Sunday, July 23, 2017

Christ and antichrist

First published in July 1990
Anti is a Greek prefix that not only means “opposed to” but “in the place of.” Antichrist [1] will indeed oppose Christ but in the most diabolically clever way possible: by pretending to be Christ. For the world to follow and worship him, a false Christianity must become the world religion—a “Christianity” that all religions can accept and that embraces all religions into “one faith.” Hence the necessity for today’s growing apostasy [2]: to create an apostate church to be the Antichrist [1]’s earthly bride, just as the true church is Christ’s heavenly bride. Such is the important role of the New Age movement and the many accelerating delusions and seductions in these “last days.”
Through a false gospel, false prophets, occultic religious practices and lying “signs and wonders,” today’s churches are being filled with millions who call themselves Christians, but who are not. Left behind at the Rapture, and happy that the “negative” influence of the vanished troublemakers has been removed, they will worship and follow the Antichrist [1], thinking he is the true Christ and that they have “never had it so good.” An ecumenized “Christianity,” in partnership with all religions, will carry on and prosper even more after the Rapture than before. The unifying factor will be concern for Mother Earth. Working for peace and ecological wholeness will have replaced truth as the basis of Christianity, as the World Council of Churches has already decreed.
Far from being a cop-out invented by those who desire to escape persecution (which could become very severe in America before the Rapture), a pretribulation Rapture is essential for a number of reasons: first of all, to remove the true Christians from earth. If they were present when Antichrist [1] was revealed, they would oppose and expose him. Such opposition must be removed in order to give Satan and man, under Antichrist [1]’s leadership, full freedom to prove that this earth can be turned back into a garden paradise without God. The Holy Spirit, who is omnipresent, will still convict and draw many to Christ during the Great Tribulation. The restraining influence, however, that He has wielded in this world through the millions of true Christians, will have suddenly been removed, leaving a moral and spiritual vacuum in homes, neighborhoods, businesses, and schools such as we cannot even imagine.
A pretrib Rapture is also necessary because the Antichrist [1] will be given authority by God “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rv 13:7). Such a fate could not befall the church, for Christ said that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). Moreover, true Christians have authority and power to “resist the devil” and “he will flee” (Jas 4:7), for “greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world” (1 Jn:4:4). So the fact that Antichrist [1] is given power by God “to make war with the saints and to overcome [i.e., kill] them” is proof that the true church is no longer present.
The “saints” mentioned are those who have not heard and rejected the gospel prior to the Rapture and who believe in Christ during the Great Tribulation. They will pay for their faith with their lives. Those who take the mark of the beast suffer the wrath of the Lamb, while those who don’t are slain by Antichrist [1]. Thus a post-trib rapture would be a classic nonevent, for there would be very few if any surviving believers to be raptured at that time. And surely those Christians who were left alive, seeing the judgment of God poured out upon mankind and earth’s armies gathered for the battle of Armageddon in an attempt to destroy Israel [4], would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Second Coming was about to occur—and would be watching for their Lord to appear. Yet Christ declared that He would return at a time of such ease that even the “five wise virgins” would “slumber and sleep.” He warned, “[F]or in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt 24:44). Hardly likely in the midst of the greatest tribulation and destruction the world has ever seen or ever will see!
To understand how the stage is being set for the final conflict between Christ and Antichrist [1], it is helpful to consider some comparisons and contrasts between these two antagonists. First of all, the procession of events is in God’s hands. Although we cannot know the day or hour of our Lord’s return, the Bible does give us many clues as to the general timing of this great occurrence.
There is a precise time for Christ’s second coming just as there was for the first: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son...” (Gal:4:4). The same is true of the Antichrist [1]. Quite possibly already present in the world and waiting in the wings, this “man of sin” known as “that Wicked [one]” (2 Thes:2:3,8) can only take power when it is God’s time: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time” (2:6).
Interestingly, the Roman Empire plays an integral part in the timing for the revelation both of God’s Messiah and Satan’s. Ancient Rome set the stage for Christ’s birth: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world
should be taxed” (Lk 2:1). It was this decree that caused Joseph and Mary to be in Bethlehem so that Christ would be born there in fulfillment of Micah:5:2. And of course He also had to be executed during the time of the Roman Empire, which introduced crucifixion, in order to fulfill Psalm 22.
For Christ to return, the Roman Empire must be revived. This is clear from Daniel’s interpretation that the distinct parts of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar “...head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron” (Dn 2:32-33) represented four world kingdoms: the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman. That the “feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron” (2:41) represent the fourth world kingdom revived in the last days is clear from the statement, “And in the days of these kings [i.e., represented by the ten toes] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed...[and] it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (2:44).
Christ did not establish His kingdom the first time He came, so He must come again to do so. When? “In the days of those kings”—i.e., when the Roman Empire has been revived, out of which the Antichrist [1] will arise. No longer “as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa:53:7), but now returning in power and glory to execute judgment upon those who crucified Him, Christ will destroy this evil empire in its revived form at His second coming. So although the date is not given, the timing of Christ’s return is clearly indicated.
