Justice Served in the Wrong Way

Due to what we are seeing in America today, I am republishing (with some edits) a post I wrote over 11 years ago. Almost 70 million babies have been murdered since 1973. These are just the numbers reported. This is equivalent to the population of Thailand or France or the United Kingdom!

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A little over eleven years ago, George Tiller was murdered in cold blood. Here are a few thoughts from a biblical perspective and a reflection on the devastation that I have seen stemming from abortion on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

George Tiller was the abortionist who bragged about being willing and having practiced even late-term (3rd trimester) abortions more than 60,000 times in his blood-filled career. 

Who is wrong and who is right in the current battle?

Is it the pro-choice or the pro-life camp? Each claim to have God on their side (especially the liberal religious pro-choice groups) even as evidenced by Tiller’s hypocritical service on Sundays as an usher in a Lutheran Church. On the other hand, even evangelicals in the pro-life camp do not always see the big picture and get sucked into the philosophy of the world in attempt to justify certain actions.

However, what does God say in His Holy Word? The principle in no uncertain terms is this - two wrongs never make a right! 

What and who was wrong? Let’s look at a few points to consider.

1. The Old Testament law made it clear that those who shed blood by man would their blood be shed. Yes, we recognize that this was given under a theocracy and referred to the matter of capital punishment.

2. This law was not given to individuals to take justice into their own hands. Vengeance belongs to God alone.

3. God instituted human government so that the sword might not be carried in vain. However, human government is often corrupted and does not seek to gain their wisdom from the Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth.

4. True believers are commanded to give honor to the government but only as far as it does not supercede the law of God for we ought to obey God rather than man.

5. To kill another and take their life in premeditated murder is contrary to the moral law of God which proclaims, “Thou shalt not kill.” Thus taking the life of Tiller belonged to nobody but God.

6. The government must take part of the blame for the murder of this doctor for it was they who allowed him to practice the murder of innocent babies including those who would have been viable had he delivered them alive at the moment he was murdering them.

7. The government is to blame in that they have openly and willfully defied the commands of God in regards to God being the giver of life and that life begins at conception. They have stated that in the depths of their human wisdom they are nothing but fools when compared to the wisdom of the Most High. Our justices and judges are to blame as they flaunt their foolishness over and over despite the will of the people and more importantly despite the law of God.

8. The church and leadership of where Tiller was a member must take their part of the blame for they allowed a mass murderer in their midst each Sunday while proclaiming that what they were doing was worship to God. Yet, all they were doing was thumbing their noses at God and daring Him to bring judgment.

9. The church was to blame for allowing one to call himself a “Christian” when what he did was diametrically opposed to the Word of God and for not bringing church discipline into the equation many years ago. Instead, they catered to many other factors probably to include the financial benefits that a rich man like Tiller brought into their coffers thus showing their the god they worshipped was the mammon of the world.

10. The man who pulled the trigger was to blame because it was a premeditated murder calculated to take the life of the man who had killed so many thousands. He probably justified in his head that he was to be the instrument of death.

11. America at large must take their part of the blame as well for her citizens have forgotten the principles upon which this great country was founded. They have forgotten that government is to be by the people and for the people. They have failed to use their votes to remove those who thumb their noses at God and flaunt His holy commands.

12. America is to blame for allowing the murder of millions to take place for the sake of a small vocal group of feminists who have been allowed to push their agenda on a gullible public.

13. America is to blame for the gross immorality and lack of morals which allow for men and women to have intimate relationships being driven by nothing but lust and hatred for the thought of commitment.

14. Many evangelicals are to blame because they think they have had the right to introduce situational ethics into the clear express teaching of Scripture. Many have decided that it is ok to punish the infant because of the sins of the father; therefore, abortion is murder UNLESS it is for the sake of rape or incest!

15. Evangelicals are to blame because they have not had a united front because many of them years ago decided that catering to man instead of preaching the infallible Word of God through faithful exposition of the Word is more favorable to large offerings. They took the passages they liked and left the ones they didn’t thus producing large congregations who have theology miles wide but 1/2 inch deep!!

16. Evangelicals are to blame because we have been a much larger moral voice than any other fringe group in America and yet we have not used our voices to take a stand for what is right. We have not expressed our disgust and rage at the senseless murder of millions! We have not followed in the footsteps of Nehemiah and fallen to our knees crying to God for forgiveness for our own sin, the sins of our families and the sins of our nation!

17. Many pastors are to blame because many fear man instead of God. They have become babysitters not shepherds. They fail to study the Scriptures and proclaim loudly, “THUS SAYS THE LORD.” Instead they choose to proclaim, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. This is your best life now. You can live anyway you wish to do so with no discipline from the church. You can do what you want to with your body and disregard the Scripture that says if you are a believer then your body belongs to God NOT TO YOU!”

Many are to blame for the events that led up to the killing of Tiller. Even though only one pulled the trigger, many more were just as wrong before God for their complacency or complicity in the occupation which Tiller chose to engage. God is and always will be the Sovereign of the universe. He will not be mocked and whatsoever a man sows that will he reap. While God is not the author of sin, He does control what He allows to happen and He obviously has allowed the life of this murderer to be taken. Judgment for Tiller will now commence for all of eternity at the hands of the Giver of Life.

