Monday, May 25, 2015

Giving the Gospel to Your Children

by John MacArthur
What are the bare-bone facts of the gospel? What is the minimum information needed to believe and be saved? While those questions may foster interesting discussions, they are not valid questions for developing evangelistic programs. Sadly, too many evangelistic efforts are based on answers to those questions.
In fact, many of the formulaic approaches to the gospel deliberately omit important truths like repentance and God’s wrath against sin. Some influential voices in modern evangelicalism have actually argued that those truths (and others, including Christ’s lordship) are extraneous to the gospel. They say such matters should not even be brought up when talking to unbelievers.
Other evangelical leaders, desiring ecumenical unity with Catholic and orthodox churches, suggest that important doctrinal issues such as justification by faith and substitutionary atonement are not really essential to the gospel. They’re in effect calling for a bare-bones approach to the gospel. Their ecumenical openness implies that virtually any kind of generic faith in Christ may be regarded as authentic saving faith. They ignore the fact that the New Testament condemns those who profess to believe in Christ while rejecting or twisting the doctrine of justification (Galatians 1:6–9). It seems many evangelicals are obsessed with finding out how little of God’s truth a person can believe and still get to heaven.
Parental Evangelism
Applied to parenting, that approach has potentially eternal consequences. That’s why parents should resist the temptation to think in such terms. The sort of constant, faithful, diligent teaching required by Deuteronomy 6:6–7 is incompatible with a minimalist approach to the gospel.
The gospel is the good news about Christ. There is a sense in which the gospel includes all truth about Him. There’s no need to think of any aspect of biblical truth as incompatible with or extraneous to the gospel. In fact, since Christ is the sum and the summit of all biblical revelation (Hebrews 1:1–3), every truth in Scripture ultimately points to Him. And therefore none of it is out of place in evangelistic contexts. One could accurately say, then, that parents who want to be thorough in evangelizing their children need to teach them the whole counsel of God, taking care to show the gospel ramifications in all that truth. That, I believe, is the true spirit of what Deuteronomy 6:6–7 calls for.
No single formula can possibly meet the needs of every unregenerate person anyway. Those who are ignorant need to be told who Christ is and why He offers the only hope of salvation (Romans 10:3). Those who are careless need to be confronted with the reality of impending judgment (John 16:11). Those who are fearful need to hear that God is merciful, delighting not in the death of the wicked but pleading with sinners to come to Him for mercy (Ezekiel 33:11). Those who are hostile need to be shown the futility of opposing the will of God (Psalm 2:1–4). Those who are self-righteous need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God’s law (Romans 3:20). Those who are proud need to hear that God hates pride (1 Peter 5:5). All sinners must understand that God is holy and that Christ has met the demands of God’s perfect righteousness on behalf of sinners (1 Corinthians 1:30). Every gospel presentation should include an explanation of Christ’s sacrificial death for sin (15:3). And the message is not the gospel if it does not also recount His burial and the triumph of His resurrection (vv. 4, 17).
Highlight the Crucial Gospel Doctrines
Along with a commitment to be thorough, however, parents must also take great care to highlight certain truths that are particularly crucial to a correct understanding of the gospel. Here are some pointers that will help keep you on course:
Teach Them About God’s Holiness
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). That is not speaking of a craven fear. It is not the kind of fear that regards God as capricious in His anger. Rather, it is a devout, reverential fear of offending God’s holiness, based on a true understanding of God as One whose “eyes are too pure to approve evil, and [One who] can not look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13).
Show Them Their Sin
Be sure to teach your children from the youngest age that misbehavior is not merely an offense against Mom and Dad; it’s also a sin against a holy God, who demands that children obey their parents (Exodus 20:12).
Help educate your children’s conscience so that they understand they are accountable to God first, and then their parents. Teach them this with love and genuine compassion, not in a browbeating manner.
Teaching them they are sinners does not mean belittling them or tormenting them with constant verbal battering about their failures. The goal is not to trample their spirit by continually berating them. Instead, you need to instruct them tenderly and help them view their own fallenness from God’s perspective. They need to appreciate why they are drawn to sin, and ultimately they must sense their own need of redemption. Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). How will your child turn to Christ if he doesn’t realize he’s sick?
Instruct Them About Christ and What He Has Done
Teaching your children about their own sin is by no means an end in itself. You must also point them to the only remedy for sin—Jesus Christ. He is the heart of the gospel message, so instructing them about Jesus Christ should be the ultimate focus and the design of all your spiritual instruction.
Explain Christ’s deity (John 1:1-3, 14) and His Lordship (Philippians 2:9-11). Explain that He became a man (Philippians 2:6-7), but maintained His sinless purity (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22-23) and became the spotless sacrifice for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21), shedding His blood as an atonement for our sin (Ephesians 1:7). Explain how His death on the cross purchased our salvation (1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:20), and that He triumphantly rose from the dead (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And explain that He freely justifies those who trust in Him (Romans 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16), and that His righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:5-6; Philippians 3:8-9).
Tell Them What God Demands of Sinners
God calls sinners to repentance (Acts 17:30). Genuine repentance is not self-reformation or the turning over of a new leaf. It is a turning of the heart to God from all that is evil.
It’s helpful to stress that repentance is a heart-turning and should not be equated with any external action on the child’s part. In many modern evangelicals’ minds, the act of praying to invite Jesus into the heart has become practically a sacramental means of salvation. The same thing is true of lifting a hand in a meeting, or coming forward to the altar. But such external actions have no intrinsic saving efficacy. They are all works, and works cannot save. Faith—a repentant trust in Christ alone for salvation—is the one true instrument of our justification, according to Scripture. “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” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
It’s best to avoid all such emphasis on external actions, and keep focusing instead on the response Scripture calls for from sinners.
Advise Them to Count the Cost Thoughtfully
Don’t downplay the hard demands of Christ. Don’t portray the Christian life as a life of ease, free from difficulties and dilemmas. Keep reminding your kids that the true price of following Christ always involves sacrifice, and the prelude to glory is suffering. It’s true that Christ offers the water of life freely to all who will take it (Revelation 22:17). But those who do are making an unconditional commitment to follow Him that may literally cost them their very lives.
Here is why all the central truths of the gospel focus on the cross: It reveals how heinous our sin is. It shows the intensity of God’s wrath against sin. It reveals the great love of God in paying such a high price for redemption. But it also serves as a fitting metaphor for the cost of following Christ. Jesus repeatedly stated that the cost of following Him involves a willingness to sacrifice all.
Urge Them to Trust Christ
We began by noting that regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work in the heart, and we cautioned parents not to employ artificial means or external pressure to coax a shallow profession of faith from the child. Nonetheless, there is an urgency inherent in the gospel message itself, and it is right for parents to impress that urgency on the child’s heart.
God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

