the spiritual maturity of the congregation. Simply offering what is essentially a do-it-yourself kit is not going to achieve what they think. People need to be exposed consistently to solid biblical preaching. Also fundamental to the ministry is a mutual exhortation and accountability, and this can only occur as members have opportunities to share biblical truth with one another, challenging one another.
What is even more astounding though is what else is taking place at Willow Creek. You would think that after their discovery, they would be inclined to return to the Word of God, and be even more vigilant to make reforms to align themselves with Scripture. But instead, they are now cozying up with leadership in the emerging church, scheduling Brian McLaren as a keynote speaker at their youth conference. This is not the first time that they shared the platform with an emerging leader. They have had Rob Bell speak as a guest at their church before. So perhaps it is a case where they are exchanging one error for another jumping on the Emergent bandwagon.

But a similar revelation was also shared by Gilbert Bilezikian some time ago. Bilezikian was one of the founders of Willow Creek.

But these sudden revelations that what they have been doing has not proven beneficial has been realized by others in the popular seeker church movement. Take Sally Morgenthaler's realization that falls in line with what Bill Hybels has come to realize. I wrote a post on this awhile back. But then she partners with popular emerging church leaders Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders of the wolves who would enter the flock in Acts 20. But instead of warning and protecting the flock, leadership today is merely going to allow the wolves to come in and play with the sheep. This graphic from Phil Johnson at TeamPyro captures the essense of the situation.

I am afraid that the evangelical church has become so removed from the truth, that even when they seem to come to their senses, they lack any real discernment to implement any true reforms.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Battle Over Justification By Faith

Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ
By John Piper

For about ten years now, the biblical reality of justification of by faith has captured more of my time than any other doctrine. There are at least five reasons for this. One is that eight of those years I was preaching through the book of Romans, and justification is at the heart of Romans. A second reason is that I have been surrounded by apprentices that read widely and ask tough questions, and I don’t have the luxury of indefinitely equivocating.

The Embattled Truth of Justification
The third reason is that in those ten years the truth of justification has become increasingly embattled, so that the truth as I see in the New Testament is increasingly confused and reduced and contradicted.

  • The lines between evangelical faith and Roman Catholic teaching have been blurred.
  • The doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s obedience has been denied.
  • The New Perspective on Paul, especially N. T. Wright, has redrawn the map of New Testament theology in such a way that confusion is widespread as to just what justification is and how it relates to the gospel and conversion and judgment.
  • Others have so merged faith and its fruits that the term “by faith alone” has ceased to provide a foundation for holiness but is now virtually identical with it.
  • And some have so changed the ordinary meaning of the word “righteousness” that in the act of justification, it no longer refers to anyone’s right attitude or right action but only to a courtroom verdict of acquittal.

In other words, year after year, as I try to win people to faith in Christ and help my people enjoy the fullness of assurance so they can live radical, risk-taking lives of love, I keep bumping into ever new permutations—John Owen in his day called them “innumerable subterfuges”—of the denial of the New Testament teaching on the imputation of Christ’s obedience to believers.

Click here to read the rest of the article at Desiring God.

John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is the Reformation Necessary Any More?

The Albert Mohler program had an interesting topic for discussion a couple of weeks ago. There is controversy surrounding the topic of whether or not the Reformation is still necessary today. In fact, one prominent author, Mark Noll along with Carolyn Nystrom, pose the question “Is the Reformation Over?” in their book by the same title. They apparently seem to make a case that both Protestants and Catholics have perhaps moved closer together rather than moving farther apart. They site many changes including the outcome of Vatican II.

But what people need to remember is that the fundamental doctrinal stance of the Roman Catholic Church has not changed, and a careful reading of the latest Catholic catechism should prove that. Most of the changes have been mainly cosmetic, with most of the core beliefs remaining the same. Even a recent proclamation by the Vatican affirms their belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church. (Al Mohler commented on this back in June) At least they are now being honest and evangelicals should take notice that Rome has not genuinely changed. And they are on an aggressive campaign to win back former Catholics, as well as evangelizing new converts. Even utilizing strategies mimicking evangelicals. And the so-called ecumenical partnering with evangelicals has dubious intentions.

Some have concluded that the Reformation was a mistake, or the intent has been accomplished and now we need to build bridges with Rome. But I think that these conclusions are a result of not understanding the key issues that are still remaining. Not least of which is the doctrine of justification. And the current shallow state of evangelicalism does not help matters either. The average church-goer has little understanding of what the Bible teaches and the current trend does not look promising.

I hold to the view that the Reformation is still certainly necessary. In fact, we need another reformation to lead the church today back to solid Scriptural footing.

Unfortunately, the attitude that seems to pervade much of evangelicalism is that of indifference, or at times hostile to the principles of the Reformation. This is especially true of the attitude projected by many in the emerging church movement. But the attitude is not unique to the emerging church. It is pervasive of the evangelical church in general. And it has been for quite some time.

In fact, Rick Warren has called for a new Reformation, a reformation focusing on deeds rather than creeds, and in a sense, tends to deemphasize the importance of beliefs by emphasizing deeds over beliefs. And this can be seen in his approach to ministry. Let’s take for instance, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven program.

This program is implemented by a whole host of denominations. This includes Roman Catholics. Holy Family Parish in Illinois was one of the first Catholic Churches to utilize Rick Warren’s approach. The purpose driven program is apparently so adaptable that Catholics can use it as a tool to evangelize people utilizing their doctrinal perspective. This should underscore its fundamental weakness and Rick Warren’s careless approach to fundamental doctrine. Don’t kid yourself; the RCC is on an aggressive campaign to win back former Catholics, as well as to win new converts. Catholics want to paint a picture that they are just another evangelical church, when their beliefs are different from us at very crucial points. Of course today, the average evangelical really knows little about his faith, so they really don’t understand the important differences.

Yes, the Reformation is still necessary after 500 years when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Whittenberg Church. The same crucial issues still divide Catholics and Evangelicals. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals do not understand their faith well enough to understand these differences.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Church Has Been in a Mess Before

We may be thinking that our generation is the first generation that has experienced a spiritual decline in the church. But this is simply not true. There have been other times in the history of the church where the spiritual vitality of the church has waned. A study of church history should prove this to be true. Of course, it certainly seems that the decline today has reached unprecedented proportions and perhaps this is just one more sign that may be signaling Christ’s soon return.

