Posted by: Yvonne | November 6, 2012

The 2012 U. S. Election: An Open Letter to Christians

by Dr. Paul Elliott

America’s real problem is one that no President can solve.

As we prepare to release this article, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are in the final hours of their long campaigns for the presidency of the United States. People on both sides of the partisan divide say that the election of one man or the other will mean either the salvation or the damnation of the country. We hear, as we always do it seems, that “this is the most important election in our lifetimes.”

Many, especially in the Evangelical community, are convinced that a Romney victory will mean the salvation of America. They are equally convinced that if Barack Obama wins, it will be an unrecoverable disaster. And so, large segments of the Evangelical church have become obsessed with the outcome and with having an effect upon it, to the detriment of the church’s true calling and mission. But the fact is that the election of a new president of either party will neither solve America’s real problem nor push her over the brink. That is because America’s real problem is not political, economic, social, or even moral. It is spiritual. It is a problem that no President can solve.

America’s Real Problem: Whose Fault Is It?

America, which was for centuries systemically influenced by Holy Scripture, has for decades systematically suppressed and abandoned the influence of the Word of God. We now have what amounts to a Bible-less generation in charge of government and every other aspect of society. The killing of the unborn, the sanctioning of perverted sexual unions, nearly half of all children born out of wedlock, saturation levels of pornography, widespread enslavement to drugs, unending wars, pervasive immorality in government, and all the rest are the symptoms of that basic problem.

Who caused America to abandon the influence of the Bible? Not politicians. Not economists. Not the social engineers of our era. Not even those who have endeavored to substitute a “whatever feels good is right” philosophy for true morality. The nominally Evangelical church caused America to abandon the Bible. As the church goes, so goes the nation.

How did the church do this? Decades ago, large segments of the nominally Evangelical church began to abandon the twofold mission that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His church before He ascended to Heaven. That mission is a simple one, but it is the most cosmically profound one of all: to evangelize the world with the one true Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone, and to edify the saints – those who truly believe the Gospel message and whose lives are therefore forever changed by it – by instructing them in sound doctrine from Holy Scripture.

Large segments of the nominally Evangelical church have effectively stopped doing both. Much of this has taken the form of subtraction by addition. But the Gospel plus anything else is less than the Gospel. The power of such a “gospel” resides in the weak arm of fleshly wisdom, not in the mighty arm of God. Large segments of the Evangelical church have ignored this central truth, and have become obsessed with political activity, economic success, social reform, and moral improvement, and they have redefined the “gospel” in those terms. These are ways that seem right to many of today’s church leaders and their followers, but “the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

The Evangelical Church on a Fool’s Errand

The church has therefore embarked on a fool’s errand. It seeks to give the world the benefits of the Gospel without the preaching and the power of the Gospel. It seeks the temporary “salvation” of the nation rather than the eternal salvation of souls. It seeks the fleeting “redemption” of the culture – of government, of science, of the arts, of politics, of economics, and so on. What the present-day church seemingly fails to recognize is that all of these are merely components of what Scripture calls thekosmos, the world-system that is under God’s curse and Satan’s sway because of man’s sin:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)

It is a fool’s errand to seek to “redeem” that which God says is inexorably doomed to destruction. The only true redemption, according to Scripture, is the redemption of souls from the curse of sin and the eternal wrath of God through faith in Jesus Christ.Those redeemed souls will be delivered from this present evil world by the One who gave Himself for their sins (Galatians 1:4), so that they may live with Christ in the new world order that only He – and no President – can bring: the New Heavens and New Earth in which there shall be no more curse, but only righteousness forever (2 Peter 3:13).

When the Evangelical church loses this Biblical perspective on the state of this present world and its inexorable future course, it inevitably leads to the substitution of other things for Christ’s Great Commission – or perhaps worse yet, an un-Biblical redefinition of the Commission to suit man-made agendas. The church of Jesus Christ must understand that this present world is destined to destruction by design. The church of Jesus Christ must likewise understand that He is on the throne of Heaven, He has been given all authority and power in the universe, He is sovereign, and He is Lord. As the world-system moves toward its end, He raises up one ruler and puts down another by His sovereign choice.

And, Scripture tells us that God often chooses the basest of men to rule in His world (Daniel 4:17). What could better illustrate this than the present candidates for president? On the one hand, we have a man who is without doubt the most anti-Christian president ever; on the other hand, a man who is the most prominent figure in a religious cult that is based on the worst sorts of lies about the person and work of Christ, a cult that believes it is its destiny to “save” America.

What Must Christians Do?

Because all of these things are true, if Barack Obama wins the election, Christ’s people must not be any more troubled than if Mitt Romney wins. Whatever the outcome, it is all part of the Godhead’s design and Christ’s sovereign rule. The world is headed inexorably downward. Scripture tells us this is so (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12). We may think that one man will lead America down the slippery slope more rapidly than another. But the fact is, neither man – and no other man – will lead America upward.

On the day after this election, whatever the outcome, Christians should neither be dancing in the streets nor wringing their hands in despair. Our proper position will be on our knees. We have much of which to repent. We have, as is described in Nehemiah 9:26, in many ways tossed the Word of God behind our backs, and we have plodded onward, encumbered by the pursuit of many things – even good things – but not the one needful thing. That one thing is to do the work that Christ has given us to do, which is not to make this world a better place for the Hell-bound, but to be used of God in calling out and setting apart a people for Himself to live in the world to come. Judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). We must become a holy people ourselves – set apart from this present world-system and its godless philosophy.

