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Regeneration Does Precede Faith (I Was Wrong)

Posted by Job on March 22, 2013

In the past, I have vehemently criticized the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith. The reason for this was my ignorance. I took regeneration to be another word for conversion in that it had the exact same meaning.

However, regeneration only refers to passing from death to life. It is what happened in the natural sense when Lazarus and a number of unnamed characters were raised from the dead by those such as Jesus Christ, Elijah and Elisha. Those natural regenerations were types, or prefigurements, of the spiritual regeneration that happens when a sinner becomes a believer. We can include the resurrection of Jesus Christ as this sort of natural regeneration, as Jesus Christ’s physical existence went from being dead to alive. Obviously, being the sinless perfect and pre-existing God and Son of God, Jesus Christ needed no spiritual regeneration of any sort. This is in contrast with Lazarus, who not only experienced natural regeneration after being dead four days, but being one born into original sin and having sinned – as the soul that sinneth shall die as Lazarus did – he needed to receive spiritual regeneration also.

The subject of confusion: being regenerated, being born again, is only part of the salvation process. The actual conversion process happens after regeneration. Further, the effectual calling occurs before regeneration.

1. Effectual call: this is when God (the Holy Spirit) calls the sinner to salvation. It takes place when the sinner hears the gospel. (Note: the providence of God must place the sinner in position to hear the gospel first.)

2. Regeneration: this is when the Holy Spirit raises the sinner from the dead.

3. Conversion: this is when the sinner receives faith from the Holy Spirit, believes the gospel of Jesus Christ and hence fulfills John 3:16, Romans 10:8-9 etc.

The effectual calling cannot and will not happen unless one has first been chosen (elected by God the Father unto salvation from before the foundation of the world). The regeneration will not occur until one has been called. And salvation occurs after regeneration.

Why must regeneration precede faith? I am certain that you have heard that “dead men tell no tales.” Similarly, dead men cannot have faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). How can a dead man have assurance or conviction? A secular dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” How can a dead man have trust or confidence of any sort in anything, let alone a complete and total one in the unseen God? A dead man cannot even have wishy washy confidence in the casket that he is lying in. Why? Because he is dead. He doesn’t even know that he is in a casket. He has no feelings, thoughts or emotions.

This is not a contrivance of philosophy or idle speculation, but a truth clearly taught in scripture. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.” Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But that is Paul’s doctrine, right? Well from the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:3: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now John 3:3 is key. Seeing the kingdom of God or entering the kingdom of God is always used by Jesus Christ to refer to salvation. Always. So, Jesus Christ explicitly states that one must be born again before that person can be saved. Again, when Jesus Christ said “except”, He was making a condition. So, the condition of being saved was being born again. Regeneration precedes conversion or salvation. And take a look at Ephesians 2:8, which says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God.” Regeneration precedes salvation. Salvation comes by faith. Thus, regeneration precedes faith. It is clearly, explicitly taught in scripture.

The doctrine of regeneration precedes faith is considered to be a Calvinist distinctive. However, many non-Calvinists believe so also without acknowledging or admitting it. Many non-Calvinists believe that God makes a change in the sinner that allows the sinner to make a choice to accept or reject him. Of course, the acceptance is a decision made through faith, and the rejection is a decision made through a lack of faith according to this doctrine. The non-Calvinist does not refer to this as regeneration, of course, because he recognizes that regeneration must necessarily result in salvation. So the non-Calvinist regards this as God’s merely opening the sinner’s eyes and hearts for the purposes of allowing him a free choice.

Problems with this doctrine are many. The Bible makes it clear that unsaved people are spiritually dead. So the person goes from spiritually dead to “sort of dead”, akin to the woman who says that she is “sort of pregnant”? Just as you are either pregnant or not, you are either dead or not … there is no in-between! Second, how can the “sort of dead/alive” person choose to believe and accept God on this basis in the absence of faith? Simple: he cannot. He cannot accept the gospel and believe without faith. And if God gives him faith, he will inevitably believe. There is no such thing as conditional, decision-based faith that is only activated on choice. So, for the sinner to choose God once God makes this choice possible requires the sinner to already have faith present within himself. And if this faith is present, he never was a sinner to begin with, and he was never spiritually dead to begin with. The Bible states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The converse would mean that those who have faith are already acceptable to God, meaning that they were righteous, justified, regenerate and converted already. Instead of being in a condition of original sin, this person would have had to have been inherently righteous already without having heard the gospel and without need of Jesus Christ. Moreover, if such a righteous person were to confess and repent of his sinful condition and state his need for Christ to be his savior, that person would be a liar!

The doctrine of regeneration coming after faith – or truthfully that regeneration and conversion are the same – is due to people being determined to believe that God must offer a man a free choice to accept or reject Him in order to be just and righteous. However, accepting God cannot be made in the absence of faith! The Bible is clear on this. Thus, denying that regeneration precedes faith is nothing more than an absolute determination to believe a lie.

This also solves the problem of those who fall away and confirms the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, or “once saved always saved.” Be not deceived: faith is not mere belief. Faith only comes by the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit regenerates you. And after conversion, the Holy Spirit seals you and keeps you in the faith. The Bible is clear on this. The Bible is also clear with the parable of the sower that it is possible to believe the gospel at one point but later renounce that belief. The Bible further states clearly that it is possible to believe the gospel, retain this belief but not bear fruit. The Bible further still states that it is possible to believe the gospel, do good works and bear fruit but not be obedient. These are the teachings of Jesus Christ, and Christ makes it clear that those people (the ones who renounce the gospel after believing at one point, those who believe but do not bear fruit, and those who believe and bear fruit but are disobedient) will be cast into the lake of fire! Why is this so? Because these people believed without receiving faith, and they did not receive faith because they are still unregenerate. You cannot have faith and be spiritually dead, but you can certainly believe and be spiritually dead. Hence, rejecting the truth that regeneration precedes faith is one of the reasons why many Christian denominations (Methodists and many Pentecostals for example) believe that it is possible to lose your salvation. The regeneration precedes faith doctrine provides both absolute proof that those who fall away were never saved to begin with, and provides absolute assurance that those who are truly saved will bear fruit, attain obedience and endure trials and tribulations until the end, even unto death!

So God will accept anyone who comes to Him through His Son, because those who come to God are those that God has called to do so. Is God calling you today? If so, repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. If you wish for more information on how to do so:

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Addressing The False Dispensational Interpretation Of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8

Posted by Job on March 19, 2013

First off, allow me to be fair and state that not every dispensationalist adheres to this error. However, the wishful interpretation of this text is common among premillennial dispensationalists who believe in the pretribulation rapture. Now this is not intended to be a denial of the rapture doctrine. I was raised to believe in the rapture, and I am perfectly willing to adhere to this doctrine again the very instant that someone shows me justification for it in the Bible. Now to the text:

“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:”

Now for some following verses, because, well, I like them.

[Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Many rapture teachers frequently use this text as evidence for the rapture of the church. The teaching is that the “until he be taken out of the way” refers to the Holy Spirit’s presence being removed from the earth when the church that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit is raptured away. And – as the teaching goes – without the salt and light that is the church on the earth that acts as a restrainer against evil, the world will slip into evil chaos and great tribulation.

Now two problems with this “Holy Spirit being absent from the world during the great tribulation doctrine” are as follows:
#1. The “tribulation saints” that will be converted during this time (according to the rapture teachers) will somehow experience new birth without the Holy Spirit to accomplish it, and will also brave the vicious persecution of the anti-Christ without the ministry of the Holy Spirit to give them courage and comfort.
#2. A somewhat bigger problem than #1 … as the Bible makes it clear that God’s Spirit is what sustains creation and holds it together, were the Holy Spirit to be removed from the earth at any time, it would disintegrate into nothing quicker than an instant.

So while demonstrating how that doctrine is unworkable when measured against clear Biblical teachings is one thing, I was always unable to arrive at what the text actually meant until now, upon listening to this sermon by R. A. Hargrave, when he preached on the issue of the total depravity of man. Pastor Hargrave shared that it was God’s common grace that withheld man in his fallen condition from becoming as evil as he should, and this evil being reflected in the works of man’s hands, meaning the conditions of the cultures and societies of the nations. He went on to state that in the last days, during the great tribulation, God would remove this restraining influence and mankind would indeed reveal his true wicked nature. And lest there was any doubt, Pastor Hargrave specifically referenced that text.

This also should make one remember Jesus Christ’s prophecy concerning the timing of His second coming: “But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” of Matthew 24:36-39 and a similar passage in Luke 17:26-30, except that text to the Noah reference adds: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed [them] all.”

Now I have heard it asserted many a time that these texts do not refer to the societal conditions, but rather the fact that Jesus Christ’s coming will catch people completely by surprise. Of course, those who believe in doctrines that deny the literal millennial reign of Christ and instead teach that human conditions will improve as a result of the church’s increasing its influence on the world – postmillennialism especially – have an interest in downplaying the implications of Matthew 24:36-39 and Luke 17:26-30. However, of all the ways to illustrate the point “my return will catch you by surprise”, Jesus Christ chose the days of Noah, where the Bible says that “the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually” and “the earth is filled with violence through them.” And to the wickedness of the days of Noah, the Luke text adds Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Bible frequently uses as a metaphor for the depths of the human sin condition.

So, the fact that the Noah reference is repeated twice and the Sodom and Gomorrah is added to it makes it very difficult to claim that Jesus Christ was only referring to the suddenness of His appearance and not the condition of mankind when He comes again. The reason is a core rule of hermeneutics: we have to consider what the words meant to when the original audience heard them. Jesus Christ was speaking to Jews for whom “the days of Noah” and “as it was in Sodom and Gomorrah” were most definitely references to the human condition. So for Jesus Christ to use both of those (in the Luke version) very strong references to the wicked state of humanity without meaning anything by it would have only resulted in confusion and unintended meanings by the hearer, and it also makes very real the charge that Jesus Christ was trying to confuse and mislead the hearers on purpose (totally different from His parables, whose interpretations were simply hidden from people, not trying to trick or confuse them).

But 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 makes the references to Sodom and Gomorrah and the days of Noah clear. That passage most clearly refers to the last days, the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ, as such is what the entire chapter was about, and it states that the common grace of God that is restraining evil will be removed, which will allow the mystery of wickedness to work its iniquity until it results in the personification of human evil in the form of the anti-Christ (actually the beast). This will result in the last days being a time akin to the days of Noah (wickedness on a global scale) and Sodom and Gomorrah (wickedness on a local scale), so the Luke text in particular reveals the comprehensive encompassing scope and penetration of evil. In this way, it forms a curious parallel with how Luke spoke of the spread of the gospel in Acts 1:8 from Jerusalem (evangelism on a local scale) to the uttermost parts of the earth (the global reach of the great commission).

Now one may ask how this pervasive evil will be possible when the church is present sharing its witness to the world. To answer:
1. We must be humble. It isn’t our witness or example to the world that restrains evil, but rather it is God.
2. Go back to the 2 Thessalonians 2 passage to verse 3: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” And incidentally, yet another parallel to Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 that makes the postmillennialism doctrines even more untenable is Matthew 24:10-12′s “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The more modern translations render verse 10 to be “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” and “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other”, and the reference to false prophets in verse 11 is obvious. Because of the great falling away, there simply won’t be very many of us left.
3. Please recall that the original Reformers referred to the righteous in the Old Testament, chiefly Israel, as the church of the Old Testament. So in the days of Noah, Noah and his family were the church of that period. Yet the presence of Noah and his being a preacher of righteousness did not stop the globe from descending into evil. And while Lot was most certainly no Noah, even in his “Laodicean” state of worldly compromise he was nonetheless the church of Sodom and Gomorrah, and his presence did not result in ten righteous people being in that city. So though God commands His church to be salt and light into the world, the reason for this is to glorify God, not to influence the world for the better. The world will remain wicked and in rebellion against God and His Son Jesus Christ, and this will be demonstrated when God removes His restraining Hand and allows the world to be exposed for what it is right before His Son returns so that it will be judged.

Now my suspicion is that the real reason why this text is interpreted erroneously by many is the desire for the church to escape persecution. However, this ignores that when the church endures persecution until the very end, God is glorified. We know this from the example of Job, the oldest book in the Bible. God told Satan that Job would remain in the faith no matter what torments Satan aimed at him, and when Job did so God was glorified. So we saints should be after doctrines that result in God’s glory and not our own comfort. We should also avoid doctrines that exaggerate our own power and importance, such as the claim that our presence on the earth is what keeps it from falling into chaos. Or that the Holy Spirit is on the earth only because we are here (clearly contradicted by Genesis 1:2, which states that the Holy Spirit was on the earth long before humankind even existed to make up a church in the first place).