But the period leading up to the first great awakening was awash in an attitude that is similar to what we are experiencing today. The state of affairs in the church was not good at all, and it was this backdrop that Jonathan Edwards proclaimed the truth of Scripture without shame. It was this approach that God blessed and it ignited the Great Awakening.

Here is an interesting article by Dan Jarvis entitled "The Next Great Awakening", discussing the “Halfway Covenant” that was the official policy followed by churches in the American colonies in 1662. It was a way the churches attempted to turn the tide of waning numbers, by allowing unregenerate children of members to become partial or "halfway" members.

Typically, to become a full member of a church meant one must have given testimony of a conversion experience. With the increasing affluence in the colonies, people became more concerned with comfort and material wealth and less concerned with spiritual matters. Under the half way covenant, if someone led a reasonably wholesome life and agreed to follow the creed and teaching of the church, they could become partial members without giving testimony of having a conversion experience. These partial members did not have voting privileges in the church, but they were allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

The Halfway Covenant was implemented with the best intentions. The church would continue to grow and influence society, and new members would be brought in who would be exposed to the teachings of the church and eventually be converted. Or so they thought. Eventually just about anyone could become members and the half-way members outnumbered the full members. The plan had a disastrous effect on the church and eventually the spiritual vitality of the churches declined. Rather than the church having a positive influence on society, worldliness entered into the church and society continued to degenerate.

What turned things around? The straight forward preaching of God’s Truth by men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. And it was sermons like Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that awakened people to their need to repent and embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The dilemma of the Halfway Covenant sounds quite similar today with the seeker sensitive mentality of the church. It certainly shows how we really don’t learn from history, but have a habit of repeating some of the same mistakes of the past.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I’m Afraid That He Is Right

In this video, Newt Gingrich shares his perspective on the dangers that America faces in light of terrorism. We are not aware of the full extent of what we are faced with and perhaps how unprepared we really are. This is certainly sobering and I am afraid he is right.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finally Settling In

I know my posting here has been fairly infrequent here for awhile. I have tried to post once a week or so, but things have been hectic for quite awhile, especially through the summer months. There are too many things that needed to be done around the house. And over the previous two summers, I have had to spend too much time with schoolwork and not had much time to spend with my family. So now that I have finished with school, I have been able to spend more time with my wife and kids.

This certainly has been a rough year with everything that had gone on with church and searching for a new church can take some time. And I have not enjoyed being disconnected from a local church body. But I can say that I am glad to be free from the mess that our previous church degenerated into. It seemed like a long battle and we tried to hang in there, hoping things would change, attempting to reason with the leadership. What was sad was that we helped establish this church, and to watch things go steadily downhill was heart wrenching. I certainly felt like it was a drawn out battle that lasted several years. I could sense that the church was beginning to drift away from biblical principles within the first couple of years. But I don’t believe in just cutting ties and running at the first signs of trouble. There is something to be said for battling for the truth. How else is there going to be any chance for correction if everyone cuts and runs? After all, that is the reason why believers are commanded to gather together, to provide encouragement and instruction for one another, providing an environment of mutual accountability. (Hebrew 10:25; Ephesians 4:11-26)

But unfortunately, there often comes a time where it becomes clearly evident that things are not going to change, and are in fact getting even worse and it is time to leave. That is where we were at. For years I watched as some of the emerging church philosophy began creeping in at an increasing rate. It was not so much that absolute rank heresy was always being taught, although there were some very wrong views creeping in at an increasing rate. The greatest error was in what wasn’t being taught and was certainly creating an environment ripe for heresy to take root. And with books and materials being utilized by such authors as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Donald Miller, the door was swinging wide open for heresy to enter the congregation. What was alarming was that the leadership was utilizing this material. The leadership was moving further and further away from a biblical model of ministry and church leadership. False teaching is corruptive and cannot edify, and it leads people way from God, and leaves them more susceptible to their flesh. Tragically, the senior pastor was found to be in moral failure after it was discovered that he was having an adulterous affair with another woman. He was dismissed last December and we thought that maybe this would be a wake-up call. It seemed initially that there was the realization that there was an unhealthy model for leadership and that they wanted things to change. But by late April, it became clear that the remaining leadership really were not serious about changing things and adopting a more biblical model for leadership and church ministry. Sin just seemed to have permeated the church and my wife and I decided that we needed leave.

Glad to say that I think we have found a new church home and are finally settling in. We finally settled on a church that we visited several weeks ago. The pastor and the staff have a solid, biblical view of church ministry. And the preaching is expositional. I found out about this church last fall when I was using the church search page at the 9Marks ministry website. There are not many solid churches in our immediate area, so I am grateful to have discovered a church with a solid view of the ministry. And it is comforting to know that the pastor has had solid biblical training having graduated from the Master’s Seminary. That is not to say that a pastor needs to have a seminary degree to be a pastor; what is most important is that he has a love for God’s Word and constantly educates himself. His ongoing study of Scripture is most important, not his degree. There are plenty of pastors who are dedicated to God’s Word who have never been to seminary. In fact, some may be more solid, especially given the state of some schools out there. But if he has been to a solid seminary, it can certainly give you some idea of where he is coming from.

Well now that the weather is starting to get colder and the days shorter, I may have a little more time to post here. But it may take a little while to gear up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Basis for Christian Music

I appreciate Steve Camp’s approach to Christian music, especially in a day and age when the CCM has given itself to wholesale compromise. He has made a stand against the worldly compromise within the Christian music industry. In this video explaining the objective of Audience One, he makes a case for more biblically based music. And he points out how much of Christian music has been turned into an industry instead of a ministry. Christian music should be centered on bringing glory to God and richly steeped in biblical truth. It is a shame that much of so-called Christian music today is theologically void and not able to cause people to think deeply about their God.

Audience One identifies 5 key pillars it bases its philosophy on:
1. Glory of God
2. Authority of Scripture
3. Local Church Accountability
4. Partner with Believers
5. Ministry not Industry

I believe that those are sound guiding principles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

This Should be Cause for Concern

Not sure why this has not caused more of a stir than it has. Arab owned Borse Dubai has made a deal to purchase 20 percent of the Nasdaq Stock Market. In exchange, Nasdaq would receive control of OMX, Sweden’s leading stock market. If this deal goes through, this would allow the Nasdaq to achieve its goal of establishing an overseas presence like the New York Stock Exchange did with its purchase of Euronext.

