Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On being the last to know

How does a betrayed wife feel when she finds out that she was the last to know her husband had been running around? Well, as if the betrayal was not crushing enough she's left with the shame of feeling like she's been a fool in front of everyone.

I was done crying because of the pain due to separating from The Cross Current(TCC) by the day after. I'm not going to lie to you however, it's been a chore to wrap my head around the whole situation. In recent days the history of the ministry for the last couple of years has been playing through my head. I'm glad I moved on, but I feel foolish nonetheless.

This article is not about TCC, it's about a problem in ministries and uses my experience in one ministry to illustrate my point.

I don't expect that recounting all the things going on in my head here would be more helpful to anyone reading than they could be painful to a few who may stumble upon them. The point boils down to this; consistently for the last week people have been saying that they were surprised to find out that I had resigned from TCC but that though they hadn't been told details they knew why - because they read my blog and know the theological differences between what I believe and what has been being taught by TCC.

I was the last to know, and I feel foolish.

Not only do their words mean that it was common knowledge, but that my testimony had been damaged by sticking with TCC; these friends of mine didn't expect me to actually live up to my convictions and depart. Little did they know that I had been in the dark about what had been being taught. I am after-all I'm over 1,400 kilometres away from the home office of the ministry so it has been easy to miss what is taught in training situations.

Now some may think that this is me "whimpering" or being dramatic. If thinking that is what floats your boat then enjoy. What I'm really doing is offering some experience.

In 2008 TCC posted a 21 page statement of faith and practices that was called "TCC CORE" this document has been removed from their website, over the last few days. It had been poured over and argued about for months. I know because for the most part I authored it. It was to be the document that we used to make sure that outside influences didn't pollute the preaching of the Gospel by our ministry.

It was a very demanding document, but in retrospect it was a document without much in the way of teeth.

Yet, the Bible is a document with teeth. The consequences of deviating from the truth are grave for those who would teach error.

Former US President George W. Bush may not have been able to say it clearly, but there is an old saying that fits my current thinking about statements of faith and practice.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The Bible is a document with teeth, so statements of faith and practices ought to be as well. I never used to like how some ministries use the word "covenant" to describe their agreement with members and representatives to operate within certain bounds. It always seemed like they were trying to appear more spiritual than they are... or being needlessly religious... it just seemed "over the top" to me.

Well my view is different now. A covenant is an agreement, and the entire relationship between the parties is based on that agreement. To break the agreement is to break the relationship, so the covenant has teeth.

In light of this, a statement of faith and practices ought to only contain items of vital importance; things the parties in agreement are willing to "fall on their swords for." Of course there would have to be some mechanism for godly revision and correction to the document, but such should seldom be used.

If you are not absolutely sure of something, if you cannot defend it from a plain and consistent reading of the Scriptures then it has no place in your statement of faith.

I do not expect I will ever join in covenant with any person or organization that doesn't actually agree to be held to what they claim to believe. I feel foolish, and have indeed been foolish... but if I repeat then shame on me. Will such a stance make me harder to employ in a ministry setting? Sure... but here's a question for those who would bring that up. Do you really want to pour your life and ministry into something that is just going to go off in some completely different direction than what you believe? How about in some different direction than toward truth? If whatever ministry I end up serving with knows what is true, and that is plainly described by a consistent reading of the Scriptures then they can be sure that I will be loyal, almost to a fault. They'll know that no matter the cost, I'm on my walk toward Christ and will consistently call people with the same Gospel that I was saved through receiving.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Propitiation Plus?

I've been thinking about the nature of "propitiation" as in 1Jn 2:2 this week and the nature of "saving faith" is always on my mind. Bob (of Chicago) made a comment recently which has really put Rom 4:16 into my thinking. I keep coming back to this verse.
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
Salvation is of faith so that it can be according to grace. What a powerful statement. Faith is the only thing that doesn't add to God's work. So Salvation had to be "through faith" so that it could be "by grace" Eph 2:8 "a gift" and "not of works" Eph 2:9

But what of this submission stuff of the all too popular "Lordship Salvation," is it reasonable for God to "demand" such submission? Reasonable? Yes of course it is reasonable, and well beyond reasonable! For to us it seems most desirable, because the human flesh desires nothing more than to be valuable, worthy, and even justifiable. It makes no sense to the human who demands not just justice but reformation, to NOT expect the one who wishes to be reconciled to first be reformed in order for right relationship to be restored.