Also, Revelation 13:7 states that the anti-Christ will make war against the saints and overcome them. Matthew 24:22 states that it will only be for the sake of the church that the days of the great tribulation will be cut short. Is our desire to avoid glorifying God by suffering persecution so great that we ignore what the Bible clearly teaches? One of the ways that dispensationalists who have this aberrant and false teaching concerning 2 Thessalonians 2 deals with those texts is claiming that they refer to Israel and not the church, and to the 144,000 Jews and those converted by them. As evidence of this, they correctly note that Jeremiah 30:7 refers to the great tribulation as the time of Jacob’s trouble. However, such teachings ignore that the church is grafted into Israel, and moreover that the combination of born-again Gentiles and believing Jews constitutes spiritual Israel, true Israel, or Israel of God according to Galatians 6 and Romans 9-11. (Yes, some dispensationalists deny this, and even go to the point of claiming that the new covenant is not the one that currently exists with Christ and the church, but is one that Christ will make during the millennium with natural Israel, showing that many dispensationalists are more rabbinic Jews than Christians or even Messianic Jews). This means that Jacob’s trouble is our trouble!

Again, this is not intended to be a broadside against dispensationalism and rapture teachings entirely, especially the partial rapture teachings for which Revelation 3:10 and the typology of Enoch and Elijah can be used to support, as well as perhaps the mid-tribulation rapture teachings. (Note that neither the mid-tribulation rapture or partial rapture doctrines make the totally heretical claim that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth.) However, it is incumbent upon the adherents to the rapture and other premillennial dispensational teachings to avoid false teachings that tickle the ears, provide false comfort, and glorify man in the place of God.

Ultimately, however, these debates are intramural in nature between Christians. Regardless of one’s eschatological beliefs, being born again means ultimately going to heaven, whether the route is being raptured before the tribulation or being beheaded by the anti-Christ during it. When the redeemed are in heaven, no one will care one bit about who was wrong and who was right concerning eschatological doctrines. And even more so, it will be totally irrelevant to those who are unsaved. Rapture, no rapture, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, your eternal fate is the same as that of those of Sodom and Gomorrah and the days of Noah who did not escape the wrath of God but perished. And the horrible ends of their earthly lives was nothing compared to the eternal torment of the lake of fire that is in store for these wicked sinners.

So now is the time to make sure that you do not share their fate if you have not already. Repent of your sins and believe upon the risen Lord Jesus Christ today! You can do so by:

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Putting John 3:16 In Its Place: The Meaning And Purpose Of This Text

Posted by Job on March 19, 2013

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Some use passages like these to assert that those who believe in limited atonement (or particular redemption) instead of universal atonement deny that God loves everyone. The argument goes that if God loves everyone, then it means that Jesus Christ died for everyone and that those texts “prove” it and accuse men of twisting scripture in order to claim otherwise.. Well C.S. Lewis and other believers of religious pluralism and universalism use 1 Timothy 4:10 –“For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe “ – and many other scriptures to justify it. Is it similarly twisting scripture to say that they are wrong also?

Of course not. Why? Because we know that 1 Timothy 4:10 is not the only thing that the Bible says about salvation. So, it is because that we put 1 Timothy 4:10 in the context of all the other things that the Bible says about how God saves – including John 14:6’s “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – in order to deny that this text teaches that men above the age of accountability can be saved outside of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, the same is true of John 3:16. While that text is extremely popular, very well known and much beloved, that is no reason to make it the primary text on the issue of salvation through which all other texts must be judged, held subject to and viewed in light of. That is interpreting scripture according to human opinion and emotion – our tendency to grab hold upon and emphasize the things that please and comfort us while putting less emphasis on the things that disturb and challenge us – instead of letting scripture speak for itself.

It is all well and good to love John 3:16. But we cannot use John 3:16 to pretend that Proverb 16:4 “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ” isn’t in the Bible, especially since Romans 9:13-23 clearly uses Proverb 16:4 in order to explain the nature and purpose of God’s election as it applies to the Jews and the Gentiles? Now that is what requires the twisting of the Bible scriptures. Accepting those texts and putting them into the proper contexts is why the so-called 5 point Calvinists exist. The only alternative is to deny the meaning and application of those texts, which is what most theologians and other Bible students do … precisely what they accuse the believers of limited atonement of. Perhaps the best example of this is the common explanation of deniers of limited atonement that predestinate in Romans 8:29-30 doesn’t mean, well, predestinate, or the many others who claim that it really means “foreknowledge.” Similar explaining away is done with and who do the same with Ephesians 1:3-12 and also with the many “Calvinistic” texts that appear in the Gospel of John just as does John 3:16.

So, for example, using John 6:65’s “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” and John 10:26-29’s “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.” to interpret John 3:16 is not imposing an artificial human framework on the Bible. Instead, claiming that John 6:37 is based on God’s foreknowledge – and doing so in the complete absence of textual evidence to support it and when so many texts like Romans 9:13-23 contradict it – is when the denying the plain meaning of scripture from its literal, contextual interpretation is being done.

Does this mean that God does not love the world — all people and not just the elect — with an unconditional love? That begs the question of whether unconditional love as our modern humanistic Enlightenment-driven society defines it is a Biblical concept to begin with. If it were, then that would necessarily mean universalism. You may ask whether “world” really mean world or does it mean only the elect and whether world can be both, meaning all people in general, but only or especially the elect in particular?

Many do precisely those types of interpretative gymnastics, but they are not necessary. The “world” of John 3:16 does mean the world. But understand this: God is perfectly capable of loving the world and saving only the elect. Again, making the case that God’s loving everyone obligates Him to save everyone can only lead to universalism. The non-Calvinist viewpoint deals with this problem by saying that God TRIED to save everyone but failed. Now if you limit this “failure” to those who made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ then that “solves” the failure issue after a fashion. The problem is that “God tried to save everyone but His efforts were thwarted by the free will that He gave us to accept or reject Him” theology simply cannot be a sufficient answer for the fact that the overwhelming supermajority of humanity has never heard the name Jesus Christ, and moreover before His advent had never encountered Judaism or the pre-Judaic Yahwism.

Truthfully, the pluralism of types like C.S. Lewis and the Roman Catholics (purgatory) and contemporary religious moderates do a much better job of explaining this problem, which is so real and vast that it has been a source of great heartache for missionaries like Hudson Taylor, who knew that he could not possibly reach every person in the vastness of China with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fell victim to the slough of despond and the giant despair (see Pilgrim’s Progress) as a result. God rescued him from that fate with the instructions for Taylor to be satisfied with going to the people that that God sent Taylor to. (And incidentally Taylor was not a Calvinist).

And here is the real irony for those who reject the Biblical doctrine of limited atonement. Even if you do not believe in limited atonement, the requirement of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation serves as a practical limitation anyway. Again, the only way to avoid that practical limitation is to be a universalist or pluralist. How “general” is the atonement to the person who lives his entire life as a sincere, upstanding, devoted, honest moral adherent to the Hindu religion because he spent his entire life in India in the 1500s and Hinduism is all he ever knew? The only relevance of general atonement to that person is that even though that person had absolutely no possibility of ever being saved, Jesus Christ still died for him so that “proves” that God loved him. Christ’s death on the cross made this person’s salvation hypothetically, theoretically possible in the spiritual realm even though it was still impossible in the natural one. Which means that the true purpose of general atonement that it provides a comfortable, reassuring view of God to the people who hold it. The doctrine is of no use to the sinner whatsoever. Whether you hear the gospel and do not respond with faith and repentance or never hear the gospel at all, from the sinner’s perspective the extent of the atonement doesn’t matter because the fate of the sinner is still the same. The issue is all about whether serving a God who limits the atonement or serving a God who doesn’t IN THEORY but does IN PRACTICE “feels better.”

Still can’t look at John 3:16 and “see” limited atonement? Well, you may not see religious pluralism in 1 Timothy 4:10 either. But that is what C. S. Lewis saw when he looked at it … justification for the religious pluralism doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church – and Lewis fellowshipped with a lot of Catholics, including his friend J.R.R. Tolkien – and embraced by virtually all moderate (meaning neither evangelical or liberal) Christians and an increasing number of evangelicals like Rob Bell. So often we see what we want to see instead of what the Bible says, and that has to change.

Does limited atonement mean that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked? Ezekiel 18:23 would tend to say otherwise with “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?.” But just as we being in the image of God often have to do things that give us no pleasure but are necessary, God’s justice requires that His wrath must be poured out on the wicked. The key to remember that merely because destroying the wicked does not give God pleasure does not require God to act in order to avoid displeasure. Claiming that it does is judging God by arbitrary standards created by our own emotionalism; our refusal to accept things that appear to us to be unjust. But why do they appear to be unjust to us? Because we feel that God owes us something. The truth of what the Bible says, which is that we are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3) to do with as He pleases is denied because of our unwilling to countenance the idea that God is the measure of all things and not man; that the universe is God-centered and not man-centered.

It is curious: no Bible-based Christian (as opposed to the idolatrous animal rights activist) takes offense at the notion that man, a mere creature made in God’s image, has the right to breed sheep for the purpose of eating them even while they are juveniles (lamb chops, leg of lamb, rack of lamb etc.) Yet we are offended at the idea that God, who is worth more than the entirety of creation (meaning that the distance between man’s worth and a lamb’s worth is much smaller than the distance between man’s worth and God’s worth) has the right to do with us as He pleases or else be judged as unloving and unrighteous, so we stumble at Yes, the Bible does not say that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but texts like “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” and “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” as a result.To do this we must make God out to be worth less than He is or we make ourselves out to be worth more than we are at God’s expense. Either way it is man-centered heresy.

So if you are struggling with the question “how can I say that God loves you without knowing whether you are elect or not”, I emphasize again that this goes back to the fundamental question of whether God can love someone without electing them to salvation. This answer – yes – is most clearly given in Matthew 5:45 … “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Also, an excellent teaching on this topic can be found here: http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a294/the-love-of-god-and-the-nonelect

This brings about the inevitable question: how will this affect my evangelism? Well you can certainly everyone that God loves them, and use this truth clearly taught in the Bible as the basis for your evangelism. The Bible does not say to use the fact that God did not elect everyone to hinder evangelism, because quite the contrary God said that many are called (in that they hear the gospel … note that it does not say that ALL are called because all do not hear the gospel) but few are chosen (meaning that of those who hear the gospel, few will be saved). And this truth was illustrated by several of Christ’s parables, such as the parable of the sower of Matthew 13:1-23 and the wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14.

So John 3:16 does not have to be abandoned by the Christian who believes in limited atonement. It means that when sharing the gospel we can tell sinners that everyone who believes – whosoever believeth – will be saved.The key is to stop right there and not add anything to it. Don’t say “Jesus Christ died for all of you so that means all of you can be saved if all of you believe.” Why not? Because the Bible doesn’t say so. General atonement is nowhere in the Bible. If it were, I would believe it and so would you. So whether in mixed company, hostile company (all unbelievers like Paul at Mars Hill) or all believers like Jesus Christ at His high priestly prayer or the disciples in the upper room awaiting Pentecost, limiting yourself to what the Bible actually says is all that is necessary, sufficient and justifiable.

So evangelist, just say “Christ died so that all who believe will be saved” and you will be true to the Bible. And that is the true meaning of the John 3:16. Before it was written, there was no promise, assurance or guarantee that everyone who believed would be saved. Now we contemporary Christians presuppose that and take it for granted because we have always known it. But keep in mind that the apostle John was originally writing that gospel not to people with 2000 years of Christian tradition behind them like us. Rather, the first audience who received his gospel was made up of pagans with a very different view of salvation than we have, and also to Jews who believed in justification by the works of the law in addition to faith.

So for both the Gentile pagans and even the Jews, it was very possible to believe in God (or the gods for polytheistic pagans) and still not be saved. For the Jew, one could believe and still be condemned if you did not keep the law. As for the pagans, their gods were arbitrary, unpredictable, conferring – and withdrawing – their favor on whims. So the true purpose of John 3:16 is not to talk about the extent of the atonement, but to teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone, sola fide, to the Jews first and then the pagan Gentiles.

This is evident if you stop taking John 3:16 in isolation and instead look at the entire chapter of John 3. This chapter begins with the rabbi going to Jesus Christ to seek instruction on spiritual things because He recognized that as God was obviously with Christ due to Christ’s miracles, Christ would know such things to teach. Christ in response taught the rabbi about the need for, meaning and nature of regeneration, being born again. The context of Christ’s discussion with the rabbi was never who could be saved, but how people are saved.

