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Friday, February 23, 2018

God’s free, holy, sovereign will

Posted by Gary on May 18, 2012

Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

“God is that Being, for whose will no cause or reason is to be assigned, as a rule or standard by which it acts; seeing that, nothing is superior or equal to it, but it is itself the rule of all things. For if it acted by any rule or standard, or from any cause or reason, it would be no longer the will of GOD. Therefore, what God wills, is not therefore right, because He ought or ever was bound so to will; but on the contrary, what takes place is right, because He wills it.” (Martin Luther: The Bondage of the Will)

Someone else gets it

Posted by Gary on July 28, 2011

In my research about Glenn Beck and his “Restoring Courage” event I came across an article by Moshe Feiglin posted in the Jewish Press. It was very interesting to me that Mr. Feiglin, who is Jewish seems to get something that I am afraid many Christians do not. It may be that Mr. Feiglin is not aware that historic Christianity considers Mormonism a heresy and a cult but this aside, Feiglin understands that there is something underneath Glenn Beck’s support of Israel that must not be obscured by his good intentions.

Would that more Christians were as discerning and concerned about Glenn Beck’s religious doctrines but alas, we don’t seem to care. So what if Glenn Beck believes that God was once a man who became God, that Jesus is a lesser god and that we too can become gods, he’s a conservative and wants to restore America to 1776 or at least to 1952 and that’s all that matters.

Mr. Feiglin seems to be concerned that Glenn Beck would seek to turn Israel to Christianity. My concern is that Beck is not a Christian himself and would have us believe that who God is doesn’t ultimately matter as long as we accomplish certain earthly, moral causes. Glenn Beck teaches us that all faiths can truly claim to have God and call on him, this simply put is idolatry not truth.

Moshe Feiglin and I are from different faiths. The differences between our beliefs are uncompromisable and have eternal consequences. Yet, there is something we can both see, there is something underneath Glenn Beck’s moral activities that must not be ignored.

Here is an excerpt from Feiglin’s article:

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Dashing our thinking

Posted by Gary on February 19, 2010

Romans 9:19 “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

When approaching the Word of God we are all immediately challenged, our fallen nature leaves us determined to think what we want to think as opposed to letting God tell us what to think. Yes, me too.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the issue of predestination. While predestination is referenced either by word specifically or in concept throughout Scripture, the defining section of God’s Word on predestination is Romans 9.

I had my first real study exposure to Romans 9 while attending Circleville Bible College a staunchly Wesleyan/Arminian college. In my class on Romans I was taught the classic Arminian interpretation of the passage which boiled down is that God chooses us because He knows that we are going to choose Him. According to Arminianism, predestination is not God’s prerogative or initiating action but a response, a reaction to our action.

This thinking I am afraid is born of our thinking. To our fallen, finite minds it could never be fair that God would predestine some people to salvation while leaving others to perish. The great emphasis in Arminianism is human will, we choose and God responds to our choice.

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Robots in heaven?

Posted by Gary on July 30, 2008

The more time goes by the more I perceive that nothing means more to man than his perceived freedom of will even above the will of God. That we have a will I do not deny and that we have been given the serious privilege of making choices by God I affirm. Speaking of will, when will be willing to affirm that the Bible teaches us that our wills left the realm of freedom and entered the state of slavery when Adam rebelled against God and became a sinner? The nature of sin is that it enslaves:

John 8:34-36  “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’”

If man (since the fall) is free, why does Jesus tell us we are slaves? Why does He say that He must make us free if we were free already? By the way, use a concordance and see how many times the word “slave” is used in reference to man in the New Testament.

Many times I have heard that God gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden because He wanted us to love Him freely and that He doesn’t want “robots”. I understand this reasoning and in many ways agree but I do have a question: “If this is the system: our will preeminent, our love for God and our choice of God being the ultimate, should God leave us the option of leaving heaven after we get there?

I do not believe that God’s grace in a person’s life makes them a robot but I am convinced that the Bible teaches us that it is God’s choice of us and His love for us that are preeminent, not the other way around:

1 John 4:10  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

How about this one?

John 15:15-16  "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…”

If you don’t see the beauty of God choosing you and keeping you because of His determined love for you, I feel sorry for you. The teaching of Scripture is that those God saves, He saves forever and that means that His salvation means that I will never depart from Him in heaven, it will not be possible for the children of God to turn from or fall away from God through all eternity, because He will not allow it to be so. So, does that make us robots?

Those who are concerned about being a robot need to be asked, “Do you want the option of being able to turn away from God after reaching heaven?” If you are consistent you must say you do for to your mind you must always have the choice to turn away or it isn’t really love. Are you planning to ask God for this right when you get to heaven?

Some will argue, “It will be different for we will be perfect in heaven”. Adam was a perfect man in a perfect world and he fell away. Do we realize that a major difference between heaven to come and the original creation is that God allowed an option for Adam to fall on earth and will not allow that option in heaven? Again I ask, does this make us robots? Are you going to insist to God that this isn’t really love because He isn’t allowing at least the potential for you to choose otherwise?