(Adapted from What the Bible Says About Parenting.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ten fatal flaws of Catholicism

At the Worldview Weekend Conferenced in Branson, MO, John MacArthur responded to some thought provoking questions from the audience. When asked why so few evangelicals are contending for the faith against Roman Catholicism and its ecumenical movement, he said it is because they are ignorant of the errors of Catholicism. The next day, Mike Gendron took the opportunity to inform the audience of the ten most fatal errors of Catholicism. They are listed below:

1) It perverts the Gospel by adding requirements (Gal. 1:6-9).
2) It rejects the Gospel's promise of eternal life (2 Tim. 1:10). 
3) It rejects the sovereign, regenerating work of the Spirit with its sacrament of baptism (Eph. 1). 
4) Its bishops are false successors of the apostles, having not witnessed the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).
5) It distorts the Word of God by adding its tradition to it (Prov. 30:6). 
6) Its illegitimate priesthood encourages the idolatrous worship of a wafer as Almighty God (Exodus 32).
7) It denies Christ's blood as the only purification for sin (1 John 1:7).
8) It blasphemes God by giving His titles of Holy Father, Head of the Church to the pope (John 14:1617:11; Eph. 5:23).
9) It rejects Jesus as the only way of salvation (John 14:6).
10) It follows deceitful spirits and teaches doctrines of demons by forbidding its clergy to marry (1 Tim. 4:1-4

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Keeping it Real

"The Christian life is too glorious to be easy. It must involve trials and testings. This was true of Christ himself as well as of the apostles and early church. Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation (Jn:16:33)....The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you..." (15:19-20).
Avoiding this uncomfortable truth, a "user-friendly gospel" is preached by thousands of pastors. Megachurches are created by offering an appealing "Christianity" that is guaranteed to bring success and popularity with the world, but which would not be recognized by Paul or the other apostles as the Christian life they knew. Celebrities popular with the world are paid to enter today's pulpits to endorse Christ; thereby they entice multitudes into a false Christianity. Once upon a time the Christian's heroes were missionaries and martyrs. Not today. Believers and the world now share the same role models. Today's successful church offers a Christianity guaranteed to be comfortable and which provides numerous services, from 12-step programs to psychological counseling, to escape every possible trial.
The faith by which the Christian life is to be lived and which is described as "more precious than gold" must be tested by temptations, trials and difficulties. Why? So that when the faith by which the just live comes through the fire of adversity it will "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1Pt 1:7). Of Christ, who "[left] us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1Pt 2:21), it was said, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..." (Heb:12:2). We are able to endure earthly trials because our hope lies beyond this brief life: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor:4:17).
Those who have trusted God through deep trial testify that their faith has been strengthened and their joy increased. Having to depend totally on Christ draws us closer to Him and increases our love for Him. Any counsel, help or support we offer to those in distress should bring them through the trial of faith with their roots deepened in Christ (Is 43:2), rather than enable them to escape the very challenges God intends and the work He desires to effect in their hearts. By putting us in seemingly hopeless situations, God intends to move us from mere intellectual belief to practical trust in His provision." -Dave Hunt

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Will the Real Jesus please stand up?