John 3:3 – by being born again. John 3:5-8 – by a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. John 3:11-17 – Christ stating that it is by and through Him that this salvation will be achieved because of His divine sonship. And John 3:18-21 – the fate of those who do not believe, with 3:18 being the inverse of 3:16. In that context, the true context and meaning – it is crystal clear that the text never intends to claim that God gave Christ so that all can theoretically be saved! Instead, it states that God gave Christ so that all who believed would be saved, and that all who did not believe would not be saved! This fact that we today take for granted today was in complete opposition to the religious mindset of Jews and pagans of the time and place of John’s gospel. It was a truly radical, revolutionary groundbreaking idea that was foolishness to the Gentiles and an offense to the Jews.

So as this is all the scripture ever meant and was intended for, why claim that it says or was intended to proclaim more? Anything more is adding to scripture, which should not be done, chiefly because it is a sin, but also because there is no reason to. The sinner needs no more information than that, and the only reason to add more information than that is for the benefit of the evangelist sharing the message. It reassures the evangelist and makes his job superficially (by that I mean according to the flesh) easier, but the Bible makes it clear that our jobs in service to the God of the Bible are not going to be easy or flesh-driven to begin with.

John 3:16 is 100% true and very powerful. But the Christian should not and cannot impose meanings on it that do not exist because it makes us feel better. We Christians should cast aside such works of the flesh and acknowledge to ourselves that the Bible says what it means. God gives the evangelist the responsibility to share the gospel with all. God gives the sinner the responsibility to respond to the gospel with repentance. But the only ones who will be saved are those that God supplies with faith. Everyone who receives faith from God will be saved. No one who does not receive faith from God will be. It is this way because with our salvation as with everything else, God alone shall be glorified. That is the point of John 3:16, the point of the entire canon of scripture, and the point of all of creation in the first place. And when viewed next to the glory of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent perfect God, such notions that God only wants to be worshiped by those who choose to do so out of their free will – as if it is illegitimate for God to compel the sheep of His pasture to worship Him, and to train and condition us into doing so by conforming us into the image of His Son and providing His Spirit to live in us – must be rejected for the plain betrayals of the Bible and the picture of God that is revealed to us through His creation that they are.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

If you are saved, walk in this truth. If you are unsaved, you are without excuse. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ today.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan

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I Received Assurance Of My Salvation Yesterday

Posted by Job on April 30, 2012

Yesterday I was struggling with various spiritual issues. I was being tempted to commit various sins. I was feeling guilty over sins that I had committed in the past, which were some of the same ones I was presently being tempted with. I was also struggling with fear and doubt, mostly about whether I would ever be able to overcome these particular sin issues, and also whether I would ever get to the point of being a spiritually mature, fruit-bearing Christian who lives a life that glorifies God and pleases God. I was also wondering whether even that desire was to glorify myself – so that I could be this great, accomplished Christian in my own eyes and in the eyes of men – or to glorify God. Now this might seem to be a lot, but it really wasn’t, as these thoughts, temptations and fears are common to me. I experience them quite often.

It is a weakness, a failing of mine that I seldom resort to the Bible during times like this. Instead, I usually pray and meditate on the Lord. However, this time God moved me to open my Bible and read. My Bible reading practice is from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation and then back again, and it so happened that my place was Nehemiah. I must admit: Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther do not constitute my favorite sections of scripture, for reasons having to do with certain spiritual weaknesses of mine. But today, I received a great and wonderful spiritual blessing in spite of – or because of – my weakness!

I came upon Nehemiah 9:16-19. “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments. And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage; but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.”

I realized: this passage is talking about me. It applies to me personally. It is 100% directly applicable to what I am going through right now at this very second! Despite my struggles, sins and temptations, God is ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and will not forsake me! Despite my sins, the pillar of cloud (God’s presence) and the pillar of fire (God’s presence) will not leave me! God will stay with me, show me light, and the way that I should go! And upon reading this, and applying it to myself, I had a powerful, cathartic emotional experience. I went from feeling tense, anxious, possibly sad and depressed to being happy and joyful!

The amazing thing: this is the first time that I have had an experience like this from reading the Bible. Normally I connect with the Bible on an intellectual level. This was quite honestly the first time that I had ever connected with the Bible on a personal emotional level. The first time that the Bible had ever spoken to me in such a personal, direct and powerful level. Now do not mistake me, I have been emotionally moved by the Bible before. But never like this. Never before have I felt it so deep inside me. Deep in my inward parts, in my bones, in my nature, in my being, in my heart! And it was quite unlike the charismatic experiences that I used to have when I was Pentecostal. I didn’t jump up and down. I didn’t shout. I didn’t dance. I didn’t run around screaming. I just sat there and felt happy. I felt ALIVE. I didn’t just KNOW INTELLECTUALLY that because of what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross that my sins are forgiven. I came to intellectual comprehension of this fact in about 2004. But the emotional feeling, my heart coming to grips to this reality and what it personally means to me came for the first time today. As I was reading Nehemiah. Which before today was one of my least favored portions of the Bible.

And immediately another thought came into my mind. I want to say out of nowhere, at least in a natural sense. “This is what receiving assurance of your salvation from the Holy Spirit means.” When that thought came into my head, that is when I really became happy; when a smile came to my face! I just started thinking: the scriptures that refer to God’s wrath being poured out on sinners apply to the non-elect. But Nehemiah 9:16-19 applies to me because I am saved! Why didn’t God destroy Israel over the golden calf? He should have. He had every right to. His not doing so made no logical, rational sense. But God spared them because they were His elect. They were His chosen people! And that is why I am not going to be destroyed for MY golden calves! Because I am saved. It is not a possibility. It is a promise. It is not a maybe. It is a reality. It is not something that might happen if I keep working, trying, striving but something that will happen, something that has already happened, and it happened not because of anything that I did or will ever do, but because God chose me before the foundation of the world, and sent His Son to die for me and those like me!

Again, these were things that I knew before. But let me tell you. It is one thing to know it and another thing to FEEL it. Once I felt these things in my heart, I experienced a joy that was unlike any joy that I have ever experienced before. That was my blessing, and that was my testimony for today. I shared it with you in the hopes that you might be blessed by it, and that the Holy Spirit might give you joy too! It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit does, right now and today!

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan

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Good Christian Belles: Why It Isn’t That Big Of A Deal

Posted by Job on March 4, 2012

ABC – that’s right – the same company as “family-friendly Disney” that has been marketing sexualized images of teen girls for going on 20 years, and oh yeah has been promoting occult/witchcraft/magic to mainstream audiences from the very beginning – has a (yawn) “controversial” new show called “Good Christian Belles” or GCB (not the original more controversial title from the book on which it was based). As the “talent” behind this production have also worked on such products as “Steel Magnolias”, “Glee”, “Desperate Housewives” etc. (what, no “Sex And The City” veterans available?) and depicts Texas Southern Baptists, one can guess the tone and subject matter. And, as one can also guess, various “watchdog groups” purporting to represent evangelical Christians have professed themselves to be shocked and outraged. However, the truth is that this reveals more about the lobbying groups and the Christians that they represent than it does the TV show and those responsible for its existence.

Why? Because “Good Christian Belles” and those responsible for it – quite simply – are the world, and the world hates Christians and Christianity. Always has, always will. There is no way to sugarcoat it or tapdance around it: it is a fact plainly revealed in the Bible. Search the scriptures. As recorded very early in Genesis, history of those declared righteous on earth begins with elect Abel being murdered by the non-elect Cain. What was Abel’s crime that provoked Abel’s wrath? Being righteous. Cain killed Abel because Abel was righteous; because Abel had the faith that Cain lacked, acted according to that faith, and was rewarded by God because of his faith in action. Now Genesis is the first book in the Bible. In Revelation, the last book in the Bible, we see of persecution afflicting several churches in Revelation 2 and 3, and future times of persecution for the church throughout history are prophesied, including a severe global one at the time of the anti-Christ. In between, we see the Gentile nations’ persecuting the nation of Israel and God having to come to their aid time and time again (though God finally used those nations to destroy Israel because of their sins) towards the end of the Old Testament, the New Testament begins with the backdrop of the persecution of Israel by the Roman Empire. And of course, the climax of the story of the persecution of the righteous is the murder of Jesus Christ at the hands of His own Israelite nation and people (along with the Roman accomplices).

In addition to this context and background, Jesus Christ specifically told us that we would be hated and rejected by the world, told us the reason for it – because of our identification with Him, the true object of their hatred – and told us not to be surprised by it. Moreover, we knew that the early church did not see this rejection and hatred by the world for the sake of Jesus Christ as an occasion for grief and concern requiring “fighting back”, but rather an occasion for joy resulting in praising Jesus Christ. So, with these facts clearly laid out in scripture, why do (American) Christians react so churlishly in response to the world hating and rejecting us the way that the Bible says that it would? The answer: unbelief. We do not believe the Bible.

Now we do believe the Bible when it tells us that we are righteous, holy, and children of God. That is not the issue. What we do not believe is that the world will reject us because of it. The reason, the real problem: we do not believe that the world is sinful, unholy. Why? Because we do not believe that God is holy. Or more to the point: we do not believe that God is holy when compared to us! We do not see God as being truly holy. Instead, we see God as being “a better us.” We see God as being like us, only better. So becoming more like God does not require a miraculous conversion; for God to transform us into being like Him; for God to perfect us and glorify us in His image. No, instead we only need to improve through things like religious observance, good works, adherence to some moral code, plus some mystical mysterious religious experiences where we “feel God’s presence” and “encounter God”, not to mention the emotive experience of “having a personal relationship with God.”

Why do we not do this? Because coming to grips with God’s holiness means acknowledging the world’s unholiness. And as we are most certainly part of this current kosmos – this worldly system and its ways – it means coming to grips with our own unholiness. By this, I do not mean in an individual sense per se, especially as it applies to legitimately born again Christians whose sins have been forgiven and who are made holy through our identification with Jesus Christ. Rather, when I say “our”, I mean what we are a part of. Our communities. Our institutions. Our values. Our very friends and neighbors! We do not want to acknowledge that all of that is Babylon, and as such is going to come under the terrible judgment of an angry God on the day of the Lord.

And it is not merely that acknowledging that we and all that we know and love are part and parcel of a wicked worldly system is an affront to our human self-esteem, though it is most certainly the case. It also means accepting how truly isolated we are in a natural sense. It means accepting that we are not of this world, but merely pilgrims in it. It means accepting that we are indeed set apart from all else; that we are, well, peculiar. It means accepting being a Jesus freak, a holy roller, a religious fanatic, a fundamentalist, a cult member, a close-minded bigot, and all of those other perjoratives that you have heard directed towards Christians and probably used yourself. It means having to interpret and apply Luke 14:26 (“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple“) to your own life literally instead of making it into a metaphor or symbolism (or just ignoring and dismissing it and pretending that it isn’t there; that it is just pious Bible religion talk that HAS no REAL concrete meaning other than some general “ok you go love and follow Jesus now!” like that “cutting off your hand and poking out your eye if it offends you” stuff).

So, we don’t want to believe that God is holy because it means that accepting that the world that we love is unholy. So, instead of using “Good Christian Belles” as an impetus to sanctify ourselves, we feign outrage in an attempt to sanctify the world. Shock! Anger! Dismay! Why can’t we get positive depictions of Christians in the media? Liberalism! Political correctness! They wouldn’t dare depict Muslims in this way! How do we know this? Why? Because the orchestrated, well-funded religious right political machine tells us so. You know, the ones to tell us how to shoehorn Christianity into the world, so we won’t feel like such an outsider. The ones who tell us that Christianity is “family-oriented” and “family-friendly.” Everyone likes families, right? And when you are with your family, your spouse and kids and grandparents and relatives, you don’t feel isolated or alone right? Well, Christians who have no family … well hey life’s tough kid, but I have mine! And Christians who had to leave everything behind – including their family – for the faith … well that is a mighty fine testimony that I will read in Christianity Today or World Magazine or listen to on my Christian/gospel etc. radio station, but it has nothing to do with my life! And the fact that most of my family doesn’t go to church … who cares … my fellowship and companionship is based on my family and my values, not identification with Jesus Christ, and that is a good thing! Or so they tell us.

They also tell us about “values.” We can accept intellectually that most people may not be born again Christians in our beloved nation because of those inconvenient words of Jesus Christ about the “narrow road” and things like that. But you don’t have to be a born-again Christians to have “Christian values”, “family values”, “moral values” etc. Those shared moral values, based on a Judeo-Christian foundation (never mind that Judaism and Christianity are completely at odds with each other because the former hates Christ and the latter worships Him exclusively) can be embraced by “whosoever will” regardless of belief – or unbelief – and it makes us a good, moral nation … sanctified in a secular sense, right? And the reason why things like “Good Christian Belles” are being made today is because we have gotten away from our traditional moral values! Back in the day, when this country still respected moral values, Hollywood produced decent entertainment that respected Christianity!

