Thursday, December 11, 2014

Saved? From What?

John MacArthur


Whenever I have preached through the story of Jesus' birth, I am struck with the simplicity and profundity of the Christian gospel. You can see it from the very beginning. It's right there in what the angel said to Joseph, "You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
When the Father gave the incarnate Son a name, He proclaimed His rescue mission in no uncertain terms. Jesus, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, means "Savior." Now, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Savior-that's been the joyful news from the start.
But you might ask the question: "A Savior to save us from what?" That's certainly a fair question. The word savior implies that we need to be saved from something. Saved is a synonym for rescued or delivered. It implies there's some kind of threatening condition, a dangerous, desperate, or deadly condition from which we need to be rescued. The question is, from what?
If you listen to the way some preachers speak about the gospel, quite frankly, the condition of unbelief doesn't sound so grave. You get the idea that humanity mainly needs to be rescued from its lack of fulfillment. Maybe your marriage hasn't worked out according to plan; or your child isn't turning out to be tomorrow's Copernicus or Einstein; or your dream career has turned out to be a dead end. You understand. You look at the travel brochures; you really want a month in Europe, but you end up with a three-day trip to see the in-laws. Life just doesn't deliver.
According to the gospel some are preaching, Jesus will take care of all that. Jesus will fix your marriage; He'll help you raise confident kids, brimming with self-esteem; He'll help you climb that corporate ladder or breathe new life into your business. The only danger from which you need salvation is the shattering of all your dreams. Everything you've longed for has turned out to be a nightmare, and that's the way it's going to end. But Jesus will take care of it-He'll rescue you from your unfulfilled life.
I've also heard people presenting the gospel as if the great hope of salvation is relief from debilitating habits. Jesus has come to enable you to get control of your life. He's the step stool, the boost you need to get out of the hole you've fallen into. That salvation is especially attractive to a society like ours that is overcome by lust and passion. Many are enslaved by sinful habits: drinking, smoking, pornography, even overeating. Obesity is on the rise in many countries-in America it's almost epidemic. Angry outbursts and uncontrolled tempers destroy homes and relationships. Sexual sin, both homosexual and heterosexual, plagues the entire world-AIDS ravishes entire continents. But Jesus will come along and fix all that. He'll pluck you out of the flood of dissipation by saving you from your drives and desires so you won't destroy your life.
Will the gospel deliver you from an unfulfilled life? From enslavement to debilitating habits? Absolutely, but that needs to be qualified. There is a sense in which the gospel secondarily makes an application to those things. When you are genuinely converted, you belong to God and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart. You do have a new reason to live; you have the hope of eternal life and the promise of heaven. That has a dramatic effect on the lack of fulfillment in life. And when you experience the power of the Holy Spirit to change you, you'll see victory over the debilitating habits and passions that your sinful nature generates. That's all true. But those are not the primary issues in salvation.
Finding fulfillment and overcoming bad habits cannot be the most important concerns of the gospel. Why not? Because not everybody in the world is unfulfilled. In fact, I think this idea of lacking fulfillment is a byproduct of our western culture. Throughout the world, there are many who live expecting very little out of life. They don't experience a lack of fulfillment-there's nothing to fulfill. On the other hand, many people are very content with their present condition. They've got all the wine, women, and song money can buy. And not everyone is driven to a point of desperation and disaster by their passions either. There are people who have a certain measure of self-control. So those things cannot be the universal problem.
The real problem is sin and guilt. That's the issue. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from the consequence of our sin, and everybody falls into the category of sinner. It doesn't matter whether you're among the haves or the have-nots, whether you have great expectations or none at all, whether you're consumed by your passions or exhibit a degree of self-control and discipline-you are still a sinner. You have broken the law of God and He's angry about it. Unless something happens to change your condition, you're on your way to eternal hell. You need to be rescued from the consequences of your sin. Those are the principal issues the gospel solves.
The truth is, even when you are delivered from the ultimate danger of God's wrath against sin, you might never realize your dreams. When you come to Christ, the Lord realigns your thinking so that all you ever wanted, all you used to strive for, you count as loss, waste, garbage (cf. Paul in Phil. 3:4-8). Coming to Christ means the end of you. Also, though you'll experience the power of the Holy Spirit to gain victory over sin, you may never attain total dominance over your drives and passions this side of heaven. Like Paul, you will strive with sin to your dying day (cf. Rom. 7:13-25). Issues of fulfillment and sinful passions will be dealt with, in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way. So if you've come to Christ primarily to find fulfillment or to escape from bad habits, Jesus may not be what you're looking for.
The church needs to get back to remembering that God sent His Son into the world to save His people from their sins. A proper presentation of the gospel should focus on that. The angel told Joseph: "He is the one who will save His people from their sins. That is why you must name Him Jesus." Humanity's real destroyer is sin, and the guilt for sin is a real guilt, a God-imposed guilt that damns to eternal hell. That is why people need to be saved, rescued, and delivered. That is what people must understand in the gospel, and that is what we must proclaim.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Late Great Rapture Theory?


