Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love and Unity

This is a repost.

Biblical love is far deeper than a love dependent merely on feelings and emotions. Rather, it is a love that flows from the very soul and character of the individual. It comes from the person's decision to love, not from his feelings. In fact, many times the decision to love will run contrary to the feelings one possesses. Biblical love is the love of God that has been poured out into the heart, and then given from that heart to others.

This kind of love is the basis of unity as true unity does not come from a denial of differences, but from a forebearing with one another in spite of the differences. It is the love that gives, that covers, that bears, that endures, that believes. This is the love that overwhelmingly conquers. This love then enables us to be united one with another; not due to a common cause, but because of a common love. 

Ephesians 4:1-3
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk
in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, showing forebearance to one another
in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Psalm 89:6-7 and Our Worship

Psalm 89:6 For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord?
There is none like Him in heaven or on earth!

Psalm 89:7 A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him.
He is transcendent even above those in heaven so that all in heaven are in awe of Him and revere Him, which is why He is worshiped as He is in Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4. This also paints a picture for us that compliments Revelation 4:2...and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
This, indeed, is the God whose very presence commands worship. Let our heart fall upon its knees and worship Him.
This, indeed, is the very God who humbled Himself and came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered unjustly at the hands of godless men, so that He could be the perfect, sinless, sacrifice for each and every sin we would ever commit as He took sin's penalty on our behalf.
This, indeed, was a majestic death. This should inform and inspire our worship each Lord's Day. So, let us gather together tomorrow and celebrate His resurrection, His victory over sin's penalty, death, and its claim on us.

A Response to Michael Bird and His Issue with American Inerrancy

I don't do book reviews as there are many who do a much better and thorough job than I would.  But I am going to respond to a section in a book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, which is contains a section by Michael Bird.  Yes, that Michael Bird, the author of Evangelical Theology, which is a systematic theology based upon the gospel.

My reason to respond to Michael's section in this book is twofold.  One, because I am working my way through his systematic theology, and enjoying it; and two, to offer some corrective insight to his "global" perspective.

His assertions seem to be that inerrancy is a particular American issue, it draws an unnecessary fence around the Bible, and that the word inerrancy is not needed in the global south as they accept the Bible as true and authoritative with out all the muss and fuss of having to call it inerrant; and, therefore, are able to get on with their business of spreading and preaching the gospel.

Kind of an aside here, but he also seems to have a bit of an Aussie/Kiwi chip on his shoulder toward what he views as American theological colonialism/imperialism; and somehow connects this with Rugby verses American football.

What has struck me in reading his response is his naivete, and this naivete is mixed with a bit of smugness; and I think together they have blinded him to the pattern of the church in its history, and to the reality of the church at this time. As good a student of church history as he appears to be, he should understand, maybe more than many, the proclivity of human nature toward liberalism, toward doubt, and aware that the church has always been filled with tares. In the history of the church there have always been threats to an orthodox understanding of the bible.  The attack on the inerrancy of the Bible, at least to the degree we have seen in North America and Europe is a more recent threat, but it is also one that has hung around for the last 150 years, it is not going away anytime soon, and it will soon come to a church near you...maybe even your own.

Here in the global North we have seen first hand the damage done to the church by higher criticism and liberal textual criticism.  It has destroyed the church in Europe and damaged the church in America.  The Anglicans in the North have the same 39 Articles of the Faith as the Anglicans of the South, the Presbyterians of the North have the same Westminster Confession of Faith as the Presbyterians of the South, and that did not keep them from abandoning the Bible as truthful and authoritative. What is to keep it from happening in the South?  As the global South becomes more mature and sophisticated theologically, there will be those who will begin to teach in its seminaries and academies who will be smuggled in on the Trojan Horse of "the Bible is true for faith and practice, authoritative for faith and practice, and the standard for faith and practice" (See Michael's section on An International View of Scripture, pgs 160-162).  This is where it began in the Southern Baptist Convention and its Baptist Faith and Message statement, and once the wolves are in the door, they open the door to other wolves, who are much more savage.

As one who was involved, at the local church level, in the Southern Baptist inerrancy controversy and battle for the Bible in the 90s (and still have some scars), I have seen first hand the damage done by those who did not believe all the Bible was true, but hid behind the statement "it is the standard for faith and practice."  I have seen first hand the necessity of drawing a fence around the Bible using the term inerrant.  Yes, it does keep some good people out, but it keeps many many more wolves in sheep's clothing from getting in and ravaging the flock and destroying the faith of some.  In contending for the faith, having the term inerrant and using it as a fence, yes even as a sword, is a necessity.

