Friday, February 28, 2014

The Flower and Life of True Religion

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pope Francis And The Emerging One World Religion

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review — Rediscovering Expository Preaching


Monday, February 24, 2014

Persecution for the Church

 The world in which the first Christians lived was brutal, totally pagan, and openly anit-Christian. There was no affirmation of morality or any sort of cultural Christianity. Early believers were aliens to everything in the culture.
I think we are closer than ever to living in conditions like the people did in the book of Acts.  With the facade of cultural Christianity crumbling, true Christianity is starting to stand out in a way it hasn't in our lifetime. Scripture teaches and church history confirms that the Body of Christ is most potent and more effective when it simply speaks and lives the gospel without equivocation or apology. With the mask of superficial Christianity gone, I believe the best days for the spread of the true gospel are ahead of us.
The gospel advances by personal testimony to Christ, one soul at a time. When the church acts like the church, when the shepherds preach Scripture and confront error with clarity and boldness; when believers are sanctified, built up, and equipped in truth, people are saved. And that's when the culture changes-nothing transforms the culture like genuine conversion.

-John MacArthur (excerpts from GTY newsletter)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Praying in the Spirit

1. Over and over again in what has already been said, we have seen our dependence upon the Holy Spirit in prayer. This comes out very definitely in Eph 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication IN THE SPIRIT," and in Jude 20, "Praying IN THE HOLY GHOST." Indeed the whole secret of prayer is found in these three words, "in the Spirit." It is the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers.
The disciples did not know how to pray as they ought, so they came to Jesus and said,"Lord teach us to pray." We know not how to pray as we ought, but we have another Teacher and Guide right at hand to help us (John 14:16-17), "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity" (Rom 8:26, R.V.). He teaches us how to pray. True prayer is prayer in the Spirit; that is, the prayer the Spirit inspires and directs. When we come into God's presence we should recognize "our infirmity," our ignorance of what we should pray for or how we should pray for it, and in the consciousness of our utter inability to pray aright we should look up to the Holy Spirit, casting ourselves utterly upon Him to direct our prayers, to lead out our desires and to guide our utterance of them.
Nothing can be more foolish in prayer than to rush heedlessly into God's presence, and ask the first thing that comes into our mind, or that some thoughtless friend has asked us to pray for. When we first come into God's presence we should be silent before Him. We should look up to Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray. We must wait for the Holy Spirit, and surrender ourselves to the Spirit, then we shall pray aright.
Oftentimes when we come to God in prayer, we do not feel like praying. What shall one do in such a case? cease praying until he does feel like it? Not at all. When we feel least like praying is the time when we most need to pray. We should wait quietly before God and tell Him how cold and prayerless our hearts are, and look up to Him and trust Him and expect Him to send the Holy Spirit to warm our hearts and draw them out in prayer. It will not be long before the glow of the Spirit's presence will fill our hearts, and we will begin to pray with freedom, directness, earnestness and power. Many of the most blessed seasons of prayer I have ever known have begun with a feeling of utter deadness and prayerlessness, but in my helplessness and coldness I have cast myself upon God, and looked to Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach me to pray, and He has done it.
When we pray in the Spirit, we will pray for the right things and in the right way. There will be joy and power in our prayer.
2. If we are to pray with power we must pray WITH FAITH. In Mark 11:24 Jesus says, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." No matter how positive any promise of God's Word may be, we will not enjoy it in actual experience unless we confidently expect its fulfillment in answer to our prayer. "If any of you lack wisdom," says James, "let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Now that promise is as positive as a promise can be, but the next verse adds, "But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." (R.V.) There must then be confident unwavering expectation. But there is a faith that goes beyond expectation, that believes that the prayer is heard and the promise granted. This comes out in the Revised Version of Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye HAVE received them, and ye shall have them."
But how can one get this faith?
Let us say with all emphasis, it cannot be pumped up. Many a one reads this promise about the prayer of faith, and then asks for things that he desires and tries to make himself believe that God has heard the prayer. This ends only in disappointment, for it is not real faith and the thing is not granted. It is at this point that many people make a collapse of faith altogether by trying to work up faith by an effort of their will, and as the thing they made themselves believe they expected to get is not given, the very foundation of faith is oftentimes undermined.
But how does real faith come?
Rom 10:17 answers the question: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing BY THE WORD OF GOD." If we are to have real faith, we must study the Word of God and find out what is promised, then simply believe the promises of God. Faith must have a warrant. Trying to believe something that you want to believe is not faith. Believing what God says in His Word is faith. If I am to have faith when I pray, I must find some promise in the Word of God on which to rest my faith. Faith furthermore comes through the Spirit. The Spirit knows the will of God, and if I pray in the Spirit, and look to the Spirit to teach me God's will, He will lead me out in prayer along the line of that will, and give me faith that the prayer is to be answered; but in no case does real faith come by simply determining that you are going to get the thing that you want to get.
If there is no promise in the Word of God, and no clear leading of the Spirit, there can be no real faith, and there should be no upbraiding of self for lack of faith in such a case. But if the thing desired is promised in the Word of God, we may well upbraid ourselves for lack of faith if we doubt; for we are making God a liar by doubting His Word.
—How To Pray