An excerpt from  Whatever Happened to Heaven?
 
In the early 1970s the rapture was the most-talked-about topic in the church. [Hal Lindsey’s bestselling book,  The Late Great Planet Earth ], had captured the attention and imagination of his generation. Pastors preached about heaven and Christians eagerly anticipated being caught up at any moment to meet their Lord in the air. Even the secular world became familiar with the concept. There were movies, such as  The Omen , about the end times. Radio and television mentioned the Second Coming frequently, and cartoons and bumper stickers also took up the theme. One of the latter solemnly warned: “I’m leaving in the rapture, ride at your own risk!’’
All of that has changed. The bumper stickers have worn off, the movies have lost their appeal, and the sermons have gone on to currently popular themes....
The Late Great Planet Earth  had only suggested that Christ’s statement concerning “this generation’’ might possibly indicate a fulfillment within 40 years from Israel’s rebirth. Yet that possibility had metamorphosed (though not so intended by Hal Lindsey) into  necessity  in the thinking of so many Christians that when 1981 came and went without the rapture there was considerable disillusionment with the pretribulation position. Doubts had already been mounting as that key date had approached. In fact, by the late 1970s the posttribulation view had gained a substantial following even in denominations and institutions that had long been bastions of the (until then) dominant pretribulation position.
Needless to say, January 1, 1982, saw the defection of large numbers from the pretrib position. At that point, however, the posttrib theory looked no better, because the Great Tribulation obviously had not arrived on schedule. To many it seemed that the only option remaining was the postmillennial view, a minority belief that had all but died out among evangelicals. After being generally written off, however, as Gary North admits, and in spite of the apparent unreasonableness of the AD 70 scenario, the postmillennial view is once again staging a dramatic comeback.
The New Issue: Rapture or No Rapture
Now that 1988 has become history without the appearance of the Great Tribulation or the Antichrist—and with the prospects of Armageddon fading into the future...the controversy is no longer between a pre-, mid-, or posttrib rapture as it has been for so long. The issue has become “rapture or no rapture.’’ And the latter view is gaining strength so rapidly that it promises to become the predominant belief in the near future. While most postmillennialists believe in a rapture, as we have already noted, it is so far in the future as to have little practical effect upon an individual’s life and offers none of the purifying and motivating hope normally associated with the expectancy of the imminent return of Christ.
Most Christians no longer know what they believe about prophecy and now realize that their previously held opinions must be given an honest and careful review. Many who were once excited about the prospects of being caught up to heaven at any moment have become confused and disillusioned by the apparent failure of a generally accepted biblical interpretation they once relied upon. Those who believed in the rapture because it was popular are, of course, abandoning it now that it has become unpopular. They never had a good reason for what they believed based upon their own carefully weighed convictions. It is sad that so few Christians know the Bible for themselves.
The church is now ripe for the developing views of history and prophecy that either downplay or eliminate the rapture and put the emphasis upon “Christianizing’’ (in contrast to “converting’’) the world. A new genre of books espousing the idea that “victory in Christ’’ means a Christian takeover of this world is coming off the presses and selling well. Such ideas are being successfully taken into mainstream evangelical churches [which] represents a major theological shift in the church....
Being taken to heaven in the rapture has been to a large extent replaced by the rapidly growing new hope that the church is destined to take over the world and establish the kingdom of God. The focus has turned from winning souls for citizenship in heaven to political and social action aimed at cleaning up society. Scarcely a sermon is being preached about the world to come. Attention is focused instead upon achieving success in this one. If we have a big enough march on Washington and vote in enough of our candidates, then we can make this world a beautiful, safe, moral, and satisfying “Christian’’ place for our grandchildren. This is a very enticing scenario....
Whatever Happened to Heaven?
The expectancy of the Lord’s soon return which was so evident in the 1970s at the peak of the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s  The Late Great Planet Earth  has all but vanished from the church. Today there is scarcely a favorable reference to the rapture from most pulpits. And the hymns that once expressed the church’s longing for heaven are now heard only at funerals.
There has developed a surprising and growing antagonism against eagerly watching and waiting for Christ’s return, which surely was the attitude of the early church. The pendulum is swinging to an outright rejection of not only the pretrib but also the premillennium rapture....
We could cite the current struggle going on in the Southern Baptist Church as one example. It is the largest Protestant denomination, but is presently losing members at a surprising and growing rate to independent churches that deny the rapture, deny any place for national Israel in prophecy, and believe that an elite group of “overcomers’’ will soon manifest immortality in their bodies without the resurrection or the Second Coming, and take over the world for Christ. Only then will Christ return—not to take His bride home to heaven as the Bible clearly teaches, however, but to reign over the kingdom that she established for Him here on this earth. One of the leaders in this movement writes:
You can study books about going to heaven in a so-called “rapture’’ if that turns you on. We want to study the Bible to learn to live and to love and to bring heaven to earth.
