Saturday, March 28, 2009

Proof-Texting thought

In the Faith vs Faithfulness thread I just posted a thought that I think might be worth conversation.

With regard to proof-texting I wrote the following. I've been trying to find an efficient way to make this point and it seemed to fall into place just now... so it's gonna be it's own topic. :)
Context context context... let the Bible tell you what the verse is saying, not the verse tell you what the Bible is saying..

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Faith vs Faithfulness

We can all read Ephesians 2:8-9 and see Scripture record that God saves people by Grace, through Faith, a gift of God not of ourselves, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

A while ago, a long time friend here was making an apologetic that God saves people by Grace through "faithfulness." She was saying that God preserves the true Christians by maintaining them in the Faith through faithfulness. That they were maintained in Salvation, and ultimately saved at the end by endurance and continued fruitfulness. By "keeping the faith" and "enduring to the end" and that this is seen in the doing of good works.

It ought to be clear to long time readers of this blog that I would deny such an assertion, but I feel like testing it with the current readership - if you will employ your gifts here with me. If Ephesians means what it says, but the whole of Scripture paints a slightly different, or let's say "fuller" picture to give benefit to what we are testing, then the whole of Scripture might say;

For by grace you have been saved through faithfulness, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Do you see the problem as quickly as I do? Even if one supposed that the rest of Scripture says that Salvation is maintained by God given faithfulness, Ephesians 2:8-9 would still invalidate it. Because it says this salvation is not of works. We can't be saved, or maintained through our works because Scripture declares we are saved by Grace. That Salvation is a gift.

This has been on my mind for a while... I think I've posted something similar in a thread here in the past but I'd be interested in some thoughts.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hell hit home yesterday

If you're familiar with this blog, and the ministry I work with you know that I'm not stranger to the topic of Hell. You'll probably believe that I have taken that topic very seriously. It's a topic that drives me to preach only the absolute true Gospel of Jesus Christ with as much fidelity as I can. You'll know that I have leveraged the reality of Hell in conversations with people who do violence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and yet claim to do evangelism.

Well yesterday the search for one of my most loved friends was called off as the Sun was setting. He had crashed in a brand new helicopter off the coast of Newfound Land, doing a job I he had told me he wanted to do as far back as 1998. I love this man. I have very few people who have been and always will be my friend in this life. I won't give details of who he is because of the pain of the people he loved.

This man is someone who knew I loved him. And as much as I had told him I was a Christian... and talked about that to some extent I never once preached the Gospel to him.

Yesterday I had to face the reality that my beloved friend, gentle, caring, smart, effective, and loyal is almost surely in Hell. I prayed that God would meet him in the water and warm him to keep him alive. I prayed that God would Himself witness to him right then. And I truly believe God can stop time in a moment and give someone that chance. But the reality is, this man I loved was never a believer in all the time that I've known him and I didn't preach the Gospel to him.

Hell has never been so real to me. I have never felt pain like this. I hope you will consider yourself in my position the next time you think you don't want to "rock the boat" or "offend" someone you love. Consider what it would be like to know they are in the fires of Hell, and you didn't do the one thing God told you to do to help them. If that doesn't make you want to vomit I question if there is love in you at all.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Is The Separation of Science & State Needed?

When the fathers of the United States set up the separation of Church and State they did so to protect the Church, not the state. Over the last couple of hundred years that has largely been forgotten and now it's used to protect the liberalization of the state from the restraining forces of the Church.

Tonight I was watching MSNBC's unfortunately named show 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the topic was stem cell research. The flavor of the show left me thinking that the IDEA that people have of the kind of influence the Church tries to have on the world has really been taken up by Science. Some of the guests were arguing in such a way as to indicate that Scientists ought to be making moral decisions for the President. What a strange thing.

I started to think that maybe the State needs to be protected from these Neo-Scientist Priests, but then reality dawned on me.

Science needs to be protected from the State as much as the Church does. Because just like the Empires of old tried to control the people with State run religion, today the State is trying to control the people with a new religion - State run science.

Think about it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Grace Of A Man - Discussion Disabled

What I hope to post here is a collection of "Screenshots" that will show what it's like to discuss the fundamentals of the Christian Faith with a man who is openly lauded as "Graceful" and "Loving." To understand the man, I will not be writing anything about him in this article. In fact I will not even mention the man's name in this article. The only identity given him will be the one he himself establishes in his own words and signatures.

The purpose of this article is not to promote drama.. or controversy. But to be a resource for those who find themselves in similar conversations. To start here is his a picture of the man in his own words. (EDIT: I had the screenshots out of order)

The man was upset by an article written by Brother Lou. Here is a picture of that article from Lou's blog. As you will see from the man's complaint, it is the title and the quotation that he was upset about - so I didn't screenshot the entire post.

