The Resurrection Fact

a book review by Stuart Brogden

Fellow Christian, do you doubt the fact that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead? Truth be told, nobody who has been born of the Spirit of God should doubt this fact. Reality is, many who deny God do. How do you and I respond when a well-educated reprobate throw up man’s wisdom that appears to crumble the foundation of our faith? If we well versed and studied up in what the Bible says about the centerpiece of its theme – the propitiating death of the Son of Man and His resurrection from the dead – we will be on firm footing. Understanding the arguments that will be thrown up against us is of benefit, and that’s the reason for this book.

The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics, is a compendium detailing the elements and weaknesses of the enemy’s assaults and the reasoning that gives thinking Christians more confidence in this core aspect of our theology. The 8 chapters first examine the importance of the resurrection of Christ and facts recorded about it, followed by a helpful rehearsal of the impotence of the scientific method regarding historical events. The last 6 chapters review various attacks by people – some claim to be inside the camp of Christ, some deny there is reason for a camp.

Chapter 3 takes a look at an apostate Roman Catholic – but I repeat myself. One former apologist for Rome, John Dominic Crossan, has gone further off the reservation by embracing what the editors of this book call “progressive Christianity.” Typical of this movement is the idea that Christ Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual only, not physical. The editor for this chapter (John Bombaro)  call this “unbelief masquerading as “faith.”” (page 61) In a platonic scheme of dismissing the physical for the spiritual, these progressives write off the physical as unimportant, obscuring the meaning, often embracing the gnostic gospels for support. “Progressive Christianity believes it can skirt the pitfall of establishing the historicity of the resurrection because “the truth of a parable – of a parabolic narrative – is not dependent on its factuality.”” (page 66 & 67)

When facts are not important to one’s religion, any collection of stories will suffice. And that’s why spurious documents no one takes seriously are held up as authoritarian by these new style heretics. Contrary to what Crossan and his fellow-travelers claim, “God redeems the totality of a human being according to a Hebraic (not Platonic) anthropology.” (page 69) The result of the progressives’ view is the lack of eschatological hope – if Christ be not raised from the dead, bodily, neither will we be! “Crossan makes the parable primary and the person and work of Jesus secondary. This distinction is akin to the difference in importance between Jesus showing the way and Jesus being the way.” (page 69) This is related to the error many evangelicals make in reducing the life of Christ to an example for us to follow. It is that – and much more! If Jesus had not lived without sin, compliant to the law of the Old Covenant, if He had not submitted Himself to take our place under the wrath of God, propitiating that so we would be judged righteous, then all the good examples in the universe would be nothing more than a cruel hoax.

Bombaro closes out this chapter observing that, “while Crossan may claim that it is the meaning that matters, that meaning has ceased to be exegetically derived and has become altogether eisegetical. There is no Christ risen from the dead, not really, not historically. … Crossan, it turns out, is really that cynic he makes Jesus out to be.”

You can have all the riches in the world, just give me Jesus – the biblical Jesus. None other will do ruined sinners good.

Brethren, Pray For Me

Brethren, Pray For Me

2 Thess 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

One thing that is hardly addressed these days is the desperate need of prayer for pastors and missionaries. These men are in the forefront of the spiritual battle. We see so many fall to the wayside due to many reasons both physical and spiritual. Sometimes, they give in to the pressure of being told not to stand for the truth, maybe they become afraid in the battle, or grow weary because of the fight. Maybe they have been ill used by the congregation and their very soul is tattered and torn, maybe they struggle against sin or a specific sin, maybe their family is falling apart and they feel overwhelmed by everything going on, or maybe they are in a deep depression at this point.

Yes, we can all feel those things at one point or another yet how few people realize the tremendous pressure these men are under. They are in the front line of fire, spiritually speaking, and there is much they have to endure that most wouldn’t allow. A lot of people in the congregation think that because they pay the pastor or missionary that he has to obey them in everything. Don’t get me wrong as I believe in accountability but the people don’t own the heart and soul of the pastor and missionary. God owns their soul and is the One whose will should be followed completely and wholeheartedly.

Preaching in the right spirit and with all a person’s heart is quite similar to a day’s work. It’s easy to complain that the pastor doesn’t do anything but a person who says that hasn’t watched a true pastor give himself up in his preaching.

pastorprayer

Brothers and sisters, pray for your pastor. Pray that he will stand true to the Word of God and do what’s right regardless of the cost. Pray that his heart will be touched by what he studies and that the Holy Spirit will speak to him, first, then speak through him when he preaches. Pray that his heart will be renewed day by day. If he has a secular job as well as the ministry, buckle down and pray the Lord will give him strength for both positions. It’s not easy on a pastor to work, take time out for his family, and do what he needs to do for the family of God. Pray also for the health of the pastor who works as he will very seldom get time off.