Is this issue even worth discussing? After all, what does it matter when Christ comes or when or how the kingdom is established? Is eschatological debate of any significance? A partial answer would lie in the fact that “last days’’ prophecy is a subject that takes up about one-fourth of the Bible. How could we dare to suggest that the Holy Spirit would give such importance to something that in the final analysis really doesn’t matter? Based only upon the amount of attention given to it in the Bible, when and how and why Christ returns must be of great importance both to God and to us. We need to seek to understand why.
One reason for the significance of this issue should be quite obvious. Paul tells us that Christ is going to catch His bride away from this earth to meet Him in the air— “and so shall we ever be with the Lord’’ (1 Thessalonians:4:17). Consequently, those who expect to meet Christ with their feet still planted on earth—a “Christ’’ who has arrived to take over the kingdom they have established in His name—will have been badly deceived. In fact, they could have been working to build the earthly kingdom for the Antichrist. Yet this teaching that we must take over the world and set up the kingdom for Christ has become the fastest-growing movement within the church today.
Changing Attitude toward Israel
One of the key doctrines of this movement is the claim that the church is now Israel, heir to all of her promises, and that national Israel has been cut off from God and has no further place in the prophetic scheme. This new focus on an earthly inheritance for the church has further turned the hope of being taken to heaven in the rapture into an object of ridicule. It has also produced a drastic change in attitude and a serious reduction in the evangelical church’s traditional support of Israel, an about-face that is being viewed with alarm by that tiny nation. Bill Hamon’s  The Eternal Church  is one of the popular books promoting the theory that the church is Israel and that Christians are now establishing the kingdom of God. Hamon reports that Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Training Center uses his book as a textbook and that it has been found to be a “valuable and indispensable tool’’ by: “Kenneth Copeland, Earl Paulk, Jerry Savelle, Gary Greenwald, John Gimenez, Ken Sumrall...and many other classical Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders.’’
Speaking at Edmond near Oklahoma City on April 11, 1988, Rick Godwin, a long-time associate of James Robison and popular speaker on Christian media, delivered the type of anti-Israel rhetoric that is becoming so typical in charismatic circles: “They [national Israel] are not chosen, they are cursed! They are not blessed, they are cursed!... Yes, and you hear Jerry Falwell and everybody else say the reason America’s great is because America’s blessed Israel. They sure have. Which Israel?  The  Israel—the church.... That’s the Israel of God, not that garlic one over on the Mediterranean Sea!" Earl Paulk’s criticism of national Israel and those who look favorably upon her includes the ultimate accusation:
The hour has come for us to know . . . that the spirit of the antichrist is now at work in the world . . . [through] so-called Holy Spirit-filled teachers who say, “If you bless national Israel, God will bless you.’’
Not only is this blatantly deceptive, it is not part of the new covenant at all!
Currents of change are sweeping through the world and the church. In the crucial days ahead, the evangelical church could well suffer a division over the rapture and the related issue of Israel comparable to that experienced by the Catholic Church as a result of the Reformation in the 1500s. Nor would it be surprising if, in the cause of “unity,’’ the larger faction in Protestantism moved much closer to ecumenical union with Catholicism, which has been traditionally anti-Semitic and discarded the rapture about 1600 years ago....
The Real “Inconvenient Truth”?
We must beware that in our zeal to “change the world for Christ’’ we do not become so wedded to an ongoing earthly process stretching into the indeterminate future that we lose our vision of heaven. We cannot be truly faithful to the totality of what Scripture says unless we are sufficiently disengaged from this world to be ready to leave it behind at a moment’s notice.
There is cause to be concerned that the Reconstructionists and the Coalition on Revival as well as other kingdom/dominion advocates could be fostering a false conception of our earthly ministry—a conception which we must guard against lest we subtly fall into an attitude like that of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor. For him, Christ’s return to earth represented an interference with the mission of the church. He has Christ thrown into prison, where he visits him to complain:
There is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least. . . . fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us.
Thou has promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou has given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?
All human beings are tempted to be more at home in this world than they should be. Christians are not exempt from this temptation, and when they succumb it often leads to an effort to reinterpret Scripture accordingly. Reconstructionists exemplify this temptation. Christ’s return before they have taken over the world would be as inconvenient to the Reconstructionists and others in the kingdom/dominion movement as it was to the Grand Inquisitor, and for the same reasons.
Our hope is not in taking over this world but in being taken to heaven by our Lord to be married to Him in glory and then to return with Him as part of the armies of heaven to rescue Israel, destroy His enemies, and participate in His millennial reign. Yet those of us who claim to believe this too often hold the belief in theory only, while denying it with our lives....
It seems ironic that the possibility of the rapture, which ought to bring great comfort, has caused great controversy as well. We dare not, however, in the name of unity and the avoidance of controversy, abandon the hope given to us in [the] Scriptures:
Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed [all, dead and living, in one instant].
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians:15:51-53)
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians:4:16-18)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Finality of the Cross

