Friday, August 31

Hi-jacking the Truth in "Truth in Love"

This is such a common mistake on the part of many in the church that I feel it necessary to re-post Tony Reinke's article "Speaking the Truth in Love." It seems that what happens (quite unintentionally I'm sure) is that everyone wants the "love" part so much that inadvertently truth gets hijacked! This must not be. Read on and see how Tony describes this phrase in the context of Ephesians:

For much of my Christian life I have had a one-sided view of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I assumed that the verse meant only that when hard news or rebuke needed to be brought, it should be done with tenderness and sensitivity. I was wrong.

Not totally wrong. I understood correctly the verb and the love: that hard news and rebuke should always be brought with appropriate sobriety, humility, and never with arrogance and harshness.

But I neglected to focus on the other part of Paul’s phrase: the noun and “the truth.” The context of the passage helps to explain Paul’s meaning.

In his sermon, How the Saints Minister to the Body (1992), Pastor John explains the earlier context:

First, the equippers of the saints in verse 11 are all truth agents:
              apostles (the authoritative, foundational witnesses to the truth),
              the prophets (the charismatic speakers of truth that apply it with supernaturally guided pointedness),
              the evangelists (who do the work of evangelism with the truth of the gospel in regions where apostles have planted the church),
              the pastors and teachers (who take the truth and use it to feed and protect the flock of God).

Every one of these offices centers on the truth of God and Christ and the gospel. These people are truth agents.

Second, verse 13 says that the goal of building up the body of Christ is to attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. So the building begins with equippers who are all agents of truth, and the aim of the building is unified knowledge, that is, unified grasp of truth.

Third, we have seen that verse 14 shows Paul’s great concern: As we grow into corporate Christlikeness, we are not to be babes who are blown around by every wind of doctrine. The issue is stability in true doctrine, so that we will not be deceived by false doctrine.

Thus, our call to speak the truth in love to one another is gospel-oriented.
Today we gather together as Christians to worship our God. If we are led by faithful preachers, that is a gift from God equips us to speak truth. As we gather, we find opportunities to speak the truth of the gospel to one another. This is how we serve and protect one another doctrinally. This is how we build up one another and build unity in our churches. This is how God gives grace to others through us (Ephesians 4:29).

At its core, we speak the truth in love when we care enough to speak the gospel into the lives of those around us. This is God’s everyday calling for every Christian, including Sundays.

Tuesday, August 28

Can Anyone "DECIDE" For Christ? God's Sovereignty in Salvation

Lingo is bound to interject itself into any society. But nowhere is it potentially so devastating as among true Gospel-believing Christians. One such term that wormed it's way into our spiritual vernacular is the word "decide." You hear it when evangelists ask, "Are you ready to decide for Christ, to be saved?" Is this biblical? Well, not if our "decider" (our will) is fallen, corrupt. Read this excerpt from Tozer to see what I mean. Remember, Tozer died in 1963, so it's amazing how relevant his writings are to current issues. If you would like to have a brief article like this delivered to your email daily, please go to Literature Ministries International

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12–13
There is another and worse evil which springs from this basic failure to grasp the radical difference between the natures of the two worlds. It is the habit of languidly “accepting” salvation as if it were a small matter and one wholly in our hands. Men are exhorted to think things over and “decide” for Christ, and in some places one day each year is set aside as “Decision Day,” at which time people are expected to condescend to grant Christ the right to save them, a right which they have obviously refused Him up to that time. Christ is thus made to stand again before men’s judgment seat; He is made to wait upon the pleasure of the individual, and after long and humble waiting is either turned away or patronizingly admitted. By a complete misunderstanding of the noble and true doctrine of the freedom of the human will, salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God.

However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. POM037–038
Sovereign God, I’m Your servant. I’ll share the message, I’ll pray for response, but only You can draw an unsaved person to faith in Christ. Thank You for the privilege of having even a small part in Your sovereign work. Amen.
Tozer, A. W. (2001). Tozer on Christian leadership: A 366-day devotional. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread.

Sunday, August 26

Don't Fear for the Church!

