Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why Super Tuesday is Super Important

By Chuck Missler

Super Tuesday is less than a week away and the race for the Presidency is growing more intense with each passing day. This year 24 states have moved their primaries to February 5th, making it the largest Super Tuesday ever and prompting some commentators to label it "Tsunami Tuesday". No matter what you call it, next Tuesday will be a major turning point in this year's Presidential election, as about half of the delegates will be awarded in the course of just one day.

Traditionally, many Americans have skipped the preliminaries and waited until November to weigh in with their vote. Voter turnout for primary elections is typically low. However the party primaries are just as important as the final vote in November. One could argue that the primaries are even more important than November's election, since the results of the primary dramatically narrow the field of contenders. When the dust clears and all the primary votes have been counted, the American people will essentially be left with just two candidates. Those two candidates will most likely be polar opposites, leaving many voters feeling like they don't really have much of a choice at all. That's why the primaries are so crucial.

In America we enjoy a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Our votes determine our leadership, and ultimately, our destiny. Yet the responsibility and privilege of voting is one which many American's take for granted. Ask almost anyone, "What is the biggest problem in America? Is it ignorance or is it apathy?" They are likely to answer, "I don't know and I don't care!"

You and I will be held accountable for our stewardship of this nation. In part because it has come to us at such a high price, but also because as Christians we have been called to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." The Bible makes is clear that we are to stand up for what is right. The Bible also teaches the importance of personal responsibility. Unfortunately, many Christians do not take their democratic responsibilities seriously. Statistics show that only about 1 out of every 4 evangelical Christians actually vote.

In addition to taking part in the democratic process, it is important that we spend time in prayer for our nation and its leaders. The Apostle Paul wrote: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Timothy 2:1-2)." It is up to us to hold our elected representatives accountable, and to hold them up in prayer.

Sola's note: Chuck has been a guest on my radio program numerous times in the past decade. While you might not agree with every jot and tittle of Chuck's views, I especially liked what he had to say about stewardship of this nation. Therefore, I posted Chuck's comment today for your perusal. I highly recommend checking out his website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ruminations on the Election

As a former radio news director, reporter and anchor, I have -- until recent years -- always been a political junkie. Even though I am no longer in full time radio, I still do one radio program a week in connection with my apologetics ministry. Because of that, I still have to keep up to date on current events and politics. But I honestly have to say that I've grown weary with it. It hasn't helped much to see how little concerted evangelical efforts have mattered in the long term.

When I say that, I don't mean to say that no good was accomplished over the years. But if anything, we've helped slow the rot instead of stopping the rot altogether. Today, what little gains we have made are in serious jeopardy. While we wring our hands at the prospect of the hard left getting control of the White House and both houses of Congress, we ignore theological liberals gaining ascendancy in previously sound evangelical churches, not to mention the colleges and seminaries. Theological liberalism and the political liberalism of today go hand in hand. How in the world can Christians hold the line on issues like homosexual marriage when so-called evangelicals are waffling on whether homosexuality is even sin?

My friends have often heard me say that America is due getting a hard stick across her back from the Lord. I've said it for several years. So imagine how sobered I was to hear a man of no less caliber than Dr. John MacArthur saying in a sermon last year that God has abandoned America because of her unrepentant sin. And rather than calling America to repent, the church is beginning to join America in her apostasy.

When I look at the field of presidential candidates, I am not thrilled with any of them. I have liked Mike Huckabee, but withdrew my earlier endorsement of him for more consideration. His conservative credentials are questionable in some areas despite his correct stance -- so far -- on homosexuality and abortion. I have some doubt as to his theology now, especially after finding out that he backed the "moderates" in the Southern Baptist Convention, and his fondness for Rick Warren's way of doing things. Despite these reservations, Mike Huckabee seems the best a concerned evangelical can hope for in this rotten political and spiritual climate. I can't vote for Romney. I can't vote for McCain. I can't vote for Giuliani. And I certainly can't vote for anyone on the Democratic end of things.

Whatever happens, I won't decide not to vote, as some are considering. I might write in Bozo the Clown for president in the end, but I will exercise my right to vote while I still have one. Those who don't vote have no right to complain as far as I am concerned. Voting is a duty of citizenship, something they don't seem to teach much these days.

In essence, I have been ruminating out loud in this post. I know that God is sovereign, and that His purposes will be accomplished in the affairs of the nations. I have heard some say in the past that God can't judge America because His people are so numerous, and that America is a lighthouse for the Gospel.