Dec NL.jpg 
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me....”  Galatians:2:20
Anti-Christian elements in the secular world would like very much to do away with all public display of the cross. Yet it is still seen atop tens of thousands of churches and in religious processions, often made of gold and even studded with precious stones. Most frequently, however, the cross is displayed as popular jewelry hanging around necks or dangling from ears. One wonders by what strange alchemy the bloodstained, rugged cross of torment upon which Christ suffered and died for our sins became so sanitized and glamorized.
No matter how it is displayed, even as jewelry or graffiti, the cross is universally recognized as the symbol of Christianity—and therein lies a serious problem. The cross itself rather than what transpired upon it 19 centuries ago has become the focus of attention, resulting in several grave errors. Its very shape , though devised by cruel pagans for punishing criminals, has become holy and mysteriously imbued with magic properties, fostering the delusion that displaying a cross somehow provides divine protection. Millions superstitiously keep a cross in their homes or on their person or make “the sign of the cross” to ward off evil and frighten demons away. Demons fear Christ, not a cross; and any who have not been crucified with Him display a cross in vain.
Paul declared, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor:1:18). So the power of the cross lies not in its display but in its preaching ; and that preaching has nothing to do with the peculiar shape of the cross but with Christ’s death upon it as declared in the gospel. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom:1:16), not to those who wear or otherwise display or make the sign of the cross.
What is this gospel that saves? Paul states explicitly: “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you...by which also ye are saved,...how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures...” (1 Cor:15:1-4). It comes as a shock to many that the gospel includes no mention of a cross . Why? Because a cross was not essential to our salvation. Christ had to be crucified to fulfill the prophecy concerning the manner of the Messiah’s death (Ps 22), not because the cross itself had anything to do with our redemption. What was essential was the shedding of Christ’s blood in His death as foreshadowed in the Old Testament sacrifices, for “without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]” (Heb:9:22); “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev:17:11).
This is not to say that the cross itself has no meaning. That Christ was nailed to a cross reveals the horrifying depths of evil innate within every human heart. To be nailed naked to a cross and displayed publicly, to die slowly with taunts and jeers filling the air, was the most excruciatingly painful and humiliating death that could be devised. And that is exactly what puny man did to his Creator! We ought to fall on our faces in repentant horror, overcome with shame, for it was not only the screaming, bloodthirsty mob and derisive soldiers but our sins that nailed Him there!
So the cross lays bare for all eternity the awful truth that beneath the polite facade of culture and education the heart of man is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer:17:9), capable of evil beyond comprehension even against the God who created and loves him and patiently provides for him. Does any man doubt the wickedness of his own heart? Let him look at the cross and recoil in revulsion from that self within! No wonder the proud humanist hates the cross!
At the same time that the cross lays bare the evil in man, however, it also reveals the goodness, mercy, and love of God as nothing else could. In the face of such unspeakable evil, such diabolical hatred vented against Him, the Lord of glory, who could destroy this earth and all upon it with a word, allowed Himself to be mocked and falsely accused and scourged and nailed to that cross! Christ “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ” (Phil:2:8). When man was doing his worst, God responded in love, not merely yielding Himself to His tormenters but bearing our sins and taking the judgment we justly deserved.
Therein lies another serious problem with the symbol, and especially with Catholicism’s crucifix, which portrays Christ perpetually on the cross, as does the Mass. The emphasis is focused upon the physical suffering of Christ as though that paid for our sins. On the contrary, that was what man did to Him and could only condemn us all. Our redemption came about through: His bruising by Jehovah and “his soul [being made] an offering for sin” (Is 53:10); God laying “on him the iniquity of us all” (v. 6); and His bearing “our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Pt 2:24).
The death of Christ is irrefutable evidence that God in righteousness must punish sin—the penalty must be paid or there can be no forgiveness. That God's Son had to endure the cross even after crying to His Father in agonizing contemplation of bearing our sins, (“[I]f it be possible, let this cup pass from me” — Mt 26:39), is proof that there was no other way mankind could be redeemed. When Christ, the sinless, perfect man and beloved of His Father, took our place, God’s judgment fell upon Him in all its fury. What then must be the judgment of those who reject Christ and refuse the pardon offered in Him! We must warn them!
At the same time and in the same breath that we sound the alarm of coming judgment, we must also proclaim the good news that redemption has been provided and God’s forgiveness is offered for the vilest of sinners. Nothing more evil could be conceived than crucifying God! Yet it was from the cross that Christ in infinite love and mercy prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). So the cross proves, too, that there is forgiveness for the worst of sins and sinners.