Excellent theory. Except that it isn’t true. The Christian movie “The Timechanger” does an excellent job of debunking this myth by pointing out that from the very beginning, Hollywood was not only secular but subversively so … seeking to exchange Christianity with secular ethics and values. The best example of this are “Christmas movies” which make fleeting references to Jesus Christ, none of actual Christianity, and instead promote secular humanist – and situational – morality. How does the idea that Hollywood ever respected and embraced Christianity coexist with the reality that Hollywood took the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and transformed it into a vehicle to promote anti-Christ humanistic religion? Simple: by watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle On 34th Street” or the innumerable “Santa Claus” movies (and it was Hollywood – and big business – that turned Santa Claus from being a little known figure to being the most recognized figure in the world, known of by more people than Jesus Christ!) and being entertained by them.

The same with other “classic” films and TV shows. Sure, some of them might have depicted a few characters as pious, moral and religious, but even that is a long way from Biblical Christianity. Christians who saw those characters often projected their own beliefs – or more likely themselves – onto them and identified with them. But the idea that Hollywood regularly depicted characters who attested to such doctrines as sola scriptura, sola fide, substitutionary atonement is simply false. The problem is that Christians were willing to accept so little from the “Christian” characters that Hollywood presented that these characters were readily taken for Christians despite the lack of it.

And those were just the characters that were overtly taken to be practicing Christians. Make no mistake: the overwhelming majority of the characters in movies and TV shows even in Hollywood’s so-called “golden”, “classic” or “moral” era were not. And though censorship boards and cultural sensitivies (i.e. market pressure) kept them from making the equivalent of R-rated movies today, the characters not only led amoral and immoral lives, but glamorized it. It was often in a subversive fashion: the movie would depict someone given to swearing, adultery/fornication (even if it was not allowed to be consummated), drug use, lying/deception, violence etc. as the hero or sympathetic character. Realize that Hollywood movies were promoting infidelity and divorce as early as the 1930s, such as in this Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie! (The Family Values Coalition and similar would have you believe that the culture wars began with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Cher, not Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!)

Bottom line: Hollywood has never liked Christianity. It has never supported Christianity. It has never respected or feared Christianity. Instead, it has been a force acting against Christianity from the beginning. That fact causes us to stumble because we want to believe that Hollywood was once moral and good but lost its way when it was perverted by the socially liberal movements, i.e. the 60s and 70s. Why? Because Hollywood has always been extremely popular and influential in America. Accepting that Hollywood has always opposed legitimate Christianity would mean accepting the “America was once good and virtuous because its mainstream respected Christian values before its institutions were hi-jacked” notion. We are told that demonic “Avatar” became the top box office grossing film in history because the culture no longer respects God. But the box office champion for most of Hollywood’s history (when adjusted for inflation and number of tickets sold): Gone With The Wind! With Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and many other clearly immoral characters! (For example: when Scarlett declares “As God as my witness I will never go hungry again”, it was not a prayer or even a vow, but a blasphemous oath of the sort made by wicked people in the Old Testament!) That movie came out in 1939. During the Great Depression and World War II: “the greatest generation.”

This is not to say that things have not gotten worse. Clearly they have. But merely because things were better back then does not mean that they were good. To put it another way: just because Hollywood – and the mainstream American culture that it represents (the idea that Hollywood are these “cultural elites” that are disconnected from and do not reflect “the real America” is a right wing political device no different from the plot devices that screenwriter hacks contrive to keep stories moving along) – was less overtly antagonistic towards Christianity in the past doesn’t mean that they ever supported or respected Christianity. Today, “Good Christian Belles” depicts western Christians as liars, cheats, adulterers and schemers. 50 years ago, movies set in the “old west” commonly depicted preachers as being particularly fond of whiskey, gambling, swearing, violence or other vices. The difference is only a matter of degree.

The solution to the problem posed by such things as “Good Christian Belles”, then, is not to manufacture offense or outrage. It is certainly not to choose to believe a lie by pretending as if “the good ole days” actually were good. (Note that the Bible never instructs us to indulge in nostalgia, but instead to seek the holy God who never changes instead of preserving in memory the fallen culture that does change, and usually so for the worse.) Instead, it is to believe what the Bible says, and to embrace it. God is holy. God’s people are holy because God makes them holy. The world is wicked. Because of this, God, His people and the world are going to be at emnity (God and His people on one side, the world and the other) until the last day, when time shall be no more. Instead of pretending as if the world was never evil, or America was not originally part of the evil world because of its “values”, of its being a “Christian nation” or “founded on Christian principles”, or mourning over the time when America was “less evil”, we should look forward to the day of the Lord when all evil, all that opposes Jesus Christ and His church, are destroyed forever.

Remember the warning of Luke 9:62: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Join that with Luke 17:32′s “Remember Lot’s wife.” Instead of being deceived by false teachers into loving this worldly system, we should endeavor to separate from it, be holy and embrace the world to come, which is New Jerusalem where we will be with Jesus Christ – and separated from those who hate Him and us because we are in Him – forever.

If you have not separated from the world and its wickedness, I urge you to do so immediately. Repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe that He died for sins, that He was worthy to do so in the place of sinners because of His being the Son of God, and that He rose again from the dead. If you need more information on how to accomplish this, please click on the link below.

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Let Him In By Winans Phase 2: Why It Is Not Gospel Music But Blasphemy

Posted by Job on March 4, 2012

As concerning Christian music and other things concerning worship, I am not a traditional fundamentalist. I disagree with the position of John Calvin and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation, which is that songs, music and dance were primarily related to the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament religion of the Hebrews, those things were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and therefore the only permissible form of worship is hymns sung a capella (without music). Yet, that position is actually superior to the common claim that the only permissible mode of worship is that which dominated western culture in the 18th and early 19th century, a cultural/ethnocentric position because it is an indisputable fact of history that the early church – the ancient predominantly middle/near eastern one recorded in the New Testament – did not worship after the manner of Europeans that came along over 1500 years later. So, Christian country, Christian classical and opera music, Christian rock, Christian rap, gospel music (both contemporary and traditional) and the many other varieties under the sun by members of Body of Christ that is indwelt by and serves as a tabernacle for the Spirit of Christ are permissible, so long as it – along with everything else in Christianity – is governed by God’s revelation as preserved in the Bible.

The mere fact that the music is being performed by Christians does not make it acceptable to God, and neither does the intent of the performers or the effect that playing the music has on the regenerate (i.e. causing vigorous worship) or the unregenerate (i.e. helping them understand the gospel and lead them to conversion). The music is also not sanctified by the message (i.e. the lyrics) or the venue (i.e. being performed at a church or in a Christian concert). Moreover, the purpose of the music is to worship God, not to entertain people. Again, merely because it was made to entertain, inspire or aid Christians does not make it Christian music. If it was made to evangelize the lost to cause them to become Christians, then it is not Christian music. If it was made for people, then it is “people music.” Only if it is made for Christ does it become Christian music. And as with everything else, Jesus Christ did leave us in His Bible guidelines for what are acceptable.

Without going into a “theology of worship” discussion, two scripture texts that can be used as guidelines for choosing which music to listen to, include in worship, or (if per chance you are one who creates Christian music) compose are Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 12:28-29. The former reads “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Now this does not mean that Christians are commanded to reject popular or other music forms created or embraced by the world as worldly, or to create a distinctively Christian music form.

Christianity is not a religion of rules and rituals, but a religion of the heart. Thus, if your heart is not right, then your music will not be right either. So, rather than being some rule that would enjoin worldly musicians from making worldly music and from worldly listeners from hearing it – which appears to be the position of some of my fundamentalist friends – the message of Romans 12:1-2 is to not be worldly. Worldly musicians will make worldly music. Worldly listeners will listen to worldly music. The reason is that those people are of the flesh and will live accordingly. But Godly people will make and listen to Godly music because they are of God’s Spirit and will live according to God’s Spirit. No rules, regulations, rituals, customs, traditions etc. will made a worldly person Holy Spirit-filled and Holy Spirit-led in worship or anything else. And of course, such vain external trappings of false religion (John 7:24) should not keep true believers in bondage. So, if you are worldly, the world is what an artist will be thinking about, striving to emulate and please, when he makes his music. Further, if you are a worldly listener, you will not want music that reminds you of God and His attributes, but rather music that reminds you of the world that is your first love. But if you are Godly, then your desire to know and please God – your first love – will be reflected in the music that you make and/or listen to.

Now for the second text, Hebrews 12:28-29, which is not only an explicit command to guide worship, but tells us why this command or rule exists. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” Note that “we may serve”, as the King James Version translators rendered it, is the Greek word latreuō, which can means “to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship.” This definition fits the context, which is why other good translations use “worship” or “praise”. The English Standard Version renders Hebrews 12:28 with this very issue in mind (arguably making it more of an interpretation/commentary than a mere translation!) with “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

So make no mistake, this text commands us to worship God in an acceptable manner, and that the only acceptable manner is reverence. Again, reverence is not a rule, ritual or tradition, but a matter of the heart. The Old Testament bears this out. God gave Israel a specific, detailed collection of rules and rituals to follow concerning the manner in which He would be worshiped. What happened? They didn’t follow it. Why? Because their hearts were not right. They did not love God, they did not have a desire to know or serve God, so they did not consistently keep the religious forms that God gave them for any length of time. This was so as a general rule anyway. The remnant, the elect chosen and preserved by God, DID worship God to the best of their ability. So, even from the Old Testament we know that rules banning rock guitars, hip-hop drumbeats, or everything but hymns without musical accompaniment are vanities in a heart that is hardened. Just as a worldly heart will lust after the world, and irreverent heart will never know reverence in its cold, dead and depraved condition.

By contrast, a regenerate heart will revere God. Why? Again, Hebrews 12:28 tells us. Be not deceived: it is not mere mutable emotion that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, but something far more permanent. 1. Born again Christians are grateful to God for our permanent kingdom that cannot be shaken; that we will spend an eternity with Jesus Christ in New Jerusalem (commonly called heaven). This fact serves as a powerful hope, inspiration and driving force that remains constant no matter our circumstances or emotional state. 2. Our God is a consuming fire! Born again Christians do not erect false idols of nonexistent deities that will not punish the wicked. Instead, we love the truth – that God will punish and destroy the wicked – because this truth confirms God’s holiness and power, and we love God because He is holy and powerful! A safe god, a god that we can transgress and disrespect without consequence, or one who only punishes us for crimes committed against His creation (i.e. only sending murderers, thieves and rapists to hell for what they have done TO PEOPLE) and not for offenses done against God’s holiness is no God at all. Scripture makes it clear from beginning to end that God is One who demands and is holiness. God does have the whole world in His Hands after the manner of the children’s nursery rhyme, but make no mistake: God is no child’s toy, or anyone’s toy for that matter. The elect is indeed safe in the arms of Jesus Christ, as an old hymn asserts, but this same Jesus Christ – the same One who drove the thieves out of the temple with a whip and will one day return riding a white horse and carrying a two edged sword with which to horribly punish the wicked – isn’t safe! For those who reject this and deny that our God is a consuming fire, they should instead be confronted with the reality that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31, plus a rather well known sermon)!

It is not merely a “we must worship God in this manner or God will send fire down from heaven and consume us” sort of fear, though Christians should certainly remember Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, and Ananias and Sapphira when that very sort of thing did happen if only for the typology. Instead, it is simply a truth that God has disclosed His Divine Nature to us in the Bible, and those that are regenerate and hence truly love God will respond to God’s self revelation by acting in accordance to that revelation, not against it. Again, this is something that will not happen by way of adherence to ritual, or creating rules based on human comprehension of the facts of scripture, but as the elect are carried along by God’s Holy Spirit. Similar to salvation (consider what Jesus Christ told His disciples when they were astonished after the rich young ruler incident) with man, it is impossible to achieve worship that is spiritual and reverent, for man is only capable of worldly irreverent worship that mocks, hates and rejects God. But with God, it is possible to attain reverent spiritual worship that is liberated from the rusted shackles of carnality, and it is indeed achieved. This is done because it is God’s will to receive reverent spiritual worship that is pleasing to Him, and God’s will is most certainly done.

In conclusion, I will provide the example – a negative one – which motivated this entry: Let Him In By Winans Phase 2. It is simply one of the most egregious ones that I have encountered. For those who are uninitiated as concerning the R&B music genre, this song is – not emulates but is – a “slow jam”, meaning a romantic song. The purpose of the “slow jam” is to create a mindset – or mental atmosphere – of emotional and physical intimacy, including – but not limited to – sexual intercourse. (Of course, not a few artists in this genre make such songs solely and entirely for the purpose of promoting sexual intercourse, and take it as a compliment when their fans inform them that their music was played on their prom nights, wedding nights, when their children were conceived, etc.) And keep in mind: when such intimacy is not available or attainable, the purpose of the music is to remind people of such intimacy, or cause them to desire for or aspire to it! Make no mistake, that is the primary reason why such music exists, it is the primary reason why it is so popular with the artists who make it – as many of the artists are lovers of sensuality – and it is also why the music is so commercially successful.

