Friday, August 31, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Ambrose

A man's disposition ought to be undefiled and sound, so that he may utter words without dissimulation and possess his vessel in sanctification; that he may not delude his brother with false words nor promise aught dishonourable. If he has made such a promise it is far better for him not to fulfill it, rather than to fulfill what is shameful.

Ambrose, 337-397 AD, Duties of the Clergy, Book III, Chapter X11, 76 (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume X, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by H. De Romestin, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p. 80)

How do we maintain honesty in a world full of deceit? What are the boundaries?

Thursday, August 30, 2012


One of today's watchwords is accountability. It is said we need more of it in Christian church. But is it always, as practiced, a good thing? Scripture does teach that we need to correct each other in love (Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15; Matthew 18:15-20), and there is a place for confessing to and encouraging each other (James 5:16; Hebrews 12:12,13; 10:24,25). But there is also a place for approaching this with care and passing over minor sins (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; 25:8-10). This can prevent all manner of strife and contention (Galatians 5:14,15; Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 3:3). Now there is an important balance here. We do not want to be like the Corinthians and tolerate all kinds of sin (see 1 Corinthians 5). But we also do not want to be those who sit in judgment on others (James 4:11-12; Romans 14:4; Luke 6:37,38).

I have been an elder for a number of years in two different churches, and I know the difficultly involved in various types of correction. It is something that must be approached cautiously, asking the hard questions. Does this really need to be corrected? How do I approach it to best help the person and have them listen to what I have to say? I have seen it done right, and I have seen it done wrong, and I have failed myself to deal with it in the right way. But it is never something to be approached casually. I have also been involved in situations where I have needed the support of other Christians in dealing with my sins and struggles (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Romans 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:25-27). But this requires a relationship of trust built up over time. However, I have known and read of cases where people have used the idea of accountability to criticize people for questionable issues in their life with little show of concern or gentleness, often on the basis of holding people accountable. This can lead to an atmosphere of constant criticism, where people are torn down rather then built up. Now it is clear from Scripture that we are all people in process (Philippians 3:12-16; Romans 7:7-25; 1 Corinthians 4:3-6) and that our sins are forgiven through Christ (Romans 8:31-34; Colossians 2:13,14; John 3:18). This does not mean we should avoid appropriate correction, but we should be careful of trying to force people into our artificial standard of perfection. Rather, we must trust God to work in their lives and change them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 2:10).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unity and Uniformity

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

 Some would equate Christian unity to uniformity. That the ideal is that of a series of people exactly alike who are virtual clones of each other. But the Bible calls for a unity in diversity, different people with different abilities working together to accomplish God's purposes (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10,11). This does not mean that we are individualists each following what we think best but that we bring together our own individual contributions within a common principle and purpose (Philippians 2:1-11; Ephesians 4:11-16; Galatians 3:26-29). This careful balance is harder to produce then simply pressing everyone into a mold or encouraging them to follow their own inclinations. But it is what God has called us to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Born That Way

A common argument used in defense of homosexual behavior is that people are born that way. It is not my purpose here to deal with the issue of homosexuality, but I think there are problems with this defense that go beyond the question involved. There is a problem when we start seeing our behavior as wholly determined by our genetics. It is one thing to say people have a tendency toward a certain type of behavior. But to have a tendency toward a certain behavior does not justify it. There can still be a moral principle superior to the tendency. We can, in spite of these tendencies, still be responsible moral agents who can choose not to follow our inclinations. But if any behavior is wholly determined by our heredity, we cease to be responsible moral agents. For it is difficult to see how anybody can be partly a moral agent and partly genetically determined. So if our behavior is genetically determined, we destroy all moral responsibility, making all moral principles meaningless. It has been claimed there is a genetic tendency for alcoholism or even violence. As long as these are tendencies that can be fought, this is not a problem. But once you accept the idea of absolute genetic determination, where do you stop? Also, what we think and what we know depends on our choices, on what we decide is true. If those choices are determined by our genetics rather than an intelligent assessment of the facts, we cannot know anything. Including the fact that our choices are genetically determined.

