Sunday, January 31, 2010
In apologetics ministry, we often use Jude 3, the passage about "contending earnestly" for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Contending for the faith when it is under attack is every bit as much of a command as proclaiming the Gospel.
But there is more to Jude than just the third verse. Examine verses 16-25 . . .
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In the immediate context, Jude is primarily addressing false teachers who were peddling a forerunner of the Gnosticism that would become more fully orbed in the second century. However, the warning given by Jude can be applicable to any false teachers that surface within a congregation.
"Within a congregation," you say? Yes. Remember the warning of the Apostle Peter, who said, 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 (2 Peter 2:1).
That is what makes false teaching so insidious. Most Christians who consider themselves aware and discerning expect challenges and false teaching to come from the cults or other groups opposed to the Gospel. We expect it from unbelievers. But when it arises from within our midst at a Sunday school or from the pulpit, it really does take a lot of us by surprise or unawares. Sometimes it can be in your face and easily, shockingly obvious. Most often, it is very subtle and low-key, and eats its way into a congregation gradually. Think of the frog in a hot kettle.
Dr. Al Mohler last week decried the "lost art of discernment" in American evangelicalism. He was spot on correct. Evangelicals largely have become what the writer of Hebrews cited . . . For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. The Apostle Paul was also frustrated with the church at Corinth . . . I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able . . . (1 Corinthians 3:2).
You can't stand against false teachers if you don't know or understand even the core biblical doctrines of the faith.
We had best get back into the Bible and become reacquainted with the foundational principles of the faith again. We had best relearn what the non-negotiables are and stand like a rock on them. We had best realize all over again that it is perfectly right, good and acceptable to confront false teaching like good Bereans.
The consequences of not doing so are enormous.
Friday, January 29, 2010
I've posted this before, but I'll do it again. It's worth it.
WHAT TO DO
Socialism -- If you have two cows, you give your neighbor one.
Communism -- If you have two cows, you give them to the Government and the Government gives you some of the milk.
Fascism -- If you have two cows, you keep the cows, give the milk to the Government and the Government sells you some of the milk.
New Dealism -- If you have two cows, you shoot one, milk the other one and pour the milk down the drain.
Naziism -- If you have two cows, the Government shoots you and takes the cows.
Capitalism/Free Enterprise -- If you have two cows, you sell one and buy a bull.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Apologists Josh McDowell and Dave Sterett have a warning for Christians about Oprah Winfrey.
The warning is spot on, in my view. It goes hand in hand with the warning this week by Dr. Al Mohler that discernment is a lost art among evangelicals. See yesterday's post if you want to read that very excellent and sound warning.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
On occasion, I get asked about the popular book, "The Shack." This review and comment by Dr. Al Mohler says it far better than I ever could.
Dr. Mohler quite correctly lambastes the lack of discernment in the modern-day evangelical community. I concur with his comments, while also noting grimly that I'm not surprised. Scripture talks about last-days apostasy, and this is part and parcel in keeping with such apostasy.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
In this column, conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin sounds a warning about "establishment" Republicans giving us all a Pyrrhic victory in the next elections.
I'm already concerned that Scott Brown will yet turn out to be another Arlen Specter or Lowell Weicker. We'd best heed the warning or it will happen all over again.
I'm already concerned that Scott Brown will yet turn out to be another Arlen Specter or Lowell Weicker. We'd best heed the warning or it will happen all over again.
Friday, January 22, 2010
After a couple of days' respite from entertainment news, I arrived at my office only to find the most recent issues of USA Today on my desk. In the Wednesday "Life" section, a couple of articles were prominently featured. First was this feature piece on just how raunchy the upcoming television season was going to be here in the U.S. And not just on cable, which has always had looser standards than American broadcast television.
Next was this little ditty on Starz' new offering. It's called "Spartacus," with Xena star Lucy Lawless in a starring role.
After reading the articles, I found myself mostly saddened. Angry and outraged, of course, but more sad than anything else. I can't really say I was surprised, because I've been expecting this kind of thing to intensify eventually. It was bound to happen given the camel's proboscis under the tent already.
There really isn't any excuse for it. None. They certainly can't claim they're doing it for the art. They might as well finger-paint with feces and call it art. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have suggested that. Someone will try it now, and probably get a government grant for it.