But this deal raised security concerns with U.S. politicians, and rightly so. This would be the first time a Middle Eastern government would own a sizable portion of an American Stock Exchange.

This is, to me, a fairly dubious transaction that should make Americans a little more uneasy than it does. Our shallowness and obsession with greed is going to get the better of us. I guess too many Americans are more concerned with what is going on with Britney Spears than what is going on with their country from an economic and security standpoint. Just further evidence of how far our culture is degenerating, as we become more preoccupied with pleasure and entertainment, than issues related to national security, not to mention our declining moral condition. We have become a nation that has drifted far from God, and is continuing to walk in rebellion. All from a nation that claims in some way to be a Christian nation, or at least a nation where an overwhelming number of people profess to be Christians. Sadly, the churches in America are not helping much in turning the tide of rebellion, and are in fact assisting people to travel further down the path away from God.

On thing appears sure; we have not learned from the example in Scripture of how Israel fell under the judgment of God for her rebellion and compromise. Often God allowed Israel to be overcome by her enemies in judgment. (Isaiah 63:10; Jeremiah 21:3-7; Ezekiel 23:28-30) Could it be that God will allow the same fate to befall America? Don’t think that it could not happen. And just like the false prophets in Israel, many leaders in American churches are proclaiming “peace and safety”, rather than emphasizing repentance and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. (Jeremiah 6:13-15; 8:11-12; 14:13-14; 23:16-17)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Opportunity Before Christians in this Postmodern Generation

John MacArthur explains in his book “The Truth War”, that we do have a “wonderful window of opportunity” before us in this postmodern climate to proclaim the truth of the Christian faith. Following the failure of the rationalism of the modern age, the people of the world are disillusioned and confused being overwhelmed with uncertainty, wondering how they can ever arrive at the truth. Sadly, the Emerging Church is following the worst possible strategy for ministering to those in this generation. By merely exacerbating the situation through encouraging disbelief, the Emerging Church is sending multitudes further down the path of despair, with little hope for experiencing true comfort and assurance. MacArthur explains on pages 24-25 of “The Truth War”:

“ The absolute worst strategy for ministering the gospel in a climate like this is for Christians to imitate the uncertainty or echo the cynicism of the postmodern perspective – and in effect drag the Bible and the gospel into it. Instead, we need to affirm against the spirit of this age that God has spoken with the utmost clarity, authority, and finality through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). And we have the infallible record of that message in Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Postmodernism is simply the latest expression of worldly unbelief. Its core value – a dubious ambivalence toward truth – is merely skepticism distilled to its pure essence. There is nothing virtuous or genuinely humble about it. It is proud rebellion against divine revelation.

In fact, postmodernism’s hesitancy about truth is antithetical to the bold confidence Scripture says is the birthright of every believer (Ephesians 3:12). Such assurance is wrought by the Spirit of God Himself in those who believe (1 Thessalonians 1:5). We need to make the most of that assurance and not fear to confront the world with it."

(John MacArthur, “The Truth War”, Pg. 24-25)

We need to be vigilant in proclaiming the truth without compromise. We need to remember that it is God speaking to people through the truth of His Word that will provide hope for a lost world. We need to also remember that salvation is a sovereign work of God, and is not brought about through man's clever strategies. Our duty before God is to proclaim the message of the gospel with boldness. This is how the gospel was proclaimed by the apostles despite open opposition to the message by the people (Acts 13:45-47). We need to pray, just as Paul requested, that we would also have the courage to speak the truth with boldness (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Are You Really Good Enough?

The church that we left promoted this idea that we really do not need to emphasize that people are sinners, because they already know that they are sinners. So the philosophy became “we should not ‘camp out’ on sin” because it is not necessary. While it may be true that some may error in only telling people of the bad news of their sin and little time telling them of the solution – salvation through Jesus Christ – we must be careful not to error in the opposite direction. It is also absolutely necessary to explain to people and illustrate the reason they are lost so that they fully understand the gravity of their lost condition. They need to understand how lost and separated they are and that they are under the condemnation and judgment of God. And evangelicalism is failing to do much of this today.

While people will generally admit that they are sinners, they also have a tendency to minimize the seriousness of their sin. They tend to rationalize that “isn’t everyone a sinner?”, and that they are a basically a good person. After all, won’t God look more to our good deeds? Isn’t God all about love and forgiveness? Won’t He look at my heart and see that I am sincere?

The fact is that human nature resists the acknowledgement of the seriousness of sin. It is not enough to merely tell people they are sinners, we need to go into detail and explain how their sin has separated them from God and that it is not merely a minor infraction. People need to understand this in order to come under the full conviction of their sinful state.

This tendency of avoiding discussion of the depravity of man and his sin has become the bane of contemporary evangelicalism.

These video clips from CrossTV discuss this issue. Listen how people tend to avoid and dismiss their lost condition, including prison inmates, and actually claim that they have a basically good heart.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spiritual Delight

Excerpt from:

The Saint's Spiritual Delight by Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD." [Psalm 1:2]

What is meant by the Law of God, what by Delight in the Law, and the Proposition resulting.

THE words give a twofold description of a godly man.

First, He delights in God's law.

Secondly, He meditates in God's law.

I begin with the first, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord:' The great God hath grafted the affection of delight in every creature; it hath by the instinct of nature something to delight itself in. Now the true saint, not by intuition, but divine inspiration makes the law of God his delight. This is the badge of a christian, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord.' A man may work in his trade, and not delight in it, either in regard of the difficulty of the work, or the smallness of the income; but a godly man serves God with delight; it is his meat and drink to do his will.

For the explication of the words, it will be inquired,

1. What is meant by 'the law of the Lord.' This word, Law, may be taken either more strictly or more largely. (1.) More strictly, for the Decalogue or ten commandments. (2.) More largely. [1.] For the whole written word of God. [2.] For those truths which are deducted from the word, and do concenter in it. [3.] For the whole business of religion which is the counterpart of God's law, and agrees with it as the transcript with the original. The word is a setting forth, and religion is a shewing forth of God's law. I shall take this word in its full latitude and extent.