Thursday, February 20, 2014


In the Western world waiting is a curse to be eradicated because it accomplishes nothing and wastes time. So almost everything gets instantized: food preparation, service, transportation, communication and leisure. In contrast, in the developing world waiting in long lines for service in a government office is a way of life, often being seasoned with lively conversations with the people around you in the line. But most people in the developed world will do almost anything to avoid waiting. Waiting is boring. To keep people waiting is a social sin. Forcing customers to wait is disastrous.
Instantizing Almost Everything
In response to this human demand for the eradication of waiting, technology offers faster and more powerful computers (that “boot up” in seconds), automatic teller machines (that produce money without the time-consuming factor of dealing with people), microwave ovens (that reduce meal preparation time) and instant foods (that reduce ingestion time). The trend seems irreversible. To avoid waiting for the bus, people drive their cars to work, one person per vehicle. To avoid waiting for replies from letter writing, people use e-mail. To avoid waiting for the repair of a toaster, people buy a new one. All this stems from the assumption that time is a commodity, a scarce resource that must be managed shrewdly.
Relationships are deeply affected by this instantizing trend. Intimacy takes time. Persons are mysteries. Friendship cannot be rushed: there must be time for the ever deepening spiral of giving and receiving as layers of ourselves are unmasked progressively. No wonder so many people are lonely today. A good marriage is the product of a lot of waiting and cannot be instantized. No wonder there are so many divorces. Love cannot be given or received without waiting and listening; instant sex, in contrast, is genital activity without waiting for the returns of love. No wonder there is so much preoccupation with sex in our society when there is so little sexual satisfaction.
Even death is affected. On one hand, when people find they have an incurable disease, they do everything possible to prolong life. Heaven can wait. On the other hand, when they get nearer to death and the quality of life has been drastically reduced, they cannot wait to die.
Religion gets sucked into this no-waiting vortex as preachers promise no-wait results from faith—instant health, wealth and happiness. Churches package their services into no-wait sound and sight bites without embarrassing silences. Starting a service late is a venial sin; ending late is a mortal sin. What would you do while waiting? People do not wait for God to speak, wait for spiritual gifts, for maturity, for answered prayer, for the blessing of God or for the Second Coming. They want it all now.
Paradoxically, the faster we go, the more it seems we must wait as we encounter technologically resistant zones in urban life: stalled traffic on freeways, delayed credit card transactions when the system is down, long waits for elective surgery, takeoff delays when air traffic control is overloaded. Some things seem to slow down when we try to speed them up. Family life is a case in point. Children, anxious to grow up as quickly as possible, wear adult clothes and savor adult experiences as early as possible. Yet people do not seem to be growing up as quickly as they once did. Adolescence has been prolonged indefinitely, and people delay having children themselves because they know intuitively that having children will force them to stop being children themselves.
Another example is spiritual growth. There seems to be no effective way to force-feed Christians, to create an effective hothouse for fast growth, to package deeper spirituality in one short conference or to reduce spiritual disciplines to a how-to manual. As Jesus said, “The seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mark 4:27). Try as we will, we cannot seem to eliminate waiting. Would it be a good thing if we could?
Waiting as Spiritual Discipline
Psychologists tell us that impulse control is a crucial life skill to be gained in the process of maturing. How can we learn to delay gratification if we live in an instantized culture? Sociologists claim the amount of leisure time is getting progressively reduced in the modern world as we squeeze ever more productivity out of the time we have. How as adults will we ever learn again to play if we fill up every gap in our date books with one more activity? Theologians proclaim that waiting for the blessing of kept promises is fundamental to living in hope—that crucial, though missing, dimension of Christian faith that enables us to live fully in the present without requiring everything now. How can we thrive in hope if we insist on instant sanctification, instant maturity, instant knowledge of God, instant heaven? The inspired apostles advise us that patience is crucial to spiritual maturity (James 5:7-11; Romans 5:4), and we learn patience in the most frustrating experiences of life (Romans 5:3; James 1:2-8). How can we ever become mature Christians if we eliminate the soil in which the fruit of the Spirit will grow?
In the Bible waiting is a metaphor for the life of faith. All the great heroes of faith in the Bible died without having it all: “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13). Adam and Eve had to wait for grace as they were thrust out of the garden with only a promise in their hearts. Abraham had to wait for a family. A generation of liberated slaves had to wait in the desert for the Promised Land. David had to wait for the throne. Job had to wait for God to speak. The exiles in Babylon had to wait for the restoration of the kingdom. The Jews in occupied Palestine had to wait for the messiah. Jesus waited thirty years to begin his ministry. Judas, in contrast, refused to wait for the kingdom and tried to make it happen. The wise virgins in the parable of Jesus were ready for a long wait; the foolish ones could not tolerate a delayed return of the Lord. The early disciples of Jesus had to wait for the promised Holy Spirit after Jesus rose from the dead. The converted Pharisee Saul had to wait fourteen years to be ready for his first short-term mission. All of us have to wait for heaven.
Waiting in the Psalms is a posture of focused expectation. “Wait for the Lord,” the psalmist tells himself (Psalm 27:14). “My soul waits for the Lord,” he says to his friends (Psalm 130:6 NRSV). “I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God,” he says to God himself (Psalm 38:15). In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, written in the context of a social holocaust, the prophet calls to mind why waiting on God is so good: the never-failing compassions of God “are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, `The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lament. 3:23-24). God is utterly determined to give his presence, to bless his people and to provide a place for his people to dwell. Waiting for God is not like Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s play about pointless, no-fulfillment waiting. Waiting for God is resultful—but not efficiently so.
The process of waiting is faith evoking, as Job found out. He wanted instant answers to his excruciating pain and loss, answers that his friends supplied with slick precision and impeccable orthodoxy. But in the process of waiting for God to speak—waiting persistently though not patiently (in the sense of passively)—Job discovered that he wanted God’s presence even more than he wanted answers. What if God were to give us everything we prayed for immediately? (Would we not be sorry for asking—knowing so little about our real needs?) What if God revealed himself to us totally and instantly in our first encounter? (Would we cry out for the mountains to cover us?) What if Christian maturity were given in one transcendent moment and we never needed to grow? (Would not the Christian life be boring?) What if there were no bodily resurrection to wait for? (Would not all healing in this life be utterly disappointing?) What if Christ were not to come again? (Would not the world then end in a mere fizzle or a bang?) Refusing to wait is like turning to the last page of a novel to find out how it all ends. It spoils the whole story.
What Is the Good of Waiting?
Not all waiting is good. It is not good to wait another day to do the good we can do today or to wait for someone else to do what God has called you to do. It is not good to delay responding to the nuptial invitation of Christ or to wait for supernatural guidance from God when you already know what to do from Scripture. Some waiting is not good because it has an unworthy object, or no object at all, or it is not good because the source is wrong—careless, apathetic, idle waiting without faith, hope and love. But Christian waiting, while hard, can be good and full of promise.
So opportunities to wait in everyday life can become a means of grace. Waiting in lines of people or cars gives us the opportunity to pray and meditate. If we cannot talk to the people around us, we can at least pray for them and our loved ones. Waiting relationally for the returns of love, for a long-awaited letter, for the answer to an important question, gives us the opportunity to go deeper with ourselves and God. Busyness and frenetic-paced living insulate us from getting in touch with ourselves, a vital dimension of Christian maturity. Waiting for late dinner guests can be a deliciously relaxing, leisure-full moment in the day. Waiting for the sabbath each week can relativize our everyday work.
Reflecting on this matter, the Indian Christian Chandapilla once observed that there is always plenty of room at the end of the line. Up front, people are elbowing and pushing their way forward. But at the end of the line—a metaphor for the human factor in every situation whether business, church, family or neighborhood—there is no competition. You can find and be found by God, and you can find yourself waiting at the end of the line.
—Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, The