The really sad thing is that Lucy Lawless is a talented actress and singer. It saddens me when people take their God-given gifts -- gifts that could be a blessing and inspiration to so many -- gifts that could be used to make all sorts of deeply moving and uplifting films or shows, and then waste them in trash like this. And please, spare me the usual protestations that "you haven't seen it, so you can't judge." As the old adage goes, I don't have to take the cap off the cesspool to know that it stinks. The descriptions given in the articles and by the participating actors/producers themselves say quite enough.
Finally, what does this say about our society that we even stomach such fare? Years ago, there would have been explosive outrage. Now it just merits a ho-hum. Even from Christians who ought to be grieved to the depths of their souls.
Christians who have become far too comfortable with Sodom like Lot's wife.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Postmodernism Infects Justices?
If you want a concise picture of what's the matter with our legal (and legislative) system here in the United States, this article in USA Today draws it for you.
Actually, I should say "what's wrong with the people in the system" rather than the system. The system envisioned by America's Founding Fathers is just fine. It's the people in all branches of government who have become a mite addled, or forgetful.
Let's hone in specifically on this line from the article . . .
As the two justices make clear when they appear together at law schools, Scalia's approach to the law is hard and fast. He interprets the Constitution based on its 18th-century context and focuses tightly on the words of a law. Breyer looks at the Constitution and federal laws in the context of contemporary society.
I think the liberal, postmodern bias in the article (and in justices like Stephen Breyer) gives itself away a bit with the words "18th-century context." Read between the lines, and that means "outdated, old, behind the times, not worth considering." The century has nothing to do with it. An idea isn't true or false because of how old it is. Some ideas and principles are timeless. Justices like Antonin Scalia look at the words of the Constitution and interpret it in light of original intent. It's the same way modern laws are (or should be) interpreted by the courts. What was the intent of the author or the legislature?
If the laws in question are outdated or need updating, that's what the legislature is for. If something in the Constitution really needs changing, that's why the amendment process is written into it. The Founders in their wisdom purposefully made the amendment process difficult for the fundamental law of the land.
That's why liberals really hate the Constitution, and love postmodern thought. "Living, breathing" words mean whatever they want them to mean. The Constitution stands in their way of remaking America along their ridiculous, statist, Utopian ideals. It stands in the way of them ramming their plans down everyone else's throats. The Constitution in their minds must either be re-interpreted along their mindset, or it must be eliminated, either de facto or in reality.
President Barack Obama said as much in a Public Radio interview, i.e. the Constitution really stands in the way of what he and his acolytes want to accomplish.
That fact ought to sober a few people up.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Note: I posted this back in 2007, but now and then it's good to review. Especially when the subject continues to be a raging issue.
If there's one thing you can say about the human race and religion, mankind has been the same since Cain and Abel. In fact, the two brothers whose story is told in the book of Genesis are two prototypical examples of how man approaches God. One of them God accepts, and the other God rejects . . . for a very specific reason.
We even fall into the same argument within Christendom, although we shouldn't. Scripture itself is plain enough on the subject of grace versus human works in connection with salvation. But some insist that there has to be some human work involved to merit God's favor. Such an insistence is damnable heresy no matter how you slice it.
Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about human works and their inability to merit God's favor:
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:6)
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).
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
We can see from these Scripture verses that trying to add works to the Gospel is a very serious matter indeed. This is such an important issue because it touches on the very sacrifice of Christ Himself on the cross. Any effort to throw human effort, merit, obedience to some command, ordinance or ritual, ANYTHING - nullifies the very Gospel itself and does violence to biblical soteriology. It is an insult to the Lord to imply or state outright that His sacrifice on the cross, His great mercy and redeeming love are not sufficient to buy the pardon of His elect.
What is the Gospel? Read 1 Corinthians 15 - the only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification. Jesus paid it all and did it all. All we can do is believe, trust and be thankful. What about obedience? That is the product of our salvation, not what causes it.
Here is the final warning of God to all who would add works (including baptism) as conditions of salvation:
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).
Friday, January 15, 2010
The following is taken from a comment I made over at Dan Phillips' blog.
The media and blogs are aflame with the latest controversial comments from Pat Robertson. I don't follow the guy much these days, just as I don't follow many televangelists. Too much baggage and too many doctrinal issues.