Hmm. God can't judge America because His people are here? Tell that to Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel.

Monday, January 28, 2008

McCain's Temper

This published report I am linking is worth reading and considering as the primary season continues.

John McCain's temper is nothing new. However, as he is apparently beginning his ascension to the GOP nomination, it is worth considering again. Is someone with that volcanic a temper a good candidate for the Oval Office?


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Vote For Me Because. . . . .

Today I just have time for a brief comment. I have to leave for some weekend business meetings. But have any of you noticed what I am about to say?

The news guys have been out there doing interviews of people as to why they are voting for Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Very, very frequently, you don't hear much about their respective qualifications or policy ideas. You hear, "It's my chance to vote for a woman," or, "it's my chance to vote for a viable black candidate."

Shouldn't that be just a bit troublesome to the majority of us? Keeping in mind what Dr. Martin Luther King said about judging people by the content of their character instead of their skin color -- and broadening that to include gender, who cares if Obama is black or if Hillary is a woman? It shouldn't be a determining factor in who occupies the Oval Office.

I couldn't vote for Hillary, but I could vote for Margaret Thatcher. I couldn't vote for Obama, but I could vote for Thomas Sowell. See, it's their PHILOSOPHY and positions that matter, not the other nonsense.

But this is the state of politics in America today. Only the peripheral matters, and what the candidate promises to give away in handouts no matter what the ultimate cost is to the country. No one sees -- especially with the Clintons (Bill included) the unbridled lust for power and willingness to trample anyone who gets in their way.

Troubling. Very troubling.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Actors

Reading the Media Tea Leaves

This hasn't been a very good month for actors. No more had the news about the passing of 25-year-old actor Brad Renfro begun to fade when news came of the tragic death of fellow actor Heath Ledger at the age of 28. Both deaths are under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.

No doubt what I am about to say will raise some hackles, but they need to be raised. Has anyone noticed the difference in coverage these two deaths have received? Brad Renfro's death noted a story or two, yet the death of Ledger has been covered wall to wall. While some might want to say it's because Ledger was an Academy Award nominee, I suspect it has more to do with something else. Not from the vantage point of his family or close friends, but from the vantage point of the media.

If Heath Ledger had not played a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain -- a film celebrated by the media and activists as a benchmark in normalizing and sympathizing homosexuality -- this would not have gotten near the amount of coverage. Brad Renfro had plenty of accolades as an actor beginning with his first role at age 11 in "The Client." Everyone talked about what promise there was for him. Yes, he was troubled, but so are many celebrities.

Aside from this issue of the media coverage, I find these deaths heartbreaking from a number of angles. From the perspective of Ledger, to die at such a young age, leaving behind a young daughter and a grieving family. From the scope of eternity, having to face God after taking part in a film glorifying something God calls an abomination. I don't know Ledger's heart or spiritual condition. Only God does. I think it's fair game to question it. And on that note, I grieve at the media attention that will now be given the bogus "church" led by Fred Phelps as they protest at any memorial service for Ledger. These clowns aren't concerned for souls. They're consumed by hate, and yet the media (with few exceptions) will lump them in with mainstream Christians. And how like the enemy. Take what is true -- that homosexuality is sin and people need to repent, but also with the hope Jesus heals, delivers and forgives -- and draw attention to a bogus group calling themselves Christians who leave out the latter part of the message. And they do more than that -- by their false, distorted presentation they turn the hope of the Gospel into a false Gospel. These clowns will be held accountable by God for bringing shame and reproach on the church.

Now, what about Renfro? I find his situation doubly heartbreaking because of something I read shortly after his untimely passing. In an interview, Brad was speaking about the troubles he'd had with substance abuse. The story mentioned that Brad's grandfather (if I remember correctly) had been a pastor, and that Christianity was in Brad's background. He himself still clung to the spiritual things he had heard growing up. Brad was quoted in this interview as saying "Jesus said it was the sick who needed a physician."

That gives me some hope for Brad's eternal destiny. Only God knew his heart, and who knows if Brad called out to Him in his final moments. Perhaps Brad did indeed know Christ, but was weak and often erring. At least Brad didn't mock Christians or the Christian faith. He knew he needed help, as do all of us.

My hope is that these deaths will cause some genuine reflection in the entertainment industry. Man knows not his time, and all will stand before God to give account. So rather than taking the wrong message and learning the wrong lessons, how about honestly opening the eyes and ears to hear what God is saying?