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Trying to Be a Christian

I was astounded. I had just explained to a group of nuclear scientists the difference between trying to earn salvation by our own works and trusting Christ for it. I thought that I had made myself exceptionally clear. As I left, however, one man thanked me and remarked, “I guess I just need to try harder to be a Christian.” He had missed it completely! Why couldn’t he see my point?
He had as much hope of getting to God by his human effort as by a space shuttle. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit and the understanding provided only through the Bible, every man reasons that he must earn God’s favor. The Bible does not say that. It teaches that salvation is a gift, “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:9
The ancient patriarch Abraham discovered that being accepted as righteous before God, (called justification), does not happen by our good works, but through the exact opposite—faith alone. This faith is not in what we do for Him, but in what Christ has done for us.
“If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works,” says Paul, “he has something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” Rom. 4:2-3
If you could be accepted by God on the basis of your works there would be reason to boast. It would mean that you never sin. Since, however, we have never known anybody who is perfect outside of Christ, the “works” way to heaven must be the impossible way. But there is a possible way to be justified—through belief or faith, just like Abraham.
Once, after finishing a meal with some friends, I asked, “Where’s the bill? I’d like to pay for your meals.” “You can’t pay for them,” my friend said. “No, please,” I insisted, thinking that he was just being polite. “You can’t pay,” he clarified, “because the bill has already been paid!”
Should I have tried to pay for the meals anyway? Even if I could have forced the cashier to take some money, it would not have changed the bill. It was paid by another, and nothing would alter that. Instead, I took him at his word and rested in what had been done for me.
Christ has fully paid the debt of those who are His. When He suffered and died at Calvary, everything was done for man’s sin that could be done. This was an act of the greatest possible grace. For you to think that you could be accepted by your own efforts at being good, makes light of the cross of Christ. Paul said, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Gal. 2:21
If you will ever be justified or accepted as righteous before God, then you will have to come God’s way, through faith in Christ and what He has done for you. “Trying to be a Christian” is an insult to God and is a way of despising what Christ has done on the cross.
Friends of mine watched a catastrophic event from a hill just above the Guadalupe River in Texas. A bus full of high school students had just come off the hill in order to cross the bridge below. Because of rains upstream the bridge was covered with water, but with the high wheel wells of the bus, the driver thought he could make it easily enough. Just as they were half way across, however, a wall of water slammed into the side of the bus and toppled it over into the pounding river.
Soon the students were attempting to maneuver out of the submerged bus. Some made it; others did not. Those who got out were swiftly carried downstream, attempting to hang on to the rocks wherever they could get a hold. They would not last long.
Soon helicopters from a San Antonio military base were on the scene. A line from the helicopter was fastened around the students making it possible for them to be lifted up and over to dry land some distance away.
One girl was nearly insane with fear. When the soldier got to her, it was only with the greatest difficulty that he was able to get the harness around her. As she was being lifted up into the air, high above the ground, her arms were flailing wildly—so wildly, in fact, that she slipped loose from the harness. My friends watched as she plunged to her death below.
Had she only trusted, she could have been saved.
God will never reward the self-effort you exert to save yourself. He will not let you make the cross a meaningless act. He will not obligate Himself to save you because you do what you believe are good works. But there is a possible way because of Christ—the way of faith.
“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Rom. 4:4-5