2. What is meant by delight in God's law. The Hebrew and Septuagint both render it, His will is in the law of the Lord; and that which is voluntary is delightful; a gracious heart serves God from a principle of ingenuity; he makes God's law not only his task, but his recreation; upon this scripture-stock I shall graft this proposition.

Doctrine. That a child of God, though he cannot serve the Lord perfectly, yet he serves him willingly; his will is in the law of the Lord; he is not a pressed soldier, but a volunteer; by the beating of this pulse we may judge whether there be spiritual life in us, or no. David professeth God's law was his delight, Psalm 119.77, he had his crown to delight in, he had his music to cheer him, but the love he had to God's law did drown all other delights; as the joy of harvest and vintage exceeds the joy of gleaning. 'I delight in the law of God,' saith Paul, 'in the inner man.' Rom. 7.22, the Greek word is, I take pleasure; the law of God is my recreation, and it was an heart delight, it was in the inner man; a wicked man may have joy in the face, 2 Cor. 5.12, like honey-dew, that wets the leaf; but the wine of God's Spirit cheers the heart; Paul delighted in the law in the inner man.

This article originally appeared here at Bible Bulletin Board.

Monday, September 10, 2007

When Will the Church Learn?

I was alerted to this article at Justin Taylor’s blog, Between Two Worlds. It seems that Sally Morgenthaler has changed her views on the so-called worship evangelism she pioneered. Her book, “Worship Evangelism” was very influential and enticed many churches to adopt her philosophy. In hindsight, she now admits that despite all the effort that the contemporary church has placed on cultural relevancy, it has not yielded the intended outcome. Despite the multiplication of mega churches utilizing strategies including her worship evangelism, the church has failed to significantly reach the unchurched.

But while I appreciate Morgenthaler’s honesty, I wonder if she has really changed her pragmatic thinking. In her article she points out that in the early days of the Worship Evangelism strategy, the unchurched were actually responding to the pragmatic strategy; that is until the novelty grew wearisome. Eventually, only the well-established seeker megachurches survived. Ultimately, these meagachurches became nothing more than one more choice on the menu for church-goers shopping for the next thrill. But I also noticed in her article that she is a contributor to the book, “An Emergent Manifesto of Hope”, edited by emerging gurus Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Given the emerging church's aversion to propositional truth, tragically, she may be just trading one error for another. Yes, I know, the emerging church denies any claims that they are simply adopting another pragmatic strategy, but that is essentially what they are doing. Pandering to what the postmodern society desires. I wrote a post some time ago pointing this out.

She comments on the observations by an “unchurched journalist”. “No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren’t interested.” A little further and she advocates that that we “worship well and deeply”, including songs containing anger, despair and sadness, returning more to the Psalms, where David expressed these emotions. I agree that we should return to a more genuine heartfelt worship. Not as a tool to appeal to the lost, but for our expression of worship toward God. To be fair, I don’t think she was necessarily advocating using that as an attempt to appeal to the lost. The main thrust of her statement was directed at the focus of our worship being the “overflow of what God does through us beyond our walls.” And I agree, but with one caveat. I also agree with something that Jim Hamilton wrote in a post addressing this same article by Morganthaller; there should really not be a dichotomy between our corporate worship and our overall worship reflected in our daily life. Both are vitally important.

Singing and music in Scripture is never intended to be used as an evangelism tool. The Scriptural exhortation to sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs are meant to focus our thoughts on God and edification of one another. (Ephesians 5:19) They are not meant to be used as just one more tool in our arsenal of clever pragmatism to supposedly spread the gospel.

God chose the preaching of the simple message of the cross to be the vehicle by which to reach the lost with the gospel. Not eloquent, clever speeches or fanciful methodologies, appealing to the desires of the culture. (1 Corinthians 1:17-29; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5) This is to be done regardless of what the culture wants. (2 Timothy 4:2) If the culture resists and refuses to listen, we are to do it anyway. The measure of our success should not rest in numbers, but on the change in the hearts of those who believe, whether it is one or 1,000. If one were to judge the ministry of Jeremiah, according to the standards of contemporary evangelicalism, he would be deemed a failure. The man steadfastly preached the unadulterated message that God commanded him for over forty years, yet his message was continually rejected by the people. We must be willing to exercise the same steadfast faith and commitment.

In a vain attempt to supposedly reach the lost, churches have so watered down the truth in order to produce a lowest common denominator faith to get people in the church, and now are inept at providing any help in equipping believers in the faith. And this equipping is necessary if believers are going to be able to go into the world, being strengthened in their faith, brought to spiritual maturity and be an effective witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ.

While I certainly believe that churches should engage in outreach outside of the church, unless this effort is under girded by the proclamation of Scriptural truth, churches will come to the same dead-end that the liberal churches met; a hollow message that really offers no long-term hope to the spiritually needy.

It is time for the church get back to the basics of what the church should be doing instead of be driven by the latest pragmatic approaches devised through the clever schemes of man. It is time for the church to look to the teaching of Scripture to find out how we should be carrying out the ministry of the church, rather than the ideologies of man. Inevitably, man's ideas will lead to eventual failure, while providing a temporal illusion of success.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Spiritual Terrorists Pose The Most Threat

“It is also quite clear form the biblical record that spiritual terrorists and saboteurs within the church pose a far more serious threat than manifestly hostile forces on the outside. From the very start of the church age, all the most spiritually deadly onslaughts against the gospel have come from people who pretend to be Christians – not from atheists and agnostics on the outside.”

(John MacArthur, “The Truth War”, pg. 82-83)

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Non-Essential" Doctrine Unimportant?

This CrossTV video clip explains the importance of doctrine, especially those doctrines that are unfortunately treated as unimportant or non-essential by contemporary evangelicalism.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Piper’s Response to Interview with Rabbi on the Bridge Collapse.

John Piper gives his response to an interview on public radio with Rabbi Kushner concerning the collapse of the 35 W bridge in Minneapolis. Apparently the Rabbi merely expressed his own opinions rather than anything based on Scripture, which included the notion that God is really not all-powerful. Unfortunately, many in the evangelical community are embracing this viewpoint as well. This is clearly in contrast to Scripture which teaches that God is indeed all-powerful in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

From the article:

"3. Less astonishing for our day, but more outrageous is the claim of the Rabbi that God is not “all-powerful.” Specifically, he does not “control the laws of nature.” On the contrary, both the Rabbi’s Bible and the New Testament teach that he is all-powerful and does control the laws of nature."