And “Let Him In” by Winans Phase 2 is a song after this genre and spirit. The musical accompaniment is entirely sensual. So is the way that the song is sung. But that is not the main problem.Consider this: the “Let Him In” title of the song – and it is also a refrain, repetitively sung in a soft, sensual manner! – is an evangelistic plea to convert to Christianity. (It is based on the very common misapplication of Revelation 3:20, but the issue here is not the free will salvation theology advocated by the song, but the song’s irreverent form.)  Again, based on the musical and lyrical style, the purpose of it was to emulate an R&B “love song” (when in truth most “love songs” should be renamed “amorous songs” as they are far more often concerned with physical attraction and emotional infatuation than actual, Biblical love). Further, “let him in” is a widely known euphemism that has the purpose of requesting sexual intercourse. Make no mistake, as a large number of R&B (and rap/hip-hop) songs have a very similar musical and vocal sound and use the same “let him in” phrase according to its common meaning, how is it possible for one very familiar with the genre to listen to that song without making that association? Of course, it is possible to suppress it, and undoubtedly the professed Christians who listen to this very popular song do so. But had this song been reverent in the first place, it would not have been necessary. It is not the duty of the listener to suppress what the song would have certainly meant were it in a different genre, the genre that this song was intended to sound like. Instead, it is the duty of the Christian performer not to make a song that sounds very much like an entreaty for the listener to consent to Jesus Christ performing a sex act on him (or her)!

That sounded strong to you? Well, consider the lyrics to this song. Now they deny that the song is carnal on one hand, but the song elsewhere says – concerns Jesus Christ – “He’s making love to my heart.” Which by the way … A REFERENCE TO APPEARS FOUR TIMES! (I want to point out: THIS SONG IS BEING SUNG BY MEN. It would still be blasphemy were it sung by women, but I just wanted to point that out.) Some other lyrics from this homosexual love ballad – excuse me, gospel song: “Sweet as can be”, “I love the way he talks to me”, “Oooh I’m so happy.” Also, one of the “He’s making love to my heart” references asks the listener to “let him make love to your heart.” Again (and I do not intend this to be Mark Driscoll vulgar here): “let him in” in is colloquial context is a request to allow a man to have intercourse with you made by some intermediary. A common application is when a man is dating a woman, wants to have intercourse with her, but she is reluctant. So, the man gets a mutual friend of theirs to go to this reluctant woman on his behalf and tell her “Come on. He’s your boyfriend. You know you like him. You know you want him. You have been dating how long? Three months? What are you waiting for? How much longer are you going to wait? Come on, let him in!” When you read the lyrics, it honestly appears as if the meaning of the “let him in” phrase was not something that they were unaware, or some horrible accidental coincidence, but instead something that they directly, purposefully incorporated into the song, as the entire song itself is concerned with sexuality! The song explicitly says, in multiple occasions – “Jesus Christ is making love with my heart, let Jesus Christ make love with your heart!” And then it makes use of Revelation 3:20 (which is directly referenced in with “I’m here to let you know he’s knocking at your door to let him in”!) to make the connotation of the euphemism direct and complete. The song purposefully, directly associates – indeed depicts – Christian conversion and Christian living with sexual encounters with Jesus Christ in the same way that Paul associated the Christian’s life with an athlete running  a race. Now John MacArthur spoke of the rape of the Song of Solomon by Mark Driscoll. Well “Let Him In” constitutes no less than a (homosexual!) rape of Revelation 3:20 by Winans Phase 2.

This is merely the most egregious example that I am aware of. As I no longer listen to Christian music radio of any genre and merely happened upon this song, there are probably many others as bad or worse. But it serves as a good example of a song that is not reverent and is very much worldly. Though this song purports to be evangelistic, the truth is that it represents an attempt by carnal-minded people to win converts by relying on the basest of means. It is the “sex sells” approach to evangelism and discipleship that is advocated in this age by many, including Rick Warren and Ed Young Jr.

Rest assured, one cannot be carnal and worldly and be saved. One must be made holy, and this holiness is only achieved through Jesus Christ. The Bible does not tell us to become converted by lustfully imagining a sexual encounter with Jesus Christ. Instead, it tells us to repent of our sins and believe that Jesus Christ died for sins in the place of the sinner, was worthy to do so because of His being the Son of God, and was resurrected from the dead. If you have not done so already, I urge and entreat you to do so immediately. Click on the link below to receive some information on how to do so.

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Does Proverb 16:4 Prove Sublapsarianism?

Posted by Job on February 15, 2012

For several years, I have considered myself to be a so-called “5 point Calvinist” (though Particular Baptist is more accurate), yet one who rejects what I understood to be sublapsarianism (often called double predestination, or hyper-Calvinism). My reason for so is not because of any belief that adhering to double predestination makes God cruel or otherwise unrighteous – for my acceptance of limited (or more accurately, particular) atonement precludes this thinking – but rather 2 Peter 3:9, which reads “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and also Matthew 25:41, which tells that the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. (More on this later.)

Therefore, I rejected the claims of some, such as the estimable Gotquestions.org, who claims that belief in limited atonement requires a belief in sublapsarianism. Instead, I felt that both limited atonement and infralapsarianism were Biblical, that Theodore Beza and  fellow travelers exceeded the evidence of the Bible in articulating sublapsarianism. That is, until – when going to a fast food restaurant to get a bite to eat (bad decision; it made my belly bitter, so to speak!) – I happened to listen to a bit of the Janet Mefferd radio show. Ms. Mefferd’s show frustrates me, as I find it to be a curious mix of religious right politics (which I detest) and very bold, principled theologians! It happens that this particular day, a particular theologian that she was discoursing with (and neither she nor he saw fit to reveal his name!) was discussing the nature of God’s divine love (in contrast with carnal emotionalism that is now taken by the fallen world to mean love) and in the process mentioned Proverb 16:4 and Romans 9:21-23.

First Romans 9:21-23. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory”? But Paul was merely asking a rhetorical question, as he is known to do from time to time such is in 2 Corinthians 11:23, right? Except that Proverb 16:4 reads “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” And that text appears in a passage that begins with “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, [is] from the LORD” in verse 1! My problem: I do not use the Proverbs as a source of theology I guess!

And Spurgeon.org gave 1 Peter 2:8 and Jude 4 for more information on the topic. (Note: Spurgeon.org, a 5 point site, corrects some of the faulty assumptions in Gotquestions.org, a 4 point site. Those texts read, respectively “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” and “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” There it is, explicitly laid out. Where perhaps I can get a “pass” for not allowing texts from Proverbs to influence my theology to any great degree (then again I guess I cannot, because I allow Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Psalms to do so greatly), the meaning and application of the other texts simply flew past me. 1 Peter 2:8, I simply read the appointment of the wicked in that text apart from the appointment – the election! – of the righteous in 1 Peter 2:9-10.  “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” Jude 1:4 … I just flat out missed the meaning of “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” But in light of those, how can the case for sublapsarianism be denied?

That gets me back to my reason for doing so: 2 Peter 3:9 and Matthew 25:41. Here is my problem – which I have just now realized – for many years I believed that “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance for the hell was everlasting fire [was] prepared (as in only originally intended) for the devil and his angels” was a Bible text. Why? Because I have heard PLENTY of sermons where those two textual fragments were juxtaposed, so I erroneously believed them to form one text. It is only now that I for the first time know that they are portions of separate texts that are several books apart. And when evaluating these fragments individually, and in context, the problem is resolved. Matthew 25:41 reads “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”, and in it our Lord Jesus Christ is merely describing the final status of the wicked, with “prepared for the devil and his angels” as a descriptive clause. There is no way to assert from the context, either there or from the entirety of scripture, that the lake of fire was originally created only for demons, and that God adjusted His original plan to send men there too after the fall (and after an attempt at universal salvation failed?)! That exceeds even “predestined foreknowledge” Wesleyanism and fully into the camp of open theism, meaning that God was forced to react and adjust to circumstances that He had no knowledge of or control over. ‘Tis heresy that denies God’s omnipotence and omniscience!

2 Peter 3:9 is much simpler. Its context was people doubting the return of Jesus Christ because it had not happened yet: see “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation” of verses 3 and 4 of this same chapter. This text DOES NOT MEAN that God was attempting to save everybody, for being God and by definition omnipotent, God would not have TRIED to save everyone and FAILED. Had God TRIED to save everyone, THEN EVERYONE WOULD BE SAVED. Or had it been God’s WILL to save everyone, THEN EVERYONE WOULD BE SAVED. A fundamental, nonnegotiable fact of Biblical revelation is that God’s will shall come to pass! Otherwise, there is no point in even so much as saying the Lord’s Prayer! Faith would be pointless, because everything would be reduced to chance. Maybe God can come through for us this time, maybe He can’t! That would reduce religion to being a mere lottery, and it would confirm the false doctrines of the evolutionists and big bang theorists, who have created an entire religious, ideological, and pseudo-scientific system on the idea that chance, random uncaused events, is the creator and sustainer of all things!

Instead, Peter was informing the church that the reason why Jesus Christ had not yet returned was so that all of the elect, everyone predestined to salvation, would be saved! (Consider another problem with the alternative interpretation: if the return of Jesus Christ was delayed because God does not want anyone to go to the lake of fire, then why not begin human history with the atonement, instead of allowing many thousands of years to pass first? Also, no matter how long Jesus Christ’s return is coming, people are still going to the lake of fire, a fact that we know from the Bible! So, God would be delaying the return of Jesus Christ because of something that He already knows to be a failed hope! To put it another way, God is withholding the return of Jesus Christ to restore creation as a consequence of His own failure to save it! Again, a heretical, blasphemous thought that no Christian should have on his mind!) Peter is not an innovator in tying the return of Jesus Christ to the completion of God’s plan to convert sinners into saints. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus Christ stated that the end of time will not come until the gospel is preached to all nations (Mark 13:10, Matthew 24:24). Paul stated that the endtimes will not come until the Gentile mission is complete (Romans 11:25-26).

So, now that I know what the Bible actually says instead of what I believed it to say, I have no problems with accepting the doctrine of sublapsarianism. Further, allow me to say that knowing more about God and His plan to save His people should make you more willing to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ instead of less, for you will know that your salvation and eternal fate is not your own doing or responsibility, but has been planned for you by an omniscient, omnipotent God who cannot fail! If you have not done so already, do so today!

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Human Free Will Versus God’s Decree? 2 Chronicles 10:15 Endorses The Latter

Posted by Job on February 15, 2012

Background: despite being given everything imaginable by God and then some – including God personally visiting him twice – Solomon ceased living by faith and trusting in God, and instead began to put his faith in things of this world, including idolatry. Solomon chose to marry pagan women, for instance, because it was the common political practice of the day for kings to form treaties. If a king wished to form an economic, military or political alliance with another kingdom or tribe, you would marry a female relative – usually the daughter – of the king that he was conducting the business of state with. So, instead of trusting God to provide peace and prosperity for his people, Solomon chose political maneuvering. Solomon added to that faithless behavior by worshiping the devils of his pagan wives. Why? It is simple enough to presume that his desire to please his wives was no different from that of Adam when he chose to eat the forbidden fruit given to him by his wife Eve. One can extend that with the political mess that Solomon had gotten himself into by marrying these women in the first place: as these women were dedicated to the false deities of their own land, Solomon had to worship their gods to keep them happy. Otherwise, word would have certainly gotten back to the fathers – rival kings! – of these women that Solomon was mistreating their daughters, and there goes the peace treaty! The resulting situation: it would have been better for Solomon to have never used marriage for the purpose of political alliances at all than to do so and anger the daughter of a rival king or warlord! Such a king would ask “Why marry my daughter at all if you are going to mistreat her by refusing to worship her god?” Realize that no good answer exists to that question! One must consider the polytheistic pagan mindset of the era – in contrast to Yahwist monotheism – where adding another god to the list that you were worshiping was easier than buying a new pair of shoelaces. So, if Solomon worshiped the god of some of his wives (i.e. his Hebrew wives) and not others, from the flawed perspective of the pagan women that he married, there was no reason for him to do so other than not only preferring some of his wives over the rest, but going out of his way to do so in order to humiliate and spitefully mistreat her! And the children of the ill-favored wife of the king have an uncertain future … just an impossible situation that Solomon got himself into. Which, of course, is the case with all sinful disobedience to God’s command!