Brothers and sisters, pray for the missionaries. Pray the same thing for the missionaries except they need added encouragement when they live in a different country. There will be culture shock on their parts and will need extra grace to adjust.

One more thing, pray that the Lord will cover both pastors and missionaries with His cloak of protection. May they each stand firm and do the Lord’s will. A strong man of God will mean one who’s ready to follow the Lord and guide his ministry in the way that they should go but a weak man of God means his ministry will fall into apostasy.

Discerning Believer

We live in a time of beginnings of peril within our country. The church is falling apart and grows more apostate each day, our culture, which was built on the Word of God, hates true believers and is willing to sacrifice them on the altar of tolerance. We are regularly put into a position of either stand for the Lord or stand with the world. People we thought loved the Lord have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and some may even have turned on true believers. We see children, who’ve been raised their whole life being taught the Word of God, stray to churches that teach sweet little nothing’s and tickle their ears.

We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

As we go through each day we are called upon to make decisions based on the Word of God, we are called to be Berean Christians. We are called upon to discern right from wrong and good from bad. Sadly, we see more and more people dropping out of true Christianity to lie in bed with the deceiver and his minions. Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What is happening? Who can we trust? How do we know who is right and who is wrong?”

When this blog was first started it was named Defending Contending, which was very appropriate as it was begun so false prophets posing as true prophets would be called into question and revealed for what they truly were. Yet, the question should be asked, “Why don’t true believers know and discern who is a wolf in sheep clothing and who is truly the man of God?” Sometimes even we, as true believers, are fooled by someone who, we think, is truly loving and serving the Lord. The truth is that we won’t always know who is true and who is a tare. Some of them will be hidden for a time until the great harvest.

discernment-spurgeon

Yet we find that the Word of God is very clear. Heb 5:11-14, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We are a people who refuse to study the Word of God. We “pay those people” to study it for us and, heaven forbid, that they should say something we don’t want to hear.

Brothers and sisters, it is our responsibility to study God’s Word to find out if what we are being taught is according to God’s Word. Even on this blog now called Truth in Grace, it’s important to realize that we are all sinners and can be led astray. We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

Granted, there are grey areas within the Word of God that aren’t clearly known so some things can be believed one way or another. When it is clear and concise, though, it’s important for us to realize that God expects His children to follow His commands. Obedience with joy is very important for true believers. We can’t be obedient if we don’t know what the Lord tells us to do. It’s time for each of us to find out and learn to be discerning not just wait for someone else to do it for us.

The Trouble with Trivial Faith

A review by Stuart Brogden     Tinker

 

The title of Melvin Tinker’s book is designed to catch your attention: A Lost GOD in a LOST WORLD, subtitled From deception to deliverance; a plea for authentic Christianity. That lengthy title conveys the idea that something is terribly wrong and change is desperately needed. If we survey the current offering from professing Christians, we cannot but agree that something is not right. While not addressing everything one might want changed, Tinker’s book is a welcome work that should cause every child of God to examine his own church and life, seeking to be biblical and honorable in the sight of YHWH. Tinker says, “The modest aim of this book is to present those key truths about the lostless of man, the greatness of God and the glory of the future which will correct much wrong thinking and behavior within the church and so enable the church to effectively confront the world by holding out the Gospel.” (page 22) He explores these issues in good measure over nine very readable chapters.

In this short book our author examines the weightlessness of God in our culture and what happens when people turn to idols. In these first two chapters Tinker observes “the West is made up of believers alright, but not Christian believers. It is composed of what the Bible calls idolaters” (page 26), further noting idolatry as “the besetting sin of the human race” (page 27). He describes what he means by God being lost: “Not that God has been lost as when we misplace a set of keys, but rather that the truth about the real God is disappearing fast.” (page29) When professing Christians take God for granted, being thoughtless in how He is worshiped (is celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries worshipful?), with shallow prayers (are physical healing and income our most pressing needs?), and absent from our daily conversations He has lost weight in our lives. And something has filled that space, weighing heavily on our minds and our prayers. That something, no matter what it is or where it came from, is an idol. Two short paragraphs sum up the cause and danger of this condition (pages 51 & 52):

The predominate view abroad is that with the right knowledge, the right resources, and the right will, crime on our streets will be reduced, terrorists will be hunted down and brought to account, poverty will be abolished and our environment made safe.

