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Archive for September, 2010


Life has a way of becoming complex.  And people have a way of accumulating stuff.  It isn’t just the hoarders you see on TV.  All of us are prone to collect something.  I collect books and music.  Okay, I used to collect music until I got married and my disposable income had different uses.  I may start again, but at least it take up more space in my house, only my hard drive.  I’m sure you collect something: stamps, baseball cards, coins, dolls, coke logo items ….

In the 5th chapter of The Radical Disciple, John Stott talks about Simplicity.  He returns to the discussion of materialism from the first chapter here.  He tells a far too uncommon story of a man whose life was unencumbered by the possessions he could own, but rather he lived a life of great generosity.

I often say that government abhors a vacuum.  All left over revenues will be spent.  Rare is the government official who cuts a budget.  I remember someone is an organization saying “we’d better spend it or they’ll cut our budget for next year.”  It becomes about power and status.  This is who we are.

The followers of Jesus should be committed, not to power and status, but to simple lifestyles.  This does not mean living in a cardboard box, but recognizing God does not give us all He gives us for us to spend on us.  Did you get that?  I know, it doesn’t roll off the tongue.

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The church office got a request from a college student today.  Here it is:

My name is xxxxxxxxxxx. I attend **********, located in  Georgia, a ministry of ***********  Baptist Church. In my Baptist Doctrine class, we are discussing the Doctrine of Salvation. Our professor gave us a project for which we must discover the beliefs of other denominations concerning salvation. My goal is not to debate or discuss the differences between our denominations, but only to understand yours. I have included a few questions below that are part of my assignment; if you would please answer them and send them back I would very much appreciate it, you may be as brief or as detailed as you see fit. Thank you for your time.

Here were my answers:

Here is the information your requested.  I formerly was a Baptist, and the answers for your question are not uniform among Baptists.  You may want to look at the London Baptist Confession of 1689 if you have time.

  1. What does it mean to be saved or born again? Those terms do not refer to the same thing.  To be born again refers to regeneration (all saved people have been regenerated), which means the renewal of heart and will by the grace of God, enabling one to believe on the Lord Jesus to be saved.  Scripture speaks of us as having been saved (justification, meaning we’re saved from the penalty of sin), being saved (sanctification, we being saved from the practice & power of sin) and will be saved (glorification, being saved from the presence of sin.
  2. What must one do to become saved or born again?  Recognizing the difference between the 2 terms, we don’t do anything to be born again- it is a sovereign act of God by the Spirit (John 3).  To be justified, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  On the basis of faith as the instrumental means, the Father pardons our sin and imputes Christ’s obedience to us.  We are not just forgiven, but declared righteous!
  3. Is there any proof in a person’s life that they are saved?  The fact of being regenerated and belonging to God will be manifested in persevering in faith, good works, obedience and godly character.
  4. What is sanctification?  It is an act of God’s free grace wherein we more and more die to sin and live to righteousness as we trust in Christ.  In other words, we put death to sin in the power of the Spirit (Rom. 7 as well as Eph. 4 & Col. 3) and progressively grow in obedience.
  5. What is repentance?  It is turning away from what I know of my sin toward what I know of God.  As I grow in my knowledge of both, my repentance deepens and I change.  It is an important aspect of sanctification as well as the other side of the coin regarding faith in justification.
  6. Do you believe in Eternal Security? If not, can a person be saved again? If they can, how does this take place?  I do not believe in “eternal security” but rather in what is called the Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.  People make false/superficial confessions of faith (see the Parable of the Sower).  Such “decisions” do not save them.  The regenerate who truly believe on Christ will persevere in faith (there will be ups and downs) precisely because God preserves them (John 10:28-29).  Charles Ryrie, who holds to “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”, disconnects this from regeneration and thinks one can stop believing and yet still be saved.  Romans 8:29ff show that God connects all these things so that all he regenerates will be justified, all he justifies will be sanctified, and all he justifies and sanctifies will be glorified.
  7. Are these your personal beliefs or is this the denominational belief?  These are my personal beliefs as well as the denominational standards that have existed for nearly 500 years.