This is not fatalism, nor is it a lack of concern for the future of America and the rest of the nations of the world. But man’s destiny is not tied to any earthly nation or political system. Man’s destiny hinges upon each individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ. For each individual who has ever lived or will live, Jesus Christ is either Lord and Savior or condemning Judge. There is no third alternative.

If Christ’s church does anything else instead of proclaiming this to the world, and pursuing Scripture-driven holiness in every area of life and ministry, we fail. The men and women of the great roll-call of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven understood that “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (13:14), “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:10). They were those “of whom the world was not worthy” (11:38) – literally, this present world system was not worthy to have them living in it. In stark contrast, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Philippian believers to remember their destiny:

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

The writer to the Hebrews, having spoken of the stalwarts of past generations who lived in the light of these great truths, exhorted those of succeeding generations to think and act as they did:

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Dear Christian friends, may we do no less. May we ever and always keep this focus, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election, or any other event that may confront us in the future. We must be about our Lord’s business.

Copyright © 1998-2012

TeachingtheWord Ministries . www.teachingtheword.org

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Posted by: Yvonne | September 22, 2012

Friendship Evangelism Is Neither Friendship Nor Evangelism

by Tony Miano,

I received the following message from a friend on Facebook. While it is a topic I’ve tackled many times in the past, I thought the way my friend honestly asked her questions accurately expressed how many Christians feel about sharing the gospel with their friends. Her words also helped to reaffirm what I have believed for a very long time. “Friendship Evangelism,” as it is most commonly taught and practiced by Christians, is neither friendship nor evangelism.

With my friend’s permission, I would like to share her note with you; and then I will answer her questions.

I have made a lifetime of friends, and up until about 6 years ago, I was a partier and not walking with the Lord. Since become a Christian, I have made myself known to all, but not gone out of my way to share the gospel. I know my friends “think” they know what the Bible says and I also know that they don’t want me to preach or share. I have hoped that Facebook would encourage them to ask me, but they don’t.

I watch like a voyeur, their lives on Facebook and I hate it. I see them post pictures of nights on the town, glazed eyes, draped over a different guy in each shot. Today I read as they talked about spending money frivolously and obnoxiously. I see so much “selfism” and today it really started to hurt.

I keep thinking that, by example, they might want to know more or ask…instead I see them avoid my page and my comments. They never address anything I say regarding our Savior, God, or the written word, and only comment on the “regular” things I post.

Most of my “friends” from the past, I still DO care about their salvation. I’m certain that my approach will mean the end of life-long friendships. Should I just keep exposing the Lord to them? Our Christmas cards and small other things are about all the contact we really have. Should I just go for broke and risk turning them off completely? I know it would mean the end of friendships in most cases.

Part of me knows that losing these friendships shouldn’t matter. I’m more concerned that is I can keep the door open, they might …might…someday come to repentance. I want the door to remain open.

I need some advice. I’m pretty sure your going to tell me to go for it…but I thought you might have a perspective or a way that I should use as an approach . . .

[P.S.] I’m thinking of how to approach evangelizing them. I know the approach that Ray [Comfort] uses, letting them convict themselves through the 10 Commandments (which really works) and you too have mastered it. I have also been told to have them read the word themselves because the word has power. As a chicken, I was hoping to be “non-confrontational” and send it in a letter. A letter of love, and a pouring out of my heart for them. But that leaves them with the ability to not answer, or reply. I know that God would use me MUCH better if I had the nerve to deliver my (HIS) message in person. I want to engage their minds. I’ve never been a “chicken.” I don’t want to fail God. I want my (HIS) words to pierce. So…praying and waiting for His inspiration and His way to lead me, and maybe your words will help push me into the world. I’m NOT ashamed of Him, I’m afraid of them, so to speak. I know if He is with me, who can be against me? Why…do I struggle? Oh, the flesh.

Before I answer my friend’s questions, it is important that I preface my commentary with a few clarifying remarks. First, my commentary is not a critique of my friend–neither of her love for Christ nor of her love for people. I donot question her salvation or the genuineness of her desire for her friends to be saved. My commentary will be, however, a pointed critique of what I believe is a profoundly effective tool of Satan (1 Peter 5:8) — “Friendship” or “Relationship” evangelism.

What Is Friendship Evangelism?

I believe many Christians practice “Friendship Evangelism” with sincerity. But sadly, it is a sincerity most often born out of ignorance (1 Peter 1:13-16), an ignorance of the Word of God in general and biblical evangelism in particular. At the same time, I feel no such obligation to extend charity toward authors, pastors, teachers, speakers, and movement leaders who propagate this spiritual fraud upon followers of Christ — both true and false converts. Theirs will be a stricter judgment (James 3:1).

Now, let me take a moment to answer a couple of baseless objections to what I will put forth as my position, before I even articulate my position. I do this in advance of making my case because I know for some Christians “Friendship Evangelism” is treated as if it is sacrosanct — an essential evangelism tradition. I use the word “tradition” since there is no biblical support for this methodology and/or philosophy for ministry. It is traditions like this one, “friendship evangelism,” that are evidence of the sad reality that modern-day evangelicalism, especially the American variety, has yet to completely break free of Rome. For Rome also holds traditions with more reverence and gives tradition more authority than Scripture (Matthew 15:1-6).