Tragically, however, the vast majority of mankind rejects Christ. And here we face another danger: that in our sincere desire to see souls saved we adjust the message of the cross to avoid offending the world. Paul warned that care had to be taken not to preach the cross “with the wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor:1:17). But surely the gospel can be explained in a new way that is more appealing to the ungodly than those old-time preachers presented it. Perhaps today's techniques for packaging and selling could be used to clothe the cross in music or a beat or entertaining presentation such as the world uses that would give the gospel a new relevancy or at least familiarity. Psychology, too, can be drawn upon to provide a more positive approach. Let us not confront sinners with their sin and the gloom and doom of coming judgment, but explain that their behavior isn’t really their fault so much as it is the result of abuse they have suffered. After all, are we not all victims? And didn’t Christ come to rescue us from victimization and our low view of ourselves and to restore our self-esteem and self-confidence? Blend the cross with psychology and the world will beat a path to our churches, filling them with new members! Such is today’s new evangelicalism.
Confronting such perversion, A. W. Tozer wrote: “If I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is rather a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity....The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it....The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics—but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of the cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.”
Here is the crux of the issue. The gospel is designed to do to self what the cross did to those who hung upon it: put it utterly to death. This is the good news in which Paul exulted: “I am crucified with Christ!” The cross is not a fire escape from hell to heaven but a place where we die in Christ. Only then can we experience “the power of His resurrection” (Phil:3:10), for only the dead can be resurrected. What joy that promise brings to those who long to escape the evil of their own hearts and lives; and what fanaticism it seems to those who want to cling to self and who therefore preach what Tozer called the “new cross.”
Paul declared that in Christ the Christian is crucified to the world and the world to him (Gal:6:14). That is strong language! This world hated and crucified the Lord whom we now love—and in that act it has crucified us as well. We have taken our stand with Christ. Let the world do to us what it did to Him if it will, but we will never again join in its selfish lusts and ambitions, its godless standards, its proud determination to build a utopia without God and its neglect of eternity.
To believe in Christ is to admit that the death He endured for us is exactly what we deserve. Therefore, when Christ died, we died in Him: “[W]e thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead [i.e., all have died]: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor:5:14-15).
“But I’m not dead,“ is the earnest response. “Self is still very much alive.” Paul, too, acknowledged, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom:7:19). Then what does “I am crucified with Christ” really mean in daily life? It doesn’t mean that we are automatically “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom:6:11). We still have a will and choices to make.
Then what power does the Christian have over sin that the Buddhist or good moralist doesn’t have? First of all, we have peace with God “through the blood of his cross” (Col:1:20). The penalty has been paid in full, so we no longer try to live a good life out of fear that otherwise we will be damned, but out of love for the One who has saved us. “We love him, because he first loved us" (1 Jn:4:19); and love moves the lover to please the One loved at any cost. “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (Jn:14:23), our Lord said. The more we contemplate the Cross and meditate upon the price our Lord paid for our redemption, the more we will love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we will desire to please Him.
Secondly, instead of struggling to overcome sin, we accept by faith that we died in Christ. Dead men can't be tempted. Our faith is not in our ability to act as crucified persons but in the fact that Christ was crucified once and for all in full payment of the penalty for our sins.
Thirdly, after declaring that he was “crucified with Christ,” Paul added, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by [faith in the Son of God], who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal:2:20). The just “live by faith” (Rom:1:17; Gal:3:11; Heb:10:38) in Christ; but the non-Christian can only put his faith in himself or in some self-help program or phony guru.
Tragically, the Catholic’s faith is not in the redemption Christ accomplished once and for all upon the cross, but in the Mass, which allegedly is the same sacrifice as on the cross and imparts forgiveness and new life each time it is repeated. It is claimed that the priest transforms the wafer and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ, thereby making Christ’s sacrifice on the cross perpetually present. There is no way, however, that a past event can be made present. Moreover, if the past event accomplished its purpose, then there is no reason for wanting to perpetuate it in the present, even if that could be done. For example, if a benefactor pays a creditor the debt someone owes, the debt is gone forever. It would be meaningless to speak of re-presenting or reenacting or perpetuating the payment in the present. One could well remember with gratitude the payment that was made, but no reenactment would have any virtue since there no longer remains any debt to be paid.
As Christ died, He cried in triumph, “It is finished,” using a Greek expression that meant that the debt had been paid in full. Yet the new Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God” (par 1414, p 356). That is like trying to continue paying installments of a debt that has been paid in full. The Mass is a denial of the sufficiency of the payment Christ made for sin upon the cross! The Catholic lives with the uncertainty of wondering how many more Masses it may take to get him to heaven.
Many Protestants live in similar uncertainty, fearful that they may yet be lost if they fail to live a good enough life or lose their faith or turn their backs upon Christ. There is a blessed finality to the cross that delivers us from such insecurity. Christ need never be crucified again; nor can those who have been “crucified with Christ” be “uncrucified” and then “recrucified”! Paul declared: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col:3:3). What assurance for time and for eternity!  