Here is the man's response.

After some conversation about the nature of the man's complaint I felt he was not being clear with his guests. I have some history asking this man the very same question I did in this conversation for over a year. I have never received a clear answer from him. More importantly, those who he has influence over have never received a clear answer from him to the best of my knowledge.

I want you to experience now what it is like speaking with a professing Christian who claims to be very graceful. A man who does not appear to like to be criticized at all, but who is not shy about criticizing - at least by my estimation which may not be accurate.

Here is the conversation that led up to my asking the question I did. Unfortunately many posts were deleted by the admins of that blog. I can not speak to the purpose of deleting them as I was not present with the admins when they did such. I understand that Phillip is writing something about his experience in this conversation as well. When I have a link to that I will provide it.

So Phillip reposts his question.

And the man gives reply.

did not find this answer to be clear, though I suppose someone else may. So I jumped in to ask for myself, in such a way as the man (and everyone else) could be aware of why I was asking. I started out by speaking to Phillip but I address the man half way through my comment.

This is his reply to me - which he actually posted twice in the thread.

To which I replied

A strange thing happens whenever I attempt to have conversations with this man - which is not all that often - some women tend to step in between the two of us and draw the conversation away from the question I am asking him. Two women got involved in this particular instance. I will show you the very short conversation with one because it was mostly relevant to the conversation. Also because you will plainly see my frustration show through. Please note this is among posts from another woman who keeps bringing up an entirely different person as though that is relevant to the conversation at hand. At this point I'm shocked that anyone would not simply wait for the man to answer... so if you're frustrated in such a conversation realize - you're not alone.

The man then offered this reply to my answering of his questions, and this is his response to my continued request for a clear answer to my question.

There is one more post in the thread after this made by a person I do not personally know, but who criticized the man's reply to me. I'll save you the read as I believe you now have enough information.

When I tried to reply to the man I found the comment thread was closed. As you can see, discussion was disabled from the beginning. The natural now shows what was previously established in the spiritual.
This is the grace of a man.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Faith in the Flinty Rock

Here are some things I’ve been wrestling with. I will draw some conclusions from what I’ve been studying and apply them to some issues in Christendom but the real purpose of this is to spark some discussion. I believe the Lord has a plan to teach me through these things so I’m hopeful others will participate and thereby learn as well.

I must apologize as this will not be short at all.

God told Moses to go up on a mountain and die.

Have you ever wondered about the details of why God ordered Moses to go up on that mountain and die? Deut 32:48-51 Let’s read that account because the Lord answers the question right in His command to Moses.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying:

"Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel.

Because he trespassed against Him among the children of Israel by not hallowing Him in their midst, Moses didn’t obey God and did not recognize His holiness. This, of course, relates to the incident where Moses was told to speak to the Rock so Israel would have water to drink. Previously Moses had been told to strike the Rock with his staff. Moses, disobeyed God and struck the Rock again (only twice this time), and water did flow out but this was despite his disobedience to God and slight against His holiness, as we will see. Many have wondered about the harsh sentence of death that God set for Moses because of this simple act of disobedience. I think we find two keys to what the real issue was when we see that Moses did not hallow God, and that this was done in the midst of the children of Israel.

The Rock was Christ, and Moses knew it.

The Apostle Paul tells US today how the Rock was Christ in 1Cor 10:1-4 but I believe that Moses knew it in his day, as well as Paul explains it now. Paul says, that the Rock “followed” them. This is such an intriguing statement, and I actually think it plays a part in what I’m learning, that it grabs my attention and keeps it for hours at a time each time I read this passage.

We read in the “Heroes of Faith” chapter of the Bible that Moses chose the reproach of Christ. Read Heb 11:24-27

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

It says “as” seeing Him who is invisible. This does not mean “as if” he saw Him but that he saw Him. This again is New Testament revelation on Old Testament happenings but it is apparent that if the Scriptures are inerrant that statements of fact in the NT cannot be factually wrong.

If we look in Deut 32, the same chapter where God tells Moses to go up on the mountain and die we read Moses making declaration to Israel the praises of their Rock, as the person of God.

Deut 32:3-4

For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

Moses equates the Rock with God whose work is perfect.

Deut 32:12-13

So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him. "He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the Rock, And oil from the flinty Rock;

This is the same flinty Rock that Moses struck and drank from.

Deut 32:15-18

"But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you

Here the Rock is unequivocally equated with God as he writes the Rock who begot you and the God who fathered you.

Deut 32:29-31

Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would consider their latter end! How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the LORD had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves being judges.