It is also essential for the Roman Empire to be revived in order for the Antichrist [1] to appear. Daniel prophesied that “the people of the prince that shall come [i.e., Antichrist [1]] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary...” (Dn 9:26). The Roman armies under the command of Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. It is therefore from these people that the Antichrist [1] must arise. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to be Roman, since her legions came from many parts of the Empire. It does mean, however, that he must come from that world kingdom—and for that to happen, the Roman Empire must be revived. We are seeing the fulfillment of this most remarkable prophecy in our day.
Calling Antichrist [1] “the prince that shall come” indicates that he, like the ancient Caesars, will rule the Empire when it is revived. Moreover, the ancient Roman Empire was not only a political, economic, and military entity but also a religious one with the god-emperor the head of the pagan priesthood. So in conjunction with a world government, a world religion headed by the new Caesar, the Antichrist [1], must be established in the last days, exactly as Revelation 13 indicates.
During the periodic waves of Roman persecution that the early Christians endured, all citizens of the Empire were required to bow down to an image of the current Caesar and worship him as god. Those who did not were killed. Such will also be the case under Antichrist [1] in the revived Roman Empire: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life...[and] as many as would not worship the image of the beast [Antichrist [1] ] should be killed” (Rv 13:8,15).
The contrasts between Christ and Antichrist [1] are also instructive. Our Lord was despised and rejected by Israel [4] and by the world: the Antichrist [1] will be hailed and embraced. Christ was mocked and jeered: the Antichrist [1] will be praised. The cry of those who rejected Christ was, “We’ll not have this man to reign over us!” It is incredible to realize that in contrast the Antichrist [1] will be accepted not only by the world but by Israel [4] as well. Jesus told the Jewish leaders in His day, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Jn:5:43).
Christ’s kingdom of light and truth is heavenly (“My kingdom is not of this world” - Jn:18:36); Antichrist [1]’s kingdom of darkness is built upon a lie and is totally of this world. It is sad to see so many evangelical Christians becoming increasingly entangled in this world, joining with Catholics, Mormons and other cultists and occultists to pursue its political and social agendas—and in the process losing their hope of heaven. It was characteristic of the early church that they knew they were the ekklesia, the called-out ones, who were no longer of this world (Jn:17:6,14,16) but were eagerly waiting (1 Thes:1:10) and watching for Christ to return to take them to heaven (Heb:9:28Jn:14:2-3). That hope must be awakened!
Mystery surrounds both Christ and Antichrist [1]. Of Christ, Paul wrote, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh...” (1 Tm 3:16). And of Antichrist [1] he wrote, “[T]he mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thes:2:7). Each has a mysterious bride, one a virgin, the other a harlot. The mystery of godliness, which will be revealed in Christ’s bride, the church, has been “kept secret since the world began” (Rom:16:25) and is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col:1:27). It can only be fully revealed at the last time (1 Pt 1:5).
The mystery of iniquity, which could conversely be called “Satan in you, the hope of damnation,” will also be revealed through a bride, the Antichrist [1]’s. She is called “mystery, babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rv 17:5). As Christ loves and preserves His bride, so Satan will “hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Rv 17:16).
The fact that the second coming of Christ in power and glory to rescue Israel [4], destroy the armies that are about to destroy her, and to set up His kingdom upon the throne of His father David is a separate event from the rapture of His bride, the church, is very clear. Some try to make them one event by suggesting that we will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” on His way to earth and will immediately turn around and accompany Him to the Mount of Olives and His intervention at Armageddon. However, Revelation:19:7-14 tells of Christ’s marriage to His bride in heaven before He comes to earth to execute judgment and set up His kingdom.
A major purpose of the Second Coming is to destroy Antichrist [1]: “whom the Lord shall...destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thes:2:8). Thus it is clear that the Second Coming cannot take place until the Antichrist [1] has been revealed and has established his kingdom upon earth. If the Rapture were not a separate event from the Second Coming before the Antichrist [1] is revealed, then Christians would not be watching, waiting, and looking for Christ, but for the Antichrist [1], which is unthinkable!
One of the growing delusions today is the belief that the church is not to be raptured at all but that when we have taken over the world (and not until then), Christ will return to reign over the kingdom we have established for Him. Yet Christ promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you [in heaven], I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn:14:3). Paul wrote that “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 [obviously to be taken home to His Father’s house of many mansions]: and so shall we ever be with the Lord [in heaven, where He has gone to prepare a place for us]” (1 Thes:4:16-17).
Instead, many who claim to be Christians are looking forward to meeting a “Christ” with their feet planted firmly on planet earth—a “Christ” who has not arrived to take them to heaven but to reign over the kingdom they have established for him. What a delusion! Such have not been working for the true Christ, but for the counterfeit, the Antichrist [1]. They have not been “lay[ing] up...treasures in heaven” (Mt 6:20), but have been building an earthly kingdom. May our Bridegroom reawaken our love for Him, and may our hearts, as it should be with a bride, long to see and be with Him!
TBC
Source: https://www.thebereancall.org/content/christ-and-antichrist