Saturday, February 15, 2014

What About Divine Inspiration?

Question: The Judeo-Christian Bible is not the only book that claims to be inspired of God. There
are the Qur’an, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, and others that claim to have come from God. Doesn’t the very fact that Christianity teaches that the other books are not true cast serious doubt upon the Bible as well? If so many others could be wrong, why not one more? After all, an atheist only doubts one more book than the Christian doubts.

Response:  Whether the scriptures of other religions are true or false has no bearing upon the Bible’s validity or lack thereof. The fact that 10 of 11 contestants failed to win a race could hardly be taken as a plausible argument that therefore no one could have won. That there is counterfeit money in abundance does not suggest for even a moment that real money doesn’t exist. In fact, it argues for its existence, because otherwise counterfeiting would have no purpose. That billions of people are willing to accept the sacred writings of various religions as having been inspired by God shows a deep hunger within mankind for divine revelation that has always existed in all ages, in all races and cultures, and in all places.
Such a universal and powerful hunger could not have been developed by evolution. The human body does not hunger or thirst for some nonexistent food or drink but only for that which exists and would sustain its life. The only exception would be if one had tasted something that was harmful but delicious or that produced deceptive feelings of well-being or power and then craved it unnaturally. A craving for that drug or intoxicating beverage would never have arisen, however, had it not actually been tasted or experienced. Thus, one could not claim that belief in God was “the opiate of the masses” without admitting God’s existence. Someone must have “tasted” something real, as the Bible challenges us: “O taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm:34:8).
Logically, then, the universal hunger for God argues persuasively for His existence; and the hunger for revelation from Him argues that such revelation exists as well. Whether what claims to come from God actually does so, however, can only be determined on the basis of the facts—and only the Bible passes that test, as we shall see.
The fact that the world is filled with false prophecies claiming to come from God is exactly what one would expect, given this innate thirst for God and the willingness of the human heart to deceive itself and others. Nor can it be inferred from the fact that many false prophecies have been proclaimed that therefore no true prophecy has ever been uttered. That mankind has universally in all places, at all times, and under all religions been susceptible to false predictions is evidence of an intuitive belief that true prophecy must be possible and important.
The Bible must be examined on its own merits. It will be shown to be either true or false on the basis of the internal and external evidence taken together—not by comparing it with the sacred writings of other religions. Furthermore, the Bible’s very claim to be the  only  revelation from God to mankind requires that all other sacred writings be false. So their falseness, far from proving that the Bible can’t be true, is an argument in its favor.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 64-66)  by  Dave Hunt

Saturday, February 8, 2014

In Defense of the Faith: What About the Trinity?