Anyway, Pat's comments were about Haiti being cursed with repeated events since the days when they won independence from France. Supposedly there was an occult voodoo ritual involved, but that particular story has turned out to be only a legend. Certainly voodoo does go on in Haiti, but that's beside the point.
Aside from Pat Robertson, there is a larger question that I am pondering. And that is . . . does God bring calamity on nations in judgment these days, or is that only to happen in the final judgment? There are people I respect on many sides of this issue. I have been inclined to agree with the former view, but there are aspects that trouble me, such as the absence of a prophetic warning to a nation.
I haven't made an exhaustive study of this question, admittedly. It seems to me from Scripture (Old Testament) that God has indeed brought judgment on nations. If God is anything, He is consistent, and I see no reason why He couldn't do it again if He thought proper. However, in the OT, you generally had a prophet give warning of impending judgment. You also have God's accounts of why He brought judgment.
In this day and age, we typically don't have prophets warning a nation or a people of God's impending judgment based on specific evils within a specific nation. That makes it pretty hard to declare definitively that a specific calamity was brought to pass or allowed in direct judgment. We can say that God allowed it to happen for His own reasons, and speculate why endlessly. I can think of Jesus' words in connection with the tower of Siloam. "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
It is true that there is a lot of wickedness in Haiti. Lots of voodoo and the occult, and lots of violence. Those things have been known to happen in the United States also, although maybe not to the same level. But there were (and are) also true Christian believers living in Haiti. Some of them might well have been killed.
The long and short of it is that I'm conflicted. I'd really like to see a good, sound biblical study of this issue. I'm sure they're out there, but I don't know where they'd be off the top of my head.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Just in case you're in the mood for some global warming jokes, I thought I'd give you this little shot of current snow cover in North America. They've even got 2-4 inches in northern Arkansas.
Friday, January 08, 2010
I need a vacation. Badly.
My last real vacation was more than two years ago, fishing in Arkansas with my late uncle. Since then, most of my vacation days have been spent at doctors and hospitals due to illnesses in the family, or the occasional non-traveling local "rest" day.
Going to Arkansas wouldn't do much good at the moment. It's just as cold there as it is here in northern Illinois. But spring and summer are coming, should the Lord tarry in His return. Will I get to go and wander aimlessly around the Ozarks this year?
I don't know. But I can always long for it.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The political prognosticators and the chattering classes are all abuzz with the news that Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan are not going to seek re-election. The speculation is that since Dems are expected to take a beating at the polls, the two in-trouble senators (not to mention other lawmakers who are leaving) don't want to face the wrath of the voters and possibly to give their party a better chance at retaining the seats with fresh faces.
If I could say anything to conservatives, I wouldn't crow too soon over this. A lot of water can go under the bridge between now and the next election. More importantly, remember that it takes veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress to accomplish anything. It will take more than this in the Senate, where a 60-vote majority is needed to get anything done. Also remember that you will always have "Republicans" like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe who tend to vote with the Democrats when it counts. They will need to be replaced or overcome by numbers.
If that sounds pessimistic, it is. I've been around too long. I do hope that I'll be wrong, and we indeed get a true, working conservative majority in both houses — a majority that will be able to thwart any filibusters, override any vetos and not need to depend on RINO Republicans.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
No, John Lennon hasn't returned from the dead, and he hasn't modified his controversial "Beatles more popular than Jesus" line. There's no need to do a double-take. Although I think we can freely wonder whether some people have boulders in their head.
This little article/commentary in the Dutch publication "Politiken" is raising a few eyebrows. It's hard to tell exactly what the author's point is, although it does seem a pretty obvious shot at conservatives. The author points out that conservatives have been very critical and yes, somewhat mocking, of the far-left (including the media) for giving Barack Obama messianic attributes. Then the column proceeds to hail Obama's accomplishments versus those of Christ. Oddly, he blames conservatives for initiating the comparisons between Jesus and Obama, which causes me to scratch my head. Obama's acolytes brought that all on themselves, and it was beyond painfully obvious. Yet, I suppose I should stop expecting liberals to make sense. To be charitable, perhaps something was lost in the translation.
Whatever the case, I have to differ. Barack Obama isn't a savior. He's an iconoclast.
Chew on that one for a while.