There's the Republican Jesus—who is against tax increases and activist judges, for family values and owning firearms.
There's Democrat Jesus—who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
There's Therapist Jesus—who helps us cope with life's problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There's Open-minded Jesus—who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).
There's Touchdown Jesus—who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There's Hippie Jesus—who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that "all you need is love."
There's Yuppie Jesus—who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There's Spirituality Jesus—who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding "the god within" while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.
There's the intellectual Jesus- who cares only for doctrine and creeds, and wants His followers to be "missional".
There's Platitude Jesus—good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.
There's Guru Jesus—a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
There's Boyfriend Jesus—who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
(Obviously none of these represents the true Jesus who is God reigning in Heaven, who died on the cross for our sins, rose and conquered death on the third day. Who is at the same time a God of mercy, love, wrath, justice, compassion, and all knowing and all powerful. Who is a perfect Father and Savior! And who is coming back soon in judgement and will restore the earth out of sin and the curse! That's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!!)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Christian Worldview for Children

All Christian parents want to train their children to be “good kids.” But that honorable goal is starkly shallow compared to the eternal purposes God has in mind for your parenting.

The purpose of training is to prepare the soil of our child's heart so they will seek God for themselves and be convicted of their own sinfulness and their need to repent. Compelling a child to “pray a sinner's prayer” will not save them. It will only make false converts if the heart is not prepared for God's presence.

The Bible mentions the heart 826 times. “Heart” refers to the core of a person's being. From the heart proceed our good and bad thoughts, emotions and behavior. What we teach our children can determine whether that soil is prepared to produce good or evil.

Nothing is more important than seeding deep within the heart and mind of a child core Christian convictions like Jesus is God; The reasons we know Jesus Christ rose from the dead, why we should be convinced the Bible is a true and accurate revelation from beginning to end and the absolute truth that Jesus is the only way to God. Unless our children know these and other key doctrines revealed in the Bible, they will not be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Although the word “doctrine” sometimes intimidates people, it is nothing more than a description of the will of God and the Gospel. If we have not trained the hearts and minds of our children to love sound teachings then we should not be surprised when three-fourths of them eventually walk away from the faith in college.

Excerpt from the book:

"The purpose of our training is to prepare
the soil of our children’s hearts so they will seek God for
themselves and be convicted of sinfulness and the need
to repent. Forcing or coercing children to “pray a sinner’s
prayer” will not save them but only make false converts.
I know this well from personal experience. At the age of
five, I prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” and at seven I walked the
aisle to join our church and be baptized. For years, I used
these acts to affirm my salvation. I learned to “perform,” to
do what was expected of me, or to do what I knew would
make other Christians respect and accept me.
I played the “game” even though I didn’t know I was
playing a game. I thought I was saved because I had prayed
the right prayer, walked the aisle, and was baptized. It was
not until I read Revival’s Golden Key by Ray Comfort that
I understood my total depravity and need for Biblical repentance. "

Order it here: Christian Worldview for Children

Monday, March 2, 2015

ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW, RIGHT?


By Dr. Woodrow Kroll


          You would think that all Christians have a biblical view of the world around them.  After all, we go to church, we're a part of a small group, we've read The Purpose-Driven Life.  Are you ready for a reality check?  The research says just the opposite.  Most Christians do not have a biblical worldview.



          Author and researcher George Barna made waves by citing statistics that show just 9 percent of all adults in America who claim to be "born again" have a biblical worldview.  You didn't read that incorrectly-it was 9 percent.   Protestants as a whole could only manage 7 percent with a biblical worldview (The Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).



But that can't be possible, can it?  How could only 9 percent of born again adults view the world with a biblical focus?   Let me make a few observations.



Bible illiteracy is rampant in the church



          Like it or not, it's time we faced up to the fact that we Christians are blatantly biblically illiterate.  We don't know the Bible nearly as well as we think we do. 

To say that Bible illiteracy is rampant in America is black eye for a nation that thinks of itself as Christian.  Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life."  Amazingly, 28% of Americans who believe the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life" say they rarely or never read the Bible  (The Gallup Organization, October 20, 2000).  Therein lies the problem.