An example of over-generalization

I weary of hearing those "theologians" who have a defeatist attitude toward Christ and His church. To hear some talk, you'd think that the church is on her last leg. And some feel that in order to correct this apparent denigration, the church must, as it were, reinvent herself. All things fall under intense scrutiny. While there are areas that need attention, a case in point is a remark I've heard from numerous people. "The church is so mean" they say. So, "if we would only be like Jesus, people would come, be saved, enjoy a new conversation and the church will grow!" Those who declare such things have not read their Bibles very well, for one need not look far before finding Jesus running off the Pharisees and even the multitudes who had come looking for a welfare hand-out with no strings attached (John 6). And what do modern church leaders say to Jesus' frequent rejoinder to the crowds that if they would be HIS disciple, then they must be willing to "hate mother, father, brother, sister and even their own life" (Matt. 10; Luke 9 & 14). Such statements are numerous and clear. So whatever church folk might like to say about them, still they must (if they're honest) deal with the fact that Jesus did in fact say these things. I hope we assume that Jesus knew what he was doing?! But to hear some people talk you would think that they imagine Jesus to be a poor evangelist, or misguided and out of date. Our talk is so brazen and/or pusillanimous as to border on blasphemy!

Some today will even sound the death knell on the church preferring rather other organizations to her, or by so changing the face of church that it hardly resembles anything connected with the real body of Christ. I am afraid that fads and style mean more to some leaving seminary than the sheer honesty required of any who stand faithful to Jesus' name. Let us not allow the spirit of the age to lure us into a faithless shuffle. Let us own our loyalty to Jesus above all other loves, and accept the consequences always associated with any who rightly declare that Jesus is Lord. And let us do this in a world of religions seemingly fighting to displace Jesus Christ in favor of a milder, more tolerant approach to the world. Jesus warned, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Mt. 10:34). And he who spoke these words also stated unapologetically, "I will build my church" (Mt. 16:18). Jesus will build it despite us. Do we imagine that he did not know through what the church would have to go? Jesus WILL build without fail. Do we not realize that he knew exactly over which hurdles his bride would have to climb? Jesus will build HIS church, and not some cheap facsimile of it. We take hope in such Almighty declarations. We need such statements, for they are true. And we need them because our vanity is so prone to inflation and our hearts so susceptible to self-deception. God open our eyes to the truth of His Word. It will not fail, nor shall His church!

Saturday, August 25

No One Is a Problem to God - A. W. Tozer

There is an overweening attitude throughout society and even among the so called "religious" toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would seem that many who claim to believe the "good news" nevertheless stake their hopes to their own goodness and abilities and in so doing deceive themselves while denigrating the magnitude of Jesus' atoning sacrifice. We mustn't take a few terms related to the gospel and think that using them IS the gospel. Words must go together with other words in the proper order if they are to be received as intended by their author. The God who made language knew quite well how to speak so that his words might have the most profound effect upon the hearts of the sin-dulled populace of earth. But even among the enlightened redeemed, distrust may emerge which fails to appreciate the awe-inspiring power of God to save even the most recalcitrant (Rom. 1:16). The following is but one example of how arrogant humankind (converted as well as lost) can distort the truth and so lose sight of God's glory. A. W. Tozer writes:
Let No man imagine that he is a problem to God.
For him to do so is to assume that he is very much greater than he is in fact and to claim for himself powers which he does not in reality possess.
It is a none too subtle form of egotism to picture ourselves as great sinners, letting our imagination mount till we see ourselves strong and dangerous rebels, after the likeness of the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost, actually threatening the security of the throne of God. We thus dramatize ourselves to hide our pitiful weakness.
That a man, by his sin, may ruin himself and greatly injure others is true. His sin, when seen in relation to himself and others, is great; but when set over against the boundless power and limitless resources of the Deity, it is as nothing at all.
Our theology is too much colored by our secret self-admiration. We picture God as draining the riches of heaven and consuming the last ounce of His strength to save us. This gives us a highly enjoyable feeling that we are capable of mighty world-shaking deeds so terrible that even God respects our power to do evil. The lurid overcoloring of pulpit rhetoric has worked to destroy the truth of God’s sovereignty and to greatly overstate man’s prowess as a sinning rebel.
A man may sin to the limit of his ability and still be no great problem to the Deity. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
God is infinite and man is finite, which is to say that every man’s sin, however terrific it may seem to him, must have a limit, while God’s grace can have none. Always God must be out ahead, or He would not be God.
Let us put our pride under our feet and admit frankly that our sins are not big nor mighty nor noble. For my own part I will admit that my own sins have related me more nearly to the roach than to the rampant lion. There is nothing romantic about sin. It is a sordid and shameful thing practiced by moral cads so weak that they take advantage of God’s kindness to defy Him and so cowardly that they run whining to Him for help when trouble comes.
Tozer, A. W., & Snyder, J. L. (1997). The Early Tozer : A Word in Season : Selected Articles and Quotations (55–56). Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread.