Let make it very clear that Christians are called by the Word of God to be both friendly and relational. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). To be opposed to “Friendship Evangelism” as it is most commonly practiced is not to be opposed to friendship or relationships. But a godly and biblical Christian will put God and friends before and above friendships (Luke 14:25-27).

Second, a common objection to any argument against “Friendship Evangelism” is, “There are many ways to share the gospel and friendship evangelism is one of them.” Not so. There is only one way to communicate the gospel, which can take different forms — the Bible’s way. Any methodology that is extra-biblical (meaning the Bible neither commands nor condemns the activity) should be approached and applied with extra care and caution. The immeasurable harm done by “Friendship Evangelism” is evidence that the American Church has thrown caution to the wind and has operated carelessly when applying this extra-biblical, faux-evangelistic methodology.

Does Friendship Evangelism Cause Harm?

How do I know “Friendship Evangelism” has done great harm? I meet false converts who are byproducts of this unbiblical form of evangelism almost daily on the streets. They have been welcomed into the Christian community. They have been converted to the creature comforts of the church, but they have never been converted by and to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I once attended a baptism where several people were baptized. One teenage girl stood in the pool to share her “testimony” before being baptized by the pastor. Her testimony, albeit paraphrased, went something like this: I grew up Roman Catholic. I started to attend this church. I’m more comfortable with Christianity, so I want to be baptized.” And the pastor baptized her as a follower of Jesus Christ.

With the above in mind, I will now address my friend’s questions and concerns.

Friendship Evangelism Doesn’t Preach Christ

My friend wrote:

“I have made myself known to all, but not gone out of my way to share the gospel.”

In a sentence my friend summed up one of the great deficiencies of “Friendship Evangelism.” With the shockingly low number of professing Christians sharing the gospel with a single person in a year’s time (or in a lifetime), it’s obvious most Christians practicing “Friendship Evangelism” are part of that indefensible number. Why? By engaging in the practice of “Friendship Evangelism,” the Christian spends far more time making themselves known to their friends than making Christ known (1 Corinthians 2:2) to their friends.

Many Christians who practice “Friendship Evangelism” have been led to believe that it is evangelistic to live a perceptible Christian life in front of unbelievers, or to openly admit to unbelievers that they are Christians. There is nothing remarkable about such an admission, especially in America. The majority of the American population will indicate on surveys and censuses that they are Christians. Many Christians will answer the “What religion are you” question with “I’m a Christian” for no other reason than they are not Jewish, Muslim, or Atheist. To check the Christian box is the default position of most Americans. But many are no more Christian than the Jew, Muslim, or Atheist.

Part of the evidence that “Friendship Evangelism” is not evangelistic is that the practice makes the Christian known but it all-too-often fails to make Christ known.

My Friends Don’t Want to me Preach Christ to Them

My friend wrote:

“They [her friends] don’t want me to preach or share.”

Modern evangelicalism has wrongly placed an unregenerate sinner’s felt needs over their very real need of salvation. This is not to say that we shouldn’t address a person’s felt needs. In doing so, one can often discover that the root of a particular felt need is sin; which then presents the opportunity to share the law of God and the gospel with that person. However, where evangelicalism has woefully dropped the ball is in the practice of trying to meet felt needs and stopping there, as if to address felt needs is the same as evangelism.

Dear reader: if you feed, clothe, and house people for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16), but you do not share the gospel with them, all you have ultimately accomplished is making those same needy people warmed and filled on their way to Hell. You have merely made their bodies more comfortable. You’ve done nothing for their souls.

More to the point regarding my friend’s assertion: of course the unregenerate person doesn’t want their Christian friends to proclaim the gospel to them. Why? They hate Jesus (John 15:18). They love their sin (Job 15:16) and they hate God (Romans 1:30). Cockroaches don’t run to the center of the floor and square dance when you turn on the kitchen light. They flee to the dark regions underneath the cabinets and appliances. They hate the light, and so does the unregenerate sinner (John 3:20). Their love for the darkness of their sin is so great that any holy light brought to bear in their lives is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is detestable.

Sadly, modern evangelicalism has responded to this reality by doing everything it can to engage lost sinners in their culture, and according to their felt needs, without ever bothering to flip on the light switch of the gospel. Modern evangelicalism has allowed how lost people feel about “the light” to determine whether or not it shines the light. Many Christians have become man-pleasers to the point of hiding the gospel from people (Matthew 5:15). In doing so, they cease to live as servants of God (Galatians 1:10). Frankly, it doesn’t matter what lost people want. What matters is what they need, and what they need is salvation by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Romans 1:17), in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12). What they need, whether they feel it or not, is to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15Luke 13: 1-5Acts 17:29-31).

Friendship Evangelism is not Evangelistic

My friend wrote:

“I keep thinking that, by example, they might want to know more or ask…instead I see them avoid my page and my comments.”

Part of the evidence that “Friendship Evangelism” is not evangelistic is the practice of “Assisi-ism.”