In any case, God punished Solomon for his sin by decreeing that rule of 9 of the 11 tribes and their territory (remember, the Levites were a special case) would be stripped from his lineage, and the house of David would be left with rule over only a small portion of the kingdom, which turned out to be the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (Evidence that this was God’s doing: because of the enmity between the house of David of Judah and the house of Saul of Benjamin over the throne – a bloody conflict that continued until at least after the crowning of Solomon – the tribe of Benjamin SHOULD HAVE joined the rebellion, and used the opportunity to have one  of its members become king of the 9 tribes that broke away from the house of David based on a claim to the throne on Saul being the rightful, legitimate king, and the rebellion against Rehoboam being proof that David was a fraud and usurper. Instead, the tribe of Benjamin alone joined the tribe of Judah to form the southern kingdom despite the house of Saul having contested the house of David over the throne a mere few decades prior, and when casting their lot with the other 9 tribes and then going to war with the 1 remaining tribe seeming to be a rather good way of getting the monarchy – and rule over all 12 tribes – back to the tribe of Benjamin! How wonderful and amazing is God able to reveal His power and His mighty workings!)

The situation: early in the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, a challenge to the reign of the young king – likely provoked by Jeroboam – arises. The twelve tribes have a choice: continue with the leadership anointed by God, or rebel. Nine tribes – Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Gad – make a free will decision to reject membership in the earthly, visible, typological manifestation of God’s kingdom (God’s covenant nation Israel as ruled by the house of David, with Jerusalem as its capital and worship taking place in the temple which held the ark of the covenant) in favor of apostasy. Make no mistake: in rejecting the kingdom of David, these tribes chose apostasy. Jeroboam, the leader of the breakaway group, set up a rival religious system in Bethel. (Consider that as the Jerusalem temple and its religion pointed to Jesus Christ, Jeroboam’s system – which involved an altar with two golden calves similar to the calves of Baal made by Aaron at the demand of the rebellious children of Israel at Sinai! – was similarly anti-Christ.) The northern kingdom continued in this false worship – as well as with a line of evil, pagan kings – up until their destruction and scattering by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Yes, the southern kingdom, Judah, was taken by Babylon, but God suffered a remnant to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. No such provision for restoration was made concerning the northern 10 tribes, who remained estranged from the true religion until the gospel of Jesus Christ came to the Samaritans from the Messianic Jewish evangelists as recorded in Acts 8 (a missionary enterprise prefigured by Jesus Christ Himself in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:4-42).

Evidence that the northern kingdom committed apostasy came from their own lips. 2 Chronicles 10:16 reads “And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.” Now who does the Bible reveal as the Son of David (and David is the son of Jesse)? Jesus Christ. The people who took part in the Jeroboam rebellion removed themselves from the Davidic inheritance – from the blessings of Jesus Christ of whom David was a prefigure and a type – with their own words. How similar was this act to that of the Jews, who embraced the destruction of Jerusalem, temple, and nation and end of the Jewish age in 70 A.D. when they cried “His Blood be upon us and our children!” in Matthew 27:25 concerning Jesus Christ when Pontius Pilate attempted to release Christ? And note when the rebels stated: we will return to our tends, so David see to your own house. In essence, these were backsliders proclaiming that they were returning to the world and its ways – spiritually returning to Sodom and Egypt – and telling the believers to get on with their on church business of worshiping and serving God.

Now, it might have seemed that the Jews of the time of Jesus Christ made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ Himself stated that their rejection of Him had to be done in order so that the scriptures could be fulfilled, and God’s decree as represented by the scriptures would come to pass. Well, the same is true of the forerunners of the Samaritans in the time of Rehoboam. It appeared that they made a free will decision to reject the Davidic monarchy – and again the Davidic monarchy was the earthly typological prefiguring of the rule of Jesus Christ – to instead follow the anti-Christological figure of Jeroboam. But the Bible itself tells us: things were not as they appear. When Rehoboam decided to go to war against the rebellious tribes to bring them back under the rule of the house of David, God spoke these words through Shemaiah the prophet in 2 Chronicles 11:2-4, which reads “But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of Me. And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.”

So make no mistake: the tribes that became the northern kingdom did not make a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ (through the proxy of rejecting the Davidic monarchy which in that time represented Christ … please make note that in our time there is no earthly institution that represents Jesus Christ, but rather the church is IN CHRIST and is the Body of Christ). Why? Because they had no power, no prerogative, no ability to make such a decision. In other words, they could not make a free will decision because their wills were not free. Instead, their apostasy only happened because God decreed it. This is what the Bible explicitly, specifically said. It was not a case – as the Arminians and similar claim – of predestined foreknowledge through which an omniscient omnipotent God “learns” of future events and reacts to them (the heresy of open theism embraced by the likes of Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock as the result of taking Wesleyan free will soteriology to its logical conclusion). God did not “see” the rebellion of the northern tribes and adjust His salvation-historical plan accordingly. Instead, God DECREED the rebellion of the northern tribes because it was part of His salvation-historical plan that was set in place before the foundation of the world (Jhn 17:241Cr 2:7Eph 1:42Ti 1:91Pe 1:20).

Regarding this incident, the marginal notes for 2 Chronicles 10:5 the Geneva Bible state “God’s will imposeth such a necessity to the second causes, that nothing can be done but according to the same, and yet man’s will worketh as of itself, so that it cannot be excused in doing that it is God’s ordinance.” Now that marginal note refers to how the rash actions of King Rehoboam that provoked the northern tribes to rebel was caused by God (KJV translates nĕcibbah ‘elohiym more literally as “for the cause was of God” where the Geneva Bible makes the more interpretative “it was the ordinance of God”). Still: the action and the reaction were the result of God’s provident operation behind the scenes. It is impossible for the will of man to resist the will of God! Yet, as the Geneva Bible study notes tell us, as man’s will follows its own sinful nature unless God acts to withhold man from behaving according to his totally depraved original sin condition, God’s decree is no excuse for evil acts done by man. As Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, concerning our evil deeds, we are without excuse.

A natural impulse is to charge God with unfairness for decreeing such things, and then punishing man for his actions that are associated with the decree. But as God reminded Isaiah in verse 55:9, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In other words, God cannot be tried, judged and convicted as evil according to man’s limited – and fallen – notions of right and wrong. For example, God is not obligated to save all mankind, or even to try. (Though the “or even to try” is misleading: for as God is omnipotent, were He to attempt to save all mankind, He would most certainly to succeed. Otherwise, He would not be omnipotent, and therefore by definition He would not be God in accordance with how God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.) Instead, it is only by God’s grace that ANY are saved. And it is God’s prerogative to grant grace to whomever He chooses, and to withhold that same grace from whoever He chooses. Romans 9:13-23 reads “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”

Yes, this most certainly applies to salvation. Man certainly has his responsibility, to make an affirmative choice using his will to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ upon being confronted with the fact of the gospel. But make no mistake: a man only fulfills this responsibility concerning his personal salvation through the exercise of his will in this fashion if it concurs with God’s eternal decree to save him! God only frees the will of those that He plans to save, and the sole purpose of this liberty is to choose Jesus Christ and thereby become born again and in Jesus Christ. Hence, the liberation of the will as provided by God to the elect is not to do whatever one pleases, but instead it is liberation from original sin, the grips of Satan that has deceived the whole world, and the spiritual deadness that results. Evidence of this: not everyone gets to make a choice. The vast majority of people to walk the face of this earth have never heard of God or His gospel, let alone had a chance to make a free will choice to accept or reject God. Instead, many – but not everyone – are called through the hearing of the gospel, but only the few that are chosen by God become saved from their sins and born again as a result.

Hence in truth there is no free will but only God’s decree except inasmuch as God uses man’s will to accomplish His decree. So then, is there any way to tell to whom the mystery of salvation has been divinely granted? The answer: we only know as a result of who truly responds to the gospel by faith. Faith is not an emotional reaction or an intellectual response, but instead is gift given by God the Holy Spirit to those that God intends to save. Though we are not saved by works, evidence of God-given faith is obedience to the commandments of God as recorded in the Holy Scriptures (John 14:15). This is what is meant by the text “make your calling and election sure) of 2 Peter 1:10. If you have not already, make your calling and election sure by:

Following The Three Step Salvation Plan

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Apostasy From The Faith: Is It For Real? By Graceworx

Posted by Job on January 27, 2012

http://www.graceworx.com/podcast/video

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The Greatness of Being a Slave – Pastor John MacArthur

Posted by Job on January 27, 2012

http://gty.org

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T.D. Jakes Exposed For The Heretical Liar That He Is And What It Means For The Church

Posted by Job on January 26, 2012

All right folks. I said that I was going to give this online discernment ministry thing up. The first reason was that there were too many false teachers and doctrines to keep track of. The second reason was that based on my interactions with those following these false preachers even after their unBiblical scandalous doctrines and behavior had been exposed that folks were going to believe what they choose to believe anyway. The third was that I had felt that I had adequately addressed the issue with the 3 years of blogging that I did dedicate to the topic. The fourth was that I felt that the best way to combat error was with the truth, so I decided to take this site in a more exegetical direction. And the last of those was also chosen for practical reasons: I no longer have the time to answer comments and interact with people that I did back when I made exposing false teachers so writing about scripture’s meaning and application seemed to be a superior use of time (and yes I do need to get back to writing about the Bible).

But the T.D. Jakes issue is timely right now due to Jakes’ recent appearance at a respected evangelical event of some estimation where he was “interviewed” by Mark Driscoll, where the topic of Jakes’ rejection of the Holy Trinity was discussed. Now I don’t mean to attack anybody, but one Christian blogger quickly proclaimed Jakes’s statement satisfies me that he is a Trinitarian and that we should celebrate that Jakes has joined the Trinitarian camp. (Which, er, makes all his time as a false preaching modalist heretic and the people that he deceived during that time “ok” I guess. The truth is that at best he was an unregenerate false teacher when he was in the pulpit before, and even if he believes in the Holy Trinity NOW and is born again NOW, he has no business in the pulpit. His previous experience and service is worthless, and he needs to take his place in the pews learning from an actual Christian pastor. Otherwise, we can go get Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, Muslim imams, and liberal “Christians” who perform homosexual “marriage” ceremonies and put them into the pulpit immediately after they say a salvation prayer.)

Another Christian blogger made a similar – though more guarded – statement: “By far, the session that was most anticipated was the one in which T. D. Jakes was asked to clarify his position on the Trinity. Thankfully, he did so – though perhaps not in a way that would satisfy all of his critics. I believe we should celebrate his affirmation of the truth that there is one God in three Persons.”

The problem with doing so: Jakes own words on the Holy Trinity in the past and present. Now, here is a link to the transcript of the Elephant Room session, judge Jakes for yourself. But what follows is MY evaluation.

Part 1: I used to follow T.D. Jakes. Now … not so much. Without calling him a liar (while actually, you know, calling him a liar) allow me to propose that just because Jakes says something does not make it so. So … just because Jakes says that he believes “One God three Persons” DOES NOT MEAN that we should take it at face value. Jakes has been “less than forthcoming” on many issues in the past, so he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Just because Jakes is in the pulpit and calls himself a Christian does not mean that we should believe what he says. So no, listening to what he says and being “satisfied” requires a presumption that he is telling the truth, a presumption that he does not merit. Does that sound harsh, the bitter words of someone who has “church hurt” as it is called? Well keep reading.

Now in one context I can be SYMPATHETIC to Jakes’ views because I don’t like the wording or terminology used by the Cappadocian fathers myself. But this unease with the Cappadocian formulation needs to be addressed by someone other than Jakes. Why? Because Jakes has been known to be less than honest with the truth, and not merely on this issue. Recall that when Jakes was first challenged on the Trinity doctrine by Christianity Today, he submitted a modalist doctrinal statement that he insisted be accepted as Trinitarian!

Do not take my word on this: another ministry came to the same conclusion, that Jakes was dishonestly trying to pass off modalist heresy for orthodoxy. When challenged on it, he dissembled, claiming that his views on the Trinity were adapting and growing, that he was studying and learning more about it, and how Christians need to stop all this infighting and arguing about such things as minor differences in phraseology and get to the weightier matters of the kingdom, and such excuses for retaining and defending heresy as “these things are too mysterious to be comprehended or explained.” Jakes even resorted to race-baiting, stating “Christians will never agree on every theological issue any more than the colors of our skin will all suddenly match.” So, if Jakes was a liar and a demagogue on this Trinity issue in the past,why should we presume that he is any different now? What has changed to make us presume that Jakes has changed? Especially since he is still preaching heresies in other areas, such as the prosperity doctrine and trying to pass off ecstatic babbling done by mystics in many false religions as “speaking in tongues”?