Saturday, April 1, 2017

One Priest and One Finished Sacrifice for Sin


By Mike Gendron

As a devout Roman Catholic for over 34 years, I was utterly dependent upon Catholic priests for salvation. The reliance on priests to avoid the fires of hell is common among all Catholics. All Catholics are enslaved and in bondage to these men in the following ways: to baptize them with water for regeneration and justification, to hear their confession and absolve their sin, to impart the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation, and to transubstantiate a wafer into the physical body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist so that He can be offered on an altar and consumed. Not only are Catholics utterly dependent on their priests in this life, but also in the next life. The priest ministers Last Rites to prepare them for eternity and then offers Eucharistic sacrifices that are purchased by loved ones to get them out of purgatory. No priest will say how many sacrifices must be offered before they can be released from purgatory. This keeps the money pouring into Catholic coffers.
By God's grace, I began reading His Word and discovered there is a perfect High Priest who is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him (Heb. 7:25). When Jesus cried out "It is finished," the curtain of the temple was torn open, giving believers direct access to God (Mat. 27:51). I soon realized there is no need for Catholic priests offering the same sacrifices repeatedly, which can never take away sins (Heb. 10:11). Jesus appeared once to do away with sin; then He entered the holy place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12, 26). He offered Himself once as one unrepeatable sacrifice for sins for all time (Heb. 10:10, 12). His offering made perfect forever those who are sanctified, and there are no more offerings for sin (Heb. 10:14, 18). No longer would I rely on priests continuing on an altar what Jesus finished on the cross. There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).
These glorious truths from Scripture are what God used to set me free from the bondage of religious deception (John 8:31-32). I soon realized the Catholic priesthood is completely unnecessary, superfluous, and unbiblical. According to the Bible, the only priesthood that is now present on earth is the priesthood of all believers, the royal priesthood that offers sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 13:15).
Catholics will continue to be utterly dependent upon their priests until they come to know the Great High Priest who is so gloriously revealed in His Word. May God give us all a greater compassion and more courage to make these truths known to those who are perishing in their misplaced trust.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Where are You Going?