I hope you assignment goes well, and that God works in you to come to a greater knowledge of the truth, a greater love for Christ and a heart that longs to trust and obey.

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Yesterday I went to a pastor’s seminar sponsored by Phoenix Seminary, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Arizona Policy.  One of the speakers was Wayne Grudem, relating material from his new tome Politics According to the Bible.  I say tome because it is a mammoth 600 pages.  But it looks good.

The first chapter covers some of the errors people make in thinking about politics and Christianity.  It was interesting to see who Gregory Boyd gets farther and farther from a biblical worldview (Shane Clairborn’s Jesus for President seems to have been influenced by his governments are satanic error).

Grudem’s basic argument is that God’s people (in Scripture) have often influenced governments.  Joseph had a profound influence on Egypt, Daniel was instrumental in Babylon, Esther changed policy under Xerxes, and Nehemiah served as governor under the Persians.  Paul dialogued with Felix about faith and righteousness.  So, Grudem’s view in light of Scripture and our particular circumstances here in America is one of Christians influencing government as one way in which we do good works and love our neighbors.  He then goes on to examine particular issues pertinent to our circumstances today: economics, health care, environmental issues etc.  Here is a sermon of his, Biblical Principles Concerning Government.

Since we are in an election cycle, the issue of politics is a hot topic.  Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist recently preached Jesus Paid Taxes from Mark 12 (which Grudem referenced yesterday).  Collin Hansen thinks it is the best sermon on politics he’s heard.

Justin Taylor also has a few posts (here and here) on another book that is about to be released called City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.  Tim Keller has written the forward.  One author, Michael Gerson lectured on The City of God at the Kuyper series for the Center for Public Justice.

Carl Trueman has a new book on the subject out as well called Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative.  There are some sample pages available.

Politics are important since we do live in the world.  I think these are books and sermons that will help us think biblically politics and our relationship to the state as individual Christians and churches.

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In chapter 4 of The Radical Disciple, John Stott moves into our responsibility beyond ourselves.  I think he does well to address the issue of creation care.  I just think he didn’t address it well.

The creation mandate reveals our relationship to creation as God’s stewards of creation.  We were meant to subdue it, make it productive and habitable.  Man was meant to imitate God in his creative wisdom.  As his image, were to represent his rule to the rest of creation.

Adam’s disobedience changed a few things.  Our task was made more difficult.  The creation was subject to frustration.  It produces weeds and thistles, and we have to work very hard to produce fruit, veggies and grain.

But something else happened.  We moved in two extremes.  First, some began to worship created things and/or creation (Romans 1).  Abram, before his conversion, was most likely a worshiper of Sin, the Mesopotamian sun god.  The Egyptians, whom the original audience of Genesis was well aware, worshiped many gods of created things.  The Lord proved his superiority (and the vanity of their idolatry) in the plagues.  He whooped up on their gods!

Second, some exploit creation.  They utilize the resources in a destructive way, like strip mining.  We see both of these sinful tendencies in Avatar.  The Navi had a pantheistic world in which all was part of god.  The humans exploited Pandora, just as they had exploited the earth.  Sadly, there are no real heroes in that story.

That’s the basic biblical framework in which Christians should ponder creation care as we follow Jesus who created and sustains all that is (John 1, Colossians 1) and will renew creation at the consummation (Romans 8, Revelation 21-22).  Salvation has cosmic, not just individual, aspects.  We must realize that, but without going to either of the 2 extremes.

“But we can surely say that just as our understanding of the final destiny of our resurrection bodies should affect how we think of and treat our bodies we have at present, so our knowledge of the new heaven and earth should affect and increase the respect with which we treat it now.”