Francis of Assisi is far-too-often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” There are two problems with this quote: 1) it is unbiblical; and 2) Assisi never said it. Catholic scholars have methodically and exhaustively searched the extant writings of Assisi and cannot attribute the quote to him. These days, this is common knowledge. Yet Christians continue to refer to the mythical quote, and worse they errantly apply it in their lives. The quote also has a modern-day translation. It goes something like this. “Live your life in such a way that people ask you why.”

While it is true that our good works, when performed for the glory of God alone, can cause lost people to glorify God (Matthew 5:16), it is not to say by living a Christian life in front of lost people that they are going to see Jesus in you. Why? The reason is simple enough. Unregenerate sinners are spiritually blind.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).

It is also important to note what Matthew 5:16 doesn’t say. The verse says nothing about people coming to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing.

Not only are unbelievers spiritually blind, they are also dead in their sins. Not asleep. Not sick. Not in need of a little help. They are dead.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The Gospel is a Spoken Message

The gospel is a spoken message–meaning it is communicated in verbal and/or written formats. The gospel is not communicated through interpretive dance, random acts of kindness, or mimes.

“How then will they call on him of whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17).

With 160,000 people dying every day, and the vast majority of them facing God’s judgment (Matthew 7:13-14), it amounts to depraved indifference to wait for the lost people around us to see something special in us and ask what’s different about us. We are commanded by God’s Word to go (Matthew 28:18-20) and preach (Mark 16:15) the gospel to as many people as we can, whenever we can, as often as we can (Acts 1:8). Time is far too short to wait for what will never happen — spiritually dead and blind people seeing Jesus in Christians, believers who are still clothed in sinful human flesh.

It is also rather arrogant, self-righteous, and self-absorbed for the Christian to think he or she regularly looks like Jesus. Jesus was and is God (John 8:58John 10:30Philippians 2:6-11Hebrews 2:5-18). The Christian is not. Jesus was and is without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Christian is not. Jesus was and is perfect (Hebrews 1:3). The Christian never will be perfect this side of Heaven. And since an unbelieving world hates Jesus, the spiritually dead and blind are going to see in you what is most appealing to them (Romans 1:28-322 Timothy 3:1-5) — your sin. People are also going to look for you to sin in a failed attempt to justify their own unbelief (Luke 10:29;Luke 16:15).

Friendship Evangelism makes Friendship More Important than Evangelism

My friend wrote:

“I’m certain that my approach will mean the end of life-long friendships.”

The tragic result of “Friendship Evangelism,” as Christians most often practice it, is that friendships often become more important than the souls of friends. Christians have been wrongly convinced that they must take time (often lots of time) to cultivate relationships with people so that, someday, they may gain the lost person’s permission — to “earn the right” — to share the gospel with them. So the Christian invests time, energy, and resources sincerely trying to establish loving and caring relationships with people. Is it wrong to do that? No. But the all-too-often tragic result of the practice is that if the Christian ever feels the desire to share the gospel with his lost friend, he won’t. Why? The Christian doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the relationship he has worked so hard to build. So, again, the friendship becomes more important than the soul of the friend.

Upon closer inspection, this is really selfish behavior. Does the Christian believe that he is so valuable that his lost friend can’t live without him? Or is it that the Christian derives so much pleasure out of the relationship, from what his lost friend does for him, that he doesn’t want to ruin a “good thing”?

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If Christians truly love their lost friends they will give up everything, even their very lives and certainly their relationships, so that those same lost friends might have eternal life. Or do Christians really want their friends to be with them in this life more than they want them to be with Jesus having received eternal life?

No One Goes to Hell Because You Weren’t Their Friend

My friend wrote:

“Part of me knows that losing these friendships shouldn’t matter. I’m more concerned that is I can keep the door open, they might …might…someday come to repentance. I want the door to remain open.”

No Christian can close a door that God wants open. No Christian can open a door that God wants shut (Revelation 3:8). God is sovereign (Acts 4:24), and He doesn’t need our help. God needs nothing from people (Psalm 50:7-15). The gospel alone is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). God, by His grace, chooses to use His children to communicate the life-saving gospel to a lost and dying world. No one goes to Heaven because we’ve made friends with them, and no one goes to Hell because we’ve failed to establish relationships with them.

Conclusion

In closing, let me reiterate that Christians should be loving (1 Peter 4:8), merciful (Zechariah 7:9), gentle (Galatians 5:23), and kind (Proverbs 21:21) to people. We should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Evangelism is not a game. It is not a sport. It is what God has commanded every follower of Christ to do. Evangelism is a lifestyle — not that the way we live our life is evangelism, but rather our verbal proclamation of the gospel should permeate every aspect of our life and impact every relationship we have.

My friend understands all of this. She knows what she must do. She acknowledged as much toward the end of her note. I hope I’ve answered her questions, and maybe some of yours too.

Posted by: Yvonne | September 6, 2012

Are You A Calvinist?

from Dr. Paul Elliott, Teaching the Word Ministries:

Taking on a man-made label is problematic, and actually un-Biblical.

He’s Not in the Text

A very well-known Reformed preacher once delivered a powerful sermon on the first chapter of Ephesians and related passages. In this message he set forth what are often referred to as the doctrines of grace.

He began by setting forth the great doctrine that God by His free grace chose a people for Himself in Christ before the foundation of the world. He expounded the fact that these chosen ones of God are predestined to adoption as sons by His sovereign choosing.