I understand that certain kinds of desires can be strong and compelling and difficult to overcome. I have battled the desire to view pornography since I was old enough to have such desires. I can bear witness that such desires can be strong and compelling. I can also bear witness to the fact that such desires can be successfully fought against through the power of God. But if we justify everything that has a strong and compelling desire, it is hard to avoid justifying pedophiles, serial rapists, and serial killers. Now some of the confusion here comes from misunderstanding what is meant when it is said homosexuality is a choice. For example, very few people sit down one day and decide to become alcoholics. They generally start off slow and drink more and more until, often without full awareness, they cross over the line. It is not so much one thought-out choice as an accumulative number of small choices, many times not consciously thought through. But it is still a choice. However, if there is no choice involved, we are merely preprogrammed machines, and there is no point in discussing the issue anyway. Or anything else for that matter.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Technicality

How can we avoid making a subject overly complicated or technical? Where should we draw the line?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Interpretation

Interpret Scripture like a Galilean fisherman; ask how the ordinary person, reading it in the ordinary way, would understand it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Anselm

Truly, O Lord, this is the unapproachable light in which thou dwellest; for truly there is nothing else which can penetrate this light, that it may see thee there. Truly, I see it not, because it is too bright for me. And yet, whatsoever I see, I see through it, as the weak eye sees what it sees through the light of the sun, which in the sun itself it cannot look upon. My understanding cannot reach that light, for it shines too bright. It is dazzled by the brightness, it is overcome by the greatness, it is overwhelmed by the infinity, it is dazed by the largeness, of the light.

Anselm, 1033-1109, Proslogium, Chapter XVI (Proslogium: Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Gaunlion; and Cur Deus Homo, translated by Sidney Norton Deane, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1926, p.31)

How far can we really comprehend God? What difference does this make in how we approach Him?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Old Knight and the Young Knight

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

An old knight and a young knight met when riding through the forest.  The young knight had the newest innovations in his armor.  His sword had a special power point, and from his belt hung the newest of electronic gadgets.  His armor was covered with bright colors meant to impress and attract those of a neutral persuasion to join themselves to his side.  The older knight had more subdued armor, encrusted with the discreet ornaments of legalism.  His sword was old and battle worn, touched with the rust of archaic usage.  But both wore the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness, so they met as servants of the King and not as sworn enemies.

"I have not seen you around here before," said the old knight.  "New in the area?"

"I just graduated from Knight School,"  replied the young knight, "where we learned the newest techniques.  Just looking at your outfit, you could use a brush-up."

"I've been around the forest a lot of years.  I reckon this old armor will take care of me like it always has."

"Maybe," remarked the young knight, "but it looks too worn-out to take a serious testing."

They parted and rode off in opposite directions, each shaking his head at the other.  As the young knight rounded a grove of trees, he was startled by a loud roar.  He turned his head and saw the huge yellow form of a lion streaking toward him. He reached for his sword, but was not able to bring it to play before the weight of the lion rammed his horse and sent him flying through the air.  He was sitting on the ground, grasping his shield, as the lion charged.  While he did not have time to rise to his feet, he was able to bring up his shield to deflect the charge.  He twisted his shield back and forth, warding off the lion's claws and teeth.  One swipe from a claw got around the shield, but was turned back by his breastplate. The young knight was beginning to tire when he heard the sound of approaching hoofs.  Before the lion could turn a sword swung down, instantly severing his head from his body. 

"That's a good shield you have there," said the old knight, for such was his rescuer.  "I'm not sure mine would have held up that well after such a battering."

"It's nothing," replied the young knight.  "You really must teach me that sword stroke."

And they rode off together, laughing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Starting Over

Have you ever been around a couple who are breaking up. It is not uncommon for one to want to leave or be indifferent and the other to want to hold the relationship together. The one still committed will frequently go through a cycle of responses running from anger to appeasement. We see a similar situation in the relationship of Western Civilization to Christianity. At one time the two had a positive relationship where Christianity and its representatives where respected. But it recent times Christian beliefs have faced increasing hostility in places where they were once honored, including the United States. For Evangelical Christians this has elicited a variety of responses. There are those who have reacted with anger and vitriol, feeling they are entitled to still be respected. There are others who have responded with accommodation, even to the point of watering down the message. How should we respond to this situation?