Where Are You Going By I. C. Herendeen
TIME FLIES. The days, the weeks, the months and the years slip by with incredible speed, and are gone before we realize it. It seems as though they no more begin, than they are gone, passed into eternity. So, too, the happenings of the day soon recede into the distant past. Everything in this world is fleeting and transitory—nothing is stable and lasting. “We spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psa 90:9). Being busily engrossed with the occupations, labors and pursuits of life we are more or less insensible to the swiftness of passing time, of the solemn fact that life itself is fast getting away from us, and that the end of our earthly journey is speedily and surely approaching. Or, if we are conscious that our time is getting short, either we dismiss the thought or reckon that somehow or other all will be well in the end.
How important it is that we keep in mind that our death is ever on the horizon, that we are but a heartbeat from it, and that when we die, we will be ushered into eternity from which there is no return or escape. Since death is so common we do not give this sufficient thought. We seem to have developed a sense of immunity to such an experience. Because death seems so vague, unreal and unlikely, we fail to take it into serious consideration. Instead, we live as though we were certain of many more years of life, whereas God's Word faithfully warns us: “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Pro 27:1).
We hear and read of large numbers being killed in war or by accident, of thousands starving to death in Africa and India. But we give this little or no thought; it doesn't mean much to us since we are not personally involved. A neighbor down the street dies, or one of our own dear ones is taken from us. This may cause us to stop and think for a moment, but soon it is largely gone from our memory and we go on our way day after day, probably with the thought in the back of our mind that we are safe and have no reason to be apprehensive. We have plenty of time yet.
Likely the thought of our death would take on a new and serious meaning if we knew that the moment we pass from this scene (and this could be and may be before this day is over) we would awake in hell, in the “everlasting burnings” (Isa 33:14) forever past all hope. But this is just what God's Word makes known to every unsaved sinner. Scripture is clear and plain that “the wicked shall be turned into hell!” (Psalm 9:17); “the rich man also died, and was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22).
Many take thought for their bodies, but totally neglect the interests of their immortal souls. But “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Most drift aimlessly through life without any care or concern as to what is before them after this fleeting life is over, seemingly taking it for granted that somehow or other everything will turn out all right with them in the end. This is what they hope; and they give themselves the benefit of any doubt.
Many have no consciousness of their lost condition. While they do not consider themselves perfect, yet they are not aware that there is anything seriously wrong with them. They are respectable, law-abiding citizens, and consider themselves no worse than their neighbors; and though they scarcely ever read the Bible or enter a church, they fully expect to go to heaven when they die. Some will admit that they are sinners, but imagine that their good works will far outnumber their bad ones. Some fancy that all will be well with them because they have joined “the church of their choice,” been baptized and partake of the Lord's supper. On the contrary, God's Word informs us that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Titus3:5) that we are saved. Again, we are told that “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt 19:17); that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and that “the wrath of God abideth” (John 3:36) on such. This is the condition of every unsaved sinner in the sight of God—be he king or begger, high or low, rich or poor, moral or immoral, kind or unkind, religious or irreligious.
How prone is human nature to neglect or slight God's solemn warnings and threats of coming judgment! We are told after death is the judgment (Heb9:27). The reason is the apprehension of these things is disquieting and disturbing, hence men put such thoughts from them and go on their way. Few indeed are disturbed enough about their eternal future to cry out—“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). O the consummate folly of such indifference and procrastination when your eternal destiny is at stake!
Soon, very soon, taking the longest possible view, you will go down to the dust and your spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl 12:7). O my friend, do not lightly dismiss this matter from your thoughts, or your folly will only accentuate your misery in that Day. Far better to be made humble now for a time than that you should weep and gnash your teeth (Matt 8:12) forever. His gracious word to you is that God hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his wicked way and live (Ezek 33:11); that you repent and turn from all your transgressions: so iniquity shall not be your ruin (Ezek 18:30). Unless you savingly believe the gospel repenting of your sin (Mark 1:15), Christ Himself asks, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt 23:33).
O sinner, will you continue another day with God's wrath hanging over your head? Remember, your day of grace may be all but over. God warns you—“My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). Take heed to His divine admonition—“Seek ye the LORD while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6-7). Hallelujah, what a Saviour! Flee to Him now by faith while time and opportunity are yours. Cast yourself humbly and penitently at His feet and cry unto Him for mercy, for “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13).
Christ receives sinners . Will you come? “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12).
Eternity.
Time will soon end,
Its fleeting moments pass away;
O sinner say, where wilt thou spend Eternity's unchanging day?
Shalt thou the hopeless horror see Of hell for all eternity?

Tonight may be thy latest breath, Thy little moment here be done; Eternal woe — the second death Awaits the Christ-rejecting one Thine awful destiny foresee, Time ends, and then — ETERNITY! 

Friday, March 24, 2017

God is Not Dependent on Our Human Success

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
1 Peter 5:6

The following is a quote from A.W. Tozer's devotional...

 "Why is it that professed Christian church seems to have learned so little from our Lord's plain teachings and example concerning human failure and success?
  We are still seeing as men see and judging after the manner of man's judgement. How much eager beaver religious work is done out of a carnal desire to make good? How many hours of prayer are wasted beseeching God to bless projects that are geared to the glorification of little men? How much sacred money is poured out upon men who, in spite of their tear-in-the-voice- appeals, nevertheless seek only to make a fair show in the flesh?
  The true Christian should turn away from all this. No man is worthy to succeed until he is willing to fail. No man is morally worthy of success in religious activities until he is willing that the honor of succeeding should go to another if God so wills.
  God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success and cast down by failure is still a carnal man.
  God will allow His servant to succeed when he has learned that success does not make him dearer to God or more valuable in the total scheme of things. 
  Our great honor lies in being just what Jesus was and is. To be accepted by those who accept Him, rejected by all who reject Him, loved by those who love Him. What greater glory could come to any man?
 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Rapture-Don't Be Deceived