Undoubtedly as human beings we have achieved so much. But herein lies the danger, namely, that of being seduced into thinking that it is by our achievements that we measure our self-worth and thus bolster our self-confidence.

It is the myth of self-achievement, self-sufficiency, and self-aggrandizement. The trap is that such thinking invariably excludes God because our focus is on self.

Do you find these thoughts dominating your mind? Christian – examine yourself to see if you be in the faith! “We cannot really understand why the world is in such a mess, together with the mess of our individual lives, unless we see it as part of the bigger and much more tragic picture of humankind’s devastating fall away from its Maker.” (page 61)

From examining the train-wreck of our natural condition, our author takes the rest of this short book explaining the necessity of various aspects of biblical Christianity (‘tis a pity one needs to use that adjective, but there are so many professing Christian who are not biblical) and how they impact our lives. Chapter 3 addresses The need for the grandeur of God, based on Isaiah 40:1 – 31. Christians know God, but often we hang around the milk cooler rather than spend time and effort at the grill for juicy meats (Hebrews 5:11 – 14). “The highest science, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.” (page 65) “And it is the smallness of man set against the grandeur of God which makes God’s tender kindness towards us all the more remarkable and moving.” (page 81) Chapter 4 brings us to The necessity of the Cross, based on Philippians 2:5 – 11. In becoming a man, creator God revealed part of His character; “this God, the true God, chooses not to exploit his divinity, but to display it differently … he exercise a different divine right – the right to be humble, the right to change his form whilst not ceasing to be God.” (page 86) Augustine wrote of this wonder:

He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, not losing the form of God. The form of a servant was added; the form of God did not pass away. He lies in a manger, but contains the world. He feeds at the breast, but also feeds the angels. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but vests us with immortality. He found no place in the inn, but made for Himself a temple in the hearts of believers. In order that weakness might become strong, strength become weak. (page 90)

The mystery of God in Christ – who gave Himself to save sinners. How can a mere mortal truly comprehend this? The cross, an inhumane tool for the torture of humans, stands as the narrow gate to the path that leads to eternal life. Contrary to men pleasers who care not for the Gospel, we who have been bought with the blood of Christ must line up with Paul, whose “primary concern is not with the niceties of literature (or fancy words, my addition) but with the wonder of the Gospel.” (page 91) One of the wonders that Philippians presses on us is the truth that the eternal and divine Son of God put on flesh and became a human. He kept this form of a human (one of His created beings) after His resurrection, forever identifying with those ransomed sinners. Tinker tells us, “it would be a mistake to so emphasize the divinity of Jesus at this point that we neglect his humanity. In ascending back to the Father he did not shed his human flash as a butterfly might shed its chrysalis. The person of the Son of God is forever united to our human nature.” (page 98) Our high priest intercedes for us in this age, the God-man who reconciled sinful men to holy God. Jesus will walk among us in the age to come, His body then perfected as the eternal temple in which He is pleased to dwell. Brothers and sister – do you wonder at Christ? Is He not marvelous beyond words?

Buy the book and read about the work of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of the Gospel, the need for effective grace, the necessity of the second coming, and the need to be heavenly minded. It’s less than 200 pages and, aside from unqualified quotes from some questionable men, a solid work that will cause the child of God to humble himself before his Savior and King. And that’s about all we can expect from a book – a reminder of who YHWH is and who we are.

Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is?

A good friend shared a Southern Gospel song with me this past week. It is one that I cannot ever remember hearing, although the group that sings this song is one I listened to for many years. The Southern Gospel group is called Greater Vision. For your reference, I have included the lyrics below before I share some additional thoughts.

1) Preacher I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

2) I’ve been hearing other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(Chorus) Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

3) So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry about my feelings, don’t worry about my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

Regardless of whether you like Southern Gospel Music or not, there are still pastor-teachers who get up every Sunday or throughout the week and pray that today would be the day they heard such a song from those in their congregations.

Preaching

Sadly, this is far from truth. Many of you, who are regulars here at DefCon, know some of our story. In early 2013, I was called to pastor what I thought was a conservative, evangelical Bible-believing church in north-central California.  It took less than 2 months to ascertain that several of the “elders” were not even true believers. One was living in open sin, and they took great offense at my preaching that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

In one leaders’ meeting, one “elder” stated this while pointing at my Bible, “I don’t really know much about that book, but if you are telling me that my friends and family who do not believe in Jesus Christ are going to die and go to hell…well, I would rather die and go to hell with them than to believe what you are telling me!”