We need to let go of the past. It is easy to hold on to the idea we have a right to be respected and act accordingly. But Jesus told us not to be surprised if society at large hates us (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:24,25). Now I am not suggesting despair or inactivity. What I am suggesting in that we recognize we have become Christians in a Non-Christian society and build from there. But if we presume a few minor changes can return us to where we used to be, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
We need to consider our attitude. Do we work and pray because we want to see souls saved and God glorified , or because we want to back to being comfortable in the world. But we are never guaranteed we will be comfortable in this world (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4: Romans 12:1,2).
We need to avoid quick fixes. We should avoid the idea that if we just pass the right laws or find the right technique, we will automatically go back to where we used to be. We need to be prepared to work for the long haul (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1,2; Galatians 6:9).
But most of all we need to trust God (Proverbs 3:4,5; Psalms 127:1,2; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). At the end of the Middle Ages the established form of Christianity had become corrupt. It had departed from Biblical doctrine and practice. It was also riddled with moral corruption and outrageous greed. But God brought an obscure monk from an small town in Germany to start a movement to turn the situation around. This is not a unique circumstance, but we see it throughout the history of the Christian church. When things seemed blackest, God from a surprising place acted to bring His people through. Now I am not promising an immediate turn around. Things may have to get worse before they get better. But I am convinced we can trust God to preserve His people and His truth, even in the most difficult of times.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Accountability

What is the right way to approach accountability? How can we avoid going to extremes?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Science

Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God; it is not the type of question science deals with.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Gregory of Nazianzen

Well, I have taken my stand, and looked forth; and behold a man riding on the clouds and he is very high, and his countenance is as the countenance of an Angel, and his vesture as the brightness of piercing lightning; and he lifts his hand toward the East, and cries with a loud voice. His voice is like the voice of a trumpet; and around about him is as it were a multitude of the Heavenly Host; and he saith, Today is salvation come unto the world, to that which is visible, and to that which is invisible. Christ is risen from the dead, rise ye with Him. Christ is returned again to Himself, return ye. Christ is freed from the tomb, be ye freed from the bond of sin. The gates of hell are opened, and death is destroyed, and the old Adam is put aside, and the New is fulfilled; if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; be ye renewed.

Gregory of Nazianzen, 330-390 AD, Oration XLV, The Second Oration on Easter, I (The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Volume VII, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by Charles Gordon Brown and James Edward Swallow, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996, pp.422,423) 

How can we avoid taking for granted what Christ has done for us? What difference does it make?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Liberal Theology Dying?

Is liberal theology dying? And if so, what is the cause? Liberal churches have the problem of losing people in large numbers, even after going to great lengths to tell people what they want to hear. Why is this? Now my purpose here is not to beat on liberal theology, but to ask if there is a lesson here for us. Liberal theology was designed as a compromise between affirming allegiance to Christianity and still following the philosophical and moral convictions of the culture at large. For it to be a viable option, there needs to some virtue to such a compromise. Historically, the virtue of this compromise lay in the respectability of Christianity. In Western Civilization it has been seen as part of respectability to be a Christian or to hold some similar belief. Therefore, it was desirable to have a way to make such a profession without being forced to question the generally held opinions of society. The problem with this is it erodes any significance to your religious convictions. You end up throwing out historic Christian theology, and then the morals that were connected to such beliefs. The final step is to question whether such an empty shell can have any relevance to a person being respectable and to cast it aside entirely. At the present time (at least in the United States), we have reached that point. Not only is it no longer required for respectability, but it is starting to be frowned upon. Therefore, the original compromise is collapsing like a house of cards.