He also preached the great fact that redemption is by God’s grace alone through faith alone, accomplished in full by the shed blood of Christ alone, apart from any human works or merit, because the totally depraved sinner has no such offering that is acceptable to God as a propitiation for his sins.

He went on to preach about the great work of God the Holy Spirit in applying the redemption accomplished by Christ to the elect of God by convicting them of sin, bringing those who are dead in trespasses and sins to spiritual life, giving them the gift of saving faith, and indwelling them as the down-payment of their ultimate and glorious redemption. He also preached the marvelous fact that this entire plan of God has as its ultimate goal the gathering together of all things in both Heaven and earth under the headship of Christ.

At the end of the service, a man came up to this preacher and said that he thought it was a wonderful message. “But,” he said, “in preaching such a message from such a text, why didn’t you mention Calvinism?” The pastor replied, “Because I did not find the words “Calvin” or “Calvinism” anywhere in the text.”

“I Am of Paul” – “I Am of Apollos”

Now, the pastor who gave this reply was a “Calvinist” in the sense that he taught with fervor God’s plan of salvation as stated above. But I believe that his answer to the man’s question applies a great truth in a very pointed way. Many people are anxious to wear labels, or to apply labels to others. But in the Word of God we find that Paul took the Corinthians to task for this:

Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:4-15)

There is just as great a danger in saying, “I am of Calvin” – “I am of Luther” – “I am of Wesley” – “I am of Arminius” – or in saying “I am of (fill in the blank with any name you wish)” as there is in saying “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.”

The Problems of Labels

I am often asked the question, “Are you a Calvinist?” This is how I respond. The man who says, “I am a Calvinist” is saying, in effect, “I agree with Calvin’s positions all the way up and down the line.” I would submit that such an outlook is problematic indeed, for at least five reasons.

To begin with, I doubt there have ever been two human beings on earth who totally agreed in every detail of their theology. In the case of Calvin, it would take a literal lifetime of study to fully understand whether or not you agreed with the entire scope of his massive Institutes of the Christian Religion, his commentaries on many books of the Bible, and his other writings.

Secondly, to make the statement “I am a Calvinist” but to mean only “I generally agree with the teachings of Calvin” does a great disservice to those who hear you say, “I am a Calvinist.” They are left to speculate as to which parts of Calvin’s teachings you agree with fully, agree with partially, or disagree with completely.

Thirdly, to say “I am a Calvinist” effectively makes Calvin the standard. But the question that God asks us is not, “Do you agree with Calvin?” but rather, “Do you submit to My Word?” Scripture is the standard by which both we and Calvin and every other Christian, preacher or layperson, must and will be judged.

Fourthly, some men today are called Calvinists because they often invoke the name of Calvin, but in fact their theology is nothing like Calvin’s. Sometimes their theology is actually Roman Catholic at its core. They teach that man is justified before God by faith in Christ plus their own works, a heresy that Calvin opposed with such fervor that he frequently worked himself into ill health.

Finally, labels are often uncritically applied to an individual by others. Many would call me a Calvinist because I believe that the exposition of Ephesians chapter one that the prominent preacher gave above is the truth. Calvin certainly believed it as well. But that does not make me a Calvinist.

While I am on the same page with the great Reformer in vast areas of theology, I strongly disagree with him in a number of important areas. Let me offer two examples. In his Institutes, Calvin vigorously promoted the doctrine of infant baptism. I vigorously believe that Scripture proves Calvin entirely wrong on this. In hisCommentary on Romans, Calvin teaches that chapters 9-11 tell us that all the promises of God to ethnic Israel have been transferred to the Church. I disagree with Calvin’s interpretation of those chapters on exegetical grounds. I believe that Romans teaches us that God is not finished with ethnic Israel. I believe that Romans tells us of a coming day, after “the fullness of Gentiles has come in,” when a generation of those who are the physical seed of Abraham will be, in their entirety, the spiritual seed of Abraham as well – believers trusting in the shed blood of Christ for salvation, members of His one true and indivisible body for eternity.

I could say much more, but this is enough to demonstrate that the Biblical warning against man-made labels is of great practical importance.

The Label We Should Wear

This leaves a question that I am also sometimes asked: Is there a label that we should bear? There is only one, and that is the name of Christ.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family [of believers] in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

And they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no lamp nor light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:4-5)

Is not that Name, which is above every name, label enough for every true saint of God?

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Posted by: Yvonne | August 30, 2012

The Epidemic of False Worship

In our day, the Evangelical church is doing exactly what men attempted to do in Colosse, and exactly what men have succeeded in doing over the long and tragic history of the Roman Catholic church. Today, men and women are bringing the thinking and the practices and the trappings of the unbelieving world into the church. They are putting a so-called Christian label on them, and they think that this makes such things acceptable.

Dear friends, it may make such things acceptable to some people in the unbelieving world. It may ake such things acceptable to those who are not born from above. But it does not make such things acceptable to God. It does not make such things acceptable for Christ’s true Church. God has not changed. His standards have not changed. His Word has not changed. The nature of true worship, as we find it in Scripture alone, has not changed.

~ Dr. Paul Elliott, speaking on Colossians 2.  Listen here.