Yes, inerrancy has been a particular American issue, because the battle was fought here.  The European church, with few exceptions, capitulated to the attacks on the Bible without firing a shot.  We Americans might not have fought a World War on our soil, but we indeed have fought a spiritual war on our soil (a war that does indeed affect the entire world) over the truthfulness, veracity, and reliability of the Bible, not just as it applies to faith and practice, but about whatever it touches on.  And I dare say that Michael would do the same if the battle came to his soil, his church, his school.  It just happened to come to us first, but it will eventually come to the church in the South.

Finally, after reading his section in the book, and going through his Evangelical Theology, I would say that Michael is a closet inerrantist.  He really is an inerrantist at heart, although he calls himself an infalliblist...even Peter Enns thinks so.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Preaching, Let the Text Say What it Says--So that it Will do What it is Designed to do

As preachers and students of the Word, we all have certain theological leanings, and some are adherents to a particular system of theology.  Yes, when reading or studying the Bible we do so in light of our theological bent; however, when studying and interpreting the Scriptures we should not impose our particular theological bias upon the text, but let the text say what it says.  This will result in a much fairer treatment of the text, and will then result in much clearer expounding of that text in our preaching, and clarity in preaching produces clarity of thought and understanding in the hearer.

When we do this we will earn the trust of our people as they may not understand all the nuances of a particular system, but can usually tell when we are artificially imposing a meaning upon the text that is not readily apparent from its context.

Our job is not to make our people adherents of our chosen system or to have them line up with our bias, but our job is to make our people more like Christ; which is what the Scriptures are designed to do, and therefore why we should do our best to bring out the clear unclouded meaning of the text.
(Colossians 1:28-29, Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 8:29).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Christian Heart

It is not the cleaning of the hand that makes the Christian, for many a hypocrite can show as fair a hand as he, but the purifying, watching, and right ordering of the heart; this is the thing that provokes so many sad complaints, and costs so many deep groans and tears.

John Flavel

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Persecution, the Marker of a True Christian

Blessed are those who have been persecuted
for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people
insult you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12

In the Beatitudes Christ gives us the markers that describe a true disciple, one that is truly following Christ. The first seven markers are found in verses 3-9 and they are internal spiritual realities that manifest themselves in many ways in the life of a true believer.  They are being poor in spirit, mourning over sin, being gentle or meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, and being a peacemaker (notice it is being a peacemaker, not being peaceful or at peace).  The final marker is one that comes from the outside, and that is persecution which is seen in verses 10-12.  

Interestingly, there are three reasons given for the persecution.  They are for right living (righteousness sake, vs 10), right belief (because of Me, vs 11), and right testimony (in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, vs 12).

In the NT we see many instances of persecution for the reasons listed above, here are a few:

Right Living
I Peter 2:20-21, 3:17,  4:4, 4:15-16, 4:19, II Timothy 3:12,
II Corinthians 3:14-16, John 3:19-21, Ephesians 5:6-11

Right Belief
Acts 4:8-21, Acts 5:41, Acts 15:25-26, I Peter 4:14, II Timothy 1:8, 12

Right Testimony
Acts 4:8-21, 14:1-6,16:19-24, 17:2-7

Because you believe the right thing, you will speak the right thing and live the right way.  The result of this at some point and at some level will be persecution; and blessed are you when being persecuted for these reasons.  Persecution for right belief, right living, and right testimony is a marker, an identifier, that this person is truly a child of God.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Crucifixion and Freedom

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free."  To be set free means to no longer be in bondage.  To be free means to no longer be in subjection to, under the dominion of, or be controlled by.

Unlike the silly song that tells us we are free to dance, there is a spiritual freedom, a true liberty of heart and soul and mind that we have been given in Christ.  Paul lays the foundation for our understanding of this freedom in Romans 6:1-14, as he tells us that we have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin, that sin should no longer be our master.   The key to understanding this, and the foundation of our freedom, is given in 6:6-7 as we are told our old self was crucified with Him and that he who has died has been set free from sin. So we see that it is crucifixion that sets us free.  Our being baptized into Christ unites us with Him in His crucifixion and resurrection. We have been freed from sin and its stranglehold by being crucified with Christ.