The Rapture - Don't Be Deceived
14 Studies on 7 DVD's or 10 Blu Rays
If there’s one thing you don’t want to be deceived about in life, it’s the Biblical truth concerning the Rapture. The Bible says that for those who are left behind after this next great event on God’s end time prophetic calendar, they will be thrust into the 7-year Tribulation, which is not a party. Rather, it’s an outpouring of God’s wrath upon this wicked and rebellious planet which will soon turn into mankind’s greatest nightmare! Unfortunately, there seems to be a multitude of opinions out there concerning the purpose and timing of the Rapture which is starting to cause a lot of unnecessary confusion and division. Therefore, The Rapture: Don’t Be Deceived takes a detective’s approach toward the Biblical teaching of the Rapture and examines the many Scriptural facts surrounding it. You will discover such amazing clues as:
1. The Importance of the Rapture
2. The Purpose of the Rapture
3. The Timing of the Rapture
4. The Objections of the Rapture
5. The Positions of the Rapture
6. The Proper Attitude of the Rapture
The Rapture: Don’t Be Deceived is not only designed to equip and encourage you in the truth concerning the purpose and proof of the Biblical Rapture, but to also motivate you in sharing the wonderful truth that people don’t have to be left behind at the Rapture. God has provided a way out of this horrible time frame through Jesus Christ and has been warning us about this sudden shocking event for the last 2,000 years!
It’s near and we need to get ready for it! The Rapture: Don’t Be Deceived!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Absolute Uncertianty

by John MacArthur
For postmodern philosophers and theologians, searching for truth is like chasing a rainbow—a journey with no real destination. They believe “the truth is out there” but they’re comfortable keeping it that way—perpetually beyond reach.
Yet there’s nothing actually new or innovative about their pseudo-quest. They merely echo what Pontius Pilate said two thousand years earlier: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
The tragic part about Pilate’s question is that it was only rhetorical. Like skeptics of all ages, including contemporary postmodernists, Pilate despaired of ever finding universal truth (worse still, standing before him was Jesus Christ—the way, the truth, and the life). And the belief that no one can really know anything for certain seems to be the one dogma postmodernists will tolerate. Uncertainty is the new truth. Doubt and skepticism have been canonized as a form of humility. Right and wrong have been redefined in terms of subjective feelings and personal perspectives.
Those views are infiltrating the church too. The Emerging church began as a self-conscious effort to make Christianity more suitable to a postmodern culture. Emergent Christians were determined to adapt the Christian faith, the structure of the church, the language of faith, and even the gospel message itself to the ideas and rhetoric of postmodernism.
Some in the movement openly questioned whether there is even any legitimate role for preaching in a postmodern culture. “Dialogue” is the preferred method of communication. Accordingly, some Emerging-style congregations did away with pastors altogether and replaced them with “narrators.” For obvious reasons, an authoritative “thus saith the Lord” is not welcome in such a setting.
Of course, the first casualty of that way of thinking is every kind of certainty. The central propositions and bedrock convictions of biblical Christianity—such as firm belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, a sound understanding of the true gospel, full assurance of salvation, settled confidence in the lordship of Christ, and the narrow exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation—do not reconcile well with postmodernism’s contempt for clear, authoritative truth claims.
Listen, for example, to how Brian McLaren sums up his views on orthodoxy, certainty, and the question of whether the truths of Christianity are sound and reliable in the first place:
How ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down here next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope’s, whoever’s) is orthodox, meaning true, and here’s my honest answer: a little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text, and culture . . . I’d have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong. [1]
McLaren suggests that clarity itself is of dubious value. He clearly prefers ambiguity and equivocation, and his books are therefore full of deliberate doublespeak. In his introduction to A Generous Orthodoxy, he admits:
I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity. [2]
Postmodern theologians seem to presume that if we cannot know everything perfectly, we really cannot know anything with any degree of certainty. That may be an appealing argument to the postmodern mind, but it is entirely at odds with what Scripture teaches: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
That is not to suggest, of course, that we have exhaustive knowledge. But we do have infallible knowledge of what Scripture reveals, as the Spirit of God teaches us through the Word of God: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The fact that our knowledge grows fuller and deeper—and we all therefore change our minds about some things as we gain more and more light—doesn’t mean that everything we know is uncertain, outdated, or in need of an overhaul every few years. The words of 1 John 2:20–21 apply in their true sense to every believer: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”
The message coming from postmodern evangelicals is exactly the opposite: Certainty is overrated. Assurance is arrogant. Better to keep changing your mind and keep your theology in a constant state of flux.
By such means, the ages-old war against truth has moved right into the Christian community, and the church itself has already become a battleground—and ominously, precious few in the church today are prepared for the fight.
(Adapted from The Truth War.)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Legalism and Lawlessness