In the meantime, two promising young actors are dead -- the latest in a long list of young men and women cut off in their prime. Who will be next? And for some, will this be enough to stop it from happening to them?

I hope and pray so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Witness of the Early Church

As noted in yesterday's post, I have been reading Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church." Of course, one will not necessarily agree with every jot and tittle of a historian's writing or perspective, but that doesn't mean there aren't gems to be mined. Schaff's multi-volume work is no different.

We hear a lot these days about the Apostolic Age of the church, timed from Pentecost to the death of the Apostle John. It is not my purpose at this point to enter the fray over the New Apostolic Movement, and yes -- I do have definite viewpoints on that matter. My purpose with this post is to point to the early church during the ministry of the biblical apostles. I love how Schaff describes those days:

The life of Christ is the divine-human fountainhead of the Christian religion; the apostolic age is the fountainhead of the Christian church . . . It is the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of inspiration and legislation for all subsequent ages.

Here springs, in its original freshness and purity, the living water of the new creation. Christianity comes down from heaven as a supernatural fact, yet long predicted and prepared for, and adapted to the deepest wants of human nature. Signs and wonders and extraordinary demonstrations of the Spirit, for the conversion of unbelieving Jews and heathens, attend its entrance into the world of sin. It takes up its permanent abode with our fallen race, to transform it gradually, without war or bloodshed, by a quiet, leaven-like process, into a kingdom of truth and righteousness. Modest and humble, lowly and unseemly in outward appearance, but steadily conscious of its divine origin and its eternal destiny; without silver or gold, but rich in supernatural gifts and powers, strong in faith, fervent in love, and joyful in hope; bearing in earthen vessels the imperishable treasures of heaven, it presents itself upon the stage of history as the only true, the perfect religion, for all the nations of the earth. At first an insignificant and even contemptible sect in the eyes of the carnal mind, hated and persecuted by Jews and heathens, it confounds the wisdom of Greece and the power of Rome, soon plants the standard of the cross in the great cities of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and proves itself the hope of the world.

I might have worded some aspects of this differently, i.e. that Jesus is the hope of the world, and the church His messenger. I would have shied away from the word "religion," preferring instead the word "relationship." But Schaff was writing in the 19th century, and was using worlds common to theological writers at that time. Yet, even with those small differences, Schaff's words are a vivid picture of the glorious mystery revealed by God -- the church, the bride of Christ, Christ in us, the hope of glory. Praise His holy name!

We have much to learn from the early church, and the record (plus instructions) of Jesus and His apostles are given to us in Scripture. What could we accomplish if we would just simply get back to Scripture, leaving the man-made fads and failed human philosophical ideas in the refuse bin where they belong.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Treasure of God's Word

While glancing through Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church, Volume 1," I came across the following wonderful quote. I share it with you for your enjoyment and pondering. May God grant His people a renewed love and reverence for His Word.

In these inspired writings we have, not indeed an equivalent, but a reliable substitute for the personal presence and the oral instruction of Christ and His apostles. The written Word differs from the spoken only in form; the substance is the same, and has therefore the same authority and quickening power for us as it had for those who heard it first.

Although these books were called forth apparently by special and accidental occasions, and were primarily addressed to particular circles of readers and adapted to particular circumstances, yet, as they present the eternal and unchangeable truth in living forms, they suit all circumstances and conditions. Tracts for the times, they are tracts for all times; intended for Jews and Greeks of the first century, they have the same interest for Englishmen and Americans of the nineteenth century
[Sola's note -- and of the 21st!]. They are to this day not only the sole reliable and pure fountain of primitive Christianity, but also the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice. From this fountain the church has drunk the water of life for more than fifty generations, and will drink it until the end of time. In this rule she has a perpetual corrective for all her faults, and a protective against all error. Theological systems come and go, and draw from that treasury their larger or smaller additions to the stock of our knowledge of the truth; but they can never equal that infallible Word of God, wich abideth forever."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dr. Al Mohler on Postmodernism and "Jesusianity"

In this brief column, Dr. Al Mohler takes another look at how postmodernism has infected the church, and tries to create another Jesus in place of the biblical one.

Dr. Mohler's insightful comments (plus a book review he throws in there) confirm something I've felt for quite some time. Theologians and pastors would be much better served if they'd get back to the Bible and let it inform their theology, rather than spending so much time with unbelieving philosophers and letting their cockamamie ideas shape their view of God, truth and the world. The second confirmation for me was when I saw from Christian Book Distributors that a new book has come out by James K.A. Smith called "Who's Afraid of Postmodernism." According to the blurb, Smith tries to make the case that Christians are wrong to vilify postmoderns and that critics misinterpret philosophers Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault. More than that, Smith reportedly claims that postmodernism has affinity with core Christian claims.