But God who cannot lie Titus 1:2 tells us that the Good News of the provision for our sins is explicitly stated as this; Jesus Christ dying for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, being buried and raising to life again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures 1Cor 15:1-11

Jesus Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. That is to say that He paid the full payment, or it could not have been "in accordance with the Scriptures." Of course this concept is often taught from Christ's words shouted from the Cross just before His death. "It is finished!" Jn 19:30

What's more in 1Jn 2:2 we find the words of the Prophet Isaiah Isa 53:6 find their fulfillment when we read that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not only ours but those of the whole world.

What does "propitiation" mean though? It means to "appease" or to "satisfy" God for His wrath. It mean's that God was fully satisfied for our sins by Christ's death, there is nothing more to add, it is finished.

This takes us back to Rom 4:16
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
So now we find that the reason why it is simple faith that God "demands" because it is the only thing that doesn't add to the FINISHED work of Christ. ANYTHING other than simple receiving faith would attempt to add to what Christ has done on our behalf. No matter how reasonable, or desirable that ANYTHING might be it would seek to add to what Christ has already finished.

Salvation is not through submission, pledge, reformation or even the desire to do any of these. It is by grace, through faith.

Lordship Salvation requires that God was not satisfied, or propitiated, by Christ's death. At least not completely. At least not enough to actually reconcile sinners to Himself. At best Lordship Salvation says that salvation is by grace (including zapping someone into a submissive pseudo-slave - or regenerating them prior to faith to give them the nature of Christ so that they will have to come to faith and submission) through faith and submission, and that faith is not in the Gospel alone, but also in the reformation of the individual who has been zapped into seeking reconciliation.

In short, it says that while God claims to have been propitiated by Christ's death, He really wasn't.

However, the truth is that God WAS and IS propitiated by Christ's death. He did die for our sins, ALL OF THE SINS OF ALL OF US , in accordance with the Scriptures. He was buried and raised again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He paid the full price, and it was accepted on our behalf. So now all one must do to be saved is to trust that Christ has satisfied God for their own sin, that by this they are reconciled to God. If this is your faith than God has saved you, and you have Eternal Life in Him. He can save you on this basis because God was propitiated, and He IS LORD.

The rightful changes that will happen in you, if you have believed this, will be worked out through discipleship. They are not pre-requisits for your salvation, but they are results of it PLUS discipleship.

A baby raised by wolves is going to live like a wolf, even though it will still be a baby.

Likewise we read that if a seed is planted, and sprouts to life among the thorns that the thorns will choke it! Life was still given, it is just that life amounted to little because the thorns cut it off the growth. Read our Lord as recorded in Mat 13:3-9
3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Will YOU hear? The only seed that did not produce saved Christians is that which fell by the wayside and was eaten up. In each other instance new life was born. The only new life that produced a crop is that which fell on the prepared soil away from (separated from) that which would choke them off.

The solution for fruitfulness was not to get the ground the Seed was scattered on to promise to produce a crop... or to desire to produce a crop... or to submit to the Farmer's will to produce a crop... the only solution that provides a safe path to a full crop of fruitfulness is to protect the seedlings.

Lordship Salvation attacks the seedlings because it makes them doubt they even are seedlings. It steals from them the very faith they have... and all their fruitfulness with it. Front-loading the Gospel with Discipleship, to any degree, merely sets new believers up for failure... if they even get to the new believer stage with all the birds flying around the Seed being scattered.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Strange Thing Happened On the Way From...

So I was out around town today with my wife, having a lovely Saturday. I had a strange sensation in my heart, not the thing pumping blood but the core of my being. I felt relief of guilt, or conviction... relief???

I have been very upset over my need to separate from my dear Brother, and The Cross Current, but today I realized that I should have done it much sooner. Of course I knew this already, but now I know that I've been carrying the burden of compromise for too long. My wife reminded me that way back in February I had noticed my Brother's doctrine changing... and had noticed a shift in how things were explained to those the ministry was supposed to be helping. I had told my wife back then that I would give it a while and see how things progressed. I was so invested in the ministry, and my friends, that I let what I knew to be untrue grow up in the very fellowship I was in.