To conclude, I did not mourn for the killing of a murderer. However, I did and still rejoice that the lives of thousands of infants were spared his weapons of mass destruction. 
However, I must have a sense of compassion though for his family who must grieve although they enjoyed the fruits of not allowing others to grieve and enjoyed the fruits of blatant murder on a weekly basis. 

As a true believer, I must grieve that America has come to the dismal state she has and that millions like Tiller are dying every day with no hope of eternal life, and no hope of anything but eternal judgment and condemnation from the righteous Lord of glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Mark Escalera

Careless Ease

Steve Gallagher, founder of Pure Life Ministries, speaks candidly and Biblically about the dangers found in the church today. Western Christianity has enjoyed prosperity and no real tribulation for decades.

This prosperity has produced many ailments. Instead of being a place of refuge for the believer, many places that claim the name of Christ have become nothing more than a den of iniquity and a house of entertainment. Steve comments that the church has given itself every pleasure and we no longer take a stand for what is right.

No Longer Normal

In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.

Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.

For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.

However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.

For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.

However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?

The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.

The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.

There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.

2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.

Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.

Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.

NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –

Life is no longer normal!

Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!

Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!

It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!

Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!

Sanctification by the law – where is that found?

I’ve looked and looked and don’t find any New Covenant context teaching telling us to go back to Moses. Everything I have found shows me otherwise.
Take Romans 12, for example. First chapter after a bunch of theology, including a bunch of “law” talk. Much encouragement for the saints to walk a certain way and not a hint of law-keeping, other than the exhortation to not take vengeance but leave that to God.
What we see is a continual teaching to live by the grace of God, be transformed by renewing your mind, be humble. In the section on body-life Paul tells us how to love one another with specific teachings – but no law-keeping.
Here’s the bottom line: The Mosaic Law and other laws like it (found in many Fundamental fellowships) are intended for those who are unregenerate. What we are taught in Romans 12 is fit only for those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who wills and equips us to do what pleases the Father.
While all Scripture is for our edification and benefit, the law of the Old Covenant was for those in that covenant. The Law of Moses does not and never has bound people outside that covenant community.
If you are in Christ, there is a better law, fit for a spiritual people. We have a covenant built on better promises, mediated by a better priest, with a new law meant only for the saints.
Rejoice! God’s grace was sufficient to save you and by it He is sufficient to renew your mind and sanctify your soul until Christ returns or He takes you home.

The Fragrance of Suffering

Behind a Frowning Providence, He Hides a Smiling Face

“Ministers never write or preach so well, as when under the cross.”

– George Whitfield

I don’t know why, but I’ve always gravitated toward those who’ve endured suffering—far and above those whose lives are generally considered perfect.

Whenever I’m in the presence of anyone who’s been forever altered by a life of suffering, I am inexplicably drawn to them. They are beautiful and they possess a depth to their souls that causes them to stand out in the midst of everyone around them—a depth that only profound suffering can produce. Even more precious to me among those who’ve suffered, are those who understand that their suffering wasn’t for nothing, but was for a greater purpose.

In William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, he penned this verse:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”

A fragrance of suffering permeates those who’ve experienced great pain, loss, and trials, and is far more attractive than that of those whose lives have been defined by happy, clappy superficiality (and this is especially true when it comes to those who occupy pulpits).

Continue reading here.

Does Acts 2:39 teach inclusion of children?

When Peter was preaching during Pentecost, he told the Jewish audience that Jesus was the promised son of David, yet David’s Lord. He summed up with this “altar call”:

Acts 2:36-37 (HCSB) “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”

His answer to their anguish was not “ask Jesus into your heart.” Acts 2:38 (HCSB) “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Natural man cannot do this. MUST have the Holy Spirit indwelling a regenerated soul.

And note: repent and be baptized. Not, be sprinkled as a babe and later, if it be you are a true covenant child, repent. Repent then be baptized; this is the biblical practice.

Acts 2:39 (HCSB) “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

No matter how you interpret “the promise,” there are several views, there is no way to think the promise is to the children of Christian parents. Peter was speaking to unconverted Jews, not redeemed saints. The promise was to them – they were the ones who asked “what must we do?”

The term “brothers” in verse 37 clearly is not used in the New Covenant context, as they were at that time unconverted. Brothers in the same sense as Paul expressed agony over his “kinsmen of the flesh” – his fellow Jews. In this culture, the Jews saw themselves as the brotherhood of God against the world.

The promise to all – Jews, their children, and ALL WHO ARE FAR OFF (the Gentiles – those who, “at that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” – Eph 2:12). The promise is to the whole world, not somebody’s children – AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD WILL CALL.

The promise is people in every group of people – as many as the Lord calls.

This passage no more gives support to family status in the New Covenant than it gives support to an Arminian view of salvation.