by Jeremiah Johnson
The opposite of wrong isn’t always right. Sometimes it’s simply a different kind of wrong.
There are two dominant errors Christians fall into that can damage and destroy their integrity. You can think of them as two equally treacherous ditches on either side of the narrow way (Matthew 7:14).
On one side you have legalism. With strict rules that govern outward behavior, legalists don’t put much emphasis on integrity. It matters what you do—or moreover, what you don’t do—not why or how you do it.
In legalism, conformity takes the place of faithfulness. Your rigid adherence to the rules is what matters—not the attitude that undergirds your outward obedience or the true nature of your heart’s affections. Integrity is merely the measure of how consistently you follow the rules. It has nothing to do with the inner transforming work of the Spirit, or the mortification of the flesh (Romans 8:13).
Legalists also measure their own spiritual maturity by the flaws they can spot in others. Christ’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 is a prime example. Scripture makes it clear the Pharisee prayed these words for his own benefit: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).
Christ was born into a world ruled by the Pharisees’ heavy-handed legalism. They had reduced God’s law—along with its rich symbolism that pointed to the coming Messiah—to an oppressive list of prescriptions and prohibitions. The apostles knew firsthand the threat that legalism posed to the early church, and warned against succumbing to its influence. Paul exhorted the Galatians to withstand the pressures of the legalistic Judaizers, who attempted to add works to grace: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
One of the dangers of legalism is that it shortcuts the need for integrity. When godliness isn’t measured in holiness and maturity, but by how your life looks relative to others, there’s no need to discipline your heart and mind. Sins that no one else can see essentially don’t count, and you wind up living a hypocritical double life. Your outward behavior might look godly but it’s a worthless façade if your heart is still dominated by selfishness, lust, hatred, and pride. And if your godliness is just a façade, you can be sure it will eventually collapse and expose the hypocrisy within.
The opposite error of legalism’s spiritual pantomime is lawlessness. Just as legalism posed a threat to the early church, antinomianism—the belief that God’s law no longer applies to Christians—was a spiritual plague in the first-century church.
Paul wrote to the Ephesian church to encourage them to shed their sinful habits and live out the transformation God had already worked within: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). He hammered that same point in his letter to the Colossians:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. . . . Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (Colossians 3:1-10)
He issued a similar reminder in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared . . . instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”
Despite these and other clear exhortations from Scripture, antinomianism still lives—and thrives—in corners of the church today.
We’ve dealt with the Hypergrace movement in the past (here and here)—in simple terms, it stresses Scripture’s indicative statements (for example, that we’ve been saved by grace—Ephesians 2:8) while downplaying its imperatives (like exhortations to walk in godliness—Ephesians 2:10). The result is a kind of practical antinomianism that shrugs at sin in a believer’s life while pointing to the completed work of Christ.
But that imbalanced emphasis on God’s grace undercuts the importance of cultivating a life of integrity. In fact, it makes it virtually impossible. Consider this definition from John MacArthur’s book The Power of Integrity:
Integrity essentially means being true to one’s ethical standards, in our case, God’s standards. Its synonyms are honesty, sincerity, incorruptibility. It describes someone without hypocrisy or duplicity—someone who is completely consistent with his or her stated convictions. A person who lacks integrity—who says one thing and does another—is a hypocrite. [1]
If a believer is to live with integrity, he cannot compromise on Scripture’s exhortations to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires,” “to lay aside the old self,” “to live sensibly, righteously and godly,” and walk in the good works for which the Lord has called and transformed us.
In fact, applying God’s grace as an immediate free pass for your sin is the height of duplicity. It’s an overt denial of the Spirit’s sanctifying work within you, and it trains you to take both your sin and God’s grace lightly. It breeds carelessness and corruption, and can lead to tragic spiritual shipwreck.
Living with integrity means avoiding legalism and lawlessness, and the hypocrisy inherent in both extremes. Instead, we need to pursue the balance Paul strikes in his letter to the Ephesians—one that clings to the gospel while pursuing holiness:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)