Question: Christians generally believe in the Trinity, a “God” who is three Persons and yet one Supreme Being. But the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear even once in the Bible, which plainly declares that there is only one God, not three. How can you possibly justify a belief in the “Trinity” from the Bible?
Response: There are only two basic concepts of God: 1) pantheism/naturalism—that the universe itself is God; and 2) supernaturalism—that God or gods exist distinct and apart from the universe. We have already shown the folly of the first concept, which leaves us only with the latter. Within supernaturalism are two opposing views: 1) polytheism—that there are many gods (Mormons as well as Hindus are polytheists); and 2) monotheism—that there is only one God. We have shown that polytheism, too, has fatal flaws. Its basic problem is diversity without unity.
There are also two opposing views within monotheism: 1) the belief that God is a single personage, as in Islam and Judaism, which insist that Allah or Jehovah is “one,” meaning a single being. The same belief is also held by pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Oneness Pentecostals, who deny the Trinity and claim that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are God’s three “titles” or “offices.” Here, the fatal flaw is  unity without diversity.
The Necessity for Both Unity and Diversity
That God must have  both unity and diversity  is clear. The Allah of Islam, or the Jehovah of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews, or the God of unitarian “Christian” groups would be incomplete in Himself. He would be unable to love, commune, or fellowship before creating other beings capable of interacting with Him in these ways. The quality of love and the capacities for fellowship and communion, by their very nature, require another personal being with which to share them. And God could not fully share Himself except with another Being equal to Him. Yet the Bible says that “God  is  love” in Himself alone. This could only be true if God himself consisted of a plurality of Beings who were separate and distinct, yet one.
Although the actual word “Trinity” does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly expressed there. The Bible presents a God who did not need to create any beings to experience love, communion, and fellowship. This God is complete in Himself, existing eternally in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, individually distinct from each other yet at the same time eternally one. These three loved, communed, fellowshiped, and took counsel together before the universe, angels, or man were brought into existence.
In contrast, the god of Islam and contemporary Judaism could not  be  love in and of himself, for whom could he love in the solitude predating his creation of other personal beings? Such a deficiency in God would affect man, who is made in His image, at every level of his being.
Plurality and Singularity: Both Apply
The very first verse in the Bible presents God as a  plural  being: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” If God were a single personage, then the singular word for God,  Eloah,  would be used. Instead of the singular form, however, the plural,  Elohim,  which literally means  Gods,  is used. Yet a singular  verb, bara,  is used with  Elohim.  This  plural noun (Elohim)  is used for God more than 2500 times in the Old Testament and almost always with a singular verb, thus indicating both unity and diversity and both singularity and plurality in the God of the Bible. It was Elohim (Gods) who later in this first chapter of Genesis said, “Let  us  make man in  our  image, after  our  likeness” (verse 26).
At the burning bush God ( Elohim —literally  Gods)  said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM . . .” (Exodus:3:14). Here  Gods  speak but do not say, “We are that we are” but “ I AM THAT I AM.”  Nor is the word  Elohim  the only way in which God’s plurality is presented.
Consider, for example, Psalm:149:2 nkjv: “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker” (in the Hebrew, “makers”); Ecclesiastes:12:1: “Remember now thy Creator” (Hebrew, “creators”); and Isaiah:54:5: “For thy Maker is thine husband” (Hebrew, “makers” and “husbands”). Unitarianism has no explanation for this consistent presentation of both God’s unity and plurality throughout the Old Testament.
At the very center of Israel’s confession in Deuteronomy:6:4 of God’s oneness (known as the  shema ) is the plural form for God  (elohenu): “ Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” ( Shema yisroel adonai elohenu adonai echad ). The word used for “one,”  echad,  often means a unity of more than one. Were that not the intention, then  yachid,  which means a single and  absolute one,  would have been used. The word  echad  is used, for example, in Genesis:2:24, where man and woman become “ one  flesh”; in Exodus:36:13, when the various parts “became  one  tabernacle”; in 2 Samuel:2:25, when many soldiers “became  one  troop”; and elsewhere similarly.
The great Hebrew prophet Isaiah declared of the birth of the Messiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,  the mighty God, the everlasting Father . . .”  (Isaiah:9:6). Such a concept is found nowhere else in the world’s religious literature but is unique to the Bible: A Son would be born into this world who, though a man, would be the Mighty God. And though a Son, He would at the same time be the Everlasting Father.
Isaiah clearly presents the  deity  of Christ, the Fatherhood of God, and the oneness of the Father and the Son. All three Persons in the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are clearly seen in the following: “ . . . from the beginning . . . there am I; and now the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me” (Isaiah:48:16). It could only be God who is speaking, this One who has been in existence from the beginning; yet He says that He has been sent forth by God and His Spirit. In the Trinity, two Persons are invisible (God the Father and the Spirit of God), while one is visible, the Son of God who became man.
Some Helpful Analogies
How can we fully understand this concept of three Persons, each separate and distinct (the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit) yet which are all encompassed by one God? We can’t. Critics argue that because the Trinity can’t be fully explained by human reasoning, it therefore cannot be true. Yet who can fully explain God even if He is only a single entity? No one. We can’t even explain the  human  soul and spirit, much less the Spirit of God, yet these terms are used repeatedly in the Bible.
We can, however, see analogies to the Trinity everywhere. The universe comprises three elements: space, time, and matter. The first two are invisible, but matter is visible. Each of these is itself divided into three: length, breadth, and height; past, present, and future; energy, motion, and phenomena. Length, breadth, and height are each separate and distinct from each other, yet they are one because each is the whole. The length takes in all of space, as do the width and height. So it is with time: past, present, and future are each distinct from one another, and yet each is the whole. And here again, two (past and future) are invisible while the present is visible.
Man himself, who is made “in the image of God” (Genesis:1:27; 9:6, etc.) is composed of three elements: body, soul, and spirit, of which again two (soul and spirit) are invisible and one, the body, is visible. The way man functions as a being also reflects the same analogy to the Trinity. We conceive something in our minds (invisible), perhaps a poem or a symphony; we express it in speech or writing or in music and it enters the present, visible world; it is then appreciated in the emotions, once again invisible.
We could offer more analogies, but these should be enough. There is no doubt that the Bible clearly presents three Persons who are distinct, yet each is God. At the same time, we repeatedly have the clear statement that there is only one true God. Christ prays to the Father. Is He praying to Himself? We are told, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John:4:14). Did He send Himself? Or did one “office” pray to and send a “title,” as the United Pentecostal Church would have us believe?
Christ said, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself [on my own initiative], but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John:14:10); “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth” (John:14:16–17). Throughout the New Testament, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each separately honored and act as God, yet only in concert with one another.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 56-60)  by  Dave Hunt

Friday, February 7, 2014

How to Invest in Your Child's Conversion

Many parents of unconverted children have come to realize through sound biblical teaching that salvation is God’s work, not something they can accomplish on behalf of their children. They know that God must draw the child to himself by giving him a new heart if he is to be saved. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

This realization, however, often leaves parents confused about their role in their child’s life with respect to salvation. Understanding God’s sovereignty along with human inability, should they be actively pursuing their child’s salvation, or passively waiting for God to act?