TBC (http://www.thebereancall.org/content/finality-cross)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Charles Finney’s Influence on American Evangelicalism: Exposing Charles Finney's Heretical Teachings

Finney believed that a golden age of Christianity, in which Christ is honored, God’s moral law obeyed, and the need for further revivals ended could be brought about by the activities of the church. There are several problems with this, the greatest of which is that the Bible does not teach it. As we will see, Finney felt free to depart from Biblical orthodoxy in order to promote his ideals.

Read entire article here: http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue53.htm

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Have Leading Thinkers and Those of Influence Stated About Jesus?

Now in light of such claims by Jesus, consider what informed and great men historically and today—believers and unbelievers alike—have said about Jesus. Could all of them, down to the last man, be mistaken? Certainly if men and women, as those listed below, felt it was vital to be informed on Jesus Christ, perhaps we should also become informed. Can you read all of the statements in the following chart and still believe investigating Jesus is not a worthwhile endeavor?

“Jesus Christ is the centre of everything and the object of everything, and he who does not know Him knows nothing of the order of nature and nothing of himself.”
-Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and scientist, author of the classic work, Pensées

“The unique impression of Jesus upon mankind—whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world—is proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and transcendentalist

“Christ is not valued at all unless He be valued above all.”
-Augustine of Hippo, church theologian and philosopher

“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” and “There is not a God in heaven, if a mere man was able to conceive and execute successfully the gigantic design of making Himself the object of supreme worship, by usurping the name of God. Jesus alone dared to do this.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France

“Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique.
-Pope John Paul II

“When Christ came into my life, I came about like a well-handled ship.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist and poet

“The Lord from Heaven born of a village girl, carpenter’s son, Wonderful, Prince of Peace, the mighty God.”
-Alfred Lord Tennyson, English poet

“After six years given to the impartial investigation of Christianity, as to its truth or falsity, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of the Jews, the Savior of the world, and my personal Savior.”
-Lew Wallace, American lawyer, soldier, and author of Ben Hur

“The Galilean has been too great for our small hearts.”
-H. G. Wells, English novelist and historian, author of The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and An Outline of History

“The coming of Jesus into the world is the most stupendous event in human history.” and “What is unique about Jesus is that, on the testimony and in the experience of innumerable people, of all sorts and conditions, of all races and nationalities from the simplest and most primitive to the most sophisticated and cultivated, he remains alive. That the Resurrection happened seems to be indubitably true. Either Jesus never was or he still is. ”
-Malcolm Muggeridge, English novelist and critic

“I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
-Albert Einstein, American physicist who originated the theory of relativity

“I have spent more than forty-two years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world....I say unequivocally the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no doubt.”-Sir Lionell Luckhoo, listed in the Guiness Book of Records, the world’s “most successful lawyer,” knighted twice by the queen of England

“The example of Christ is supreme in its authority.”
-George Barlow

“Jesus was the most disturbing person in history.”
-Vance Havner

“He who thinks he hath no need of Christ hath too high thoughts of himself. He who thinks Christ cannot help him hath too low thoughts of Christ.”
-John M. Mason, American educator; provost, Columbia College

“Everything that is really worthwhile in the morality of today has come to the world through Christ.”
-G. Campbell Morgan, British preacher, author

“Jesus Christ is the outstanding personality of all time....no other teacher—Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Mohammedan—is still a teacher whose teaching is such a guidepost for the world we live in....He became the Light of the World. Why shouldn’t I, a Jew, be proud of that?”
-Sholam Asch, Polish novelist and playwright

“A man who can read the New Testament and not see that Christ claims to be more than a man, can look all over the sky at high noon on a cloudless day and not see the sun.”
-William E. Biederwolf, American educator and evangelist

“I know of no sincere enduring good but the moral excellency which shines forth in Jesus Christ.”
-William Ellery Channing, Unitarian leader and abolitionist

“Jesus was the greatest religious genius that ever lived. His beauty is eternal, and His reign shall never end. Jesus is in every respect unique, and nothing can be compared with Him. All history is incomprehensible without Christ.” and “Whatever may be the surprises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed....all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born greater than
-Joseph Ernest Renan, French nationalist, and skeptic, humanist historian of religion
Jesus.”