I honestly don't know if I want to waste my time reading that one or not. To assert that postmodernism and biblical truth are compatible is patently ridiculous. I can't wait to see Al's review of this one!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Clinton Purple Rage

Bill Clinton never ceases to amaze.

This time, he got all lathered up over a reporter asking him about a lawsuit filed in Nevada to stop casino workers from caucusing at the casinos instead of their home areas. The Hillary campaign denies having anything to do with it, and when a reporter asked Bill about it, Bill went off at the reporter just like he did at Chris Wallace some time ago.

Clinton's purple rages are legendary, and I am a bit concerned for the guy. I don't know if he's still tackling people in parking lots as Dick Morris alleges happened to him once. Either Clinton is going to drop dead of a heart attack or a stroke, or he's going to someday get in the face of the wrong person and will take a knee to the groin or a right cross to the jaw.

Of course, Bill Clinton is a master politician and actor. Those practice sessions in front of a mirror have paid off for him big time. This all could have been a very studied response by the Boy President. Who knows.

What I would like to know is . . . does America really need these people back in the White House? I cringe at the thought of having to listen to that poor pitiful me drawl (not to mention Hillary's banshee tones) for the next eight years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Study in Ephesians Part 2

This is part two of a study I have been doing in the book of Ephesians. As I have looked into chapters 3 and 4, I am more and more awestruck at the the interconnectedness of knowing Christ in His fullness and the impact this knowledge/understanding has on our daily walk with Him and before others. This knowledge and understanding is not at all in the Gnostic sense, but rather divine revelation of knowing Him as the Holy Spirit enlightens us through His Word.

Reviewing chapter 3, we saw Paul begin with a prayer. He didn’t want the Ephesian believers to lose heart in hearing of his trials. He wanted them to know the Lord in His fullness, to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit in the inner man, to comprehend and know the love of Christ, and to be filled with the fullness of God. All of this precedes chapter 4, and flows naturally right into it. What is the outcome of Paul’s admonition?

1. Walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

Our calling is to bring God glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations. Our "walk" is to feature certain important characteristics -- marks of a life surrendered to Christ.

a. Humility
b. Gentleness
c. Patience
d. Tolerance
e. Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace

To understand the unity of the Spirit, let’s go back for a moment to chapter 2:12-22. This supernatural unity was made possible through Christ’s reconciling death. Not only did it make possible the unity of Jews and Gentiles — something remarkable in and of itself — it also makes our own unity with one another possible, as different as we all are in personality, temperament, gifts etc. Unity is important to God. Jesus prayed for it in his High Priestly Prayer. Psalm 133 talks of how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity. This isn’t a false unity, or unity just for the sake of peace. It is unity around truth, which maintains peace. Scripture warns about those who come in from outside to sow disunity, and also warns in 2 Peter about those who rise up from among us and sow disunity through introducing destructive heresies. Those who stand for biblical truth are not the ones responsible for disunity.

2. Until we all attain to the unity of the faith.

To help us attain that unity, there are different servants in the church to build up His body. You could also use the term "offices in the church." The purpose of those who hold these functions is to “equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, UNTIL we ALL attain to the unity of the faith.”

Look at what that entails in verse 13. Unity of the faith, AND the “knowledge of the Son of God.” The verse ends with another reference to the “fullness” of Christ.

3. No longer to be children.

In keeping with the fullness of Christ, growing into it. Growing into knowledge of Him. Not a Gnostic-type or hidden knowledge, but God’s divine revelation to His people. If we know Him and the truth He has revealed, we will not be tossed and carried around by every wind of doctrine. We will grow up in all aspects into Him. We help one another grow under the direction of Christ, being built up in love.

4. Do not walk as unbelievers.

Contrast the walk we have with Christ as believers, and how we are built up in Him, to that of unbelievers. The unbelieving world also has some "marks" or identifiers.

a. Futility of their mind.
b. Darkened in their understanding.
c. Excluded from the life of God.
d. Ignorance.
e. Hardness of heart.
f. Callous
g. Given over to sensuality
h. Impurity
i. Greed.

In summation, the Apostle Paul says that "we did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed we have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus." We laid aside the old self. A new self that has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. All that, and we're not even done with chapter 4!