For God’s Glory and the Church’s Consolation

For God’s Glory and the Church’s Consolation

A book review by Stuart Brogden

The subtitle of this book, 400 years of the Synod of Dordt, reveals the content thereof – the book is a collection of messages given in 2019 at a conference celebrating the Canons of Dordt, sponsored by the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. The seminary and the conference and the book reflect the Dutch Reformed view, which is in clear view throughout. While the truth of what is called Calvinism (God’s sovereignty in the salvation of sinners) is defined and defended, the traditional tenants of Reformed theology are presented as givens, without the pretense of providing biblical support. In the Editor’s Preface we read that “the Synod of Dordt was much more than the Canons of Dordt and the Arminian heresy. It dealt with the matter of a proper view and observance of the New Testament Sabbath, establishing principles that serve the church today.” (page viii) In the first chapter, Douglas J. Kuiper tells us “the delegates (to the synod) declared that they had reviewed the Belgic Confession and found nothing in it that conflicted with Scripture. They declared the same of the Heidelberg Catechism” shortly thereafter (page 7). These two documents have much within them to be commended, but they teach something not found in the words of Scripture: infant baptism, so-called, and they prop up the misguided notion that the Mosaic Law determines order in the New Covenant.

Kuiper goes on to say, “Reformed churches today must recognize the boundaries that the Reformed churches have previously set, and that Dordt declared to be fixed and unbending. They must love these doctrines and the confessions that contain them and be faithful to them.” (page 8) This view enshrines imperfect documents written by sinful men more than 400 years ago the magisterium for Kuiper and his fellows.

This is not to deny that the Canons of Dordt and the other referenced documents contain much rich truth that all who name Christ can embrace, such as “To go wrong in regard to these five doctrines (the substance of Dordt) will inevitably lead to error regarding many other doctrines as well.” (page 9) The current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, many of whom have long waged war against the Doctrines of Grace, serve as a current and graphic example of what Kuiper warned about.

In chapter 2, Angus Stewart reminds us that “main achievement of the synod … is the Canons of Dordt, which set forth the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation over against the heresies of Arminianism.” (page 23) And then we read, “Thus the five points of Calvinism, based on the Canons of Dordt, summarize the truth of God’s word, which is in accordance with the genius of John Calvin’s biblical theology.” (pages 26-27) At best this is a poorly phrased sentence; at worse it posits the Bible as subordinate to John Calvin’s theology (look up “in accordance with”). I would not have brought this up if this book were not full of deference to the Canons and other documents. No document written by man is ever worthy of such submission, but must be tested in light of Scripture at all points.

As a study on the Canons of Dordt, one would expect some examination of the theology of those who protested against the doctrines of grace. Brian Huizinga tells us, “The Arminians hated nothing more than sovereign predestination. … However, they said they believed in election, they used the term election, and they preached sermons on the doctrine of election, even as they used the terms grace and faith but gave to them different meanings.” (chapter 3, page 58) “The Arminians were so careful to sound Reformed and insisted that they believed the truth but only had different ways of expressing the truth.” (page 59) Note this last statement, see how it (claim to believe the truth but have different ways of expressing it) applies to so many who depart from the biblical truth in so many ways – including papists and Mormons.

Chapter 4 may be my favorite; Mark Shand presents a well-ordered presentation what the gospel is, combined with an equally well-ordered refutation of another error of the Arminians, one that has and still does afflict many within the wider circle of reformed/Calvinistic saints; that of the well-meant offer, so called. Shand points out the Arminians protested that, “if the atonement was not universal, there could be no general proclamation of the gospel. To call all men to repentance and faith when not all were encompassed by the atoning work of Jesus Christ was, said the Remonstrants, to render the call of the gospel insincere and hypocritical.” He answers this by rightly declaring, “The gospel at its heart is not an offer in the sense of an invitation or entreaty. It is the proclamation of a command, coupled with a promise.” (page 86) “The promise is not for all; it is only for those who believe on Jesus Christ.” (page 87) Many paedobaptists contend that the “promise” is for believers and their children, based on a faulty reading of Acts 2:39. In this passage, Peter spoke to unbelieving Jews – “men of Judah, men of Israel, all who dwell in Jerusalem.” These Jews asked Peter and the others, “Brothers (fellow Jews) what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:38-41) The command – repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins; and the promise is for you unbelieving Jews and your children and those Gentiles who are far off – everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself. This passage has nothing to support “covenant children;” as Shand rightly observed – the promise is only for those believe on Jesus!

Douglas J. Kuiper returns in chapter 5 to discuss the view of covenant theology found in the Canons of Dordt. He asserts that these topics which are other than the answer to the 5 points of the Arminians are not secondary, but serve to support the doctrines of grace (page 99). Kuiper presents the mono-covenant so common in Reformed theology (“Inherent in the Canons’ use of the familiar Old Testament and New Testament is the unity of the covenant: it is one covenant” page 105). He asserts that the death of Jesus fulfilled “the Old Testament ceremonial laws” (page 102); while Scripture never says this (He fulfilled “the law”) nor splits up the Mosaic Law into Aquinas’ tripartite view. He wrote, “the covenant to which the Canons refer is the covenant of grace that God has established with elect sinners, with Adam after the fall, and with everyone who is included in the see of the woman (Gen 3:15)” This makes it appear that Kuiper thinks everyone in history is in the “covenant of grace” – making one wonder why such a covenant is needed, if everyone gets in. Later, Kuiper rightly sees the promise of salvation not given to “all the children that are born under the historical dispensation of the covenant, that is, not upon all that are baptized, but only upon the spiritual seed” (page 125). It appears our speaker was a bit sloppy in describing this extra-biblical covenant; one would think sticking with those covenants mentioned in Scripture would reduce this ambiguity.