“The face of Christ does not indeed show us everything, but it shows the one thing we need to know—the character of God. God is the God who sent Jesus.”
-P. Carnegie Simpson

“That Christ should be and should be Christ appears the one reasonable, natural, certain thing in all the universe. In Him all broken lines unite; in Him all scattered sounds are gathered into harmony.”
-Phillips Brooks, Harvard-educated preacher and bishop of Massachusetts who preached before Queen Victoria

“Whatever motives Jesus Christ might have had against calling Himself God, He did call Himself God; such is the fact.”
-Jean Baptiste Lacordaire, French prelate and revolutionary

“This calm assumption of Jesus that He is not a sinner will take hold of the wrists of any thoughtful mind and twist them till it must come to its knees.”
-Bishop William Quayle

“Either Jesus was and knew what He was, what He proclaimed Himself to be, or else He was a pitiable visionary.”
-Leonce De Grandmaison


“The Christian Church stands or falls with this simple proposition: that Jesus is nothing less than God’s self-communication to men, and the only certain source of our knowledge of God.”
-W. A. Visser’t Hooft, Dutch ecumenical, grand secretary of the World Council of Churches

“If we are to find the secret of His Timelessness—the simplicity of His Wisdom, the transforming power of His Doctrine, we must go out beyond time to the Timelessness, beyond the complex to the Perfect, beyond Change to the Changeless, out beyond the margins of the world to the Perfect God.”
-Fulton J. Sheen, Roman Catholic bishop and broadcaster

“Christ is God or He is the world’s greatest liar and imposter.”
-Dorothy Day, American writer and social reformer

“The witnesses for the historical authentication and for the proofs of the Divinity of Jesus, from the earliest days, are far more comprehensive than the testimonies for the existence of many famous historical characters we accept without question.”Herbert E. Cory

“An undogmatic Christ is the advertisement of a dying faith.”
P. T. Forsyth, Congregationalist theologian who rejected his earlier liberalism and according to E. Brunner, became the greatest British theologian of his day

“If Shakespeare should come into this room, we would all rise; but if Jesus Christ should come in, we would all kneel.”
Charles Lamb, English essayist and critic, author of Tales from Shakespeare

“The supreme miracle of Christ’s character lies in this: that He combines within Himself, as no other figure in human history has ever done, the qualities of every race.”
C. F. Andrews, Anglican missionary to India

The Humanist suggestion that Jesus was morally right, but religiously mistanken’ defies all psychological probabilities.”
F. R. Berry

All this is no mean testimony, but it could be multiplied many times over. Still, there are many people and groups today claiming false things about Jesus, and many others who reject or oppose Him. This includes liberal theologians who reject His deity, religious cults like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who claim to honor Him and accept His teachings but do not, and those in other world faiths who reinvent His message to conform to their own.8 Because such misinformation is widespread today, even the one who names the name of Christ needs to be thoroughly versed on what history and Scripture teach about Him and why contrary views are invalid.

Taken from: https://www.jashow.org/free_downloads/ready-with-an-answer/

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dealing with Those who Entertain False Hopes

1. Among those who entertain false hopes, perhaps the largest class are those who expect to be saved by their righteous lives. These persons are easily known by such sayings as these, "I am doing the best I can." "I do more good than evil." "I am not a great sinner." "I have never done anything very bad." Gal. 3:10, is an excellent passage to use, for it shows that all those who are trusting in their works are under the curse of the law and that there is no hope on the ground of the law for any one who does not "continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." James 2:10 is also useful. Gal. 2:16, and Romans 3:19, 20 are very effective by showing that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God's sight. Matt. 5:20—All these passages show the kind of righteousness God demands and that no man's righteousness comes up to God's standard, and that if a man wishes to be saved he must find some other means of salvation than by his own deeds. It is sometimes well in using these passages to say to the inquirer: "You do not understand the kind of righteousness that God demands or you would not talk as you do. Now let us turn to His word and see what kind of righteousness it is that God demands." There is another way of dealing with this class, by the use of such passages as Luke 16:15; Rom. 2:16; 1 Sam. 16:7. These passages show that God looks at the heart. Hold the inquirer right to that point. Every man when brought face to face with that, must tremble because he knows that whatever his outward life may be, his heart will not stand the scrutiny of God's eye. No matter how selfrighteous a man is, we need not be discouraged for somewhere in the depths of every man's heart is the consciousness of sin and all we have to do is to work away until we touch that point. Every man's conscience is on our side. Matt. 22:37, 38 can be used when a man says "I am doing the best I can, or doing more good than evil." Say to him, "You are greatly mistaken about that; so far from doing more good than evil, do you know that you have broken the first and greatest of God's laws?" Then show him the passage. Heb. 11:6, John 6:29, show that the one thing that God demands is faith and that without that it is impossible to please God, and John 16:9, shows that unbelief in Christ is the greatest sin. John 3:36, shows that the question of eternal life depends solely upon a man's accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ, and Heb. 10:28, 29, that the sin which brings the heaviest punishment is that of treading under foot the Son of God. Before using this latter passage, it would be well to say, "You think you are very good, but do you know that you are committing the most awful sin in God's sight which a man can commit?" If he replies, "No", then say "Well let me show you from God's word that you are;" then turn to this passage and read it with great solemnity and earnestness.