More at another time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rush Makes a Point

In this column, Rush Limbaugh makes a tremendous case worth considering as the Republican Party chooses a GOP nominee.

We are hearing Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee saying that the "Reagan era is over." Rush takes exception to that, and I agree with him. Note especially what he says about conservatism being a philosophy. A core philosophy isn't supposed to change at whim.

If the era of Reagan conservatism is over, it's only over because current GOP officeholders and candidates have killed it. But ideas -- especially great ones -- can be resurrected. It's too early to give up the ship.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chelsea Clinton's Revealing Remarks

Chelsea Clinton rarely speaks in public or to the media at all. However, she recently made some remarks to female college students, quoted by the Stamford Daily. I want you to pay very close attention to what she said about her mother's health care plans . . .

“[My mother] and Senator [John] Edwards are committed to universal healthcare,” she said. “Senator [Barack] Obama [D-Ill.] is committed to what we call ‘virtual’ universal healthcare which would make it an option for people to buy into the system. What my mother argues is that if you don’t mandate that everyone have healthcare, the healthy people may not buy into the system, which means that the average cost of insuring people is a lot higher.”

Thank you, Chelsea. In that little quote, you sounded a klaxon warning to those of us who don't like Big Brother or Big Mother Government "mandating" our lives. If you don't "mandate" that everyone have health care, healthy people might not buy into the system." Considering the lousy quality of most government-mandated systems, I wouldn't want to buy into socialized medicine either. The point is, I have the right to determine my own health care, and it's none of the government's business.

Most hospitals have assistance available for those who can't afford care. In fact, my own hospital just offered to enroll me in an assistance program to pay my own bills from last September. I have chosen to forgo that, preferring to pay over time. The hospital will work with me, for which I am thankful.

The long and short of it is, I don't need to nurse at the mammary glands of the Illinois or national capitals. I want them to stay out of my business. Period. Government ends up mucking up everything it touches. America was founded on self-reliance, and benevolence is the realm of churches and other generous individuals who care about aiding the needy. Government under the concept of our Founding Fathers was never intended to be a nanny state, and neither did they desire an entire generation of people dependent on state largesse.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Long View of History

A brief post for this morning. I recently began reading the first of a four part series on the Crusades. Being a history buff of sorts, I had something resurface in my mind that has always bubbled up there from time to time.

The average lifespan of a human being is 70 years, give or take a few years, and depending on where in the world you are. For someone growing up in Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch they have ever known. The United States is less than 300 years old, and this is the only country and the only mode of living we have ever known. No "foreign power" has ruled the United States in my lifetime, and hasn't since the Revolutionary War.

When you read in the Crusades about the Muslim armies being in control of a region for 300 years, or Western powers being in control of a region for how many hundred years, think about it a moment. For those living and growing up in those regions, that is the only life they knew -- despite the history.

Look at the history of the Balkans, specifically the current controversy in Serbia and Kosovo. To the Serbians, Kosovo is the cradle of their civilization, but they had actually lost sovereignty over it until the Ottoman Empire finally fell. That goes back a long time. There are many in Serbia who weren't alive then, and certainly not since the Middle Ages. There are Muslims in Kosovo today -- a region now largely Albanian Muslim -- that weren't around when Kosovo was indeed the cradle of Serbian civilization. Muslim majority in that region is all they've ever known. Yet these old resentments, hatreds and outraged conquests go back centuries. They've been handed down from father to son. And some think a UN or NATO tribunal is going to settle it all. Yeah. Right.

It is enough to muddle the mind, but we have a Sovereign God who doesn't miss a beat. He WAS around when everything first took place, and even before then. He knows who did what, who was responsible for what, who had evil motives, who had noble motives, and who had the "right" to the land in dispute. And that's another point. All this land and territory over which people shed blood is actually all His land to begin with. We forget that. He is the one who originally determined that mankind should be scattered over the world, and formed into people groups and nation-states.

Revelation and other Bible prophecies speak of a future attempt at a world government. Indeed, they are trying to form it now, some openly and some not so openly. In the end, it will fail and millions of people will die due to the evil desire of some to control everyone else. And in the end, only one history will matter. The one He tells.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Defining the Church - Defining a Christian Pt 2

Before I begin, let me say at the outset that this will not be -- at least for now -- the kind of treatment that I wanted to give this subject. My schedule for the past week or more has been absolutely insane, and it will probably remain so for a while. But we'll proceed and tie up loose ends down the road.

In part one, we reviewed the definitions of saving faith, a true church, and the true Gospel as revealed. In this post, I want to say more about how a true Gospel saves, and a false Gospel damns. But first, a bit more about defining the church.