But that's the American public.  What about the American church?  Surely we aren't as biblically illiterate as our unchurched neighbor?  Don't count on it.

Among those individuals who are associated with the Christian faith, only half (50%) rate themselves as being "absolutely committed" to the Christian faith (Barna Research Group, March 19, 2004).  This lack of commitment to the faith often stems from a lack of commitment to the Word of God, the foundation for our faith. 

In 2004, 16% of all adults agreed somewhat that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings compared with 19% in 2002 and 25% in 1991.  Still, 12 percent of born again Christians disagree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings (Barna Research Group, "The Bible," 2004).

This innate mistrust of the Bible has resulted in millions of people owning Bibles but very few reading or believing them.   The percentage of frequent readers, those who read the Bible at least once a week, has decreased from 40% in 1990 to 37% today.  Only one American in seven reports an involvement with the Bible that goes beyond reading it (The Gallup Organization, October 20, 2000).  The "born again" segment of the population fares only slightly better.

          But with more programs, more 40-day adventures, more training in leadership skills, surely today's pastors are better equipped than ever before to help their people out of the quagmire of Bible illiteracy.  You'd think.

Pastors often do not themselves hold biblical worldviews.

Isaiah 56:11 makes reference to "shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way . . . ."   We have to be careful not to generalize here because there are many fine men of God who are concerned about their people's understanding of the Word.  Still, an increasing number "look to their own way," or if not their own way, the way of the latest hot book on church growth.

Based on interviews with 601 Senior Pastors nationwide, representing a random cross-section of Protestant churches, Barna reports that only half of the country's Protestant pastors – 51% - have a biblical worldview (Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).



George Barna argued, "The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders (senior pastors) do not have one."



In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches"  (Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).

The result of Bible illiteracy is theological heterodoxy.

          Heterodoxy is just a big word for whacky theology.  Because people in the pews don't know their Bibles very well, and because the pastor feels constrained to preach so as not to offend the mixed multitude attending church on Sunday morning, born-again adults are beginning to formulate some beliefs and practices that are anything but biblical.

George Barna says that Americans willingly "embrace beliefs that are logically contradictory and their preference for blending different faith views together create unorthodox religious viewpoints."

Consider these findings:

n      Among born again Christians, 10% believe that people are reincarnated after death.

n      Among born again Christians, 29% claim it is possible to communicate with the dead.

n      Fifty percent of born again Christians contend that a person can earn salvation based upon good works  (Barna Research Group, October 21, 2003).

Don't miss this.  We are not talking about the beliefs of Americans here.  We aren't even talking about the beliefs of churched Americans.  We are talking about "born-again, churched Americans."  These are things believed by the people who sat in the pew next to you last Sunday.

4.  Biblical illiteracy that leads to theological heterodoxy always leads to moral frailty.

          Those who have a biblical worldview also hold to biblical concepts and standards for living.  Here's the proof.

n      Less than one-half of one percent of those with a biblical worldview said voluntary exposure to pornography was morally acceptable (compared to 39% of other adults).

n      Those people with a biblical worldview were eight times less likely to buy lottery tickets and 17 times less likely to place bets than those who did not have a biblical worldview.

n      While one out of every eight adults who lack a biblical worldview had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse during the prior month, less than one out of every 100 individuals who have such a worldview had done so (Barna Research Group, December 1, 2003).

          Obviously knowing the Bible well impacts living with a biblical worldview and vice versa.

Follow the progression.  We read our Bibles less and therefore understand less biblical truth.  We attend a church where biblical truth was once the hallmark of the pulpit, but today the pulpit has been removed and we are fed a steady diet of spiritual gummy bears, more taste-less filling. 

As a dumbed-down church we look for a belief system that matches others who have come into the church or those we read or watch on Christian television or hear on Christian radio. 

We are so biblically ignorant we don't even know that we've adopted beliefs that are much closer to Eastern mysticism than Christian orthodoxy.  As a result, even though we are proudly part of the "born again" segment of Christianity, we hold a worldview that is no more biblical than our non-churched neighbor.

          Does that hurt?  It should.  The truth often hurts.  But we cannot correct the flaws in our worldview until we admit those flaws exist.  And do they ever exist!

          In future articles we'll address what you can do if you feel your worldview weakening.  For now, get back to the Bible and you'll start to reverse the progression toward moral malaise.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pop Culture in the Church


A few scriptures to refute this idea of making the church more "relevant" to reach the culture. Plus, the church is not going to be relevant to a culture who does not seek after God nor loves Him. The church body goes out into the culture and shares the message of the Gospel so that they can be converted and join the body of Christ.

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:2-5)