I realize that there is much more that could be said in this vein about being a new creation but I speak in these terms to help us see ourselves and our idolatrous insistence on our wills and choices. When are we going to quit emphasizing our choice and our love over God’s choice and God’s love? As for me, I am grateful that God will take the option from me of falling away in heaven, I wouldn’t want it any other way. You may call this being a robot, I call it being loved by my Creator to a degree that He is not willing to leave me to myself.

Increase my courage Lord

Posted by Gary on February 2, 2008

Jude 1:3 “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.”

An article by Lucas Weeks posted via BaylyBlog calls our attention to something very concerning regarding the Christian faith. (See Lucas’s article here). Last October a number of Muslim scholars sent Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders a document/letter entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You” (read it here). One month later, dozens of Christian leaders responded in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, (See their response here).

The response from the Christian leaders is very troubling. Follow the document throughout and what is more than implied is that Christians and Muslims are seeking the same God. The letter is a comparative, you believe this, we also believe this. Of course what is never addressed are the things we do not believe together and these things do not allow the allusion that we are speaking of the same God or the same salvation.

The Christian response centers on two points of agreement those being love for God and love for man. Do we see what is being claimed here? The claim is that the foundation of the Christian faith rests upon man’s effort, his love for God and then loving his fellow man. A question must be asked immediately, if loving God and loving our fellow man is our faith and therefore results in gaining heaven, why did Jesus Christ die on the cross? Did God send His Son to die when it was not really necessary for Him to die? The response these Christian leaders composed it must be said, is a denial of the basic tenant of Christianity which is the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We do not define Christianity by love for God and man but by naming Jesus Christ the Son of God and pointing to the cross on which He died for man’s sin.

Here are some especially concerning excerpts from the Christian response:

“Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well.

As desirable and important peace is, the future of the world does not depend upon the ability of Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. The future of the world depends upon God Himself. “Our eternal souls”? Will any dialogue include a frank discussion about what each faith claims about the destiny of our souls? The claim of Scripture concerning Jesus is: Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” According to the Bible it is my relationship to Jesus Christ that determines the destiny of my soul not my relationship with people of other faiths.

“We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another.”

Listen carefully to this statement, “…to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another.” God is spoken of singly here, throughout the document the shared belief that God is one is heralded. But do we understand that in saying to the Muslim that we are going to look to the one God together for what He wants is to validate the claim of the Muslim to true knowledge of God? The picture clearly painted here is that we are going to approach this one God together to see what He wants. Does a Christian believe a Muslim can do this?

“What is common between us lies not in something marginal nor in something merely important to each. It lies, rather, in something absolutely central to both: love of God and love of neighbor. Surprisingly for many Christians, your letter considers the dual command of love to be the foundational principle not just of the Christian faith, but of Islam as well.

This sounds so wonderful but it is so untrue and dangerous. The foundational principle of Christianity is not love, at least not love originating from me toward God or anyone else. That love is vital to Christianity is undeniable but these false teachers claim that the foundation of our faith is our love being expressed to God and then others. This response reeks of human works and effort. The foundational principle of Christianity is that God loved us and sent His Son to die for us: 1 John 4:9-10 “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

That so much common ground exists – common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith – gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.”

Our undeniable differences can, do and must overshadow the common ground we share for our differences include the nature of the God each faith claims and how man can know Him and have redemption. What earthly goal is more important than a true statement of God’s person and true statement of how I can have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him? If I take this statement as it stands blasphemy and damnation are worthy prices to pay as long as we can say we get along. If this is the case, the Christian faith needs to apologize for the actions of its martyrs who, instead of dying because they could not compromise their differences of faith should have set them aside to pursue the greater goal (so called) of being at peace with their persecutors.

Am I to love people of the Muslim faith? Without question. Should I seek to live at peace with the Muslim? Of course and with the Jew, Hindu and atheist as well. What I am not to do is to seek peace by validating that which God’s Word tells me is untrue. What is being pursued in the Christian response is not peace and it directly contradicts what Jesus Himself said: Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

How different the approach of the signers of the Christian response is to the Apostle Paul.

Acts 17:22-23  So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

This is the battlefield

Posted by Gary on February 23, 2007

schori.jpgThe Church of Christ is always at battle and will be until Christ returns. Currently we are the Church militant, we will assume our status as Church triumphant in a little while. There is one battlefield in the realm of truth which continues to rage and I am convinced always will, this battle concerns the necessity of the atonement. The Christian faith rests on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. In short, on the cross, Jesus received the punishment that sinners deserved. God’s holiness demands justice and for salvation to be possible, the price of sin must be paid and Jesus paid it receiving justice at God’s hand in our place.

Man does not like the idea of the atonement because it declares the holiness and justice of God. The atonement also bespeaks man’s sinfulness, guilt and need to repent. Throughout her history the Church has had to stand for the truth and necessity of the atonement. Those who would have us believe that sin and justice do not matter to God continually attack this foundational doctrine.

Enter Katharine Jefferts Schori Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. In a recent article in USA Today Schori is held forth as as a source of light. The article written by Cathy Lynn Grossman begins: “Every time Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori dons her personalized vestments, there’s a vision of sunrise.”