Hopefully you understand that your role in your child’s conversion is an active, expectant, hopeful role, not a passive, pensive, or pessimistic one. But if you’re still a bit unsure of what you can and should be doing as God’s instrument in drawing your child to salvation, here are a few suggestions. These are in addition to the obvious necessities of teaching him about sin, hell, Jesus, the cross, heaven, and faith. My focus here is on God drawing your child to Christ by causing him to imitate you. Remember, your child is always observing, and he is prone to imitation:

Be enthusiastic yourself about life in Christ, and life with the body of Christ. If your child picks up from you the idea that the Christian life is boring or characterized by drudgery and unpleasant obligation, he will naturally be turned away. If you grumble about your church, or if it becomes obvious that you see opportunities for fellowship as obligations more than privileges, he will not be drawn to enjoy such things himself. But when he sees you joyfully sacrificing to make time for the church, loving other believers and desiring to be with them, he will absorb the idea that life in the body of Christ is supremely important in your life. And, by the grace of God, he will imitate. 

Demonstrate the special place the Bible holds in your life. Make your own personal Bible reading time a special time, one that your child can tell you truly enjoy and cherish. Don’t miss it if you can help it, and make sacrifices to keep it tops in your list of priorities. Talk about what you are learning. Always take your Bible to church meetings, open it eagerly, and follow along attentively. Make careful notes in the margins. Show your child that you treasure the truth contained inside. Keep your Bible in a regular place at home so that you always know where it is. Don’t treat it like just another household item that gets tossed wherever. He will notice, and imitate.

Provide your child with his own special Bible. At an appropriate age, invest in a good quality Bible. Have his name embossed on the cover, and write him a personal note of love and encouragement inside. Encourage him (that is, require him) to bring it to every church meeting. Teach him how to make careful notes in the margins, when appropriate, and teach him how to navigate its many pages, books, and chapters. This means you will need to be familiar with it yourself.

Be an attentive, eager listener when the Bible is taught. Don’t allow yourself to appear disinterested or distracted during preaching or Bible study. Keep eye contact with the teacher, and require your child to do the same. Not only does this encourage the teacher and serve as a model for other adult listeners, it also makes a good listener and learner of your child. There is no reason why your four or five-year-old cannot begin to learn the discipline of sitting still, looking at the teacher, and listening carefully. It will be a skill, modeled and taught by godly parents, which will serve him well his entire life. Furthermore, the truths he will fail to hear apart from learning this skill are the very ones he must know in order to be saved.

Be an engaged learner. Ask questions of the teacher. Carry on discussion with other believers about the topic following a sermon. Discuss the subject matter on the way home, and at home throughout the week. Demonstrate to your child that Bible teaching is not just something you sit through, but something you chew on and apply afterward. By doing this you will motivate your child to further process these things himself.

The fact that your child’s salvation is God’s work, not ultimately yours, should also motivate persistent, passionate, expectant prayer. God has placed your child in your care, in full exposure to the truth by which He saves sinners. It is not an unreasonable request for Him to extend His mercy to your child as he did to you, nor is it an unreasonable expectation to believe that He will.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preach the Word: Because It Makes the Ministry Dependent on God

by John MacArthur
You wouldn’t expect to hear a pastor tell his church, “I know better than God.” And yet that’s what
many preachers and leaders today communicate when they focus their ministry strategies on market research and consumer response. Chasing popular trends and whims is a sure recipe for tickled ears, stunted spiritual growth, and congregations full of false converts.
By contrast, a ministry that centers on the preaching of God’s Word is a ministry that is, by definition, wholly dependent on God. Rather than relying on gimmicks or ploys, it relies on God Himself for both its content and direction.
Early in my ministry I committed, before the Lord, that I would simply worry about the depth of my ministry, and I would let Him take care of the breadth of it. Needless to say, He has extended it far beyond what I could have ever even thought possible. But the market appeal of this ministry was not something I ever strategized about, trying to think of schemes for how to be popular or how to energize church growth. Instead, the focus was on teaching the Bible—deeply, consistently, and accurately. Beyond that, I simply decided to depend on the Lord.
When pastors preach God’s message rather than one of their own invention, they demonstrate that they are fully depending on God for results. It is His Word that is taught; it is His Spirit who works; it is His power that convicts and transforms. We simply convey the message faithfully, and when people respond, God receives all of the glory.
And that, ultimately, is why I continue to preach the Word after more than four decades of ministry. The goal of my life, from the outset, has been ministry faithfulness for the glory of Christ. That should be the aim of every pastor. And what could be more glorifying to Him than to exalt His message, bringing it to bear on the lives of His people, and depending fully on Him for the results. As Timothy was charged by Paul, so every pastor—if he is to be found faithful—must embrace his sacred calling:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. . . . I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. . . . The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:1–5, 7–8, 18)
Paul’s exhortation is directed at preachers, but its application isn’t limited to them. The men and women in the pews must place an equally high priority on submitting themselves to the preaching of the Word, and faithfully testing the teaching they receive against Scripture. Like we saw last time, all believers need to be Bereans. It’s vital that the pastor teaches Scripture with clarity and accuracy, and it’s vital that his congregation stay hungry for that kind of Bible teaching and the spiritual fruit it produces.
It’s been a privilege to serve the Lord at Grace Community Church for nearly forty-five years. Throughout that time, my prayer has always been to be subject to God’s biblical agenda, rather than subjecting God’s Word to my personal agenda. It is the difference between biblical preaching and motivational speaking, between shepherding and manipulating, and between understanding what God has already said in Scripture and putting new words in His mouth.
It’s no coincidence that we kicked off the new year with a series on the importance of biblical preaching. Preach the Word sets the tone for everything else you’ll read on the GTY blog in 2014 and beyond. The subject matter may vary, but the underlying theme will always be the same: Scripture rightly handled, faithfully taught, and properly applied.