Now I do not expect liberal theology to totally vanish. There will always be those who, for whatever reason, want a view that is a compromise between Christianity and secular culture. But I expect the position to become more and more marginal. Therefore, the idea that we can attract the world to Christianity by doing away with Christian distinctives will become more and more dubious. If Christianity has nothing different of value to say to our culture, why bother with it? If we throw aside the great Christian teachings that God intervenes in history, that He became a human being in Jesus Christ, that He died to pay the price for our sins and  rose on the third day and therefore offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who put their faith in Him, then we have nothing to say. We might as well close the doors to our churches and stay home on Sunday and watch football. Now I am not against finding ways to build bridges to people to deliver the message. I am not against asking which things are part of the message and which are unnecessary trappings. But if we, as evangelicals, follow the path of liberalism with the idea that this will help us win back our culture, we can expect to shuffle off into the same oblivion. If all we have to say is what the world says, with religious trappings, there no point to our existing at all. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Remember the Flesh

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

 "The devil made me do it." This is a false excuse used to duck responsibility for our actions. While I believe, and believe strongly, in the existence of demonic powers (Ephesians 2:2), it is a mistake to try to blame our wrong behavior on them. The basic source for our evil desires is within ourselves (James 1:14,15; Romans 7:17-20; Jeremiah 17:9). And while Satan and his demons may encourage us to do wrong (2 Timothy 2:26; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 7:5), we are ultimately responsible for our own sins. Nowhere in Scripture is casting out demons put forth as the standard procedure for dealing with sin, but rather, it is God's progressive working in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:13).  And while I am convinced there is a place for dealing with demonic influence (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8,9), this should not be used as an excuse to avoid responsibility, nor should casting out demons be regarded as a quick fix to obtain instant spirituality.  We must recognize that we are sinners, responsible for our own acts (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and while God will forgive our sins through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:23-26), He is not going to let us excuse them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stuck in Our Own Time

There are few times that have shown such total disrespect for earlier times as our own. Other ages have over-respected the past and made earlier ages practically unquestionable. But because of our advances in the areas of science and technology, we have dismissed the past in all areas. But it does not really follow that because we have made advances in these areas, we have made advances across the board. Rather, I suspect the opposite: that we have made advances in these areas by neglecting other aspects of knowledge. At least we should reserve judgment until we have examined the facts. But I would not necessarily conclude that previous ages were superior to ours, even in the other areas. Rather, as a whole I would rather follow the opinion of C. S. Lewis in this regard. The virtue of studying the ideas of previous ages is not that their ideas are necessarily better than our own, but that they are different. They make different assumptions and follow different lines of reasoning to reach different conclusions. But if we seriously look at them, we have a basis for challenging our own assumptions. There are many things our age takes for granted because everyone believes them. We need to have an input of different ideas by which our ideas can be tested. This is particularly true in the modern age, where communication and transportation have made us more and more one culture. The only thing that can help us challenge our current line of reasoning is to compare it with the past.

Now as Lewis points out, it is not that the people of the past were in general smarter or more virtuous than we are. It is that they made different errors. By comparing notes we can try to determine who is right. While if we know nothing but our own time, we will have no basis for making the comparison. We may conclude we are right, but find we are more certain in our opinions for having tested them. We may conclude we are wrong and are even falling into the same old error that has been continually shown to be wrong before. This is especially likely in realms such as theology and philosophy, where few clearly new pieces of information have been introduced over the years. Or we may conclude that, given the diversity of opinions, we need to look for new approaches to the problem. But at the very least we can learn what our options are. So if we want to avoid being locked into the ideas of the present, we need to examine the ideas of the past.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Touch of Humor - The Visit

How can avoid assuming people understand Christian terminology when they may not? What is the best way to approach this sort of situation?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

OId Erich Proverb - Morality

If there is no absolute morality, all we are left with is interests.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Spurgeon

All our possession are the gifts of grace , yet some of them come in the shape of reward; yet even then the reward is not of debt, but of grace. God first works in us good works, and then rewards us for them.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, The Treasury of David, Psalm 119:56 (Henderickson Publishers, Volume 3, p. 243)

