Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do you believe there is only One Way?

In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Yet according to the latest study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 57% of evangelical church-goers say that there is not just one way to Heaven. This is tragic and reflects the growing pluralistic climate in our society and it reflects a lack of sound and consistent Biblical teaching in churches. Go here for the article in Fox News.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Avoiding Labels

This article is a follow-up from the last two on "Savoring the Doctrines of Grace".

Calvinism is not a dirty word. It is however a misunderstood and sometimes abused label. I do not want a label to speak for me and I do not want a label to do the theological work for me. It is easy to throw yourself in a theological camp. The responsible thing though is to throw yourself at the mercy of God’s Word and dig until your convictions are shaped by Its words. These Biblical convictions may sound Calvinistic at times when you are talking about salvation and the sovereignty of God. They may also sound Arminian at times when you are affirming the human responsibility and the free will of man. We have to remember that these doctrines are going to become clearer to us as the Holy Spirit shapes our minds through sanctification. Still, like the doctrine of the incarnation or the Trinity we have to be comfortable with mystery when it concerns God’s redemptive work in sinners. It requires faith in a big God. If anything becomes your theological label let it be simply- disciple of Jesus Christ. As you seek to study and know God more intimately, be humble- we are fallen humans who deserve nothing. God in His mercy has granted us ears to hear and eyes to see.

For further study, Dr. Danny Akin (President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) has written an excellent and balanced article on subject. Click HERE.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Savoring the Doctrines of Grace (part two)

It has always concerned me that those who hold to the doctrines of grace or "Calvinism" as it is sometimes nicknamed get labeled as anti-evangelistic, anti-missions, or even anti-church. William Carey, the "father of modern missions" and founder of the 'Baptist Missionary Society' gave his life to proclaiming the gospel in India and spurred on thousands upon thousands to follow God's call to herald the good news to the nations- "Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples" (Psalm 96:3). This same trailblazer was a faithful preacher and teacher of the doctrines of grace because he understood them to be Biblical truths. So to hold to God's sovereignty in all things- particularly in regards to salvation is not un-evangelistic. To be evangelistic is simply to herald the good news... the good news is that God has chosen to show mercy to people incapable of saving themselves and He did so by sending His Son to pay the penalty of sin on our behalf through His death on the cross. It is not a contradiction hold a belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation and a belief in the responsibility of every believer to share the gospel. In fact it is implicit in these five traditional doctrines that the grace which God has poured into His elect must pour from His elect. It pours from the elect so that those still dead in their sins may hear the good news and gloriously respond to God's call. This sixth aspect or doctrine of grace can be coined the Stewardship of the Gospel.

We are responsible for the gospel of God's grace (Ephesians 3:1-3, 8-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Timothy 1:14). To put it another way, if grace is present within us, it will overflow from us (John 13:35; 1 John 3:14). Of course evangelism shouldn't be like door-to-door sales (2 Corinthians 2:17), invitational response times after sermons should not be for manipulating false decisions or to produce numbers for bragging, and church growth should not be about getting a big crowd for pride's sake. We are commanded to share our faith however- invitations (when done properly) encourage a public response to the inner-working of the Holy Spirit in a person's life and churches can get big if it is healthy growth. These are the outpourings of God's grace in your life and in the lives of the community of faith. Recipients of God's grace are explicitly commanded to herald the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Psalm 67:3-4; Psalm 68:3; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18).

A rebuttal to this may be (from a hyper-Calvinist), "Yeah but if God has elected some to salvation they will get saved whether we share or not so why share?"

Why? Because this is how God's salvation plan works- He uses those who were once His enemies to be His heralds to those who are presently His enemies that they too may share in His goodness. This is especially glorifying! We don't know who the elect are- only God knows- so we must proclaim the truth and allow the Holy Spirit to call them unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23-24; Romans 10:14-15). If I didn't believe this- if I were instead an Armenian I could never pray for the lost, because how could I pray for God to save the lost if I held that God's will doesn't presume upon men's free will? Thankfully my salvation is anchored in God's will and I recognize that I am now a steward of the grace He has given me to pray for the lost world and proclaim it in every way, to everyone, everywhere God calls.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Savoring the Doctrines of Grace (part one)

On Wednesday evenings our church meets for Bible study and prayer meeting. The Bible study has recently centered on the church doctrinal statement from our constitution. We are covering these important doctrines one at a time and searching through many Biblical texts to understand why we believe what we claim to believe. One of those doctrines being covered is the doctrine of election. This is a tough doctrine for many people for several reasons:

1. It destroys human pride.
2. It is often ignored (which then breeds misinformation).
3. It requires faith.

I thought it would be helpful here to explain this doctrine in its larger context of God’s redemptive work. It is essential that we understand the practical application of this doctrine as it concerns our Christian mission. The Bible teaches us about the many different aspects of God’s redemptive work. These are often referred to as the “doctrines of grace”. The traditionally held Biblical doctrines are often misunderstood or mislabeled but I would coin them (and understand them) as such:

1. Total Inability… Sin completely corrupts and so man cannot save himself (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-11).
2. Gracious Election… God saves people according to His sovereign grace and not on the basis of any work of man (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 9:16).
3. Definite Atonement… Christ’s death actually accomplished what God intended to do- provide penal substitutionary atonement for sinners (Revelation 5:9; John 10:14-15).
4. Effectual Grace… The grace of God is effectual at drawing people and saving people- God’s grace never fails (John 6:44; Eph 2:4-5).
5. Preservation of the Saints… By His grace God keeps people saved and their perseverance by faith is testimony to God’s saving grace present in them (John 10:28; Hebrews 6:19-20).

Tomorrow I'll blog on the practical outworking of these doctrines. These Biblical truths might at first be mind-blowing (even frustrating) but I pray as we meditate on these things we will conclude that we are under the sovereign hand of an awesome and gracious God. These doctrines are meant to drive us to a deeper faith and worship.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

This book ("The Shack") probably has some inspirational content which some of you may have already enjoyed but it also carries some heretical content which to me puts the whole book on the "protect your people from it" category. The core problem with the book is its false teaching about the Trinity (yes Mr. Bell, this is a crucial doctrine). Don't buy it (be a good steward of God's money) but do read up on it so you're prepared to respond if someone recommends it to you. However, remember to combine your conviction with kindness when responding. It currently sits at #9 on Amazon's sales rank. In other words, a lot of people are drinking this junk in. It may have been written with good intentions to encourage people but good intentions do not make false teaching okay. Here is an interview with the author with some troubling ideas suggested. Here is a good summary and review of "The Shack". Below is one pastor's response...

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