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What is the Christian Life?

  Excerpted from  An Urgent Call To A Serious Faith: A Prophetic Alarm for the Bride of Christ  

Surely a phrase that is repeated four times in the Bible must contain one of God’s most important teachings. The life God gives is only for the  just —but who is  just ? The Bible leaves no doubt as to the answer: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes:7:20); “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans:3:23). God’s law demands, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke:10:27). By that standard we have all broken God’s law repeatedly and are condemned.
Nor is there any way that we, as sinners, could become  just . Living a perfect life in the future (even if that were possible) could never merit forgiveness for sins already committed or deliver from the judgment which God’s justice righteously demands. Saving a million lives in the future, for example, could never atone for having taken just one life in the past. Only God could declare a sinner to be “just”—but how could He, when His irrevocable law condemns us? For God simply to forgive the sinner would violate His own law and in itself would be unjust.
Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, explains how God can justly justify sinners: “Being justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…for the remission of sins…that he [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans:3:24-26). Forgiving the sinner and declaring him just comes only on the basis of Christ having paid the full penalty demanded by God’s justice against sin, and the sinner having personally accepted that payment by Christ. Forgiveness cannot come about through good deeds, church attendance, sacraments, baptism, scapulars or medals, prayers, tears, promises, charitable gifts—or anything else that pastor, priest, church, or Mary could do. Only the infinite God Himself, coming as a sinless man through the virgin birth, could bear, in our place, the infinite penalty we deserved.
New Life in Christ
One cannot even begin to “live by faith” while “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians:2:1), which is mankind’s natural condition. One must be made “alive from the dead” (Romans:6:13) by receiving God’s forgiveness in Christ. The Christian life of faith is only for those who are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians:13:5). Living “a good Christian life” is not the way to become a Christian. Only those who already are Christians can live that life. Nor is it lived in order to earn heaven, which is impossible, but out of gratitude to Christ for having paid the penalty for sin.
A Christian has been “born again” of the Spirit of God (John:3:3-8) through “the Word of God” (1 Peter:1:23) by believing the gospel (Romans:1:16) and is a “new creature” (2 Corinthians:5:17) in Christ, having been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians:2:10). If we trust Him to do so, surely God will open the right doors, guide each step of every Christian’s life, and provide the means of fulfilling the “good works” that He has ordained for each of us.
Clearly, one must first enter upon the Christian life by faith in Christ in order to begin to “live by faith.” Paul exhorts us, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians:2:6). And how did we receive Christ? As helpless, hopeless sinners who could do nothing for our own salvation but had to look entirely to Christ to save us. In that same attitude of unworthiness and complete dependence upon God for His grace and upon Christ to live His life through us, we live by faith the Christian life.
Christ told Paul that His strength was perfected in Paul’s weakness (2 Corinthians:12:9). We must stop trying to be strong in ourselves, and “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians:6:10). The battle with the forces of evil, God assures us, will be won “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit…” (Zechariah:4:6). There is great joy, even in great trials, in trusting Christ and seeing what He can do.
That the Christian life is to be lived by faith tells us that it comes supernaturally, not naturally, as we trust God and know and obey His Word. It cannot be by our own direction and strength but only under the leading and by the power of God, who alone is the proper object of faith. Yes, the Christian life is miraculous. Expect it to be. Beware, however, of the widespread unbiblical emphasis upon, and insatiable desire for, the miraculous, which foster delusion. One of today’s most prominent televangelists and proponents of signs and wonders has written, “you can perform miracles if you but understand…the laws…that unlock God’s power…the flow of God’s energy….” In another book, he asserts, “We speak to money, and it comes. We speak to storms, and they cease….” Money comes from his mailing list, and this country has recently experienced the worst storms in years without any intervention from him.
The most powerful evidence of God’s supernatural work in our lives is found in the transformation of our character to Christlikeness. The “fruit,” not of “therapy,” but “of the Spirit,” is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians:5:22,23). The “works of the flesh” (Galatians:5:19-21), no matter how exemplary, are not acceptable to God (Romans:8:8). To live the Christian life, one must learn to “live in the Spirit” and “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians:5:25).
This is not to deny the benefit of education, diligence, hard work, prudent investment, experience, and sound practice in earning one’s “daily bread” (Matthew:6:11). Earthly success, however, though legitimate, is not the Christian’s goal in life. Christ declared, “…a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke:12:15); “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew:6:19-21).
The Trial of Faith
The fact that the Christian life is supernatural does not guarantee the “financial success” promised by today’s false prophets—nor that we will be free of trouble, sorrow, or pain. Positive confession leaders forget that it was from prison that Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13); and in the same context he declared, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (verse 11).
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” (John:16:33); “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (15:20).
Avoiding this uncomfortable truth, a “user-friendly gospel” is preached by thousands of pastors. Mega-churches 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” (1 Peter:1:7). Of Christ, who left us “an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter:2:21), it was said, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews: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 Corinthians:4:17).
Those who have trusted God through a 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 (Isaiah:43:2), rather than enable them to escape the very challenges God intends and the work He desires to effect in their hearts. By allowing us to face seemingly hopeless situations, God intends to move us from mere intellectual belief to practical trust in His provision.
In  The Power of the Spirit  William Law writes, “Whenever a man allows himself to have anxieties, fears, or complaints, he must consider his behavior as either a denial of the wisdom of God or as a confession that he is out of His will” (pp. 20,21). Many who call themselves Christians say they have trusted Christ with their eternal destiny, but seem unable to trust Him in this life—a fact which casts doubt on their relationship to Him.
God wants to test our faith now—and for good reason. Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy:8:2). Oswald Chambers said, “God wants you to understand that it is a life of  faith , not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings….Faith by its very nature must be tried…. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’—this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible” ( My Utmost for His Highest , p. 305).
“Yea, though I walk  through  the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,” wrote David (Psalm:23:4). He did not expect, much less plead, to be given another path that would bypass that terrible valley, but only that God would be