Piper points out the short-sighted approach by the Rabbi, who claimed that “People need consolation, not explanation.” From the perspective of the Rabbi, God really did not have any control over the circumstances of the bridge collapse, so it was merely a random occurrence that God could not control. This is out of step with what Scripture teaches. So the so-called counsel of the Rabbi is not helpful at all.

"4. Finally, the Rabbi is pastorally short-sighted in saying, “People need consolation, not explanation.” He does not mean, “Hug and cry first, give God-centered explanations later.” That would be wise counsel. He means, “All our attempts at answering ‘Why?’ will be wrong. So don’t try.” The reason for this is that God did not “intend” anything by the collapse of the bridge. You can’t intend something by what you have no power to control. So God did not exercise any wisdom or love in causing or permitting the bridge to collapse. It was strictly random. So one should only give consolation, not explanation. There is not explanation.

There are two reasons why this is pastorally short-sighted and unsatisfying. One is that it is built on a falsehood. God does not need to be “all-powerful” to keep people from being hurt in the collapse of a bridge. He doesn’t even need to be as powerful as a man. He only needs to show up and use a little bit of his power (say, on the level of Spiderman, or Jason Bourne)—he did create the universe, the Rabbi concedes—and (for example) cause some tremor a half-hour early to cause the workers to leave the bridge, and the traffic to be halted. This intervention would be something less spectacular than a world-wide flood, or a burning bush, or plague of frogs, or a divided Red Sea, or manna in the wilderness, or the walls of a city falling down—just a little tremor to get everybody off the bridge before it fell.

So the Rabbi is not pastorally helpful to build his counsel on the fact that God is not “all-powerful.” Bereaved wives know in their heart that this is a copout. A human could have cleared the bridge. If God is just a little bit powerful, he could have figured out a way to save her husband.

The other reason why the Rabbi’s pastoral approach is shortsighted is that sooner or later the anguished human heart does need some answers about the power, wisdom, and love of God. The Rabbi’s Bible (and my Bible)—the only authority he or I have for making any pronouncements about God at all—gives more comfort than the Rabbi is willing to offer."

Sadly, the viewpoint of Rabbi Kushner is not unlike many so-called evangelicals today. You can read the article in its entirety here at DesiringGod.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The War on Truth

This book is among the most important that you will read, especially given the climate of the evangelical church today. John MacArthur has written “The Truth War”, addressing the onslaught of postmodern thought that is streaming into the church. I am amazed that there are still pastors who think that the emerging church is simply another “style” of church. Many simply have not grasped the fact that the emerging church is introducing a mindset that is hostile to the truth of Scripture. I would strongly recommend reading this book. Here is a quote from the introduction that describes the mindset of far too many in our society today and it is rapidly spilling over into the church.

“The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can’t stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body.

But that is not authentic Christianity. Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as essential to Christianity as the gospel) is by definition a kind of unbelief. Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief. Advocating ambiguity, exalting uncertainty, or otherwise deliberately clouding the truth is a sinful way of nurturing unbelief.”

(John MacArthur, "The Truth War", Introduction pg. xi)

Having watched the influence of the postmodern approach creep into the church we just left, I can testify that it certainly has a very detrimental effect on the spiritual health of the church. Even though they would not readily admit to being identified with the emerging church, their philosophy of ministry was certainly beginning to be shaped by the so-called emerging “conversation”. This certainly became clearly evident by the books and material they were using; authors such as Rob Bell, Leonard Sweet, etc. The teaching was very basic and shallow, and precise handling of the text of Scripture was not highly valued there. In fact, if you were one of those who desired to teach with precision and accuracy, you were certainly treated as an outcast. Conversations with the leadership left me with the impression that they really did not have a solid grasp of Scripture and seemed to display a casual attitude toward biblical truth.

So, keep your eyes wide open. The influence of this post modernistic approach to ministry may very well be creeping into your church.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some Postmodern Motivational Posters

Phil Johnson posted these motivational poster parodies of the emerging church movement. You can go to this web page he created where you can print them if you want to. Here is a small sample. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 11

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

“ 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:3-7, NASB)

Verse 3 continues with the qualifications of elders with “not addicted to wine”. Not only must an elder not be given to drunkenness, but he should not even be seen as a drinker. He needs to be careful where and with whom he associates with. If he is a man who frequents bars he can easily be accused of being a drinker. His thinking must never be distorted by alcohol, and must lead a lifestyle that is distinctly different from that of the world. His life should set an example for others, inspiring them to lead a life of holiness.

He should also not be “pugnacious”, meaning that he should not be constantly ready to fight and engage in physical violence. He should be “gentle” and “peaceable”, which means that he should be gracious and not desire to hold grudges, not quick to fight and avoids disharmony. He should also be “free from the love of money”. His motivation should come from a love for God and the people under his care. The opposite trait, covetousness, is a character displayed by false teachers, not those who are genuinely committed to God. Being peaceable and gentle does not mean that there are not occasions where elders should not be tough. There are times when the elder must be tough on false teachers and take action against the spread of false teaching. (Titus 1:10-13; 2:15) He must also confront other sinning elders. (1Timothy 5:20) He must at times be confrontational and authoritative. But there must be balance and the elder must also maintain an attitude of warmth and compassion.

It is important that the elder demonstrate leadership in his own household. If his leadership cannot be modeled there, it certainly will not be demonstrated in the church. It includes everything that would be associated with his household. His children must be respectful, under control and display a reverence for God. And this should be carried out in such a manner that those observing his home life could say that it is managed excellently. And this is where the issue of divorce can come into play. If a man is divorced, it illustrates a major flaw in his spiritual leadership. It is obvious that the home was not managed well. And even if there were biblical grounds for a divorce, there would need to be a long period of time elapsed to demonstrate strong family leadership. This may not seem fair in the case of a biblically permitted divorce, but remember, the overriding principle for qualified elders is that they be blameless. There must not be anything that could be used against them that would incur blame. If a man cannot take care of his home, he certainly will not be able to take care of the church.