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While I was at General Assembly, See Jesus provided a free copy of A Praying Life discussion guide.  I had been wanting to read the book, and a friend graciously & generously purchased me a copy of A Praying Life by Paul Miller (it’s also available in audio book form).

I still haven’t read the book, but am hoping to use either the book or the PrayerLife interactive Bible Study for our Community Groups.  Since I’m wrapping up some preparation for my seminar on Adoption: The Greatest Adventure, I decided to visit Steve Brown Etc. since I haven’t been there in quite some time.  It’s okay, Steve might forgive me.  For being away for so long, and for coming back.  He recently interviewed Paul about the book and prayer.  It is an interesting discussion.  One of Paul’s best statements was:

“My resistance to prayer is my resistance to grace.”

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In 1984 the SBC passed a resolution restricting the office of pastor to men.  Al Mohler, at the time a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was “hurt, outraged and stunned.”

To put this in context- there was no Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at the time.  The seminary he attended taught that women were qualified to be pastors.  He was young and it can be difficult to see that all the professors you respect are not handling the Scriptures correctly on such a matter (especially when the culture affirms them).  Mohler led a protest of the resolution, buying an ad in the local newspaper.

A year and a half later, Mohler would be a campus host to visiting theologian Carl Henry.  Mohler had read a number of Henry’s books and admired him.  While showing him the campus, they discussed theology.

“With the insouciance of youth and with the stupidity of speaking more quickly than one ought, I gave him my position,” Mohler recalled. “He looked at me with a look that surprised me, and he simply said to me, ‘One day this will be a matter of great embarrassment to you.'”

Mohler reports quickly heading to the library and reading every book he could find on the topic.  In studying the Scriptures, he discovered he was wrong and Carl Henry was right.

“I had to come face to face with the fact that I had just picked this up,” he said. “I had just breathed this in, and I just capitulated it out without checking it according to the Scriptures. By the way, going to the Scriptures, it doesn’t take long. It wasn’t like I embarked on a lifelong study to discover what Scripture says on this. It didn’t take long at all.

“And I realized that Carl Henry was right, that one day I would be very embarrassed about this. When I saw him the next morning, well, I was already in a different world.”

Mohler today is a committed complementarian.

And now, the rest of the story.

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It is really strange that maturity would be considered a neglected aspect of discipleship.  I know I mention it regularly in preaching.  But, seeing as how the evangelical world is fairly shallow spiritually, John Stott is probably wise to bring it up in The Radical Disciple.

Stott begins by lamenting the explosive growth of the Church in the non-western world because it is about as superficial as the Christianity of the West.  Thanks to satellite and the internet we get to share our ignorance with them.  The world over, the Church is lacking depth in biblical knowledge and therefore character, or maturity.

The Scriptures, on the other hand, instruct us that such immaturity is “unnatural”.  Babies are meant to seek milk and grow up.  There are many Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 3, Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 6 that remind us that it is natural that we move toward maturity.  If we aren’t, there is some sort of dysfunction taking place- just like a teenager who doesn’t get taller and stronger.

The end of Colossians 1 is my “mission statement” as a pastor.  I strive to present everyone mature in Christ.  Since we are “in Christ” or vitally united to Him, “to be mature is to have a mature relationship with Christ in which we worship, trust, love and obey him.”  One of the problems we face is that people tend to create a Jesus in their own image (based on ethnicity, politics or ethics) rather than becoming conformed to the likeness of the real Jesus.  This is what idol factories do.

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  Jerome

Instead our “image” of Christ must also be shaped by Scripture.  It, not our preferences or vain imaginings, must determine who we worship.  That is because, according to Scripture, we become like what we worship (this is one of the problems with idols revealed by the prophets).

Back to Colossians 1, unlike many pastors or evangelists, Paul was not content with conversions.  He saw evangelism as leading directly into discipleship.  We are not to merely make converts, but disciples (Mt. 28).  We are to strive in His power to present the as mature in  Christ by proclaiming Christ to everyone.  We have lots of work to do.

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