with him through his trial. Living by faith involves confronting the difficulties of life, which indeed may have been allowed of God to test and correct us. The Christian life includes learning where we have gone astray and being willing to be corrected and brought back into obedience to God and His Word. It is often in times of distress alone that God can break the hold of that which has drawn our affection away from Him, perhaps without our even knowing it.
Committed to Christ Come What May
As we walk by faith, and experience God’s faithfulness in trials, praise and worship well up within us. Indeed, praise and worship are to play a significant role in the Christian life. Sadly, so many of today’s praise and worship songs reflect the lack of depth in current Christianity. Congregational singing often consists of empty, repetitive choruses which have taken the place of the old hymns of the faith. Phrases are repeated again and again, such as “We worship You, Lord, we praise You, Lord, we lift Your name on high, we lift our hands, we exalt You,” and so on. There is much clapping and swaying to the catchy tune and beat. Yet the congregation and the “worship team” seem oblivious of the fact that instead of truly praising and worshiping, they are merely singing words about praise and worship, without mentioning God’s character, qualities, and deeds which evoke worship.
Sound doctrine, too, plays a vital role in the Christian life of faith. Paul’s life sets the example for us all. In describing his life to Timothy, he put  doctrine  first: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions….Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy:3:10-12). He also warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (4:3). We are in that day. Doctrine is despised. Entertainment and sermonettes are more popular with today’s Christianettes (loosely quoted from A. W. Tozer).
One well-known Christian leader writes that “the Bible is not an impractical book of theology, but rather a practical book of life containing a system of thought and conduct that will guarantee success….” His idea that theology is “impractical” is shared by millions. And “success”—which he, as a multimillionaire, enjoys in abundance—is now measured by the world’s standards instead of by God’s.
Our hope is in heaven and in the imminency of the rapture which will transport us out of this evil world into His presence. In the meantime, our confident trust in our Lord through the trials of this life of faith demonstrates the reality of our trust in Him for eternity. A true story about Blondin, who walked back and forth on a tightrope across Niagara Falls, illustrates the point.
One day, in the crowd watching Blondin, a spectator was trying to explain to a younger man what it means to truly trust Christ. “What do you think of Blondin?” he asked. “He’s the greatest!” came the enthusiastic response. “Do you think he can carry a man across and back?” “Of course,” was the immediate reply. “I’ve seen him do it.” Looking the younger man squarely in the eye, the questioner said, “When Blondin comes back from the other side, he’s going to call for a volunteer. Will you be the man?” The young man turned white. “Not on your life!” he exclaimed.
Many have a similarly theoretical faith in Christ. They can sing enthusiastically about salvation, but when life’s adversities strike they have no real peace and joy and run to the nearest therapist instead of to the Lord. May He give us grace to live by faith as true Christians; and may earth’s trials strengthen our faith, deepen our love for God, increase our fellowship with and joy in Him, and bring honor and glory to Him for eternity.