Note well the comments of Jefferts Schori, they make it clear that the battle for the atonement is far from over. Here is a sampling:

“Yes, sin “is pervasive, part of human nature,” but “it’s not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world,””

Does not Jefferts Schori understand that it is because of sin that we need the Christian faith? If there were no sin, we would not need the faith, we would still be walking by sight with God in the Garden of Eden. It was sin that caused Adam and Eve to be cast out of the garden. Prior to sin Adam and Eve did not walk by faith, they were in the presence of God Himself, there was nothing separating them from God to require faith or a Savior. Jefferts Schori’s statement could not be more incorrect, sin is the centerpiece of the Christian message (Christ is the height of the Christian message, the One who purchased forgiveness of sin).

With the following, Jefferts Schori sets herself in oppostion to the Savior she claims to represent. For the fullest flavor and most accurate picture I leave the statements in the context of the framing statements of the article author:

“She sees two strands of faith: One is “most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent.” But the other is “the more gracious strand,” says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise. It “is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.””

Apparently the Bishop does not want to be a part of the strand that Christ is a part of:

Mark 1:14-15Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'”

Notice that Jesus did not say, “The time is at hand, talk about life, and claim the joy and blessings for good that it offers”. The passage above mentions John the Baptist, what message did John preach?

Matthew 3:1-2Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

According to Jefferts Schori, one strand is most concerned about the atonement and that Jesus died for our sins and stresses that our most important task is to repent, yes, the strand that Jesus and John the Baptist were a part of. The truth is that there are not two strands of Christianity, there is only one and Jefferts Schori is not a part of it.

This woman is not from God, her message contradicts the Son of God Himself. She is a servant of Satan. Why such harsh treatment? Many reasons: the glory and truth of God, the stakes (human souls) and the fact that this woman holds herself forward as one who knows the truth of Christ and as a shepherd of others. Jefferts Schori’s gospel is not the gospel of Christ, the Scripture could not be more plain in its condemnation of false teachers:

Galatians 1:8-9 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!

What does all this mean for the Christian?

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Posted by Gary on March 10, 2006

Isaiah 64:6 "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…"

I wonder if we really believe this verse? There are a few verses in Scripture that if we were honest we would say we don’t believe or at least think unfair. Do you mean to tell me that the acts of my unsaved neighbor who faithfully takes care of his terminally ill wife are like filthy rags to God? "OK, my aunt doesn’t believe in Jesus but do you mean to tell me that her willingness to drive her neighbors to their doctor appointments and to the store are regarded as filthy by God?"

I have always thought it important to interpret Isaiah 64:6 in light of this Scripture found in:

Romans 14:23 "…and whatever is not from faith is sin."

The truth revealed through Paul in Romans 14:23 is powerful: any act, no matter how kind or selfless that flows from rejection of Jesus as Savior is sin. A very simple question should be asked at this point, "Why should God be impressed with the actions of His creatures that reject His existence and offer of forgiveness through His Son Jesus?"

The truth is that our insistence that we can produce righteousness apart from God who is righteousness itself is the height of human arrogance and sin. How careful we must be not to view events through the lens of human perspective. From the human side it seems quite unfair for God to reject religious observances or deeds of kindness shown to others as filthy.

It is only after the Word of God sheds light that we understand, religious deeds toward God or good deeds performed for others while rejecting the Creator and His merciful offer of forgiveness reek of high treason. Will God reveal Himself, the truth about us (that we have sinned against Him) and His provision for our sin and have us reject it and yet be obligated to reckon our deeds as good? Do not be fooled, apparent religious and selfless deeds that flow from unbelief and rebellion against God are not religious or selfless, they are a very strong declaration that the creature is capable of righteousness on his own.

The truth is that the righteous acts of Christians are only considered righteous by God because of our attachment to Christ:

1 Peter 2:4-5 "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

Righteousness is found in God alone, we have none to offer Him but that which He provides through His Son.

In our witnessing and declaration of the gospel we must be willing to take man on right here, he thinks he possesses and can produce righteousness on his own, he must be told the truth about himself. He must also be told the truth about God who is unwilling to play a game; God will not bow to apparent righteous offerings while the heart is in rebellion against Him. God will not only have the action, He will have the heart and require of it faith in His Son who is…

Jeremiah 23:6 "…The Lord our righteousness."

When discussing free will

Posted by Gary on October 11, 2005

The past few Sunday evenings our congregation has been studying and discussing the basics concerning Calvinism and Arminianism. We’re doing so under the larger umbrella of sharing our faith. I am absolutely convinced that a proper understanding of who God is and what man is, is vital when it comes to sharing our faith. What we believe about God and man will determine our approach to evangelism. If man has even a spark of spiritual life in him the picture is completely different than if man is as Scripture depicts him, spiritually dead and the slave of sin.

I’m very encouraged to see our Sunday evening attendance increase as we study these matters. I’m tired of hearing that people don’t want theology, I have found again and again that a plunge into the deeps of who God is and who man is always draws and enlivens the people of God. Of course this study must include the topic of free will and interest is especially high whenever this subject is broached.
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