So today I have freedom from that and a clear conscience. I had not realized what a heavy burden it was... after carrying it for so long feeling so weighed down simply felt normal.

I hope others can learn from my experience. Truth is to valuable to surrender.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Next Verse Same As The First?

Well... about 1 month less than 5 years after I started this blog I find myself in much the same position as that which brought me to start blogging.

I've resigned from my career job. I've resigned from the ministry I had intended to spend my life serving with. I guess I'm available for anything now.

The great news is that there is a friend in town this week whom I haven't been able to get out on the streets with in a few years! So this weekend I'll get to pass some tracts and share the Gospel with an old friend.

The only thing I know that I didn't know 5 years ago is "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him." Job 13:15

So if you happen to have any insight into what I should do with my life 239 days from now.. please feel free to post it!

*UPDATE* already there is something in the works! More to follow.

Resigned from The Cross Current today

I just received a phone call from a beloved Brother in the Lord who sits on the Board of The Cross Current (TCC) which until this evening I was the Vice President. He asked me to take down the letter of resignation which I had drafted to the Board of Directors of TCC. He believed the letter was a private internal communication. I don't know.... I don't think it was. I did not intend it to be so. Anyway... I took it down.

I have a responsibility of honesty and openness, I believe anyway, to the people who read this blog and to all the people who I have any contact with at all.
UPDATE: The organization has removed the link to their previous Statement of Faith which had been called TCC CORE.
I resigned my position with TCC because the organization has departed from it's Statement of Faith which you can find linked at the bottom of the page. They have begun to embrace the theology commonly known as Lordship Salvation and so have redefined their definition of Repentance among some other things.

I do not believe they INTEND to preach a false Gospel. These beloved friends of mine, I truly believe, have been seduced by false doctrine which on the surface seems to exalt the glory of God but really diminishes the sacrifice of Christ.

I ask you to pray for this team of people. I love them. I'm terrified for them.

I share responsibility for allowing this to happen to a God fearing group of people who were sold out for Truth, and preaching a clear and uncompromising Gospel.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

John Calvin Describes The Faith That Saves

The disdain I have for Lordship Salvation theology is no secret and I reject all 5 points of TULIP as I have had them explained to me (over and over). However, over the last few days I've been reading John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" to find out what he might think of the Lordship Salvation controversy and the many new interpretations of the word "faith" which seem to add works to Grace through a back door.

Maybe I don't agree with everything Calvin wrote in his Institutes, but I do agree with his view of faith. In fact his descriptions of faith are most familiar, t
hough this is the first time I've read them. For I have uttered such things to my contemporary "Calvinist" friends many times. They reject it when I say that faith is assurance, that unless one trusts that they are actually saved then they are not. The modern "Calvinist" sows doubt in the minds of Christians telling them to examine works for assurance but John Calvin would have had nothing to do with such foolishness.

This post is going to cover a bunch of different points about faith, but they all sum up to the fact that faith is man's responsibility, and is simply trust.

His commentary on Eph 2:8-10 is most worthy of a full reading. Here is a quote about the idea of faith being the "gift of God."

And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it
by the gift of God.
Update: To see why Calvin (and I) interpret this passage in this way check out the genders of the Greek words underlying the English.

Modern Calvinists will claim that if a man can have faith
in God that this gives man reason to boast. Though this topic which is foreign to the Scriptu
res Calvin address it as well.

God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is no
t a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith;and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from us.
And he continues the thought...

When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.
So having faith gives man no reason to boast, for it is merely receiving what has been done. Update: Bob brought up in the comments how Romans 4:16 addresses makes it clear that a person having faith does not violate grace by giving a person reason to boast about his faith.

With regard to being "created to good works" Calvin is most strong in his language. I will quote this portion of his commentary extensively because he is both so clear, and this is so important.