2. Another class of those who entertain false hopes, are those who think "God is too good to damn anyone."
When any one says this, you can reply, "We know nothing of God's goodness but what we learn from the Bible, and we must go to that book to find out the character of God's goodness. Let us turn to Romans 2:2. 4, 5." Having read the verses, you can say something like this, "Now, my friend, you see that the purpose of God's goodness is to lead you to repentence, not to encourage you in sin and when we trample upon his goodness, then we are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." John 8:21, 24 and 3:36, will show the man that however good God may be that he will reject all who reject His Son. Still another way to deal with these men is by showing them from John 5:40, 2 Peter 3:9-11 or Ezek. 33:11, that it is not so much God who damns men as men who damn themselves in spite of God's goodness because they will not come to Christ and accept the life freely offered. You can say "God is not willing that any should perish and he offers life freely to you, but there is one difficulty in the way. Let us turn to John 5:40, and see what the difficulty is." Then read the passage: "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life," and say, "My friend here is the difficulty, you won't come; life is freely offered to you but if you will not accept it, you must perish." II Peter ii.4-6,9; Luke 13:3, show how the "good" God deals with persons who persist in sin. Sometimes this last passage can be effectively used in this way: "You say God is too good to damn any one. Now let us see what God Himself says in his word." Then turn to the passage and read, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Repeat the passage over and over again until it has been driven home.

3. A third class of those who entertain false hopes, are those who say "I am trying to be a Christian." John 1:12, will show them that it is not "trying" to be a Christian or "trying" to live a better life or "trying" to do anything that God asks of us, but simply to receive Jesus Christ, who did it all, and you can ask the inquirer, "will you now stop your trying and simply receive Jesus as Saviour?" Acts 16:31, shows that God does not ask us to try what we can do but trust Jesus and what He has done and will do. Romans 3:23-25, shows that we are not to be justified by trying to do, "but freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" on the simple condition of faith.

4.. Still another class of those who entertain false hopes are those who say, "I feel I am going to Heaven" or "I feel I am saved." Show them from John iii, 36 that it is not a question of what they feel but what God says, and what God says distinctly in his word is that, "He that believeth not on the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." One afternoon I was talking with a lady who a few weeks before had lost her only child. At the time of the child's death she had been deeply interested, but her serious impressions had largely left her. I put to her the question, "Do you not wish to go where your little one has gone?" She replied at once "I expect to." "What makes you think you will?" I said. She replied, "I feel so, I feel that I will go to heaven when I die." I then asked her, if there was anything she could point to in the word of God which gave her a reason for believing that she was going to heaven when she died. "No," she said, "there is not." Then she turned and questioned me, saying, "Do you expect to go to heaven when you die?" "Yes", I replied, "I know I shall." How do you know it?" he said. "Have you any word from God for it?" "Yes, "I answered and turned her to John 3:36, She was thus led to see the difference between a faith that rested upon her feelings and a faith that rested upon the word of God.
Luke 18:9-14, can also be used in the following way; you can say "there was a man in' the Bible who felt he was all right, but was all wrong. Let me read you about him." Then read about the Pharisee who was so sure that he was all right, but who was all the time an unforgiven sinner; and make the inquirer see how untrustworthy our feelings are and what the ground of assurance, is viz: God's word. Prov. 14:12 can also be used as showing that "there is a way which seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death."

5. The last class of those who entertain false hopes, are those who say they are saved though they are leading sinful lives. In the case of many forms of sin, a good passage to use is 1 Cor. 6:9-10. 1 John 2:29 will also in many cases sweep away this false hope. 1 John 5:4-5 is useful as showing that one who is really born of God overcomes the world and the fact that they are living in sin and are not overcoming the world is evidence that they have not been born of God.

—How to Bring Men to Christ (R.A. Torey)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Contend 2015: A Student Worldview Weekend (Free) Bring a Group or Just Bring Your Own Student