The last qualification is that he is not to be “a new convert”. The danger here is that his pride would be a stumbling block. Pride caused Satan to fall. (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:13-15) I have observed that in some churches, there seems to be too much eagerness to promote men to positions of leadership who simply are not ready for it. This is tragic and sets him up for a fall and also in the long run hinders the church. There needs to be a great deal of consideration of the qualifications of the man. And it takes time to build leaders. There is definitely a maturing process that must take place before they are fit for spiritual leadership. (1 Timothy 5:22) He must also have an excellent reputation with those outside the church. Remember the key issue is that the elder must be blameless.

Well this post marks the end of the series on Biblical Church Leadership. Leadership is extremely important in the church and the men who are chosen to lead the church can affect the spiritual health of the congregation in a positive or detrimental way. If you want to read an excellent resource on this subject, I recommend Alexander Strauch’s book, “Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership”. Another excellent resource is the 9marks website.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership - Pt 10

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

"2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, "

The candidate for elder must display a “hospitable” attitude toward others, displaying a welcoming and generous spirit. The Greek is composed of two words that essentially mean to love or show affection to strangers. In the early church, believers had to depend on each other’s hospitality for their survival. This included helping other believers who were strangers who perhaps needed to flee their homes in another town due to persecution. I can’t help but wonder, in our society that stresses individualism where self-sufficiency is highly prized, if it does not make this concept more difficult for people in the church to truly grasp today. Christians who are heavily persecuted in other countries probably have a greater appreciation for this.

The next trait is “able to teach”. The elder must be skilful in his teaching ability. This is extremely important, since this will be one of his primary duties. This is more than merely being able to teach, but more importantly, the content of their teaching. There are those who can teach, but they are teaching the wrong things. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that that leadership must be proven skilful handlers of God’s Truth. Elders are to be able to lead the church in matters of doctrine and practice, and unless he is able to handle the Word of God with precision and accuracy, he will be unable to accomplish this task and is unqualified to lead. Furthermore, any who display a sloppy careless attitude toward Scripture should not considered for eldership and any who are already in leadership displaying this trait should be dismissed. Sad to say, this is seldom taken into account in evangelicalism at large. Much of the problem lies in the fact that churches do not understand the Scriptural mandate for church leadership, so they follow the world’s standard, not God’s. Too many leaders are chosen simply because they display considerable charisma and can garner a wide following. Just because people are following someone does not mean they are fit for biblical leadership.

Let’s take a brief look at 2Timothy 2:15.

"15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV)

I quoted that passage from the NKJV, because I think it captures the meaning with a little more sharpness. The phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth” literally means to cut it straight, and it denotes the precision and accuracy that God demands in the handling of His Word. It is unfortunate that a large majority of evangelicalism places little emphasis on this important quality. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on the eloquence of speech and mere communication skills. This is not to say that strong communication skills are not important, but that the content of what is said is even more important. Scripture, in references to leadership in the church, places great emphasis on the accurate handling of God’s Word. Let’s look at another passage, 1Timothy 5:17.

“ 17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”(1 Timothy 5:17, NASB)

Elders who serve with a greater commitment and strive for excellence are to be held in high esteem, and deserve to be paid more generously. In particular, those who work the hardest and seem to be more prominent should be acknowledged with greater honor. What is implied in this text is that there are elders who are particularly driven to work harder at studying Scripture for preaching and teaching. The phrase “work hard” literally means to labor to the point of exhaustion. This further underscores the premium Scripture places on the importance of preaching and teaching by the elders in the church. Preaching involves the open proclamation of biblical truth, with the intention of exhorting and admonishing the congregation to take heed to God’s Word. Teaching emphasizes instruction in doctrine and is essential to protect the flock against heresy. Preaching and teaching are essential to the health of the church. And this desperately needs to be emphasized, especially in the current climate in the evangelical church.

Paul also exhorted Timothy to “preach the word”, whether it was popular or not. This was to be done regardless of what people wanted.

" 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2, NASB)

I hope to finish up this series in part 11. Hopefully I will be posting it early next week. It is a little difficult right now to post with any great frequency. There are too many things going on, especially during the summer months.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 9

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (continued)

“1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NASB)

In verse one, the terms “aspires” and “desires” are used to describe the attitude of the candidate toward the office of “overseer” or elder. Aspires means to “reach out after”, and denotes an external action, not just internal motive. The second word, “desires”, means to “long for”, have “strong passion” which refers to an internal desire. This describes an individual who is driven to externally pursue the position of leadership because of a strong internal desire to do so. This is important because unless the man is strongly motivated to fulfill this role, he will not have the drive necessary to succeed in carrying out his God-given duties. Pastors should not be coerced into such a position. When you think of all the pressure one will be under in this position, the only thing that will sustain him will be the heart’s desire to see people respond to God’s Truth and grow spiritually. The last thing that a congregation would want is a man who stands in the pulpit only because he feels he has to. That type of man will never make the kind of leader necessary to fulfill the obligations of pastoral leadership. In 1 Peter 5:2 elders are exhorted to serve with a sense of divine calling and an urgency to fulfill the task at hand. This should be with eagerness, not indifference or laziness. Elders should be self-motivated and should not need to be constantly prodded along to fulfill their tasks.

“2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;” (1 Peter 5:2, NASB)

In addition to having the desire for the office of elder, a man must meet certain qualifications. The overarching qualification is that he must be “above reproach”, meaning that there is no wrongdoing that he can be legitimately charged with. In other words, he must be blameless. This is crucial since he is to be an example to the people under his care. The remaining qualifications expand on the requirement to be “above reproach”.