Part II: From the transcript, it really does appear as if Jakes is fine with “persons” in his Trinitarian statement so long as “persons” is synonymous with “manifestations.” Basically, he says, “well, so long as I can call a ‘person’ a ‘manifestation’ then I am Trinitarian.” He says “My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word” – and Driscoll finishes his thought – “manifestations.” What he says next is a amazing.

“Manifest instead of persons. Which you describe as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. When I read…let me show you what I’m talking about…when I read I Timothy 3:16 – I didn’t create this, Paul did.” And then he goes onto the time-honored modalist lying techniques from the pit of hell: “I think it’s important that we realize that our God is beyond our intellect. And if you can define Him and completely describe Him and say you are the end-all definition of who God is, then He ceases to be God. Because the reason Paul says it is a mystery, is that we deify the fact that God does things that don’t fit our formulas. And because people’s formulas and understandings of a description of an unbiblical God did doesn’t make them demonic.”

Let us go to his abuse of I Timothy 3:16. Yes, the King James Version that many oneness pentecostal liars claim is the only translation – and I used to be KJV-Only myself, and still today am KJV-Preferred, but not because of the translation itself but the texts used to produce the translation, as I believe text criticism used to produce the new manuscripts is a false science – reads “manifest” as its rendering of the Greek word  phaneroō. But other versions translate phaneroō to be “appeared” and “revealed!”

Another thing: phaneroō’s definitions: “to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way.”  So, rather than being a “mode” or “state” or “relationship” after the doctrines of the oneness heretics (for example, as water has a liquid, solid and gas manifestation as water, ice and vapor) phaneroō’ in this context merely meant how God was shown to men! That is revelation, after the same manner that the Greek word apokalypsis was used in Revelation 1:1. Paul could have just as easily used apokalypsis instead of phaneroō!

Further, according to the definition, what can phaneroō “reveal” or “manifest”? A PERSON! It is right here in definition 1d in a common Bible lexicon placed online via BlueletterBible.com:

1) to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

a) make actual and visible, realised

b) to make known by teaching

c) to become manifest, be made known

d) of a person

1) expose to view, make manifest, to show one’s self, appear

e) to become known, to be plainly recognised, thoroughly understood

1) who and what one is

Jakes is exposed as a liar by exegesis of the very text that he used to claim that he was telling the truth! In this Jakes fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 10:2, which reads “The wicked in [his] pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.”

Now the dictionary entry makes the Cappadocian utilization of “Person” more justifiable in my mind and it who knows, the Cappadocian fathers might have relied heavily on 1 Timothy 3:16 when they formulated their Trinity doctrine (which would make Jakes’ abuse of that text still more ironic) because that text refers to the revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ and not the mere exhibition of a mode of existence or relationship (and moreover this revelation refers to Christ’s existence being shown to the world; for phaneroō to have the meaning that Jakes claims that it does, THE TERM WOULD HAVE TO REFER TO HIS INCARNATION IN THE WOMB OF MARY, NOT HIS EXISTENCE AND WORKS BEING WITNESSED BY MEN, WHICH IS THE TRUE CONTEXT OF 1 Peter 3:16 AS WELL AS REVELATION 1:1, WHICH AGAIN IS WHY APOKALYPSIS COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN USED INSTEAD) but I confess to still uneasy with it. But the difference between me and Jakes is that JAKES IS LYING. That is the bottom line.

But you know what? This is not truly about Jakes anyway. The reason is that anyone who goes and clicks on the T.D. Jakes category on this blog will know why no legitimate Christian pastor should touch Jakes with a 10 foot pole, unless that pastor has been instructed by God to smite Jakes with it. Instead, it is about the people that are embracing him. It is one thing for the decadent TBN (who has their own tag) Pentecostal abomination to embrace Jakes, and please recall that it was TBN who made Jakes into an international figure. TBN is run by a man who paid off a TBN employee with whom he had a homosexual encounter with, and has since been sued by another man making the same charges. These charges and the many other scandals are commonly known by those who patronize that network anyway and … well now you see why I felt that there were better uses of my time than exposing people who have already been exposed because people simply do not care!

But now, TD Jakes is being embraced by the “more respectable” corners of evangelical Christianity as represented by (ironically named) The Gospel Coalition, which includes some of the most prominent pastors and theologians in evangelical Christianity today. Now of course, there was significant “debate” over inviting Jakes. The fears of those objecting were quite founded, as it resulted in Mark Driscoll, himself a very troubling personality, doing very much to rehabilitate Jakes, largely because of Driscoll’s own desire to push his false anti-cessationist doctrines into the Reformed/Calvinistic evangelical movement. Also, those who would have challenged Jakes rather than accommodate him were not allowed to participate.  But the fact that there was even a debate at all shows how far gone the evangelical landscape is! Having Jakes in the Elephant Room should have been as much a nonstarter as having Richard Dawkins or Pope Benedict!

And that brings us to the real issue: further evidence that the evangelical church in America is veering off the rails. (It is such times that even people who MILDLY stand against Jakes and his lies are the ones to be mocked, opposed and condemned.) Is the great apostasy, the great falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 upon us? This event is prophesied in scripture, and will come to pass. It is a very tragic development in and of itself, but 2 Thess 2:3 tells us that the great falling away is a precursor to – or more accurately a precondition for – the coming of the beast, the anti-Christ, the man of sin, which occurs during the great tribulation. It is my position that the church will experience this great tribulation, and not be raptured from or otherwise escape it, as many pastors and teachers propose. So as difficult as things are now for the church as evidenced by its willingness to not only suffer but endorse and promote such false teachers as Jakes, it is only paving the way for even tougher times to come. Christian, watch and discern the times. Pray. Be strengthened and encouraged in the Lord so that you will not be deceived, that you will resist temptation, and stay in the faith.

For those of you not in the faith, realize that the proliferation of false doctrines and those who gain wealth, fame and power by teaching them does not undermine Christianity, but rather is evidence that the Bible is true, for Jesus Christ Himself and His apostles predicted that such a time as this would come thousands of years ago; Christ referred to men such as Jakes as ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing. That many will follow such people is evidence that narrow is the gate that leads to salvation, and wide is that which leads to destruction!

Enter into the narrow gate. Be saved in the Name of Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ. Follow

The Three Step Salvation Plan

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...

Posted in Bible, Christianity, false doctrine, false religion, false teaching, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Theodicy Dialogue With Pastor Matt Wrickman

Posted by Job on January 26, 2012

Matthew Wrickman, a pastor and blogger with whom I have corresponded in the past, wished to discuss How The Penn State University Child Molestation Case Demonstrates The Existence Of God and did so in a comment, which he reproduced as a post on his site (which I encourage you to patronize). The objections – er dialogue points – that he raised are good ones as always, and my interaction with them is as follows. Pastor Wrickman’s words are in blocked quote format, and mine follow. Thank you.

“ Interesting response. Most commentators for the last 200 years at least have used evil in the reverse sense as the greatest problem for the existence of God. The line of logic would be that Sandusky is evil. If God was really good, really powerful, and really existed then He would have intervened and stopped the action. He didn’t so either He is not really good, really powerful, or does not really exist. As a line of logic it seems rather convincing. I, of course, would argue (as you hinted at) that God has intervened through the person of Son. That the cross of Christ represents Christ’s solidarity with the victims of Sandusky, as well as, his offer of healing to both victim and victimizer. Mix that with classical free will theory and I feel that the question has been answered; perhaps not superbly but answered nonetheless.”

Alas, you are of the Remonstrants, I am of the Synod of Dort! (Actually I am Particular Baptist after the manner of Charles Spurgeon, William Carey and Paul Bunyan and you are not classical Arminian or Wesleyan as you to not believe that one can lose his salvation, but otherwise you get the picture.)

“You once stated that you enjoyed boiling down arguments to the logical extreme”

Well, my love of reductio ad absurdum was in my angry, immature phase. (In what many might consider to be an irony, it was becoming a “5 point Calvinist” – or again more accurately a Particular Baptist – that helped me get past my anger, which I ultimately discovered was truthfully coming from within and was directed inwardly also.) I now rarely employ this debate tactic, though I hear that it is a very good tool for computer scientists and mathematicians.

“and that is where pointing from evil to God fails. At it’s extreme it allows for no differentiation between evil and God.””

I agree with you to a point, as a multitude of false religions (as I understand them) have deities that are dualistic, amoral or even malevolent. But that extreme is precluded by the holy scriptures. Though I do dabble in classical and evidential apologetics from time to time – to the extent that I am able – for the most part I adhere to the presuppositional apologetics school of Cornelius Van Til and similar, which takes the truth and authority of the Bible to be a non-negotiable starting point and proceeds from there. (I further build on that school by presuming a basic “rule of faith”, or a normative interpretation of the Bible, belief in its inerrancy/inspiration/authority, and application of its doctrines to the church).

So, inasmuch as the Bible differentiates between evil and God, I presume this to be true also. My purpose for authoring the above piece was intended not to much to be an exercise in philosophy, ethics or similar, but for evangelism and encouragement. Thus, it presumes some degree of faith – and please recall that faith is not produced by man but is given by God – and is not intended for the purposes of debating the likes of Sam Harris, Charles Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens.

“One might state that if evil has a positive outcome such as pointing to God; then committing evil cannot be entirely wrong (as it creates some good outcome). Therefore committing an evil act cannot be considered wrong and cannot then be evil.”

What you speak of is outcome-based religion. The problem with such religions is that man, lacking perfect knowledge and morality, is incapable of properly evaluating outcomes. Only God can do so. What we perceive to be a “good” outcome according to our perspective might actually be evil according to God, and the converse is also true. Consider an example: a small leak in a dam. A person might make an improper repair to the leak that for a time stops the water from running, but makes the dam weaker, or at minimum ignores the root cause of the leak. Now though the fix is flawed, it might last a long time – during the duration of that person’s life. And for that time, that person will be considered to have done a great good in fixing the leak, and will go to his grave with such estimation.

But suppose that the dam ultimately breaks and catastrophically floods the town! Was this a good deed? No, because in the most extreme case, where the leak would have been at most a minor annoyance but remained, the fix made the dam weaker and caused it to suddenly burst where it would not have had the fix not been applied. In even the most favorable possible case, the fix caused everyone to BELIEVE that the problem was solved, and hindered them from seeking a real solution, or from evacuating the town if no solution was possible or practical.

Such is the result of false religion: it creates self-righteousness and blinds the sinner from his need for God. And false doctrines in Christianity can similar impede the spiritual growth of a Christian. So, the measure of “good acts” are not by their outcomes (“the ends justify the means”) or their intentions (“he meant well/his heart was in the right place”) but rather the fidelity of these acts to the commandments of Jesus Christ as revealed by the Holy Scriptures regardless of their apparent outcomes. God and His Word are the standard, not the outcome or our perception of it, and by the definition of God as determined by His special revelation to us in the Bible, fidelity to God and His Word cannot be evil.

That is why the people who obeyed the commandments of God to commit genocide and fratricide in the Old Testament were not evil, and those who committed what might have been considered good in sparing, say, a Canaanite baby out of what seemed to be mercy upon the innocent who posed no threat when when God commanded to utterly destroy all the Canaanites would have been evil. Where of course we would say that killing a Canaanite baby is evil, and sparing the baby and raising it up according to the Jewish religion would have been good according to our own understanding, we have to accept by faith God’s statements when He says that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, and obey God according to that same faith.

If we do otherwise, and obey God when it conforms to our own sense of good and evil and abandon God’s commandments when they contradict them, we are following our own religion and morality and not God’s, and we have made ourselves into gods in the place of God.

“On another level it also implicates God in evil; because it seems to make God a participant in the evil action. Therefore one might question the goodness of God.”

Well, the psalmists and prophets seemed to regularly question the goodness of God, no? Yet they remained faithful. It is not blind faith, but faith in God’s self-revelation to us through His Son. The role of the Holy Spirit is not to answer all of our questions, but to reassure us, comfort us and keep us in the faith despite them. Or to save us from our faithless condition despite them. The Bible declares oft that we cannot understand God and His ways, and that we are not to even try to. We are to merely – as the old hymn says – trust and obey Him.

But let it be said that God does certainly use evil to accomplish His ends. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose, and this includes evil things. And God most certainly does use evil events. When a sinner commits evil, the Holy Spirit convicts him of this evil in order to drive him to repentance unto salvation. When a Christian commits evil, the Holy Spirit convicts him of this evil in order to drive him to repentance unto restoration. The Holy Spirit does not cause this evil, but He certainly uses it.