Friday, August 17

Fear Not, Christian! There's Victory Over Attacks on Truth

The Christian need not be daunted by attacks against the church or himself. And we are indeed under attack! Truth shall prevail. Better, Christ shall prevail. Better still, Jesus Christ has already prevailed! He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].” (Colossians 2:15) It's true that there are attacks. There always have been, and always will be as long as sin exists in this fallen world. This should not promote indifference on our part, but induce an even greater commitment to "stand firm" (Eph. 6:13) in the faith. Yes, and we who believe must know the Scriptures well, for it is in them that we proclaim victory in Jesus' name (Heb. 4:12). So, on the one hand, know that whatever attacks we may undergo in this generation, others have faced them before. "Do not be surprised" Peter warns (1 Peter 4:4). On the other hand, do whatever anyone should do when under attack, clean your weapon and know how to use it! Be prepared always to make a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope you have within you (1 Peter 3:15). Don't sulk, or indulge in self-pity. Oh, no! They also attacked our Lord in such a way. And should we imagine that we should escape the same? (John 15:20) Spurgeon fought difficult battles against apostasy in his lifetime, and did it ably and humbly. And though beset by depressions he maintained an ardent faith in the face of horrible attacks both from within and from the religious culture. Still, as the following illustrates, Spurgeon consistently held firmly to the fact that the victory is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 2 Kings 6:16 
HORSES and chariots, and a great host, shut up the prophet in Dothan. His young servant was alarmed. How could they escape from such a body of armed men? But the prophet had eyes which his servant had not, and he could see a greater host with far superior weapons guarding him from all harm. Horses of fire are mightier than horses of flesh, and chariots of fire are far preferable to chariots of iron.

Even so is it at this hour. The adversaries of truth are many, influential, learned, and crafty; and truth fares ill at their hands; and yet the man of God has no cause for trepidation. Agencies, seen and unseen, of the most potent kind, are on the side of righteousness. God has armies in ambush which will reveal themselves in the hour of need. The forces which are on the side of the good and the true far outweigh the powers of evil. Therefore, let us keep our spirits up, and walk with the gait of men who possess a cheering secret, which has lifted them above all fear. We are on the winning side. The battle may be sharp, but we know how it will end. Faith, having God with her, is in a clear majority: “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

Charles H. Spurgeon, The Checkbook of Faith


Thursday, August 16

There is a Real Eternal Hell

I suppose that there isn't one doctrine of the Bible that hasn't come under attack, or for which some who held them have not died a martyr's death. All doctrines of God's Word are vital. One which has been under attack in recent years (again) is the teaching about an eternal condemnation in hell. Many think it's unfair of God! But may I remind my readers that when questioning a puzzling truth, we must always begin with the character of the One we're accusing, in this case God. Is he good? Is he wise? Is he not the One who is full of grace, and who's mercy is everlasting? And does not the same Bible that says these things also affirm that God is love? Is he not the One about whom Romans 5:8 speaks, "When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?" If these things are true, then we are quite ill-equipped to be able to accuse God of anything. How can we trust that our viewpoint is flawless? Why do we imagine that if God is as great as He is, that somehow we might know better than He what is good and right?! Now, when it comes to any questionable doctrine (questionable to us, that is) our stance (if Christian) must be a submissive one, even if engaged. J.C. Ryle wrote the following in his commentary on Mark 3:30. Is hell real? The answer is more about the one to whom we listen. Hear Ryle's comments:
"We ought to notice, in the last place, that it is possible for a man's soul to be lost forever in hell. The words of our Lord are distinct and express. He speaks of one who "has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."

This is an dreadful truth, beyond doubt. But it is a truth, and we must not shut our eyes against it. We find it asserted over and over again in Scripture. Figures of all kinds are multiplied, and language of every sort is employed, in order to make it plain and unmistakable. In short, if there is no such thing as "eternal damnation," we may throw the Bible aside, and say that words have no meaning at all.