Here is the danger of ignoring the biblical data on the Old and New Covenants, resting in and trusting in this ephemeral “covenant of grace” – “Because God continues his covenant with godly believers in the line of generations, “godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy.”” (ending with a quote from Confessions and Church Order, page 106) The Old Covenant was established along line of human generations but those people were not required to believe on the promised seed. The New Covenant is, as Kuiper admits on page 125, made only with spiritual children, those who believe. The Bible explicitly teaches not to trust in human generations: And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:9) Jesus came to bring division to earthly families as those who not His sheep would rise up against those who are (Matthew 10:34-37). This mythical mono-covenant conflates the old and new covenants and gives false cover to this specious notion of “covenant children.”

Note the confusion about the New Covenant in this system. Dordt declares, “being in the covenant, we do not doubt the election of infants of believing parents. This is not because the covenant determines who are elect, but because election determines who are in the covenant.” (page 109) He is emphatic that only elect (I would say only the redeemed) are in the New Covenant, yet he is just as emphatic that offspring of believers are in the covenant – while admitting not all of them are elect! Rather than be presumptuous that our children are elect, we ought to be diligent to teach our children the ways of God, preach the gospel to them, and pray for and with them in hopes that God would save them. In this chapter, Kuiper brings out some of the errors the Arminians presented regarding the New Covenant; our Dutch Reformed brothers have some things to work out themselves.

In chapter 6, William A. Langerak spoke on the polity contained in the Canons of Dordt, further revealing that the Dutch Reformed rest on their traditions and documents as much or more than they rest on Scripture for some doctrines. He declares, “the polity of Dordt is not just good; it is magnificent.” (page 128) He spends several pages summarizing the historical development of Dordt’s polity, saying “the Church Order of Dordt (1619) is basically that of The Hague (1586), which in turn is derived from church orders revised and adopted by two national synods …” (page 134-135) This run-on sentence fills up a paragraph of citations of the foundation of their polity but contains no references to Scripture, only to men and conventions of men. Langerak established their view of tight control over the local assembly of saints by ecclesiastical levels the Bible knows nothing about (pages 138-156), including dictating what songs may be sung, what holy-days are to be observed, what offices (they see three: ministers, elders, deacons; the Bible reveals two: elders and deacons) are to be the council of the church, how frequently the Lord’s Supper should be observed; all the while claiming “Article 30 of the Belgic Confession also establishes the principle of the autonomy of the local congregation as a self-governing church in its own right, apart from any federation with other Reformed churches in a denomination.” (page 146) These controls over the local congregation by the ecclesiastical hierarchy is needed, Langerak says, because they want to avoid “the lawlessness of the Anabaptists” (page 150). Those radicals had the notion that no mortal had authority aver the local assembly of saints; that each congregation answered to Christ. These men were obviously “lawless” – they did not submit to the law of man. One excellent practice embraced by our Dutch Reformed brothers is equality among the men holding each office (page 148); far too many of my fellow Baptists have drifted into serious error by having only one elder or singling out one elder as higher ranking than the others. This should not be! In all the discussion about church polity, not one word about the condition of membership – regeneration. Herein is a danger far beyond any “lawlessness” of refusing ecclesiastical hierarchy.

The last two chapters are very good, the 7th full of Scripture defending election and the flip-side thereof, reprobation, written by Ronald L. Cammenga. Many Calvinists deny this doctrine, but if you hold to God’s sovereign election of a limited number of people He chose, then He has also chosen those who will not be saved. Those He has rejected are the subjects of reprobation. This doctrine is seen in YHWH’s choosing of Israel (a nation He built up) and rejecting all other nations. Proverbs 16:4 and Romans 9:11-13; 21-22 all speak to His power and authority to do with His creatures as He wills. He accepted Jacob and rejected Esau; election and reprobation. God sends a strong delusion to some of those He has not chosen unto salvation to insure they will not come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Thess 2:11-12). The Bible is full of the good news that countless numbers from every nation, tongue, and tribe are His sheep. The only way to accept His choosing some is to recognize His rejection of others. The Bible tells us none seek God, so it’s not as though He rejects those who search for Him; He choose who He would save and the rest of mankind was “chosen” by being rejected. The gospel message is the good news of salvation by grace; there is no need to tell people they might be reprobates (a biblical word describing the subjects of reprobation!) and there is no biblical warrant to do so. But we also have no reason to claim God does not reject anyone, but merely allows them to go their own way. Man is, by nature, an enemy of God and will go to hell unless He intervenes; but the Bible also tells us God gives the reprobates a shove along their way – He gives them over to their sin (Romans 1:24). Reprobation is the bad news from Romans 8:1 implicit for all who are not in Christ Jesus – they are condemned.