"2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach," (1 Timothy 3:2, NASB)

Next in the list, “the husband of one wife”, literally means “a one-woman man”. This really isn’t speaking of his marital status, but his moral purity. While issues such as divorce do indeed factor into the fitness of a man for eldership, the focus here is on his sexual purity. I will discuss the issue of divorce as we proceed further in the list of qualifications. But this matter is crucial since this tends to be a weak point that often leads to failure in the life of many leaders. Unfortunately, we witnessed the tragedy of this occurring in the life of the pastor of the church we were members of for several years, where he became involved with another woman in the church. The key concern with this qualification is whether or not the man is what we would call a “womanizer”. Does he tend to be flirtatious, or is he dedicated to his wife and honor her in marital faithfulness. This is no small matter especially if you have ever observed the adverse effect the sexual sin of a pastor has on the congregation. This sin will obviously negatively affect his walk with the Lord. And it is inevitable that it will cloud his thinking and render him useless to provide spiritual direction to his flock. Having been part of a congregation where this took place, I can certainly testify that the consequences are terrible. If the pastor is in no condition spiritually to provide guidance to the congregation, the inevitable outcome is that the congregation will wane spiritually, and it won’t be long before sin permeates the congregation. As Alexander Strauch points out:

“If the elders are not faithful, one-woman husbands, they will subtly encourage others to be unfaithful.” [1]

This leads into the next qualification that he is to be “temperate”. The word in the Greek is “nefaleo”, and it means to be sober, abstaining from wine or at least its excessive use. However, used in the context here, it means to be “sober-minded” (as it is translated in the ESV), especially since the very next verse deals specifically with the subject of consumption of alcoholic beverages and states that he is not to be “addicted to wine”. "Temperate" here means that he is to be “alert”, “watchful” and “clear-headed”. It is vitally important that elders display the capacity to think clearly so that they can keep vigilant watch over their own life and the congregation. This is why it is so important that the elders take great care to be sure they are not allowing their minds to be distorted by material filled with warped doctrine. You can learn a lot about where a man is headed theologically by the types of books and materials he utilizes and claims have had the most impact on his life. I am not referring to books of a questionable nature that he may be reading to discern how false teachers are twisting the truth, but the books that he relies on for theological guidance that are making an impression on his life. In essence, the elder must not allow himself to be intoxicated by teaching that will distort his thinking, whether it is false doctrine or worldly philosophy. Paul in Acts 20:28 warned the elders in Ephesus to “be on guard” for themselves and also “for all the flock”, knowing that the “savage wolves” were just waiting to come in among them and devastate the flock.

The elder must also be “prudent” and “respectable”. The term “prudent” comes from the Greek word “sofron” and means to be “self-controlled” and able to restrain his desires and impulses. In other words, he does not react impulsively, but he is to be disciplined in his life, especially spiritual matters and is able to prioritize spiritual matters making them the utmost importance. This leads into the next quality, “respectable”. This means “well arranged” or “orderly” (from the Greek “kosmio”). This means that they are able to order their lives in such a manner as to not be in a state of constant chaos. If they are not able to accomplish this in their own life, how will they be able to keep order in the church? The ability to maintain order is extremely important to keep the church from degenerating into a state of chaos.

(To be continued...)

1. Alexander Strauch, "Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership", p. 71.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Can You Rely On Personal Revelation?

Here is a great video clip taken from CrossTV's series "A Workman Approved By God". I am sure nearly everyone has heard the phrase from someone, "God told me!" or the "Holy Spirit said" followed by some subjective experience they are convinced came from God, yet cannot be verified from Scripture. In fact, it often contradicts the Bible.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Ill Effects of Decades of Shallow Teaching

The dearth of solid expositional preaching and teaching have given way to multitudes a congregants who are now vulnerable to the various forms of false teaching prevalent in evangelicalism today. Phil Johnson in his recent post put it well:

"But the accrued apathy of at least four-plus decades of neo-evangelical influence has left evangelicals virtually defenseless against doctrinal error—especially the subtle varieties. The Emerging movement has aggressively exploited that weakness, challenging (on one front or another) practically every historic evangelical doctrinal distinctive. The Emerging Church has therefore become practically the mirror opposite of what fundamentalism was supposed to be."

Scripture illustrates the devastating consequences of not growing in our knowledge and understanding of God's Truth. The Corinthians fell into this trap and it made them vulnerable to deception. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4) In fact, their lack of growth in the knowledge and application of Scripture resulted in a sin infested congregation. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3;1 Corinthians 5) It is of vital importance that believers continually study and understand the text of Scripture in order to build wisdom and understanding to keep them from falling victim to various false doctrines and to keep their hearts pure before God. In fact, it is the primary function and duty of the local church to actively pursue the task of equipping the congregation to thoroughly understand Bible doctrine, so that they are not tossed about "by every wind" of false doctrine, regardless of how subtle the nuance may be (Ephesians 4:11-16). It is tragic that the shallowness of contemporary evangelicalism has left multitudes vulnerable to every false teaching that blows their way, especially those errors that are ever so subtle.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Important Reasons to Preach the Word

Excerpt from “Five Reasons to Preach the Word” by John MacArthur

2 Timothy 3:1-4:4

"Lastly, this whole matter of preaching the Word not only because of the danger of the seasons, the devotion of the saints, the dynamic of the Scripture, the demand of the sovereign, but lastly, this is really important, because of the deceptiveness of the sensual...because of the deceptiveness of the sensual. The great enemy of the Word of God is anything outside the Word of God...the word of Satan, the word of demons, the word of man. And we are living in very dangerous seasons concocted by seducing spirits and hypocritical liars propagated by false teachers. And here's what makes them successful...look at verses 3 and 4. "The time will come, and it does, it cycles through all of church history, when they will not endure sound doctrine." People don't want to hear sound doctrine. "Sound" means healthy, whole, wholesome. They don't want wholesome teaching. They don't want the sound, solid Word. They just want to have their ears tickled. That's all they want. They're driven by the sensual, not the cognitive. They're not interested in truth. They're not interested in theology. All they want is ear-tickling sensations. That's what they want. They refuse to hear the great truth that saves and the great truth that sanctifies. And according to chapter 2 verse 16, they would rather hear worldly empty chatter that produces ungodliness and spreads like gangrene.

We're in such a season now. They tell us that being doctrinal, being clear about the Word of God is divisive, unloving, prideful. The prevailing word...the prevailing mood, I should say, in the world of post-modern western culture is that everybody determines truth for himself and everyone's opinion is as valid as everybody else's opinion, and there's no room for absolute authoritative doctrine. And, folks, that's one other "ism" you can add to the list of dangerous seasons, relativism."

This article originally appeared here at the Bible Bulletin Board.
“Five Reasons to Preach the Word”
By John MacArthur
Copyright 1998

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Are You Really Listening?