Can you imagine such a response by one who is supposedly “called” to be a shepherd? Why would a church even ask a person to be a shepherd when they don’t know The Book?

A few months later, just shy of 70% of the congregation voted against taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Obviously, this was not a congregation that was interested in singing the lyrics of this song. They did not want sin called what it was. The men who claimed to be elders and who were supposed to be leading spiritually and watching over the flock had little to no interest in the truth of God’s Word.

Sundays come and Sundays go, and far too many faithful ministers prepare messages wondering who will show up and whether they are even upset from the Word that was ministered the week before. On the other hand, there are hirelings posing as shepherds who refrain from speaking boldly because they are afraid of losing a paycheck. Such individuals have NO BUSINESS being in the pulpit.

While there are many other things that are on my heart, I want to use this post to address those who normally sit in congregations each week. Let me tell you what a true pastor looks like.

  1. A true pastor will be faithful to the Word before he is faithful to your pet peeves.
  2. A true pastor will be obedient to the Word before he will be obedient to what you THINK you want to hear.
  3. A true pastor will honor God first and foremost before he will honor requests to dumb down the Scriptures.
  4. A true pastor will normally be found in a small gathering long before he will be found preaching to large crowds who come for everything BUT exposition of the Scriptures.
  5. A true pastor may not show up for every party you have at your house but he will keep you before the Lord each time you are brought to his remembrance.
  6. A true pastor has a family that he has been called to take care of but they will often wait long hours for him to come home because he is “needed” in another part of the harvest field for a few more hours.
  7. A true pastor may have to work long hours outside of ministry-related duties and still have to find time to juggle family, ministry, preparation, and maybe squeeze in some rest. He may do this because it is better than taking a paycheck from a congregation who thinks they can hire and fire him if he doesn’t tickle their ears.
  8. A true pastor will struggle with his own sin and concerns while preaching to himself each time he opens the Scriptures. He will strive to be faithful while at the same time endeavoring to be more like Jesus Christ knowing that he fails miserably.
  9. A true pastor weeps when he sees entire families walk away because they didn’t like the music or lack thereof, or because they chose to walk in the paths of heretics they read after or watch on TBN. He knows that what they are following after does not change their lives. He knows their struggles are real and hopping from church to church is not going to change them to be more like Christ.
  10. A true pastor is concerned when telling it like it is about sin and shame produces little response in the lives of the hearers,, and he wonders whether it is worth all the effort.
  11. A true pastor may often take the blame for much that has nothing to do with his own life, his family, or his ministry. However, he will also know that the blameshifting is merely a cry for help from those who do not want to be helped.
  12. A true pastor may often wonder if there is “anybody else in Israel that has not bowed the knee to the gods of this world” but will rejoice when he finds even one or two of the 7,000 who have not bowed.
  13. A true pastor knows the world is dying and on their way to hell apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but will normally minister to people, some who think they are “good enough” to get there on their own merits.
  14. A true pastor knows that the foolishness of preaching is the ONLY hope we have to offer to the world.
  15. A true pastor will know that to strive to be most eloquent in the eyes of the world will only bring further heartache.
  16. A true pastor knows that this world cannot be his home, that he is only a stranger on a journey to a better land, and that the rewards this world has to offer are corrupt at best and will rot away.
  17. A true pastor may at times be captured in moments of weakness by thoughts of wanting to hear compliments, but in the end remembers that the only true accomplishment will be to hear, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant.”

For those true pastors who have refused to bow the knee to the gods of this world and the sinful desires of congregations, you are loved with an everlasting love. Your rewards will be few down here. Your body may be worn down as you strive to juggle all of your efforts to show Christ to others, but strive to remain faithful as we look toward a land whose builder and maker is God. True pastors, you have a high calling.

True believers, you have a responsibility to pray for your pastor, to support him, to love him, and to realize that he is only human. Every message will NOT be easy to hear. He is tasked with the incredible and heart-breakingly overwhelming responsibility of protecting you from the dangers of all the heresy and false teaching that is spreading like wildfire throughout evangelicalism.

True believers, it is easy to sing songs like this when they have catchy tunes or lyrics, but how often have you actually walked up to your pastor and told him such words? How often have you said, “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is!” and then instead of getting offended and looking for a new church next week prayed and asked the Lord to help you be a faithful Berean Christian who will stand for truth even when it is not popular?