But as touching God and evil actions: consider when God sent a lying spirit to the false prophets in order to provoke wicked king Ahab into going into battle so that Ahab could be slain as a punishment for his (Ahab’s) wickedness. Consider also when God made pharaoh ruler of Egypt and hardened his heart so that pharaoh would oppress the children of Israel mightily, as God wanted an occasion to judge the Egyptians for their wickedness, to save Israel and make them a nation, and to display evidence of His existence and power to the world. Consider when God used the wicked pagan Assyrian and Babylonian empires to judge Israel and Judah for their infidelity to the Sinai covenant (and this required allowing Assyria and Babylon to conquer other nations and otherwise rise to power). And consider when Jesus Christ chose the non-elect Judas Iscariot as one of His apostles so that Judas Iscariot could betray Him and otherwise fulfill the prophecies.

It is very fair to say that God participated in these evil actions, if you rely on the common human definition of participation. In the Bible, God does asserts His right to do evil, at least according to man’s perspective of evil (when God did so, He was condescending to the limited understanding capacity of man in that He allowed them to regard His actions as evil).

Just because we see something as evil does not make it evil. God is the standard, the Self-existing Self-defined one who is goodness and righteousness within Himself. Evil, then, is by definition that which is contrary to God, and God by definition cannot be contrary to Himself. Any other definition of evil makes man a judge of not only himself, but of God. This is something than an unbeliever – especially an atheist or rationalist – will never accept but that Christians are called to accept, believe and submit ourselves to through faith.

The unwillingness to accept the fact that God Himself is the definition of good and that evil is defined by its being in opposition to God is the source of so many of these logical games, tricks and constructions on the behalf of many apologists. This fact also solves the apparent problem of God telling one person to do one thing at one time and another person to do something else (i.e. when God commanded Ezekiel and Hosea to break the Mosaic law by eating bread defiled with excrement and marrying a cult prostitute): we are simply to believe that God can do so without Himself being contradictory.

“I prefer the Biblical account which simply claims that God is the good God who overcomes evil. He is the one that thwarts evil, and instead works good in the life of the believer where the evil one had sought to sow destruction. Evil, then, remains evil; and God remains good. It is not the evil action that points to God; but rather His action in turning away the evil and establishing his redemption in its wake. The redemption points to God.”

The problem with that is that it relies on an incomplete portion of the Holy Scriptures, excluding bad facts. Consider, well, the book of Job (which has been as much a source of fascination and meditation for me as I certainly hope the Gospel of Matthew has been for you)! Let’s face it: God delivered Job into the hands of Satan for Satan to do whatever he wished with Job and all that he had save taking Job’s life. And please recall: the Bible is clear that the calamities that came upon Job were not due to any sin that Job had committed. Job’s CHILDREN died, not because of any sin of Job or the children, and despite Job’s daily sacrificing for his children in case they sinned. (Of course, their deaths would have occurred due to their original sin, as did Job’s death, but let us focus on their untimely deaths, which was considered to be an evil occurrence in OT times and still is to this day.)

We have to come up with a theodicy that is faithful to the entirety of the Bible. Not only must we do this in order to be faithful to God through His Word, but this is also the only way to construct a theodicy that encompasses the range of the facts of life that we have to confront, such things as wars, plagues, horrific crimes, miscarriages, birth defects etc. God does overcome evil by eliminating all that which is contrary to Himself. Keep in mind: this process will not be completely finished until the eschaton, when this creation is destroyed by fire, the wicked are cast into eternal flame, and a new heaven and a new earth is created.

As to why God did not make the original creation after the same manner of the new heaven and new earth, we just have to accept that God did all things according to a manner that pleased Him. The idea that God was obligated to prevent the existence of evil in order to not Himself be evil is man’s thinking, not our own. And it is thinking that is centered on man and his own interests, as we accuse God for not acting to avoid our own misery and suffering. We want to be able to say that God is not good if the result of His original creation was humans – most of whom never encountered with the gospel of Jesus Christ to either accept or reject – being punished in the lake of fire for an eternity. As mentioned earlier, our duty is to accept these facts because they are how God revealed Himself and His actions in the Bible, and not to generate contrivances to avoid the fulness of God’s self-revelation and its implications. Make no mistake: unbelievers are fully aware of these things! Have you ever perused skepticsannotatedbible.org and similar counter-apologetics efforts? It is far better to directly confront these things in scripture, meditate on them, accept them through faith, and work them into our systematic theologies than to simply pretend that they do not exist, or to come up with human-centered (if not necessarily humanistic) evasions.

One last point if evil has some positive function in our world then the ultimate destruction of it would in essence be destroying it, and with it destroying an important way of knowing God. Yet our God promises to end evil once and for all. That is our hope that on a day in the hopefully not-too-distant future He will return to bring into completion or fullness the reality of His Kingdom that he established in His previous visit. The cross is the seal of payment, and the spirit is his down payment asserting His intentions to return. Evil will be no more and His people will be entirely free to serve Him in eternity. We will then celebrate His victory, not His battle.

There is a difference between saying that evil has an absolute positive function in the world, and merely stating that God uses evil to accomplish His purposes. However, even if God did so as you speak, it would be well within His right to terminate it. Does God still feed His people with manna? Of course, God did a great thing by feeding His people with manna. Does the fact that you no longer eat manna destroy an important way of knowing God? Does the fact that you are not a Jew living in Jerusalem under the Mosaic law destroy an important way of knowing God? God forbid! So, if God can discontinue good things, then how much more so can He discontinue evil that He uses for good purposes? We know God only by God’s revelation.

Whether God’s revelation consists of His use of evil to accomplish His goals or not, the knowledge of God is the same. Why? Because God – the one providing the revelation – is the same. Even if you were to say that it is not “the same”, inasmuch as those in Old Testament times did not have the same knowledge as do we in light of the cross and the current ministrations of the Holy Spirit, their knowledge of God based on the revelation that they had was nonetheless sufficient to suit God’s purposes and that is what counts. God is only bound by Himself to reveal to us what He chooses for us to know of Him. He is not bound by us to reveal to us what we desire to know of him.

Further, God reveals Himself to us through the way that He chooses, not the way that we desire. Part of the error of some in the Pentecostal movement that I was once in is their demand that God reveal Himself to us in these ways in the same way that He revealed Himself to the early church, and also to Old Testament Israel. God’s actions and revelations are according to His will, not our desires. And the nature and character of God’s revelation are suitable to fulfill our needs. Not our wants, but our needs. Keep in mind in Romans 1 when Paul states that even the order and nature of creation should have been enough of God’s self-disclosure to live righteously and thereby be saved, and therefore those who do not – including those who never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ – are without excuse and therefore subject to condemnation on judgment day.

And of course we celebrate His battle. Are not the Psalms filled with the Jews’ praise of God’s battles on their behalf, physical and spiritual? Concerning Jesus Christ, do we not celebrate His trial in the desert, Gethsemane and the cross, and not merely the resurrection? Jesus Christ specifically instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper so that we would remember His passion. This knowledge of God that you speak of includes God’s battles for our behalf, because through these we know that God has both the power to save us and the love to forgive us. God’s destruction of Egypt and Israel’s other enemies is evidence of the former, and His restoration of the remnant after they broke His covenant is evidence of the latter. This is evidence of the very hope of which you speak!

Well, I am done! I thank this opportunity to dialogue with my old friend and brother in the faith. As always, I hope that I did not offend or mistreat you, and if I did, it was not my intent. Thank you, and I look forward to your response.

The Three Step Salvation Plan

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Posted in Bible, Christianity, devotional, evangelism, faith, grace, Jesus Christ, Theodicy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Importance Of John 14:15 In Christianity

Posted by Job on January 2, 2012

Perhaps the most popular verse in all of modern Bible-based (i.e. evangelical, fundamental Protestant) Christianity is John 3:16. For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Small wonder … consider that this verse when lifted from the context of scripture implies not general atonement – as many claim – but rather universalism. So, this text – again when taken out of context – is perfect for the self centered, self indulgent libertine modern mindset where one insists upon receiving any and all benefits without any notion of responsibility or sacrifice. In a modern world where the most important word or concept is not “God” (meaning the true One of the Bible) but rather “rights” this should not surprise anyone.

But Romans 12:1-2 tells us to stand against and apart from this worldly thinking. 2 Corinthians 10:5 exhorts us to reject all false ideas, philosophies and theologies that magnify themselves against God’s revelation. The problem is not John 3:16, which is magnificent and beautiful as is all of God’s Word, but instead what hard hearted, stiff necked men have done with it. So, discerning Christians should seek to set themselves right by putting John 3:16 in its proper context.

A quick way to do it is with John 14:15. If ye love me, keep my commandments. Now why isn’t THAT verse more popular? We already know the reason. Taking John 3:16 out of context allows the person to retain the false idea: “It is all about ME! It is all about ME getting THE BENEFITS THAT ARE COMING TO ME! Why? BECAUSE I AM SPECIAL!” (The motto of the popular VeggieTales series: God made you special and He loves you very much.) But John 14:15 creates obligation. It creates responsibility. And the obligation and responsibility is not to LOVE YOURSELF. It is not to BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. It is not TO FOLLOW YOUR HEART. It is not to MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE. It is not to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Instead, that responsibility is to someone other than yourself. It removes YOU from being the center of the universe and puts it on someone else! It takes YOU from being the object of glory, wonder, service and worship and makes redirects that focus to the One who actually merits it!

Little wonder that men want to see themselves, see the world, see the Bible that way. Satan himself was no different. Isaiah 14:13-14 stated that this creation of God desired to stand in the place of God and receive the worship that was due to God. In Matthew 4:9, Satan even attempted to get Jesus Christ, the One by and for all things were made and the sustainer of all things, to give him this worship! And Paul also wrote in Romans 1:25 that man in his fallen condition redirects worship from the Creator to the creature, and this includes man himself, who is but a creature.

But with John 14:15, it is not so easy to do that. It is not so easily to take the words of John 14:15 out of context. If ye love me, keep my commandments tells us that while grace is free, it is not cheap, for we were bought with a price. John 14:15 tells us to be not deceived, we have a Creator, Lord, Ruler and Judge to who wholly owns us, and to whom alone we must answer. John 14:15 is what informs us the truth of James 2:20, which is that faith without works is dead. Yes, many of the more liberal persuasion attempt to abuse James 2:20 to mean acts of charity and political and government action on behalf of certain people, but interpreting James 2:20 in light of John 14:15 makes that impossible, because the commandments of Jesus Christ are not limited to the things that we want to do because of our politics or any other reason, but instead consist of the whole counsel of God!

Do not be deceived. Or let it be said that if you are deceived, it is your responsibility, for you are deceiving yourself concerning this matter. John 14:15 states clearly that if you love Jesus Christ, you must keep His commandments. This means that if you do not keep the commandments of Jesus Christ, then you do not love Jesus Christ. Is it possible to come to any other conclusion when John 14:15 is so direct and clear, consisting of 7 mere words?

So, because of John 14:15, the “world” spoken of in John 3:16 that God the Father sent God the Son to save can be divided into two types of people: those who love God and those who do not. The former are in that category because they keep His commandments. The latter are in their category because they do not. Counted among the latter category are the many goats who say that they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who call upon the Name of Jesus Christ and do many great works in that Name, who claim that they are born again believers, but are liars. The reason is that these people testify of Jesus Christ with their lips, but their actions reveal that they are far from Jesus Christ. Their verbal testimony, no matter how eloquent and stirring, is vacuous because the testimony of their actions deny Jesus Christ. And as Jesus Christ said of these goats who honor Him with their words of false testimomy but whose hearts dishonor Him because of their disobedience (Matthew 15:8) in Matthew 25:31-46, their fate will be eternity in the lake of fire.

And why should it be any other way? If you do not love God, then why should you receive any good thing from Him? Why should God reward those who hate Him with good things? (Because if you do not love Him, do you not hate Him?) The self-absorbed, narcissist modern mindset will tell you that God must reward those based merely on their verbally pledging allegiance to God as if He is some perishable flag. They think that by claiming to be a Christian, they are doing God a favor. But actually altering their lifestyle, changing their mindset, becoming a new creation, being crucified with Christ, dying to self:  that is as far from them as is the east from the west. Since it is all about them, they are convinced that God should reward His ENEMIES with eternal life merely because they CLAIM to be His friends and no more! And that is why they abuse John 3:16, Romans 10:8-9 and a host of other Bible texts. Those of us who protest and object are called legalists, bigots, narrow-minded, anti-intellectual or some other name and dismissed.

But John 14:15 is still in the Bible. John 14:15 still has meaning. And on judgment day, this fact will be proven when only the John 14:15 Christians will enter New Jerusalem.

Do you wish to avoid the horrible eternal punishment that will be given to sinners and instead join Jesus Christ in New Jerusalem? If so, then please read and follow:

The Three Step Salvation Plan

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Posted in Bible, Christianity, devotional, Jesus Christ, liberal, liberal christian, liberalism, liberation theology, Russia | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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