In chapter 8, Barret Gritters shows us from Scripture how and why saints can enjoy assurance of the salvation. “Election is not merely God’s choice of certain persons to be saved but his choice to place them in the security of, and into organic connection with, the body of his Son Jesus Christ.” (page 206) Barret also rightly sees our nature – “I am “by nature neither better not more deserving than others.”” (page 207, quoting from Dordt) “The same God who elects, redeems, justifies, and preserves also assures his people of this. By his Spirit and word, God convinces me that of his love for me.” (page 212) Anyone struggling with assurance of salvation would be encouraged to read this chapter – it rests on bedrock: the nature and character of our Redeemer.

If you are like me, you’ve been familiar with the 5 points (commonly called Calvinism) which were drawn up to answer the 5 points put forth by the Arminians but maybe not as familiar with the other doctrines established or restated in the Canons. As a Baptist, I am informed by historic documents of the faith but I am not bound by them if I cannot find their doctrines in Scripture. So it is with much of the other things taught by Dordt. This is an interesting book, providing an in-depth look at what our Dutch Reformed brothers and sisters hold to.

 

Note: I was asked by the publisher, Reformed Free Publishing, if I would be interested in reviewing this book, which was generously provided by them to me.

New Contributor – Introduction

Dear Readers,

My name is Saige Potter. I am a recent addition to the Truth in Grace team and have been asked to share some things about myself.

I am a homeschooling mom of four boys (ages 6 to 1) with one on the way. I have been creatively writing for most of my life, and began working as a professional ghostwriter and editor at the age of fifteen.

With a tumultuous history of involvement with Wiccanism, Buddhism, and the Lutheran church, I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior after being introduced to Him by my husband, shortly after we were married in 2013. We are passionate about Scripture and pursuing objective truth. We live in the wonderful, windy state of Wyoming.

I look forward to sharing and discussing God’s Word with you all!

Potter Family 2019

The Truth About Self-Care

For the past few years, the self-care movement has swept through social media, proclaiming that things such as light exercise, mindfulness, and regular alone time can bring peace, healing, and order to our lives. While there is nothing wrong with caring for one’s health, the idea of “self-care” and the momentum behind the crusade of articles, pictures, and posts that promote it should be carefully considered by Christians who handle the Word of truth.

What is the self-care movement?

The internet’s modern self-care movement has stemmed from the mental health movement – a horde of people looking to destigmatize and increase available care options for those with mental illness. Self-care is a practical and holistic method of treatment that focuses on taking care of one’s physical and mental health through daily routine. This approach often includes things like meditating, writing down one’s feelings in a journal, spending time on one’s hobbies, or making healthy changes to one’s diet.

How should Christians approach self-care?

Resting and properly caring for our bodies is certainly included in God’s desires for us, but what kind of focus should a Christian have on “self-care”? To understand how we should live as Christians, we need to look at the One whom we are following, the perfect example of goodness and Godly living: Jesus Christ.

We know from Scripture such as Matthew 14 that when the Son of God went away from people, He went to pray and seek God the Father. Jesus did not have “me time” but GOD time. He slept and ate when it was necessary (Mark 6:30-32), but He was not refreshed from simply being alone. He recharged from spending one-on-one time with God!

If we are focusing on our needs, we are not focusing on God.

Like Jesus, we are called to lives of ministry, persecution, and hardship. It may be tempting to put on our metaphorical oxygen masks before diving into the depths of His calling. Don’t be deceived. Our needs will be taken care of as we trust and follow Him; after all, He made our bodies and brains! He undoubtedly can care for them in ways we cannot conceive, and we can trust that He will always do what is right (Romans 8:28.)

The self-care movement contradicts the Gospel.

The entire point of the Gospel is that healing and fulfillment does NOT come from within ourselves, but from Jesus! If our “self-care” is not centered around Christ, we are only deluding ourselves with temporary, spiritual Band-Aids in the form of yoga, bubble baths, tea, and self-gratifying journaling. We must trust that Jesus CAN heal even our darkest, most desperate pain. We must truly believe that He IS enough for us. 

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Christianity is not simply a label. It is not our religious identity, nor is it construed of the time we spend in a church. When we turn from our sin to follow Jesus, our whole lives should change. Everything is done for His glory, because He is worthy! Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

If we care for our bodies and selves, we should do so in obedience to Him and for His glory. Too often the self-care and mental health movements are used to distract people from seeking God’s saving grace. We MUST focus on seeking and loving God. Our needs will be truly fulfilled when we are with Him.

Reviving the Complacent Church

Among the suffocating tsunami of lukewarm, sugar-coated, self-help lectures, talks, and messages that ooze like festering leperous sores from countless vapid pulpits (which exist solely to entertain the goats and tickle their itching ears), every now and then a voice pierces that arrogant, self-aggrandizing world of Churchianity to deliver a hard, sobering sermon that the starving sheep are desperate to hear and be nourished on.

This is one of those sermons.

No Compromise!

As Jesus went through the countryside, preaching and healing people, His fame spread and crowds often followed Him – including religious leaders who saw Him as a threat, rather than the possible Messiah.