We have great need to keep this dreadful truth steadily in view in these latter days. Teachers have risen up, who are openly attacking the doctrine of the eternity of punishment, or laboring hard to explain it away. Men's ears are being tickled with plausible sayings about "the love of God," and the impossibility of a loving God permitting an everlasting hell. The eternity of punishment is spoken of as a mere "speculative question," about which men may believe anything they please. In the midst of all this flood of false doctrine, let us hold firmly the old truth. Let us not be ashamed to believe that there is an eternal God--an eternal heaven--and an eternal hell. Let us recollect that sin is an infinite evil. It needed an atonement of infinite value to deliver the believer from its consequences--and it entails an infinite loss on the unbeliever who rejects the remedy provided for it. Above all, let us fall back on plain scriptural statements, like that before us this day. ONE PLAIN TEXT IS WORTH A THOUSAND ABSTRUSE ARGUMENTS."
 God help us to truly hear the Bible and to abide by it.

Friday, August 10

4 Disturbing Trends in the Contemporary Church

from Aug 08, 2012 

According to several studies, American evangelicals generally do not know what they believe and why they believe it. Consequently, most share with the wider culture a confidence in human goodness and a weak view of the need for God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. According to these reports, most evangelicals believe that we are saved by being good and that there are many ways of salvation apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the disturbing trends that need to be checked and reformed in contemporary church life:

1. We are all too confident in our own words
We are all too confident in our own words, so that churches become echo chambers for the latest trends in pop psychology, marketing, politics, entertainment, and entrepreneurial leadership. We need to recover our confidence in the triune God and His speech, as He addresses us authoritatively in His Word.

2. We are all too confident in our own methods
We are all too confident in our own methods for success in personal, ecclesial, and social transformation. We need to be turned again to God’s judgment and grace, His action through His ordained means of grace.

3. We are all too confident in our own good works
We are all too confident in our own good works. We need to repent and be brought again to despair not only of our sins but of our pretended righteousness.

4. We are all too enamored of our own glory
We are all too enamored of our own glory, the kingdoms that we are building. We need to be brought back to that place of trust in Christ where we are deeply aware of “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), because God is building it for His own glory, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

Only as we turn our ears away from the false promises of this passing age to God’s Word, to His saving revelation in Christ as the only gospel, and to the glory of the triune God as our only goal, can we expect to see a genuine revival of Christian discipleship, worship, and mission in the world today.

Excerpt adapted from Michael Horton’s foreword in R.C. Sproul’s latest book, Are We Together? Available now from

Thursday, August 2

Don't Be Discouraged by Your Lack of Gifts

 "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:12

Christian leaders sometimes challenge believers to move from being mere spectators to participators in the kingdom as God ordained. This is right and good to do. But there are some who become waylaid by what they consider mediocrity, or their own inabilities. Comparison is their greatest hindrance to Christian growth. "I'm not like thus and so." This then, has the injurious effect of hampering their godly desires toward Jesus Christ. And they turn into "couch" Christians even in the pew. Let not the lowly say so. God has ordained all kinds of gifts for the good of the Church body. We need all to perform as He has empowered through His Spirit. Didn't Moses complain that he was slow of speech, thus incapable to confront Pharaoh? But this can be more to our favor than eloquence. Spurgeon, referring to Exodus 4:12, says it so well . . .

MANY a true servant of the Lord is slow of speech, and when called upon to plead for his Lord, he is in great confusion lest he should spoil a good cause by his bad advocacy. In such a case it is well to remember that the Lord made the tongue which is so slow, and we must take care that we do not blame our Maker. It may be that a slow tongue is not so great an evil as a fast one, and fewness of words may be more of a blessing than floods of verbiage. It is also quite certain that real saving power does not lie in human rhetoric, with its tropes, and pretty phrases, and grand displays. Lack of fluency is not so great a lack as it looks. (Spurgeon, C. H., The cheque book of the bank of faith)

One further thought. Those who are silver-tongued are more tempted to depend upon their eloquence than others. It is to our detriment when due to our giftedness we turn less to God and attempt to labor on without His aid. Take what God has given you, large or small, and use it only as He directs and always take care to do it to HIS GLORY! Both you and others will be blessed.