Posted by: Yvonne | August 29, 2012

Does the Bible Teach ‘Common Grace’?

As I continue my effort to understand ‘Reformed’ Theology and Calvinism, this article by Dr. Paul Elliott, of Teaching the Word Ministries, helped clarify the biblical meaning of God’s Grace compared to a popular teaching called ‘common grace’.

A Matter of Long-Standing Controversy

This issue has long been debated among Protestants. One of the most contentious and classic debates took place in the Christian Reformed Church in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1924, the CRC Synod stated what became known as the “Three Points of Common Grace.”  The essence of them is as follows:

1. “…apart from the saving grace of God shown only to those that are elect unto eternal life, there is also a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general.”

2. “…God by the general operations of His Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, restrains the unimpeded breaking out of sin, by which human life in society remains possible…”

3. “…the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any saving good, can do civil good…God, without renewing the heart, so influences man that he is able to perform civil good…”

A group of ministers who did not subscribe to these statements were expelled from the CRC, and many of them participated in the formation of the Protestant Reformed Church. The PRC position, which many outside the PRC also hold, can be summarized as follows:

 They believe that point one above entails the general offer of the Gospel to all men, which they deny

 They believe that point two compromises the doctrine of the total depravity of man, and that Scripture does not teach a restraint of sin by God

 They believe that point three establishes a distinction between “saving good” and “civil good” which they also deny.

Flawed Positions and Biblical Correctives

Both of these views represent flawed extremes. There are many reasons this is true, but I will only mention the two most significant ones here.

First, the term “common grace” is not founded in Scripture. Whenever it is employed in Scripture to describe Divine-humane relationships, the word translated “grace” (Hebrew khane, Greek karis) is used exclusively in reference to salvation. It would be more precise to refer to God’s common mercy or kindness upon all men, saved and unsaved. Mercy involves God’s forbearance with the sinfulness of the human race. It is an aspect – one of many – of His providence.

Secondly, these two extreme positions both undermine key aspects of Biblical truth. The “CRC position” has these crucial flaws:

1. It undermines the doctrine of man’s total depravity, and has a tendency to elevate the achievement of social “good” to a level almost equivalent with salvation from sin. We see the outworking of this in the social and moral liberalism of the CRC today, and the open teaching of justification by faithplus-works within that denomination. Norman Shepherd, one of the leading proponents of this heresy, is a CRC minister.

2. There are, indeed, “none that do good” in a saving sense (Romans 3:12). But even unsaved men do perform acts that are in conformance to God’s moral law (Romans 3:20) and which Christ himself described as “good” (Luke 6:33). However, Christ did not commission His Church to improve this sin-cursed world, but to proclaim to man his total depravity and inability to save himself and his desperate need of redemption from the wrath to come, as well as to teach believers to walk in newness of life (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15).

On the other hand, the “PRC position” has this crucial flaw: It undermines the doctrine of the sovereign free offer of the Gospel to all men, which Scripture clearly teaches (Deuteronomy 5:29, 32:29; Psalm 81:13-16; Isaiah 45:22, 48:18; Ezekiel 18:23, 18:32, 33:9-11; Matthew 5:44-48, 11:28, 23:37; Luke 13:34; John 3:16, 6:37; 7:37; Acts 14:17, 17:30; Romans 10; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17).

The free offer of the Gospel does not entail “common grace” or universal salvation, nor is it contrary to the doctrine of man’s total inability to save himself, nor is it contrary to the doctrine of God’s complete sovereignty in salvation (John 6:44, 6:65; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:6-7, 9:6-18, 11:7-8; 2 Corinthians 1:18, 2:14-16, 4:3-4; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29). The free offer of the Gospel is God’s means of calling His people to repentance (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:15; Luke 24:46-47, Romans 1:16), and the rejection of the Gospel offer is also the condemnation of the lost (John 3:18-21; Romans 10:16).

References:
1. Acts of the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, 1924, pages 113-150.
2. Robert Harbach, A Brief Answer to Common Grace, as viewed on 10-22-2010 at
http://www.prca.org/articles/article_5.html.

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Posted by: Yvonne | August 22, 2012

Dave Hunt on Calvinism

from Dave Hunt’s Facebook post 8/22/12:

Question: In the July ’05 Berean Call Letters section, “TF of Ireland,” a self-proclaimed “Calvinist,” acknowledged that you are saved. Is it possible for someone who believes only in the soteriology of Calvin to be saved? Specifically, that God has to first change a person’s heart. Then…with the gift of grace, faith and salvation in Ephesians:2:8-9, man afterwards, by God’s decree, will come to Him (John:6:37), and fulfill God’s requirement for him to believe and repent. Again, assuming that the fruits and works that follow are genuine, could this soteriology allow for salvation, apart from attributing any part of it to man’s free will (John:1:12-13)? Can you extend a statement of being a fellow believer to TF (and other Calvinists) as he has to you?

Answer: I have been criticized for spending too much time on Calvinism, but I cannot ignore questions such as yours. Yes, there are many shades and colors of Calvinists. Like Lutherans, many but not all Calvinists (most Presbyterians) have been baptized as babies. They believe, as did many of their parents, that infant baptism saves. Calvin even declared that the children of the elect are themselves automatically among the elect—and whether one’s parents were elect or not, if one was baptized as a baby, even by an unsaved Catholic priest, that act made one a child of God. “Confirmation” only confirms this delusion. Obviously, anyone believing such a false “gospel” is not saved.