When the men lowered their crippled friend on a matt through the roof, so he might get close to Jesus and perhaps healed, the Scribes and Pharisees were watching very closely, to see if they could catch Jesus violating their law.

When Jesus healed the cripple, these religious leaders began to formulate a plan.

But they didn’t see Jesus rightly; He knew their thoughts and, rather than seek to sooth their suspicions, He looked them in the eyes and said, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.

So it is with us. When people of the world suspect you are in Christ, they will want to influence you to “not make waves.” This is why we are told not to talk about politics or religion in family gatherings or at work.

Know this: No one will be saved by Christians “playing nice” and avoiding the plain speech of the gospel. Men are by nature children of wrath and wrath they will face unless Christ save them. He – alone – is the Savior of sinners. Preach and declare Him, don’t get intimidated to play nice.

You can’t always trust “Christian Authors.”

Below is an excerpt from the opening of the article “10 Signs The Christian Authors You’re Following Are (Subtly) Teaching Unbiblical Ideas” by Natasha Crain.

I highly recommend you visit her blog and read the whole article.

My friend, Alisa Childers, recently wrote a review of the bestselling book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. It started a firestorm of online discussion about what makes someone a “Christian” author, what responsibility a self-identified Christian author has in promoting ideas consistent with biblical faith, and what harm there can be for Christians reading books that contain nonbiblical ideas.

I personally haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to comment on it specifically. But I will say I was extremely disappointed and saddened to see the kinds of comments supporters of the book wrote:

“It wasn’t meant to be a devotional.”

“She’s not teaching theology.”

“Our job is not to seek people out and hate them.”

“Stop competing! Just imagine what the non-Christians think about the McJudgies! We need to focus inward because the project within ourself is the most important work we will accomplish. Don’t use your blog to bring someone down.”

Unfortunately, such comments are representative of the lack of discernment common in the church today. If Alisa fairly characterized the claims of Hollis’s book, Hollis is promoting ideas that conflict with a biblical worldview. And when there is a concern that millions of women are consuming content from a Christian author that can lead them to embrace unbiblical ideas, we should be raising a warning flag and calling out for discernment in the body of Christ.

It’s not about being a “McJudgey.”

It’s about discerning biblical truth from non-truth…something the Bible consistently tells us to do.

Continue reading here.

Sermon: Beyond Comparison.

I am pleased to present a sermon by Matt McCullough entitled Beyond Comparison on a Christian’s temporary light affliction in comparison to the coming glory.

This was a truly timely message for me (from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and, I trust, for many of you as well.

The sermon is from Trinity Church in Nashville and is described as:

Paul says the problems we face now can’t compare to the eternal glory we’re promised in Christ. He says we get this truth when we focus not on what we can see but on what we can’t see. But how do we compare what we can see to what we can’t see?

Listen to the sermon, Beyond Comparison here.

The Life and Theology of Paul

The Life and Theology of Paul

A review by Stuart Brogden

I was intrigued when I saw this book come available for review. I’ve reviewed this author’s commentary on Acts and was eager to see how he addressed Paul. This book will not disappoint the reader who truly wants to know the theology of Paul, which is to say, the theology of the Bible.  

Guy Water’s has organized this book into 12 chapters, covering Paul’s conversion and calling by God, his view of sin, justification, sanctification, the church, and the end of the age. In the introduction, Waters points out that Paul’s life stands as “a testimony to the gospel that he preached” – even while acknowledging what we can know about Paul’s life is found only in the Bible. But considering how much of the Bible Paul wrote, and what Luke wrote about him, we have more than enough material (inspired by God!) to know Paul very well. In summing up a nice, concise review of Paul’s life, our author tells us of two ways his life is still fundamental in the life of the church today. First, God prepared Paul “from the womb to be the “Apostle to the Gentiles.”” (page 10). We should consider our own lives as having been worked out by God for use to His people, trusting Him when we are not sure of our path. Secondly, although he was dramatically converted, the man was not transformed into someone else. Since God had prepared Saul for his role, it would overthrow all that preparation if the result was a different man. God’s preparation leads to His plans being fulfilled. When we look at ourselves, we should look unto the Lord, knowing He is faithful and trustworthy to equip us and keep us.

In his review of Saul’s conversion, Waters observes (page 15), “Saul, then, would serve as a pattern or model of what Jesus Christ would do in the lives of men and women who hear Saul’s witness to Christ.” He notes that not all who hear the gospel are saved, but that those who are saved are saved in the way Saul was. I’ve made note of this myself in much the same way and think people who claim man plays a role in his own conversion would benefit from chapter 2 and the biblical evidence our author marshals.

It has been said that the basis of the Reformation was the doctrine of justification. Waters quotes Martin Luther: “If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.” (page 49) Without a clear understanding of Who saves whom – and from Whom – the Christian will tend to drift into thinking too highly of self too lowly of Christ. Waters’ two chapters on justification follow his two chapters on sin. And following justification, we have three chapters on sanctification. I have been severely grieved of late by the number of Christians I’ve encountered who consider sanctification a one-time thing that is finished upon redemption. While I disagree with Waters on his interpretation of the man in Romans 7, his teaching in these chapters is very good and concludes on the high note that the “Christian life is one of unceasing dependence upon Christ” (page 89) and “Our ultimate good is our glorification in and with Christ.” (page 99). If we keep these biblical truths in front of us, we will do well.