In arriving at our definitions, the Bible is our most important source and final authority. In many cases, specific chapters and verses can be cited in making definitive statements about doctrine i.e. 1 Corinthians 15 and defining the Gospel. Yet in addition to Scripture, there are other sources that are helpful, provided it is recognized that these other sources are extra-biblical and do not carry the authority of the Bible.

It is very helpful to study the history of the church and how the historic creeds of the church were developed. It is helpful to study a bit on how the canon of Scripture came to be. Personally, I find the creeds fascinating because they were the first real attempts to set down in a user-friendly nutshell what the essence of biblical Christianity is. In my view, the most important creeds are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Westminster Confession. They help shoot down a common argument thrown at Christianity, namely that there are so many "divisions" in Christendom and that somehow destroys the credibility of the church.

In truth, when you look at the creeds, they contain core truths that are agreed by the majority of Christian confessions. The differences that remain typically do not affect salvific issues, with the exceptions of Roman Catholicism and similar denominations that try to mix works with the Gospel. That indeed is a serious error. However, the creeds highlight core doctrinal truths that all must agree on to be considered genuinely Christian. And that is where we run into trouble with pseudo-Christian cults, the Johnny-come-latelies on the scene who try to redefine biblical Christianity. I like the way the Apostle John puts it:

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).

Now, when John says not to receive false teachers into your house, he is not talking about witnessing to cultists. In John's day, itinerant teachers would travel around and take lodging with local believers. John did not want the church aiding and abetting false teachers who did not "bring this teaching" set forth by the Lord Jesus and His apostles.

Most notable in John's words are that "anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God." Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults do not abide in the teaching of Christ, argue though they may. There is 2,000 years of Christian history against them and a host of evidence to the contrary of their claims.

As we stated before, 1 Corinthians 15 is the only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined. In his letter to the church at Galatia, the Apostle Paul gave a very solemn warning . . .

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different Gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9)!

This is serious business, folks. Paul was so deadly serious on this issue that he repeated it twice for stress. Those who bring any Gospel contrary to that taught and revealed by Jesus and His apostles are to be accursed. When you couple that with the warning of the Apostle John that anyone not abiding in the teaching of the Apostles does not have God, it should be clear enough. The Gospel is of paramount importance. But there are also other core doctrinal truths that are salvific in nature. The Lord Jesus said this in His High Priestly Prayer . . .

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).

Note the logic necessitated in that passage. If you don't know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom that only true God sent, then you don't have eternal life either. Knowing that true God involves believing what He has revealed about Himself through His Word. Again, it should be clear enough.

However, for the millions deceived and lost in cults, it isn't clear enough. And that is the work of Christian apologetics, guided by the Holy Spirit and the light of God's Word. We are commanded in Jude . . .

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3).

We are further warned by the Apostle Peter . . .

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Saying things like this is not popular in an age of political correctness and grossly misnamed "tolerance." But eternal destinies are at stake. The Lord does not give us smorgasbord options on dealing with truth. He commands us to stand, and stand we must.

Note to commenters who intend to argue with me: Please keep your comments as concise as possible, remembering that I have limited time. No Tolstoy novels. Stay on topic and preferably one issue at a time in logical order. I won't hesitate to use the delete key or close comments if things get out of hand.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Brief Study in Ephesians

Note: Thanks again to all who have been praying for me of late. The situation,
I am sorry to say, has not been really resolved, but has been “put on hold” for the time being. Between that, and my very intense work schedule this week, I haven’t had time yet to complete part two of my post on defining true, biblical Christianity. By God’s grace, I will get to that over the weekend.

In the meantime, I feel badly about having nothing posted here for several days. Below is part of a brief study I put together on Ephesians 3:14-4:11-16. I recently presented it at a chapel service. I hope it is a blessing to you and encourages your own study of a wonderful portion of Scripture.

