How to Awaken a Dead & Unregenerate Church

In this brief video, Dr. Steve Lawson shares how to awaken a dead and unregenerate church. Church leaders need to be fully assured that they indeed have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then they need to give consideration to the message they declare to every person who enters their places of worship.

The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

Confessions and formalized creeds have been an edifying edition to the Christian faith. Since the beginning of the New Covenant (and even further back since the dawn of teaching), mankind has formalized and rehearsed many sayings, creeds, idioms, and other phrases that have refreshed our minds about a how we ought to think or understand life. Within Christendom, there are certain flavors of creeds and confessions that we Reformed folks hold to very dearly. Assuming that you understand which confessions exist, I seek to make my point quickly. If you have never read a creed, confession, or catechism, I highly suggest you do some research and learn from them.

Having said all that, there is an authoritative flaw in our Reformed circles. I call it he Sixth Sola: Confession Alone. It is this idea that if it is not a part of your confession, it cannot (or in some cases should not) be taught or even considered as biblical. Or, practically speaking, although we do not verbally admit this, when we are discussing Scripture with someone, and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “X confession says…” when making their case, it is making the confession the ultimate authority in the conversation (unless they are just using the confession as a springboard to talk about Scripture). I am aware that this last statement may have ruffled more feathers than the first, but understand what I am actually saying and do not misinterpret my words. If your first or final authoritative response in any discussion about theology or what the Bible teaches concerning what you believe and why is “the confession says” you have turned a guidepost into a destination.

Most, if not all, creeds, confession, and catechisms are reactive. That is, they are written and formed based off of some other creed or confession that is in opposition, and those forming it wish to distinguish themselves for the opposing party. It can be in response to false teaching (or perceived false teaching), or it can be simply trying to make a stand about a certain belief within a specific community that affirms X belief(s). As I already said, this is not inherently wrong. These are great ways to find out where your stand in your faith. i would argue that it is impossible to say anything without it being “creedle” in some way. But if you do not study the Scriptures and seek to understand why you believe what you believe, and whether or not you think you can agree with these confessions, you are placing the cart before horse. The confessions can point you in a specific direction (guidepost), but they are not the final authority (destination). Our first response in any discussion should be Sola Scriptura, not Sola Confessio (Latin check). Yet, time after time, when I dive¬†into the Scriptures with particular pastors, preachers, and believers who ascribe heavily to confessions and creeds, whenever there are any disagreements or whenever I make my points from Scripture, I am faced with “but the Confession says…” How can this be within a Reformed world whose foundational mindset is supposed to be Scripture Alone?

There can be many reasons why one authoritatively appeals to the a confession more than Scripture. But I think I have narrowed them down to two main roots: Traditionalism and laziness. There is nothing wrong with tradition. Every denomination and person has them. It is when that tradition begins to have authority over Scripture that we have a huge problem. Some people find great joy in holding to the long standing tradition that some of our creeds and confessions teach. Nothing wrong with that if you understand what you believe and why. But it seems that this is not the case with many. By proxy, if you are a traditionalist in this area, you will quote the confession better than you can quote Scripture because you are relying on the confession to approve yourself before God (or men). Unless for whatever reason you don’t have any access to Scripture, or in some way you are only able to memorize Scripture by categorizing them via the confession, there should be no reason why you cannot study for yourself what the Bible teaches within the pages that the confessions are pointing to. Which brings me to my next point.

I find that it is easier to quote a saying, phrase, creed, etc., in place of actually making a verbal argument concerning what you actually believe and why. Nothing wrong with summarizing what you believe, or repeating a summarization of something you would affirm. But If I believe that the reason why man exists is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, why? Because the confession says so? Or because the Scripture quoted in the confessions says so? Have I looked at the listed Scriptures? Have I taken the time to study and reform my thinking in light of the Scriptures that a confession teaches? Will I be courageous to practice Semper Reformanda if I discover some nuance in the Scriptures? Or will I be taking the confession at face value because my community of believers/churches do? Or because the men before me were theological giants who were totally incapable of error even in the minutia? Laziness is what causes us to use the confessions as they were not meant to be used. These are guideposts, not destinations.