Since justification is the hinge point of our faith, I think it best if we make sure we understand it. Waters quotes Romans 3:21, reminding us that “Paul has labored to argue that sinners lack the righteousness that God requires of human beings. Now, for the first time in this letter, Paul begins to describe the righteousness that God has accomplished in Christ and that He freely gives in the gospel to sinners (see Rom. 1:16-17)” (page 50). He then tell us of three important words used by Paul to define and describe this gift of righteousness: redemption, propitiation, and justification.

Redemption, we are told, has a rich history in the biblical story. In Exodus 6:6 and 2 Sam 7:23 God describes “His deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt” with this word. “In Isaiah’s prophecy, God often speaks of Himself as the Redeemer of His people,” (page 50) laying the foundation that God is the initiator and author of man’s redemption. To redeem mean to buy back something, such as a slave, by paying a ransom. In redeeming sinners, Christ Jesus has purchased us from the slave market of sin; the purchase price was His life. Waters points out that Paul connects our redemption to the shedding of Jesus’ blood in Eph 1:7.

Secondly, propitiation “is the turning aside or averting of wrath.” (page 51) Our author declares, “those for whom Jesus died have not only had their sins atoned for, but they have also had the Father’s wrath averted from them. Jesus has turned aside the wrath of God from His people because He exhaustively bore the wrath of God on their behalf at the cross.” (page 51) It has been well said that we are saved from God by God. Those who are perishing will not be separated from God in the complete sense – only as regards His benevolence. They will be personally experiencing His unending wrath for eternity as their sinful human frame is unable to atone for their sin against an infinitely holy God. This is why Paul wrote that “there is, therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) – God’s wrath was satisfied in the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no wrath left, no sin debt unpaid, for those who are in Christ!

Regarding justification, Waters warns us about some who claim “justification carries the idea of inward transformation” (page 52), as the Roman Catholic Church does. To Paul we go to find out his view, as we see it as something brought to us once as a gift, and the alternative to condemnation (Rom 5:16; 8:33-34). “The opposite of justification is condemnation. This … confirms justification as a strictly forensic (that is, courtroom) reality.” (page 52) Justification, he says, “has in view two inseparable realities.” (page 52) Firstly, Rom 4:7-8 teaches that forgiveness is complete, none of the sins of the saints are unforgiven, as if the blood of Christ was not sufficient. Secondly, we are declared righteous. “In Justification, God does not clear our account of debt to Him and tell us to start over and do better this time. We are, rather, counted as righteous for Christ’s sake.” (page 53) This is a status that cannot be over turned – not by man, devil or God.

One point of strong disagreement I have with Waters comes to us on page 55 where read that the righteousness of Christ is “offered in the gospel and may be refused (see Rom. 9:30-10:4)” Nowhere in the Bible is the gospel an offer, something that can be refused. When a sovereign says, Come!, that is a command of a superior to an inferior, not a request. The grace that saves is a gift from God, but not a gift that CAN be refused. A proper understanding of redemption reveals that man is regenerated by the Holy Spirit and THEN given the faith needed to receive the grace to believe. John 6:44 sums up the actions and sequence: John 6:44 (HCSB) No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. Note the first act – God draws, or drags, the person who is dead in sins (Eph 2:1-2) to Himself. Everything else, though it cannot be disconnected from this, follows it. Being regenerated, the sinner now wants God where he was unable to before. No one being so changed would be able to refuse God, just as one not changed is not able to want God nor discern spiritual things (John 8:43; 1 Cor 2:15). Further, nothing in the Scripture noted by Waters (Rom 9:30 – 10:4) supports his assertion that sinners are offered salvation and can refuse that offer.

Wanting to finish this review on a positive note, overall Waters does very good, indeed. His third chapter on justification rests on our “union with Christ.” The bond we saints have with Christ Jesus is essential to our salvation and our standing with God. He rightly asserts, “if we are in Christ, this relationship and all that it carries are due entirely to the gracious initiative of God. … Our unity rests on nothing in ourselves, but entirely on our Savior and what He has done to rescue us from sin and death and bring us to eternal life.” (page 68) Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us just as our sin has been imputed to Christ. We have no righteousness or merit of our own; if not joined to Christ we have no hope. But we who are in Christ have security, we “have a certain glorious future and, therefore, hope for the present.” (page 68)

Reader – pick up this book and read. Your soul be edified.

Consistent Inconsistency – Part 2

There are issues or practices that exist in many evangelical churches. Many are valid, while others are merely the status quo. This means the existing state of affairs. When I pastored in England, there was a saying that summed this up quite nicely. “We have been doing this since the year dot.” Making this statement referenced the reality that nobody knew how or when an issue or practice started, but it has always been that way. Therefore, we have no plans on changing what we are doing.

In the last article, we addressed three items in particular 1) the KJV-only position, 2) the rapture, and 3) The role of supporting missions.