Now speaking of foreign gods Moses says that their god is not like our God, as is seen by even Israel’s enemies. It is a clear distinction. It’s of note that Moses wrote Deut 6:4

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

And that the word for one is a plural unity, meaning 3 (or more) as one. We see this word used to indicate a unity of persons in Exo 24:3 and Zeph 3:9 and a physical unity in Exo 36:12

And Moses also wrote Genesis where we read;

Gen 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary (© 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A.Revised edition, 1993) The word rendered God there is;

eֱאֹלִהים lohiym: A masculine plural noun meaning God, gods, judges, angels. Occurring more than 2,600 times in the Old Testament, this word commonly designates the one true God (Gen_1:1) and is often paired with God's unique name yehowah (H3068)

In Gen 1:26 we read;

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Later in Gen 3:22 we read;

Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"

It’s clear that Moses knew about the nature of the Godhead, the Trinity, and that the Persons that make up the Trinity can be in separate physical locations, as we read him specifically note in Gen 1:2 So we know that Moses COULD believe that the Rock was actually God based on his understanding of the Godhead and that in his own preaching to Israel that he declared that the Rock actually was God.

All of this has been to establish that the Rock was Christ, and Moses knew it.

Moses struck the Rock again.

Moses knew the Rock was Christ and chose to strike Him again, though He had already been stricken and life giving water had already flown out of Him. The Lord God told him the second time to simply speak to the Rock and out would flow the needed water.

Num 20:7-12

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals."

So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?"

Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

Moses in his anger accused Israel of being rebels and then rebelled against God himself. He struck the Rock, which he knew to be Christ, twice. Our faithful God still provided for His children, but Moses was immediately dealt with. We know from Deut 32 that Moses was subject to death for this sin.

Could this be the sin unto death the Apostle John writes of in 1Jn 5:16-17?

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

Some other passages that show God’s work with the Rock are;

Deut 8:11-16 Neh 9:7-15 Ps 78:16-20 Ps 105:40-41 Ps 114:7-8 Isa 48:21

It’s of note that the Scriptures say that while Moses struck the Rock the first time with his staff, that it was actually God who split the Rock open so that the waters would flow out of it. Likewise, the Roman Centurion stuck his spear in the side of Christ’s lifeless body on the Cross and water flowed out. John 19:32-34

Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

Yet we read in Isa 53:10 NASB that it was the Father who “crushed” Him.

But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

The Lord did the work of bringing forth the water, through the agency of men. The “work” of Christ was done at the Cross where He was stricken once for all. Rom 6:10, Heb 7:27, Heb 9:12, Heb 10:10, 1Pet 3:18 and He will never again be put to sacrifice. In fact to do things that might seem to make it look like He is again suffering for our sins is also great sin, by putting Him to open shame. Heb 6:6 Why would that be shameful? Because He was already broken, He was already humiliated Heb 12:2, Acts 8:32-33 and He was already glorified. John 17:1-10 And if He was, is and will ever be Holy then He is pure and His sacrifice was accepted. To break Him again is to say His sacrifice was not accepted, which since God the Father cannot lie must mean that Christ was not spotless and therefore not acceptable.

Where Christ had to be stricken before the people once as a demonstration, today we must only speak in faith for life to come.

We have been given the Gospel of Christ to preach and we know that Faith comes by hearing it, and that Eternal Salvation comes by Grace through that Faith. Rom 1:16, Rom 10:11-17, Eph 2:8-9 We are not told to see Christ as being crucified again, or to add to His finished work. John 19:30

So the thoughts that I’m having about all of this are these. Christ paid for the sins of the world. When we come to Him we need not pay for them again. Since His payment was accepted, the Living Water now comes through Faith in God, not doing works. Moses tried to do a work when he struck the Rock twice the next time. He thought that it was going to be himself and Aaron who would bring the water out of the Rock. Num 20:10

And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?"

This reminds me of those who say they will be worthy of Salvation, or that some other work must be done in order for Salvation to occur. Either the person, or the Christ.

In Isa 56:1 we read that God’s salvation is about to come, and in John 19:9 we read that it has come in Christ Jesus. In Rom 11:11 we read that Salvation “has come” to the Gentiles.

Salvation is here, it must now only be received. 1Cor 15:1-2

For God justifies apart from or completely separate from works, on the basis of Faith alone. Rom 4:1-25

What is Moses preaching about in Deut 32? He’s preaching repentance. A change of mind, a turning from faith in idols/works/law/effort/luck/strength… to Faith in Christ alone. Not a doing of works, not a doing of anything except trusting the Rock who is unlike any other rock. Trusting the FINISHED work of the Rock.

Some applications of these lessons are these;

Some Catholics believe that the bread and wine used at Communion (The Lord’s Table) actually transforms into the physical body of Christ and His blood as it enters their bodies. This would be to sacrifice Christ all over again, to strike the Rock again.