Is this the right attitude toward rewards? How does it affect our approach to them?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In Defense of Truth

Truth is relative. This is the common assertion today. But is it correct? Does it even make sense? When I turn the key in my car's ignition, I expect it to start. If it does not happen I look for a way to fix it. I do not say, such things are relative anyway. Nobody can live for 5 seconds based on the idea that truth is relative. If truth is relative I could be in my living room typing a blog post or on Waikiki beach in Honolulu or in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, or all three places at once. If truth is relative it is not possible to know anything.Therefore, those who hold these views end up sneaking truth in the back door. They say it does not matter what is true but only what works. But this implies that it is true that it works. It also must work to achieve something, and that thing must be true. Or we can say that what matters is what is true for me. But this implies that it is true that this is true for me. Further, without truth I cannot determine what this thing that is true for me even is. Or we can bravely face that the fact that life is absurd and has no meaning. But if life is absurd and has no meaning, what difference does it make if I face it bravely or quivering in a corner. If truth is relative, everything is meaningless including the idea that truth is relative. The fact that I am writing and you are reading this blog post proves we do not really believe it.

Why, then, do people cling to this idea that makes no sense. It is because they want to apply it selectively. They do not try to apply it in their everyday lives. But in areas like theology and morals where truth can be inconvenient they want to believe it is relative. This is true whether we want to not believe in God or morals because it cramps our style or whether we do want to believe in God and think reason shows otherwise.  If the things of everyday life are true, then it follows that ultimate things must also be true. If ordinary things exist, they must be created by God or the result of blind chance. If we are the result of blind chance, then all our thoughts are the product of blind chance. And if they are the result of blind chance, then we cannot know anything. But there is no reason for believing blind chance must be true. Science give us the general rules why nature behaves the way it does, but it cannot say if there is a God beyond nature who can intervene to suit His purposes. Therefore, relative truth and blind chance lead to the same conclusion: that we cannot know anything. Considering the consequences, I must conclude they are views to avoid.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Make the Problem Go Away

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

There is an idea that the power of God can make all the problems in our life go away. While the most prominent advocates of this are those in the Word-Faith Movement, it often is found far beyond them. God clearly states that, in this world, we who have put our faith in Christ for salvation will have problems (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12,13) and we should not be surprised by them. We are also told that God uses these problems to help us grow in Him (Romans 8:28-30; 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Also, He encourages us to look beyond them to a time when these things will pass away (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; Romans 8:18-25, Revelation 21:4). Therefore, while God, according to His will, may on some occasions miraculously take away our problems, there will be many times He will require us to go through them. Since this is the case, we need to trust Him to bring us through the troubles of life (Proverbs 3:5,6; Hebrews 11:13-16; 2 Corinthians 5:7).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Okay

We must beware of believing that what we do stacks up before God, even if we do not go so far as claiming  freedom from all intentional sin. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul speaks of not having attained it, but pressing on to follow Christ. We are closest to perfection when we realize we are not perfect. Paul says he does not even judge himself, but leaves the ultimate judgment to God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5). We are told that Lot (2 Peter 2:7,8) and Samson (Hebrews 11:32) were believers despite their lifestyles. Even Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20) and David (2 Samuel 11) had serious failings.

In Romans 7 the question Paul is answering is, Why do we need to die to the Law (Romans 7:1-6)? Is there something wrong with the Law (7:7)? No, the Law is good, but we cannot keep it (Romans 7:12-14). This is in the present tense because not only did we need to saved from our sins in the past, but we still only stand before God on the basis of grace (Romans 5:1,2). Now Paul is not saying he cannot do anything to obey God, but his best efforts fall short of his desires (7:15-23). And his conclusion is that he is still involved in the conflict, though Christ has delivered him from the penalty of sin and will totally deliver him in the future (7:25). But in spite of this, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and the Holy Spirit works in them to change them (Romans 8:1-5). This applies to all those who belong to Him, who He will give life to in the last day (8:9-11). Paul uses the Greek present continual tense here to show the customary direction of the lives of those who trust in Christ.This is not as an antidote to Romans 7, but a balancing perspective. We see the same conflict in Galatians 5:16,17, with the admonition to conduct ourselves based on what the Spirit is doing in us.