30"But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, 'Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.'
31"They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.
32"Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them.
33"So when it comes to pass--as surely it will--then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst." (Ezekiel 33:30-33, NASB)

Ezekiel was careful to accurately proclaim the message that God had for the people of Israel. He proclaimed it with passion and clarity, and expressed himself eloquently. It is clearly evident in this passage that the people enjoyed listening to what Ezekiel had to say. In fact, they made a point of encouraging others to come and listen to the prophet. The people came and sat under the teaching of the prophet, yet they walked away without their hearts being changed!

In much the same way today, there are multitudes of people who flock to hear eloquent preachers, but walk away unchanged and continue on in their lifestyle just as they did before. They even give lip service to the message and comment how they liked what was said. But unfortunately, many never apply the truth that was expounded to them.

Just like in Ezekiel’s day, there are many who appear to be merely entertained by solid preaching. But the solid exposition of God’s truth is not meant to be a form of Christian entertainment. It is meant to be taken to heart and applied to effect a change on an individual’s life.

We are reminded in the New Testament in the book of James of this very thing.

22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25, NASB)

We are to be doers and not merely hearers of the Word. James tells us that those who merely hear but do not put into practice what they hear, “delude” (Gr. paralogizomai) or deceive themselves.

It is imperative that we earnestly seek to apply what we hear. Once the messenger delivers the message based on God’s Truth, it is our responsibility to take heed. God holds us accountable for our response. Ezekiel knew the sobering responsibility God charged him with and if he failed to follow through, God would hold him responsible for the fate of those he failed to warn. However, once Ezekiel delivered the message God commanded him to give, the responsibility rested on the people who heard the message. (Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:1-9)

God holds us accountable for applying His truth that has been made available to us. May we always be eager to apply what we hear to our own lives!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 8

Biblical Qualifications of Elders

Now that we have covered the biblical structure of church leadership, which consists of a qualified team of elders that are called to lead the church, we will look at the biblical qualifications of an elder or “pastor”.

The qualifications of the men selected for eldership is extremely important and cannot be emphasized enough. To appoint the wrong man to this type of position will ultimately spell disaster for the church. As Strauch points out:

“The most common mistake made by churches that are eager to implement eldership is to appoint biblically unqualified men. Because there is always a need for more shepherds, it is tempting to allow unqualified, unprepared men to assume leadership in the church. This is, however, a time-proven formula for failure. A biblical eldership requires biblically qualified elders.” [1]

We need to keep the following crucial points in mind:

  • Eldership is not to be treated as an honorary position in the church, open to those who are merely faithful in church attendance, or who are advanced in years.

  • Elders are not to be chosen based on good friendships, wealthy people who give generously, or those who exhibit a great deal of charisma.

  • Elder positions can be filled by anyone exhibiting the biblical requirements; NOT just seminary graduates. [1]

Paul gave Timothy a specific list of qualifications that all elders must meet in 1 Timothy 3. This not merely a wish list, but a must have.

“1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7, NASB)

Notice in this list of qualifications, many of the personal character qualities are listed before “able to teach”. It is not that teaching ability is any less important of course. In fact, if a man is unable to teach, he is automatically disqualified for pastoral leadership. But equally important is the personal integrity of the man being selected to serve in the capacity of leadership. To falter in any one of these areas automatically disqualifies a man from pastoral leadership.

So why are these character qualities important? Because he is to be an example to the congregation, and the possession of these character qualities makes the doctrine that is taught attractive to those who hear. Titus chapter 2 provides the reason that a Christian’s conduct is important, since it will “adorn the doctrine of God”.

“9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”
(Titus 2:9-10, NASB)

This of course is for all Christians, but it is vitally important that the leadership possess sound character, because they are doing far more than just teaching rote doctrine; they are providing an example to the congregation. (1 Peter 5:3) The term “adorn” means to make attractive, and our conduct should attract people to the Gospel.

Our actions speak volumes. Titus 2:7-8 tells us that our good conduct will leave our opponents with nothing that they can say against us. Our behavior is ultimately important, because if our actions do not line up with our words, it really renders meaningless whatever doctrine we supposedly believe.

It is interesting that when Paul introduces doctrine in his writing, he always backed it up with the “why”. In other words, he introduced the doctrine, then he explained that in light of that doctrine, this is the way we should conduct our lives. Look at the book of Romans. The first half outlines doctrine, and the remainder is the practical outworking of our faith, how it should effect how we live.

The lifestyle and personal character is foundationally important to the leadership of the church, since the pastoral leadership is to lead by example. And the congregation is to follow the example. These are not merely qualifications that only eldership team should possess, but the congregation should strive to achieve these character qualities as well.

I will expand on these qualifications in a future post.

1. Alexander Strauch, "Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership", p. 68.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Slow Blogging

My posting may continue to be quite slow for awhile in fact, I may decide to take a complete break for awhile at some point here. There are just too many things going on right now. I am currently taking a class on church history and unfortunately, it looks like my wife and I are going to be faced with the daunting task of looking for a new church home. It is unfortunate, but it does not seem likely that the type of reform that needs to take place in our church in terms of implementing a more biblical approach to ministry are ever going to take place. Back in December, I wrote that our church was going to be in the process for filling the vacancy for senior pastor that was left as a result of the dismissal of our senior pastor. There seemed to be the realization that we did not have a biblical model for church leadership. There also seemed to be the keen awareness that the church had adopted some very spiritually unhealthy practices in carrying out the ministry of the church.

But unfortunately, other than coming to the realization that there needs to be leadership comprised of a team of elders, it does not seem that the remaining pastoral staff is willing to allow the remaining necessary changes to take place. These would be changes that would lead to a spiritually healthy church. Things such as more in-depth teaching just do not seem to be part of the agenda. And there seems to be a continuing influx of postmodernism, despite warnings given to the leadership concerning the dangers of the emerging church.

It is not so much that there is rank heresy currently being taught, although it is inevitably going to creep in. In fact, I am wary of many of the beliefs of some of the people. I believe that it is only a matter of time before heresy begins to pervade the church. But it is currently more of the error of omission; things that should be taught, but simply are not. And it is continuing to have a very adverse effect on the maturity of the congregation, contributing to the unhealthy spiritual condition.

I was hoping that there were going to be some major changes that would turn things around, but it appears that the remaining leadership is not open to these changes. Unfortunately, I think that it is time to go, and that saddens me. This is not what I had hoped for, but I am trusting that the Lord will lead us to something better.