Rejection of infant baptism for salvation was one of the two charges brought by Calvin as the prosecuting attorney and for which Servetus (only one of dozens executed for alleged heresy in Geneva under Calvin) was convicted and burned at the stake. Calvin was never baptized as a believer after his separation from the Catholic Church but opposed such baptism as “heresy worthy of death.” Surely a multitude of Calvinists have been led into hell by following Calvin’s teaching that infant baptism marks one as among the “elect,” just as circumcision marked male Israelites as among God’s chosen people.

One can easily see the relationship between “infant baptism saves without believing the gospel,” later to be “confirmed,” and the teaching that the elect are regenerated by God without even knowing it and then given faith to believe the gospel as a sovereign gift in order to be saved without any act of their own will. Is this a false gospel? Of course it is! The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is for “whosoever will” (Dt. 18:19; Ezr 7:26; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:5, 24; Rv 22:17, etc.).Man must come to God of his own free will and offer himself willingly. This is stated dozens of times in the Old Testament alone (Lev:22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Nu 15:3; 29:39; Dt 12:6, 17; 16:10; 23:23; 2 Chr:31:14; Ezr 1:4; 3:5; 7:13, 16; 8:28; Ps:119:108, etc.).

You cite Eph:2:8-9, but faith there is not the gift—salvation (the subject of the entire passage) is the gift of God. Faith is a feminine noun, while the demonstrative pronoun that ( “ it is ” is not in the Greek) is neuter and could not refer to faith. The Greek will not permit “faith” to be the gift. Moreover, “your faith” (“according to your faith ” – Mt 9:29; Rom:1:8; 1 Cor:15:17, etc.) is found 24 times; “thy faith” 11 times; and the disciples are rebuked for not having faith, etc. These are odd expressions, if faith is not one’s own but only from God.

Calvinists emphasize “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me”(Jn:6:37)and “no man can come to me, except the Father…draw him” (v. 44). They forget that those given by and drawn by the Father still must come, take, eat, and drink of the water and bread of life, which is Christ. Throughout Scripture, the emphasis is upon coming of one’s own will. In John 6, the emphasis is upon believing, coming, eating, and drinking—clearly the responsibility of the person. Yes, the Father draws and gives, but to eat and drink requires an act of one’s will—God does not force-feed anyone, but the Calvinist avoids this fact.

There is no regeneration before faith in Christ, as dozens of verses declare. Yet Calvinism says regeneration precedes faith—clearly unbiblical and irrational. The Bible states: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jn:20:31); “Being born again…by the word of God…and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pt 1:23-25).

We are regenerated by believing in Christ. But Calvinism insists upon regeneration before one believes—a “regeneration” that gives life without believing the gospel! Are we regenerated twice? Without believing the gospel, there is no new birth, no life in Christ, so Calvinism’s “regeneration” as a prerequisite for receiving the gift of faith from God in order to believe the gospel is unquestionably heresy.

Ah, but we are “dead in trespasses and in sins,” quotes the Calvinist to justify this doctrine. Yet even A.W. Pink rejected equating spiritual death with physical death. If the spiritually dead cannot hear, understand, and believe the gospel, but first must be regenerated, then the entire Bible becomes nonsense. God’s countless appeals to mankind to repent and come to Him are a mockery if those to whom He speaks are dead and cannot hear—if they are totally depraved and cannot repent and turn to Him without the grace He withholds while blaming them for not repenting. The dozens of verses in which God commands all mankind to seek Him and in which He promises that all who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him—these become a mockery if the unsaved cannot seek God and if He only extends the grace to seek Him to an “elect.” God pleads endlessly through His prophets not only for Israel to repent but declares, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth”(Is 45:22). Yet no one can respond to His pleas unless He regenerates them first, which He refuses to do for multitudes with whom He continues to plead—and rebukes and punishes them for not doing what they can’t do?

Calvinism makes a mockery of God’s Word. It has Joshua crying to those who can’t choose, “choose you this day whom ye will serve”; and it has Christ pleading with men, “come unto me,” while withholding the ability to come.

You counter, “But all are commanded to keep the Ten Commandments though none can, so what is the difference?” God does not cause a select group to keep the Law and leave the rest in their sin. All sin and are condemned, and all need salvation. According to Calvinism, God could save everyone if He so desired, but chooses to save only some, i.e., whoever is saved and whoever is lost is because God willed it, not because they chose. So you believe in a God who deliberately damns millions (perhaps billions) whom He could save if He so desired. This is the issue. Calvinism maligns God’s character, making Him less loving than He requires us to be!

We are clearly told that He “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4). Of that passage, Spurgeon said, “I was reading just now the exposition of [one] who explains the text so as to explain it away [as] if it read, ‘Who will not have all men to be saved….’ [In fact,] the passage should run thus—‘whose wish it is that all men should be saved….’ As it is my wish…so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, He is not less benevolent than we are” (“Salvation by Knowing the Truth,” 16 Jan 1880).

Commenting upon 1 Timothy:4:2, John MacArthur attempts to justify Calvinism by saying (in his study Bible) that God has two wills in conflict, a will of desire, a will of decree: He wills for all to be saved but doesn’t decree it! So God frusrates His own will? Amazing!