My post is not written with a desire is to belittle a specific person who holds to a KJV-only or rapture position, nor even undermine the role of missions in a local church. My concern is to point out the inconsistencies of holding to a particular position or belief if it is not based solely on Scripture. In fact, I have friends and family who hold to both of these positions and seem to have no issue with the way that churches support missions.

My concern is the lack of fellowship and the vitriol that exists between those who claim the name of Christ. Again, before anybody questions my doctrinal position, I want to add that I have NEVER wavered on the foundational truths of Scripture. What I have changed is where I stand on positions that are not 100% clear. Some of my beliefs have been subjective at best, while others have been refined and clarified through the years.

Through the years, I have learned that some of my convictions are actually nothing more than preferences. I often heard a conviction is something a person would be willing to die for, but a preference does not hold the same value. Sadly though, I have seen many preferences become a “hill to die on” instead of remaining a preference.

But are preferences really as important as some make them out to be? Let me give a follow up example. The use of the KJV is a preference, and not a conviction. If a person were to threaten a person who holds to a KJV-only with harm if they did not read or teach one service from another version, there would be no hesitation at all. They would use the other version. That is another level of inconsistency.

Anytime the status quo changes, one of two things tends to happen. 1) People tend to ask questions and search for the truth, or 2) people get angry and upset. When they get upset, they then tend to abandon all reason. As humans, we do not like to be wrong. To find out we have been wrong in an area requires having humility before God. Yet, some are not willing to be taught.

However, there is another level to the inconsistencies found in many churches. As a pastor, the role of the shepherd is to help guide the sheep. He is tasked with the solemn responsibility of using the time afforded him to minister the Word of God. This teaching is to be such that it helps the hearers strive to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ today than they were last week.

In addition, pastors are to encourage the listener to be followers of Christ, NOT followers of the latest fads or trends in Christian circles. Pastors are NOT called to be little dictators, but to point only to Christ. As the apostle Paul stated so well in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

During my 50 years of life, I have heard “sermons” preached about long hair on men, women wearing trousers, the dangers of Christian Contemporary Music, and a myriad of other preferences. These were a waste of time and only serve to show the lack of preparation time that was spent before the Lord in order to preach the truth. Pastors who do this are failing in their calling.

Pastors and elders, if our goal every week is to stand in the pulpit and harp on preferences, we are demeaning our calling. Time is short and we must be good stewards of our time.

Consider this – Every week consists of 168 hours, and if the average listener comes to a service but once a week, that means that as ministers or teachers of God’s Holy Word that we only have but 30-60 minutes to point them to Christ. To do otherwise is to be inconsistent with the duties of a shepherd.

Do we fully understand this? If people ask those in fellowship what your church believes, the answer they are prepared to give is telling on the sad demise of Biblical truth being preached and taught throughout much of western Christianity.

Many times, the situation would sound like this.

Speaker 1 – “What do you believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Well, I believe what my church believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Tell me what your church believes then.”

Speaker 2 – “My church believes what my pastor believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Please tell me, what does your pastor believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Oh that’s easy, my pastor believes what I believe!”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This is the Biblical standard. 

Is there any wonder why people are so willing to hop from one church to another? Maybe it is because too many pastors are interested in building personal kingdoms and keeping them staffed then they are in preparing hearts for eternity!

Pastors, elders, teachers, and churches, please consider these things –

  1. This world is NOT our home. We are only strangers passing through from that which is temporal and will fade away to that land where eternity reigns.
  2. EVERY believer is to be accountable to one another. This means that pastors and teachers are to be held to God’s standard, not self-made standards. If a pastor or teacher is teaching from the book of Second Preferences or the book of Third Do-it-my-way-or-the-highway, then they have failed.
  3. Pastors and teachers – You are NOT called to build your own kingdom. It is the kingdom of Christ. He is the One Who died for sins. He is the One Who keeps His people secure. He is the One Who justifies the sinner, redeems them, and sets their feet on the Solid Rock. He is the Bridegroom Who is coming again for those who are true believers. “Well done!” is not something we will ever hear if Christ is NOT only prominent but preeminent in every aspect of our ministry.
  4. As a family, if you are choosing to listen to teaching that does not rest solely on the pages of Scripture, then you are NOT leading your family in the way of truth. You are doing nothing more than taking them to a buffet full of nothing but junk food and expecting your family to grow healthy in the ways of Christ. It will not happen. One day you will wake up and may find that your children do not care for church or the things of God. Why should they think any differently when all they may have seen was hypocrisy and inconsistencies that do not line up with the same Scripture that we, as parents, claimed to be the ONLY rule of faith and practice?

More thoughts to come –

Sermon: False teachers.

In this sermon, Pastor Mike Butler teaches from 2 Peter 2:1-3 covering the characteristics and conduct of false teachers, and ultimately, their condemnation.

Pastor Butler also pulls no punches when he calls out Redding, California’s Bethel Church and longtime celebrity leader/teacher/pastor John Piper. This kind of boldness in warning the sheep about specific hirelings is desperately needed in the church today.

You can download Pastor Butler’s sermon, entitled False Teachers, here.

(Part two of this message can be downloaded here.)