Now there is a result in our lives if we have genuine faith in Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). There is a place for saying that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but these were people who were cheating their laborers, while going out of their way to curry favor with the rich. And there is a place for saying that those who went out from us are not of us (1 John 2:19), but these were clear false teachers (1 John 2:22,23), who claimed they were without sin (1 John 1:8-10), while demanding the right to live however they wanted (1 John 2:4). (Again, the present continual tense is used to contrast those who customarily obey God and those who customarily live in sin.) Certainly there is a place for admonishing people to examine themselves if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). But we need to be careful of raising the bar so high we create either discouragement or complacency.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Quick Turnaround

How can we avoid burning people out in their service for the Lord? How can we avoid being burnt out?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Grace

I believe in free grace; that is what grace means.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Calvin

But after we have learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary for us or defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, that we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it remains for us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have learned to be in him. To know God as the sovereign disposer of of all good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of him, were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground.

John Calvin, 1509-1564, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section 1 (translated by Henry Beveridge, Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing, 1975, p. 146)

What are the hindrances to a right attitude toward prayer? How do we overcome them?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Praying the Sinner's Prayer

In the Old Testament, when God did something significant people would put up a monument to commemorate it (Genesis 28:18,19; Joshua 4:8,9; 1 Samuel 7:12). This reflects a common human tendency to want to do something to commemorate an event or decision. Now according to Scripture, a person is saved when they put their faith in Christ (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). But we want to mark that with some kind of act. In the New Testament that act was baptism, which is why it is closely associated with faith (Acts 2:38; 10:43-48; 16:30-34). But the problem today is that we have so complicated baptism with theological issues that we use other acts, such as praying the sinners prayer, raising one's hand, or walking an aisle, as a replacement for marking the initial expression of faith. These can be controversial, as shown by the recent discussion among the Southern Baptists about the sinner's prayer. The problem is that it is possible to confuse going through an external action with a genuine response to God (Romans 2:25-29; Malachi 1:10; Zechariah 7:3-7).

Therefore, we need to make sure people understand what is meant by putting their faith in Christ and are ready to do so. We should avoid manipulation and pressure. We should not be too quick to give assurance based simply on the external act. Scripture does teach assurance of salvation (1 John 5:11-13; Philippians 1:6; John 10:27-30), but this is based on genuine faith, not just the act of praying a prayer or walking down an aisle. Also, real salvation produces a change of life, not perfect but real (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Further, there needs to be a process for instructing new converts (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28,29). With such follow-up it is easier to determine if the individual really meant what they did. There should also be an appropriate challenge made for even older believers to examine their lives and decide if they actually trust Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5; Revelation 3:17-20; James 1:21-25). In this, I have found helpful to use what I call the Lot criterion. Lot in the Old Testament did many questionable things. Yet we are told he was a saved individual (2 Peter 2:7). But we are also told his soul was tormented by the things done in Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:8). A true believer can do sin, but they are not at home in sin. Now Scripture says there will always be false believers until they are separated on the last day (Matthew 13:36-43; 7:15-23; 1 John 2:19). But we need to take a careful approach, not making assurance so high it is unattainable or so easy that people assume they are saved just because they have gone through some action. The remedy is, not necessarily to throw out the action, but to be sure it is rightly understood.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Facing Opposition

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

How should a Christian face opposition? We should face it boldly (Ephesians 6:19,20; Philippians 2:15,16; Hebrews 13:6), but with love and gentleness (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:5,6). How do we achieve this combination? We need to have confidence in God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 2 Corinthians 2:14), but an awareness of our own inadequacy (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Romans 12:3; John 15:5). But it also helps not to be surprised by the existence of opposition, as Scripture promises it will occur (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:12). Therefore, we should not react in shock, but in firm and loving admonishment. Being confident in God, who will win in the end.