Notice, I am not challenging the confessions. Nor am I exhorting anyone to cast away the didactic luxury that they bring to our lives. I am challenging how we think concerning them. We all have a tendency to elevate anything good over God. That is evident in Scripture and in our daily lives. If we find ourselves running to the confessions and creeds as our primary authoritative source for understanding and assurance of our faith in Christ, and we can quote and explain a confession easier than we can explain Scripture and the gospel, we must immediately eject ourselves from the seat of traditionalism and laziness, and we must diligently seek God through the Scriptures for our assurance and understanding. This doesn’t mean we cannot use the confessions to help us in this direction. But once again, where does your affection, affirmation, and assurance of your faith lie? In Scripture Alone, or in the Confession Alone? Is it because the confession says so that you believe X, Y, Z, or is it because you have studied and affirmed that the Scriptures teach it?

One last time, I am not bashing any confession, or the use of them in discussion. But I am standing against any form of authoritative proclamation or behavior that insists that the confession is the first and final say so in any biblical discussion and practice. If your “go-to” argument and assurance of your belief is “the confession says,” you’ve lost all credibility. And if the confession is your main source for approving yourself before God, your credibility may not be the only thing that is lost.

-Until we go home

Cross Encounters Radio: How Can a Person Know They are Saved?

20121217-090608.jpg I was blessed to be able to sit in as host to Cross Encounters Radio this week. In preparation for the show, we had asked listeners to let us know what topics they would like to hear discussed. One topic came up repeatedly, how can a person know they are truly saved, and conversely, what are the marks of a false convert. I pray that this discussion during the first hour of the show brings glory to God and is edifying to the saints. If you do find it is blessing, would you consider sharing this with others, for I believe this is a vitally important topic for Christians to understand. Thank you.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cross-encounters/2013/05/06/cross-encounters–how-can-a-person-know-they-are-saved

A Word of Encouragement

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV)

The words of the Apostle Paul written to Timothy should serve as great encouragement to those of us who have been saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I read those words, I was reminded that, despite my wretched sinfulness, despite having no good thing in me that would cause God to desire me, He demonstrated His love for me in that He sent Jesus Christ to redeem me.

Like Paul, we should see ourselves as the chief of sinners. Daily we should remind ourselves that our very sins put Jesus on the cross. That it took the shed blood of the Son of God Himself to pay the price we owe to God. Yet He did so willingly, of His own accord, so that He might bring glory to the Father. That in doing so, He might demonstrate His mercy by redeeming vile, wretched, rebellious sinners for His use.

In fact, it is Paul’s statement that “…Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example…” really caused me to stop and think. Jesus Christ saved us to be examples of His perfect patience to those He will save. In other words, when we are saved by God, we are cleaned up for His usefulness and put on display as His craftmanship. When God saved me, I was a rebellious sinner, even though some thought I was a “nice guy.” Yet, I lied, cheated, blasphemed and other sins I do not wish to mention. Those that knew me then would know I was not really all that “nice.” Yet, today, God’s sanctifying work in me is put on display by Him for one reason, to show the perfect patience in transforming a vile sinner into a tool useful for His work.

That is what God does when He saves us, He transforms us for His use! If you are anything like me, it is very easy to see all the faults, failings and sins that we still struggle with while we are in this flesh. We may even begin to wonder if we are truly saved because of that. Yet, here in Paul’s pastoral epistle, we see that the issue is not about us and what we can do, but in God’s finished work of salvation and his ongoing work of sanctification. It is not about us being able to say what we have conquered in our flesh, it is about God being able to boast in his sanctifying work alone! We weren’t saved so we could claim there was something just awesome about ourselves, which there never was, but so that we could be a light, a signpost pointing others to the very Savior they didn’t even know they needed, Jesus Christ.

I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you struggle with your walk, if you have trouble in finding assurance, look the this passage by Paul. You were saved and are being sanctified for one reason, to be evidence of the amazing work of your Savior. Find peace and comfort in knowing that “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)