In Galatians Paul fills out the rest of of what is implied in Romans 6:1-14, and what has been accomplished in our being crucified with Christ.  In Galatians 2:19-20 we see that through crucifixion we are set from the bondage of the Law (Romans 6:14, 7:1-2).  In Galatians 5:24 we see that through crucifixion we are set free from the flesh with its passions and desires (Romans 6:12-13, Galatians 5:16-21).  In Galatians 6:14 we see that through crucifixion we have been set free from the world (I John 2:16, 5:4-5, 5:19, Colossians 2:20-23).

As Christians we no longer breath the foul air of imprisonment, but now breathe the fresh air of freedom. The freedom that only death can bring.  Let us rejoice in our freedom, and praise God for our freedom, because in Christ we are free indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount there is a pronouncement of blessings.  Blessings for those who are true disciples of Christ.  Blessings for those who possess certain spiritual characteristics, the characteristics of true disciples, who, therefore, are true Christians.  As you go through the pronouncement of these blessings, every blessing is spiritually rich, and spiritually beneficial.  Every blessing pronounced is an extravagance of the grace of God, and to have them in total is much like drinking out of a fire hose. However there is one blessing that stands out from all the rest because it is the greatest of these blessings, it is the pinnacle of these blessings, it is the blessing by which all others pale; and, indeed, it may well be the greatest promise He made, and it is found in verse 8..."Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This has been called one of the greatest verses in all of Scripture, one of the greatest sayings of Christ, the most gracious words that ever came from His lips.

We know from Exodus 33 that no one can see God and live.  From I Timothy 6:16 we learn that the Lord dwells in unapproachable light and no man has seen or can see Him.  So to see God would be a most unimaginable blessing, and I Corinthians 13:12 gives us additional insight into what is entailed in seeing God as it tells us this, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."

In I Corinthians 13:12 we see that for those who believe there is a seeing of God, the sight of faith (as we also see in Hebrews 11:24-27); but that is likened to a dim reflection, of which the fullness of sight and with it the fullness of knowing are yet to be.  From this verse we understand that in seeing God we will fully know God.  Since God, Himself, is the highest and most supreme Being, seeing Him and knowing Him would be the highest and most supreme blessing, and to receive this blessing is the highest and most extravagant grace one could ever receive.

Now, the recipients of this supreme blessing are those who are pure in heart.  So the question for us to consider is who exactly are the pure in heart.
Those who are pure in heart:

Love God
I Timothy 1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Isreal!, The Lord is our God, the Lord in one! You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words I am commanding you today shall be on your heart
Deuteronomy 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul.
Mark 12:30 and you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your souls, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Not the state of the natural man
Romans 1:29-31 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.
II Timothy 3:2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

The love of God will be evidenced by
1.      Love of neighbor
Mark 12:31 the second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.
Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor

2.      Love of the Brethren
John 15:12 This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
I Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

3.      Obedience to God
John 14:15 If you love me you will keep My commandments
John 14:24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words
I John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Those who are pure in heart:

Seek God
Psalm 27:8 When you said, Seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.
Psalm 105:3-4 Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.  Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me will all your heart.  I will be found by you….
Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
I Chronicles 28:9 As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.  If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if your forsake Him, He will reject you forever.
Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake His way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.
Matthew 6:33  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness….
Psalm 119:2, 10 How blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart….With all my heart I have sought you; do not let me wander from Your commandments.

Those who are pure in heart:

Find God
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me will all your heart.  I will be found by you….
Psalm 63:1-5 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  Thus I have You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.  So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.  my soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me.

If we understand correctly that the unsaved and unregenerate do not seek God (Romans 3:10-18) and are haters of God (Romans 1:31, II Timothy 3:1-5), then we are left with the conclusion that those who are pure in heart are those who heart has been cleansed, been made pure (Ezekiel 36:26, John 13:8-10; 15:3), and filled with love (Romans 5:5).  In other words, no one truly seeks God until he has been saved; and then he spends a lifetime of seeking after God, and God rewards his seeking by disclosing more and more of Himself.

And how do we see God?  We see God in the Word of God. We see God in the person of Jesus Christ. No greater blessing can be bestowed.  Make this your desire, make this your prayer, make this your quest today.