The passage I am looking at begins with a prayer by the Apostle Paul, preceded by his wish that the Ephesian believers would not lose heart when they heard about his tribulations. If we pay much attention to what is going on around us, it’s easy to get into a “losing heart” frame of mind. As yet, we have not experienced real, sustained persecution here, but that day might be coming. How do believers going through persecution or tough times sustain themselves? Of course, the Lord is the sustainer, but His Word gives us some clues. We are in a spiritual battle, and it’s easy to think of the term “spiritual” or “spiritual battle” as some sort of nebulous hocus pocus, but the key is the mind, and the battle for the mind and heart. I don’t mean to say there isn’t a demonic element at times, but the main zone of conflict is in the arena of thoughts and ideas – and the consequences of such thoughts and ideas. Let’s home in on that for a moment with examples from Ephesians and some other references:

1. Strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Eso, the soul, the conscience). Romans 7:22 and 2 Corinthians 4:16 also use the term “inner man.” The Corinthians reference talks about the inner man being “renewed day by day.” Later in Ephesians 4, we see Paul talk about being “renewed in the spirit of our minds.” In Colossians 3:10, Paul talks about the “new self” that is being renewed “to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created us.” Are you seeing the continuity there? “Inner man, renewal, true knowledge?” Knowing the truth makes us free. Knowing, believing, trusting, and having confidence in the Lord, who directs our steps, provides tremendous encouragement. He strengthens us by the power of His Spirit as we lean on Him and His Word.

2. Able to comprehend with all the saints . . .to know the love of Christ. The love of Christ surpasses knowledge. Not that it can’t be known, but so great that it can’t be known completely. Paul wouldn’t have used the term “comprehend” if it was impossible. All knowledge we have of the Lord and the mysteries of the Gospel are and must be by divine revelation, through His Word by the power of the Spirit that works in us. Some other examples of God “making known:”

Ro 16:26* . . . but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith . . .

Eph 1:9* He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

Eph 3:3* that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.

Eph 3:5* which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Eph 3:10* so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

Romans 1 shows God revealing Himself and making Himself known, so much so that the human race is without excuse.

3. Filled up to all the fullness of God. Look at Ephesians 1:23 . . . talking of the church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The concept of Christ’s fullness is found quite a bit in Ephesians. The Greek word used there means “that which is filled up.” Conceptually, think about a ship in the sense of being fully manned. Or as Strongs puts it, we — as the body of believers — as that which is “filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ.”

Colossians 2:9 says in Christ, the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. In Chapter 1, we read that God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

As we finish Chapter 3 of Ephesians, we see that this — the prayer of the Apostle Paul — has been leading to something. Take away the chapter and verse divisions and the thought of Paul flows right into Chapter 4. I will continue this another time, hopefully after I finally finish in the Christian definitions arena.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Brief Hiatus

Dear Seventh Sola Readers,

This is edited a bit from what I posted previously -- with a bit of clarification. I am taking a brief hiatus from the blog to deal with some spiritual issues that have come up within my family. I hope I can be a peacemaker. The conflict is ultimately over spiritual matters and doctrinal truth, and the tension created among loved ones is very, very difficult.

Please continue to pray. Lord willing, I'll be back later in the week.

For HIM,

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Burning Bridges

I am not finished with the second part of my posts on what constitutes true Christianity. Therefore, today I will post a brief but useful analogy to ponder.

Whenever there is conflict between two people, or even two groups, if one goes too far the metaphor of "burning bridges" is often used. I'll take that a bit farther.

1. A damaged bridge can be repaired fairly quickly.

2. A burned bridge can be rebuilt, but it takes time.

3. A nuked bridge may or may not ever be rebuilt. The radioactivity has to lessen or decay before reconstruction can even be attempted. Sometimes the process takes years, but often the site remains contaminated so badly that work can't begin in the lifetimes of those around for the original detonation.

As Christians, when we consider these three stages, we would do well to remember what the Lord has to say in His Word about conflict resolution and strife among brothers. In fact, there are several things for which the Lord has zero tolerance:

There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Friday, January 04, 2008

A New Year Blood Boiler

Today, I just had to make a brief detour from our subject matter. This news story should make your blood boil. It certainly does my blood pressure no good.

Since when do 10-year-olds have transgender issues? Oh, I am sure a very few are out there, but I strongly suspect in most cases they're helped along by certain interested adults with an agenda. In any case, the actions of this public school are ridiculous. More than that, the parents ought to be called on the carpet for not dealing with their son's alleged issues in an appropriate fashion. This is wicked, evil nonsense. Period.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Defining the Church and Defining a Christian

Today, I want to revisit a topic that comes up quite often when you're in an apologetics ministry. In an earlier meta, I was discussing with a Mormon commenter the subject of what constitutes a true Christian and what constitutes a true church. To resolve this issue, we need to look at the final authority on the matter -- the Word of God -- and see what it has to say.