Some Calvinists believe that Eternal Salvation, or the effective work of the Living Water, is dependent on the Practical Sanctification of the believer. They say one must “endure until the end” this is to say that the Living Water that flows from the Stricken Rock is not enough to secure Salvation. It is to add to the FINISHED work of the Cross. It is to strike the Rock again, for as Practical Sanctification occurs the sinner must be saved from their sin even after they have believed in the first place. Since we know there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood we know that sacrifice must continue if there is to be continued remission of sins. Heb 9:22 if Christ was not enough in the first, then He must again be sacrificed and put to an open shame among the people. Heb 6:6

Some professing Christians say that Eternal Salvation can be lost. This is either to deny that true Living Water flowed out of the Stricken Rock in the first place, making God out to be a liar. Or it makes Christ out to be an imperfect sacrifice. Not a “flinty” Rock but a common rock of mixed materials, earth and stone. Either way it says that Christ was not enough.

In Deut 8:15 we read that the Rock that water flowed out of was a “flinty” Rock. The word flinty means, hard, smooth, resolute. This same word is used in Scripture to show things that are very hard, unbreakable, and daunting. Christ is described as the Flinty Rock because man couldn’t break Him, only God could. The work that provided Salvation to the world could only be done by God, and it cannot be duplicated or added to by man.

Eternal Salvation is by Grace through Faith, apart from works.

But these things don’t just rebuke the Calvinists, the Catholics, and those who claim faith without security who drift into error by strange doctrines. These things also bring to light the importance of the Gospel its self, and rebuke those who reduce the Gospel from a testimony of the Rock to a desire for what the Rock can provide.

Some people in the Free Grace camp believe that one can be Eternally Saved by “Believing in Jesus for Eternal Life. Now that statement has some truth in it, after all even see the Apostle Paul answer a man’s desire for Salvation with a very similar simple statement. Acts 16:29-31

Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

But we are not told that the man was saved at this point. He was only saved AFTER having been preached the Word of the Lord as we read in the next two verses Acts 16:32-33

Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

The Apostle didn’t just tell him to desire what the Lord could do (or even ask for it), he told him to believe in HIM, and identified Who He Is. Then because of this believing the man would have Eternal Salvation.

It’s of note that in all the Scriptures I quoted from Moses above that he identifies God by WHAT He has done. Moses never lets His identity be questioned, usurped or unclear. Moses doesn’t put his security, or that of Israel in their belief of Salvation, but in their belief in the God who has, can and will save.

But when we say that Moses knew the Rock was Christ, what did he know of this Christ? Did he really know WHO the Christ was? He never called Him Jesus after all. He never “Believed in Jesus for Eternal Life yet we know that he was Saved because he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus Christ. Mat 17:1-3

Here are some facts about The Christ that Moses knew, based only on the Scriptures we’ve discussed here. There is in fact much more if you look at the rest of Moses’ writing, including the Passover. Moses was actually very familiar with The Christ.

· He would be born sinless, the seed of a woman (not of a man) and so spotless as an acceptable sacrifice. Gen 3:15 (it is obvious from Moses’ other writing that he well knew what made for a proper Sacrifice).

· He would be stricken and that God would provide the water. Deut 8:15 (God did the work)

· That after being stricken He would continue 1Cor 10:1-4, and the fact that Moses continues to recognize the Rock (in each instance) as the same Rock, not just a rock among many.

· That God is One. Deut 6:4

· That the God who the Rock was, was the One True God identified by the things He has done. All the scripture above is ref to this.

It appears that Moses knew The Christ, and His Gospel, and so has everyone else who has believed Moses. And like I said, this is limiting my survey of what Moses knew of The Christ to only the sections of Scripture which we have discussed here. To cover it all would take volumes. To fail to preach the full Gospel of Jesus of Christ 1Cor 15:1-11 and hold it as absolutely true and absolutely required is to fail to “ascribe greatness to Godwhen you try to proclaim His Name. Deut 32:3

So why DID God tell Moses to go up on that mountain and die?

God told Moses to go up on that mountain and die because among the people where he was supposed to show the work of God, he bore false witness that Living Water comes by man’s effort. He reduced the Rock to a rock that man could control, use, and abuse. He did not hallow Christ as the Faithful One, crushed by the Father for us so that we could, by faith, drink freely that which brings Life Eternal. He knew Who the Rock was. He knew the Rock would give Living Water, but he did not honor Him as Who He was. Instead Moses chose to get the water the way he wanted, not the way God said it would come – by Faith.

Are you one who has been doing similarly as Moses did? This could be your wake up call.

These are the things I’m thinking about recently. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Providential Pain

Matt Redman's powerful song "Blessed Be Your Name" includes the lyrics:

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

But Brother Robb didn't have pain in an offering, God gave Him pain as a blessing, and that blessing extends to us because Robb has returned with a new episode of Good Morning, Jesus Christ! called "God's Providence."