Created to good works. They err widely from Paul's intention, who torture this passage for the purpose of injuring the righteousness of faith. Ashamed to affirm in plain terms, and aware that they could gain nothing by affirming, that we are not justified by faith, they shelter themselves under this kind of subterfuge. "We are justified by faith, because faith, by which we receive the grace of God, is the commencement of righteousness; but we are made righteous by regeneration, because, being renewed by the Spirit of God, we walk in good works." In this manner they make faith the door by which we enter into righteousness, but imagine that we obtain it by our works, or, at least, they define righteousness to be that uprightness by which a man is formed anew to a holy life. I care not how old this error may be; but they err egregiously who endeavor to support it by this passage.
Finally in this commentary on Eph 2:8-10 Calvin describes the importance of faith, vice performance. His concern is that people would put their faith in Christ entirely.

When Paul lays down the cause of justification, he dwells chiefly on this point, that our consciences will never enjoy peace till they rely on the propitiation for sins.
Such is the object of faith, that the Gospel is true and God has been propitiated for our sins.

Now having looked over his commentary on this all important passage, let us now turn to Calvin's Institutes to see his descriptions of faith.

Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 7 (scroll to section 7) A plain, and full definition of faith.
We shall now have a full definition of faith, if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.
Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 8 (scroll to section 8) Recognizing Who Christ is. - this section is the closest to support for LS theology that I can find in the Institutes. However it does not support LS theology, but does note that one must be aware they are putting their faith in the Judge of the Universe. There must be fear of God, not the LS exchange of self for Christ.. total submission.... and so on.
Since faith embraces Christ as he is offered by the Father, and he is offered not only for justification, for forgiveness of sins and peace, but also for sanctification, as the fountain of living waters, it is certain that no man will ever know him aright without at the same time receiving the sanctification of the Spirit; or, to express the matter more plainly, faith consists in the knowledge of Christ; Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection.
Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 16 (scroll to section 16) Of true faith.
In one word, he only is a true believer who, firmly persuaded that God is reconciled, and is a kind Father to him, hopes everything from his kindness, who, trusting to the promises of the divine favor, with undoubting confidence anticipates salvation;
In like manner, the same Apostle does not consider that the eyes of our understanding are enlightened unless we know what is the hope of the eternal inheritance to which we are called, (Eph 1: 18). Thus he uniformly intimates throughout his writings, that the goodness of God is not properly comprehended when security does not follow as its fruit.
Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 29 (scroll to section 29) Of the free promise.

Free promise we make the foundation of faith, because in it faith properly consists. For though it holds that God is always true, whether in ordering or forbidding, promising or threatening; though it obediently receive his commands, observe his prohibitions, and give heed to his threatening; yet it properly begins with promise, continues with it, and ends with it. It seeks life in God, life which is not found in commands or the denunciations of punishment, but in the promise of mercy. And this promise must be gratuitous; for a conditional promise, which throws us back upon our works, promises life only in so far as we find it existing in ourselves. Therefore, if we would not have faith to waver and tremble, we must support it with the promise of salvation, which is offered by the Lord spontaneously and freely, from a regard to our misery rather than our worth.
Book 3, Chapter 13, Section 5 (scroll to section 5) Of saving faith apart from performance.
Thus those who pretend that justification by faith consists in being regenerated and made just, by living spiritually, have never tasted the sweetness of grace in trusting that God will be propitious. Hence also, they know no more of praying aright than do the Turks or any other heathen people. For, as Paul declares, faith is not true, unless it suggest and dictate the delightful name of Father; nay, unless it open our mouths and enable us freely to cry, Abba, Father. This he expresses more clearly in another passage, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him,” (Eph. 3:12). This, certainly, is not obtained by the gift of regeneration, which, as it is always defective in the present state, contains within it many grounds of doubt. Wherefore, we must have recourse to this remedy; we must hold that the only hope which believers have of the heavenly inheritance is, that being in grafted into the body of Christ, they are justified freely. For, in regard to justification, faith is merely passives bringing nothing of our own to procure the favor of God, but receiving from Christ every thing that we want.
Though quoted above, this following statement by John Calvin sums most of the argument against LS theology. Talking about the promise of Salvation by grace through faith;

And this promise must be gratuitous; for a conditional promise, which throws us back upon our works, promises life only in so far as we find it existing in ourselves.
It is most obvious then that John Calvin, like all the other Reformers, would be appalled at the use of the term "Reformed Theology" and "Calvinism" as a cloak for slipping works into Grace through a back door.