When you're in a discussion with people belonging to pseudo-Christian groups, it's always a must to define terms. The reason this is important is that one side might mean one thing when they use a term, and the other side might mean something entirely different. While having a short, dictionary-type definition is certainly helpful, there are times when one has to build on a theological definition by taking the whole weight of Scripture on the issue being debated. Here, I will make concise definitions, and then build my case for those definitions with the Bible. Please note: My schedule requires me to split this into two posts, and I don't want to begin discussion until I am finished. Therefore, the meta will be closed for comment until my concluding post, probably tomorrow or the next day.

Anyway, here are the initial definitions:

1. A Christian is one who has saving faith in the biblical Lord Jesus Christ. True saving faith has hallmarks set forth in Scripture.

2. A true Christian church is a fellowship of individual believers who have saving faith in the biblical Lord Jesus Christ. A true Christian church has certain hallmarks set forth in Scripture.

3. By Scripture, I mean the accepted canon of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, not including the Apocrypha, nor any other writings purported by others to be Scripture.

Now that the stage is set, what is meant by "saving faith?" From the testimony of Scripture, one is saved when one believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and believes not by mere mental assent, but believes from the heart. What about those who think they they are true believers with a zeal for God? The Apostle Paul addressed that issue in his letter to the Romans . . .

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart” --that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:1-10).

Saving faith involves believing God when He tells us that we have no righteousness of our own. People who have saving faith in Christ realize that the only righteousness they have is imputed to them by the Lord. We are clothed in His righteousness, not our own. No amount of human effort can purchase our salvation. Only the shed blood of Christ on the cross can atone for our sins. Our salvation is by His mercy and grace, not any effort of our own. Any attempt to add human works to the Gospel will be rejected before the throne of God.

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).

Now, what about works? If they're not efficacious for salvation, then what are they for? They are evidence that faith is genuine. They are a fruit of saving faith, not a cause of it. Here's what Scripture says about it . . .

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).

The passages in James on faith and works are often misunderstood, and therefore distorted from their true meaning. James is merely saying that works are evidence of saving faith. Works justify you before men, not God. If you say you have faith, but show no evidence of faith by how you live or what you do, there is reason to question whether your faith is genuine. If you'd like to read an in-depth treatment of what constitutes saving faith, this article by Dr. John MacArthur is very helpful.

What is the Gospel? Again, Scripture tells us. The only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined is in 1 Corinthians . . .

Now I make known to you, brethren, the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

That's it. That's the biblical Gospel as defined by the Apostle Paul in Scripture. The Lord Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. The warning to those who would preach a different Gospel is severe . . .

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

Note that Paul issues the warning twice. It's that important. There is only one Gospel revealed by God to His people. A true Gospel saves. A false Gospel damns.

My next post will go into this more deeply.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Plowing Straight Ahead

No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).

I never knew my grandfather on my mother's side of the family. In January 1942, he was killed in the small Arkansas town of Hoxie when a troop train hit the truck in which he was riding. But even though I've never met him, I feel I know him well because of all that I have heard about him through the years. He was the oldest of several children, and he himself had ten children. The youngest was born after his death. When he died, he hadn't reached the age of 40, but seemed to have a wealth of wisdom. No doubt much of it was the result of hard knocks and experience -- lessons learned trying to raise a huge family on the meager income of a Southern farmer during the Great Depression.

My mother recently told me of an incident when she was out in the field with Grandfather, who was taking a brief rest from plowing the field with his mule (yep, no tractor -- they couldn't afford one). As they sat talking, he quoted the above Scripture from Luke, where Jesus drew a comparison to plowing a field and labor in the kingdom. He asked her why one should never look back when plowing. She couldn't tell him, of course. He went on to explain. "If you look backward instead of ahead, you'll eventually be way off your mark on the other side of the field instead of keeping your rows straight. You've got to look straight ahead at the mark to stay on the path."

How true. And that brings me to the next question. What are the reasons many of us look back?

You'll see I also popped in a reference to Lot's wife in the book of Genesis. Two different accounts with different contexts, but I think there can be many applications. Think for a moment about them. Taking your eyes off the Lord, off the mark. Getting distracted by other less important things than the task to which God has called us. Looking back regretfully at the life we left behind, even if that life was filled with less than savory things from a spiritual point of view. Beginning a task and then either growing weary with it, or perhaps becoming afraid to go any farther. Maybe we've hit a rough patch of ground, and instead of expending the added energy to break the ground up, we give up. Who knows. Each of us could have a different circumstance, but the lesson the Lord is trying to teach us is the same. Don't take your eyes off of Him. Don't take your eyes off the prize.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).