Calvinists quote Jn:1:13: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” to “prove” that man’s will has no part to play in regeneration, but that God regenerates the elect, then causes them to believe. Of course, no one can give himself the new birth; but verse 12 makes it very clear that God regenerates only those who “received him [and] believe on his name.”

Search through books by today’s leading Calvinists. Old Testament examples of Christ and His sacrifice for sin are almost totally missing (in MacArthur’s The Love of God , Piper’s The Justification of God , White’s The Potter’s Freedom , etc., etc.). Why? Because these “ensamples…written for our admonition” (1 Cor:10:11)utterly refute Calvinism. All Israel were sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb, all went through the Red Sea, all were led by the pillar of fire and cloud, all partook of the manna and of the water from the rock, etc–but all were not saved. So Paul declares that Christ “is the Savior of all men , specially of those that believe” (1 Tm 4:10).

Calvinists say “world” means “the world of the elect” in Jn:3:16. They avoid verses 14-15 with which Christ introduces the Cross: that just as the serpent was lifted up so that whosoever would look to it would be healed, so He, Christ, would be lifted up so that whosoever would believe on Him would be saved. There is no indication that the serpent (that was lifted up to bring healing to those who looked to it) was for an elect within Israel—it was for whosoever would look in faith .

Could someone who believes this false gospel of Calvinism be truly saved? Fortunately, many Calvinists (you among them) were saved before becoming Calvinists. They now malign God by saying that He is pleased to damn multitudes though He could save all—and that He predestines multitudes to the Lake of Fire before they are even born. But having believed the gospel before becoming Calvinists, they “shall not come into condemnation, but [have] passed from death unto life” (Jn:5:24). Those who only know the false gospel of Calvinism are not saved, while those who are saved and ought to know better but teach these heresies will be judged for doing so.

Posted by: Yvonne | August 18, 2012

Satan the Great Counterfeiter

from Dr. Paul Elliott’s teaching on Colossians 2:18-23

            
With all of this in mind, dear friends, here is what we must understand when it
comes to the issue of man-made doctrines: Satan is the great counterfeiter. Satan
has a counterfeit for everything in God’s Word.

Satan has a counterfeit doctrine of the origin of the universe called evolution.
Satan has a counterfeit doctrine of man called humanism. Satan has a counterfeit
doctrine of sin called psychology. Satan has a counterfeit doctrine of Scripture
called higher criticism. Satan has a counterfeit doctrine of Christ that Scripture
calls antichrist – and Scripture says there are many antichrists through history as
well as the great personage of the Antichrist in the end times. Satan is constantly
flooding the marketplace, so to speak, with counterfeits.

One of the most clever and cunning things that Satan and Satan’s ministers will
do, is to claim to speak for God. From the very beginning, Satan has masqueraded
as the one who claims to speak for God.

In the Garden, when Satan tempted Eve, he began by questioning the Word of
God: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” But
Satan followed that question with a statement in which he claimed to speak for
God and to explain God’s mind. Satan gave Eve this lie: He said, “You shall not
surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it [the day that you eat of the
tree that God has forbidden] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) And so Satan tempted Eve into sin by
falsely claiming to speak for God.

Satan even had the audacity to do this when he tempted Christ in the
wilderness. Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in his desperate but unsuccessful effort
to cause Jesus to sin.

Satan is the great Scripture-twister, and nowhere does Satan do this with more
subtlety and more cunning and more cleverness than in the church itself. Satan’s
ministers are great Scripture-twisters. As we are going to see in subsequent
messages, many man-made doctrines are invented by twisting Scripture –
perverting the true meaning of a passage of Scripture. What does Peter say about
false teachers, in Second Peter chapter three, verse sixteen? He says that they are
“untaught and unstable people who twist” the Scriptures “to their own destruction.”

~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~

Series: Colossians 2 – Truth Above All
Title: “Man-Made Doctrines: Satanic Counterfeits” (Colossians 2:18-23)
Speaker: Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Original Air Date: Week of 3/18/2012

Posted by: Yvonne | August 16, 2012

Dishonorable Disclosures

Posted by: Yvonne | August 8, 2012

What’s Man’s Mission?

I receive Cornwall Alliance‘s e-newsletters and today’s main article had this to say at the end:

“The doctrines of Genesis 1–3 are the very foundation of the Bible, and at the center of those doctrines are those of Genesis 1:27–28:

  • Verse 27: the essence of man—the image of God, male and female.
  • Verse 28: the mission of man—to fill and rule the Earth.”                          

Is it really man’s ‘mission’ to fill and rule the Earth?  Didn’t Jesus give us the Great Commission which is to share the Gospel and make disciples?

Posted by: Yvonne | July 23, 2012

Does God Do That?

A prayer request came out from our church today asking for us to pray for the upcoming VBS program, specifically for the children who will be in attendance.  This statement caught me by surprise, though:

“God has appointed certain children to be at VBS.”

Initially, my thought was, “Nope! God doesn’t do that.”  My next thought was, “What about Ester? Maybe He does.”   So I found the passage where  Mordecai says to her,

“And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”  Ester 4:14

Now I’m not so sure.  Does God appoint people for certain events?

Any thoughts?

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